02 May 2014

History in a Matchbook: Rum House

New York rips down and disposes of its history with such efficiency that sometimes the only evidence that a business, restaurant, bar ever existed lies it the flotsam and jetsam it produced whilst alive. Matchbooks for instance.

In my years of research, I've spent a good amount of time chasing down the relics of bygone landmarks. But, more often than not, those relics—menus, ashtrays, glassware, plates, flatware, etc.—are gone, and gone for good. For the completely vanished restaurants and bars of Gotham, two types of relic, however, endure: the postcard and the matchbook.

The Rum House bar in the Hotel Edison has not disappeared. The hotel is still there on W. 47th Street, and the Rum House is in it. But the bar was renovated a few years back, and turned into a swanky cocktail bar. I don't dislike the new version. It has a good vibe, offers live music and the drinks are well made. But I still miss the dive it replaced. Here's proof of the old Rum House that stood in its place—and that you once could smoke there. Notice the tiki-esque font used for "Rum House."

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