30 June 2008

Gershwin, Schmershwin. Sing Me a Scheffel!

What is Scheffel Hall, the striking German Renaissance building on Third Avenue near 17th Street? And what does "Allaire's" mean?

Well, two questions, two answers. Scheffel Hall was a beer hall named after German balladeer Joseph Victor von Scheffel, of whom I'm sure you've all heard. The East Village, remember, was chock-a-block with our German brothers back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was modeled by the architects after the Friedrichsbau at Heidelberg Castle, I have learned. The interior was covered with murals based on Scheffel's once-famous songs (or, still-famous songs in Germany, perhaps), if you can believe it. What a big noise old Joseph Victor musta been back in his day.

As for the confusing second name, Allaire's, 190 Third Avenue was that, too. Allaire's was a restaurant. In 1909, O. Henry set one of his short story's here, describing it as a "big hall with its smokey rafters, row of imported steins, portrait of Goethe, and verses painted on the walls." During World War I, German spies congregated there and plotted away. Tammany leader Charles Murphy, apparently holding no grudges against either side in The Great War, also held court there. It was later Joe King's Rathskeller, a business which, thankfully, didn't put its name on the facade for good.

After Joe King got out 1969, it became Fat Tuesday's, a premier jazz joint of its days, best known for hosting regular Monday-night gigs by Les Paul. Also playing here: Dexter Gordon, Betty Carter, Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner, Gerry Mulligan, Kenny Barron and many more.

In short, a lot of interesting shit went down at Scheffel Hall!


Ken Mac said...

fantastic pics and history. Man, I would love to get inside that place!

Anonymous said...

Fat Tuesday's, cool.

Anonymous said...

The guy who runs the Sal Anthony Movement Studio, which is currently in the space. is a classic NY character: