06 November 2009

Breakthrough in the Brooks 1890 Restaurant Mystery

History bloggers, myself included, have long been confounded by Long Island City's Brooks 1890 Restaurant, a purportedly old eatery on Court House Square that seems to have no traceable history. Who founded it? What was it like in the old days? What do the "K" and "N" in the stained-glass canopy behind the bar stand for? Nobody knows, not even the current owners.

Well, a reader recently wrote in with a critical piece of information. Before Mr. Brooks (actually Bill "Brooks" Gounaris) bought the place in the 1970s and slapped his name on the joint, the place was called Court Square Restaurant. Armed with that tidbit, I was able to do some new research. Here's what I found. It was called that as early at the 1920s. In 1928, the restaurant was the site of the, um, the Queensboro Kennel Club monthly dog show. Same happened in 1929 and on and on. No DOH back then, I guess. Weird. The Queensboro Kennel Club are spoken of as a very "progressive organization."

OK, it's not much, but it's something. The search continues.

1 comment:

Ian Schoenherr said...

This building seems to answer to descriptions of Long Island City's old City Hall building. The New York Times for May 30, 1902, states: "The old City Hall is a four-story double brick building, covering two full lots, at the corner of Jackson and Anable Avenues. It was vacated about a year after consolidation." Anable Avenue is now the part of Court Square that borders one side of Brooks 1890 Restaurant. And the Times for May 25, 1910, says:

"Martin Heilbut and Herman Kleefeld of Long Island City have secured a lease of the old Long Island City municipal building, at the corner of Jackson Avenue and Anable Street, adjoining Court House Square.

"The building is historic as the old City Hall of Long Island City, and it was the theatre of action of the late Patrick Jerome Gleason and the other officials of the old Long Island City just prior to consolidation. The property belongs to Dr. James T. Trask [sic: probably Dr. James D. Trask].

"Under the lease, which is for a term of twenty-one years, the Long Island City men get possession not only of this building but of a lot adjoining the same on Jackson Avenue and and another fronting on Court House Square. These lots will be improved by the lessees."

The building also appears to have been known now and then as "Temple Court" and its address is variously listed as 250-52 Jackson, 250-252 Jackson, and 252 Jackson. It was also the sometime home or meeting place of the Queens County Bar Association, the Topographical Bureau of the Borough of Queens, the George A. Just Company, the Village Athletic Club, the Brooklyn Heights Railroad Company, the Queens Boro Board of Trade, the Bureau of Street Openings, etc.

The Queens County Plumbers Union met at "Kleefeld's Hall" at 252 Jackson (c.1925) and the Times mentions an incident at "Kleefeld's Saloon" (December 22, 1914). Perhaps the "K" was for Herman Kleefeld, co-lessee of the property? Then again, the Times article of May 30, 1902, mentions that James Kennedy, "a well known sporting man," was also connected with the place. And "N" is still MIA...