09 January 2012


This is the thirteenth post of "The Union Street Project," in which I unearth the history of every building along the once bustling Brooklyn commercial strips of Union Street between Hicks and Van Brunt, and Columbia Street between Sackett and Carroll.

It's been a half a year, but now I'm back with a few more additions to my ongoing Union Street Project.

The House of Pizza and Calzone, at 132 Union Street, is the second oldest, and second most famous, business on the block (the first being the century-old Ferdinando's Focceceria). It was founded in 1952 and is now on its third owners. Paul Diagostino, the current owner, bought it in 2004 from Onofrio Gaudioso and John Teutonico, the raspy-voiced old guys who bought the restaurant in 1963 after working there together for five years. Who founded the pizzeria, I can not say. But one thing I do know—it used to be located a few doors to the west many years ago. It's present location, at 132 Union, is its second. (I believe the original building no longer exists.) According to the Department of Building, they've been at 132 since 1959. I love the Certificate of Occupancy's description: "retail sale of pizza pie and hot sandwiches."

The House and Pizza owners would be happy, I imagine, to know that the building's previous tenant was an purveyor of olive oil. (See 1940 tax photo below.) The Grande Deposito d'Olio d'Oliva. That is, the big olive oil depository. Spanish, Greek and Italian olive oil was sold here, as well as something called Gemma Oil. As you can see, the building hasn't changed much over the decades. Same cornice, same fire escape, same little bathroom windows. Pushcarts are in evidence, as there are in all the old photos of Union Street.

Prior to that, this address appears to have been the 19th century home of Colonel Thomas Dempsey's Hotel. Dempsey, who lived at nearby 103 President Street, came from Ireland and sailed to America in 1947. He served in the New York state militia, and in the Civil War, where he reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Colonel Dempsey was also a member of the John Graham Pleasure Club, which held an annual clam bake. He was a Democrat known to have "an excellent war and business record" and appeared to have been quite the local host and toastmaster. He died Aug. 11, 1896 at the age of 70.

But some residents of the Dempsey hotel seem not to have been as upstanding or lucky. A thief named Thomas Hare was a tenant in 1887. William Glenmore dwelled here in 1889. He worked on the docks and had his left leg fractures when three bags of sugar fell on him. Years later, in 1921, a stick-up man, Stefano Picone, lived here.


Just Sayin said...

I just love this. Thanks for posting it. The picture is great! How's the pizza there?

Anonymous said...

The painted sign for the pizza parlor is a nice touch, you don't see that sort of thing too often.


left hook said...

Love the Union Street Project! I live in the neighborhood and in my opinion House of Pizza has the best pizza, by the slice in all of Bococa. The sign on house of pizza was painted by I guy who used to live in the neighborhood, at 101 Union Street. It's the same guy who painted all the crazy paintings you are going to find on the side of buildings on Union Street between Columbia and Van Brundt.

Anonymous said...

Yo,,hey guy writing this stuff ..listen up MY grandmother owned this building and sold it to Juan and Onifio. I know...I was there ...she had the Florist shop on Union Street for many years,,just across from the pizza place....and let me tell you something else..that pizza there now is NOTHING compare to what it use to be !! Only the Rice Ball and Pannell place is just as good as ever...except for Manhattan Special on Tap..On Tap?? what is up with that ???