Dispensary to Sporting Goods: The Eastern Dispensary at 75 Essex

Posted on: July 11th, 2013 at 11:37 am by

Eastern Dispensary-

I decided to take another look at some old notes about 75 Essex Street (aka 232 Broome) since this building is coming up on the Landmarks Preservation Commissions’ calendar for possible preservation.

Here’s some in-depth insight as to why this unique, freestanding structure at the corner of Essex and Broome Streets should be protected.

The Eastern Dispensary (also known as the Good Samaritan Dispensary) was established in 1832 and was built to provide the sick and poor with a place to receive aide and medicine.  It opened during a massive cholera epidemic “that claimed the lives of more than 3,500 people, mainly destitute Irish immigrants crammed into filthy hovels in the fourth and sixth slum wards of downtown Manhattan.” The dispensary was at first on Grand Street and would move to 75 Essex the year the building was built – 1890.

Helen Campbell, a 19th century missionary described its patients in her book Darkness and Light; or Lights and Shadows of New York Life:

Weary mothers with sick and wailing babies in their arms; women with bandaged heads and men with arms in slings; children sent by sick fathers and mothers at home for needed medicine. On most is the unmistakable look that tells of patient suffering and half-starved lives…

Other publications focused on promoting the Dispensary’s success in aiding New York’s impoverished. From the 1870 Annual Report of the Board of State Commissioners of Public Charities of the City of New York State:

The dispensary is open daily, and furnishes gratuitous medical and surgical aid to the destitute sick of the eastern portion of the city. It also gives special attention to vaccination, which is freely performed upon all who apply for it, without respect to their station or pecuniary circumstances. Those able to pay for this service are invited to, and it is stated, generally do contribute to the funds of the institution.

Since its opening, it has aided seven hundred and sixty-four thousand persons, at an average cost, of fifteen cents each. The number treated the past year was twenty-six thousand two hundred and eighty-six. Of these twenty-two thousand one hundred and thirty-four were dispensary patients, and four thousand one hundred and fifty-two were visited at their dwellings. The number vaccinated during the year was five thousand and seventy-one, and the number of prescriptions made, forty-three thousand four hundred and eight}1-nine.

The institution was visited June 4 [1870], and its operations observed in the reception and treatment of a large number of patients. The medical staff consists of a house physician and full boards of visiting and attending physicians and surgeons, the latter serving without pay. It is a well ordered and finely managed medical charity, worthy the gifts of the benevolent and the aid it receives from the State.

Percy Loomis Sperr

[Photo: Percy Loomis Sperr. 1890]

In 1893, Nathan Straus (the founder of Macy’s) built New York City’s first milk pasteurization laboratory and distribution center on the East River Pier at Third Street. Throughout the end of the 1800s milk laboratories had sprung up all over the city and one of them was housed in the Eastern Dispensary! New York mandated pasteurization (courtesy of Louis Pasteur) between 1908 and 1916 (when a federal law was passed). Historians mostly agree that in New York, the year was 1914.

The Eastern Dispensary closed in 1955. The New York City Register shows that on April 25, 1977, the City foreclosed on 75 Essex Street due to unpaid taxes and in moved the Eisner Brothers.

In the time between the dispensary’s closure and the Eisner Brothers’ takeover, The Bell Yarn Shop held court in 75 Essex. Originally housed in 371 Grand Street, Bell Yarn moved to 75 Essex sometime in the 60s.

NYPL

NYPL; Grand Street, 1933

We have yet to pinpoint the exact dates, but nevertheless:

 

NYT: July 27, 1974

NYT: July 27, 1974

 

eisner brothers essex

Shalom Eisner grew up in Williamsburg and in 1977 rented the first floor space of 75 Essex Street.  It was there that he opened The Eisner Brothers Store. Here’s a blurb from their website:

Our tremendous selection includes tee shirts, sweat-shirts, golf shirts, jackets, caps and hats with the official insignia of the FDNY, NYPD, NYPD Highway Patrol, NYPD Harbor Unit, NYPD Scuba Unit, NYPD Aviation Unit or The Federal Law Enforcement. NYFirePolice.com is the haven for uniformed officers; they know they can count on us for all their wardrobe needs.

Additionally, we boast an extensive selection of boxing equipment and licensed sports products. Professional sports buffs and amateur wannabes: you won’t find a better array of boxing equipment and licensed sports products than this.

Our collection of “I Love New York” items is beyond compare: creative, original and stimulating. If you’re a native New Yorker or a proud tourist visiting New York, check out all our terrific products. You’re sure to find something you love among our many interesting I love NY items.

According to City records, in 1985, Shalom Eisner and his family purchased the entire building.

east river sports center

I called the store some time ago and had the pleasure of speaking with Shalom who had cited the recession as the reason why he contemplated selling out three years ago.

[Photo: Dylan Stone, 1999]

While audibly gushing over the 20-foot ceilings on every floor and a 14-foot high ceiling in the basement, Shalom told me it was his dream that “it [75 Essex] will be left as is on the outside and for it to become a single, family home for a famous person… Someone like Madonna.  She could have her own Lower East Side home.”  But all this is a moot point since multiple records reveal this building is no longer available on the market. I do hope that’s because they plan to stay

[Street Easy]

[Street Easy]

As always, ah, New York. My stunning and gritty, sparkling and filthy, tremendous, transcendent metropolis. You were forged by the keepers of secrets and those secrets I plan to find and reveal, one brick at a time. Bless up.

Recent Stories

billy-bourek
Billy Leroy (of Antiques Fame) Stars in ‘Bourek,’ Now Playing at Cinema Village

​Billy Leroy is not dead, okay? He’s just not on the Bowery anymore. Billy Leroy, whose eponymous antiques business folded five years ago, has taken on acting. The current Baggage Battles star is a leading man in the new movie, Bourek. It’s an independent romantic comedy filmed predominantly in Greece, and now playing on the big […]

houston-sidewalk-5
New Sidewalks and Curbs Signal Some Semblance of Progress for East Houston Reconstruction Project

​Since East Houston roadwork is nowhere near completion, we must relish the baby steps, as it were, of forward progress. Indeed. The first real noticeable change in months is now palpable along the battered corridor. New sidewalks on the south side. Over the last few weeks, contractors have poured new cement (i.e. “pigmented sidewalks”) and […]

#Chalk LES, Photo: LES History Month
Chalk the LES this Sunday to Kick off the 3rd Annual Lower East Side History Month

To kick off the third annual Lower East Side History Month, co-sponsors by FABnyc and Downtown Art are again planning a community chalking event for Sunday and Monday. A “chalk about town,” you might say. LES Stories, as the two-day event is called, encourages participants to sketch trivia, memories, or random musings about the neighborhood […]

Aron Streit holding the matzo on opening day, 1925
Streit’s Documentary is a Smash, Extended 2 More Weeks at Film Forum

The numbers are in, and the critically acclaimed documentary about Streit’s Matzo was a home run. In its short one-week residency at the Film Forum, intended to coincide with Passover, Streit’s: Matzo and the American Dream surpassed expectations. It became the highest grossing film at the movie house this past week. Due to the success, daily […]

129allen
Peruvian Restaurant ‘Baby Brasa’ Opening Next Month at 129 Allen Street

The Precision barbershop at 129 Allen Street shuttered and relocated earleir this spring. It’s now down the block and with a rebranded identity, Allen Street Cut & Shave. In its place, a new restaurant. A Peruvian restaurant by the name of Baby Brasa is on its way. Butcher paper is in the windows, signaling the […]