Uncovering the Ruins of Lutèce, Kate Kearney’s and The Leopard on East 50th Street [PHOTOS]

Posted on: February 18th, 2014 at 11:15 am by

Herewith, a peek inside the decaying remains of 249-253 East 50th Street, photos you’ll only see on Bowery Boogie.

Yeah, yeah – not Lower East Side, but check this out: Crossing Delancey. Great movie filmed on the Lower East Side. A classic, actually, and in it Izzy mentions that there is a restaurant where she will be celebrating her birthday (SPOILER: She was lying to impress her friends). That establishment was named “America’s best restaurant for six consecutive years in the 1980s” by Zagat. Its name - Lutèce.

lutece1

Lutèce

Maybe you are fans of Mad Men. Producers of the popular AMC period drama re-created American’s most famous restaurant in Season Two for several scenes.

mad men lutece

Photo: AMC

And to complete this real estate threesome, Kate Kearny’s bar and the Leopard restaurant occupied 251 and 253 respectively.

Kate Kearny’s namesake was “a well known beauty in Ireland in the years before the Great Famine (1845-1849). The legend of Kate has captured the imagination of people far and wide down through the years. It was at this síbín that Kate distilled her famous poitín, ‘Kate Kearney’s Mountain Dew,’” which was “very fierce and wild, requiring not less than seven times its own quantity of water to tame and subdue it.” It was illicit, of course, yet Kate flouted the law and usually invited the weary traveller to partake of her hospitality.

kates

The Leopard held down the fort at 253 East 50th Street since 1963, but would eventually close because the owner lost her lease. Speaking of leases, Spadea, Inc., the building owner, had leased the ENTIRE building to The Leopard Restaurant. How’s that for business savvy? Rent for a commercial space and rent on top of rent for residential above.

leopard

Similarly and very rare nowadays, the chef and mastermind behind Lutèce, Andre Soltner, also owned the building (249) his restaurant occupied. This establishment closed in 2004, unable to recoup after the devastation of 9/11.

soltner

People were simply no longer spending money, at least not THAT kind of money on dining. You know, the kind where prices are not included on the menus.

resolver-1

resolver

Built in 1903, these three buildings were sold in January 2006 to 249-253 East 50th Development LLC. Each structure is four stories and incredibly beautiful amidst the crumbling and neglect. They’ve been on the market for several years as a “DEVELOPMENT SITE — PRIME LOCATION!! — 51,000 Buildable SF – DELIVERED VACANT,” but no one is buying.

Maybe they see the beauty that we do; why destroy?  We vote rebuild.

These little-buildings-that-could have provided more than a glimpse into the heyday of luxe Manhattan.

To Turtle Bay we go.

1853, Courtesy NYPL

1853, Courtesy NYPL

So it’s a little different now. Does anyone have a time machine? Doctor Who? Come get us. We’re ready.

What you are going to see is breathtaking and heartbreaking in so many ways. You can still discern what was while watching as it all falls down. No explanation why these unique triplets are facing the demolition squad. They have original wide paneled wood floors, terraces and quaint rooftops.

Here’s an astounding then and now look at Lutèce to get you prepared:

See rear opening. This is the terrace dining that looks out to the dining space below

Lutèce; see rear opening. This is the terrace dining that looks out to the dining space below

_wm-29

Two of the buildings – 249 and 251 East 50th Street – are actually connected via plank-bridge between the windows. 

iduqs1e

Plank connects 249 to 251

Hand painted murals and spiral staircases, hand carved banisters and balustrades. 19th century burlap stair runners beneath wood and carpet. Fireplaces in every apartment above the restaurants. Curtains still hanging, billowing.

Windows! Oh those sash windows! PROOF OF HISTORY in case you walk by some. Before glass could be made in one large sheet, the norm was “six over six” (6 little panels on top and bottom) connected by wooden sashes; these buildings actually had  nine over nine which were cheaper).

Le sigh.

Gander, ponder, pine for the good ol’ days when dressing up for dinner meant suits and dresses, chivalry and etiquette.

Hold that chair out, let’s marvel at this slideshow together.

This story has multiple pages:

Recent Stories

47clinton-sold
Icon Realty Snaps Up 47 Clinton Street for $5M

Two weeks ago, Icon Realty Management made headlines after selling its massive holding at 50-62 Clinton Street for a record-setting $28 million. The transaction now paves the way for a new seven-story residential development. Yet while the real estate investment firm was busy closing the deal, it quietly made a purchase just across the pavement. […]

Photo: Boing Boing
First Two Volumes of Ed Piskor’s ‘Hip Hop Family Tree’ Now for Sale as Box Set

For the music heads out there who don’t already know, you absolutely must check out Ed Piskor’s fantastic “Hip Hop Family Tree” comic series. The weekly cartoons – exclusively published on Boing Boing – illustrate the birth of the art form in an easily consumable manner. If you haven’t been following, no biggie. There is […]

gaia-east-houston
Gaia Italian Cafe is Taking a Week-Long Break Starting Next Thursday

Fair warning that Gaia Italian Cafe is taking a brief recess on September 25. Eponymous owner Gaia Bagnasacco took to the company Facebook page to note that the beloved three-year-old restaurant will reopen a week later on October 2, and to thank patrons for the support. Gaia is certainly a neighborhood treasure, and fiercely protected […]

bowery-delancey-intersection-1
The DOT Not Seeing the Light with Traffic Signals at Bowery and Delancey

The city spent loads of taxpayer dollars the last few years trying to remedy the traffic situation at the intersection of Bowery and Delancey/Kenmare. Road crews keep digging up pavement, repainting the lanes, and beautifying the medians. To no avail. The bigger issue continually shrugged aside is fixing the sequence timing of the signals here. […]

preserve24-eviction
Serge Hoyda Successful in Evicting Preserve 24; Per Se Vet Dropped from Lawsuit

Last Friday, epic failure Preserve 24 (aka Aegis Holding Houston LLC) was officially evicted from 177 East Houston by court order. It has been closed and dormant since late June, and will not reopen under new management as one sign proclaims. The papers served by landlord Serge Hoyda are now taped to the front door. […]