Remnants of Bull’s Head Tavern Possibly Found at 50 Bowery Construction Site

Posted on: October 14th, 2013 at 5:08 am by
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The demolition of 50 Bowery ahead of the glassy new replacement tower currently has preservationists in a tizzy. As previously disclosed, Peter Poon Architects already earmarked this parcel for the 20-story Hotel Bowery; advocates of history hope to protect its rich past, however futile their actions.

One concerned Boogie reader – historian and author David Freeland (Automats, Taxi Dances, and Vaudeville) – sent along the following communique over the weekend. It is believed that remnants of the famous colonial-era Bull’s Head Tavern were uncovered during the takedown. If proven true, this would be a most significant find, as this establishment was once George Washington’s headquarters and a major gathering spot in Revolutionary New York City.

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Possible remnants of the historic tavern

Dear Colleagues,

I’m sharing an email below, from a source who wishes to stay anonymous, but who has worked his way inside the Atlantic Garden demolition site at 50 Bowery south of Canal, to document what is happening there. As many of you know, I wrote about the Atlantic Garden in my AUTOMATS book – it was the oldest entertainment site in Manhattan for which there was still a visible remnant, having opened in 1858. The AG was the most popular and enduring of all the German beer gardens on the Bowery, and the harboring place for many a cultural movement related to vaudeville and performance (“A Bicycle Built for Two,” for example, was first sung there).

In the Atlantic Garden chapter, I touched on the site’s pre-beer garden history, mentioning that the original building was believed to have been a renovation of the 18th-century Bull’s Head Tavern, once George Washington’s headquarters and a major gathering spot in Colonial Era New York. Yesterday, the source below got inside of the building (the wreckers have not yet gotten to the oldest front portion on the Bowery) and discovered the original Colonial Era cellar, with stone walls and wooden planks. This is a major find – not only as the oldest built structure remaining in Manhattan (c. 1750) and a glimpse into our Colonial and Revolutionary Era history, but as a prospective site for invaluable archeological research.

I am sending this to you, with urgency, hoping that some of you might know of a way to encourage the city to put the demolition on hold, long enough for a proper historical assessment to be made at the site. Apparently, someone at LPC has already been contacted, but at this point we’ll need as much help as we can get. Again, the demolition has not reached this portion of the structure yet, but there is not much time.

Boogie faithful, let’s help spread the word to save this site before another unneeded Bowery hotel rises. Scheduled completion date is still far off – sometime in 2015.

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