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
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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

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

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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.

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