Remembering the Forgotten Rooftop Sign of Monk Eastman’s Eldridge Street Tailor
Sitting atop an Eldridge Street tenement, weathered by time and atmosphere, is a rusty remnant of the past. It dates back nearly a century, yet remains part of the Lower East Side skyline.
The advertecture once boasted sky-high lettering for Witty Brothers, the famous turn-of-the-century clothier who dressed Monk Eastman.
The warehouse-looking building at 50-52 Eldridge still carries the “Witty Brothers” name. It is here that a local fashion empire began in 1888. Founded by patriarch David Witty, the store sold “elegant men’s clothing” fashioned from “luxurious fabrics, cashmere, and Scottish tweeds.” It was popular through the Great Depression, with operations taken over by his grandsons in 1939. By the time Eagle Clothes took over in 1967, Witty boasted five stores in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn.
However, a bit lesser known is that Witty was the tailor of gang leader (and World War I veteran) Monk Eastman. In fact, the notorious Lower East Sider was found dead in 1920 – Murdered in Union Square after Christmas – dressed in a Witty Brothers suit.
After the incident, Henry Witty told the New York Tribune:
Monk Eastman, the old time gang leader … we have made clothes for him for nineteen years. The last suit we made for him was delivered October 21, this year.
Perhaps the signage will make a comeback.