While Ann Street was famous for its printers, yet it should also have a niche in the annals of fame for the many restaurants, or “Eating-Houses” as they were called then, which flourished in the period dating back seventy to eighty years. Of course, there were probably a number of them which had made the street a mecca before this.
The majority of these places were located between Park Row and Nassau Street. One of the earliest was Windust’s. Edward Windust, formerly at 149 Water Street, finding business not to his liking at that address, opened a restaurant in 1824 at 5 to 11 Chatham Street (now Park Row), with a side-door entrance at 5 Ann Street. His establishment being in close proximity to the celebrated Park Theater, was much frequented by actors and actresses, and the prominent members of society who enjoyed the play at this theater. The walls of the restaurant were richly adorned with dramatic prints. Many of the prominent authors of the period made Windust’s their habitat, and it is also said that Robt. E. Lee, Miles O’Reilly and Horace Greeley occasionally stopped here to enjoy Windust’s famous dinners. The Ann Street side-door was the very bane of the cabman’s existence. Many a cab would drive to the Chatham Street entrance, deposit its occupant, who would enter the restaurant and immediately depart by the Ann Street door, leaving the cabman without payment. Windust’s motto was “Nunquam Non Paratus.” He lived for a time at 11 Ann Street. In 1865 he withdrew, subsequently opening the Athenaeum Hotel at 347 Broadway.
In the early 30s Hugh Pattinson started a restaurant at the northwest corner of Ann and Nassau streets, succeeded by Green and Mercer. They had a sign at the entrance which read “Entrance to La-dies’ Dining Rooms at the Private Door, 21 Ann Street.”
Harry B. Venn, who was an old volunteer fireman and somewhat of a poet, had a “Porterhouse Saloon” at 13 Ann Street in the 30s, which was a favorite gathering place for the firemen.
Alexander Welsh, or as he was familiarly called, “Sandy” Welsh, in 1832 had a restaurant under the Scudder Museum, which was called “The Terrapin Lunch,” so named because of the famous turtle soup served there. He was extremely popular, his dinners attracting people from all quarters of the city, especially politicians, who generally discussed the recent events of the city government over the neatly-laid tables. His motto was “Dun Vivimus Vivamus.” He was a worthy competitor of Windust.
He afterwards removed to 66 Chatham Street.
This article would not be complete without mentioning Mouquin’s at No. 20 Ann Street, famous the world over for the splendor of its French cooking and its sparkling foreign wines of rare vintage. Originally the establishment was started in May, 1857, on Fulton Street by Mr. and Mrs. Mouquin, Sr., who found the downtown section of the city devoid of high-class restaurants where the cosmopolitan could enjoy foreign cookery, cheeses and sparkling liquors at what was considered a nominal cost in those days. These quarters were outgrown, however, and on May 1, 1870, the premises at No. 20 Ann Street were occupied, the building running through to Fulton Street. They have prospered at this address ever since, the old couple having now retired to let their sons super-intend the establishment. Many modern improvements have been made to the old buildings since the original Ann Street opening fifty years ago. Their motto is “In Vino Veritas.” Many of the most prominent people high in public and society life have made this famous institution their habitat, for the word Mouquin is synonymous with the words “excellent wining and dining.” This old and famous establishment was discontinued when prohibition went into effect.
In 1859 Herr Gehben, who had landed in this country a poor immigrant a short time previous, opened a small grocery store at 24 Ann Street. By thrifty methods the business expanded and eventually became exclusively a restaurant where the most tempting of lunches was served for the business man who had but a few moments at the most to gulp down a few mouthfuls of coffee and take a bite or two at a sandwich. This establishment was a great resort for many of the most noted downtown business men, who delighted to joke with the kind-hearted proprietor. He was quite an authority on poetry, and many were the quips and jests passed between customer and owner on this particular subject, each endeavoring to outdo the other in criticizing or praising some favorite verse. He was also astute and far-seeing in real estate ventures, holding leases on 24 and 26 Ann Street for a great many years, on which a substantial profit was made. Business was so successful that he eventually retired, worth a half-million dollars, going back to the country of his birth, where he died a few years ago. The building in which he originally started the little grocery store at No. 24 Ann Street, and also that at No. 26 Ann Street, were both demolished in 1914 for Whyte’s restaurant.
There were other resorts on the street of not so commendable a nature, such as “The Rest,” patronized by journeyman printers, and “On Deck,” a sporting place kept by Conklin Titus at No. 8 Ann Street. He was a town celebrity. There was also a place called the “Tapio Franc,” occasionally devoted to dog and cock-fighting.
In the more modern times, that is to say within twenty years, cheap restaurants where the office-boy could enjoy his “frankfurter and a roll” for a few cents, and a delicious (?) waffle with ice-cream sandwiched in between, flourished for a number of years. There were such places at Nos. 7 and 15 Ann Street, and the motley crowds who frequented these emporiums crowded the sidewalks, making passage through the block between Park Row and Nassau Street a difficult matter. Rivalry between opposing proprietors seeking to entice the hungry office-boy caused many a commotion, and the police were called in frequently to settle these encounters. One of these establishments still remains, however, but with the activity and bustle of bygone years missing. Many a lawyer now prominent at the bar, or business man of high standing, still remembers the days when he had but a few cents for the noonday repast which was spent in the cheap lunch rooms in Ann Street, and even in our time they will frequently pass and repass the doors of establishments similar to those mentioned, the savory odors being reminiscent of bygone days, bringing back memories long since forgotten.
To say that Ann Street of today is a busy thorough-fare is putting it mildly. It is decidedly busy, thousands of pedestrians using it, more so because of its close proximity to the Post Office and Park Row.
It is only a few years ago that the novelty fakers made the street their headquarters, displaying their wares on pushcarts and endeavoring to entice the noonday crowds to purchase their goods; but with the advent of reform administrations these motley individuals are gone forever.
Strangely, too, horse cars until about eight years ago ran through Ann Street, turning east from Park Row to William Street, thence turning south and continuing east on Fulton Street. It certainly was a humorous sight; one car a day operating, it was said, to keep up the franchise of the company. The Public Service Commission compelled the traction company to discontinue the service and remove the tracks. The street was then paved with asphalt from Broadway to Nassau Street, but the remaining two blocks are still paved with the old-fashioned cobblestones.
The National Park Bank has erected on Ann Street, on Dick. & Fitzgerald’s old site at No. 18, a beautiful addition to its Broadway edifice, and together with the St. Paul Building this has obliterated all the numbers from 2 to 18. The Park Row Building also has a small frontage on the north side of Ann Street between Park Row and Nassau Street. In fact, this block has been modernized to a great extent, but further down between Nassau and Gold streets there still remains old brick buildings, housing junk-shops, carpenter shops, etc., which remind one of many years ago. Between William and Gold streets are manufacturing interests, the tall buildings looking as if they had been suddenly chopped off in the centre.
In 1913 the block between Broadway and Nassau Street was again widened by the removing of the building encroachments, and this has added a little architectural beauty to the street which at first was not apparent. The street has now settled down into an era of prosperity; it is in the heyday of success pursuing the sober “even tenor of its way.”