A Christmas song from 1816



We have found a connection to one of the most famous German Christmas songs and our building. Johannes Daniel Falk, father of Gabrielle Saeltzer (wife of our architect,) writer, poet (friend of Schiller and Goethe) and founder of the youth social work movement has been credited along with Johann Gottfried Herder for this song. As the story goes a Sicilian orphan boy started to sing this folk song at Christmas night at the Falks’ home. The Falk family have opened their house as shelter to orphaned children after the devastating Napoleonic wars.

Happy Birthday Mr. Saeltzer!



Our architect, Alexander Saeltzer was born 200 years ago on July 31, 1814 in Eisenach, in the Grand Duchy of Saxon-Weimar Eisenach during the time of Grand Duke Karl August.

passport-detailHis US passport application i(above) has been submitted in 1857 with the accompanying document of his naturalization certificate that dates back to 1855.

In the coming weeks we will share with you details about his public and private life, his commissions in New York, Long Island, Canada and California and design for those that he have not won, his research about the connection between ventilation and sound and the architectural style best suited for tall buildings.

School Alert – 1864 Memo


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In 1864 the Hebrew Free School Association came into existence, as the story goes, to counter the initiatives of Christian missionaries who opened a school on New York’s East Side that offered to teach Hebrew to Jewish children with the agenda to convert them to Christianity.

Throughout various states of the Union a movement gradually spread for the organization of free religious schools, which would bring into a common-school system children from the various congregations in each city.

This was no surprise to Anshi Chesed on Norfolk Street; the headquarter of the missionary activity was just across of their building, at the Episcopal Mission Church of the Epiphany (later called Pro-Cathedral) on Stanton Street, between Norfolk and Essex Streets, at the location of the present PS 20 Anne Silver School and the ABC Playground.

A few months before the Hebrew Free School association came into existence, this notice was circulated to all New York congregations, including Anshi Chesed.


    in: The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of The American Jewish Archives, Congregation Anshe Chesed Records, 1835-1874. MF-3629


     At a meeting of the officers of our city congregations, held on Sunday, April 3rd, a resolution was adopted, that public notice be given in our Synagogues, to the following effect:

     It has come to the knowledge of the United Congregations that there are Jewish parents who send their children to schools, purporting to be “for Israelites, exclusively,” where instruction is gratuitously given in English, German and Hebrew, and also in the Christian “Testament.”

    Notice is hereby given that there is no free school now in operation under the direction or the authority of a Jewish Congregation, and the effect of sending children to such an institution as is here indicated, must be to estrange them from Judaism,

    The Jewish Congregations of New York will shortly establish Hebrew Free Schools, where Jewish youth may be educated in the Hebrew language, as well as in their religion. Due notice will be given of the location of these projected schools.

   Parents are accordingly earnestly cautioned against entrusting their children to any “free schools” purporting to be for the instruction of young Israelites, except those to be organized under the supervision of the Congregations, and which, it is expected, will be open at an early day.


To the President:

By a resolution, adopted at the meeting of the officers of New York Congregations, held on Sunday last, you are requested to have the above notice read in Synagogue, in English or German, for four successive Sabbaths and during the coming Holydays.

New York, April 6, 5624.

The mixed format of the date gave us a little headache but we concluded that April 6, 5624 was 29 Adar II 5624 / April 6, 1864.

Land Suit Leads to Wedding


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This is the background story to a wedding in our building on December 26, 1910 with 700 guests, officiated by Rabbi Philip Klein of Ohab Zedek, First Hungarian Orthodox Congregation.

A case in the Second District Municipal Court, in Madison Street [59 Madison Street -ed.] will lead today to a wedding in the Lower East Side.

Both the bride and the bridegroom are lawyers. They met in the Madison Street Court several weeks ago, one as defending counsel, the other as counsel for the complainant, and their friends say that each was deeply impressed with the skill the other displayed in handling the case.

The bridegroom is Harris Koppelman, whose office is at 302 Broadway. He is a member of the Congregation Ohab Zedek, on Norfolk Street. The bride is Esther Kunstler, daughter of Felix Kunstler, a real estate dealer of 158 Rivington Street.

..The case was won by Miss Kunstler’s client. When Miss Kunstler and Mr. Koppelman left court, however, they were best friends.

Whether the bride intends to continue her practice of law after the wedding will not be decided just yet, say her friends. She and her husband will think that over during their honeymoon which will be spent somewhere in the South. The Rev. Dr. Plilip Klein will perform the ceremony, and several hundred friends of the young lawyers are expected at the wedding. [“Land Suit Leads to Wedding – Bride and Bridegroom First Met in Court as Opposing Counsel”, The New York York Times, December 26, 1910]

By January the wedding report became news in society columns. This is a faded picture of bride and groom with the headline ” Defeated in Court – Weds Girl Lawyer – New York Attorney Loses in Law Clash but Wins with Cupid” on page 3 of the Spokane Daily Chronicle, January 5, 1911.


By the time of her wedding, Esther Kunstler had established herself as a dedicated professional and even earned the recognition of the press. Below are excerpts from contemporary sources:

The East Side of New York has  a Portia who is making a success of her chosen vocation.  She is Esther Kunstler, aged 22, and she has become champion for hundreds, not only in the  city’s police courts, but in the supreme court. She has been regularly admitted to the bar and has a shingle hung out in Rivington Street. The girl has taken upon herself the task of defending the poor people of the East Side. She is becoming famous for courtroom repartee. (The American Israelite, June 26, 1906)

“Oh, how could you do that?” – she exclaimed to the jury when they returned a verdict of guilty in the 19 years old Jacob Rosenstein’s case, charged with burglary. “..a nice, innocent boy like that!” The judge, finding that the boy was never been in trouble before, allowed him to go on a suspended sentence. (The New York Tribune June 8, 1906)

She talks to judge and jury in a “winning manner”, and her witticism keeps everybody in good humor. She generally creates somewhat of a sensation when she appears in a courtroom, for she looks more like a school girl than a lawyer. As she speaks six languages fluently, her list of clients grown steadily. Many of the poor whose rights she has championed look upon her as a sort of angel upon earth.


She loves her profession, and her father says that it is hardly likely that she will ever abandon it to marry. On this question Ms. Kunstler is uncommunicative. “My work is my life” – she said. I am happiest when I am defending some of my clients. It is a great work and I hope to make my mark some day. (Boston Advocate Oct 26, 1906 via syndication from The Globe).

Following the wedding in 1910 the two lawyers (both NYU Law School graduates, 1904 for Harris & 1906 for Esther) join forces and operate out of Esther’s law office on 144 Rivington Street up to the late 1930s, just next door to the Kunstler family’s home and properties on the block  (one of them being the building of ABC No Rio of subsequent fame.)

Teddy Roosevelt in “Little Hungary”


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This is the story of President Roosevelt’s 1905 visit to Little Hungary, at 257 Houston Street, just around the corner of our building on Norfolk Street. Max Schwartz, owner of Liberty Hall and Little Hungary (also called Liberty Cafe) had many times visited our building and so did Samuel S. Koenig and Marcus Braun (they are referred to in the below quoted contemporary news accounts.) Our esteemed rabbis (both from Anshi Chesed and Ohab Zedek)  attended and organized meetings either in Liberty Hall or in Max Schwartz’s “bohemian” establishment. We’ll have more entries with these stories at later dates , for now we focus on President Roosevelt’s visit in “Little Hungary” and add a few loosely connected stories about this place.

For the first time since the days when he was governor of New York, President Roosevelt revisited the heart of the east side, where as guest of the Hungarian Republican Club, he dined and spoke at the restaurant “Little Hungary.”


The attendance of President Roosevelt is the result made when he was Governor, that, if ever became President he would attend a dinner to be tendered by the Hungarian Republicans of his home city.

On May 31, 1899, Samuel S. Koenig, now Republican leader of the Sixteenth Assembly District, in rising to a toast at a dinner given at the Café Boulevard by the Hungarian Republican Club in honor of Governor Roosevelt, said that he was convinced there would be ample opportunity by 1904 to tender a dinner to “his Excellency, Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States.”

A few days following November 8 Election Day [1904] Marcus Braun reminded President Roosevelt of his promise of the days of his Governorship. The President recalled his promise and agreed to set a date for his coming. He selected Feb. 14, St. Valentine’s day.

Six years ago Gov. Roosevelt was entertained, at the same place, and when he was Police Commissioner he became familiar with every turn of the narrow streets through which he passed tonight . In his police escort tonight there were some of the men who wore their badges under him when he headed “the force.” and who still addressed him “Mr. Commissioner.” After taking dinner at “Little Hungary” he would often go to visit some poverty-stricken family in a back tenement and relieve their needs. Many stories are told of these visits, which were somewhat after the fashion of those of Haroun-al-Raschid.

On the eve of his presidential visit to “Little Hungary” security was so tight that President Roosevelt had little chance to slip away from his handlers for his customary neighborhood outings.

President McKinley’s assassination, that originally propelled Teddy Roosevelt to Presidency, was still a painful public memory. “Special Precautions Taken to Safeguard Mr. Roosevelt in Crowded Tenement District”, assured his readers the February 14, 1905 headline of  The Washington Times.

The police did not want to take any chances. At 6 o’clock the police began to clear the block In Houston-st. between Avenue A and Avenue B. The big restaurant on the south side and in the middle of the block. where the dinner to he President was to be given, already flashed forth in electric flame “Welcome to Our President,” and similar glowing signs appeared on the fronts of buildings on thenorth side of the street, while flags and bunting [lightweight worsted wool fabric] were displayed liberally by the various shops. Thousands of people were in the block then, gazing at the decorations and signs. The tenants of houses in the cleared block crowded the fire escapes and leaned out of front windows.

In a short time the people anxious to see the President’s arrival were posted in this way by the hundred.  Inspector Schmittberger saw that this would not do. as it would have been possible for a crank from any one of a hundred points to have fired a pistol or thrown a bomb.

A troop of mounted police rode slowly into the crowd, and, working east and west, gradually moved the sightseers into the side streets, where strong police lines were established to keep them back.

The crowd was in the best of humor, and no disorder or resistance occurred.

The patient people allowed themselves to be herded back, and in a remarkably short time the street before the restaurant and for two blocks in either direction, as well as for half a block down the side streets, was absolutely cleared.


Next day brought a real pilgrimage to Max Schwartz’s Little Hungary. “Anarchist Rub Elbows with Society in Hall Where He Dined”, “Rush Overwhelms Place” reports the February 16 issue of the New York Times.

The crowds that came, women in opera cloaks escorted by men in faultless evening attire, gave gasps of surprise as the doors swung open as on a scene from fairyland and closed on the squalor of an east-side street.

The table where the chief guests were seated had been placed in a part of the restaurant where the ordinary east side crowd gathers to drink Caravan tea in glasses, with great slices of lemon in it, and discuss the latest news from the old country.


For many years to come people recalled the president’s visit to this special spot of the East Side.

I have not been there for many years, but I believe that the chair on which the God of Blare sat is still on exhibition, and that the plan of the Holy Supper is still on the wall – with some vitriol about the ex-President, a 1928 article titled “Red-Ink Days” in H.L. Mencken’s publication The American Mercury Magazine reminiscences.

By then the chair was gone, eaten up by flames. On June 22, 1922 The Evening Post reports “Roosevelt Chair Burned in Fire in Little Hungary.”

A few weeks ago Theodore Roosevelt Jr. attended a business men’s meeting in the restaurant and the chair [of his father] was brought out for him to sit in. Immediately afterward It was restored to Its wrappings and taken back to tho storeroom in the cellar – where the fire started.

Downstairs in the restaurant, where 125 men and women were dining. [Jancsi] Rigo “the Gypsy Violinist,” one time husband of Clara Ward, led his orchestra in the Hungarian Rhapsody while the diners marched out in good order.


from left to right: Little Hungary poster of Jancsi Rigo; 1922 Oakland Tribune news report of the fire; Jancsi Rigó with Clara Ward, Princess Caraman-Chimay of Belgium, as seen by Toulouse-Lautrec in 1897.

Little Hungary kept serving locals along with East Side visitors and proudly claimed the title of the most bohemian place in the heart of the ghetto.



Names & Numbers


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Part of the grassland covering the island of Manhattan during the Lenape era, our land on today’s Norfolk Street lay a short but safe distance from the salt meadows of the East Side. The street, in its earliest incarnation, was a small dirt road cutting into the bucolic land of Pieter Stuyvesant, Director General of the Dutch West India Company, just off  Mr. Jones’ property.

Like neighboring Essex and Suffolk Street, it was named after English counties in the early days of English settlement.

We made a bold attempt to locate Norfolk Street and mark the present location of our building on early maps.

1762 map


1776 map


In the 1770s, it neatly fit into the island’s first planned street layout, the DeLancey Farm’s grid forming one of the main roads with access to the North from waterways.


James DeLancey developed ‘East-West’ accessibility with new thoroughfares below the spacious core of his estate, the DeLancey Square, modeled after London’s great Georgian residential enclaves.

The street that today runs just South of our building was named after his estate foreman George Stanton, a diligent worker, even after General Washington’s American War of Independence forced the Loyalist DeLancey to desert his entire (legal and natural) family and abandon all his property in the colonies.

In January 1782 Stanton sends a letter to DeLancey’s refuge in London.“I have made it my Business to acquaint your tenants…they answer me in general. Let’s know how the war will end,” writes Stanton to his exiled master.  A year later representation of DeLancey’s affairs falls to his friend, Mr. James Rivington (publisher of a pro-British paper during the Revolution and according to some accounts a secret spy for George Washington) who shares the difficulties of his predecessor. Rivington writes, “this must prove most inconvenient and highly mortifying to you” but hints at some [unrealized] hope in 1783: “I flatter myself you will still be able to recover the whole by either by an exception from a prosecution act, or the fair construction of the Treaty.”

As part of major events in the year of 1805 Cradle Days of New York (1609-1825) lists the paving of Norfolk Street.


Maps show Norfolk Street connecting Division Street–the oirginal dividing line between the Rutgers Farm and the DeLancey Farm in the colonial era–with North Street, a strategic thoroughfare that constituted the geographic border of municipal development on New York’s East Side up until the early 19th century.

Starting with City Council documents from 1808, North Street becomes Houston Street; the name’s origin and pronunciation is a hot topic to this day. It involved the donation of a cut-through tract of land on the West side of the island (between Bowery Lane and Broadway) that enabled the city to connect a street named Houston to the prominent North street (see map below.) It is reasonable to believe that the street’s nomenclature originates as a grand gesture from the wealthy landowner Nicholas Bayard III, towards his daughter, Mary. She had married a certain William Houstoun [no typo], a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1784 through 1786 and to the United States Constitutional Convention in 1787.


The 1811 Commissioners’ Plan established the foundations of the city grid as we know it, anchored it around the little pedestrian island we now call Peretz Square, just off today’s First Avenue and First Street. The names of the streets below Houston street and East of Essex street, an already established grid, got incorporated with no change into the master plan of the growing city.

1847 map


When a piece of land was purchased by congregation Anshi Chesed in 1849 to build a new synagogue on Norfolk Street, the empty lot was assigned 142-146; the numbering ended with 162 at Houston Street.


In 1886 Ohab Zedek First Hungarian Orthodox Congregation purchased the building and dedicated it on August 13.  During the following year they received numerous renovation permits for their new home at 142-46 Norfolk Street. When their rabbi Philip Klein finally arrived in 1890, they celebrated his installation in the same building but at 172-176 Norfolk Street (the address of our building today.)