The storied locale that housed Gage & Tollner restaurant from 1892 through the beginning of the millennium is both an endearing and bittersweet tale of Downtown Brooklyn’s history. New York City landmarked the eatery’s exterior in 1974 and a year later, its interior. It was the first landmarked dining room and the city’s third interior landmark of any kind. The first two were the New York Public Library and Grant’s Tomb.
In a lengthy piece in the Wall Street Journal, writer Barry Newman discusses the 120-year-old heritage of 374 Fulton Street, from the seafood restaurant owner’s purchase of the building in 1919 to its eventual demise. WSJ offers: In 1976, Fulton Street became a pedestrian mall, with no automobile traffic. The streets were scary, and the old crowd began eating elsewhere.” In 1985 then-owner Ed Dewey decided to sell the famous destination. In 1995, it filed for bankruptcy, before closing around 2004.
Since, it has held T.G.I. Friday’s, which lasted until 2007. Arby’s came next, in January 2010. It endured for just eight months. And in the summer of 2011, a discount costume jewelry store opened in the spot. WJS says, “The Landmarks commission says the landlord asked for a permit to make alterations after they were made. It denied the application for lack of detail and, this month, issued a violation. The commission, still lacking a satisfactory response, has issued another violation that can lead to a fine of $5,000 a day.”
Meanwhile, many of the original lighting fixtures from Gage & Tollner were stolen. Some mirrors and arches are said to survive behind bright pink panels. And what of the famous eatery that is no longer? Its last owners, Peter Aschkenasy and Joe Chirico still own the name. The latter says he’d like to reopen the restaurant “in a place where you can get to the front door.” And its Landmarked decor? In New York, he says, a crew can “replicate that in no time.” (Photo: Chuck Taylor/July 2010)