For Local Preservationist, Case of Bull’s Head Tavern at 50 Bowery is Not Closed

Photo:  Chrysalis Archaeological Consultants.

Photo: Chrysalis Archaeological Consultants.

This past November, we interviewed Jonathan Chu, whose family is building the 22-story Joie de Vivre Hotel at 50 Bowery. Part of our story concerned an investigation by Chrysalis Archaeological Consultants, which had been brought in to find out whether remains of the historic Bull’s Head Tavern still existed on the development site. While the firm found many interesting historic objects, it did not uncover any items that offered conclusive proof that the Revolutionary War-era watering hole was located in this exact spot. Now the New York Times weighs in with the next chapter of this fascinating story.

In an in-depth multimedia piece, “New York History as Told by 50 Bowery,” the Times traces an ‘address in Lower Manhattan” that “has been a loadstone for cultural, political and demographic changes of the city.” An accompanying story looks at the archaeological dig, which took place over a five-week period. Among the interviews is one with Adam Woodward, “an amateur historian known for his renegade research tactics.” Woodward was the source of photos from the Bowery site showing “ax-hewn joists, twisted metal and crumbling bricks,” tantalizing clues of Bull’s Head Tavern remnants. Today, Woodward and the archaeological consultant, Alyssa Loorya have a difference of opinion about what was unearthed:

There were some old stones that might have been reused from the original tavern, Ms. Loorya said. But the 10-to-15-foot ax-hewn beams Mr. Woodward had photographed were in fact recovered at 52 Bowery, throwing into question the tavern’s location next door at number 50. Also, the beams had been “heavily modified,” meaning they had been moved from their original position and refitted with modern tools. Though most of the site was gutted in the early 2000s when the drugstore moved in, the real damage had been done in the 1860s, when the Atlantic Garden expanded. “There was little to no consideration to preserve the 18th-century remains when the builders came barreling through,” Ms. Loorya said. For Mr. Woodward, the Chrysalis report did not provide closure. “I don’t think the archaeological work done clarifies the debate in the least,” he said. Mr. Woodward sent wood samples selected from structural elements to the dendrochronology lab at Columbia University. The oak sample’s rings were cross-dated with the lab’s master tree-ring chronology, developed from living trees and historical samples collected in the New York City and New Jersey area. Edward Cook, who helped found the lab in 1975, concluded that one of the timbers sampled was cut for construction in the winter or early spring of 1788. “We can say that with 100 percent certainty,” Dr. Cook said. “It would be nice, if they are, in fact, the remaining samples from the Bull’s Head.” But he distanced himself from drawing any conclusions. “I provide the dates and let the historians argue,” he said. Mr. Woodward suggests that after the Revolutionary War, the Bull’s Head was extensively modified. He said it was “highly probable” that the joists and wrought-iron rose-head nails that were discovered mixed in with the beams from the Atlantic Garden were part of an original late-18th-century structure that could have been the Bull’s Head.

As we reported in November, some of the artifacts are being incorporated into the hotel. There will also be a gallery focused on Chinatown history run by the Museum of Chinese in America. Meanwhile, the Chu family and the Brooklyn-based Talde restaurant group will go before Community Board 3 tomorrow night in pursuit of several liquor permits for the hotel.

Talde Team Opening Several Large Venues at 50 Bowery Hotel

50 Bowery Rendering/Architect Peter Poon.

50 Bowery Rendering/Architect Peter Poon.

There’s big news in Chinatown this afternoon. The team behind Talde in Brooklyn is bringing several large-scale restaurant/nightlife establishments to the new Joie de Vivre Hotel, opening this coming fall at 50 Bowery.

Celebrity chef Dale Talde, David Massoni and John Bush created a mini-restaurant empire after opening the cutting edge, Asian-inspired Park Slope restaurant in 2012. According to documents filed with Community Board 3, they plan to create four separate venues at the 22-story boutique hotel.

They’re envisioning a 150-seat restaurant tentatively called “Second Floor Breezeway.” It will be open from 8 a.m.-midnight. There’s also a cellar bar called “The Green Lady” with 119 seats, live music and nightly DJ’s. It’s proposed operating hours are 5 p.m.-4 a.m. On the ground floor, the team hopes to open a venue called “Rice & Gold.” Diagrams indicate 218 seats and a 10-seat bar, as well as an outdoor space. On the 19 floor, a space called “Top Floor,” includes another outdoor space and decor meant to simulate an old-time New York City park. It would close at 2 a.m.

The menu in the cellar bar includes “dim sum-style” service, a prime rib cart, raw bar cart and Peking duck cart. At Rice & Gold, menu choices include: hand-pulled noodles with braised rabbit, Thai fried chicken, a 24 ounce prime rib and whole-roasted Dover sole. The top floor will feature floor-to-ceiling windows, “classic viewfinders strategically spaced around the space,” old-style lamp posts, park benches and hot dog carts. Options in the bar include Jamaican jerk dogs, Berlin brat dogs and Korean BBQ dogs.

The application will be considered by Community Board 3 Feb. 16.  See the full app below and check out our previous coverage of the Joie de Vivre Hotel here.  In short, the project is being built by Chinatown’s Chu family, which has owned the property for decades. The 225-room hotel is part of a boutique chain operated as a division of Commune Hotels & Resorts.  In the CB3 paperwork, Alex Chu is listed as one of the liquor license applicants, along with the Talde partners.

Chinatown’s Chu Family Goes Public With 50 Bowery Hotel Plans

Followup: Possible Revolutionary War-Era Relics at 50 Bowery

It’s been about three weeks since photos first surfaced indicating that remnants from the Revolutionary War-era Bull’s Head Tavern might still lay below 50 Bowery, a demolition site just below Canal Street.  Here are the latest developments.

Landmarks Commission: No Jurisdiction to Mandate Historic Site Survey at 50 Bowery

We have been following developments at 50 Bowery, where preservationists hope a demolition/construction project will be halted long enough to investigate a potentially major historical discovery.  We learned a bit more information yesterday afternoon regarding the city’s stance on the issue.

Photos: Possible Evidence of Bull’s Head Tavern Beneath 50 Bowery

Inside 50 Bowery. Photos by Adam Woodward.

Inside 50 Bowery. Photos by Adam Woodward.

On Sunday, we reported that a local preservationist had possibly uncovered evidence of the Revolutionary War-era Bull’s Head Tavern beneath the Bowery.  The New York Times has now picked up on the story and that preservationist, Adam Woodward, has gone public with a video and lots of photos from the scene of a potentially major historic discovery.

Remnants From Bull’s Head Tavern May Have Been Found Beneath Bowery Demolition Site

Lower East Side preservationists are buzzing this weekend about a potentially blockbuster discovery.

50 Bowery Hotel Project Still Lacks City Approval

20 Elizabeth Street.

20 Elizabeth Street.

If you’ve walked down Elizabeth Street below Canal lately, you might have noticed the plywood on the east side of the block, alongside the former storefront of South China Garden, the popular restaurant that closed a couple of years ago, and Jing Fong, Chinatown’s largest restaurant. What’s going on here? For many years, Chinatown property owner Alex Chu has been planning to build a hotel on the site, which extends through to 50-52 Bowery. In 2009, the Real Deal reported that Chu, president of Eastbank, planned a 27-story tower with hotel rooms, apartments and retail. Like so many other development proposals, it’s taken a long time to come to fruition.