Election Night Back When: The Forward Building’s Role

The Forward Building. Alan Hochman, Collection of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.

Editor’s note: Just as New Yorkers try to shake off the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy, the city shifts its attention to today’s presidential election.  While most of us will be glued to the television or to our handheld digital device tonight, waiting to see whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will be our next president, it’s worth recalling the way Election Day used to play out on the Lower East Side.  Writer and filmmaker Laurie Gwen Shapiro takes us back to the year 1912:

At the start of October, my lifelong political junkie father and I were anxiously weighing Obama’s chances en route to Café Petisco on East Broadway. I was keeping pace alongside his moving electric scooter when Dad curiously slowed to a halt in front of The Forward Building, former headquarters of the once powerful Yiddish newspaper, and more recently the site of luxurious condos owned by the likes of Tatum O’Neal.

“I bet you didn’t know how the Lower East Side got our election results before TV? Before the internet? On the Forwartz building. They projected the results on the side of the building. On a giant white screen. You can’t believe what a big deal it was.”

I am a New York City history junkie, and pressed Dad for details, right in the middle of the street.

“Ah, I don’t know anything. Let’s eat lunch, I’m not a historian.”