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Another Look: Garden Cafeteria Revisited

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April 2005, Garden Cafeteria sign briefly revealed.

Sometimes it’s surprising what can be unearthed in an old shoe box or in the deep recesses of your computer hard drive. A reader of The Lo-Down sent along this photo she snapped in 2005 on the corner of East Broadway and Rutgers streets, at the very moment a treasured Lower East Side relic was briefly rediscovered before being removed for good.

You probably recognize the facade; today the Wing Shoon Chinese restaurant is located here. But from 1941-1983, the ground floor of 165 East Broadway was the legendary Garden Cafeteria. It was a center of Jewish intellectual life on the Lower East Side — and a gathering place for poets and writers such as Elie Wiesel and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

This week, Wing Shoon, 165 East Brodway.

As the Grand Street News reported in May of 2005, the “Garden Cafeteria” lettering was discovered as workers temporarily pulled down the “Wing Shoon” signage that had been covering it up for more than 20 years. Thanks to the efforts of the Museum at Eldridge Street and the LES Jewish Conservancy, the vertical portion of the sign, spelling out “Garden,” was salvaged.

Amy Stein-Milford of the the Museum at Eldridge Street told us yesterday they still have the sign. It’s in storage, but was loaned about a year ago to the Museum of the City of New York for an exhibition on the Jewish Daily Forward, which was once located a few doors to the east of the Garden Cafeteria.

If you’d like to read more about the history of this famous landmark, have a look at Place Matters (a project of the Municipal Art Society and City Lore)  And if you would like to share your photos with us -old or new – send them to tips@thelodowny.com

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