Saturday, September 7, 2013

Champagne Wishes & Caviar Dreams, At The Brooklyn Bridge!?

Yes, the Brooklyn Bridge has not just one, but two champagne cellars. Now, I know what your thinking, no way. But wait, I mean if a George C. Parker could continuously sell the Brooklyn Bridge over and over, why can't there be champagne cellars, I mean think of how much more he could have charged for the bridge if he knew they were there. But why would engineers leave massive gaps in the bridge to store champagne? And why the Brooklyn Bridge? And why have most people never heard about their existence, in such an iconic piece of architecture? So if you'd like pour yourself a glass of bubbly, put on your finest house coat and get ready to learn about the Brooklyn Bridge Champagne Cellars.

The Brooklyn Bridge was completed by 1883 and building it was no easy task, but why leave room for a champagne cellar? The answer, they were there before the bridge was built. Prior to the Brooklyn Bridge connecting Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan, at the very spot where the anchorages were placed, stood Rackey's Wine (Brooklyn side) and Luyties & Co., (Manhattan side) another liquor company. So, the bridge builders worked around the business and incorporated storage spaces into the bridge. More importantly, the spaces were rented to the companies in order to help the city pay for the bridge's construction. For example according to city records, in 1901, Luyties & Co. was paying $1000 a year for renting out the Manhattan side, while renting the Brooklyn side was only $500 a year, sorry you had to read that New York business renters. But why keep your booze in a bridge? Temperature control of course. These business need a storage area that remained a constant cool temperature. Where better in New York than inside a vaults made of limestone and granite. But how could these vaults have been lost to history? Imaging how much you could rent these vaults out for today.

Stanley Greenberg

The reason these vaults were lost to time is because of three events. First, World War I. Due to WWI everything in New York Harbor, that includes the East River, was under lock and key, especially after the Black Tom Explosion. The second reason, or what I like to call the worst idea in American History, Prohibition. So from about the years 1916 to 1933 the vaults remained empty, tapped, dry, a very sad place. But as soon as Prohibition ended, the vaults were back in service, at;east for a brief time. When booze was allowed to flow free in the U.S. the vaults were reoccupied and reopened with a bang, well more like a pop. The Anthony Oechs & Co. would be the newest tenants. Only a few 100 New Yorkers were invited and witnessed the big to do. What do I mean by big to do? Well, the Alderman President, Bernard S. Deutsch, hand over the keys to the vault, live music was played, people danced and oh yea, people got pretty drunk. Even though there was a short revival for the vaults, they were closed again due to World War II. After that the city then took over the vaults and they have been almost forgotten ever since.

Now it is a shame what happened to the vaults. At one time known as the "Blue Grotto" the vaults were a sight to be seen. Throughout the vaults, the walls were decorated with murals of different vineyards from France, Italy and Germany. Also the vaults were labeled as French street names, also very intricately done, like, Sichel Bordeaux, Avenue Les Deux Oefs and so on. In other areas different mottoes, in French, Germany and Italian, graced the walls, most likely mottoes of the vineyard or liquor companies. The main focal point was a shrine to the Virgin Mary which was brought from the Pol Roger cellars in Epernay France. But after WWII the vaults were taken over by the city and used for storage. The murals have long faded and the walls stand bare. The vaults are still there, a testament to the construction of the bridge. The vaults are still even being explored, by city workers but also urban explorers. Most recently a cache of provisions from the Cold War era were found deep in the vaults. What may be most intriguing is the vaults are still not 100% mapped. So no one knows just how far, deep or where the vaults end up. Perhaps one day the vaults can be fully explored, and what would be better is if they let me do it, and a great discovery can be made about the use of the vaults during their champagne hosting days. Or who knows maybe it can be turn into some kind a beer garden, I'm talking to you Brooklyn Brewery, so don't forget the History Guy if you ever make that a reality.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    Champaign Urbana apartments. WOW!!! That is incredible! I love that you did this yourself. I also love that you didn't give up on the process. So beautiful!!