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Lüchow’s

Lüchow’s

Established in 1882, Lüchow’s restaurant was a local cultural hub but was demolished in 1995 after being damaged in a fire.

Location: 110 East 14th Street, New York, NY  |  Google Maps
Neighborhood: East Village
People: Jim Brady, Antonín Dvořák, Jeffrey Glick, Victor Herbert, August Guido Lüchow, Jan Mitchell, Joseph Papp, Lillian Russell, Richard Strauss, Jack Taylor
Organizations: New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, New York University, Union Square Community Coalition
Places: Union Square
Above: LÜCHOW’S 14th Street and Irving Place, 1882-1982

Lüchow’s was a restaurant established in 1882 by German immigrant August Guido Lüchow. It was a popular destination for many famous New Yorkers including diamond baron Jim Brady, actress Lillian Russell, and composers Richard Strauss, Antonín Dvořák, and Victor Herbert.1 In 1914 it became the birthplace of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.2 In addition, it was a frequent lunch spot for workers of Steinway Piano Co. The restaurant featured authentic German cuisine including schnitzel, saurbraten, and imported German beer. Remarkably, the restaurant survived two world wars, the Depression, and Prohibition.

Lüchow’s was located in a three-story brownstone featuring a hybrid of Beaux-Arts and Italianate styles, with seven dining rooms, and an outdoor beer garden located at the back of the restaurant. The “German Baroque” interior contained hardwood panel walls adorned with elegant mirrors, wall ornaments, several oil paintings, and skylights.3 In 1950 the property was sold to Jan Mitchell, who promised to maintain its historical legacy.4 He published a cookbook that included all of the original recipes served at the restaurant from its opening. Typical to its history were its numerous festivals, including the venison festival, goose festival, and bock beer festival, which Jan Mitchell reinstituted. In 1982, the owners moved the restaurant uptown to Broadway in the Times Square area.5 The building suffered from neglect due in part to several temporary ownerships and the faltering economy in the early 1980s. The building was damaged during a fire in 1994, and razed in 1995. New York University later purchased the property and constructed dormitories on part of the site.6

The Lüchow's building was never designated a New York City Landmark. It was demolished in 1995, and NYU dormitories now sit on part of the property.

1984: The New York City Planning Department proposed new zoning that permits the construction of larger buildings on certain sites, a move that increasingly threatened the Lüchow's building with the prospect of demolition

1994: A mysterious fire destroys any remnant of Lüchow's historic past

1995: The Lüchow's building is demolished

The campaign to save the Lüchow's building can partly be attributed to copy-editor Jack Taylor. Born in Greenwich Village, he and his family frequently had celebratory dinners at Lüchow's during his childhood.7 Due to the economic calamities facing New York City in the 1970s and into the early 1980s, the Union Square area had suffered physical deterioration. After Jack Taylor had recently left his full-time job as a copy-editor and proofreader to become a freelancer, he began to notice the historic character of the neighborhood starting to vanish.

In an effort to save these vestiges, Jack Taylor became a member of the Union Square Community Coalition. This advocacy group worked to get Union Square designed as a New York City Historic District in order to prevent the deterioration and potential demolition of buildings such as Lüchow’s. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected the district designation, citing there were too many holes containing parking lots and new buildings, therefore not representing a cohesive sense of character.8
 Jack Taylor, along with the Coalition, abandoned plans for a district designation and primarily spent their efforts to designate individual landmarks within the neighborhood with Lüchow’s being a top priority. He was able to engage the public by getting celebrity support from Joseph Papp and Woody Allen. The Coalition also held meetings and public demonstrations.


In an effort to revitalize the Union Square area, the New York City Planning Department proposed new zoning that permitted the construction of larger buildings on certain sites. The new zoning was passed in 1984 by the Board of Estimate.9 Since the Lüchow's building was only a three-story row house, and in a location ripe for redevelopment, the threat of demolition had become reality. These factors made the fight even more of a struggle for the Landmarks Preservation Commission to approve its designation. In addition, the significant argument was heavily based on socio-cultural criteria since the Lüchow's building's importance resonated as a cultural landmark to fellow New Yorkers.10 The Landmarks agency granted three hearings: one for the exterior designation, one for the interior designation, and the last hearing for both. The Commission failed to act on three due to mounting pressures from the City Planning Commission.11

Developer Jeffrey Glick had purchased the property with plans to build a large high-rise taking up much of the 14th Street block between Third and Fourth Avenues.12 However, preservationists were able to reach an agreement with Glick to keep the facade that faced 14th Street. The developer's plans came to an end when the property went into foreclosure and was usurped by New York Fidelity Bank, which let the building further deteriorate.13 It became the home of various squatters, drug addicts, and prostitutes. In 1994, a mysterious fire destroyed any historic remnant of its vibrant past. The City ordered New York Fidelity to demolish the building.14 New York University later purchased part of the property and constructed dormitories. All that remains of Lüchow’s Restaurant is captured in several historic photographs and ephemera such as menus.15

  • Oral Histories with Jack Taylor (2004) and Jack Taylor (2007)
    New York Preservation Archive Project
    174 East 80th Street
    New York, NY 10075
    Tel: (212) 988-8379
    Email: [email protected]
  •  

  • Miscellaneous Lüchow's ephemera upon request
  • New York Preservation Archive Project
    174 East 80th Street
    New York, NY 10075
    Tel: (212) 988-8379
    Email: [email protected]
  1. 
Robert W. Dana, “Lüchow’s marking its 75th Anniversary,” Tips on Tables reprinted from April 1957, 15 February 2016.
  2. 
John Freeman Gill, “Goodbye to All That,” The New York Times, 3 April 2005.
  3. 
Ibid.
  4. 
Robert W. Dana, “Lüchow’s marking its 75th Anniversary,” Tips on Tables reprinted from April 1957, 15 February 2016.
  5. 
Karen Mathiesan, Interview with Jack Taylor, 13 October 2007.
  6. 
”NYU plans a revival of Lüchow’s,” The New York Times, 23 January 1997.
  7. 
Karen Mathiesan, Interview with Jack Taylor, 13 October 2007.
  8. 
Ibid.
  9. 
Lee A. Daniels, “A Plan to Revitalize Union Square,” The New York Times, 1 July 1984.
  10. 
Karen Mathiesan, Interview with Jack Taylor, 13 October 2007.
  11. 
Ibid.
  12. 
David. W. Dunlap, “Commercial Property: Union Square; Cinderella Waits for the Other Glass Slipper to Drop,” The New York Times, 13 October 1991.
  13. 
Ibid.
  14. 
Monte Williams, “Neighborhood Report: Union Square; End is Near for the Old Lüchow’s,” The New York Times, 25 December 1994.
  15. “On Old Lüchow’s Site, an N.Y.U. Dormitory,” The New York Times, 27 July 1997.