Old Newspapers Tell the History of Two Manhattan Taverns

Introduction: Duncan Kuehn is a professional genealogist with over eight years of client experience. She has worked on several well-known projects, such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” and researching President Barack Obama’s ancestry. In this blog post, Duncan searches old newspapers to find the history of two taverns in Manhattan that archaeologists recently excavated.

I recently read an article on the website Archaeology about an archaeological dig in Lower Manhattan at 50 Bowery.* They have unearthed the remains of two historic taverns built on the same location.  The older of the two, the “Bull’s Head,” was from the colonial-era. It was “built in the 1740s by a butcher near New York City’s first slaughterhouse.” The second tavern, the “Atlantic Garden” which opened in 1858, was “a tourist destination in its day—it was known for its German food and beer, and as a place for music and parties.”

I wanted to know more about the history of the two taverns, so I turned to GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives to learn more.

Genealogy Tip: When searching through the newspaper archives, I entered phrases (enclosed in quotation marks) into the Include Keywords field to find the exact phrase in the newspaper articles. In this case I ran two searches, one with “Bull’s Head” and one with “Atlantic Garden.”

Interesting Tavern Tidbits

I found an article in a German American newspaper that discussed the origins of the area.

article about Manhattan's Bull's Head Tavern, New Yorker Volkszeitung newspaper article 23 November 1919

New Yorker Volkszeitung (New York, New York), 23 November 1919, page 14

I only have an elementary understanding of the language, so I went to Google Translate and typed in the German paragraph that I was interested in. A loose translation told me that the tavern was opened in 1760.

I also learned that:

Most of the guests were cattle drivers because of the proximity to the slaughter houses. However, Washington had rested there after the British troops marched along the Bowery Road to exit the city.

The abundance of cattle drivers explains all the newspaper notices I found announcing cattle and horse auctions taking place at the tavern, such as this ad from a 1780 newspaper.

ad for a livestock auction, Royal American Gazette newspaper advertisement 8 August 1780

Royal American Gazette (New York, New York), 8 August 1780, page 2

I also found an interesting reference to the story about George Washington, in another newspaper. This article explained that Washington had used the tavern as one of his headquarters during the Revolutionary War.

Atlantic Garden Changes Hands, New York Herald newspaper article 3 January 1895

New York Herald (New York, New York), 3 January 1895, page 10

Land History

Note that this article also reports: “It is said that $1,000,000 was offered for the property by the Third Avenue Railroad Company when the company was looking for ground for a new power house.” Assuming that the offer was made about 1880 and adjusting for inflation, the railroad was willing to pay about $17 million for the premium Manhattan location!

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Then I found this well-written newspaper article, telling about the history of this plot of land in New York City.

Famous Old Tavern on Astor House Site, Worcester Daily Spy newspaper article 28 January 1902

Worcester Daily Spy (Worcester, Massachusetts), 28 January 1902, page 3

I learned that originally the land was owned by the Trinity Church. It was covered in trees and was a beautiful spot to build a gathering place for the local drovers (people who drive sheep or cattle to the market) as they came into town.

The old newspaper article provided this description:

The Bull’s Head [Tavern] was built in the old Dutch style, with plenty of solid bricks and gables; and it had a number of trees around it, under the shade of which, in fine weather, the worthy burghers and butchers smoked their pipes and swallowed their schnapps. The land on which the tavern stood belonged to Trinity church, then as now a wealthy corporation, and the tavern itself had for a time been a farm-house on the Trinity farm. But the trustees of the Church accepted Van der Burgh’s proposition to lease the farm-house for tavern purposes, and so the first prominent inn of the city was started—indirectly, at least—under the auspices of a church.

A church would seem to be an odd landlord for such a raucous establishment! The article says this of Adam Van der Burgh:

His voice was loud, but pleasant; his laugh contagious; his appearance emblematic of good cheer, and he knew almost everybody, especially the butchers and politicians—the two most needful classes for him to know.

As Van der Burgh’s tavern thrived, he soon attracted the ire of the local women “who went so far as to hold a meeting, and to protest against the alienating influences” of the place. He weathered that storm, but went too far when he built the first race track in New York immediately in front of his tavern. This drew the wrath of his landlord the Trinity Church. In response, Van der Burgh closed the race track “and, apparently from spite, abandoned the Bull’s Head tavern.”

The Tavern Keepers

This newspaper article explained that during the American Revolution, the tavern was owned by John Jacob Astor’s brother Henry.

The Astor Butcher Trust, Evening News newspaper article 19 October 1900

Evening News (San Jose, California), 19 October 1900, page 7

In addition to owning the Bull’s Head Tavern, Henry Astor was a butcher. A brilliant idea came to him: he beat the competing butchers by “riding far out along the Bowery land, meeting the drovers as they brought their cattle to town and buying their stock, which he sold to the other butchers at his own price.”

I found this illustration, showing what the Bull’s Head Tavern looked like in 1820.

illustration of Manhattan's Bull's Head Tavern, New York Herald-Tribune newspaper article 11 October 1894

New York Herald-Tribune (New York, New York), 11 October 1894, page 2

In 1825, the tavern was moved from the Bowery to Twenty-Fourth Street and Third Avenue. I learned this from the following newspaper article announcing the closing of the Bull’s Head Tavern. After 80 years in its second location, the tavern was closed down completely and the furnishings and fixtures were auctioned off.

Passing of Bull's Head Tavern, Springfield Republican newspaper article 24 May 1905

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 24 May 1905, page 11

In the meantime, back at 50 Bowery, the spot was used as a stove factory before the Atlantic Garden was opened in 1858.

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As the next newspaper article reported, soon after William Kramer opened the Atlantic Garden it became the recruiting station for the German regiments during the Civil War. Next door was the Thalia Theater where German language operas were sung. A passageway was built between the theater and the Garden to facilitate the opera patrons running over “for a bite and a sip between the acts.”

Atlantic Garden to Pass, Duluth News-Tribune newspaper article 20 June 1909

Duluth News-Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota), 20 June 1909, page 13

According to another newspaper article, Atlantic Garden became the center of German life in the city and was “a resort modeled after the amusement gardens of German cities.”

This old newspaper article also reported that the Atlantic Garden was about to be closed in 1911—slated to be torn down in preparation for a modern theatre and eight-story office building.

article about Manhattan's Atlantic Garden tavern, Grand Forks Daily Herald newspaper article 20 August 1911

Grand Forks Daily Herald (Grand Forks, North Dakota), 20 August 1911, page 7

Historical Professional Parallels

And that brings us back to the archaeology article I read recently, that spurred me to do this research. Just as the archaeologists dug through the earth to find “liquor bottles, plates, and mugs,” we dug through a few hundred years’ worth of newspaper articles to learn more about the people and buildings. Long-dead Van der Burgh, Astor, and Kramer left their mark in more ways than one. Their objects will fascinate those on-site. And a brief glimpse into their lives fascinates us. Well done, men!

Most genealogists know that newspapers help tell the stories of our ancestors’ lives—but, as this article has shown, newspapers also tell us about the times and places our ancestors lived in.

Genealogy Tip: Even though this research was about taverns in New York City, note the variety of states where relevant newspaper articles were found, including: California, Massachusetts, Minnesota and North Dakota. This is a reminder that you should begin your search with a broad geographical scope; you never know where a newspaper article was published that might be about your ancestor or area of interest.

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* “Historic Taverns Unearthed in New York City.” Archaeology.com. May 5, 2014. Accessed June 1, 2014. http://archaeology.org/news/2083-140505-bowery-tavern-beer.

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Family Digs Up Old Grave to Find Family Bible and Claim Fortune

Over the past 50 years I have heard of many ways to source and document our ancestors.

Genealogists will “dig up” all types of sources but the solution that the Phillips family used has to be the most unusual.

I recently came across this, the most unusual genealogy sourcing story I have ever heard of. I found it in the Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 15 April 1891, page 1.

Records Found in a Tomb newspaper article from the Plain Dealer 15 April 1891

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 15 April 1891, page 1

In 1891 the Phillips literally dug up their Family Bible that had been buried in the grave of a niece 25 years earlier.

This unusual story begins with Isaac Phillips (1766-1834), who was born in Easton, Massachusetts. He left his hometown in 1813 and moved to the South where he was “engaged in the slave trade and accumulated an enormous fortune.”  He kept his money—over $5 million at the time—at the Manhattan Bank of New York.

Isaac died in 1834, “his wife and only child having previously died.” For the next 70 years his relatives tried to prove their right to the fortune Isaac left behind. They had a lot of difficulty in tracking and documenting their genealogy and finally determined that the Family Bible had the answers.

But there was a problem: the Family Bible was buried in a cemetery. It seems that it was buried in the casket along with Isaac’s niece Susana Phillips, who died 4 June 1866.

The money was still safely in the bank, accumulating interest all the while. It was now worth more than $6 million—so the family secured permission to exhume Susana’s body and remove the Family Bible.

When they opened the grave the Family Bible was found and, although a little decayed, the family history “record [was] still perfectly legible” and gave them the information they needed to prove their genealogical connection and claim the family fortune.

Moral of the story: Keep an accurate and complete family history and preserve your documentation, like Family Bibles, that prove the record.

Patty Barthell Myers, 1930-2008

Patty Barthell Myers died 9 October 2008, at the home of her daughter, Lucy Bonnington.

Her obituary (San Antonio Express-News (TX) – October 13, 2008; Philadelphia Inquirer, 13 Oct 2008) simply stated her “life’s work was genealogy.” Well said.

She was the author of numerous compiled genealogies and reference works including:
Female index to Genealogical dictionary of the first settlers of New England by James Savage. (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2008).

Ancestors and descendants of Lewis Ross Freeman with related families : based partially on the work of Freeman Worth Gardner and Willis Freeman. (Camden, ME: Penobscot Press, 1995).

Cargill/Cargile/Cargal of the south and southwest : descendants of Cornelius Cargill of Virginia, John Cargile of Virginia & North Carolina, John Cargile of Virginia & Georgia, Andrew J. & John Cargal of South Carolina & Georgia. (Camden, ME: Penobscot Press, 1997).

Descendants of Joseph Barthel and his wife, Christina Lutz : who came to America 1830 on the Romulus and who settled in Erie County, New York. (Author, 1991).

The Hughes family from Virginia to Oregon. (San Antonio, TX: Burke, 1999).

Her lengthy obituary concluded by saying: “Her life was an example of overcoming enormous challenges, and making a difference in the world, patiently, quietly–and then there was the occasional wild rumpus. “

Her late husband, A.J. Myers had been a POW at the “Hanoi Hilton” at the same time John McCain was there.

San Antonio Express-News (TX) - October 13, 2008
Reprinted with permission GenealogyBank
Patty [Florence] Barthell Myers died October 9th, at the home of her daughter in suburban Philadelphia, where she was living and receiving hospice care since August.


Born in Evanston, Illinois on June 6, 1930, Patty was the third of four children of Harriet Lyon and Edward East Barthell, Jr. She grew up in Winnetka, Illinois, spending summers on Lake Michigan. She graduated from New Trier High School with honors and attended Northwestern University in Evanston.

She met her first husband, Louis Harold Cargill, Jr. on Lake Michigan and they married on Patty’s birthday in 1951. They had 3 children, Lucy, James, and Lon Cargill. Lou died in 1985 and Patty returned to San Antonio. Lon died in January of 1985. Patty married Armand J. Myers in 1988. A.J. and Patty met in 1965 when he was flying fighter jet missions over North Vietnam. He was shot down June, 1966, and was a POW in the Hanoi Hilton for 6 years. When he was re-patriated, his Air Force sponsor was Patty’s husband, Lou. Patty and A.J. married in 1988. A.J. died in 2002.

Patty’s life’s work was genealogy. In 2007, she published her FEMALE INDEX TO GENEALOGICAL DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST SETTLERS OF NEW ENGLAND, by James Savage,1860.

She is survived by her brother, John Peter Barthell of Sequim, WA, sister Polly Barthell Clark of Orlond Beach, FL, brother Edward East Barthell, III, of Appleton WI, cousin Charles Arthur Carroll, of Manhattan, and cousin Elizabeth (Betsy) Barthell of Overland Park, KS. She also leaves her daughter, Lucy, and her husband Mark Bonnington, of Malvern, PA, son James Eric Cargill of San Antonio, her grandchildren Colin Mark and Cara Ellen Bonington of Malvern, PA and John Shaw Lynch, of Williamsburg, VA and his sister Ashley Lynch Rodi, and God daughters Kemper and Edyn Rodi, of Newport Beach, CA, and sister-in-law, Sally Dulin Shaw of Mexico City.

Patty requested no memorial service. Her ashes will be scattered on Lake Michigan, the pink beaches of Bermuda, and the coast of Oregon.

Her life was an example of overcoming enormous challenges, and making a difference in the world, patiently, quietly–and then there was the occasional wild rumpus.

Friends may call at her home in Oakwell Farms, 15 Campden Circle, San Antonio, TX on Thursday, October 16th, from 2:00 to 7:00 p.m. Donations may be made in her name to the nearest public library.
Copyright (c), 2008, San Antonio Express-News. All Rights Reserved.

How do I find an obituary in Newsday?

How do I find an obituary published in Newsday?
Simple: just click here to go to the obituary backfile at GenealogyBank and follow these steps:

Let’s say you are looking for the obituary of Elayne Singer who died in 2004.

1. Go to the obituary backfile at GenealogyBank.com
2. In the search box – type her name: Elayne Singer
3. Look just below the “Begin Search” button and click on Advanced Search
4. Under “Include Key Words” – type: Newsday
5. Click search.

Instantly your search brings up her obituary notice.

TIP: Use this same technique to narrow your search to any one of the 3,500+ newspapers in GenealogyBank – simply type the name of the newspaper in the “Include Key Words” box.

You may also limit your search by date, place of publication etc.

Elayne Singer sounds like a special woman – her grandson, Scott Resnik said of her: “She was the family matriarch and my best friend.”

It’s good that we have such easy access to the obituaries in Newsday and over 3,500 newspapers to remember what has been written about our ancestors. Click here to see a list of the more than 3,500 newspapers – that you can search.

Newsday (Melville, NY) – August 4, 2004
Elayne Singer, 80, bookkeeper, family matriarch
Agonizing that her older sister, Marion, had a matter of hours to live, Elayne Singer told her grandson, Scott Resnik, in a telephone conversation Saturday morning that she hoped her own death would be quick and painless.


Less than two hours after that telephone conversation, Singer, a liver transplant survivor, died at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow from injuries sustained in an accident on Sunrise Highway. Singer, 80, and her husband, Irving, were on their way from the couple’s Uniondale senior complex to the Merrick Long Island Rail Road Station to pick up another of Singer’s sisters for a farewell visit to their dying sibling Marion when a car slammed broadside into their Honda Civic. Her husband was hospitalized with two fractured ribs.

“She was the family matriarch and my best friend,” Resnik said of his grandmother. “I called her my hero.”

Singer, the youngest of five children, all girls, was born and raised in Brooklyn. She graduated from Jefferson High School in 1942. A fan of the big band music of the day, the former Elayne Lieberman was at a Manhattan dance hall, her grandson said, when she met Irving Singer not long after his discharge from the military in 1946.

The couple married two years later and subsequently moved to Levittown, where they raised two children.

When the children had grown, she became a career bookkeeper, working until she was almost 70 for a variety of local companies.

His grandmother may have been diminutive in stature, but she had a giant heart, Resnik, of Mastic, said.

As relatives fussed over her at a recent family barbecue, tripping over each other to cater to her, she just waved them off, insisting that there must be some tasks to which she could be assigned, Resnik recalled. “She was very petite but she had enough love in her to feed an entire city and more. She constantly wore a smile.”

In addition to her husband and grandson, Singer is survived by two daughters, Hope Martinsen of Afton, N.Y., and Cindy Nadelbach, of Levittown; three sisters, Pat Eagen of Manhattan, Marion Seplow of New Hyde Park and Bea Krebs of Brooklyn; and two other grandchildren, Josh and Lauren Nadelbach.

The funeral was yesterday at Boulevard Riverside Chapel in Hewlett followed by burial at Wellwood Cemetery in Pinelawn. Family will be sitting shivah in Levittown until tomorrow, relatives said.

Donations may be made to the American Liver Foundation, P.O. Box 5218, Toms River, N.J. 08754-5218.
Copyright (c) 2004 Newsday, Inc.


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