THE ATTIC

BOWERY COTTAGE
Edwin Parmele 1812-1852
Jeremiah, Joseph, Timothy, Joshua, John, John

The Bowery originally was a Native American footpath that extended the length of Manhattan through dense woodlands. Eight- to 20-acre parcels along the path were granted in the 1640s to superannuated slaves who had served the government from the earliest period of the Dutch settlement. Other parcels were granted to "free negroes" in the 1660s by Govs. Richard Nicholls and Peter Stuyvesant. Over the next century, these lands passed through various hands and were combined to create larger self-contained farms called bouweries. These settlers widened the trail for use as a major road that connected the heart of New Amsterdam with their bouweries. And Bouwerie Lane became anglicized to Bowery Lane, and later Bowery Street or The Bowery.

The original farmhouse at 298 Bowery was built about 1778 on the John Dyckman farm and homestead. Being in close proximity to the Boston Post Road and just two miles outside New York, the house served as a roadside inn called The Cottage from about 1800 to 1820. Under the management of Samuel Verplanck of Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., The Cottage became popular with farmers from Westchester County and drovers doing business at the Bull’s Head Cattle Market.

The 1823 New York City directory shows Edwin Parmele was living at 298 Bowery. A few years later, he'd be operating a bowling saloon at 340 Pearl St. and, after that, operations at The Cottage.

Over the years The Cottage was refurbished and in 1831 a private sale of 298 Bowery was announced, at right, in the April 9 edition of the New-York Evening Post. That same year, Harry B. Venn, a volunteer fireman with Columbian Hook & Ladder Company No. 14, leased the property for his Gotham Saloon. S.W. Bryham took over in 1836 and renamed it the Bowery Steam Confectionery & Saloon.

The 1839-40 New York City directory lists Edwin Parmele as proprietor of Bowery Cottage. During this time, the saloon was the headquarters for volunteer firemen, sporting men and Bowery B’Hoys. The advertisement, at left -- with an all-caps typo -- appeared in The New York Herald of May 17, 1839.

While good fences make good neighbors, they also make good lawsuits as seen the clipping from the Feb. 13, 1843, edition of the New-York Daily Tribune at right. Would love to know what this one was all about.

Venn resumed proprietorship sometime before 1845, and attempted to turn the saloon into a miniature Vauxhall Gardens with a concert saloon for musical performances. When that didn't pan out, he replaced the concert area with three 10-pin alleys for bowling. The saloon was called The Gotham and became headquarters for the Gotham Base Ball Club whose gilded trophy balls were displayed in a case behind the front bar while the back bar featured a big gilt "6" taken from the Americus Fire Company No. 6. (Mayor William "Boss" Tweed was foreman of this company and a frequent patron of The Gotham.)

The Exempt Engine Company of firemen who had served their time and had been honorably discharged was organized at The Gotham in 1954 under Venn's leadership. The men were called out only in extraordinary emergencies, such as the 1863 Draft Riots and when Barnum’s American Museum burned down in 1865.

In 1858, the establishment was turned over to Edward Bonnell, a volunteer fireman and foreman of Tompkins Hose Company No. 16 who made numerous improvements to the building, and enlarged the public accommodations to render the apartments as "convenient, cozy and desirable as the best-furnished parlors of a Broadway hotel." Under his management, The Gotham was recognized as the fraternal headquarters for volunteer firemen all across the United States. During the Civil War era, The Gotham featured a drill room in the back of the tavern for the voluntary infantry regiments, and Richard Burnton operated a book and stationery shop in the front. Organizations such as the Boss Bakers’s Assn. of New York held meetings there.

During the saloon’s final decade, things got dicey. Under John Matthews' management, a man was murdered there in April 1871, and police closed the establishment on several occasions on complaints of people who'd lost money there while gambling.

The New-York Tribune of April 29, 1878, at left, reported the demise of Gotham Cottage. Architect Charles Mettam designed a four-story, four-bay brick museum/music hall and lodging house in the Neo-Greco style to replace it. (Mettam also designed identical buildings at 300 and 302 Bowery.). As the new building was going up, George B. Bunnell, a protégé of P.T. Barnum, secured a lease from owner Georgiana English to open his Great American Museum on Jan. 27, 1879. Months later, on June 1, all of the contents of the dime museum, including "an educated pig," were destroyed by a fire that gutted the building. Circus man George Middleton came in and made repairs, and opened the Globe Dime Museum just a few months later, but on May 25, 1880, fire struck again. Middleton made repairs again, and the museum was fairly successful during the next 10 years.

Over the next two decades, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children -- and particularly Elbridge T. Gerry -- went on a crusade to close the Globe Dime Museum and similar establishments for exploiting children and attracting children to a "morally unfit environment" that encouraged prostitution and homelessness.

Over the years, 298 Bowery has seen many businesses come in go, including the Wood Mantel and Pier Mirror Co. and Levy Bros. in the early 1900s and the Trenton Hotel China Co. in the 1940s. From the late 1960s to the 1980s, the building was occupied by J & D Brauner (aka The Butcher Block). Today the building at No. 298 -- erected in 1910 and assessed at $3 million -- is occupied by Chef’s Restaurant Supply, which is lists its business at 294-298 Bowery.


294, left, 296, center, and 298 Bowery, at the corner of East Houston Street, in 2018.


A closer look at 298 Bowery, in 2019.


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Updated June 11, 2020

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