Gage and Tollner

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Gage and Tollner Restaurant
NYC Landmark No. 0836, 0885
Fulton St., Gage & Tollner restaurant, 1987 (7998320161).jpg
Gage and Tollner in 1987
Gage and Tollner is located in New York City
Gage and Tollner
Gage and Tollner is located in New York
Gage and Tollner
Gage and Tollner is located in the United States
Gage and Tollner
Location372 Fulton St., New York, New York
Coordinates40°41′28″N 73°59′17″W / 40.69111°N 73.98806°W / 40.69111; -73.98806Coordinates: 40°41′28″N 73°59′17″W / 40.69111°N 73.98806°W / 40.69111; -73.98806
Arealess than one acre
Built1875
Architectural styleItalianate
NRHP reference No.82003362 [1]
NYCL No.0836, 0885
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJune 3, 1982
Designated NYCLNovember 12, 1974

Gage and Tollner was a restaurant on Fulton Street in Downtown Brooklyn. It had been in business since 1879 and in the same location since 1892 until it closed on February 14, 2004.[2] The building it was housed in has been in existence since 1875.[3]

History[edit]

Early years[edit]

The structure which housed the restaurant was built about 1875, originally as a private residence,[4] and is a four-story late Italianate style brownstone building. The painted wood storefront was probably added in 1892 when the restaurant opened. It includes a portico with modified Doric order columns. The interior retains the original Victorian design including Lincrusta-Walton wall covering.[5]

Gage and Tollner's began when Charles Gage opened an "eating house" at 303 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, in 1879. In 1880, Eugene Tollner joined him and the restaurant became known as Gage and Tollner's in 1882. Tollner was the son of Charles Tollner, the founder of the hardware store that subsequently became Hammacher Schlemmer under the ownership of Eugene Tollner's cousin William Schlemmer. The restaurant moved to 372–374 Fulton Street in 1892.[6] It attracted customers like Diamond Jim Brady, Jimmy Durante and Mae West.[7]

Gage and Tollner retired in 1911 and sold the restaurant to A.H. Cunningham and Alexander Ingalls, with the provision that neither the interior nor the name be changed. They sold the restaurant eight years later to Seth Bradford Dewey. The Deweys bought the entire building in 1923 and continued to run the business until 1985. Despite the ownership changes, Charles Gage and Eugene Tollner continued to work at the restaurant until their deaths in 1920 and 1935, respectively.[8] During the 1950s, the restaurant referred to the colder weather months as "turtle soup weather". The restaurant would procure live turtles and prepare its own recipe.[9] The restaurant refused to serve black customers until 1960.[10]

Decline and closure[edit]

The restaurant began to decline in 1976. Fulton Street was turned into a pedestrian mall and taxis were unable to drop off diners at the front door.[4] In the 1980s the restaurant and building was bought by Peter Aschkenasy who brought in famed chef Edna Lewis. She expanded the restaurant's menu by adding her famed Southern cuisine, such as cornbread, catfish and a "legendary she-crab soup".[11] However the surrounding neighborhood had also changed – “the restaurant struggled because of its location on down-market Fulton Mall, which was deserted and grim after dark; Aschkenasy says he could not even attract people from the Heights.”[12][13] The restaurant went bankrupt in 1995 and was purchased by Joseph Chirico, a reputed member of the Gambino crime family[14] Valet parking was tried but even that did not bring in enough customers to sustain the business.[4] The restaurant closed on February 14, 2004.[11]

The former Gage and Tollner site in October 2008

Shortly after it closed, T.G.I. Friday's moved in.[15] T.G.I. Friday's vacated the space in 2007. After gaining interior design approval from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission,[16] an Arby's franchise, owned by Raymond Chera, opened at the location on January 21, 2010.[16] In August 2010, the Arby's franchise closed.[17] As of 2012 the space is inhabited by a discount costume jewelry and leather coats store. Most of the antique fixtures have disappeared or have been covered up by modern lighting and fixtures.

Revival[edit]

In 2018, a crowdfunding initiative to restore the restaurant to its former glory was announced.[18] In July 2018, The New York Times reported that restaurateurs St. John Frizel, Sohui Kim, and Ben Schneider were trying to revive the restaurant. It has been reported that it won’t be “something newfangled but as an old-school house of chops and oysters.”[18][19]

In January 2019, it was announced that Frizell, Kim and Schneider signed the lease with landlord William Jemal “after ‘hitting the numbers’ in December.”[20] They were not sure whether to keep the name,[13] and plans for the site had to be approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the community board.[21] On their crowdfunding page, they said they wanted “a 70-seat dining room, a 40-seat bar area, two combinable private dining rooms seating up to 60, and a separate 30-seat tropical cocktail bar upstairs.”[22] A new outdoor "Gage & Tollner" sign was erected in January 2020.[23] The grand re-opening was announced for March 15th[24] but was cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interior[edit]

It has 36 light fixtures which had both gas piping and electrical wiring when installed in 1888. (The new restaurant however will not use gas.)[25] Cherry framed mirrors and tables made of mahogany.[3]

Beginning in the fall of 1995, Chirico made some renovations and closed down the restaurant until April/May 1996. He said "he has tried to retain the historic flavor of the restaurant while providing modern amenities."[26]

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.[1] The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the interior a landmark in 1975; it is among the earliest interior landmarks to be designated, after the New York Public Library Main Branch and Grant's Tomb.[27]

Reviews[edit]

"Milford Prewitt, a former writer and editor for Nation’s Restaurant News, described the restaurant as one of the most “romantic dining environments in the city, contributing to its ranking as one of the top restaurants for marriage proposals.” Or, as L.J. Davis wrote in an essay in the nostalgic anthology Brooklyn: A State of Mind, “You go to Gage’s (as many regulars call it) for the experience, the way you go to heaven for the climate and to hell for the company.”"[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ "Gage & Tollner". Gage & Tollner. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Fulton Street, Forgotten NY Streetscenes". Forgotten-ny.com. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Spellen, Suzanne (May 1, 2013). "Building of the Day: 372 Fulton Street". Brownstoner. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  5. ^ Anthony W. Robins and Anne B. Covell (February 1981). "National Register of Historic Places Registration:Gage and Tollner Restaurant". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved February 20, 2011. See also: "Accompanying three photos". Oprhp.state.ny.us.
  6. ^ "Gage and Tollner's of Brooklyn, 1956 Review". Tipsontables.com.
  7. ^ a b "Bklynr – Empty Places". Bklynr.com.
  8. ^ "Eugene Tollner, Noted Cafe Man, Dies here at 83." The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. December 12, 1935. pg 17[1]
  9. ^ Dana, Robert W. "Gage and Tollner's, 1956". Tips on Tables. Retrieved November 24, 2019.
  10. ^ Roberts, Sam (January 9, 2019). "Obituaries : William C. Thompson". The New York Times. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  11. ^ a b Collins, Glenn; Yardley, William (February 13, 2014). "Eat and Be Merry; Tomorrow 2 Classics Die". NewYorkTimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  12. ^ Schrambling, Regina (June 22, 2009). "Edna Lewis's Days at Gage & Tollner". Edible Brooklyn. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  13. ^ a b Cuozzo, Steve (January 14, 2019). "Historic Brooklyn restaurant frequented by Mae West to reopen". Nypost.com. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  14. ^ "Mob-tied Brooklyn restaurateur avoids jail with help from Marty Markowitz" by John Marzulli. New York Daily News. December 6, 2008[2]
  15. ^ "tien mao's little read book...: Gage & Tollner Transforms to T.G.I. Friday's". Tienmao.com.
  16. ^ a b Kaufman, Sarah R.; Sederstrom, Jotham (March 11, 2009). "Arby's to move into famed Gage & Tollner digs in downtown Brooklyn". Daily News. New York.
  17. ^ Nonko, Emily (August 12, 2010). "Fulton Mall Arby's Calls It Quits". Brownstoner.com. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  18. ^ a b Chris, Crowley (July 20, 2018). "New Owners Have a Plan to Bring Back One of Brooklyn's Greatest Restaurants". Grub Street. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  19. ^ Simonson, Robert (July 20, 2018). "Trying to Revive Gage & Tollner, a Landmark Brooklyn Restaurant". The New York Times. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  20. ^ Gerberer, Raanan (January 14, 2019). "Gage & Tollner to reopen in original Downtown Brooklyn location". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  21. ^ Cuba, Julianne (January 24, 2019). "It's Gage on! Restaurateurs forge ahead with revival of Gage and Tollner after inking lease for historic space". GO Brooklyn. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  22. ^ Quinn, Anna (January 16, 2019). "Brooklyn's Historic Gage & Tollner Revived By $400K Raised Online". Patch Brooklyn Heights DUMBO. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  23. ^ Frangipane, Paul (January 9, 2020). "Gage & Tollner's new sign is up, February opening planned". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  24. ^ Alberts, Hana R. (March 12, 2020). "Famed Brooklyn restaurant Gage & Tollner reopening after 16 years". New York Post. New York, New York. Retrieved August 17, 2020.
  25. ^ Young, Michelle (October 28, 2019). "Brooklyn's Famed Gage & Tollner Restaurant Prepares for a Comeback". UntappedNewYork.com. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  26. ^ "NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT – BROOKLYN HEIGHTS/DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN – DINING – Gage & Tollner – The Same, but Different". Query.nytimes.com. April 28, 1996.
  27. ^ "Gage & Tollner". Gage & Tollner. Retrieved October 21, 2019.

External links[edit]

  • NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation Report [1]
  1. ^ "Designation Reports – LPC" (PDF). www1.nyc.gov. Retrieved October 21, 2019.