Description & Building Alterations
This four-story Neo-Grec old law tenement was constructed in 1876 with a ground floor saloon by Prussian-born architect William Jose. Originally, it housed the Peter Doelger Brewery, which had opened its first brewery in an earlier building on this lot. The brewery owned the property until 1932, and from 1876 until 1936, the ground-floor was used as a hall – first Kern’s Hall, then Shultz’s Hall, and finally Fritz’s Hall. New York City and Brooklyn representatives of the American Federation of Labor, an organization founded in 1884, held a planning meeting for the upcoming state convention in 1886 at this location. A memorial service for the victims of the General Slocum disaster was held here later, in 1904. In 1906, this became Leppig’s Hall, named for John Leppig Jr., the “Mayor of Avenue A,” as he was known among his neighbors. Kern and Leipzig were German-American, and these spaces were popular gathering spaces for the local German-American community.
The building then became a jazz club called the East Village In [sic] from the late 1960s to early 1970s. The club showcased Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, the Booker Ervin Quartet, and the Lee Morgan Quintet. It became the Jazzboat in 1973, at which point it was owned by Aziz Latif, a percussionist in Duke Ellington’s band known as Gaylord Emerson. This club featured Betty Carter, Sonny Fortune, Archie Shepp, Grady Tate, Charles Earland, and Bobby Timmons. In 1979, this venue became the Pyramid Club, established by Bobby Bradley, Alan Mace, and Victor Sapienza. And it is the sole surviving music club from the avant-garde era of the 1980’s and it define the East Village scene during that decade. Performers Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Jean-Michel Basquiat, RuPaul, and Ann Magnuson all emerged from this club and from Club 57 at 57 St. Mark’s Place. Since opening, the Pyramid Club has also been credited with defining the East Village drag and gay scenes of the 1980s and is known for its politically conscious drag performance art and as a hangout for the counterculture of the neighborhood. The Pyramid Club hosted drag performers such as Lypsinka, Lady Bunny, and RuPaul. It was here that the annual Wigstock festival began in 1984 when a group of the club’s drag queens performed a spontaneous drag show at Tompkins Square Park. In addition to performance art, cabaret, and dancing, many up-and-coming bands also performed here, such as Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Andy Warhol and Debby Harry did a feature on this club for MTV. Madonna appeared at her first AIDS benefit here and Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers both played their first New York City concerts here. New York Magazine referred to it as “A temple of iniquity for punk rockers, Goth betties, and queers of every feather.”
The present red brick facade, with contrasting bands of black brick and pale sandstone, still features some of the building’s original decorations. These include an elaborate original fire escape, incised sandstone lintels, cast-iron framing at the ground story, sandstone pendant decorations at the third floor, polychrome belt courses, and an elaborate original metal cornice above the ground story and at the roof line. The storefront, significantly, retains most of its original detail. The building is located in the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District.
Block : 434 / Lot : 033 / Building Date : 1876 / Original Owner : A. Kern / Original Use : Residential/Commercial / Original Architect : William Jose