Luchow's was founded by August Guido Luchow, who came to America in 1879. He established his business in a three-story brownstone near Union Square, now a cut-rate shopping district but then the center of Manhattan culture and home to the Academy of Music. Handsome carved-oak paneling, huge mirrors, etched glass, skylights and wall murals made Luchow's handsome. The food and the society who came to enjoy it made it popular. Financier, gambler and glutton Diamond Jim Brady (he was known to eat 12 dozen oysters at a sitting) gave banquets at Luchow's, where guests might find a piece of diamond jewelry tucked under their napkins. His companion was actress Lillian Russell. Luchow's was a favorite of musicians, such Rubinstein, Paderewski, Enrico Caruso, Richard Strauss, Victor Herbert and, later, Toscanini, long after 14th Street ceased to the center of New York's musical life.
Jan Mitchell bought the restaurant in 1950. A condition of sale was a solemn promise to the heirs of August Luchow to preserve the traditions and Gemutlichkeit. Luchow's survived the World Wars, the Depression and Prohibition, but its way of life finally succumbed to a changing neighborhood and changing attitudes about "gentlemen only" seatings, prodigious meat and potato meals, and pitchers of beer in an atmosphere heavy with cigar smoke.
Luchow's closed in 1982, but among the surviving artifacts of this legendary eating place are a limited number of original Luchow's Ashtrays which appointed the checkered-cloth tables. Each unique piece, with a German beer stein at the center, stands 6-inches high and measures 7-inches in diameter. Epitomizing the distinctive Germanic spirit "Gemutlichkeit."
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