by Kevin Walsh

On a ForgottenTour the other day I saw something in the sidewalk at the NW corner of Van Brunt and Coffey Streets I had never seen before, which proves that there may be important items right under your nose that go unnoticed for years. It’s the word “Hoehn” spelled out in metal letters in an arc.

This called for a little online research and only one person, the sadly unmentioned and unnoticed Maggie Blanck, has seemed to notice it was well. She has done yeowoman’s work researching the genealogy in several NYC neighborhoods including Red Hook.

Blanck’s research reveals that the Hoehn family was prominent in Red Hook for about 75 years between the 1870s and 1940s. Martin Hoehn (likely pronounced Hohn or Heyn) was born in Germany in 1811 and arrived in the USA after the Civil War, with his sons Henry and George entering into various businesses including plumbing and poultry farms.

Henry Hoehn opened a lager beer hall at 404 Van Brunt/125 Partition, on the corner (Partition was renamed after a local politician, Michael J. Coffey (1839-1907), the former state senator, alderman, and district leader representing Red Hook).

Blanck quotes from some local reports of notorious events at Hoehn’s over the years:

BEER OR BLOOD. George FLOYD, of No. 251 Conover street, a young man of twenty-six years, who is without useful occupation, entered Henry HOEHN’s lager-beer saloon with others, yesterday afternoon, and demanded to be supplied with drinks on credit. Frederick HOEHN, the bartender, refused to serve the thirsty men except for cash, whereupon FLOYD struck him on the head with a drinking glass, inflicting a severe wound, which was dressed by Dr. HARRIGAN, who extracted some pieces of the broken glass from the wound. FLOYD was arrested by Officer CAIN, of the Eleventh Precinct, and locked up to await the action of Justice FERRY on a charge of felonious assault. [30 January 1879]


404 Van Brunt was a saloon frequented by men of the “shipping trade” and run by Henry Holme. James Hann, who sported a beard to his waist, went drinking there one night. After consuming a large quantity of lager Mr. Hann was quite inebriated. The gas light was lowered, a pair of shears was brought out, and Hann’s beard was shaven. He was so upset by his appearance that he bought suit against Mr Holme. [1884]

By 1940 when this Municipal Archives photo was taken, 404 Van Brunt had become a meat and poultry market. However, the identifying HOEHN metal letters have never been removed from the sidewalk. Today, 404 Van Brunt is an empty lot awaiting development. (Next door, 402 Van Brunt was a bakery, and its Art Deco-style doorway is still hanging tough.)

Hoehn photo: Robert Mulero

Check out the ForgottenBook,┬átake a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”


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