Teddy’s is a Williamsburg institution that has been here since 1887. A vintage stained glass sign for Peter Doelger’s Extra Beer is on the Berry Street side. The Doelgers operated a brewery here from the 1880s until the Depression years. According to Steve Redlauer and Ellen Williams in The Historic Shops and Restaurants in New York, in 1889 Matilda Doelger, the daughter of the owners, married a boxer named John West (of whom the family didn’t approve). The Wests had 4 children, one of whom, Mary Jane, entered showbiz in her pre-teen years, and you know her better as Mae West. I don’t know if that story is apocryphal or not. West also is purported to have a connection to Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven, since she lived nearby for a while.
Teddy’s is so gorgeous on the exterior, especially that Doelger’s sign, that I always mean to go in, but I’m always on my own when I pass it, and I generally don’t drink in bars or eat in restaurants alone, so I never enter it. I’ve been in Teddy’s just once, on an unsuccessful pre-Forgotten NY (and pre-Williamsburg “renaissance”) blind date in the mid-1990s — we had just taken a tour of the Brooklyn Brewery nearby on North 11th and went to Teddy’s afterward. When I went on blind dates back then, unfortunately little interest was generated on either side, though I did find the president of the Robyn Hitchcock fan club and we did see each other for a few months. We reconnected via Facebook a few years ago, and she has been on one of the tours. I will return to Teddy’s one of these days.
The Doelger window may be one of the earlier instances of “privilege signs” in which a company paid for signage provided their name be mentioned on the sign. You can see this often around town with Optimo Cigars or Coca Cola. The sign was installed in the 1910s.
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Mae West trivia:
She was very short. Some sources say 4’11” while others say five feet even. She almost always wore specially designed shoes that increase her height a bit, and gave her a rather distinctive gait.
Her other, ahem, physical assets were nothing special. By all accounts she was a C cup, which today would be about average for a lady’s norkage (to use a charming British expression).
It ain’t the meat it’s the motion.
Thanks for keeping us abreast of these sort of things.
The accepted history of Teddy’s is seriously flawed. It’s pretty much nothing more than urban legend and the historical facts refute the story.
There is absolutely no familial connection with Peter Doelger and Mae West. That was one of the myths of her life fabricated by Mae West.
Peter Doelger himself never ran or owned the saloon. 96 Berry Street was built in 1885 and the first establishment at this address was Matthew Smith’s “liquors”..From
noveltytheater.net’s 96 Berry Street history:
Bernard Reilly operated saloons at various locations in the neighborhood, and by 1892, he was operating the saloon at 96 Berry Street6. Reilly appears as the proprietor of the saloon at 96 Berry through at least April of 1899, and in October of that year, James J. Walsh is the proprietor.
This is what happened in 1907, when 96 Berry was bought by Peter Doelger, a Manhattan-based brewer who was aggressively expanding his territory to Williamsburg and Greenpoint. During this period Doelger bought dozens buildings In the area, most of them corner properties and all with a saloon on the ground floor.
It is likely that the storefront and copper cornice at 96 Berry, and certainly the stained glass, date to 1907 and were installed by the brewery when it bought the building and became the sole supplier to Walsh’s saloon.
More from https://noveltytheater.net/content/96-berry-street-history:
Mae West never claimed to have lived in or set foot in 96 Berry. That part of the myth seems to originate with the “Peter Doelger’s Extra Beer” stained glass at 96 Berry and the idea that Peter Doelger himself ran the place. This leap of faith probably stems from the fact that 96 Berry is the last surviving “Doelger” branded saloon.
One legend says that Jack West, Mae’s father, tended bar at 96 Berry, the recipient of his father-in-law’s charity. In fact, the Doelgers never ran (or owned) the saloon at 96 Berry. They owned the building, but until it was shut down for prohibition in 1920, the saloon at the corner of North 8th and Berry was operated by James J. Walsh. The Doelgers were just the landlords (and beer suppliers).
Joe: I mention that the story about West may be apocryphal.
WIthout doubt the ultimate example of a bar’s exaggerated history is that of Sean’s Bar in Ireland. According to legend it’s the oldest bar in the world, and one of the oldest businesses of any sort, at over 1,100 years of age.
Well, heck. About 50 years ago workers renovating the building found some archaic building materials in some of the walls. As these materials, some sort of wicker, largely fell out of favor in in construction around the year 900, the legend was born. In reality. the building is more likely between 300 and 400 years old, and the workmen reused some wicker they found in the area. That sort of reuse was standard practice at the time.
And all of this isn’t to mention that even if the building actually were 1,100 years old, the chain of ownership of the bar can’t be traced back more than a couple hundred years.
I know you did, Kevin. I merely posted info which corroborated your point.
The webmaster should seriously consider appointing you as a research associate & honest broker.
The meeting might go something like this:
But are we overlooking Kevin’s possible ancestor James J. Walsh? Or maybe my Brooklyn-born father’s uncle (first name I don’t recall) Walsh.
But are we overlooking Kevin’s possible ancestor James J. Walsh? Or maybe related to my Brooklyn-born father’s uncle Michael Walsh.