Social Halls in New York City #general
Lisa P. Wanderman
Continuing the discussion of New York City social halls begun by Gary Gershfield on
July 18th and Barbara Sontz on July 22nd, I would like to point out that Vienna
Hall (on 58th and Lexington Avenue) and Webster Hall (on 11th Street between 3rd
and 4th Avenues) were two completely separate venues. Perhaps Barbara included a
typo when she mentioned them both in her comments?
True to its Greenwich Village location, Webster Hall was certainly the more
Bohemian of the two.
My great uncle Samuel (Smuel) Wanderman and two of his sons, Charles and Walter
Wanderman, owned and operated Webster Hall >from about 1910 to about 1940. Smuel
Wanderman was the oldest of four brothers who immigrated >from Anyksciai, Lithuania
to New York City around 1900. Klezmers in Lithuania, the family took to the
requirements of running a social/reception/banquet/meeting hall. Webster Hall
employed much of the extended family.
My father, Sidney Wanderman, worked his way through college and medical school in
the coat check room and my aunt Rosalie spent her entire career as the
bookkeeper/office manager of Webster Hall even long after the family had sold it
and it was the East Coast recording studio for RCA Records.
As can be expected, there are numerous stories told by the family.
At some point, a large fellow named Ellis was the "Sherriff" or bouncer. His
enterprising brother, casting around for work, saw the need for a safe place
to store guests coats and other belongings and invented a coat check room right off
the main entry. It seems impossible, but up until this point, there had been no
such thing! This proved to be so successful that he created coat check concessions
throughout New York and became extremely successful. My father (who passed away a
little less than three years ago at the age of 100) told a story about his
experience as a coat check "boy". When he and the other boys received tips, they
pooled their money by placing it in the pocket of a gentleman's coat they had
checked in that night. At some point during the long evening, they would remove
some of the money to buy dinner for themselves. One night, a rookie forgot which
coat held the pooled money and returned the coat to its owner along with a pocket
full of everyone's tips. It was a very sad night as all the boys went home
without pay and without dinner. After that, an empty cigar box was substituted for
the overcoat pocket.
Lisa Wanderman Gottlieb
New York, NY
WANDERMAN - Anyksciai, Lithuania; TOFT - Traupus, Lithuania; MIL - Lithuania; FEIN
- Lithuania; BOSKOFF (BASHMASHNIKOV) - Priluki, Poltava District, Ukraine; SUSID -
Ostrog, Rivne District, Ukraine; GOTTLIEB - Galicia; ROTHENBERG/MITCHELL/ISAACS -
Iasi, Romania; GROSS - Hungary