Celebrate a Woodhaven institution, all 190 years
by Ed Wendell
Sep 24, 2019 | 2313 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The members of the Neir's 190 Committee with owner Loycent Gordon (far right) have planned a street celebration honoring the Woodhaven establishment's 190th Anniversary.
The members of the Neir's 190 Committee with owner Loycent Gordon (far right) have planned a street celebration honoring the Woodhaven establishment's 190th Anniversary.
slideshow
Louis Neir purchased The Old Abbey 120 years ago and renamed it Neir's Social Hall.
Louis Neir purchased The Old Abbey 120 years ago and renamed it Neir's Social Hall.
slideshow
On Saturday, October 5, Neir’s Tavern is inviting everyone to come celebrate its 190th birthday with a street celebration at the building it has occupied since 1829.

The party, which runs from noon to 6 p.m., will feature music, games, a bouncy castle, food and more.

Organized by a group of residents under the banner of “The Neir’s 190 Committee,” the celebration also serves as a kickoff to the 10-year countdown to the establishment’s 200th Anniversary.

The famed tavern, located at the corner of 88th Avenue and 78th Street in Woodhaven, will be closing down the street to celebrate the longevity and perseverance of all of the people that have kept this business alive for 190 years.

To put those longevity numbers in perspective, when the original LaLance & Grosjean factory went up in flames in 1876, Neir’s had already been in business at that locale for nearly 50 years.

When the infamous cyclone struck Woodhaven in 1895, it was undoubtedly the main topic of conversation at Neir’s, where people had been conversing with each other for 65 years.

On the day of the 1929 stock market crash that signaled the start of the Great Depression, people may have had a few drinks to forget their troubles at Neir’s, which had already been serving a few drinks at that locale for 100 years.

When mankind first set foot on the moon and the New York Mets pulled off a miraculous World Series run, Neir’s was enjoying its own 140-year run.

And when Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci played wise guys under the direction of Martin Scorsese in Goodfellas, they did so at Neir’s, now more than - Ping! Pow! Boom! Bing! - 160 years old.

It wasn’t always called Neir’s. It opened as The Blue Pump Room in 1829 and was owned by Cadwallader R. Colden, the black sheep of a well-known and distinguished family.

He was also the manager of the historic Union Course Race Track, which sat directly across Snedeker Avenue (now 78th Street).

The Union Course sat between 78th and 84th streets from Jamaica to Atlantic avenues, and in its heyday races pitting horses from the North and South against each other attracted between 60,000 to 100,000 spectators to Woodhaven.

As the fortunes of the track declined, it would eventually serve as a Civil War camp and be replaced by housing in the 1870s, the tavern (now renamed The Old Abbey) earned a reputation as a “notorious rumseller” that catered to rougher crowds.

Just before the turn of the century the tavern was purchased by Louis Neir, who added a bowling alley and a ballroom and renamed it “Neir’s Social Hall”.

The Neir family also owned a hotel just one block south of the tavern, at the corner of 78th Street and 87th Road, in a building that still stands to this day.

Over the years, many of the old-timers that frequented Neir’s told tales of stage and screen legend Mae West performing in the ballroom. While some people cast doubt on these tales, those who were there back in the day swear it was true, and she did live just a few blocks away on 88th Street off of 89th Avenue.

The establishment was kept by the Neir family into the late 1960s, when it was sold again and became known as The Union Course Tavern, a nice nod to the famed racetrack, which by then had been gone from Woodhaven’s map for nearly a century.

It remained under that name until it was sold again in 2009. The interior underwent a detailed and beautiful restoration and it was renamed, once again, Neir’s Tavern.

The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the last 190 years. Time travelers from 1829 would find a very different community than the one they were used to. The familiar thing they might recognize is Neir’s Tavern.

Drop by on the afternoon of October 5 to celebrate the 190th birthday of this historic Woodhaven institution. For details, email woodhavenhistory@gmail.com.

Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet