News of the recent sale of the building housing the White Horse Tavern has Greenwich Village preservationists worried for the future of that legendary watering hole. Did you know that Gravesend once had its own White Horse Tavern? It stood on the southwest corner of Avenue U and McDonald Avenue–its official address was 286 Avenue U–from the mid-1890s through about 1922. (The current structure on the site was completed in 1927.) The rare and possibly unique postcard below captures the place and maybe shows its owner, too. On his 1910 U.S. passport application, Bavarian immigrant Engelbert Schindlbeck (1868-1921), the proprietor, stood five-foot-six, with a broad forehead, blue eyes, proportionate nose, medium mouth, round chin, brown hair, fair complexion, and round face. That description seems to match the fellow standing front and center, at the corner of the White Horse porch, in dark suit and boater.
Schindlbeck’s place catered to patrons of the nearby Gravesend Racetrack, offering food and drink below, with hotel rooms to sleep them off above. The track had closed by the time J.E. Reid, the wag who mailed this postcard, visited on July 31, 1911. He wrote: “A friend of mine and my self came down here Sunday morning [July 30]. We got lost, but will be back as soon as we find our way out.” Unlike the poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953), whose heavy drinking at the other White Horse Tavern led to his early demise, we suspect Mr. Reid and companion made it out of Gravesend alive.
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