Revisiting the Story of the Eastern Dispensary at 75 Essex Street

The historic Eastern Dispensary Building at 75 Essex Street – home of Eisner Bros. – will soon undergo major redevelopment to add a ten-story protrusion to its rooftop. This news broke earlier this month. We thought it appropriate that we revisited a Bowery Boogie entry nine years ago which outlines the history of the landmark.

Below is a copy with minor edits for context.

I recently decided to take a second look at old notes about 75 Essex Street (also known 232 Broome). Here’s some in-depth insight as to why this unique, freestanding structure at the corner of Essex and Broome Streets should be protected.

The Eastern Dispensary (also known by the Good Samaritan Dispensary), was established in 1832 to provide medical assistance to the sick and the poor. It was established during a huge cholera outbreak. “that claimed the lives of more than 3,500 people, mainly destitute Irish immigrants crammed into filthy hovels in the fourth and sixth slum wards of downtown Manhattan.”The dispensary started out on Grand Street, but was eventually moved to 75 Essex in 1890. This was the year that the building was constructed.

Helen Campbell, a 19th century missionary, described its patients in her book Darkness and Light; or Lights and Shadows of New York Life:

Weary mothers carrying sick, wailing babies in arms; women with bandages on their heads and men with slings around their arms; children sent home by sick mothers and fathers for necessary medicine. On most is the unmistakable look that tells of patient suffering and half-starved lives…

Other publications focused on promoting the Dispensary’s success in aiding New York’s impoverished. The 1870 Annual Report of New York State’s Board of State Commissioners of Public Charities:

The dispensary, which is open seven days a week, provides free medical and surgical help to the homeless in the eastern section of the city. It also provides vaccinations, which are free to all who apply, regardless of their financial situation. It is generally possible to contribute to the institution’s funds if you are able to pay.

It has helped seven hundred and sixty-four thousands people since its opening. The average cost of each treatment is fifteen cents. Twenty-six thousand two hundred eighty-six people were treated in the past year. Twenty-two thousand one hundred thirty-four of these patients were dispensary patients. Four thousand one hundred fifty-two residents were also visited. The number vaccinated during the year was five thousand and seventy-one, and the number of prescriptions made, forty-three thousand four hundred and eight}1-nine.

June 4th, the institution was visited [1870]Its operations are observed in the treatment and reception of large numbers of patients. The medical staff is comprised of a resident physician and full boards comprising attending and visiting doctors and surgeons. The latter are not paid. It is a well-run and managed medical charity that is worthy both of the State’s aid as well as the gifts it receives.

In 1893, Nathan Straus (the founder of Macy’s) built New York City’s first milk pasteurization laboratory and distribution center on the East River Pier at Third Street. There were many milk laboratories in New York City by the end of 1800s. One of these was located in the Eastern Dispensary. New York mandated pasteurization (courtesy of Louis Pasteur) between 1908 and 1916 (when a federal law was passed). Most historians agree that New York was established in 1914.

1955 marked the official closing of the Eastern Dispensary. According to the New York City Register, 75 Essex Street was foreclosed by the City on April 25, 1977 due to unpaid taxes. The Eisner Brothers were then moved.

In the time between the Dispensary’s closure and the Eisner Brothers’ takeover, The Bell Yarn Shop held court in 75 Essex. Bell Yarn, originally located at 371 Grand Street in the 1960s, moved to 75 Essex.

We are still working to pinpoint the exact dates but we will.

Shalom Icener was born in Williamsburg. In 1977, he rented the first floor at 75 Essex Street.  The Eisner Brothers Store was established there. Here’s a blurb from their Website:

There are many options for tee shirts. NYFirePolice.comuniformed officers know that we are their go-to place for all their wardrobe needs.

We also offer a wide range of licensed sports products and boxing equipment. Professional sports buffs and amateur wannabes: you won’t find a better array of boxing equipment and licensed sports products than this.

Our collection of “I Love New York”Items are unique, original, and stimulating. If you’re a native New Yorker or a proud tourist visiting New York, check out all our terrific products. You’re sure to find something you love among our many interesting I love NY items.

According to City records, the entire building was bought by the Eisner family in 85.

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