Baking on Broadway — Then and Now
Standing where Broadway begins its curve to the west at 10th Street, the landmarked Grace Church has been a fixture of Broadway’s landscape for over 160 years. James Renwick Jr.’s gothic masterpiece was consecrated in 1846 after the congregation moved uptown from its original location at Broadway and Rector Street. The 1890s photo above shows a familiar view of Grace Church as one looks north on Broadway, almost exactly as it appears today. However, if you look closely at the bottom-right of the church building, you can also make out a large awning extending out to Broadway, which marks the location of a local landmark long gone.
Today that space directly to the south of the church building houses a churchyard and the Grace Church School playground, but during the late 19th century, that plot actually housed a large bakery building and café/restaurant.
Fleischmann’s Model Vienna Bakery was built on this location by Charles Louis Fleischmann, who, following the success of his company’s Vienna bread display at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, was looking to expand business into the New York market. Fleischmann’s company had pioneered the commercial production and distribution of yeast for baking, and even today Fleischmann’s yeast can be found in supermarkets across the country.
The company built the baking operation here to showcase their yeast products and high quality baked goods. A prime location even in the 1870s and 1880s, this stretch of Broadway was ideally located, with high foot traffic, and could later could capitalize on shoppers visiting the massive Wanamaker’s department store just across 10th Street to the south.
Notable as a bakery and restaurant (you can view a 1906 dinner menu from the restaurant here), the site was also notable in that it generated a new term for the American lexicon — the breadline. Fleischmann’s charitable inclinations led him to institute a practice at the bakery of distributing unsold loaves to those in need beginning at midnight. As the process was regularized, lines would begin to form before the appointed distribution time, and the popular term was born.
By 1905, Grace Church acquired the land upon which the bakery and restaurant were located, and the area was razed to create a new churchyard space.