- Joanne Oppenheim
Digging in at 150 Rivington Street ...Site of the 1916 Knish War
This weekend, I decided to go down to the Lower East Side to take photos of the buildings at 150 and 155 Rivington Street—the sites of the Knish war, as reported in the New York Times on January 1916. I had no idea what I'd find. All I was looking for were photos for my blog, something to add “then and now” images for my new book, The Knish War on Rivington Street. Writing historic fiction often involves playing detective—looking for surprising tidbits to add to the story.
But this time the surprise was on me! There was no building left at 150 Rivington Street. Instead, I found a working construction site. Disappointed but not defeated, I wondered if there might be old pictures online, so I checked with my good buddy, Ms. Google and there it was—not only did I find 150 Rivington Street, I found that it had serious food connections that were historic and not with knishes.
By 1925, Max Green’s knishery at 150 Rivington was gone. That is when four tenements from number 148-154 Rivington were cobbled together to become none other than the Streit’s Matzo Factory.
I was too late to get a photo, but this one from 1935 shows the Streit's Matzo factory, a truck, and #152 Rivington. You can make out the top of what was 150 Rivington, just behind the truck.
Did Max and his family live above the store? Could be. I haven’t had time to check the census, yet. Stay tuned.
In 1925 Streits cobbled together four old tenements to make a factory. Max Green's knishery was between the corner building and the one marked 152, the one behind the truck.
I'm happy to report that across the street, 155 Rivington is still a storefront and it had to be the site of the United Knish Factory run by M. London. I renamed it Tisch’s Knishes—I needed the rhyme. How do I know it's the real thing? Up on the pediment, above the bricks and fancy windows it says 1902. That's six years before the knish war.
The hole in the ground is where Streit's factory and Max Green's knishery used to be. Across the way, the building with the fancy white arches trimming the windows was the home of the competing knishery--the one I called Tisch's Knishes.
Imagine what Max would think about the million dollar apartments that are replacing the four tenement buildings that the Streit’s combined to make a factory that baked matzos for almost ninety years. A little further digging says that the Streit factory site sold for $30.5 million dollars. The luxury one and two bedroom apartments being built have a starting price of $975,000. And to think they were selling knishes for 5, 4, and 3 cents apiece.
Imagine what the knish warriors would have to say about their old neighborhood now.