Written by John H. Meyer Friday, 28 January 2011 00:00
During the 1930s, August Guido Luchow and his wife, the former Rose T. Martin, had a cottage built very near to my in-laws home. The villa, as it was referred to, has been long gone. At the present time a bank parking lot has taken its place at the corner of Forest Avenue and Grove Street.
Here is a brief history of still another celebrity who once lived or spent their vacation time in the Massapequas.
I remember the Luchow house as being very unusual looking and sparely lived-in. However, at times, there appeared to be large family gatherings there with late model cars parked along the narrow street. One of the neighbors told me several years ago that the cottage was built in the 1930s as a place where the family could get away from the hustle and bustle of their 14th Street, New York City restaurant and to enjoy the Massapequa area’s recreational facilities.
Fishing, the beaches, boating and the golf course on the grounds of the famous Massapequa Hotel had been a popular lure for city residents as they are in 2011. The hotel and golf course are gone, however a nine-hole course in Nassau Shores still attracts the locals and visitors during the warm weather.
That same neighbor and my father-in-law told me that August Guido Luchow said many times, “Luchow’s is more than a restaurant. It’s a way of life.” August Luchow came to America from Hanover, Germany where my great-grandfather and his family were from. In 1879, young August was in his early 20s, and went to work at once in Stewart’s Saloon on Duane Street in New York City, where domestic beer, imported wines and expensive oil paintings were the principle decor.
Luchow worked there for a little more than a year before venturing uptown to work as a bartender and waiter for the Baron von Mehlback, who operated a place dealing exclusively in beer, not knowing at the time the place would someday be his. Young August worked hard and with his German background and upbringing, being thrifty and business minded along with the help of his friend William Steinway of piano fame, he was able within two years to buy out the Baron. At that time he was only 26. Almost at once Luchow’s restaurant became the capital of 14th Street. Fashionable shops of Tiffany’s, the Le Boutillier Brothers, Vantine’s, Hearn’s, Macy’s, Brentano’s, and Con Edison’s main office all helped to draw crowds to the now famous eatery. Courteous service and good food kept the patrons coming time after time.
William Steinway was the restaurant’s patron saint. He and his family entertained the great musicians of the world there time and again. Depending on the number of guests he would be entertaining, he would request either the street level dining room or the smaller private rooms on the second floor, one of which was named the William Steinway Room. It has been said by many that were frequent patrons at Luchow’s, all of Steinway’s dinner parties were lavish affairs.
Out-of-town dinner guests and the locals would come year after year to view the giant Christmas tree and the holiday decorations that became a tradition with the restaurant. Generations after generations of musicians, writers, artists, actors and actresses, politicians and financiers came to Luchow’s for lunch or dinner.
The Luchow family was able to withstand pressure situations, such as wars, a major depression, prohibition and the complete change of the surrounding neighborhoods, and still remained the place to go for gracious, generous, and fine hospitality and good food.
In the spring of 1983, the famous Luchow’s restaurant closed. The new Luchow’s with the new owners opened uptown at 51st Street and Broadway. It has been said that the same Luchow tradition continued - good food, fellowship and the famous holiday festivals including the huge live indoor Christmas tree. Others have said that the downtown Luchow’s charm was missing at the new location. The Massapequas 16 square miles has had its full share of a variety of history beginning in the 1700s.