Title: A Pair of Views of Mechler's Bakery, ...
Publication Date: 1882
Book Condition: Very Good
Dust Jacket Condition: N/A
Watercolors on paper, 7 x 11 in. Signed and dated (at lower right): [Broadway]: Fritz Meyer 82; [Park Avenue]: Fritz Meyer / 1882. Inventory#: p570pfra. These precisely painted views of the front and rear of Mechler's Bakery in Weehawken, New Jersey, are the work of Fritz Meyer. They are a record of a period in the history of Hudson County, New Jersey, when the area was home to significant numbers of German-American immigrants. Meyer's rendering of this scene shows Weehawken as a semi-rural town, just in the process of being "modernized." The detail that the artist incorporates into each of these renderings offers a tantalizing "snapshot" of a slice of Weehawken life in the waning days of the nineteenth century. Mechler's building is freestanding, with no neighbors on either side. At the top of both side walls, in large lettering, the premises is announced as Ph. Mechler's Weehawken Bakery. (In the rear facing view Weehawken is misspelled "Weehaken" either by the artist or by the proprieter). Mechler's, however, is definitely more (and perhaps less) than just a bakery. Facing the street, atop the extended front porch, a sign announces "Wein & Lager Bier Salon." Potted plants screen the sides of the porch area, which covers the sidewalk to the curb. Under the overhang are outdoor tables where two male patrons can be seen seated with their beer steins. Looking south, a kiosk serves as a marker and a shelter for a street car stop. A horse-drawn street car is just visible, approaching in the distance. The kiosk bears the lettering "Half Way Station" on one side, and "Mechler's Point" on the other side. It is clear from the back view that the front of the building is on a height facing the river. Consulting a present day map of Weehawken, it would appear likely that "Mechler's Point" marks the intersection of Park Avenue and Broadway (north of the present-day Lincoln Tunnel outlet and partway uphill). The street car tracks would have therefore run along Broadway. The rear view of the building offers a fuller understanding of the premises. The sign on the roof facing rear also announces Ph. Mechler's Bakery. Under that, however, is "Wein & Bier Saloon," "Gerade Wie in Deutschland" (Just as in Germany). Clearly Mechler is offering a taste of home. The building has a back garden accessed a few steps down from street level through a decorative arched entry. The sign on the arch says, again "PH. Mechler," "Gerade wie in Deutschland," and lastly "Mensch argere dich nicht!" which, loosely translated, might be understood as "Leave your troubles at the door," a fitting slogan for a beer garden. This rear entrance has an extended canopy leading to the building. The woman appearing to enter suggests that the "back" area is more genteel, and thus suitable for women (since German beer gardens were very much community centers). The two figures visible in the rear window also appear to be female. Though this is still the age of horse-drawn travel, it is clear from the overhead telegraph lines on Park Avenue that we are very much on the cusp of the modern technological revolution. The streets are lit by gas lamps. On Park Avenue a gentleman rides a horse and a couple are riding in a hansom cab, apparently on their way to Mechler's. The building has a trough in front for the animals and stables to the right. On Broadway, where the tracks run, no horses are in evidence. Broadway is still the more rural street, however. The land climbs uphill behind Mechler's. Meyer's technique in these works appears to be topographical, that is to say, a precisely observed and transcribed record of the scene as the artist saw it and wished to preserve it. The hope is that continuing research into the biography of the artist as well as the history of Mechler's Bakery, and the German-American community in Weehawken will reveal additional information to supplement the present purely visual evidence that we have on hand. Bookseller Inventory # 000570
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