This past July, 21 Club’s iconic iron jockeys went to New Jersey artist Andrew Tedesco’s studio to get a make-over for eight weeks. These statues represent famoun 1922s jockeys and racing farms from across the country. Read more about these statues and their history below!
History of 21 Club
This famous club has held the public imagination for decades– from a hidden wine cellar to hide the illegal liquor, to a disappearing bar, to having one of the largest collections of Fredrick Remington’s art and appearing in numerous films throughout the years, it is easy to see why.
In 1922 the founders, cousins Jack Kreindler and Charlie Berns first opened a small speakeasy known as the Red Head in Greenwich Village, because both need extra cash for night school. Later, in 1925 Read Head was moved to a basement on Washington Place and its name was changed to Frontón. The next year, is was moved again uptown to 42 West 49th Street, changed its name to the Puncheon Club, and became much more exclusive. It was them moved one last time to it’s current location to make way for the construction of Rockefeller Center. During that time it was called “Jack and Charlie’s 21”
During the prohibition of alcohol era, police raided 21 many times, but they were never caught. This was becuse every time a raid began, a system of levers was used to tip the shelves of the bar, sweeping the liquor bottles through a chute and into the city’s sewers. The bar also included a secret wine cellar, which was accessed through a hidden door in a brick wall which opened into the basement of the building next door (number 19). Though still used as a wine cellar today, part of the vault has been remodeled to allow a party of up to 20 guests to dine in private. 21 also stored the private wine collections of celebrities and US Presidents.
At Christmas time the regulars received silk scarves decorated with a motif of various unique club insignia. Each scarf is numbered and has the Jockey logo and also features the famous railings associated with the building. Some of the most unusual and desirable were designed by Ray Strauss, founder of Symphony Scarves, in the 50s and 60s. A number of these can be seen in a 1989 book by Andrew Baseman, The Scarf.
Besides having the 35 jockeys, 21 also has the one of the largest collections of Fredrick Remington’s western and cowboy art in their special Remington Room and in other places around the restaurant. They also have other non-equine art prominently featured you can see here.
Restoring The Jockeys
Farms and racehorse owners have been donating the jockeys to 21 since the 1930’s. “Now it’s starting to feel like the ‘21’ Club again,” Mr. Pavarini, a contractor hired by the restaurant who was supervising the installation of special lighting to illuminate each jockey, said as the statues were put back in position. It was the fist time that the statues had been absent in 21’s 85-year history.
“The restaurant looked so unusual without the jockeys that many people would simply stop in front and stare”, said Teddy Suric, the general manager, who also taken telephone inquiries about the missing figures. “We were getting 50 calls a day,” Mr. Suric said. “People were asking me, ‘Are you selling the place?’ They’re part of the DNA of the restaurant.”
New Jersey Artist Andrew Tedesco worked on restoring the jockeys for eight weeks starting in July. Tedesco ground down imperfections, sanded rough spots and used auto body epoxy to patch cracks and gouges. He ordered durable paint that he said was “really made for painting pipes in a warehouse.”
One challenge was making the jockeys’ hollow-looking eyes appear real, he said. Another was simply moving the statues, which weigh anywhere from 50 to 250 pounds.“Once, some guy tried to run off with one, but it was so heavy he only made it down the block and left it at the corner,” Tedesco said. “The cops called the club and said, ‘I think we found one of your jockeys.’ ”
I hope you enjoyed learning the unique history behind 21 Club and seeing photos of it’s miniature Jockeys! Best of luck to Martin Garcia and American Pharaoh today!
Huh? What? Well, I will believe that when I see flying Shetlands !