When I was working my way through some material on ice cream parlors the other day I found this…The New York State Senate appointed a committee to investigate police corruption in New York City in 1895. Nestled among over 5,000 pages of investigation was an exchange about a brothel masquerading as an ice cream parlor. Given their wholesome image, ice cream parlors would have made a great front for a variety of unsavory businesses.
It appears that various local policemen were not only taking bribes of $5-10 from brothel-keepers, but that in the case of the supposed ice cream parlor, a policemen was actually in partnership with the owner of the house. Located at 32 Stanton Street, it was just off of Houston and east of the Bowery. Bowery b’hoys and their girlfriends were fond of ice cream and no doubt a number of shops serving fashionable working-class clientele were located in the neighborhood.
The senators apparently thought that such establishments were common, although the brothel-keeper they questioned only knew of one such establishment, the other that ran under a front was supposed to be a restaurant.
I wonder what other sorts of nefarious businesses were operated under the guise of ice cream shops…
Today Stanton Street is in the heart of hipster New York, full of bars and restaurants (probably a lot like it was in the past, only with wealthier people). The Bluestocking Bookstore is there.