Mendelssohn on the Hudson

Mendelssohn on the Hudson

Episode 6: Lotte’s Bad Summer (Opus 67, No. 2)

September 30, 2021

Southwest corner of Fort Washington and 187th outside the bus shelter

We’re standing to the side of the busy southwest corner of Fort Washington and 187th outside the bus shelter. Behind us stood Brite Glo, a tiny store that sold everything from marzipan - the sweet almond confection so popular in Germany - to knee-high stockings.

When you follow this corner building around to 187th Street you’ll see a series of one-story storefronts, some with quirky roofs. This geographically unique area can seem like a tiny, elevated island, and the German Jews felt mostly safe here. However, 187th Street was also a popular destination for all Northern Manhattan, and sometimes different groups fought here. Crime grew in the 1960s, worsened in the 1970s, and the late 1980s brought the crack epidemic. The German Jews were frequent targets - they were quiet, mostly kept to themselves, and they were getting older. One neighbor tells the story about a particularly bad summer that began to go wrong right across Fort Washington Avenue.