The Double-R Coffee House was a fairly regular hangout of Lovecraft and the Kalem Club in New York City. This is what the interior looked like when it opened…

This is a little potted history of it…

“Members of the family of the late Colonel Roosevelt began to promote a Brazil coffee-house enterprise in New York in 1919. It was first called Cafe Paulista, but it is now known as the Double R coffee house, or Club of South America, with a Brazil branch in the 40’s [this is Lovecraft’s 112 West Fortyfourth Street haunt] and an Argentine branch on Lexington Avenue. Coffee is made and served in Brazilian style; that is, full city roast, pulverized grind, filtration made; service, black or with hot milk. Sandwiches, cakes, and crullers are also to be had.” — William Harrison Ukers, All About Coffee (1922).

“Upon entering the long narrow shop, a patron saw portraits’ of Voltaire and Shakespeare on opposite sides of the room. The walls were decorated with green and gold wallpaper containing a Brazilian bamboo plant design. The room contained 30 small oak tables and matching chairs with a large oak counter in the center where freshly ground coffee was made.” — The Rough Writer, Volume 9, Issue 3

It seems to have lasted about ten years under the first owners, and seems to have been set up to take advantage of Prohibition. It sold coffee, postum (a sort of decaf coffee substitute before decaf), pastries and cakes, sandwiches, and offered “a daily Brazilian dish”. It seems the manager was Brazilian.

There were “Expansion plans of Double-R Coffee House” (New York Times, 1923) which presumably meant the new Lexington Av. branch, but the venue was sold in 1928 (Tea and Coffee Trade Journal, 1928) to a Mr. and Mrs. Zivko Magdich — at which time the New York Times described it as a…

“gathering place for aspiring playwrights, actors, artists and musicians.”

The letters of George Kirk are a little more explicit on its artistic nature. It seems that, at least part of the week, the Double-R Coffee House served as a discreet queer meeting place…

“If you had been longer in NYC you’d know that there are many boys and many girls both male and female. My dear Double-R is claimed to be a hangout for these half and halfers.” — George Kirk, Letter of 17th Feb 1925.

Lovecraft wrote a poem to the place…

 Here may free souls forget the grind
   Of busy hour and bustling crowd
And sparkling brightly mind to mind
   Display their inmost dreams aloud

   — extract from “On the Double-R Coffee House” (1st February 1925)

It was also rather smoky, since Lovecraft writes in the same poem…

   Mids’t them I sit with smoke-try’d eyes

   — “On the Double-R Coffee House” (1st February 1925)

He also talks in one of his letters of the… “nicotined atmosphere”.

The full poem is to be found in The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H.P. Lovecraft. It somewhat contradicts his very sour view of the artists of Greenwich Village in the short story “He”, although the fact that the coffee shop was a queer meeting place may throw new light on the line in Lovecraft’s New York story “He” (1925)…

“… uncommunicative artists whose practices do not invite publicity or the light of day.”

The Greenwich Village quill of 1921 very briefly mentions the Double R, so it seems that it was ‘on the map’ of the Greenwich Village crowd at that time.

The Double R apparently had a post-closure ‘media ghost’, since it seems to have been recreated as a setting in the TV series Twin Peaks. I’ve never seen the series, so I don’t know how faithful it might have been to the original. Presumably it was a covert Lovecraft reference by the makers.

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