The Times reports that Fowler & Wells was originally named for a scientific institute on that site that practiced phrenology, the idea that the shape of one’s skull denoted intelligence and personality that’s now been debunked and considered a prime example of scientific racism. According to Edward Fowler, coarse hair correlated with coarse fibers in the brain and indicated coarse feelings, which “suggested that people of African descent had poor verbal skills and traits that were best suited for nursing children or waiting on tables.”
Though this information is widely available and Colicchio knew that phrenology “was used for nefarious reason,” he didn’t have a deeper knowledge of it and thought it was a “harmless” connection. Thus, the restaurant went hard on that theme, naming drinks after the practice and a section of the bar the Phrenological Cabinet.
Then, Times critic Pete Wells pointed out the harmful history in his two-star review, and Colicchio and his team immediately decided to change the name. It took nearly eight months to get everything in order with the owners of the building and his branding team, but starting today, Temple Court is the new name. It streamlines the restaurant with the former name of the building that houses it, which according to Colicchio’s research has no similar connotations.
Colicchio recently made headlines for his anti-Trump sentiments, including throwing his name into a lawsuit that alleges that President Donald Trump’s ownership of hotels and restaurants puts other restaurants at a disadvantage. He has also been a frequent supporter of progressive food policies and says, “I have a fairly liberal persona and never in a million years would consider myself a racist.”