The five Oldest Bars of New York City are watering holes you've GOT to check out when you travel to the city that never sleeps. These places have the history of the city, they tell the story of New York immigrants, its citizens and off all the changes that have gone on for the past few hundred years.


THE FIVE OLDEST BARS OF NEW YORK

By Lucas Compan, guest storyteller

1 – Fraunces Tavern ( Est. 1719 )

First we start at Fraunces Tavern, the oldest bar in New York. Fraunces Tavern is one of America’s most important historical sites of the Revolutionary War and a reminder of the great importance of taverns on the New York way of life during the Colonial era. This revered building at the corner of Pearl and Broad street was the location of George Washington‘s farewell address to his Continental Army officers and one of the first government buildings of the young United States of America. John Jay and Alexander Hamilton both used Fraunces as an office.

Fraunces Tavern, frequented by George Washington

One of the oldest, diverse and historic rooms in New York City, the Long Room played host to Colonial Era dance classes, George Washington’s farewell speech (pictured below), decades of guests as a boardinghouse, and now a replica of tavern life in early America

Fraunces Tavern: 54 Pearl St, lower Manhattan | (212) 425-1778

 

2 – BRIDGE CAFE  ( Est. 1794 )

From there it's on to the Bridge Cafe next to the Brooklyn Bridge. Bridge Cafe is an historic restaurant and bar located at 279 Water Street in the South Street Seaport area of Manhattan, New York City, United States

Bridge Cafe is an historic restaurant and bar located at 279 Water Street in the South Street Seaport area of Manhattan.

According to sources such as Richard McDermott of The New York Chronicle and Steve Redlauer and Ellen Williams of “The Historic Shops & Restaurants of New York”, the Bridge Cafe, at Water and Dover Streets, is the oldest establishment in NYC that has continuously been run as a tavern. In a number of different guises and many different owners, it has been here, in this building, since 1794 – even before the Brooklyn Bridge, which went up behind the building in 1883

Painting: detail of the Brooklyn Bridge on the background.

Bridge Cafe, inside. Courtesy: Bridge Cafe


Bridge Cafe: 279 Water Street in the South Street Seaport

 

3 – EAR INN ( Est. 1817 )

Situated in the historic James Brown House, the Ear Inn is one of the oldest operating drinking establishments in New York City. The building was constructed around 1770 for James Brown, an African aide to George Washington during the Revolutionary War. He is said to be depicted in the famous Emmanuel Leutze painting of the victorious Delaware River crossing.

Arguably the oldest bar in Manhattan, the Ear Inn is neither fossil nor throwback. Nights and especially weekends, UPS uniforms are replaced by Gap and Dockers worn by twenty- and thirtysomethings particular enough to recognize a thinking drinking man's tavern when they see one. Food is cheap, hearty and swiftly served by waitresses who'll patiently put up with your requests for a pint of Thomas Cloake's Fidelio beer (an extinct ale still advertised on the walls of this, its former brewery)


Ear Inn: 326 Spring St., in Soho, New York – near Greenwich Street

 

4 – McSORLEY'S OLD ALE HOUSE ( EST. 1854 )

Established in 1854, Abraham Lincoln once visited McSorley's

Abraham Lincoln once visited McSorley's, the oldest "Irish" tavern in New York City. Located at 15 East 7th Street in the East Village, it was one of the last of the "Men Only" pubs. Yes, that's true. Women were not allowed in McSorley's until August 10, 1970, after National Organization for Women attorneys Faith Seidenberg and Karen DeCrow filed a discrimination case against the bar in District Court and won. The case decision made the front page of The New York Times on June 26, 1970. Barbara Shaum was the bar's first female patron. With the ruling allowing women to be served, the bathroom became unisex. Sixteen years later, a ladies room was installed.


McSoley's: 15 East 7th Street, East Village, New York

 

5 – PETE'S TAVERN ( EST. 1864 )

Pete's Tavern, on 18th Street and Irving Place, is also referred to on the sign outside as the place "O. Henry made famous."

It turns out that the author lived nearby at 55 Irving Place and was a frequent patron. He also wrote "The Gift of the Magi" there at Pete's Tavern. At his booth, you can see photos and newspaper stories about him. Many famous people have been to this place, including James Dean, Natalie Portman, John Leguizamo, among others.

Pete's Tavern: 129 E 18th St and Irving Place, Greenwich Village

 

BONUS: OLD TOWN ( EST. 1892 )

Originally a German establishment called Viemeisters, the bar has been in continuous operation since 1892, making it one of the oldest bars in the New York City area.

When it first opened, Viemeisters was a place that only served drinks, but during Prohibition, the bar was forced to change its name to Craig's Restaurant and start serving food in order to operate as a speak easy. After the end of Prohibition and the closing of the nearby 18th Street Subway station in 1948, the bar began to fall into disrepair. It wasn't until the late 1960s, when local bar manager Larry Meagher took over operations, that the bar saw a resurgence of popularity

It's been here forever (since 1892), so expect no glitz or fanfare at this old-timey Flatiron saloon, a “sanctuary for the pre-entitlement crowd” looking to have a cold one courtesy of “real bartenders – not mixologists.”

Cheers!


Old Town: 45 E 18th Street, Flatiron District

 

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