New York Historic Bars
A Toast to 10 Taverns with History

When it comes to bars, New Yorkers have a high standard for what defines “historic.” Their city predates even the United States, and its taverns have played host to such larger-than-life figures as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. So when a bar such as Pete's Tavern claims that it’s the city’s "oldest continuously operating restaurant and bar," there’s usually another—Fraunces Tavern, for example—that politely reminds the public that it served its first drink more than 100 years prior. These bars and others left standing from the colonial era may have replaced their wooden signs with neon lights, but their place in the city’s social fabric remains largely unchanged.
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SoHo: Federal Townhouse with a Colorful Past

When the current owners bought the historical James Brown House in 1977, they also acquired its nameless bar. To christen the cozy watering hole, they simply painted over the “BAR” sign with “EAR.” They have taken a similarly minimalist approach to the décor, which appears frozen in time with its peg-set wood beams and Flemish brick façade.

West Village: Preferred Bar of the Beat Generation

Founded in 1880, this blue-collar bar soon became the favored haunt of poet Dylan Thomas. Years after Thomas went gently into that good night, a new generation of artists and writers rediscovered the White Horse’s charms. Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg often sidled up to the wooden bar for a draft of beer or whiskey.

Ditmars Steinway: Year-Round Beer Garden

Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden lays claim to the oldest beer garden in New York City. Not much has changed since 1910, when the garden’s bartenders poured their first steins of Czech and German beer. Patrons continue to mill about the shaded walkways throughout the year.

Financial District: In the Shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge

Bridge Cafe was founded in 1979, but the building it occupies has existed as a drinking establishment since 1794. This stretch includes a short stint as a pirate bar, whose bouncer's unconventional techniques are rumored to have inspired the pickled ears in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York.

Union Square: History and Cheeseburgers

When Old Town Bar's urinals hit 100 years old, the owners threw them a birthday party despite the fact that they were among the youngest furnishings in the place. The marble-topped mahogany bar dates back to 1892, as do the tin ceiling, bevel-edge plate mirrors, and working dumbwaiter. Noted for its cheeseburgers.

East Village: Visited by Lincoln and Lennon

Though it has passed through the hands of many an able brewer, McSorley’s Old Ale House remains largely as it was in 1854. The bar has weathered the ravages of time and Prohibition thanks to one popular drink: McSorley’s Cream Stock Ale. Both Abraham Lincoln and John Lennon have sampled the brew and heeded the words embossed behind the bar: “Be good or be gone.”

West Village: Where Pride Was Born

Once a hotspot for ridiculous police raids—including the incarceration of women who weren't wearing at least three articles of feminine clothing—The Stonewall Inn finally put its foot down on June 28th, 1969. The resulting riot sparked a movement within the gay community that continues to reverberate across the nation.

Midtown East: Squatters' Shack

The city’s records refer to P.J. Clarke’s as a "squatters' shack," but that’s a misnomer. The sturdy redbrick building is no shack, and there’s nothing transient about a bar that first opened in 1884. When skyscrapers sprang up around it, P.J. Clarke's continued to pour drafts despite the pressure to sell. Their endurance must have impressed Frank Sinatra, who favored table 20.

Gramercy Park: Timeless Rosewood Bar

With its hand-carved rosewood bar, tile flooring, and gaslight chandelier, Pete’s Tavern would look timeless in any era. The aforementioned fixtures date back to 1864, though others have been added due to circumstance. Ask the bartender about Prohibition, for instance, and he'll show you the refrigerator hinges from when the bar posed as a flower shop.

Financial District: Colonial Watering Hole

Constructed before some of America’s Founding Fathers were even born, Fraunces Tavern continues to represent their legacy in the nation they helped build. The tavern has been preserved as a Colonial landmark and now functions as a museum. If only all history lessons could be served with Porterhouse craft beers in rooms once inhabited by George Washington.