Our July 19th Historic Pub Crawl with the NYC Historic Districts Council was a success! Prior to the tour, we enjoyed snacks, conversation and a group tasting of our Stomach Bitters and Elixir of Long Life; it was the perfect way to boost the authenticity of the experience before embarking on our shared journey into the past. For those who didn’t get to join us, here is a brief rundown of our afternoon exploring New York City’s early pubs.
Merchants House Museum Garden
We started our pub crawl at the stunning 19th century home of the Tredwell family. Here, we proudly shared the products of our brewing experiment. The stomach bitters recipe we used was a recreation of Hostetter’s Bitters, which contained a blend of grain alcohol and various botanical substances including orange peel, cinnamon, coriander and cardamom. We hope the pleasant-smelling brew cured our guests of their “dyspepsia, constitutional decay and nervous prostration,” as per the advertising claims of the Hostetter Company’s original product.
McSorley’s Old Ale House
Our first stop was a pub that has been part of the landscape for more than 150 years. Established in 1854, McSorley’s Old Ale House operated from the first floor of a five-story rental building. Many changes to the facade have been made over the years, but the building’s entrance doors and bar entrance are original. McSorley’s hit a few bumps on the road to modern life. The bar didn’t allow women until 1970 when they were sued by the National Organization of Women. It was also forced to disturb one of its treasured features. A lighting fixture above the bar is adorned with wishbones that were believed to have been placed by young men departing for battle in World War I. Since they hadn’t been touched for ages they were encased in dust and the Health Department insisted that McSorley’s clean them.
After a brief interlude to enjoy historic sites on Third Avenue, we ventured to Pete’s Tavern. The highly decorative five-story brick building was originally used as a hotel. It became Pete’s Tavern in the 1920s after being purchased by Peter de Belles. The interior of Pete’s Tavern still has an impressive number of its original 19th and early 20th century details such as its tin ceiling, 40-foot rosewood bar and mirrored back bar. According to rumors, Pete’s was disguised as a flower shop during Prohibition.
Old Town Bar
Our final stop was on East 18th Street at the Old Town Bar and Restaurant. The beautiful three-story vernacular building features a detailed cast-iron storefront beneath its brick facade. Impressive features like arched beveled glass windows with prism glass transoms grace the exterior. Inside, guests can marvel at the pub’s original tin ceiling, dumbwaiter and 55-foot marble and mahogany bar. In 2010, the Old Town Bar hosted a 100th anniversary celebration for its Hinsdale men’s room urinals.
Another Taste of Yesterday
We enjoyed this pub crawl so much that we’ll be participating in another on September 6th, complete with California pop beer. Check back soon for more details!