Without question, the Ear Inn on Spring Street pours the best pint of Guinness this side of the Atlantic. Thick, dark, creamy, absolutely perfect. And for almost two decades, the writers of this website have loved imbibing at this dark little tavern that the New York Times once christened, “a dump with dignity.” And whether you’re new in town or have been here since birth, pretty much everyone has a story or two to tell from an outing at this old pub in West Soho. But like many old places in our city, this Federal style building has its own story to tell.Built sometime before 1812, the house at 326 Spring Street was originally the home of James Brown, an African-American United States Revolutionary War veteran. Brown originally ran a tobacco store on the ground floor of the house, but in 1817 he opened a tavern in the space. Hard to imagine, but at that time in the city’s development the house was only five feet from the existing shoreline of the Hudson. Naturally, the proximity of booze made the establishment instantly popular with the legions of sailors, stevedores and longshoremen that worked along the river.In 1890, the house was sold to an Irish immigrant named Thomas Cloke, who ran the tavern and sold beer and spirits to ships passing through New York’s harbor. Cloke ran the business there for almost 30 years, but seeing the handwriting on the wall with the Eighteenth Amendment, sold it in 1919 and got the hell out. However, business remained brisk: during Prohibition the pub/restaurant became a speakeasy, while the upstairs floors were variously a boarding house, a headquarters for smugglers, and a brothel. The bar re-opened for business (legally) once Prohibition was repealed, but it now existed without a name. It was simply called “The Green Door,” and catered to a fragrant clientele of dock laborers and wharfies, almost all of whom were hard-drinking regulars. Women weren’t allowed (and probably didn’t want to go there anyway.) And so life continued in this swashbuckling fashion until the mid 20th century, when urban blight and decay turned the once-bustling area into a nearly abandoned district.In the mid 1970s, a group of struggling artists purchased the building, and they reopened the bar in 1977. Due to Landmarks restrictions on changing signage, the new proprietors simply painted out part of the letter B in the “Bar” sign, thus turning it into the word “Ear”, which was the name of a music magazine published upstairs. And thus it has been the Ear Inn ever since: a cozy home for the perfect pint and a real conversation.
It was July, 1945. During the final summer of World War II, New York City experienced a newspaper delivery truck strike that lasted 18 days. Maybe you’re thinking, “eh, big deal.” Friends, there was no internet. No TV. Not even portable radios. So, the printed newspaper was critical for the everyday working man to know what was going on in the world.At that time, New York City had eight major daily newspapers, and there were 14,000 newsstands on the city’s streets to sell them. There was both a morning and evening edition, and New Yorkers bought both of them every day. Take away that newspaper, and you plunge a city into information darkness. It was a huge deal. Huge enough that larger-than-life and enemy of Machine Government Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia took to the airwaves during this strike to read the paper to a constituency bereft of any news. LaGuardia didn’t just read the international news or business day or op-ed, he read the serial comics…for the kids.
That’s right, Mayor LaGuardia read the Dick Tracy funnies for the kiddos, who were obviously glued to their glowing RCA Victors at home. He did different voices. He did sound effects. He got into it. How do you not love a guy who does that? He skipped the politics altogether. And the best part is the ending, where he takes off his reading glasses and finds a kernel of wisdom in the comic. Classic.
“…and say, children, what does it all mean? It means that dirty money never brings any luck! No, it only brings sorrow, and sadness, and misery and disgrace.”
Oh, to live on Gramercy Park! For over 180 years, a Gramercy Park address has inspired excitement and longing in countless generations of real estate obsessed New Yorkers. Steeped in romance and tradition, this tucked-away jewel-of-a-garden has regally borne witness to endless city intrigues, politics, and scandals. In a city where the landscape shifts before your very eyes, Gramercy Park remains staunchly and unapologetically the same as it ever was. Private. Beautiful. Insular. Desirable. Not a bad racket for one square block of fenced in greenery. For all these reasons and more, we decided to focus our lens on this remarkable neighborhood where the glory of New York City’s past stands shoulder to shoulder with the present. And we’ll bring it all to you in less than four and a half minutes running time! We hope you enjoy it.