Fraunces Tavern And Chumley's RIP?

by BILLY GRAY · February 10, 2010

    New York is the ephemeral city. And two of its oldest spots, Fraunces Tavern and Chumley's recently confirmed the city's transitory nature (both are on the endangered list) while suggesting that certain tenacious landmarks refuse will not go gently into modern blight.

    Both landmarks have hosted eclectic revolutionaries. Fraunces is the spot where George Washington bid farewell to his troops at the close of the Revolutionary War. More ignominiously, four patrons were killed and 53 injured when F.A.L.N, an organization of radical Puerto Rican nationalists, set off a bomb in the building.

    Chumley's opened in 1926, and became one of New York's signature Prohibition-era speakeasies. Rumor has it that the saying "to 86" (or eject) someone from a bar came from the joint's address at 86 Bedford Street in the Village. It went on to become a favorite haunt of literary pioneers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck and Norman Mailer.

    Later on, a slightly less auspicious group of trailblazers--tourists--besieged the two venues.

    And now, Fraunces is closing (hopefully temporarily) as it seeks new ownership. And Chumley's, well, restorations are going slower than anyone anticipated since a wall collapse back in the spring of 2007 forced it to close. Here's a recent snapshot courtesy of Jeremy over at Vanishing New York detailing the bar's progress, or lack thereof:

    In the meantime, skip the original speakeasy's wan contemporary imitations and duck into McSorely's (since 1854), which is still kicking up a storm of sawdust off its antique floor.

    (Photos Courtesy of Jeremiah's Vanishing New York)