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McSorley’s 1854

by John McSorley, 1827-1910

Inside New York’s oldest Irish tavern, McSorley’s Old Ale House, the aged look, abundant memorabilia, and sawdust floors that sop up spilled beer will get you feeling reminiscent of “Olde New York.” The owners maintain a strict policy against removing wall decorations in order to preserve the eclectic collection, which includes Houdini’s handcuffs, various historic posters (including an ironic “wanted” poster for John Wilkes Booth considering President Lincoln famously patronized the pub following his iconic and successful Cooper Union Address), and lucky wishbones hung by WWI soldiers pre-deployment, to be removed upon their return. Those still hanging memorialize the soldiers who were killed in action. In 2011 the bones gathered so much dust that the Health Department forced the reluctant owners to start routinely cleaning them.

McSorley’s operated as a “Men Only” pub, until a 1970 lawsuit mandated them to start admitting women. Such legal incidents signal everlasting conflicts between “Old” and “New” New York, and beg controversial questions about the validity of historic preservation.

Despite its modern role in the fabric of the East Village bar scene, McSorley’s is still known as a popular gathering place for artists and revolutionaries. Throughout the years it quenched the thirst of E. E. Cummings, Abraham Lincoln, John Lennon, and Woody Guthrie. It’s the last official stop on the Art Walk, and is a fine place to rest, reminisce, and discuss the tour.


1854 John McSorley opens McSorley's Old Ale House
1865 Building becomes 5-floor tenement and McSorley family moves to 2nd floor
1888 John McSorley purchases building and becomes its landlord
1910 John McSorley dies, leaves Ale House to son Bill
1911 Bill McSorley converts Ale House to shrine for his deceased father
1925 e.e. cummings publishes "Sitting in McSorley's"
1970 McSorley's starts admitting women after lawsuit

Reference Links

link McSorley's Old Ale House Official Website
link NY Curbed: McSorley's Old Ale House
internal McSorley's Old Ale House - Wiki
internal gDoc