Built in 1817, the Ear Inn is arguably Manhattan’s oldest pub (some say the second oldest). And nothing inside the pub has changed since — check out the memorabilia, who needs a museum?
The house was built for James Brown (not the one you’re thinking of), a black man and aide to George Washington during the Revolution. After the war, he settled in New York and worked in the lucrative tobacco trade. He was successful enough to move to the suburbs near the village of Greenwich and build this fashionable Federal townhouse. In later years, it would become a Speakeasy during Prohibition and the upstairs apartment had been used as a boarding house, a smuggler’s den, and a brothel — interesting as no women were allowed in the bar! Ghosts have been heard and seen, in particular one “Mickey,” a sailor still waiting for his ship to come in.
Since the end of Prohibition, the Ear Inn had no name and was only known to sailors as the ‘green door’, but in 1977 the new owners decided to avoid lengthy reviews by the Landmark Commission over a new sign by simply painting out part of the existing neon BAR sign and alas, the ‘Ear’ was born.
Today the Ear now sits in a designated Landmark of the City of New York and is on the National Register of Historic Buildings. So come here for a bit of history or for the unpretentious vibe that attracts locals and tourists. You’ll most likely want to become an Ear-regular.
The Ear Inn 326 Spring St New York, NY 10013 (South Village)