NYC’s OLDEST TAVERN, Fulton Market

According to sources such as Richard McDermott of the now-defunct  The New York Chronicle and Steve Redlauer and Ellen Williams of “The Historic Shops & Restaurants of New York”, the Bridge Cafe, at Water and Dover Streets, is the oldest establishment in NYC that has continuously been run as a tavern. In a number of different guises and many different owners, it has been here, in this building since 1794.

Previous tenants have included the Hole in the Wall, operated by One-Armed Charley Monell. An 1847 visitor to the Hole in the Wall would have had to contend with Monell’s two barmaid/bouncers, Kate Flannery and Gallus Mag. The latter was said to have a habit of biting off the earlobes of especially unruly customers. Charley kept a jar of pickled earlobes over the bar. It doubled as a brothel in the 1870s when it was run by Tom Norton. It has been known as the Bridge Cafe since 1979.

It was built on the water’s edge, as Water Street marked the original shoreline. The Brooklyn Bridge behind it went up in 1883. It was originally listed as a “grocery and wine and porter bottler”; in that era, groceries sold wines and spirits and were issued liquor licenses.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy severely damaged the Bridge Cafe.


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6 Responses to NYC’s OLDEST TAVERN, Fulton Market

  1. Dan Bostaph says:

    What about the Prohibition Era?
    What then?

  2. Pat says:

    I don’t believe it was Bridge Cafe since 1979, at least not continuously. It was Jeremy’s Ale House in the 80’s, before they moved across the street and then later moved again. When Jeremy’s was across the street, this was Radio Mexico in the late 80’s, early 90s.

  3. Bill Mitchell says:

    Just wondering. I thought that Pearl Street followed the original shore line of the East River (actually not a river but a tidal strait) and got it’s name from all the mother of pearl in the oyster shells that were there. Water street was so named because it had literally been where the water had been.

    • Jim says:

      Pearl and Water are both credited with being the “original” shorelines of Manhattan; fact is, they wandered back and forth and crossed each other as tidal straits will do. There is a building at 273 Water, 1773, which (at least) used to claim to be the third oldest building in Manhattan (after Saint Paul’s at Broadway and Vesey, built in 1766, and the Jumel Mansion, built uptown in circa 1770.) Have no clue if the story is true, but supposedly it belonged to a Captain Joseph Waters in the 1770’s. He is said to have had a dock outside his back door where he kept his schooner. What happened to all the other buildings in lower Manhattan?(Then known as NYC?) Most burned in the huge fires that started in the area, mostly in bakeries, mostly in downtown Manhattan, ‘cos the superstition was, that if you let a fire burn for more than seven continuous years, a “Salamander” would be born in it, which would devastate the area. So they used to bank their fires every six and a half years, which, oddly, was when most of the fires started. Before that they left them burning 24/7 for years on end. In brick and wood buildings, and they wondered why things burned????

  4. Jim says:

    Too bad. I worked at the Seaport Museum from the late sixties til the early eighties, when it was still a museum, before it became the downtown annex of the upper east side luxury stores. Jeremy’s was a place I enjoyed many a low priced lunch back when it was in the “Fulton Market” at the museum. I left in 1982 and even though I live right across the river in Brooklyn I haven’t been back since then, and have a feeling it is not worth the trouble of crossing the Bridge….

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