HALF KING 2019, Chelsea

by Kevin Walsh

In 2019, I was wandering on the High Line with the other out of town tourists (on the High Line and Staten Island Ferry, English is a language you’ll hear only intermittently). I can pop up anywhere around town. When I reached West 23rd Street, I pointed the camera downward for a final glimpse of the Half King, which was part authors,’ photographers,’ war correspondents’ and playwrights’ haunt and part neighborhood tavern opened by author Sebastian Junger (“The Perfect Storm”) in 2000; high rents forced it to close in 2019. The haunt was named for colonial-era Native American leader Tanaghrisson, known by the British as the Half King. Though initially siding with the British during the French and Indian War in the 1750s because the French had killed his father, he wound up disgusted with each side and relocated to what is now Pennsylvania.

The Half King survived the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks, the Northeast blackout of 2003, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, but couldn’t survive the High Line renovation, its flocks of tourists, and the multimillion dollar high rises that came to Chelsea, and rent hikes closed its doors; it’s been replaced by a new venue called The Hawthorn, another reference to a historical figure.

I was only in the Half King once, and I was all wet. I had spent a day riding around in the fireboat John J. Harvey with the Newtown Historical Society‘s Christina Wilkinson, and just before returning to port, the jets were turned on while we were standing on deck and we were completely drenched. We made our way to the Half King and dried out there. Christina says that’s one of the few times she heard “the webmaster” erupt in a fusillade of cursing.

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Peter November 21, 2022 - 7:55 pm

Reading the Google reviews on The Hawthorn is rather amusing. Some people like it while others *really* hate it.

William Armstrong November 21, 2022 - 8:05 pm

Visited The Half King many times after an evening of gallery hopping. Great times!

therealguyfaux November 21, 2022 - 11:03 pm

Isn’t that always the way, that some “pioneer” becomes the victim of his own success doing the pioneering?

Ty November 22, 2022 - 8:03 am

I lived across 10th Avenue from it. It looks like a friendly pub from the outside. You couldn’t ask for a better location next to the Highline. Toxic environment. You could feel the stress in the staff. Rude and arrogant. I always wanted to meet this Junger guy just to see what kind of POS would inspire this. After a while no one local would go there. All tourists.

Bill November 22, 2022 - 12:31 pm

I was in there on both 911 and the blackout. Each time I used it as a pitstop on the way to the 42nd Street ferries. On 911, all the TVs in Half King were showing Telemundo. The staff said it was the only station that was on the air. In 2003 I used the bathroom but it was pitch black. It was an uncanny feeling to be urinating in total darkness.


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