Manhattan’s first hipster bar

Looks like just another Korean deli in an old, broken-down 1800s building near the corner of Bleecker and Broadway. But in 1856, this was the site of Pfaff’s, the city’s first bohemian hangout—a basement bar which attracted writers and actors like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edwin Booth. From a 1933 New York Times article:

“Thackeray brought the word ‘Bohemianism’ into the English Language and then an organized group, with Walt Whitman as kind of an associate member, set up headquarters in Pfaff’s beer cellar.” 

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10 Responses to “Manhattan’s first hipster bar”

  1. Meet the 19th Century “Bohemian Queen” « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] to New York in the 1850s as a single mother espousing free love. One of the few female regulars at Pfaff’s, the 19th century literary “beer cellar” on Broadway near Bleecker, she was known […]

  2. sean Says:


    What a coincidence.

    Next door to the right of Han’s Deli, at 647 Broadway on the second floor, was the home of the The Loft, the mother of all dance parties, the originator of what became ‘disco’.

    I don’t have the time to go into its place in music history (Google, “The Loft” + dance music), but from about 1969 to 1975, David Mancuso would throw ‘rent’ or ‘house’ parties there weekly. They caught on, the place got packed (it was private, members only), so other place like Studio 54 opened to accommodate the overthrow. It was mostly black, gay and the occasional hippy.

    Here originated the mirrored ball in discos (originally used in 30s dance halls, but the owner saw one on acid in a pawn shop and thought it would be nice to reintroduce), raves, the velvet rope and ‘house’ music.

    The Buildings Department closed it down around 1975 and it moved to 99 Prince Street in SoHo, where the Mercer Hotel is now, remaining there till about 1985, when it moved to the LES for several years.

    There is a website, for the occasional parties they still throw, over 35 years later.

  3. sean Says:

    Make that “overflow”, not “overthrow”.

  4. O Hangout, My Hangout | MetaFilter Says:

    […] The vault at Pfaffs where the drinkers and laughers meet to eat and drink and carouse While on the walk immediately overhead pass the myriad feet of Broadway As the dead in their graves are underfoot […]

  5. fapff’s bar// loft dance// 19th-20th century bohemian nightlife | the avant guardian Says:

    […] David Mancuso’s famous loft parties, one of the the birthplaces of dance music, which ran at 647 Broadway (see the comments in the link), the building next door to Han’s on the second floor, from […]

  6. Pfaff’s Bar: Loft Dance: 19th-20th Century Bohemian Nightlife | allography Says:

    […] David Mancuso’s famous loft parties, one of the the birthplaces of dance music, which ran at 647 Broadway (see the comments in the link), the building next door to Han’s on the second floor, from […]

  7. The Lantern: a downtown literary club in the 1890s « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Algonquin Round Table of the 1920s. The Bohemian crowd at Pfaff’s in the […]

  8. A 10th Street studio brings artists to the Village | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] 1858, as a beer cellar called Pfaff’s at Broadway near Bleecker began attracting an arts-oriented Bohemian crowd, a new building just blocks away on 10th Street […]

  9. David Berger Says:

    The website below is an absolutely encyclopedic reference to Pfaff’s Vault. It is a model of great website building and exhaustive research. Among other things, it contains biographies of every person know to have been a denizen of the Vault, plus cross-references to their written works online. Also, there’s a complete archive of the Saturday Paper, the US’s first avant-garde paper. Enjoy:

  10. Woody Woodpecker Says:

    There was a whorehouse there until Jun. 2018

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