Back in the early to mid-19th century, when the Village really was a country village north of the main city, this quaint clapboard house became a tavern known as the Old Grapevine.
Located on the southeast corner of Sixth Avenue and 11th Street, it’s probably the first legendary Village bar. The Old Grapevine attracted artists, businessmen, Union officers, Southern spies, and politicians, who dropped by after visiting Jefferson Market Courthouse two blocks south.
It was such a gathering spot that the phrase “I heard it through the grapevine” originated there. (Yep, a grapevine used to cover the 11th Street side of the tavern.)
Its closing in 1915 merited the kind of nostalgic media coverage given to CBGB or the Cedar Tavern when they shut their doors:
“It was not only a place to warm the inner man with the fermented juice of the grape, malted beers, and fine musty ale, but a place where good fellows met, as in the more palatial clubs today, to match their wits, tell the latest story, and discuss in a friendly way the political destinies of the nation,” wrote The New York Times.
Speaking of warming the inner man, one ex-owner was proud that he didn’t serve women.
“Never in my career have a sold a drink to a woman,” the Times quoted him. “No women were allowed in the place. It was no hang-out for roisterers. . . . From the day I went there in 1870 [it] was a gentleman’s cafe.”
Tags: Grapevine Tavern, Greenwich Village bars, Greenwich Village in the 19th century, Greenwich Village taverns, I Heard It Through the Grapevine, legendary bars in New York City, Men-only bars, Old Grapevine, Sixth Avenue Elevated Railroad