Notorious Village dive bar the Golden Swan

Golden Swan Garden, a tiny triangle at Sixth Avenue and West Fourth Street, has got to be the only city park named after a rough-and-tumble saloon.

But that’s what the Golden Swan was. Nicknamed the Hell Hole and the Bucket o’ Blood, this seedy gathering place stood at this corner in the early 1900s—when the West Village was a shabby mixed-race neighborhood of boarding houses and bars, not boutiques.

Dingy and divey, the Golden Swan was run by an ex-prize fighter and attracted locals as well as artists drawn to the seedy side of life.

Painters John Sloan and Charles Demuth (that’s his lively depiction of the bar’s back room, above) captured it on canvas. Gangsters like the Hudson Dusters made it their hangout.

Playwright and drunk Eugene O’Neill, left, who often had to be fished out of the Golden Swan for rehearsals at the nearby Provincetown Playhouse, set The Iceman Cometh there.

The end came in 1922, and the building was demolished a few years later during construction of the Sixth Avenue subway. All that remains is the garden.

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4 Responses to “Notorious Village dive bar the Golden Swan”

  1. Josie Says:

    Dorothy Day was one of the people who hung out in the Hell Hole with Eugene O’Neill and heard him recite from memory Francis Thompson’s poem, The Hound of Heaven.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Here’s a little bit about that poem and the night O’Neill recited it:

  3. *Everyday Chatter | Best of Blogs New York Says:

    […] Of lost dive bars, who will remember the Golden Swan? [ENY] […]

  4. The Music Inn ~ a Throwback in Time on West 4th Street in Greenwich Village – GothamToGo Says:

    […] Fourth Street was once the center of the Bohemian Village ~ home to the Golden Swan Bar, a haunt of Eugene O’Neil and the setting and inspiration for his play ‘The Iceman […]

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