Imagine that it’s the early 19th century.
You’re a farmer coming from the vast countryside of Manhattan or a traveler from Albany or Boston, and you’re trying to get to the actual city of New York, which is concentrated below Canal Street.
Roads aren’t so great, and travel by wagon or stage takes a long time. Good thing that when you need to eat, rest, or take a bed for the night, there are taverns that will welcome you.
One of those taverns is the Buckhorn (or Buck’s Horn), which since 1812 stood on once-bucolic Broadway and 22nd Street. (Below, today, not so bucolic)
Described by one 1911 book as “an old and well-known tavern,” this rustic outpost “was ornamented with the head and horns of a buck and was set back a short distance from the street about ten feet higher than the present grade.”
This short description of the tavern also offers a glimpse of the few roads surrounding it.
“It was a favorite road-house for those who drove out upon the Bloomingdale Road (Boston Post Road) … the drivers of the day used to come as far as the Buck’s Horn, then turn through the quiet and shady Love Lane to Chelsea, and thence by the River Road through Greenwich Village and back to the city across the Lispenard meadows.”
Buckhorn Tavern “was the stopping-place for the butchers and bakers,” reminisced one New Yorker in 1866, who recalled the cock fights there.
The Buckhorn met its end in an early morning fire, which consumed the entire building in 1842 along with four stabled horses.
Luckily another popular roadhouse, Madison Cottage (above), was just a few blocks away at Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street—by 1850 a much more populated area.