A sign of a 1920s speakeasy on Sixth Avenue

When these walkup buildings on Sixth Avenue near West Fourth Street went up in the 1830s, they may have looked more alike.


Over time, however, things change: facades are altered, paint goes up, and cornices are chopped (or crumble) down.

SpeakeasytalesofthejazzageBut the altered facade at number 359, the red building on the right, is drastic: the three second-story windows have been bricked in and painted over.

What did the proprietors of 359 Sixth Avenue have to hide? Booze.

This was the secret second floor (or half floor, according to one account) speakeasy called the Red Head, one of probably hundreds that popped up in Village basements and back rooms after Prohibition.

A second wooden door (below) past the front door led to the speakeasy, reported Westviewnews.org.

Launched in 1922 by cousins Jack Kriendler and Charlie Berns as a way to pay their college tuition, the Red Head disguised itself as a tea house and served alcohol in teacups, according to Savoring Gotham: a Food Lover’s Companion to New York City.

Speakeasyredheaddoor“The Red Head became a favorite drinking spot for the ‘flaming youth’ made famous that year by F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of the club’s regulars, in his book of short stories, Tales of the Jazz Age,” wrote Donald L. Miller in SupremeĀ  City.

Kriendler and Berns kept their speak in business thanks to Tammany Hall protection money and a constant flow of college kids and celebrities like Dorothy Parker.

No party lasts forever. In 1925, Kriendler and Berns shut down the Red Head and opened a speakeasy called the Fronton at 88 Washington Place.

They then moved up to Midtown, settling in at 21 West 52nd Street. After Repeal it became the 21 Club, where drinks still flow to this day.

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2 Responses to “A sign of a 1920s speakeasy on Sixth Avenue”

  1. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    The artwork on the cover of Fitzgerald’s book is by JOHN HELD, JR, His style became the essence of the Flapper Youth during this era. Held did block-cuts, then developed into works of illustration, cartoons and eventually sculptures. Published works include magazines, books and posters. A Held drawing of dancing couples always hints at the daring, risque of the ‘Speakeasies!’

  2. carolynquinn Says:


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