The glory days of Julian’s 14th Street pool hall

If you spent any time east of Union Square from the 1930s to the early 1990s, you might remember Julian’s, one of the last of New York’s dark and smoky billiards halls. It ended its run on the second floor of the old Palladium building in 1991.

Ephemeral New York has celebrated Julian’s before, where (mostly) men and teenage boys shot pool and played hooky from work and life. But these noir-ish 1938 photos of Julian’s are another reason to bring it back again.

Reginald Marsh shot these images. He’s better known as an artist of the 1920s to 1940s who was drawn to the city’s seedy underbelly along the Bowery, at Times Square, and on Coney Island.

But he took a series of photos in the 1930s along 14th Street as well, capturing Depression-era New York’s grit, glamour, and many forgotten men.

A long shadowy staircase leading to the second floor entrance, the electric sign with “ladies invited” underneath, the ad for table tennis, the barber pole advertising a cut and shave to the left . . . these photos are an invitation to 1930s New York City. (Above photo, Julian’s in the 1980s).

[First and second images: MCNY:; Third image: Warehouse magazine]

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36 Responses to “The glory days of Julian’s 14th Street pool hall”

  1. Peter Bennett Says:

    Oh I remember this place, dark, seedy and you kept a low profile if you knew what was good for you.

  2. Zoé Says:

    😡This is the first post you’ve written that has made me angry! Lol. I once went out of my way to meet my boyfriend downtown & he cut our meeting short to go “play pool on 14th St.” blocks away … the only thing I ever heard this place called. ‘The 14th St pool hall’ (or room etc.).

    Did it still have the name Julian’s in the 80s?

    What’s really astonishing is the boy in the suit AND hat. He can’t be more than twelve. Was that a norm then? I have never seen a child in a hat like this. It’s like Dicken’s description of the Artful Dodger in the novel. Wearing men’s clothing…

  3. rossana delzio Says:

    Reblogged this on Intellicooking.

  4. Keith Goldstein Says:

    Loved Julian’s. The original Paladium was a great concert venue as well.

  5. Exile on Pain Street Says:

    That stairwell was scary and smelly. There were great windows that looked out over 14th St.

  6. Todd tarwid Says:

    I went to high school at Stuyvesant on 15th street in the 80s ,we used to cut school and hang out at Julians and play pool,it was full of hoodlums, I think it was a tradition, we also went to the palladium at night. Ben gazzarra also went to my high school he must have hung at Julians too and James Cagney was another alumni of Stuyvesant but Julians was after his time he graduated in 1908

    • Zoé Says:

      The boyfriend I mentioned in my above comment went to Stuyvesant too. (In the late 70s). I guess it was a Stuyvesant thing. Or as this was in the 80s also – he was one of the “hoodlums” you saw 😂

      • David H Lippman Says:

        I went to SHS in the late 1970s and vaguely remember this place. I think it was on the block that also held Luchows, which is now an NYU dorm, like most of Greenwich Village.

        Yes, Cagney went to SHS, and wrote in his memoirs that he learned to fight there. At that time the school was more of an industrial school…it had a forge shop and a crane to bring in metal for said shop.

        Other actors who went there include Paul Reiser, Ron Silver, Tim Robbins, and Lucy Liu.

        However, I was more pleased, when people would tell me that some famous or middling actor went to their high school, I could look them in the eye and say, “My high school generated four Nobel Laureates.” That, along with Brian Greene and Lisa Randall, both from my graduating class, as well as AG Eric Holder, usually silenced people who bragged about having Patrick Duffy go to their school….

      • Zoé Says:

        So this thread is basically a high school reunion. Did you graduate in 1979? With my terrible boyfriend? Next I will find out you were best friends.

        Thanks for the impressive list of actors. My HS in CT had quite a lot of people that polished awards over the years. I happen to have loathed my time there though; so I’m not going to count them. You win by default!🍾⭐️👑

        Very interesting about the crane & metal!

      • David H Lippman Says:

        I was in the class of 1980, a year behind you. Tim Robbins was in an earlier class. Supposedly Adam Horowitz, the Beastie Boy, was in my class, but I have no idea.

        The only other member of my class besides Lisa Randall and Brian Greene who gained fame was Daniel Steinberg, who became Executive Secretary of the Board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He was at a breakfast meeting in top of the Towers on 9/11, and was killed. He is my example when people tell me that Jews were “warned” of the horror and were able to escape.

    • Zoé Says:

      I never knew James Cagney went there. Thanks. I thought he was from Yorkville; so assumed he went to school uptown. Was it a science & math satellite school in 1908? Did the City have those then?

      • David H Lippman Says:

        No, the school has never had a satellite operation in its history.

        Sorry about the delay in answering.

    • You Know Says:

      Julian’s was always warm in the winter. Up the stairs and into the cigar smoke filled hall. Best billiards hall of all time. Nothing compares to the real thing. There were three tight pocket tables, numbered 3, 13 and 23. I gravitated to table 13, nearly always. There were great snooker tables, surrounded by reverence, as the old time masters outplayed one another for position. Many a hustler was made at Julian’s. All you had to do was spend enough time there and the hustle pros would school you in all aspects of the game. Stance, grip and bridge. Follow through, execution. Practice, practice, practice. Always play at least for the time on the light because you have to play for something to make it mean anything. Gambling wasn’t allowed and everyone gambled. I knew a number of guys that we grew up with that became excellent shooters strictly because they were at the pool hall daily. They’d play nine ball all day. Nine ball quickly becomes money ball. And the hustle is everything. There was one old timer that taught me enough game that I could go around the city and hold bar room tables all night, never losing. Playing for drinks. I’d have drinks lined up along the bar. There were great bar pool tournaments and I would enter them and again play for drinks and hold the table mostly to the end. Crazy days. But Julian’s was something special. There was so much left on those tables. So many ghosts doing the nine ball run and dancing round the rails. I loved that place. My time there at the beginning of the 1980s was the best.

  7. Mykola (Mick) Dementiuk Says:

    There were two entrances to Julian’s: right by the Academy of Music (your first pic) and also a larger and bigger one near 3rd Ave (on the left of the third pic), which also led downstairs to two or three bowling lanes. Was the best place in NYC to cut school in the early 1960s hang out and shoot pool.

  8. Force Tube Avenue Says:


    As a 1970s Stuyvesant student; I also made visits to Julian’s. One thing that is so far unmentioned is that Julian’s had perhaps New York’s most disgusting men’s room. I (almost) wish I had a photo to illustrate the fact.

    • David H Lippman Says:

      Force Tube Avenue! One of my favorite street names in New York! I once walked it to see it. It has one house on it. Was that yours?

      It leads from the reservoir to Conduit Avenue/Boulevard. It draws the name from the pipe from the reservoir to the conduit.

      • Zoé Says:

        A street name that sounds like a medical procedure.

        Was Tim Robbins in class of 79?

  9. Zoé Says:

    Thanks for making me a year younger David 🙂

    The bad pool playing boyfriend was class of 79. I graduated a year earlier in another school.

    I have one of those degrees of separation from the Beastie Boys:

    My brother (bass player) >
    Kate Schellenbach (sp?) (drummer in band w/ my brother – after playing drums w/ Beastie Boys) >
    Beastie Boys

    • David H Lippman Says:

      The only pleasant memories I have of SHS are learning to write in Frank McCourt’s Creative Writing class — he remained one of my job references until his death in 2003 and his letter to the New School for Social Research in 1999 helped me get into their MFA Creative Writing program — and the time one of my female classmates showed up in a white tank top and no brassiere, leaned over in the cafeteria, and afforded me my first look at that portion of female anatomy.

      Other than that, it was an absolute bloody misery — and not the usual “depressed teenager” misery. It’s stuff I can’t talk about in public and don’t want to go into.

      Needless to say, I don’t go to reunions. And the girl who afforded me that look had a bevy of boyfriends who were very protective of their girlfriend-sharing plan.

      • Zoé Says:

        Frank McCourt taught at Stuyvesant?!

        Wow. Lucky you.

        I thought he taught at Brooklyn College (?).

        He’s this: 🌞🌙⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

      • Zoé Says:

        *I went to Parsons/New School. Frank McCourt 💌

      • David H Lippman Says:

        No, he taught first at McKee Vocational on Staten Island, then at Seward Park, and then at SHS, for decades, where he retired.

        He was the first of my four writing mentors, reading pieces of what became “Angela’s Ashes” in writing class. He taught me about observation.

        Second was Walter Lord, the great historian. I learned from reading him about the importance of time and studying human behavior under stress and in abnormal circumstances, which is what his books are about.

        Third were my MFA Instructors at the New School, for a variety of lessons.

        Fourth was Roger Clemens, who completed my writing epiphany by teaching me that writing IS pitching, and ever since, I have seen writing that way. Learned that from listening to and watching him pitch for the Yankees in 1999.

      • Zoé Says:

        Well we all have to know if any of those gents played pool at Julian’s now. Especially Frank McCourt.

      • David H Lippman Says:

        He doesn’t mention shooting pool in his books or ever talked about it in school.

      • Zoé Says:

        Disappointing – I was hoping for stories about Frank McCourt taking you to play pool.

      • David H Lippman Says:

        It didn’t work like that…

  10. Kevin Says:

    Considering the gentrification that has gone on in NYC over the last 10 years; I am surprised how dicey the area east of Union Square remains

  11. whammo63 Says:

    I shot pool at Julian’s a few times in the 80s. It looked every bit the throwback to the 1900s that it was.That was the only place I ever went that actually had billiards tables, all original equipment. It seemed to me the hobos from the Bowery spent their days here, it definitely had a certain ‘flop house’ feel to it for lack of better verbiage.

  12. The last Tad’s Steaks is in the Theater District | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] recall another on East 14th Street just east of Union Square, which I think limped along after the Palladium closed and finally became a pizza parlor in the […]

  13. sue stevens Says:

    I have a photo of Julian Billiards from 1978. by the photographer Janice Jablon. Is there a monetary value?

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I’m not sure, I think you’d have to get it appraised. I’d be interested in seeing it though, if you want to email it to me at ephemeralnewyork at gmail.

  14. C. W. Robinson Says:

    I visited Julian’s in 1987 and was very aware even at that time that this was quite an antique, singular and seedy space and very much a time capsule from, I thought at least, the 1940’s. The tables were old Brunswick’s in the art deco style and there was a very specific smell to the place that I can’t describe now but it was very particular to the place. You could pick up the musty and sad scent as soon as you started up either set of steep stairs that led up to opposing ends of the massive space. There were not only standard sized billiard tables but also a few massive pocket-less carom billiard tables towards the back .I had thought then that I’d like to take a picture of the place but I didn’t think then then that the habitues there would take kindly to having their photograph taken. I did once take a French girl who was visiting up there just to give her a quick look at
    an old time New York scene that I knew was rare but didn’t think then was soon to be gone.

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