Posts Tagged ‘Greenwich Village in the 1910s’

Notorious Village dive bar the Golden Swan

December 15, 2010

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.

Mabel Dodge’s bohemian salons in the Village

October 10, 2009

Greenwich Village in the teens was a forward-thinking place, populated by artists and writers, anarchists and free-love practitioners, labor leaders and birth-control proponents. Bringing them together each week in her apartment at 23 Fifth Avenue was 33-year-old Mabel Dodge.

Was she really interested in new ideas, or just a celebrity hound? It’s hard to say; she simply proclaimed that she “wanted to know everybody.”

MabeldodgeBorn rich in Buffalo, she found herself in the Village in 1912 after spending years in Italy with her second husband, where she mixed with the European culturati.

In New York, now divorced, Mabel decided to gather the city’s “movers and shakers” together during weekly salons, where ideas could be presented and debated. 

Mabel’s salons were legendary. Anarchist Emma Goldman talked to poet Edward Arlington Robinson, while Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger chatted up artist Alfred Stieglitz.

Writer John Reed, who later became her lover, also was a regular. She held nights devoted to  “dangerous characters,” “sex antagonism,” and “evenings of art and unrest.”  

The salons came to and end after a few years. Mabel wrote for various publications and put out her memoirs in the 1930s. By then she was living in Taos, New Mexico, with her fourth husband. She died there in 1962.