- Established in 1854, McSorley’s Old Ale House is one of New York City’s oldest bars.
- The bar is still open in its original location.
- Hundreds of items hang on its walls, some of which have been there since the day it opened.
McSorley’s Old Ale House is one of the oldest bars in New York City. Established in 1854, the bar still serves its signature ale and sits in the same location as it did from the beginning.
Plenty of famous people have walked through its doors, like Teddy Roosevelt, Woody Guthrie, John Lennon, Babe Ruth, Hunter S. Thompson, and Harry Houdini. President Abraham Lincoln is rumoured to have paid McSorley’s a visit, and E.E. Cummings even wrote a poem about the bar.
Going inside McSorley’s feels like a trip back in time, and there are signs of its history all around. Ahead, take a look inside the famous ale house.
McSorley's Old Ale House is located in the East Village, on 7th Street near 3rd Avenue in the St. Mark's Historic District.
Only two types of beer are served at McSorley's: a pale ale and a dark porter. Ordering is easy -- you simply say 'light' or 'dark.'
The ale house was founded by John McSorley, an immigrant from Ireland who landed in New York in 1851. The location (where it still stands today) was prime -- nearby was a transportation hub for horse carriages, and there was a busy market across the street.
During the era of Prohibition, McSorley's ale was made in washtubs located in the cellar. The owner at that time would refer to it as 'near beer.'
Remarkably, the same art and tchotchkes still hang on the bar's walls, gathering dust and grime from the bar's many years in business. The collection has only grown.
They serve as a reminder of the history that the bar has lived through. The last time something was removed from the walls was back in 1910.
You'll see portraits of past presidents, firefighters' hard caps, patches, and pins. According to the official historian of McSorley's, Bill Wander, there are even shackles that were worn by a prisoner of war during the time of the Civil War.
During World War I, McSorley's began a tradition of giving soldiers heading off to war a turkey dinner and, of course, pints of ale. The turkey wishbones were hung and left as a good-luck charm, and those who returned would bring their wishbone back down.
The bones left still hanging represent the unlucky soldiers who did not return. In 2011, the two dozen wish bones were finally dusted off and cleaned in response to health inspectors' orders.