I am a Romantic. I don’t mean the gushy mushy romantic (though, I have nothing against that), but the capital ‘R’ Romantic:

Noun: Romantic – a soulful or amorous idealist. Someone guided more by ideals than practical considerations. A dreamer.

Last night, as I was reading through the many New York guides that my Mom lent me, I came across a place that immediately pulled on the Romantic parts of me. A pub, in the heart of Greenwich Village, called Chumley’s. Established in 1926, it was a speakeasy during the Prohibition-era. “The speakeasy became a favorite spot for influential writers, poets, journalists, and activists, including members of the Lost Generation and the Beat Generation movements.” – From the Wiki page.

Lost Generation! Writers! Poets! Greenwich Village! New York in the 20s! These are all things that I love, that I dream about. Here is a place where they are all combined.

Well, imagine how fast my heart started racing when I read that many literary giants (many of my favourite writers) frequented this wee spot in Greenwich Village during the 20s and 30s. Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, e.e. cummings, J. D. Salinger and the list goes on.

Imagine how my heart soared when I read that there are no signs directing you to this place, that there is a hidden entrance through a secret courtyard in the back. That you have to find the secret brown door, which looks more like a door to an apartment than to a pub, and when you enter it you are transported back in time. Back to the roaring 20s. Oh, and then, when I read about the trap door in the floor that was used to ferry rum in from the docks, and the other secret door disguised as a bookshelf, full of books, that you could escape out of if the police came.

The place has been untouched since these literary greats sat in the booths, and there are first edition covers lining the walls of all the books worked on within this space.

{The secret door to Chumley’s. Photo taken from here.}


I excitedly told Theo all about this and we agreed that we had to visit it and have a pint in one of those famous booths. Oh was the dreamer in me excited.

But, as I kept reading, I found some disappointing news. In April of 2007, a wall fell in and Chumley’s has been closed ever since. The place is under construction to fix the failing structure (it is over 100 years old). The booths and chairs have been removed, the book jackets locked away for safe-keeping. They have plans to re-open this year, but no exact date has been set. The Romantic idealist in me is so disappointed because even if it is open when we visit in July, it won’t be the same. There will be new walls; walls that haven’t soaked up decades worth of conversation, literary genius and memory.

But I will still go and find the secret brown door at 86 Bedford St. I’ll touch it and think of the many people who passed through it: the artists, the writers, the fellow dreamers. And that will be enough.