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Ear Inn (in the James Brown House)

About this listing

A popular bar since the mid-1800's in an 1817 building

Place Details

Borough : Manhattan
Neighborhood : Tribeca
Residential, Food & Drink

Place Matters Profile

Legend holds that James Brown was an African American Revolutionary War hero and aide to George Washington. He is even rumored to be one of the men depicted in Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's infamous 1851 painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware. Historical records show that a man named James Brown built the Federal style house at 326 Spring Street in 1817. While apocrypha have amassed a devoted clientele for Ear Inn, the building’s long-residing pub, facts have earned the structure itself, known as the James Brown House, designation as a New York City landmark. The powerful combination of these elements makes 326 Spring Street a seemingly endless resource for both education and entertainment. Happily, at Ear Inn, they are often indistinguishable.

Since 2006, Phillip Johnson’s eleven-story Urban Glass House has humbled James Brown’s abutting two and a half-story home. But when it was erected in 1817, 326 Spring Street competed well with...

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On The Web

Ear Inn Website,Ear Inn History and Architecture


Makalé Faber-Cullen

The Ear Inn has been called the "spiritual hub of West Soho". Bought by customers/neighbors in 1977, when Soho itself was still considered the fringes of civilization, the Ear Inn became a wide open canvas for Bohemia, and hosted - and still hosts - performances and poetry readings to a varied, tolerant and sometimes appreciative audience.

Now frequented by Wall Street brokers, taxi drivers, poets, artists, and even still an occasional dock worker from its earlier clientele, stories told by staff and former staff chronicle the reign of the alternative lifestyle in this part of NYC. Bartending in bikinis - for the ease of cleaning - cats killing pigeons over the heads of diners, very-late-night canoe rides in the harbor, performance artists incorporated into the menu, are all part of the lore that goes with this bar.

The building is homey, funky, unpretentious with dark wood floors and tin ceilings, substantial but normal bar clutter and memorabilia. The staff is long-term, with a sense of history. Because of, or perhaps in spite of its eclectic clientele and its out-of-the-way location, the Ear Inn is unpretentious and maintains equilibrium in the never-ending pressures of fashion trends and hot real estate markets. Regardless of its in or out years, the Ear remains true to itself and retains its inimitable flavor.

The Ear Inn inhabits the 1817 James Brown House, a landmarked building since 1969. On a personal note, it is built on a human scale, with muffled acoustics. It is a bar for people, not moods, or effects. The smaller scale of the old building provides a human island in an otherwise industrial space. Its very holding on gives the place its value, and the inside retains what the outside symbolizes: in spite of the changes in the area over all the years, the Ear Inn is still a good neighborhood place to get a pint. (ca.2004)

Leanne Gonzalez-Singer

This was formerly the home of James Brown, African-American Revolutionary War hero and tobacconist. The building was constructed in 1817 and is one of the oldest continuous-use bars in New York City. It has been used exclusively as a bar for over 150 years.

In a neighborhood that is constantly morphing and "upgrading," it's refreshing to see this unchanging image of Old New York, with a lively and loyal patronage. I lived around the corner from the Ear for my first four years in the city and cherished this unfussy place with so much history. For a building that was first condemned as "unfit" in 1906, the old James Brown House seems to be doing alright - but it is under constant threat from nearby development. Like the closing of nearby Our Lady of Vilnius Lithuanian church (whose bells used to wake me up every morning), the loss of the Ear would be yet another blow to the neighborhood's disappearing character.

Since it's an ancient Federal house, one of only a handful remaining in Lower Manhattan, its physical preservation matters very much.

For info: (March 2007)

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