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JUST A DAMN GOOD BAR
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BY DUNMORE THROOP
“My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
 Above the farms and the white horses
 And I rose
 In a rainy autumn

And walked abroad in shower of all my days”

                                         
 
From ‘Poem in October’ by Dylan Thomas





The White Horse Tavern in NYC as seen in American Public House Review
The White Horse Tavern




In issue one of American Public House Review our publisher lamented the fact that we featured stateside locations that celebrated the peoples of the British Isles without finding a tavern that suitably paid homage to the inhabitants of Wales. He vowed to correct that injustice, and since I am a citizen of the realm, that assignment was entrusted to me. I can think of no better way to accomplish this than to recognize the much preferred Greenwich Village tavern of one of the greatest literary voices of the twentieth  century  and  favorite  son of Swansea City - Dylan Thomas.

The White Horse Tavern had already been in operation as a working class local’s bar for seventy three years when the Scottish poet Ruthven Todd introduced the eminent Welshman to the establishment. Thomas had come to New York in the spring of 1953 to play the role of narrator for the premier of his play, ‘Under Milk Wood’. During this period he became romantically involved with the play’s Assistant Director, Liz Reitell. Both artists spent many of their off hours at the White Horse. Their patronage paved the way for the Bohemian enclave that would soon compete with longshoreman for the barstools at the corner of Hudson and 11th.

Dylan Thomas Painting as seen in American Public House Review
Dylan Thomas
 
                          



White Horse bar as seen in American Public House Review
Warm, inviting bar





On November 5th of 1953, two days after his 39th birthday, Thomas was marking the occasion at the White Horse in his usual exuberant fashion. After falling ill, he returned to his room at the Hotel Chelsea where he later slipped into a coma. He died four days later at St. Vincent’s Hospital. Although the cause of departure was later determined to be chronic alcohol poisoning, Thomas’ predilection for potables has been embellished and greatly exaggerated over time. Popular myth states that his final words were, “I’ve had eighteen straight whiskies, I believe that is a record.” It is my opinion that a man who had courted and challenged death so skillfully in verse would have uttered something more profound about his own passing.

The fact that Thomas took his last drink at the White Horse gave the place touchstone status among artists, writers and musicians. Through the 1950s and 60s such notables as Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, Hunter S. Thompson, Jack Kerouac, Jim Morrison, Richard Farina, Liam Clancy and Bob Dylan held court amidst the tin ceilings, tiled floors and equine memorabilia. That influx of luminaries fostered a brisk trade of tourists, union organizers and political activists for a good portion of the second half of the last century.

   



White Horse back room as seen in American Public House Review
The stylish back room





Today the din has calmed a bit, and one can clearly grasp why this venerable old tavern was a favored gathering place for generations of laborers from this West Village neighborhood. One can also understand the allure this place would hold for the brilliant and brash young poet from Wales. When you get beyond the hyperbole and hype, you must come to the conclusion that the White Horse Tavern, simply stated, is just a damn good bar!





White Horse Painting as seen in American Public House Review






THE WHITE HORSE TAVERN

567 Hudson Street

New York, NY 10014

(212) 989-3956

no web site





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The Sellersville Therater as seen in American Public House Review

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(215) 257-5808

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