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At Onetime Anarchists Saloon, an Excuse to Make Merry Again

Outside 50 E. First StreetJared Malsin

The Horse Auction Mart isn’t the only local building garnering recognition from historians – a storefront on East First Street that once housed “the most famous radical center in New York,” according to Emma Goldman, will be in the spotlight later this month.

On May 30, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation will present a plaque commemorating the history of 50 East First Street, between First and Second Avenues. As The Local has reported, the ground-floor space – which recently got Fantom, a photography magazine, as a tenant – once housed Justus Schwab’s Saloon. The drinks den was an “important meeting place for like-minded radicals of the day, including anarchist Emma Goldman and writer Ambrose Bierce, many of whom used the saloon as their mailing address,” according to a letter from the G.V.S.H.P.

An invite to the 6 p.m. ceremony indicates that Two Boots will provide refreshments and entertainment, and “Emma Goldman” herself will make an appearance.

Where Radicals Once Drank, a Search for a Mild-Mannered Tenant

Outside 50 E. First StreetJared Malsin 50 East First Street.

A storefront space on First Street is empty but for a stylized mirror in the shape of Babe Ruth – one of the few odds and ends left over from the previous tenant, a mirror and glass designer. The owners of the former studio are looking for a new tenant – and not a bar. But the space has a boozy past: it once held a tavern that Emma Goldman, the influential anarchist who counted herself a regular, called “the most famous radical center in New York.”

During the turn of the 20th century, 50 East First Street was the home of Justus Schwab’s saloon. Just 8-foot wide by 30-foot deep, it was described as a “bier-höhle” (or “beer-cave”), a pun on “bierhalle.” Though small in size, the tavern was a “mecca for French Communards, Spanish and Italian refugees, Russian politicals, and German socialists and anarchists who had escaped the iron heel of Bismarck,” according to Goldman, who spent so much time there that she had her mail sent there.

Christin Couture and William Hosie, who are members of the board that owns the building, said that the space had been vacant for a year. (The asking rent is between $3,000 and $3,500 per month.) Mr. Hosie said they were “not about steep rent hikes” and suggested they might be looking for someone unable to afford the ever-rising rents elsewhere in the neighborhood. Read more…