New York City classics: The oldest haunts still going strong
New York City has no shortage of hot new nightclubs, exotic new restaurants and trendy new stores opening on the regular. But in a city filled with change, it's nice to know there are some constants -- old-fashioned classics that have been around, well, basically forever. For the nostalgic at heart, or anyone wanting to experience a piece of history first hand, here are some of the oldest spots still operating in NYC.
Oldest bar/restaurant: Fraunces Tavern(Credit: Patrick Ashley via Flickr (CC BY-SA))
Opened: 1762 Where: 54 Pearl St., Manhattan The story: The building that houses Fraunces Tavern was built in 1719 as a private home for wealthy merchant Stephen Delancey. It was sold at auction in 1762 to Samuel Fraunces, an innkeeper who converted it into a tavern. Today, it serves colonial style food, including "George Washington's favorite" pot pie, along with 18 craft beers on tap. It also doubles as a museum stocked with Revolution-era collections. Fun fact: Fraunces Tavern, originally called the Queen's Head, was a popular hangout spot for the Sons of Liberty, and George Washington hosted his farewell banquet there after the American Revolution, to say goodbye to his troops. Notable mentions: McSorley's Ale House, at 15 E. 7th St., is the city's oldest continuously operated saloon, serving since 1854. Bridge Cafe, at 279 Water St., began operation back in 1794, but it was forced to close due to superstorm Sandy and has not yet re-opened-- though it does plan to do so.
Oldest pizzeria: Lombardi's Pizza(Credit: Lombardi's Pizza)
Opened: 1905 Where: 32 Spring St., Manhattan The story: Lombardi's started as an Italian grocery store, opened by Gennaro Lombardi in 1897. Lombardi's pizzas quickly became a neighborhood lunch staple, leading him to open a full-time pizzeria--America's first-- in 1905. The pizzeria shut down in 1984, but was reopened by a friend of the family in 1994. It has since expanded and added a bar, but its old dining room with classic booths, and (most importantly) coal-burning ovens, remain. These days, its clam pie draws customers. Fun fact: Lombardi introduced New Yorkers to pizza by the slice, for those who couldn't afford an entire pie.
Oldest hot dog stand: Nathan's Famous(Credit: Getty Images / Adam Rountree)
Opened: 1916 Where: 1310 Surf Ave., Coney Island, Brooklyn The story: Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker started Nathan's as a tiny hot dog stand using his wife Ida's recipe. It was an instant hit, drawing A-list customers including Al Capone, Jimmy Durante and Cary Grant. Today, Nathan's hot dogs are sold in all 50 states, but the Coney Island original remains a destination for tourists and locals alike. After all, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani did name them the world's best. Fun fact: Nathan's Famous hot dogs became known internationally in 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt served them to the king and queen of England.
Oldest clothing store: Brooks Brothers(Credit: Getty Images / Stan Honda)
Where: 346 Madison Ave., Manhattan
The story: What we know today as Brooks Brothers was first opened by Henry Sands Brooks as H. & D. H. Brooks & Co. at the intersection of Catherine and Cherry Streets in Manhattan in 1818. His three sons later inherited and renamed the store, which moved to its current Madison Avenue outpost in 1915. It began as a go-to destination for men's ready-to-wear suits, and is still known for men's dress clothing today, though the store has expanded to sell sweaters, accessories and women's clothing as well.
Fun fact: President Abraham Lincoln was a loyal Brooks Brothers customer, and he was wearing a suit and custom coat by the company on the day he was assassinated.
Oldest steakhouse: Old Homestead(Credit: Old Homestead)
Where: 56 Ninth Ave., Manhattan
The story: Old Homestead was originally a location for traders sailing into New York to dine with their goods, though President Andrew Johnson celebrated narrowly escaping impeachment by one vote in 1868, the year that the 56 Ninth Ave. restaurant was established.
“Steakhouses come and go in New York City, but Old Homestead Steakhouse has become an icon because of its longevity,” said Steve Mangione, a spokesman for the steakhouse.
Fun fact: Old Homestead made headlines in 2014 for offering a $150,000 Super Bowl feast, including a pregame seafood spread, 32-ounce Texas T-bone steaks, red velvet cupcakes and Dom Perignon.
Oldest Broadway theater: The Lyceum Theatre(Credit: Getty Images / Matthew Eisman / Jewel Samad)
Opened: 1903 Where: 149 W. 45th St., Manhattan The story: Broadway's oldest continually operating theater, the Beaux Arts style Lyceum Theatre was built by producer/manager David Frohman in 1903, the year it showed its first production, "The Proud Prince." It has been operated by the Shuberts since 1950. Its longest-running show was "Born Yesterday," which started in 1946 and launched Judy Holiday to fame. Fun fact: Frohman built an apartment above the theater, where he would stay and watch the productions. According to legend, he would wave a handkerchief from above to signal to his actress wife, Margaret Illington, when she needed a cue to stop overacting. Notable mention: The New Amsterdam Theatre, still operating at 214 W. 42nd St., was also completed in 1903.
Oldest roller coaster: The Cyclone(Credit: Getty Images / Adam Rountree)
Opened: 1927 Where: Luna Park, Coney Island, Brooklyn The story: The Cyclone's creators were inspired by the fanfare surrounding two older roller coasters, the Thunderbolt (1925) and the Tornado (1926), though of the three it is the only one still standing today. And stand it does-- at 85 feet tall-- with a famed 60 degree drop that has inspired seven copies that are still operating throughout the world. Fun fact:"Roller Coaster King" Richard Rodriguez set a record in 1977 when he rode the Cyclone continuously for 104 hours.
Oldest park: Bowling Green Park(Credit: Getty Images / Chris Hondros)
Opened: 1733 Where: Broadway and Whitehall Streets, Manhattan The story: First serving as council ground for Native Americans, Bowling Green Park is believed to be the place where Manhattan was sold to Peter Minuit in 1626. In its storied existence, it has been used as everything from a trade route and parade ground to a cattle market. Today, it's just a green space to hang out by City Hall. Fun fact: When the park was first officially established, It was leased at a rent of one peppercorn a year to three men, John Chambers, Peter Bayard, and Peter Jay, who were responsible for maintaining the grounds.
Oldest public golf course: Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course(Credit: Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course)
Opened: 1895 Where: 115 Van Cortlandt Park South, Riverdale, Bronx The story: A group of local businessmen, the Riverdale Group, petitioned for a course to be built in Van Cortlandt Park, and officials agreed it would be a great draw to the park. When the course was opened in 1895, it was the first time that any New York resident could play, and it led to a huge rise in popularity for the sport. It was a popular reprieve for countless New Yorkers during World War II and the Great Depression, and has been visited by Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and the Three Stooges. It saw major renovations under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and is home to two of the longest par fives in New York City. Fun fact: The original wooden lockers from 1902 are still in the golf house to this day.
Oldest place of worship: Old Quaker Meeting House(Credit: Anthony Lanzilote, 2013)
Where: 137-16 Northern Blvd., Flushing, Queens
The story: The Old Quaker Meeting House in Flushing is the oldest place of worship in the boroughs, built just three decades after the English renamed New Amsterdam to New York. Today, the Religious Society of Friends, better known as Quakers, continue to hold an hour of silent worship at the Meeting House, which has a sign out front noting all are welcome to come in and pray.
“It’s been in continuous use, except for the time it was occupied by the British during the Revolutionary War,” said Wendy Burns, a clerk with the Religious Society of Friends, which maintains the Meeting House.
The Meeting House remains as modest as it was during the 17th century when it served as a refuge for persecuted Quakers. “It is very plain and very simple. That was the Quaker way — and still is,” Burns said. Fun fact: The Old Quaker Meeting House was also the site of a school for Quaker children, the first school in Flushing, opened in 1703.
Oldest pharmacy: C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries(Credit: C.O. Bigelow)
Opened: 1838 Where: 414 Avenue of the Americas, Manhattan The story: Originally called the Village Apothecary Shop, C.O. Bigelow has been passed down from father to son to grandson. Though it is still frequented by some for hard-to-find items like old-fashioned foot powders, it is better known today for high-end brands that are sold across the country at major beauty retailers, including Sephora. Fun fact: The War Department allowed C.O. Bigelow's windows to remain lit even during World War II blackout regulations.
Oldest museum: New York Historical Society Museum(Credit: Getty Images / Mario Tama)
Opened: 1804 Where: 170 Central Park West, Manhattan The story: Before there was the MoMA, or even the Metropolitan Museum of Art, there was the New York Historical Society Museum, dedicated, first and foremost, to preserving our city's rich past. The museum suffered from financial troubles in its early years, and its collection of books, maps, newspapers, U.S. documents and more was moved around the city until landing at its current home in 1902. Today, the museum boasts more than 1.6 million works, including New York-centric art and rare colonial pieces, and an interactive children's museum. Fun fact: In 2005, the museum was home to the first ever exhibit to address the impact of slavery on New York City's history and economy, "Slavery and the Making of New York, 1600s - 1827."