The East Village has a rich history, and the remnants that still persist from the different immigrant groups who made this Manhattan neighborhood their home help the area keep its cool amidst rapid development. In the earliest days, Dutch settlers dominated the East Village, while German immigrants moved into the neighborhood later on. Later, it was a hot spot for the mafia during the era Prohibition era. The East Village then saw its fair share of artists and beatnik poets, like Allen Ginsberg, Patti Smith and more.
Discover the secrets of the East Village that reveal the depth of the neighborhood’s history.
12. You Can Visit Prohibition-Era Mafia Escape Tunnels
On the surface, the William Barnacle Tavern seems to be nothing more than a classic dive bar that happens to also specializes in absinthe. But the tavern, home to the theater 80 St. Marks and the Museum of the American Gangster next door, was a Prohibition-era speakeasy in the 1920s. In fact, the bar is half of the original horseshoe bar that dates back to Prohibition.
Today, you can still visit the tunnels that the mafia would use to transport alcohol and other illicit items into and out of the speakeasy – and the one used by mobster Walter Scheib when he tried to make his escape. The speakeasy was sold in 1964 to Lorcan Otway and his father, who discovered $2 million in unopened safes in the basement while building the theater.