2. You can still drink in a former speakeasy and brothel
There may be newer, trendier bars in SoHo, but when you want to immerse yourself in history, you can belly up to the bar at the Ear Inn, which still feels pleasantly divey. It was originally built in 1817 by an African American Revolutionary War hero named James Brown, who used the ground floor as a tobacco shop and lived upstairs. Brown’s success in the tobacco industry led him to purchase a townhouse down the street from George Washington’s Richmond Hill Estate, where John Adams and Aaron Burr later lived.
In 1890, it became a saloon popular with longshoremen and sailors, one of whom lived upstairs and was killed by a car. Rumor has it his ghost still haunts the building. During Prohibition, it became a speakeasy and brothel. It reopened as a bar after Prohibition ended and was designated a New York City landmark in 1969. In the 1970s, the current owners called it The Ear Inn to avoid the Landmark Commission’s lengthy review of new signage; they covered up parts of the long-standing neon “BAR” sign so that it read “EAR.”