Some news about the return of Chumley's. Chumley's
in New York's West Village has been closed since 2007, when a chimney collapse
shut it down "temporarily." The building began life around 1830 as a blacksmith's shop, and during the Civil War may have been used to shelter runaway slaves
. In the 1920s, Leland "Lee" Chumley, a "Soldier, Artist, Writer and Covered Wagon Driver,"
[paid NYT archive link] established it as a speakeasy, with two unmarked entrances – one on Barrow Street, and one at 86 Bedford Street
When Chumley, usually seen (according to his obituary) "dressed in a floppy hat, open shirt and wavy necktie," would get warning of a police raid, he'd call out "86!" and everyone would leave via the Bedford Street door – possibly the origin of restaurant slang for getting rid of a menu item or a customer
. During and after prohibition, Chumley's became a literary hangout, frequented by Willa Cather, E.E. Cummings, Theodore Dreiser, William Faulkner, Ring Lardner, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Eugene O'Neill, John Dos Passos, and John Steinbeck
, and was the site for Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald's wedding reception (they were rumored to have consummated their marriage late that night at table 7
). It also hosted a chess club (but not a genteel one – one bar fight over chess game resulted in a player's death
[another paid NYT link, sorry]), and became the site of the first Go club in the U.S.
– as pictured in a 1942 Life Magazine article
on the game. (Note the cover of Call It Sleep
on the wall behind the players – the walls featured posters for books worked on in the bar.) Chumley's later became a firefighters' hangout, especially for Engine 24/Ladder 5, the local firehouse that lost 11 men on 9/11
and had a plaque on the wall
honoring them. The bar remains well-loved
and many have been eager for its return
; hopefully it will be pouring again in 2012.