Ear Inn Virons: James Brown House : history of the New York City landmark and neighborhood
Dwarfed by industrial buildings and new residential towers, the little brick and wood-frame James Brown House is the spiritual hub of Manhattan's West Soho neighborhood. The building's present incarnation as home of the popular Ear Inn watering hole is only the latest in a long and fascinating history. Ear Inn Virons traces the heritage and legends of this New York City landmark; through this tale, it also chronicles the history and culture of the vibrant West Soho neighborhood. When the house was built in 1817, the district was being transformed from swamp and sandy hills into a residential neighborhood. Its first owner was James Brown, according to legend an ex-slave who fought in the Revolutionary Army. Over the decades, the house's fortunes have followed the rise and fall of the neighborhood, from middle class homes to bustling waterfront to near-abandonment. In the 1970s, the area was almost a ghost town when a group of struggling artists stumbled on the building and transformed its bar, then a seedy waterfront dive, into the Ear Inn. Now West Soho has been rediscovered by developers and high-tech firms, and the neighborhood is changing almost beyond recognition. As long as the James Brown House still stands, however, its history will not be forgotten.
Heavily illustrated with maps and period illustrations, Ear Inn Virons is the definitive history of the James Brown House and West Soho neighborhood. In addition to documenting the broad cultural and historical forces that molded the district, the text is peppered with colorful tales about riots, gangsters, Irish bartenders, the daily life of longshoremen and a ghost named Mickey.
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