Review: Haswell Green’s
June 6, 2019 | Michael Miscione, Manhattan Borough Historian
In 1903, a bearded octogenarian named Andrew Haswell Green was shot dead on the front doorstep of his home at Park Avenue and 40th Street. The murder—a case of mistaken identity—rocked New York City. Mr. Green, known as “the Father of Greater New York,” was a living civic institution. He was a lifelong city planner, reformer, and the mastermind of the consolidation scheme that created the five-borough city in 1898. He devoted his later years to leading a movement so new that it barely had a formal name: historic preservation. (The American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, founded by Green in 1895, would carry on this work after Green’s death.)
Mr. Green’s admirers proposed many different monuments to honor his memory: statues, buildings, roads, and parks. No one suggested a saloon. And yet, that is what he now has named after him to channel his story.
Haswell Green’s, at 240 West 52nd Street, is a roomy new bi-level watering hole, restaurant, and music venue that opened in the Theater District last summer. “We wanted a name that really represented a lineage to New York,” said Patrick McNamee, one of the owners. “[Mr. Green’s] life story is amazing and honoring his name with our bar is a great excuse to tell people his story.” And tell them they do. “People always ask about Andrew,” said McNamee. “We are only too ready to fix them a cocktail and start talking.”
The owners have embraced the Andrew Haswell Green theme with gusto. Green-related iconography is everywhere: the walls, the ceiling, the menus. A giant likeness of Mr. Green, juxtaposed over a map of greater New York, is painted behind the bandstand. A campaign banner from a scrapped 1876 mayoral run is reproduced on one wall. A map of the Greensward Plan, a gallery of animal heads and African masks, and a nook of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves recall Mr. Green’s role in creating Central park, the American Museum of Natural History, and the New York Public Library. Political cartoons from the 1870s mark his years as the New York City comptroller.
Is the attempt at homage a little over-the-top? Yes. Is it a historical mish-mash? Yes. But is it also somehow wonderful? Yes! Haswell Green’s is a bar, not a museum.
Haswell Green’s serves American bistro cuisine, including wood-fired brick oven pizza and a nice selection of beers, wines, and craft cocktails. Live bands perform nightly. Since the bar is in the Theater District, it has become something of a hangout for stage and cabaret types. I am told that Monday-night karaoke can be outstanding.
What would Mr. Green make of having a Tenderloin saloon named for him? He was a flinty old Yankee lawyer. So, no doubt, he would not have approved. He did not carouse, or chase chorus girls, or smoke, or drink. Mr. Green’s idea of a grand evening was reading John Milton, the poet he loved above all others. Nevertheless, his legacy lives on in a unique way at Haswell Green’s.