Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Village Barn

Reader Herb W. sent in this shot of a souvenir photo envelope he'd recently come upon. He wonders what was the Village Barn and its "big doins"?

A little Googling and a visit to Ebay brings us to a plethora of images and souvenirs from this Western-themed restaurant, once at 52 West 8th Street. Wikipedia tells us that it was opened in 1930 by Meyer Horowitz, and went strong for 37 years.

It was a big basement space decorated with wagon wheels and saddles, with a stage that featured performances by Dell O'Dell "Mistress of Mystery," Zingo the Hollywood Horse, and Lou Mosconi "The Loveable Idiot" (performing nitely), along with much, much more.

The inside of the club's matchbook calls it "New York's ONLY Country Nite Club," complete with hobby horse races, square dances, musical chairs, turtle races, and dollar dinners (suppers just 75 cents).

They also had air conditioning.

And who was leading the calls on those square dances and games? Why, it was none other than "Piute Pete." Smithsonian Folkways calls Piute Pete "

No child of the Ozarks, however, Piute Pete's real name was Morris Kaufman, and he was born on the Lower East Side. Wrote Mel Heimer in the Titusville Herald in 1955:

"...many men and women enjoy this abortive pastime [of square dancing], possibly the way others like to eat opium or collect postage stamps. There are a handful like this in Manhattan and, together with great hordes of visiting firemen who presumably don't get enough of these ridiculous didoes at home, they find their way to the Village Barn and square dance to their dark heart's content."

After outing Piute Pete as a Jewish Lower East Sider, Heimer says, "Personally, I like to think of Morris Kaufman, rustic as all get-out, slapping his thigh and crying out the orders for his childish dances and reels—and then putting on his camel's hair coat when work is through and going up town to Tandy's for some strawberry cheesecake, and a quick thumbing-through of Variety."

1939 Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Whatever became of the Village Barn? Ephemeral New York explains: "When the Village Barn closed in the late 1960s, it became Electric Lady Studios, where Jimi Hendrix, The Clash, and pretty much every other rock group recorded. Above ground was the late, great 8th Street Playhouse, which ran cult classics and revivals until it shut its doors in 1992."

NYU archive photo, c. 1946


Herb Westphalen Chef/Mixologist said...

Thanks for this treasure trove of info! Great to finally know what the photo was all a bout. I can't imagine the man in the photos I sent (brother to a friend) was ever there, LOL!
Herb W.

Ms. said...

Stupefied and awash in nostalgia's glow. Love the moment, intense marker of the Barn's transition to Electric Lady....Yee-Ha to Woah-ho!
Another lovely excavation.

randall said...

there's a lot of ground between eating opium and collecting stamps as abortive pastimes. That is an epic line.

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

I recall that on the 1st floor was Malboro Books, a store filled with books on sale, at the time mostly a buck but at the time it was a big amount. Cowboy music came from downstairs, I was too young to have a look. Knew it was hokey music from WJRZ (country station beamed from New Jersey at the time, very early 60s). Fascinating.

Anonymous said...

IIRC Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix's longtime sound engineer) while sitting in the current Electric Lady Studios during an interview said that the studio was built in part of the former space(?) occupied by a club other than the Village Barn. I want to say it was Cafe Au Go Go, but that was on Bleecker, but it had a 60s club name like Cafe Au Go Go. So I'm not so sure the space made the transition from the Village Barn straight to Electric Lady.

Signed D.C. said...

For a brief time in '68--like, six months or thereabouts--the space held a rock club called Generation.

Mark said...

Here's link to information about the Generation Club that occupied the site after the Barn and before ELS:


Michael Simmons said...

A later New York country music nightclub was O'Lunney's on Second Avenue between 48th & 49th Streets. I first played there on December 31st, 1973. It lasted another 15 years or so. Delbert McClinton, Charley Pride, Billy Joe Shaver, Jo-El Sonnier, Gary Stewart, et al, gigged or sat in there. It preceded the more well-known Lone Star Cafe on Fifth Avenue & 13th Street (where I also played).

Ken Mac said...

I have an old friend, Philly, who is in his 90s, he went to the Village Barn all the time. That's where he and his buddies would pick up girls. He also has stories about Joseph Kennedy hiring kids off of Macdougal Street to run bootleg booze, and Philly was also best friends with Jilly Rizzo, Sinatra's best friend who went up in a fire inside a Jaquar when the doors wouldn't open.

vzabuser said...

Hendrix played Generation (mafia run) when it opened.

Anonymous said...

I'm almost positive that the Village Barn is mentioned in William Grimes excellent history of NYC restaurants, Appetite City.


Desert Son said...

Irving Harris, my dad, played there in the 1950's(piano and accordion)edernami

Anonymous said...

My 92 year old Mom went to the VILLAGE BARN in 1936 as a teenager (1st year in high school) for lunch with her older sisters in nursing school. She would like to know if anyone collects menus cause she has one. At bottom of menu it says" No check less than $1.00 a person" - compare that today to $100 covers in NYC night clubs!

Molly said...

I was given a handful of stir sticks from my uncle, the village barn was one ofthem.very unique, martini glass cut out for handle & made in the U.S.A. Complete with address. Spoon stir stick. Wisconsin

Bonnie Rose said...

I found this post in searching for this place for my blog post tomorrow. I have a souvinor photo of my grandparents who went there in the late 40's on a date. Love all the information you had to share!

Bonnie Rose | A Compass Rose blog