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