A Bit of History

“Freddy’s – a neighborhood haven, the CBGB’s of Brooklyn or a fountainhead of activism, creativity and dissent.” ~ The New York Observer

Our history goes back nearly 9 decades, into our legendary Speakeasy days during Prohibition.
1950 (Toast) Original Front Bar same as Our Front Bar.
1952 (Toast) Original Backroom.

We have too many timelines and tributaries to find, follow or name. Below is a sampling of quotes, links, & videos cobbling together the Bar’s History from a variety of sources.


Freddy’s, at its new location, has been called the perfect neighborhood bar” by The New York Times. Freddy’s was also named One of the “Best Bars in America” by Esquire magazine. L Magazine said “Freddy’s is Brooklyn’s most MOST ECLECTIC, SMARTY PANTS & RESILIENT Bar.” “Freddy’s Bar shines as a beacon of all things quirky and one-of-a-kind in New York City. What makes Freddy’s all the more extraordinary is that, on paper, it shouldn’t even exist. ” ~ brooklyncountry.com

Brian Lehrer of WNPR radio said “Over the 70 years of its history, Freddy’s ran the gamut from a Fire & Police watering hole, to an artists and activist haven. Born as a private drinking club, its original public offering was as a bar called Henderson’s…which became Freddy’s, in honor of Freddy Chatterton, a police officer who bought the building in the 70s.”

“Long before it was Freddy’s Bar, and even before Adolf Hitler got his much-deserved comeuppance, the barroom at Dean Street and Sixth Avenue served as a salon for top dogs at the Spalding Ball plant,”… “Back then…” according to David Sheets, a chronicler of Freddy’s lore, who lived next door “…the watering hole did not bear any resemblance to present day. During the Prohibition era, the building looked like a bunker. But inside, Spalding execs were drinking on the sly — and sometimes in plain sight.”

“It’s often said it was a speakeasy,” said Sheets. “Around World War II — the date is unclear — Willy Henderson bought the three-story building on Dean Street and rechristened the bar. Some called the place, “The White Horse.” Others knew it simply as “Henderson’s.” This version of the watering hole was a neighborhood joint — complete with a small bowling alley in the basement. In his later years, Henderson, a heavy smoker, still hung around, barking at the newcomers in his bar through his cancer kazoo. In 1961, Henderson hired Johnny “Seat Covers” Severino as bartender —“one of Severino’s regulars was a 78th Precinct beat cop, the now-immortal Freddy Chatterton. In 1975, Chatterton retired from the force and bought the bar and building from Henderson.”

The New York Times wrote in 2010, “ The regulars were police officers, firefighters and pressmen from the old Daily News building down the block (now condominiums). The neighborhood around them was polyglot and a bit sketchy. “In 1996, Frank Yost bought the bar, and Mr. O’Finn, a tall artist from California eventually started managing it. Under Mr. O’Finn, whose father was a well-known San Francisco tailor and whose mother was a hat model, the bar morphed from a workingman’s watering hole into something like an artists’ colony, featuring rising stars of the opera one night, hipster improv groups the next.…a video Mr. O’Finn made, splicing together the original “Psycho” and its remake, played on a video screen…”

Brian Lehrer of WNPR also said “Depending on the night the backroom performance space hosted everything from Opera to Blue Grass, & once even the rock band Blue Oyster Cult…”

The Wall Street Journal wrote in 2011 “The old location in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood had endured as a bar for over seven decades before fate put it in the path of a massive development project centered around a basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets. In that time, the old space served as a speakeasy…”

Fish Taco & Donald O’Finn

The Freddy’s Bar Documentary TRAILER:

“Before the current era of cookie-cutter theme bars, there was the neighborhood bar — a crazy idea that just seemed to work. Director Vicente Rodriguez Ortega presents “Freddy’s Bar & Backroom” his documentary film about Freddy’s Bar, its history and its colorful patrons which has received much acclaim at the Madrid Film Festival…we see the true importance of this Brooklyn institution, beyond the late nights & Naked Mondays.”

~Film synopsis from BROOKLYN FILM FESTIVAL:

5 min Documentary by Peg Byron on the OLD Freddy’s NEAR it’s END

Video “Freddy’s Bar and Backroom”
Music by Andy Friedman & The Other Failures
Album “Weary Things”
Video Directed and Edited by Donald O’Finn

Pinamonti Live at the Old Freddy’s performing his song “the Boro” (named after Boro Magazine (a magazine born at the old Freddy’s) and the struggle against an illegal Brooklyn Land Grab displacing Freddy’s).

“After 7 years, Freddy’s Bar in Prospect Heights is closing — a casualty of the Atlantic Yards Project. Listeners call in with their toasts to the neighborhood institution.”

On Fox News

“Founded as a factory-workers’ speakeasy during Prohibition, Freddy’s stood at its original location on the corner of 6th Avenue and Dean Street for over 70 years. Then, in the early 2000s, the arrival of the Barclays Center project—and the controversial eminent domain land-grab that came with it —put Freddy’s directly in the path of “progress.” ~ The Wall Street Journal

“Freddy’s Bar regulars slapped on handcuffs…”

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“At one time, it was a private club, then Henderson’s, then finally Freddy’s…”

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“Freddy’s Bar began its life during Prohibition…”

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“After a heated 7-year battle, the original Freddy’s and the neighborhood that surrounded it, was demolished to make way for the new arena. However, Donald O’Finn and two other bartenders salvaged every last scrap of the old place (including the original mahogany bar and tin ceilings), took ownership of the name, and with the help of some truly dedicated regulars, painstakingly rebuilt it at its new location. The new Freddy’s was born and rose from the ashes of the old in the South Slope of Brooklyn. Walking into the new Freddy’s, with all its timeworn detailing and lived-in look, you would never guess that the place is actually less than 5 years old.” ~brooklyncountry.com

“No Ratner money was used in the financing of the new Freddy’s.” ~ Donald O’Finn

“This place (the new Freddy’s) was pretty conscious and intentional,” O’Finn said. “Every inch of this place was considered. One patron expressed his devotion to the bar by scrawling an impromptu last will and testament over the new orange paint: “My kids and all my money go to Freddy’s!”

“There are still televisions that play silent old films, sports and performance art, including one that is now in the window looking out onto Fifth Avenue. But old Freddy’s decidedly retro TVs have been replaced with flat screens.”

“It’s Freddy’s on steroids,” says O’Finn, who along with co-owners Matt Kimmett and Matt Kuhn took over after previous owner Frank Yost decided to walk away. “The way I tell it, the inmates are running the asylum,” O’Finn said, repeating what has become a standard catchphrase. “The bar is owned by the staff and built by the regulars.” ~ The Wall Street Journal

“Freddy’s voted into The Park Slope 100…”

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“At the new Freddy’s, every corner seems crammed with some kind of antique store artifact or weird colored light. It’s like a haunted house designed by your deranged Victorian great uncle. A massive plaster swordfish shares the wall with a light-up garden gnome and a 1915 upright piano whose ivories, if you catch them on the right night, still get tickled by slumming old-time jazz masters. A kitchen in the back cranks out consistently wonderful bar food (including the best tater tots this side of your mom’s house), while each night, in the discrete little Back Room, a rotating cast of musicians, comedians, film buffs, and assorted literary types fill the air with the kind of crazy-quilt anything-goes vibe that New York City used to be famous for. Permeating it all, on various screens around the bar, are the joyfully schizophrenic “repurposed video constructions” of celebrated video artist (and Freddy’s co-owner) Donald O’Finn. Donald’s “TV Dreams” have been a mainstay of the bar for decades and, between bands, remain the default entertainment for regulars and newcomersalike.” ~ brooklyncountry.com
O’Finn says “although they’re at a new location, he doesn’t want to forget the Atlantic Yards struggle. That’s why the chains of justice are still attached to the bar.” They’re there as a constant reminder and a metaphor for community,” he says. “The interconnection of these things makes something just immensely strong and basically unbreakable.” ~ WNYC
The New York Times said recently “Out of the limelight, Freddy’s has been settling into a quieter, comfortable existence on Fifth Avenue between 17th and 18th. Freddy’s, of course, preserved the symbol of its move. The “chains of justice” hang beneath the lip of the bar; last spring, patrons were prepared to chain themselves to the bar when the bulldozers came. Other familiar touches include a mounted swordfish next to a granite slab with the etchings of graffiti lifted from the old bar’s bathrooms. And last week a 1923 player piano was delivered.”

“Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Sandy, a Government & a Millionaire Developer couldn’t close Freddy’s doors:”! Donald O’Finn… “Freddy’s stays OPEN come Hell or High water -Literally: ~ The Brooklyn Vegan

Since our re-location we have settled nicely into the new digs. A New story underway. Everything keeps moving forward for us, History is fluid after all. ~ Freddy’s.

“The case of the stolen bull (not to mention the giant bra)…”

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“The case of the stolen bull (not to mention the giant bra)…”

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“10 Years Of Classical Singing At Local Bar…”

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