“Freddy’s – a neighborhood haven for working-class drinkers, 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 Speak Easy days during prohibition.
We have numerous time lines and tributaries, too many to find, follow or name. Below is a cobbled together series of quotes, links, & videos regarding the Bar’s History from various sources.
Freddy’s, at it’s new location, has been Called “a 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 “Freddys is Brooklyn’s most MOST ECLECTIC, SMARTY PANTS & RESILIENT Bar.” “Freddy’s Bar shines (sometimes, if the outdoor projector is on, literally) 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, said “ Over the 70 years of it’s history, Freddy’s ran the gamete from a Fire & Police watering hole, to a artists and activist haven. Born as a private drinking club, it’s 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 Chadderton. In 1975, Chadderton 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 who looks a bit like Mick Fleetwood, eventually started managing it. Under Mr. O’Finn, 52, 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 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 era of theme bars that looked like other 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, it’s history and it’s 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
Music Video “Freddy’s Bar and Backroom”
Music by Andy Friedman & The Other Failures
Album “Weary Things.”
Video Directed and Edited by Donald O’Finn:
John Pinamonti Live at the Old Freddy’s performing his song “the Burrow.” ( Named after “Burrow” 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…”(MORE)
In 2010 we were forced to move (after a long 7 year legal battle with developer Bruce Ratner) to make way for a privately owned, publicly funded arena for sports and popular events. Now known as the Barkley Center. All the Heroics and the drama were at our original location in Prospect Heights. Once evicted, the previous Owner of Freddy’s took the ‘Buy Out’ Cash and ran with it, reneging on an agreement to finance the New Freddy’s with former Manager Donald O’Finn & Star Bartender Matt Kuhn. Long Time Park Slope (and former Freddy’s bartender himself) Matt Kimmett came immediately to the rescue as the 3rd partner. And so the new Freddy’s was born from the ashes of the old here in the South Slope of Brooklyn.
“No Ratner Money was used in the financing of the new Freddy’s.”~ Donald O’Finn
FREDDY’S RE-BORN: “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 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. The backroom— allegedly the site of the speakeasy—served as a performance space in the old Freddy’s. “
“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.
“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. 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
The brooklyncountry.com web site says of the new Freddy’s “At 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 (and outside) 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. Last week a 1923 player piano was delivered.”
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.
“Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Sandy, a Government & a Millionaire Developer couldn’t close Freddy’s doors: “Freddy’s stays OPEN come Hell or High water -Literally:“ -The Brooklyn Vegan.
Donald O’Finn as Booking Agent & Barman.
“I started as a bartender at a prohibition era place 25 years ago. Back then Park Slope was dead after dark, If you wanted to eat after 10pm…you literally had to come see me, because we were the only ones open & we had a tiny oven behind the bar that could do Stewart Sandwiches. You couldn’t buy anything in the bodegas back then. You’d point at something behind the bullet-proof plexi and say ‘can I have some milk?’ They’d say “no!” then you say “Can I have salt?”… “NO!”… “Can I have some crack?” “..yes!” (laughs) “It was a crazy time.
A different time. That first bar ( The once famous O’Connors Bar ) was were I started doing some bookings. Back then there really wasn’t any live music around. It all happened because I gravitate towards artists and they gravitate towards me. …But I just sorta fell into it because I know so many musicians and they needed a place to play. Later that conspired with having a bar and needing to fill it. Being an artist had huge influence on my decisions as a BarMan & a booker. I use intuition not statistics. I try to create a scene not a bank account. I thought of the whole thing as a “social experiment”…an adult play ground.
I learned the job by doing it. Experience is the best teacher. But there are no guarantees you are doing it right. But… being an artist, I did learn that the highest form of ART is a ‘life well lived.’