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Chronicles: Pete’s Tavern

Petes Tavern 

“I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs.”
And so ends the famed holiday tale, ‘The Gift of The Magi,’ the story of a husband and wife so in love, they sell their most prized possessions to buy each other a gift for Christmas, unknowingly buying gifts to complement the exact thing that the other has sold. This classic yuletide fare with a surprise twist was written in the front booth of the longest continuously operating bar and restaurant in New York, by an ex-con with an alcohol problem. A twist that few would be surprised takes place in New York.

The author is O. Henry and the bar is Pete’s Tavern, which first opened its doors in 1864 at the end of the Civil War. Since then, it has weathered depressions, prohibition (by masquerading as a flower shop), and the death of a its most famous patron, author O. Henry from cirrhosis of the liver. O. Henry lived at 55 Irving Place, having moved to New York City to be closer to his publisher after his short stories became a success- but perhaps he should have moved further away from the pub, he only spent eight years in Manhattan before succumbing to the “sauce”.
Pete’s Tavern
129 East 18th Street near Gramercy Park.

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