New York is rightly proud of it’s oldest bars, all of them ultimately part of the rich cultural traditions of all the immigrants who have come to this wonderful City. And it also has a very old beer garden, the oldest surviving beer garden in NYC in fact. And to make it even more interesting it has a link to another old tradition in NYC, benevolent societies.
Benevolent societies were set up in NYC throughout the 19th and into the 20th Centuries as an expression of the way people from specific cultural traditions banded together to help each other and then successive waves of other immigrants from their homelands. Early ones were set up English, Scottish, Irish and German immigrants. As more immigrants came then Italian, Swiss, Chinese, Spanish, Jewish and other benevolent societies sprang up. The good they did was huge, they provided emotional support and financial and physical help when it was desperately needed.
The Czech and Slovak immigrants to Astoria, Queens set up theirs benevolent society in 1892. They built a hall in which they established a school, a dramatic society and a library. And they built a large beer garden alongside it big enough to seat at least 800 people. Today both are still there, see the video.
The beer garden was established first in 1905 and finished in 1919 and it now serves not just European beers but the craft beers brewed in NYC and other places in the nation. And of course food that is part of the Czech and Slovak traditional cuisine is also served. The beer garden represents a different kind of drinking tradition to the old bars of NYC. Look at the size of those beer mugs and as you can see the beer garden is mostly outdoors and of course big in the way NYC bars just aren’t.
To this day it remains the property of the Bohemian Benevolent Society and it’s proceeds support the activities carried out within the Bohemian Hall to which it is attached. So now that the weather is getting warmer, take yourself along to 24th Avenue in Astoria Queens and enjoy the experionce of being it a genuine beer garden right in NYC.