Hands down, the Hansom House in Southampton was the most unique bar in the entire world! And no, I have not traveled throughout the entire world.
There were so many aspects to this great establishment that made it part of one of those places that you had to ‘be there’ in order to fully appreciate its one-of-a-kind vibe. And if you were lucky enough, above the bar on the second floor were apartments for rent.
When you approached the entrance, you were greeted by a 40-ton quartz fountain handmade by owner Jon Jaques.
The Hansom House had a rich history.
It started off as a speakeasy, then was turned into a hotel. When the most current owner Jon Jaques bought it on April Fool’s Day in 1966, he turned it into something special.
The first year he owned it was your typical Hamptons dining and pub establishment: the staff wore dinner jacks and carried silver trays. Regulars were local government officials and the police. That would change.
After he put in a stone fireplace the crowd jumped from age 55 to 18. Students from Southampton University began to hang there. Notables like Andy Warhol were frequent visitors. Jon decided at that time to cater to a whole new crowd.
In the 70’s, the police who once patronized the establishment, raided the bar almost on a weekly basis. Jon moved forward and the Hansom House endured for many years.
One of the first things you saw when you entered the place was that the bar was made of old wood. It had a tarantula spider as its pet. And, a huge naked lady adorning the entire back wall of the main bar.
Off the main bar was a small tiki bar room. This room had the most eclectic ‘things’ coming down from the ceiling, affixed to the bar and hanging off the walls. There was also a fake biker dude that had a Charles Manson look on his face. The room consisted of a red velvet couch with matching chairs.
There was a separate coffee bar where you could order Irish Coffee, or anything else you wanted to spike your coffee with.
During warm months, the outside of the Hansom House was an environment onto itself. There was an outside bar. You could order up some cheap burgers and hot dogs at the grill. There were lawn chairs scattered throughout the yard. A fire pit would burn and people around the fire would tend to the fire themselves. A projector was stationed in the middle of lawn on a wooden stump. It displayed artistic images on the side of the building.
Back inside, strategically placed art and other antique artifacts elevated your senses.
In the main room, you were greeted by the grim reaper who was driving a stagecoach. Santa as well as other fabled characters would join the grim reaper at times.
Many women were afraid to walk in front of the stagecoach where the entrance to the ladies’ room was. Once inside the bathroom, the wall had a wooden sculpture of Michael Angelo’s’ David on it. Instead of the crouch area of David being naked, a green leaf covered it. The leaf was meant to be pulled upwards. However, it was a trick. When women would pull the leaf upward, an alarm would sound, and a light would go off just outside the bathroom. Women who were new to the bar did not realize this. When they existed the bathroom, other seasoned patrons would mock them knowing that they wanted to take peak under David’s leaf.
Once inside the main living room, you were treated to some of the most original music. Bands you never heard of but thought, ‘geez, I think these guys are big?’ would be jamming out songs that you could dance to. Some noted bands such as the last incarnation of Muddy Waters played the Hansom House as well.
It was the ambiance, a stoner or beatnik type of atmosphere in the main living room that made all the difference. Couches were butted against each other with different colored area carpeting.
The main element in the living room were the huge stained-glass windows. Lights shone in from the outside onto the windows which let off an array of lights while in the main living room.
One of the last music tour lineups before the end.
In February 2002, the same year and month that the Drift Inn burned to the ground, the Hansom House closed. Jon was tired of fighting with the local government for years. With each new aspect he wanting to bring to the bar, such as an outside bar or the fire pit, he met with strict town codes.
Jon sold many items to people at an auction, but he kept most of the furniture and fixtures as well.
He relocated the Hansom House to Maine off Route 1.
A final tribute was held on that very solemn night when the bar closed.