A team of Park Slope filmmakers are crafting a documentary that seeks to examine the history of legendary Windsor Terrace watering hole Farrell’s – with a focus on the bar’s ability to stay the same while the neighborhood around it has changed dramatically.
“The bar always stood out to us,” said Jay Cusato, the film’s director. “Even when you were a kid, you knew it was a little bit more special than just any other bar.”
Farrell’s, which opened in 1933, is the second oldest bar in Kings County. It dates from Park Slope’s tough Irish days, when there was an Irish bar on every corner – most of which were identical to each other, according to Cusato.
Now, Farrell’s – known for its clean, crisp taps and take-away beer containers – is the only one remaining. Many of the bars were demolished after master–builder Robert Moses routed the Prospect Expressway through the center of the neighborhood, which was the subject of a local play last year, while the rest shuttered as the neighborhood changed. Except for Farrell’s – which the filmmaker’s credit solely to the bars former owner, Eddie Farrell, who passed away in 1995.
“The reason why the place is so special is because of him,” Cusato said. “He was one of those guys who just truly cared about the neighborhood his business was in.”
Cusato says Farrell passed those virtues on to the generation of barkeepers who took over for him, who in turn passed it on to those who keep the bar today.
Farrell was known for his charitable attitude towards locals. Cusato says he’s uncovered countless stories of the bar owner raising funds for down and out regulars, such as passing a hat around the bar for contributions when one regular was laid off, or paying out of pocket for a regular patron to travel to Ireland for his brothers funeral – without ever expecting repayment.
Most famously, when Holy Name Church on Prospect Park West held a fundraiser to replace their aging bells, Farrell donated the vast majority of the funds himself.
“If you needed help, that’s where you went,” Cusato said.
The bar is also a haven for conservative Brooklynites in an otherwise liberal part of town, and stands in stark contrast to the progressive crowd that the Double Windsor bar attracts across the street, in a phenomena that’s been described as the Windsor Terrace divide.
Cusato and his producer Rob Martin, are holding a fundraiser to help bring the documentary to full length in the production phase, and help track down some of the famous New Yorkers who have downed a pint at the bar, such as Shirley MacLaine, Harvey Keitel, and Peter Weller, Patch reported. The duo has slightly over a month to raise the $24,200 they need.
The team already managed to nab an interview with revered New York City columnist Pete Hamill, a Park Slope native whose father was a regular at the Prospect Park West tavern.
But aside from the famous former patrons, the filmmakers are dedicating most of their efforts to talking to the regulars who spent years perched at the bar when Farrell was pouring pints, as well as co-owner Jimmy Houlihan, who worked his last bartending shift earlier this month after working at the bar since 1969.
While the neighborhood is no longer an Irish enclave, the bar has fostered a lively community space for those who remain, so much so that it was profiled in Irish Central this year.
“It really is a town hall,” Cusato said.