Water Colony

Water Colony


The Sea Colony was one of the most popular lesbian bars in Greenwich Village by at least 1955 through the 1960s.

A popular of author and activist Joan Nestle, amongst others, it had been a sanctuary particularly for working-class lesbians during the right time, regardless of being Mafia-run and sometimes raided because of the authorities.

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The ocean Colony, first flooring of 52, 50, and 48 Eighth Avenue (left to right), 1964. Picture by John Barrngton Bayley. Due to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Approximate Water Colony flooring plan. Drawn by Gwendolyn Stegall for the NYC LGBT Historic web Sites Project in discussion with water Colony bartender Preston Mardenborough.

Women’s home of Detention (demolished), Greenwich Avenue between western tenth Street and Christopher Street, 1945. Due to the Museum regarding the City of the latest York.


Initially started as being a restaurant c. 1950, the ocean Colony had develop into a hangout that is lesbian at minimum 1955, whenever Ann Bannon, composer of lesbian pulp fiction, visited it with Marijane Meaker, composer of lesbian-themed fiction. Overview of the restaurant through the year that is same “a recently included party space that handles 75 individuals. ” The review would not point out that the room that is new a location for ladies dancing together, a work that may get somebody place in prison through the bar’s presence into the 1950s and 1960s. Though it had been a significant gathering spot, particularly for white working-class lesbians during the time, the ocean Colony ended up being Mafia-run and often raided by the authorities, like numerous pubs associated with period, many famously during the Stonewall Inn.

The customers mostly squeeze into a “butch-femme” powerful, where in actuality the “butch, ” or higher masculine-dressing for the set, would simply take the “man’s” role when you look at the relationship – purchase drinks, lead in dancing, available doorways, etc. – and also the “femme, ” or even more feminine-presenting of the set, would just take the “woman’s” role. Preston Mardenborough, a bartender in the water Colony when you look at the 1960s, recalled that this dynamic even extended to where clients typically congregated: into the front side room, the back end regarding the club ended up being where in fact the “butches” usually sat as well as the front side ended up being where in actuality the “femmes” sat, both gossiping in regards to the other team. The butches had been particularly a target of authorities brutality, as dressing in garments associated with the “opposite intercourse” had been unlawful in nyc during the time; particularly, the “three article” guideline claimed which you might be arrested for putting on three or higher articles of clothing that have been typically from the sex you would not be seemingly. Raids on homosexual pubs were regular through the entire 1950s and 1960s, but had been specially violent, frequently intimately violent, at lesbian pubs. Females arrested in club raids had been delivered to the Women’s House that is nearby of (demolished), which Joan Nestle, writer and co-founder associated with Lesbian Herstory Archives, said www.xxxstreams.eu had been sardonically known one of the club clients given that “Country Club. ”

Because of the 1960s, the ocean Colony had been a full-time lesbian club with three primary areas. The very first area, where in actuality the primary entry at 52 Eighth Avenue ended up being situated (presently Art club), had the bar’s just operating egress with uncovered windows, which makes it the absolute most general public. The bar was on the left and small tables were on the right as one walked in; two single-stall bathrooms were behind the bar in this room. Nestle, whom frequented the ocean Colony and contains written extensively about any of it, recalled that only 1 girl had been permitted within the restroom at the same time, a guideline which was implemented because of the Mafia “because they thought we had been so sexually depraved, if two of us went in we’d probably have sex, and that could bring the vice squad. ” In conformity with this particular guideline, she noted:

“Every evening, a quick, handsome, butch woman with toilet paper covered around her hand, had a work to allot us toilet tissue. … This butch woman would stay at the front end regarding the line and then we each got two wraps of wc paper. ”

The 2nd space (50 Eighth Avenue), within the previous restaurant area, ended up being available through a corner associated with main club and offered dining table service. The “back space” (48 Eighth Avenue) had been available through this center room and ended up being in which the unlawful dance took destination. Mardenborough recalled that whenever the authorities raided the bar, which happened regular, a switch will be pushed that switched on a light that is red the “back space. ” Then, he stated, “Everything would freeze and folks would set you back their tables and simply stay like they’re having drinks. ”

Regardless of the raids, females continued visiting lesbian pubs. One former regular said of her experience during the water Colony (her punctuation), “my first bar when you look at the city was at the sixties during the SEA COLONY…………. Its as you have been in a film as the brain starts a lens into the last……. Everyone sluggish danced on to the floor. Lights were dim…. And Maria had been the bar maid/butch…who everybody wanted…. She had been ALL THAT. …. ”

This entry was authored by task consultant Gwendolyn Stegall.

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