Water Colony

Overview

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

A well liked of author and activist Joan Nestle, and others, it absolutely was a sanctuary particularly for working-class lesbians at the right time, regardless of being Mafia-run and often raided because of the authorities.

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

Approximate Sea Colony flooring plan. Drawn by Gwendolyn Stegall when it comes to NYC LGBT Historic web web Sites Project in conversation with water Colony bartender Preston Mardenborough.

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

History

Initially opened as being a restaurant c. 1950, the ocean Colony had turn into a lesbian hangout by 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 exact same year mentioned “a recently added party space that handles 75 individuals. ” The review failed to point out that the brand new space became a destination for females dancing together, a work that may get some one place in prison through the bar’s presence into the 1950s and 1960s. Though it ended up being a significant gathering spot, particularly for white working-class lesbians during the time, the Sea Colony had been Mafia-run and sometimes raided because of the authorities, like numerous pubs associated with the period, many famously during the Stonewall Inn.

The customers mostly match a “butch-femme” powerful, in which the “butch, ” or higher masculine-dressing for the set, would just take the “man’s” role into the relationship – purchase drinks, lead in dancing, available doorways, etc. – plus the “femme, ” or higher feminine-presenting of the set, would just take the “woman’s” role. Preston Mardenborough, a bartender during the Sea Colony within the 1960s, recalled that this dynamic also extended to where clients typically congregated: into the front side room, the end that is back of club had been where in fact the “butches” usually sat in addition to front side ended up being in which the “femmes” sat, both gossiping concerning the other team. The butches had been particularly a target of authorities brutality, as dressing in garments of this “opposite intercourse” ended up being unlawful in nyc at that time; especially, the “three article” rule claimed which you could possibly be arrested for putting on three or higher articles of clothes which were typically from the sex you would not appear to be. Raids on homosexual pubs had been frequent through the entire 1950s and 1960s, but had been especially violent, frequently intimately violent, at lesbian pubs. Women arrested in club raids had been provided for the nearby Women’s home of Detention (demolished), which Joan Nestle, author and co-founder regarding the Lesbian Herstory Archives, said ended up being sardonically known on the list of club clients because the “Country Club. ”

The Sea Colony was a full-time lesbian bar with three main spaces by the 1960s. The space that is first in which 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 general public. The bar was on the left and small sextpanther cams 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 it has written extensively about any of it, recalled that only 1 girl had been permitted within the restroom at the same time, a guideline that has been implemented because of the Mafia “because they thought we had been therefore sexually depraved, if two of us went in we’d probably have sex, and therefore could bring the vice squad. ” In conformity with this specific guideline, she noted:

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

The room that is second50 Eighth Avenue), into the previous restaurant area, ended up being accessible through a corner of this main club and provided dining dining table solution. The “back space” (48 Eighth Avenue) ended up being accessible through this center room and ended up being in which the dancing that is illegal destination. Mardenborough recalled that whenever the authorities raided the club, which happened regular, a switch could be pushed that fired up 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, ladies proceeded visiting lesbian pubs. One former regular said of her experience during the water Colony (her punctuation), “my first bar within the town was at the sixties during the SEA COLONY…………. Its as if you have been in a film as your head starts a lens into the last……. Everyone sluggish danced on the ground. Lights had been dim…. And Maria ended up being the bar maid/butch…who everyone else wanted…. She had been ALL THAT. …. ”

This entry ended up being authored by task consultant Gwendolyn Stegall.