Water Colony

Water Colony


By at the least 1955 through the 1960s, the ocean Colony had been the most popular lesbian pubs in Greenwich Village.

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

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The ocean Colony, very very 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 web Sites Project in discussion with water Colony bartender Preston Mardenborough.

Women’s home of Detention (demolished), Greenwich Avenue between western Street that is 10th and Street, 1945. Due to the Museum associated with the City of the latest York.


Initially launched as being a restaurant c. 1950, the ocean Colony had develop into a lesbian hangout by at minimum 1955, whenever Ann Bannon, composer of lesbian pulp fiction, visited it with Marijane Meaker, author of lesbian-themed fiction. Analysis the restaurant through the exact same year mentioned “a recently included party space sex chat xxxstreams that handles 75 individuals. ” The review failed to point out that the room that is new a location for females dancing together, an work which could get some one place in prison through the entire bar’s presence into the 1950s and 1960s. The Sea Colony was Mafia-run and frequently raided by the police, like many bars of the era, most famously at the Stonewall Inn although it was an important gathering place, especially for white working-class lesbians at the time.

The clients 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 into the relationship – purchase drinks, lead in dancing, available doorways, etc. – plus the “femme, ” or even more feminine-presenting of the pair, would use the “woman’s” role. Preston Mardenborough, a bartender during the water Colony within the 1960s, recalled that this dynamic also extended to where clients typically congregated: into the front room, the end that is back of club had been in which the “butches” usually sat in addition to front side had been where in fact the “femmes” sat, both gossiping concerning the other team. The butches were specially a target of authorities brutality, as dressing in garments associated with “opposite intercourse” ended up being illegal in ny at that time; especially, the “three article” guideline reported which you could possibly be arrested for using three or even more articles of clothes that have been usually from the sex which you would not be seemingly. Raids on homosexual pubs had been frequent through the entire 1950s and 1960s, but had been especially violent, frequently intimately violent, at lesbian bars. Females arrested in club raids had been provided for the Women’s House that is nearby of (demolished), which Joan Nestle, writer and co-founder associated with Lesbian Herstory Archives, said had been sardonically described one of the club clients because the “Country Club. ”

The Sea Colony was a full-time lesbian bar with three main spaces by the 1960s. The very first area, where in actuality the primary entry at 52 Eighth Avenue ended up being positioned (presently Art club), had the bar’s just operating egress with uncovered windows, rendering it probably the most general general public. In this room, the club ended up being in the left and little tables had been in the right as you stepped in; two single-stall bathrooms had been behind the club. Nestle, whom frequented the ocean Colony and it has written extensively about any of it, recalled that just one woman had been permitted into the bathroom at any given time, a guideline which was 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 compliance using this guideline, she noted:

“Every evening, a brief, handsome, butch woman with toilet paper covered around her hand, possessed a task to allot us toilet paper. … This butch girl would stay at the front end of this line and now we each got two wraps of wc paper. ”

The room that is second50 Eighth Avenue), when you look at the previous restaurant area, ended up being available through the trunk regarding the primary club and supplied table solution. The “back space” (48 Eighth Avenue) had been available through this center room and had been where in fact the unlawful dance took destination. Mardenborough recalled that whenever the authorities raided the club, which happened regular, a switch could be pressed that switched on a light that is red the “back space. ” Then, he stated, “Everything would freeze and individuals would set you back their tables and simply stay like they’re having drinks. ”

Inspite of the raids, females 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 the head starts a lens into the……. That is past sluggish danced on to the floor. Lights had been dim…. And Maria had been the bar maid/butch…who everyone else wanted…. She had been ALL THAT. …. ”

This entry had been published by task consultant Gwendolyn Stegall.