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 popular of author and activist Joan Nestle, amongst others, it absolutely was a sanctuary specifically for working-class lesbians in the time, in spite of being Mafia-run and sometimes raided by the authorities.

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The ocean Colony, 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 of this populous City of the latest York.


Originally launched being a restaurant c. 1950, the ocean Colony had become 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 year that is same “a recently included celebration space that handles 75 individuals. ” The review would not point out that the new space became a destination for females dancing together, a work that may get some body place in prison for the 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, in which the “butch, ” or higher masculine-dressing for the set, would make 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 water Colony into 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 actuality the “butches” usually sat in addition to front side ended up being in which the “femmes” sat, both gossiping in regards to the other team. The butches had been particularly a target of authorities brutality, as dressing in clothing for the “opposite intercourse” had been unlawful in ny during the time; especially, the “three article” guideline reported which you could possibly be arrested for using three or maybe more articles of clothes that have been typically linked to the sex you would not appear to be. Raids on homosexual pubs had been regular through the entire 1950s and 1960s, but had been especially violent, frequently intimately violent, at lesbian pubs. 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 among the list of club patrons 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 where in fact the main entry at 52 Eighth Avenue ended up being situated (currently Art club), had the bar’s just functioning egress with uncovered windows, which makes it the absolute most general 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 has now written extensively about this, recalled that only 1 woman ended up being permitted into the restroom at any given 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 particular guideline, she noted:

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

The room that is second50 Eighth Avenue), into the previous restaurant area, had been available through the trunk associated with primary club and offered dining dining table solution. The “back room” (48 Eighth Avenue) had been available through this center room and ended up being in which the dancing that is illegal spot. Mardenborough recalled that whenever the authorities raided the club, which happened regular, a switch could be pressed that switched on a red light in the “back room. ” Then, he stated, “Everything would freeze and individuals would set you back their tables and merely stay like they’re having drinks. ”

Regardless of the raids, ladies proceeded visiting bars that are lesbian. One former regular said of her experience at the Sea Colony (her punctuation), “my first bar within the town was at the sixties during the SEA COLONY…………. Its as you have been in a film as your brain starts a lens into the last……. Everyone sluggish danced on the ground. m.soulcams Lights had been dim…. And Maria had been the bar maid/butch…who everybody wanted…. She had been ALL THAT. …. ”

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