Water Colony


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, amongst others, it had been a sanctuary specifically for working-class lesbians in the right time, regardless of being Mafia-run and often raided because of the authorities.

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The ocean Colony, very 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 Water 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 home of Detention (demolished), Greenwich Avenue between western tenth Street and Christopher Street, 1945. Thanks to the Museum for the City of the latest York.


Initially started as being a restaurant c. 1950, the ocean Colony had turn into a lesbian hangout by at least 1955, whenever Ann Bannon, composer of lesbian pulp fiction, visited it with Marijane Meaker, composer of lesbian-themed fiction. Analysis the restaurant through the exact same year mentioned “a recently included celebration space that handles 75 people. ” The review would not mention that the room that is new a location for females dancing together, a work which could get some body place in prison through the bar’s existence 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 customers mostly match a “butch-femme” powerful, in which the “butch, ” or higher masculine-dressing of this set, would make the “man’s” role within the relationship xxxstreams xxx – purchase drinks, lead in dancing, available doorways, etc. – and also the “femme, ” or higher feminine-presenting of the set, would make the “woman’s” role. Preston Mardenborough, a bartender in the Sea Colony within the 1960s, recalled that this dynamic also extended to where clients typically congregated: in the front room, the end that is back of club had been where in actuality the “butches” usually sat in addition to front ended up being where in fact 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 associated with “opposite intercourse” had been unlawful in ny at that time; especially, the “three article” guideline reported which you did not seem to be that you could be arrested for wearing three or more articles of clothing that were traditionally associated with the gender. Raids on homosexual pubs had been frequent through the entire 1950s and 1960s, but had been specially violent, usually intimately violent, at lesbian bars. 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 was sardonically known one of the club clients since the “Country Club. ”

Because of the 1960s, the ocean Colony had been a full-time lesbian club with three primary areas. The space that is first where in fact 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 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 any of it, recalled that only 1 girl ended up being permitted within the restroom at any given time, a guideline which was implemented by the Mafia “because they thought we had been so sexually depraved, if two of us went in we’d probably have sex, and therefore could bring the vice squad. ” In conformity using this guideline, she noted:

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

The 2nd room (50 Eighth Avenue), into the former restaurant area, ended up being available through a corner associated with the primary club and supplied dining dining table solution. The “back room” (48 Eighth Avenue) had been available through this center area and had been where in actuality the dancing that is illegal destination. Mardenborough recalled that after law enforcement raided the club, which happened regular, a switch will be pushed that switched on a red light in the “back room. ” 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 in the Sea Colony (her punctuation), “my first bar within the town was at the sixties in the SEA COLONY…………. Its as if you have been in a film as the head opens a lens into the last……. Everyone sluggish danced on the ground. Lights had been dim…. And Maria had been the bar maid/butch…who everybody wanted…. She had been ALL OF THAT. …. ”

This entry had been published by task consultant Gwendolyn Stegall.