Sea Colony

Sea Colony


By at the very 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 right time, regardless of being Mafia-run and frequently raided because of the authorities.

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The ocean Colony, very very very first floor of 52, 50, and 48 Eighth Avenue (left to right), 1964. Picture by John Barrngton Bayley. Thanks 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 tenth Street and Christopher Street, 1945. Thanks to the Museum regarding the City of brand new York.


Initially exposed as being a restaurant c. 1950, the ocean Colony had become a hangout that is lesbian at minimum 1955, whenever Ann Bannon, composer of lesbian pulp fiction, visited it with Marijane Meaker, writer of lesbian-themed fiction. Overview of the restaurant through the exact same year mentioned “a recently included celebration space that handles 75 individuals. ” The review failed to point out that the brand new room became a destination for females dancing together, an act which could get some body place in prison through the bar’s presence into the 1950s and 1960s. Even though it ended up being an essential gathering spot, specifically for white working-class lesbians at that time, the ocean Colony ended up being Mafia-run and sometimes raided because of the authorities, like numerous pubs regarding the age, many famously during the Stonewall Inn.

The clients mostly squeeze into a “butch-femme” powerful, where in actuality the “butch, ” or higher masculine-dressing of this pair, would simply take the “man’s” role when you look at the relationship xhamsterlive sex – purchase drinks, lead in dancing, available doorways, etc. – and also the “femme, ” or even more feminine-presenting of the set, would make the “woman’s” role. Preston Mardenborough, a bartender in the water Colony within the 1960s, recalled that this dynamic even extended to where patrons typically congregated: into the front side room, the end that is back of bar had been where in actuality the “butches” usually sat together with front side had been where in fact the “femmes” sat, both gossiping concerning the other team. The butches were particularly a target of authorities brutality, as dressing in garments associated with “opposite intercourse” had been unlawful in nyc during the time; particularly, the “three article” rule claimed which you could possibly be arrested for putting on three or maybe more articles of clothes that have been typically linked to the sex which you failed to be seemingly. Raids on homosexual pubs had been regular throughout the 1950s and 1960s, but were especially violent, frequently intimately violent, at lesbian pubs. Ladies arrested in club raids had been provided for the Women’s House that is nearby of (demolished), which Joan Nestle, author and co-founder regarding the Lesbian Herstory Archives, said ended up being sardonically described one of the club clients due to the fact “Country Club. ”

Because of the 1960s, the ocean Colony had been a full-time lesbian bar with three primary areas. The space that is first where in fact the primary entry at 52 Eighth Avenue had been situated (presently Art club), had the bar’s just operating egress with uncovered windows, which makes it probably the most general general general public. In this space, the club ended up being in the left and tiny tables had been in the right as one stepped in; two single-stall restrooms had been behind the club. Nestle, whom frequented the ocean Colony and has now written extensively about this, recalled that just one girl ended up being permitted when you look at the restroom at the same time, a guideline that has been 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 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, possessed a task to allot us toilet paper. … This butch girl would stand at the front end regarding the line and then we each got two wraps of wc paper. ”

The room that is second50 Eighth Avenue), into the previous restaurant area, ended up being available through the trunk of this primary club and offered table solution. The “back space” (48 Eighth Avenue) ended up being available 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 key will be pushed that fired up a red light in the “back space. ” Then, he stated, “Everything would freeze and folks would cost their tables and merely stay like they’re having drinks. ”

Inspite 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 in the SEA COLONY…………. Its as you come in a film as your head 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 OF THAT. …. ”

This entry had been compiled by task consultant Gwendolyn Stegall.

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