|15 Barrow Street today|
Location: 15 Barrow Street, New York, New York, USA
Opened/Closed: c. 1969, and intermittently lesbian space going back to the mid 1950s
|Miles Davis in front of the|
Cafe Bohemia, mid 1950s
The Bohemian (15 Barrow St.)
GSC being the the third annual Gay Scene Guide (1969).
Wow. But I sure had a hard time finding out anything after that. Even my old standby, New York Songlines, had nothing to say about this address ever housing a womyn's space.
I did determine that the building at 15 Barrow Street has been around since the nineteenth century. In 1955, it became the Cafe Bohemia, a major jazz venue that once featured the first Miles Davis Quintet, Art Blakey's original Jazz Messengers, and Kenny Dorham's Jazz Prophets.
Next thing I know is that in 1990, this place has become the New Barrow Street Ale House, a more-or-less straight bar which still occupies the same location today.
So where's my lesbian bar? Was the 1969 Gay Scene Guide totally mistaken? I was baffled for the longest time.
Then I stumbled upon this little anecdote in Maurice Isserman's The Other American: The Life of Michael Harrington.
It seems that sometime in the 1950s, Michael Harrington had become disenchanted with St. Louis, Missouri and its provincial ways, so he decided to move to New York City--and more specifically to Greenwich Village--to become a writer.
On that first night in New York, he found his way first to Louis's bar on Sheridan Square and then moved on to the Cafe Bohemia on Barrow Street. "It was then in a lesbian phase," Michael would recall, "and, like all straight men from the Middle West, I found that fascinating. I got into conversation with an attractive young woman, but then her girl friend appeared, angry with my heterosexual poaching."
|Interior of 15 Barrow Street today|