Monday, October 31, 2011

Mary Allen Seminary

Administration Building, Mary Allen Seminary

Mary Allen Seminary

Location: Crockett, Texas, USA

Opened: January 15, 1886

Closed: 1933

The Mary Allen Seminary, a boarding school for African-American girls, went through two earlier permutations. The school was founded as the Crocker Presbyterian Church Colored Sabbath School (1871-1875) and then became the Moffatt Parochial School (1975-1885). The Reverend Samuel Fisher Tenney was apparently active in the founding of both schools.

In 1886 the Board of Missions for Freedmen of the Presbyterian Church began planning for the establishment of a black girls' school in Texas. Reverend Tenney saw an advertisement referring to the project and immediately responded. The secretary to the Board of Missions for Freedmen, the Reverend Richard Allen, was soon invited to Crockett. Prominent businessmen joined Reverend Tenney in receiving him. After a statewide survey, Crocket was chosen as the school's location--partly because of the county's large African-American population and partly because of the Black parochial school that Reverend Tenney had previously founded. The community offered a grant of ten acres on a hilltop plot north of the city.

Reverend Allen's wife, Mary Esther, actively promoted "our Texas boarding school for colored girls" and took on a key organizational fundraising role through the Women's Executive Committee of the Board of Missions for Freedmen. When Mrs. Allen died suddenly, the board agreed that the official name of the school should be Mary Allen Seminary.

Reverend J. B. Smith was commissioned to take charge of the new seminary, which opened on January 15, 1886. (Yes, Reverend Smith was a white male.) Mary Allen Hall, a four-story brick structure with basement, was completed on October 1, 1887, at a cost of $20,000, including furnishings. The school began as a day and boarding school offering courses at the primary, elementary, high school, and teacher-training levels for girls only. The seminary published its first catalogue that same year. 

Two years after opening, the school had an official June dedication. Here's one (apparently anonymous) description from an out-of-town visitor to that event. Be forewarned, however, that many of the observations are quite patronizing and racist:

A trip to Texas in the latter half of June is no pleasure trip so far as the comfort of travel is concerned ; but Mary Allen Seminary was to be dedicated on the 19th of the month, and we felt it important to be there. The trip, however, in spite of the hot weather and rough southern railroads, was not without interest and pleasure. It was interesting to mark the differently advanced state of the growing crops and fruits as we proceeded southward. In Ohio and Illinois the young corn was only a foot high, and the wheat just heading ; in southern Missouri, the next morning, we saw the corn waist high and the wheat in full head. That afternoon in Arkansas we found the corn in the tassel, and the wheat ready for the sickle ; and in Texas the next day we saw that the wheat had been harvested, and we had ears of the new, fresh corn on the dinner table, together with all the vegetables, which we do not have in the North till July and August. It looked strange to northern eyes to see peach and plum trees hanging full of ripe, luscious fruit in June.  

Mary Allen Seminary is our new boarding-school for colored girls, located at Crockett, Houston county, Texas, on the main line of railroads leading from St. Louis to Galveston. The building stands on a ten-acre lot presented by the citizens of Crockett, and is indeed "beautiful for situation," overlooking the village, a little less than a mile away, and the entire surrounding country. It is said to be the highest point in the county. Whether this be so or not, it is certainly true that from the tower of the seminary you may have an uninterrupted view over the country for twelve miles in every direction. The building has four stories with wide, airy halls, and bright, cheerful dormitories large enough to accommodate comfortably four girls each. The seminary was put up and furnished almost entirely by contributions from ladies' societies and Sabbath-schools, and is supported principally from the same sources, not a dollar of the general funds of the Board having been expended in its erection or support. 

Though only two years old, we found the seminary in a most prosperous condition, having enrolled during the term 152 pupils, 102 of whom were boarders. Arriving before the term closed, we had the privilege of witnessing the examination of all the classes, occupying two entire days. This was as thorough and as creditable on the part of the pupils as any examinations we have attended in similar white schools North or South. When it is remembered that most of these girls came directly from the cotton fields, their improvement in every department of study is simply marvelous. Faithful and thorough work has been done by the teachers, and good results have followed. We were specially interested in the work done in the industrial department, where all manner of sewing is taught and instruction given in the culinary arts. We saw girls with neat dresses on, which they themselves had cut, fitted and made, who at the beginning of the year did not know how to wear a thimble, and also neat specimens of hemming, stitching, darning and knitting, of which they knew nothing when they entered the seminary. We saw and tasted delicious loaves of bread, rolls, pies and cakes made and baked by girls who a year ago knew only how to make and bake the  "corn dodger" and "hoe-cake," and that only in a rough manner. The housekeeping in the institution is a model of neatness from cellar to garret. 

But most of all we were impressed with the religious influence pervading the seminary. On each morning the whole school is divided into four Bible classes, and an hour spent in close and systematic study of the Bible. On every Sabbath morning from 9 to 10 o'clock the "Shorter Catechism" is studied in the same way. With such studies and the faithful instruction of consecrated teachers who feel a tender interest in the girls, it is not at all strange that a deep religious interest pervaded the school. It is just what may be expected anywhere under similar circumstances, and I was prepared to hear that a number of the girls had professed Christ and joined the church during the year. Among them were four Roman Catholic girls from Louisiana, whose conversion was very marked, as their Christian lives since evince. 

The dedicatory services took place on the afternoon of June 19. The chapel was too small to accommodate all who were expected to attend, and so an arbor was erected adjoining the chapel, under which 800 or 1000 colored people were seated by 3 o'clock in the afternoon. On the platform were assembled a number of the best white citizens of the place, who expressed a deep interest in our work. Above the platform and under the arbor, hanging among the holly branches, was a large picture of Mrs. Allen, presented to the seminary by the ladies of East Liberty Church, Pittsburgh, Pa. 

The exercises were commenced by a hymn sung by the girls, and beautifully sung it was. Rev. J. B. Smith, president of the seminary, then gave a short history of the school—its beginning two years ago last January with one scholar in an old hotel in the village, its rapid growth, the hard work they had in the old hotel, crowded with girls and no conveniences for their comfort, then of the gratitude they felt to the Christian women and Sabbath-schools of the North, when they were permitted to enter their new building. Then followed a solemn and touching prayer of dedication by Rev. Mr. Tenny, the pastor of the Southern Presbyterian Church, at Crockett, a warm friend of the seminary and of our work among the freedmen. A beautiful hymn of dedication was then sung by the girls, led by Miss Buttes, the teacher of music, and we wish all the women in our church could have heard that singing. We were then permitted to address the people, which we did with much pleasure and in the best manner of which we were capable, and were followed by an address from Colonel Nunn, a prominent lawyer of the town and once an officer in the Confederate army. The closing address was made by Rev. Mr. Tenny, and made a good impression on the audience, as we felt that every word came from a warm Christian heart. A chorus sung by the girl as only colored girls can sing, closed the afternoon service. 

There was another dedication of the seminary previous to this of a unique but very touching character. Before the building was entirely finished a number of the girls asked permission of President Smith to go into one of the rooms and hold a little prayer-meeting. Permission being given, they went in and spent an hour in singing their weird plantation hymns and in prayer and thanksgiving to God, thanking him for their friends in the North who had built this house for them, and praying for his blessing on it When we heard this we felt there was no other dedication needed : these poor girls in the gratitude of their hearts had been before us, and we are sure that God had heard their prayers and accepted their humble thanksgivings; for,       

"Richer by far was their hearts' adoration, And dearer to God are the prayers of the poor." 

The day's exercises were closed with an entertainment given by the girls in the evening at the chapel, consisting of essays, declamations, dialogues and singing. Some of the essays read would have done credit to the girls of any seminary in the land. Among the songs were a number of their plantation hymns, which were very beautiful and sung most impressively.

The house dedicated is only the main building; the wing in the original plan has not yet been built, but is very much needed. Many pupils, the president informed us, will have to be turned away next term for the want of it Oh that God would inspire the heart of some Christian lady or ladies to build this needed addition to the seminary ! 

We congratulate the women and the Sabbath-school scholars of our church, and the individual friends of our work, on the  founding of this seminary for the daughters of the poor colored people of the South. The good which it has accomplished and will accomplish cannot be estimated. It is a light in a dark land among a benighted people. The influence of it will be felt not only in time but in eternity. 

 A permanent scholarship fund to aid poor and worthy girls is very much needed, and benevolent persons who have even small sums which they wish to invest for permanent good have a most excellent opportunity for doing so in Mary Allen Seminary. A single scholarship of $45 supports a girl for the entire school year. We trust those who have taken these scholarships will renew them for the next year, so that the girls who have been placed upon them may continue their course of study. If persons knew what struggles many of these girls have gone through and what sacrifices they have made in order to reach the seminary, many touching instances of which we could give, they would willingly extend aid to them. We do not know a better work that Sabbath- schools or Sabbath-school classes or individual Christians could do for the Master and his lowly poor than to take up one of these girls and help her through her seminary course, and send her forth as a teacher among her people. We are thoroughly convinced that these boarding-schools for colored girls are doing some of the most efficient work that is being done under the Board of Missions for Freedmen. A Scotia or Mary Allen Seminary in every southern state would go far toward solving the Negro problem. 

President Smith and his devoted wife, with their excellent corps of teachers, in their arduous and self-denying work at Mary Allen Seminary deserve and should have the prayers and sympathy of the whole church. And is it not time for a " Biddle " in Texas as well as a " Scotia " ? a " ,"— whose name shall we give it?—as well as a " Mary Allen"? A commonwealth needs education for both sexes.

At some point, the citizens of Crockett donated an additional twelve acres to the original campus. In 1889, the school acquired 300 acres of land adjacent to the campus, and Grace McMillan Hall was completed. These advances were made possible by gifts from northern donors. In 1890 the school listed eight teachers in addition to Reverend and Mrs. Smith and 211 students. Smith resigned in 1910.

As the Texas State Historical Association observes,
The years 1910 to 1924 were years of discouragement, fire, and difficulty for Mary Allen Seminary. However, in 1924 the board commissioned Rev. Burt Randall Smith, the first black administrator, to revitalize the program of the institution. He developed an all-black faculty, upgraded the library and science laboratory, repaired the plant, and enriched the curriculum; in 1925–26 the high school department was accredited by the State Department of Education. In 1927 the first junior-college class graduated. The lower grades were gradually eliminated, and in 1932 the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools certified the junior college. In 1933 the school became coeducational and changed its name to Mary Allen Junior College.

After many other struggles over the years, the college finally closed its doors for good in September 1972.

I wish I could locate the remembrances of students from the seminary years, but if they exist, they're probably in the form of old diaries or letters gathering dust in someone's attic. So you'll just have to enjoy this old photo of Mary Allen students in physics class.  
Mary Allen Seminary students in physics class (1927)

Photos: Early 20th century photo of the Administration Building, Mary Allen Seminary; physics class at Mary Allen around 1927. Today, the former campus is a veritable ghost town.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Prism Bar and Grill

Prism Bar and Grill
Prism Bar and Grill

Location: 10524 101st Street,  Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Opened:  2003

Closed: August 15, 2010

Back in January 2007, Prism was proud to call herself a lesbian bar--even though she was careful to assure any potential male customers that she was male-friendly as well:

Prism Bar and Grill
The term “lesbian bar” has at times been used almost as a dirty word – made so by the various stereotypes people have unfairly, and unfortunately attached to it. Edmonton’s Prism however, doesn’t shy away from the term - they embrace it.

”We are never going to refuse entry to a guy, gay or straight. …But predominantly it is women who attend this bar, and we know that. It is a predominantly lesbian bar, so we and our clients are quite happy with that label. But we also have quite a few regular men who step in and have a drink. We love them all to death,” bar manager Natasha told “Everyone - whether gay, bi, transgendered, straight - is welcome here as long as they know it’s a lesbian bar.”

Natasha and partner Jo sat down with GayCalgary and Edmonton magazine to chat about the bar and its history. Four years ago, owner Cindy Goodwin purchased the former bar Secrets on 102nd Avenue, renamed it “Prism” and moved it to its current 101st street location. Since then, the bar has become a haven for regulars while continuing to evolve and draw new people in its doors.

”We are trying to get more young ones in, and get us to be the place that the lesbian crowd comes before they go to a nightclub. We can’t compete with a nightclub, but we want to let the young lesbian crowd know that we are here, as they don’t know we are here. Our regulars know about us, and we’d like to keep them while inviting new customers to come down. It’s a nice relaxing comfortable atmosphere. You can play pool, chat and have a dance, and then go from there. We are Edmonton’s only ’lesbian bar’. Presently it’s a 30+ crowd which is cool, but it would be nice to have a bit more diversity and make it an everyone bar.”

Prism features pool tables and arcade games, but check out the monthly events calendar on their website to see what else is going on. From Karaoke to leather nights to dancing, there is always something to do.

”Two Fridays a month, DJ Gnaw-T spins here. We do karaoke now and again but it hasn’t been a huge draw card. We may start doing open mic nights and jam sessions. People can check the website to see what events we have going on. I really am looking to get some acoustic talent in. For a crowd to see someone with a good voice doing cover songs is a cool experience. That should start in January and if it takes off we are looking at getting more bands and live music, and make Prism a live music location for the gay scene. It would be great to support local talent and let them get their feet wet in front of an audience.”

”We have special events such as, during the playoffs we had the Oilers games on. For Birthdays and special [occasions] we will decorate the bar, and the party is shared with everyone in the bar. When there is a special occasion we try to go all out for it. If someone wants something from this bar, they just have to let us know and we will try our best to accommodate it. We don’t have an attitude of ‘this is our bar and this is what we provide, like it or leave it.’ If you have an event or get-together and you want us to stock certain food or drinks for that occasion, we can do it.”

Prism is also heavily involved with the gay community, participating in the annual Edmonton Pride parade and opening its doors to community groups for fundraisers. In addition to drag shows, one of their most popular events are “Str8 2 Diva” and “Dyke 2 Diva”. They are also a restaurant with a daily menu: all you can eat chili on Mondays, all you can eat taco bar on Wednesdays, and Sunday brunches.

”We don’t have a set menu, it changes as to what we are cooking on that day, but we are going to work on making it more routine. At the moment we are trying to get a fire suppressant system so we can get a deep fryer and offer things like ribs, wings and chips. We are a few steps away from getting there but that is the main thing we are aiming at. We are selling Prism calendars for a ten to fifteen dollar donation to get the money to put that in. All the money goes to making their bar a better place, so customers are getting behind it.”

One of the unique things about Prism is its use of the back door as its main entrance. This used to be a common practice – back alley doorways without clear marking – to protect the privacy of patrons going in and out. In the case of Prism however, it’s a matter of convenience.

”Everyone parks out back so they may as well come in that way, its safer than walking all the way around, and is more convenient. If it is really cold we will open it up for people to go out and smoke. People thought it was because we were ashamed, and so that people couldn’t see our customers coming in. It was really just about the fact that people parked out there, we have rainbow flags out front and out back so its not like our bar is a secret.“

Prism is a “lesbian bar” that means a great deal to both its hard working staff and its loyal customers. Whether a first time visitor or a long time patron, Prism offers something to keep you coming back.

A lot of the same points are reinterated in this venue description from FunMaps:

The scene is primarily lesbian, although the club doesn't frown upon men entering the premises. Hey, they even hold regular drag king and drag queen contests at Prism. For folks who aren't into the costume contests, there's a DJ spinning tunes on the weekend. The dance floor fodder ranges beyond the usual disco; the music mix will also include rock, pop, and country.


Prism also has a wide range of events and promotions. The best way to check these out is to peruse the in-house calendar; it will give you the skinny on all the happenings. But regular events are a New Year’s Eve Party, brunches, Gay Pride Week events, and musicians dropping by to play. This is a fun scene to hang out with friends, and be just be comfortable in your own skin.

What’s For Dinner?

For folks who want a bit of nosh on their night out, there's a menu of pub type favourites like the Homemade burger with chips and salad, a veggie burger, or ‘Loaded’ Nachos. There are also heart healthy choices like veggies and dip, among a good selection of appetizers. There is a pool table for post dinner games and Tuesdays there are Happy Hour Highballs.

However, in this description from travel channel, we seem to be backtracking off the lesbian identity bit--despite being (or formerly being) the "only lesbian bar" in Edmonton. Suddently, we're "gay and lesbian":

With its special events, small but tastefully selected food and drinks menu, quirky entertainment, and eclectic crowd, PRISM Bar & Grill is growing as an increasingly popular gay and lesbian entertainment venue in Edmonton. Besides the fun events that include drag shows, all you can eat nights such as the Taco Tuesdays and Burger Bar Bashes, free pool nights, and karaoke events, this club also features excellent music belted out by some top notch bands, soloists, and DJs, as well as a dance floor specially designed to help you unwind with ease. Although this venue attracts the usual gay and lesbian crowd, it is not averse to letting almost anyone in. Visit this bar only if you love to mingle, as the people that frequent this bar are usually very outgoing. Call for event timings and additional information.

As this little undated item at gay2go suggests, this new reticence apparently came down from the new ownership. This appears to have come around June 2008:

Welcome to PRISM Bar & Grill…the Place to Be!
Where the new owners, management and staff are friendly and welcoming and you’re assured a good time whether you’re there for a nice dinner or a wild party.

However, as we have seen at the Egyptian Club, the Lick Club, and other formerly lesbian bars, going "queer" does not necessarily increase your client base--though it often does estrange you from your core consitituency.

So how did this new "inclusiveness" work for Prism? Put it this way. According to Prism's facebook page, her last day of operations was August 15, 2010 (at 2 am to be precise):

After Prism was closed, the new owners, Tracey and Deborah, opened a new place called The Junction Bar & Eatery. Notice that this new place is "inclusive" to the extreme. In the announcement below, we have a lot of vague, feel-good utopian rhetoric about all of us "being" together. But under the all-inclusive mantra and all that, there is no specific mention of this being a lesbian or even a woman-friendly place in any way, shape, or form. Not even a gay place!

Our vision is to create a space where we can all "be" together and enjoy good food, drink and each other's company. It is a place where we can remember who we are and how far we've come, celebrate this time in our lives, and build a strong community "together" based on respect, acceptance and love.

We really have no idea--based on the description above--what the Junction's intended demographic  is supposed to be. It's all so (deceptively) airy fairy you know. But let's not let's fool ourselves: all businesses target and market to a particular demographic, whether it's openly acknowledged or not. With the deliberate erasure of dyke existence from this narrative, however, I'm thinking it's defintely not dykes.

Photos: Prism interior and bar (apparently during early days). Can you make out the tiny, barely legible "Girls Rule" sign on the back wall?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011




Location: 711 Rigsbee Avenue, Durham, North Carolina, USA


Closed: 2010

It seems that this address has housed many bars over the past 20 years or so, with Visions being but one. The genealogy seems to run as follows: Competitions, All About Eve, Visions, Club Bedrock Ultra Bar and Lounge (2010), Club Steel Blue (2010-2011), and finally, in July 2011, The Bar. From what I can tell, these bars were mostly lesbian, or at least gay/lesbian-friendly. But of all these, Visions probably claims the most impressive longevity.

Here's how GayCities described Visions back in her heyday:

Trendy and popular hot spot for women.
Despite a reputation for a being a bit snobby and expensive, there always seem to be a lot of ladies who frequent this establishment. There are pool tables and an outdoor patio if you feel like taking a break from the dance floor.

Then there's this heartfelt advice from Clubplanet:

Visions - Dress up. Visions isn’t necessarily "formal," per se, but it’s sexy and sleek; this is the kind of place where if you’re dressed like a tool, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. (Probably more than a sore thumb, actually—those don’t really stand out when you think about it). The point is: it’s a solid place. Bring your A-game

I'm definitely thinking high maintenance southern belle as I read this. Lipstick lesbian--if with a pronounced though charming drawl.

And then you stumble across the patron assessments, which seem to describe another gal entirely. Sometimes Visions comes across as just a lovable old lezzie dancing dive, fun and unpretentious:

Like in this comment from yahoo in June 2006:


Or yahoo in September 2006:

you'll luv it!: Visions is a great place, all you need to bring is your happy face, have fun attittude and somebodys sister. The bartenders are great, the DJ has her good nights, there's room to breathe oh' and did i forget to say GIRLS GYRLS & MORE GALZS :)

Or Clubplanet in September 2007:

i went to visions and had i really good time. the staff was friendly and the people were nice. i dance the whole night away

Or GayCities in May 2008:

Went there as a vistor to the city during pride. Had an absolutely wonderful time.

At other times, Visions comes across as not only NOT upscale, but as a magnet for thugs and predatory men.

From yahoo, August 2006:

bring your boxing gloves: I've been a few times. Not a good sign when cops are always in the parking lot. Almost everytime I have been, there has been a fight that seemed to be too much for law enforcement to handle. The cover, drink prices and music are reasonable, gotta wonder if a cheap cover is worth my safety though. There is a nice patio area outback and it seems like its never used. Unfortunately Im looking for another hang out spot.

From yahoo, October 2007:

I'm not to fond of the club its crowded and hott! Usually when I come out, Im coming out to enjoy myself, you know, have a good time, but that does'nt happen, cause me and my girls always get hounded by those wack, lame dudes that be out there. Word to the Wise, if you want to have some Adult, Grown Up fun, this is not the place!!! I want to party with Men not Boys!!!!

If even half of this is true, no wonder Visions eventually expired.... 

Photo: Visions exterior



Location: 210 Rivington Street (between Ridge and Pitt Streets), New York, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: 2005

In a column entitled "January Bar Buzz," New York Magazine announced the birth of Girlsroom in May 2005:

210 Rivington Street today
Once upon a time, the Lower East Side was home to a legendary lesbian bar, now closed. But, against all odds (namely skyrocketing LES rents and the gay diaspora's Brooklyn trajectory), a new club is hoping to fill the void. So far the girls have the now-mourned Meow Mix’s bare, beer-distressed atmosphere down pat, except the clientele is slightly younger and considerably sparser. The scattering of drinkers isn't thick enough to block out the ardent red walls left over from the bar’s days as the Infrared Lounge, and hearty tipplers making the trek to the far eastern end of Rivington Street won't have to fight for a seat on the thrift-store furniture. Still, super-generous drink specials should help the place score a following: Drinks are two-for-one until 9 p.m. on weekdays, while beer and call drinks flow free 10 to 11:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, 9 to 10 p.m. on Thursdays, and 10 to 11 p.m. on Fridays. Will Girlsroom follow in the successful steps of its Sapphic foremother, or even its slightly older gay brother, Boysroom? Free booze, low or no cover, Tuesday karaoke, and an assortment of DJ nights bode well.—Kristal Hawkins

As it turned out, things did not bode well. Though Girlsroom apparently lived long enough for Clubplanet to take notice:

Girlsroom - Known for its simple décor and good drinks, Girlsroom is located at 210 Rivington St. Just make sure you dress up a little, as it’s not quite the frat bar you’re used to from college.

The music? Salsa, Bachata, Latin, Merengue, Pop / Top 40. Muy bueno! 

And Girlsroom did manage to register with GayCities:

Hip girl bar with a little something different each night.
Tags: Mostly Women

And then in almost the blink of an eye, Girlsroom vanished. By the time that Boston's Edge sent a (straight male) reviewer to check out the New York lesbian bar scene (???)--this was around the fall of 2006--she was gone:

After having so much fun at the CubbyHole I decided to get my ’Les’ on and go to another lesbian bar. Plus, I wanted to get the stink of the Black Door off of me. This time my destination was The Girlsroom located in the Lower East Village. I had heard rumors of ’Women Only Dancing,’ a Friday night drink special that would make Dean Martin proud, and a stripper pole on the bar. For a straight male like myself, it seemed like Heaven. Scratch that: Better than Heaven, it’s the exclusive, underground VIP room at Scores. I checked my usual sources for directions ( and headed out to have a great time surrounded by women (who had no interest in me) and cheap booze.

When I arrived at 210 Rivington Street (between Pitt and Ridge Streets) I found myself in a neighborhood that was less than desirable. In fact, it reminded me of my old neighborhood, Edenwald Projects in the Bronx. Loud youths hung out on the corner, police sirens howled in the background, and the bodegas vended 40’s of what St. Ives calls "Malt Liquor." The familiar sights and sounds brought a quiet smile to my face. That happy, yet brief, reflection into my days as a chubby kid running through the PJ’s playing Freeze Tag was shattered when I noticed there was no line for the bar, no dance music playing and no lesbians to be found anywhere. The Girlsroom was closed. It’s been replaced by a bar called Guero’ (It’s Spanish slang for ’White boy’). My disappointment was beyond measure, plus I was angry. I was angry with myself for letting my Southern Compass lead me to a bar and pissed because I didn’t know the place was closed.

Not to be discouraged I sallied forth and walked into Guero’ to get the scoop on why the Girlsroom was closed, and to take advantage of the 2 for 1 happy hour.

According to the bartender (let’s call her G) the Girlsroom has been closed for about a year....

So the Girlsroom was replaced by a place called Guero' ('White Boy')? And we find this out from a straight dude working for a gay (male) publication? Gee, are there no lesbian journalists on this planet?

Honestly, you can't make this sh** up....

Graphic, photo of 210 Rivington (date unclear)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Rainbow Room

Rainbow Room exterior sign
The Rainbow Room

Location: 421 South MacDill Avenue, Tampa, Florida, USA

Opened: ?

Closed: June 25, 2011

Here's how The Rainbow Room introduced herself, which was pretty discretely:

We think of ourselves as a mix between a bar and a community center. I know, kind of strange but it works for us. We have our main indoor bar with plenty of seating and pool, darts, jukebox and bar top games. Our outdoor Tike patio is the biggest in town with a full Volleyball court with beach sand and all. Also Outside is plenty of seating for all and on special nights we hope you enjoy our live bands on the Tiki porch!

We host live (big band and acoustic), Pirate Karaoke with our own DJ Mikey, Volleyball & dodge ball tournaments, special events and fundraiser's to no end. We are not a restaurant but often do free bbq's during our outdoor events and are known to bring in some tasty wings on game day! Folks are welcome to bring in food anytime we just ask you to clean up afterwards. Just like momma would ask. We are NOT a full liquor bar but we have a full range of domestics, Imports and specialty beverages.

Honestly, this place--though somewhat closet-y in her self-presentation--sounds like a lot of old-fashioned FUN! But just what is pirate karaoke anyway? (No, as a matter of fact, I don't get out much. Thank you for inquiring.) Oh, well. Nevermind. Maybe it all makes sense after a few margaritas on the Tiki patio.

So how do we know that The Rainbow Room was a lesbian place? Other reviewers, darling. The venue description from ClubFly throws discretion right out the window. It explicitly mentions that The Rainbow Room is a LESBIAN BAR right up front. 

Type: Lesbian Bar/Lounge

In a nutshell: A mix between a bar and a community center, The Rainbow Room features pool, darts, jukebox and bar top games. The outdoor Tiki patio is the biggest in town with beach sand and all, big bands, pirate karaoke, DJ, volleyball & dodge ball tournaments and bring your own food ...

As does GayCities:

Locals lesbian bar that's welcoming to the boys too
Rainbow Room is a friendly neighborhood bar with tons of events.

Metromix goes one step further, and declares that The Rainbow Room is (gasp) a "womyn's bar"!

Rainbow Room serves up beer and wine in south Tampa's "only womyn's bar." Located right on MacDill Avenue, this bar has a reputation for serving up cheap drinks with good company. While the bar may be small, the atmosphere makes up for the size. Live music, karaoke nights, and drink specials make it a worthwhile stop on any pub crawl. The dress code is casual and the crowd ranges from singles to happily paired off couples.

Don't leave without trying their signature drink: a jello shot! At just $1 each, expect to do several rounds of these rainbow colored treats.

Then there is this description from, which kind of explains the confusion. The Rainbow Room bills itself as "mixed," but in reality is a "top lesbian hangout" (wink, wink).

It may not be as flashy as the larger GLBT clubs in Ybor City, but the Rainbow Room (421 S. MacDill Ave., 813-871-2265) is a very cool, welcoming little neighborhood bar a bit west of downtown - in close proximity to a few other low-keyed gay nightspots in Tampa, including Baxter's, City Side, and Ki Ki Ki III. The Rainbow Room bills itself a mixed club, welcoming all kinds, and this is very much the case, but among gay establishments in town, it's among the top lesbian hangouts. There's a festive and quite large Tiki-inspired patio with its own beach and volleyball court (they often have live music out here), and an indoor bar with pool, darts, and games. The staff is friendly and outgoing, and the crowd consistently free of attitude. Keep in mind that Rainbow Room has beer and wine but not a full liquor license.

There's only one patron review at yelp, and that's from a Chicago gal who sounds a bit grumpy (maybe she was nursing a sunburn?). This is dated May 2010:

This place is the lesbian equivalent of a bikers bar without the bikers and it has a volley ball court.  It's tiny inside.  There is only enough room for a bar, a pool table and a juke box. But in the back there is a gazebo, plenty of seating and a volley ball court.
The Rainbow Room

It's full of regulars.  I can't say I thought my stay there was terrible, it was game night and I got suckered into playing taboo and got an awesome applause when my word was hanger and I said "If you can't have a legal abortion people use this for unwanted pregnancies".

Oh you know, just my inner liberal feminist lesbian coming out.

It's cheap, a little scuzzy not somewhere I would bring someone for a first date.... or 5th. Kind of just somewhere you just arrive to and somehow get a little caught up in their little community. The people are really nice, just not my scene.

Several websites mention that The Rainbow Room is no longer in business. One patron at ClubFly says that it closed on June 25, 2011, but there are no details.

Guess you'll have to find somewhere else to get your pirate karaoke fix.

 Photo: Rainbow Room signage,  exterior

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rose-El-Inn/Roselle Inn

Corner of Clark and Division Streets today
Rose-El-Inn/Roselle Inn

Location: 1251 North Clark Street (near West Division Street), Chicago, Illinois, USA

Opened: After 1933

Closed: Ordered closed December 24, 1934/ closed early 1935

From Out and Proud in Chicago:

After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the first bars catering exclusively to lesbians and gay men opened in Chicago. Among the best known were Waldman's, a gay male bar run by a married Jewish couple on North Michigan Avenue near East Randolph Street, and the Rose-El-Inn, a lesbian bar on North Clark Street near West Division Street.

And that is all I've been able to uncover about the Rose-El-Inn. I know that this general area continues to be a center of Chicago nightlife--and historically has been associated with much of Chicago's gay nightlife--but that's about it.

Update January 2012: Ah HAH! It appears there is an alternative spelling for this place: ROSELLE INN. We find additional information under this spelling at the Chicago History Museum blog:

Although 1933 marked the end of Prohibition, the Pansy Craze continued for almost another decade. But even as speakeasies were allowed to reclaim their status as bars, many queer–friendly spaces were shut down. The Ballyhoo Café, Dill Pickle Club, and two establishments frequented by lesbians, the Twelve Thirty Club and Roselle Inn, all closed in the mid-1930s. In October 1935, the Cabin Inn and the De Luxe Café were raided by the Chicago Police, who insisted that the drag queens “Put on pants or go to jail.” By the time Chicago entered the 1940s, the congeniality of Prohibition had past: a sharp line had been drawn between gay and lesbian bars and straight establishments.

Chad C. Heap in his book Slumming: Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife (1885-1940) further tells us that this nightlife "clean up" was launched by Mayor Edward J. Kelly in December 1934, and that by early 1935 "pansy" and lesbian entertainment had been virtually eradicated from the city's North Side:

Lesbian nightlife also suffered a major setback when two nightspots popular with both mannish women and heterosexuals--The Twelve-Thirty Club and the Roselle Inn--were shut down as part of the mayor's attack on "night clubs catering to women who prefer men's attire." Calling these cabarets "a disgrace to any city," Mayor Kelly vowed to purge Chicago of "every joint of such character" and announced that he would insist that the city council pass "an ordinance forbidding the impersonation of one sex by the opposite sex on any stage or place of amusement in the city of Chicago."

Also see the November 2005 article by Lucinda Fleeson on the "Gay 30s" in Chicago for a fascinating glimpse at gay and lesbian life during this time period.

Just to further complicate the naming issues: this place is referred to as the Roselle CLUB here (we're also informed that it was run by a woman named Eleanor Shelby). Or even as the Roselle ASSOCIATES CLUB here. Or even as just THE ROSELLE here. How about CLUB ROSAL as we we see it here? So pick a card, any card....

Photo: Corner of Clark and Division Streets today. "Much of Chicago's nightlife, including the Rush St. district and many bars and nightclubs are located close to the station." The station opened in 1943.

The Patch

Women's band performing
at the Patch
The Patch

Location: 201 155th Place, Calumet City, Illinois, USA

Opened: 1971

Closed: late 2005/January 2006

The Patch was founded by Elizabeth E. Tocci, a prominent lesbian businesswoman and activist. She was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1994. Here is a selection from the Hall of Fame write-up:

Elizabeth E. Tocci
Elizabeth E. Tocci (known as "Toc") was born on Chicago's South Side and raised in the Pullman and Roseland neighborhoods, where she spent the first 28 years of her life. She opened her first gay bar, called the 307 Club, in 1963; since 1971, Toc has owned and operated The Patch in Calumet City, one of the oldest lesbian-owned establishments in the Chicago area or the country.

During the past 31 years she has provided a welcoming space for lesbians and gay men, beginning in a time when few such places were available, particularly for lesbians. "There were straight-owned establishments where gay people would go, but before I opened up there were no gay-owned places." The Patch has always been home to a diverse clientele: "Women drove down from the North Side, from the South Side; this was the only place going." Toc has also provided a venue for gay and lesbian performers over the years; singers such as Nancy Hill and Valerie James have regularly performed to crowds of enthusiastic women.

Here's how one typical Chicago-area bar guide described the place:

The Patch is the 2nd oldest lesbian bar in the country located in the Chicago land area. It has a neighborhood bar flavor, but they occasionally have live bands, etc. on Fridays/Saturdays. Karaoke is the 2nd & 4th Friday of each month and Free Pool & Darts on Thursdays.

(The oldest, by the way, was Lost & Found--which is also featured here at Lost Womyn's Space.)

Toc represented an endangered species--the old-school lesbian bar owner who was committed to giving back to the community. Again, according to the Hall of Fame:

Toc supports numerous causes, including the Changing Woman Center, a counseling center for victims of domestic violence and rape; the Calumet City Resource Center; and Chicago House. She has provided sponsorship of women's sports, offering financial and moral support for softball, basketball, flag football, and bowling teams. During the past year she helped raise money for the Windy City Athletic Association, to assist teams participating in the Gay Games. Recently Toc helped to establish PRISM, a women's group which focuses on education, financial planning, women's self-defense, legal rights of lesbian partners, and entertainment. The PRISM Post newspaper, initiated in June 1993, provides outreach to lesbians in the south suburbs.

That isn't to say that running a lesbian bar in Calumet City was all good times and good works--especially in the old days.

While Tocci has been honored by the Calumet City Chamber of Commerce for her many years of service to the business community, she has also had to confront harassment by homophobic members of the local population. The bar windows were broken out many years ago, and Toc has noted, "It's hard to come out here." She believes the atmosphere in the 1990s is more calm: "I know gay people who manage banks; gay lawyers come into The Patch. I'm gay and I'm proud. I don't know anything else."

Toc died in December 2010 at the age of 74. Her obituary mentions that The Patch had since been closed and torn down, but doesn't provide a date.

But a little more digging reveals that The Patch was sold to Nicole "Nikki" Maskaant around 1998, who continued the bar under the same name. According to the Windy City Times,

Due to health, [Elizabeth] Tocci had to sell, or even possibly close the bar. It could have ended there, but not only did Nikki buy the bar, she infused new life into it by bringing in entertainment and a younger perspective.

She kept Tocci on as a consultant and continues to provide the community with the traditional events Tocci's customers had enjoyed over the years. It's been a struggle, yet she is still dedicated to maintaining this South Side alternative to the community.
It was inspiring to see how Nikki also continued Toc's practice of generosity and caring. As she told the Windy City Times,
I also try to do or support a lot of charity work through my bar. That's very important to me. We do fundraisers to help fight breast cancer each year, and every Christmas I try to do something for those less fortunate than us and get as many of our patrons involved as I can. Last year we collected toys and clothes for families that couldn't afford them by having a Christmas tree at the bar. Patrons could select an ornament from the tree and buy for the child listed on the ornament by age, etc. Everyone brought everything to the bar and I delivered them. It was fun.

A few years later, The Patch was sold to Danielle Chayhitz and Tracy Kanowoton. They reopened it under the name  DiChanos in January 2006. This is one of the few times that I've seen a lesbian bar replace a lesbian bar--the only other example I can think of right off-hand is Sisters replacing Hepburn's in Philadelphia. But apparently, DiChanos lasted but a relatively short time.

Photo: Patch interior from myspace

Liquid Cafe and Lounge

Liquid Cafe and Lounge (2008)
Liquid Cafe and Lounge

Address: 1100 High Street, Columbus, Ohio, USA

Opened: May 17, 2008

Closed: Fall 2009

Here's the birth announcement from ColumbusUnderground:

Liquid, the new cafe, lounge and weekend danceclub located in the Short North sets its grand opening date for Saturday, May 17. Doors will open to the public at 7PM. The party will feature complimentary hors d’oeuvres, specialty drinks, professional dancers and live DJ entertainment. Prior to the grand opening, Liquid has scheduled an invitation-only VIP party on Friday, May 16, for everyone who signed up early on the website.

Liquid is a full service restaurant and lounge open seven days a week, featuring Liquid Lunch specials and Happy hour + small plates. “Liquid is open to everyone for lunch, dinner and happy hour,” says Deborah Yankulov, club owner. “Our Chef, Sherri Brunner, has put together an eclectic cafe-style menu serving delicious food at decent prices.” Yankulov says to expect some sizzle on the weekends when the entire club will be transformed to ladies' night every Friday and Saturday night. The space is outfitted with a complete light and sound system, including their very own Liquid lights. Sexy dancers and DJs spinning mainstream club dance music will be part of the entertainment, along with monthly themed parties and impromptu staff performances. “We want this to be a fun place where the ladies can come out, have a great time and feel comfortable who they are,” says Yankulov. Liquid also plans a lush outdoor patio garden, which will be smoker-friendly.

Here's the lowdown from GayCities:

Ladies night-- every night at Liquid Lounge.
Catering to the upscale Lesbian crowd, Liquid Lounge is a cafe, lounge and nightclub. Each night features a different theme- Karaoke and 80s theme nights are its most popular nights.

And from ClubFly:

Type: Lesbian Club

In a nutshell: Liquid is restaurant and lounge, featuring happy hour and on the weekends, the entire club is transformed to ladies night every Friday and Saturday night. Dancers and DJs spinning mainstream club dance music are part of the entertainment, along with themed parties. To cool off, there is a smoker-friendly outdoor garden patio and lounge area for food or drink...

Initial patron reviews were quite positive. Here's one from GayCities in July 2008:

Liquid Lounge opened its doors in June 2008 and caters to an upscale urban professional lesbian crowd. Opened in the former location of a concert hall, the contemporary styled bar and lounge also has a lunch menu with standard American fare.

And from September 2008:

I go as often as possible. Any and everytime you go you will enjoy yourself. Everyone is super friendly and drama free. This club is very diverse and I just love the staff they're hot and real down to earth and the people that attend are cool even when you don't know anybody everybody is sociable.

Needless to say, by the end of the year the whiners were finally out in force. Including the straight girls/gay boys who couldn't find a guy to pick up--at a lesbian bar (quel surprise!). Both of these are from December 2008:

Staff is not hott [sic] at all i was actually a little repulsed by some of them music not good at all and drinks are over priced... though i will say they converted the shit hole that was little brothers into a nice place.

Nice, clean almost feel like i'm in a different city. But mostly women not a place to pick up a guy. Lol

Then there was this entitled (but oh-so-liberal) straight girl with attitude. This from yelp in January 2009:

Let me also preface by saying that I am an avid supporter of the LGBT crowd and while I am a straight girl, the lez usually love me.

My friend (straight dude) and I (straight girl) clearly were not welcome here - which is a very unusual experience in the Cbus!  Sure, we were gawking a little at the updated layout, new booths and fresh paint, but only because I was so impressed by what they did to the place!  However, for the huge dance floor, quick bartenders, new bathrooms and ample space, this place sure was dead on a Saturday nite.  As for the patrons, I was super surprised to see get so many stink-eyes at one bar. Meh.

Meh indeed. Because other straight folks reported no problems at all:

Though Liquid targets lesbians, everyone is welcome. As a straight woman, I was totally unaffected and wouldn't have guessed it was a lesbian bar if I hadn't already known. Guys - straight or gay - are welcome too.

Generally we find consistent praise for the facility (which was gorgeous, based on the photos). Here's a random sampling, all from yelp:

Liquid Cafe and Lounge interior (2008)

The dance floor is one of the best in Columbus.

I was so impressed by what they did to the place!

I got to watch the place change from a dingy music hall to a sleek, feminine, water infused dance club.

I love the accenting water features on the bar and on the wall near the bathroom. The white couches near the front are posh, and I can't believe how clean they've stayed. The bar is big and inviting. And the blue lighting really sets everything off. The staff is super friendly and a bit flirty.

The front area where the bar is is huge. Unless you knew about it or were wandering around, you wouldn't suspect that the double doors near the back lead to a dance area and lounge that doubles the size of the space. The dance area has a DJ booth, shiny beaded curtains, and plush red couches. The floors are exposed concrete. The walls are bare and industrial.

The patio is what everyone talks about. This too is brand new. They added brand new pavement, lots of plants, tables, and modern blue umbrellas. It's cute.

Many people liked their drinks, too--especially the mojitos and martinis--though, predictably, some objected to the prices.

But we also see a consistent concern about the sometimes iffy service and lack of clientele. Why weren't the girls showing up?

....for the huge dance floor, quick bartenders, new bathrooms and ample space, this place sure was dead on a Saturday nite.  

The first time I went was with two friends for a quick happy hour the first full week they were open. Service was poor, and drinks weren't all that cheap.  Ordered the hummus plate, and it was quite decent.

Second time was with my neighbors the weekend of Memorial Day.  Very small crowd for a weekend night. Service was slightly better, but only had one beer then left in search of a more lively crowd.

Third time was just this Monday with a group of seven friends.  Our server was very nice and friendly, but I got the wrong drink the second time.  Food was mediocre and overpriced for small portions.

I like the redecoration, but so far the quality doesn't live up to the look.

I'm nervous because every time I go in, it's different. Sometimes there are lots of people, sometimes only a few. A couple times I stopped in around lunch, and I was the only one there.

There's not always a definitive answer as to why a lesbian bar fails and ultimately passes away. But I suspect that opening as an upscale bar in the midst of a recession probably didn't help her long-time survival chances.

 Photo: Liquid Lounge

Sunday, October 23, 2011

East Village Foodbar

630 North High Street
East Village Foodbar

Location: 630 North High Street, Columbus, Ohio, USA

Opened: 2007?

Closed: February 2009?

Here's how GayCities listed this venue:

A lesbian bar & restaurant in the Short North
The food here is more comfort food (think tater tots and burgers). The bar hosts female-friendly music artists and the walls of the bar typically show dyke-friendly art. But like most Columbus bars, the crowd is mixed at times.

Perhaps not so paradoxically, patrons found it both "too lesbian" and "not lesbian enough." Representing the "But those lesbos kiss didn't my @$$" perspective is "awful" at insiderpages in June 2008:

Don't expect to get great service unless you are a lesbian. Every time I go in there I have to wait for 20 minutes before being acknowledged. I finally gave up after having to walk out nearly every time I went in there.

I suppose it couldn't have been too exclusive, however, as a TransOhio "meet and greet" was held at East Village in August 2008.

Then there were those who found the porridge just right. Like "GayWhiteCollarDad" at GayCities in December 2007:

I was concerned about it being too lesbian oriented and we might get the cold shoulder (sorry about caving to those stereotypes), but my partner and I live in the Short North and it is our favorite place to go for a casual dinner. As the title says, good food, good service (and reasonable prices).

But when "KevCMH" (also at GayCities)) announced the death of the East Village Foodbar in February 2009 (under RIP East Village), it was suggested that the place failed precisely because it did not attract enough of a lesbian clientele:

It was a great effort, but the bar just died once the new Union was opened. This was supposed to become a lesbian bar but it just didn't have the clientelle. Too bad, it's been a historical landmark for years and now it's going to become a straight sports bar from what I hear. Head north a few blocks guys, that's where the gayborhood is headed.

Photo: East Village Foodbar. Home to Bernard's Tavern since February 2010.