Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Clara Conway Institute

Clara Conway Institute
Clara Conway Institute

Location: Poplar Street (near Orleans Street), Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Opened: 1877

Closed: 1893

From a website documenting the Pioneers of Education in Memphis. Clara Conway was quite obviously a devoted feminist and very committed to the creation of women-only educational space. Note how the school came to an end because the trustees saw Conway as having "too much ambition" in terms of creating a college preparatory curriculum for her young women students:

Miss Clara Conway  ... and the Conway Institute
Clara Conway
Clara Conway was born in New Orleans on August 14, 1844.  She was educated at St. Agnes Academy, Memphis, but her main education was by her own study at home. She traveled extensively in the United States and in Europe and her special gift was to prepare girls for college – primarily Vassar and Wellesley.

Early in her career, she was principal of  the Alabama Street School and the Market Street School.  In
877 she left a prominent position in the public schools to open a high grade school for girls. 

She began with 50 pupils, one assistant, and $300 of borrowed money. In 1884-'85 a number of public-spirited citizens of Memphis came to her assistance, organized a stock company, incorporated the school incorporated, and a building erected. Miss Conway proposed to call the school the Margaret Fuller School, but instead, the trustees named it the Clara Conway Institute. From the small beginning the institute became very successful and continued until 1893. 

Her school claimed a fine reference library, a well-equipped gymnasium, a science lab, and a complete arts studio.  There were courses in voice, piano, theory, and public speaking.  Over the years she won the friendship of famous artist, musicians, authors and scientists.

Clara Conway

Clara Conway had hoped to found a school that would make women economically independent and she believed a solid education would do this.  She became one of the most prominent figures in education in the South and her school held a unique place in the region as a major preparatory school for young women.  The circumstances of the school's demise in 1893 are somewhat unclear but appear to have stemmed from conflict between Conway and her trustees.  She was determined to carry out the college-preparatory idea over the opposition of her financial backers who wrote about "too much ambition on the part of the principal"

After the closure of her school, she continued to teach for a few years on a much smaller scale, with herself as the sole teacher.  Her influence on students was deep and lasting.  Clara Conway died in 1904.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Friends Bar

Friends Bar - Pittsburgh, PA
Friends Bar image from Facebook
Friends Bar

Location: 5840 Forward Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Opened: November 9, 2012

Closed: Fall 2013

Here's how Friends announced her beginnings on Facebook:

Welcome to the Pittsburgh's newest gay bar in Squirrel Hill. We are located at 5840 Forward Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15217. This is a SMOKE-FREE bar.

Friends Bar is open 5 days a week, hours listed below. The bar features a pool table, darts, a jukebox, and the hottest bar tenders in PGH, perhaps the world! We also offer a full menu!

We hope to welcome a diverse LGBTQIA crowd! We realized that there weren't a lot of places for lesbians to gather and have a space that caters especially to this community. We're here to create a fun spot where you can feel safe, comfortable, and connect with a diverse crowd!
Despite the all-so-important inclusive language, Friends was largely identified by the community as a lesbian bar (note imagery above). This is also reflected in the customer reviews at Yelp:
Friends Bar
From Iliana C., November 2012:
This is the newest bar in Squirrel Hill and it's a lesbian bar!  It's connected to Frankie & Georgie's (4 Wood Grille).

I came here opening night since it's always nice supporting lesbian places.  The drink specials were great - $2 wells and $2 domestics. There was a free buffet but you can also order food from next door. This place is brand new and could use a little help with the decorating. It's currently really bare.  I'm also not a fan of the name.  It's listed as "Friends Bar" on facebook but the windows say "Friends Over the Rainbow".  Either way - it needs to be changed.  The music is from a TouchTunes machine but if no one puts any money in it then the bar goes silent.  On the plus side, you don't have to wait long to hear your music play.

There was a great crowd opening night.  I didn't have to wait too long for a drink.  They do take credit cards.  Everyone was really friendly. Plenty of seating at the glittery bar or in one of the booths.  I would come back.
But for some reason, Friends just didn't catch on. Here's a review from Rebecca G. in March 2013:
Some of my friends really like this place so we went there this past weekend. This place was D-E-A-D, dead this Friday. We were the only people there until like 9:30. The food is decent, but they don't have a great selection of liquors. Beer selection was ok though... Just not my thing.
Actually, I can vouch for the lack of people from my own experiences. My girlfriend and I met up with two women friends at Friends, and the place was virtually deserted. But the staff was very nice. Even though the kitchen was closed, they actually fetched us food from elsewhere on the street. Pretty amazing service--beyond the call of duty, really.

Sad to see that Friends had such a short life.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Unnamed Lesbian Bar (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

Unnamed Lesbian Bar
(now the Garage Door Saloon)
Unnamed Lesbian Bar

Location: Corner of Atwood and Sennott Streets (223 Atwood Street), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Opened/Closed: 1990s?

Honest. I'd much rather post about a lost womyn's place where I have lots of interesting information to share.

But quite often, the herstorian tracking down lesbian bars finds erasure and disappearance more than neat anecdotes and personal reminiscences. And because [induced] amnesia is not uncommon in womyn's history, it is important to note and record the erasures as well.

Take this particular Unnamed Lesbian Bar. The reason we know there was once a lesbian bar at this site is because a longish article on this particular site tells us so. But only is passing.

Most of the article is devoted to The Decade, a (dudely) rock & roll joint that existed at this site from 1973 to the mid 1990s:

Appearing at the Decade early in their careers were the Police, U2, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Ramones, David Johansen (aka Buster Poindexter).The Pretenders, Joe Jackson, The Romantics and others. Another regular to bless the stage of the Decade was blues man and comedian the Reverend Billy C. Wirtz.

And so on and so forth for several paragraphs. All dudes, with the notable exception of Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. Not surprising.

But the article doesn't limit the discussion to just The Decade. We're also told that this place was a hotel in the early 1900s and later a restaurant called Atwoods Garden. It was a place called the Pizza Pub in the early 70s. If you want more information on any of these places, feel free to check out the link above, but I won't bore you with the details here.

And then at the very end, we're told the following:

It has since been a deli, a lesbian bar, a produce store, and a bar named Cumpie’s.  It is currently the Garage Door Saloon.

So no information on the lesbian bar. No list of performers, bands, musicians, and so forth that played there. No recollections from patrons. Not even a name. Just a random throwaway reference.

Welcome to the world of lesbian history.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Marie's Between Us Lounge

Marie's Between Us Lounge
Bridge over canal on East Riviera Drive, Copiaque, NY

Location: Copiaque, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: 1970s/Early 1980s

The only references to Marie's I have found are in two yahoo group discussions on the history of Long Island gay and lesbian bars. They both appear to be from 2005 and say the same thing. Unfortunately, the write-up is not especially well-written and the details are sketchy.

Marie's Between Us Lounge (later Dockside Lounge, Copiague) - Lesbian Bar,
the side door that faced the canal, rumor was one night someone staggered out the door and accidently fell in the canal, and they use to have a singer appearing there in the late 70's or early 1980. Owner was named Marie. She also owned M&M's/Misters/Club 608 for a time and worked/owned? Forevergreen.

Forevergreen (or Forevergreens), as it turns out, was yet another Long Island lesbian bar:

Forevergreens (later Evergreens), Lindenhurst - Lesbian Bar. Located on
North Broome St. Right after the Pizza Hut and Bedroom Source. Closed briefly in 2003 and reopened as a womans community center. reopened later that year as
a bar again. Owner is Camille. Hosts the annual Breast Cancer benefit, has raised over 100,000 towards research and support.

The only other bar explicitly identified in this discussion as lesbian was Shi Bar, which we have posted on before.