Two of the wickedist bars on Bleecker Street

No, not Kenny’s Castaways—the bar that occupied this spot more than 100 years earlier, as well as another down the block.

From the 1870s through the turn of the century, Bleecker Street from MacDougal Street to LaGuardia Place was home to the most sinful “resorts” the city had ever known.

“The Slide on Bleecker Street was probably the first—and until recent times the last—open and undisguised gay bar in New York,” wrote Luc Sante in Lowlife.

Sante quotes an 1890 guide describing the Slide, at 157 Bleecker (left), as “the lowest and most disgusting place. The place is filled nightly with from 100 to 300 people, most of whom are males . . . . They are addicted to vices which are inhumane and unnatural.”

Another den of sin was the Black Rabbit, at 183 Bleecker. Anti-vice activist Anthony Comstock had the police arrest several patrons of this “hang-out,” as a New York Times article called it, in an October 1900 article on the raid.

[183 Bleecker today is the 1849 Restaurant, photo from CitySearch.com]

“[Comstock] says also that he has never before raided a place so wicked, and that ‘Sodom and Gommorah would blush for shame at hearing to what depths of vice its habitues had descended,'” the Times stated.

Yikes! I wish they provided more details as to exactly what made it so evil.

If you have seven million dollars, you can own a piece of New York’s morally repugnant past; 157 Bleecker is up for sale.

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5 Responses to “Two of the wickedist bars on Bleecker Street”

  1. petey Says:

    personal note, kenny’s used to be located in the building next to mine on 84th street. i heard yoko ono and lots of other loud stuff through our back-facing windows.

  2. Seen and Heard Around the Village 10.7.11: West Edition Says:

    […] of the wickedest bars on Bleecker Street (Ephemeral New […]

  3. michaelmanners101 Says:

    June 20, 1898
    A Girl at Hap-hazard; or the Beauty and Wisdom of Nature.

    “While I was sipping coffee and smoking an “Egyptian King” in at Cairo on Twenty-ninth Street, this afternoon, there trooped in an unusually striking group of young women – a delightful bevy of gay birds. They settled and disposed themselves gracefully on couches near-by, and contrasted freshly with the leaden look of the frequenters of the place. Their chat and smiles threw a radiance of joy, and one in particular, a veritable beauty in body and face, a not too common juncture, possessed most fully my eye and heart. I felt the electricity of her influence penetrate my apparently cool or stoical nature and agitate the seat of passion. I need not say that the attractive creature being perfectly willing, I quickly made up to her with a little wine and a few complimentary words. Clara – the name given and fitting its bearer – was a reposeful American girl, of nineteen or twenty years, come from up the river – from Albany, and had been but a week in town, entering upon that devious course that leads to such ugly terminations with all but the best wills and wits. She had just enough bouquet of spirit to relieve a flat stupidity. We walked out into broad light, and I was astonished to see how well her pink complexion bore the trying test of my highly magnifying telescopic glasses. We went to a hotel, and soon, in a little half-hour since we met – how can such wonders come so soon, how can they be and man deserve, God of beauty and love! – there before me she stood revealed in divine nakedness, in elusive colors that no artist can put on – a haunting presence, and I, poor child of worship, did not do directly a thing but look and look; my eyes kept steadfast gaze, marveling at the dazzling reality of her loveliness – the forming curves, grace, roundness, the eye and flesh lights with halos of wanton hair, the mystery of mien and puissance, the subtle melding of being into new life, creation’s way and top ensample of the world’s harmony. She proved to be no brazen machine or hardened harlot. I knew intuitively my rightness in this and joyed. I gained thereby a deeper sense of concrete and correlated beauty that was truly uplifting: I perceived that the heaven of my desire was its universal reign. Yes, I saw in this the divine order and beauty: I did well and rightly I rehearse it.

    June 27, 1898

    Nature is not unbeautiful in any of its aspects: it is only an artificial system of ethics or other defective formulas that can in anywise so hold it. Science, among other achievements, shows conclusively or indicates logically that the unclean of theology is cleanly; but science like theology is dogmatic and hard, and both are crude instruments of life. Mankind must ever find its best dependence and finer satisfactions in poetry and religion, if indeed these be not one at best.
    With all our political independence, which is not so very real – for, believe me, here the sheep follow the sheep, and our boldness in fight on land or sea – a real eminence, there is small frankness and freedom as yet in our speech and social life.

    June 29, 1898

    Paid the Annual water-rents, $661.80.

    Called to see my Albany Beauty at her quarters in Thirty-eighth street. I was informed that she had left town and returned to her home in Albany. As she told me when we met that she was making a tour of the gay resorts of New-York, had visited the Tivoli, Thirty-fifth street, and expected to be at the “Black Rabbit” in Bleecker street the next night, I presume, she had seen enough of the salacious and possessed sufficient understanding to get away in good time. Truly, though you smile cynically, a confessor I was to Clara, who confided in me, and I helped to clarify her ideas with reference to the control of her magnificent being.

    June 30, 1898

    I was in a war-like mood to-day, ready to fight a Spaniard, a windmill, or anything that got in my way or moved my ire. Fortunately or unfortunately, while I was rummaging for a pamphlet in a drawer under my book-case, two manuscript books of verse that I had spent many an hour in writing turned up to my utter disgust, and I impulsively revenged myself on them. They, poor victims, were soon torn to tatters and deposited in a waste-basket. I may have sacrificed a little real poetry and a few good numbers, but not enough to regret deeply: and yet when I began to tear the paper it seemed to resist with its toughened fibre and gave me a spooky feeling as of something alive in my hands and fighting for its life. Was this instinct true, or did I act in obedience to the scientific spirit that would do away with the blind, lame and leprous for the benefit of a symmetrical race?”

    from the journals of Edwin Manners http://www.golden-butterfly.com/1898.html

  4. A golden goddess topping Madison Square Garden | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] it goes without saying that her nudity offended some New Yorkers, particularly Anthony Comstock, head of the self-created New York Society for the Suppression of […]

  5. Seen and Heard Around the Village 10.7.11: West Edition – Village Preservation Says:

    […] of the wickedest bars on Bleecker Street (Ephemeral New […]

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