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Paresis Hall

Paresis Hall Gay Nightlife On The Bowery

 

— 392 Bowery, now 32 Cooper Square —

 
Paresis Hall Marker image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, July 17, 2016
1. Paresis Hall Marker
Inscription.  On this site once stood the notorious Columbia Hall, one of several Bowery nightspots catering to gay men during the 1890s. Known by anti-vice crusaders as Paresis Hall, it was owned by gangster James T. “Biff” Ellison, who reportedly operated it as a male brothel. Memoirist Ralph Werther recalled the hall differently, as an “innocuous” gathering place for upper and middle class female-impersonators. The upstairs was rented to “Cercie Hermaphroditos,” a club formed “to unite for defense against the world’s bitter persecution” of androgynous men. Historians Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace consider this one of America’s earliest documented gay right organizations. Paresis Hall figures prominently in Caleb Carr’s 1994 novel, The Alienist.

Historian George Chauncey suggests that a gay subculture could exist on the Bowery because of its diverse mix of people and heavy concentration of theatres, saloons and red-light elements made it more tolerant of those outside the cultural mainstream.

-David Freeland (author Automats, Taxi Dances & Vaudeville
 
Erected
Paresis Hall Marker site image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, July 15, 2016
2. Paresis Hall Marker site
32 Cooper Sqaure
2016 by Bowery Alliance of Neighbors.
 
Location. 40° 43.691′ N, 73° 59.484′ W. Marker is in New York, New York, in New York County. Marker is on Cooper Square near East 6th Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 32 Cooper Square, New York NY 10003, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. 27 Cooper Square (within shouting distance of this marker); 27 Cooper Sq. (within shouting distance of this marker); Old Merchants House of New York (within shouting distance of this marker); The Hippest Place on Earth (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Astor Library (about 300 feet away); Vauxhall Gardens (about 300 feet away); Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (about 400 feet away); Peter Cooper Park (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in New York.
 
More about this marker. One of more than sixty entries in the “Windows on the Bowery” series.
 
Categories. Civil RightsEntertainment
 
Inset image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, July 17, 2016
3. Inset
Paresis Hall (arrow)
Inset image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, July 17, 2016
4. Inset
Gangster James T. “Biff” Ellison
Inset image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, July 17, 2016
5. Inset
“The Bowery Queen”, drag performer circa 1890s
 

More. Search the internet for Paresis Hall.
 
Credits. This page was last revised on July 19, 2019. This page originally submitted on July 17, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. This page has been viewed 53 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on July 17, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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