In the 21st century, New York is a city of freedom and democracy. Here people dress as they want and say what they want and what they feel. However, this was far from the case by the end of the 19th century. At that time, there were several nightclubs in New York City, but one was special, Paresis Hall. It was a brothel and a gay bar at the same time. Everyone who was condemned by society in those times gathered here, including transgender people who wanted to change into women’s clothing. This place gained a scandalous reputation. Representatives of religious communities repeatedly protested while the police tried many times to catch the establishment owner and imprison him. Find out more at new-york-future.
The history of the Paresis Hall brothel
Paresis Hall opened in New York in the 1890s. It was located on the Bowery. In the 21st century, this place is called Cooper Square. For several years, it was a place where people with different sexual orientations, especially men, could come at night. This establishment was managed by James Ellison, a famous New York gangster.
In the 19th century, the brothel building contained a spacious bar on the ground floor and even a small beer garden. There were two rooms on the second floor, which were rented to the local club Cercle Hermaphroditos. This club was engaged in rights protection and advocated against the cruel treatment and persecution of homosexuals and transgenders. In the New York territory and throughout America in the 19th century, it was one of the first officially registered human rights organizations to protect the rights of homosexuals and transgenders.
This establishment had two sides of the coin. In the 19th century, for New York society, particularly the religious one, such a place was indecent and simply unacceptable. That is why representatives of religious communities protested multiple times. Since such activities were illegal at the time, the New York police repeatedly tried to shut down this gay bar.
However, this brothel had another side. Many people recall this was a place where transgender and homosexual men could be themselves. In particular, they changed into luxurious women’s clothes and impersonated them. Men from both the middle and upper classes who could not be themselves in everyday life came to this establishment. It was in the Paresis Hall club where they could relax and not be afraid of condemnation. In addition, in the 19th century, it was the only place where the rights of people with different sexual orientations could be protected.
Such a subculture appeared in Bowery for a reason. In the 19th century, a wide variety of people lived on the Bowery. Here was the largest number of different theaters, salons and other establishments, including brothels and various nightclubs. Therefore, Bowery residents, who were not part of sexual minorities, were more loyal to their existence than other New York citizens and not to mention religious representatives.
Paresis Hall was quite famous. In 1994, Caleb Carr even wrote a novel, The Alienist, referring to this place. In addition, Michael Wynne was inspired by this establishment to write his erotic work, Headmaster No.3.
The famous New York gay club on the Bowery was active until 1899.
The founder of the New York brothel, a gangster James Ellison
Among the New York criminals, James Ellison was better known as Biff. He was a gangster. He was affiliated with such city gangs as Five Points Gang and Gopher Gang. Biff did not have the best reputation in New York. There were rumors that he was a rapist. At the same time, he had a very distinguished appearance. A famous newspaper, The New York Times, described his appearance as a “prosperous banker”.
It was Biff, who the writer Caleb Carr described as a homosexual gangster in his novel, The Alienist.
James Ellison was imprisoned several times. He became mentally unstable during one of his imprisonments. After that, he was transferred to a specialized institution where he died in the 1920s.