New York’s Historic Webster Hall To Close

New York’s historic East Village performance venue and nightclub haunt, Webster Hall, will close it doors this month, ending over a century of music and parties that shaped the city’s downtown music scene. It was built in 1886, and apart from music, the hall hosted a variety of public and private events like weddings, lectures, military functions and fundraisers. During the 1910s and 20s it became a locale for many of the city’s masquerade balls and salacious parties attended by Scott Fitzgerald and other bohemian luminaries of the day.

It was also the epicenter for leftist social movements—anarchist meetings, labor rallies and radical political events— lead by the city’s immigrant populations who lived in neighboring downtown tenements. And during prohibition, the venue transformed into one of New York’s legendary speakeasies that for a time was rumored to be owned by mob boss, Al Capone.

In later decades it took shape as a mostly music performance and recording space, where artists like Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and Harry Belafonte, to name a few, recorded their songs. During the 1980s, Webster Hall rebranded as The Ritz Club, becoming New York’s premier rock venue. It’s remembered as the spot where emerging talents were allowed to shine; Tina Turner, Prince and KISS were just a few of the acts that found their footing in New York here. It eventually returned to its original namesake in 1992, when it was acquired and remodeled by the Ballinger Brothers.

But New York’s real estate pressure placed a strain on Webster Hall as East Village rents skyrocketed over the last two decades. The building was saved from the wrecking ball in 2008 when the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation successfully lobbied the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission to designate the building a New York City Landmark. It continued to draw in acts like Metallica, Lenny Kravitz, Green Day and so on; and was also a rollicking party house where famous DJs would spin music day and night. Though in July 2017 it was announced that Webster Hall would shutter its doors after the summer for renovations. The venue was acquired by AEG and Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, who also own and operate the city’s new Barclays Center.

A series of blow out events will conclude the hall’s storied existence, including gigs with Michelle Branch, Good Charlotte, Rag N Bone Man and EDM producer and DJ Skrillex. Webster Hall’s last evening of entertainment will be August 9.

125 East 11th Street, New York; T. 212-353-1600; www.websterhall.com

 

Words by Rocky Casale

(Photo credit: Brooklyn Vegan)