clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A New York City Water Tower Doubles As A Hidden Speakeasy

New, 38 comments

Whether they're "misunderstood icons" or "a rustic, turn of the century nod to convenience and practicality," no one can deny that water towers are ubiquitous in New York City. Perched atop virtually every rooftop, they're a necessity that provide water for both residences and fire departments, taking advantage of gravity to funnel water into buildings' upper stories. But thanks to the innovative, totally ballsy folks over at Night Heron Speakeasy, Atlantic Cities reports, one (unused) aboverground cavern in a Chelsea building under construction temporarily found a new lease on life: as an illicit, invite-only watering hole.

The exact location was discreet; space were limited; stair-climbing was required and thus heels were discouraged. Because of the off-limits nature of water towers, patrons were de facto trespassers. This was the latest initiative from an intrepid urban explorer-cum-entrepreneur who loves to make new use of abandoned places and is also involved with the Wanderlust Projects, which took people on a behind-the-scenes tour of Williamsburg's Domino factory earlier this year. Building the space took three months; it operated for six weeks this spring. Let's all email the speakeasy to try and get them to restart the project in a new location; in the meantime, work up a thirst (and some serious envy for those folks who got to go) with some photos of this top-secret circular bar with stellar skyline views.

The final destination was invite-only. Invited guests met on a street corner, and a guide led them on the upward journey. They had to climb 12 flights of stairs, navigate a fire escape, skirt around a ledge, and shimmy through a trapdoor. At one point, as guests were sidling along, black puffs ballooned up from smokestacks nearby. And then, the destination. "You are welcomed into a candlelit wooden cylinder outfitted with a bar, drink tables, and chandelier, all made from upright piano parts." Atlantic Cities' Dan Glass writes. "You sip an aromatic amber concoction made by a dapper proprietor and survey this cedar jewel box." You couldn't tweet, and photographs were forbidden. There's also this cool video tour for all of us who missed the fun. Come on, Night Heron, can't you make this a regular thing for all the wannabe chimney sweeps and secret spaces-lovers in the city?

· Night Heron Speakeasy [official]
· Wanderlust Projects [official]
· Into the Water Tower, With Flair [Atlantic Cities]
· A Surprise Early Morning Exploration of the Domino Factory [Curbed]