A Ghost Tour of NYC’s Late, Great Clubs


On October 1st, Brooklyn’s Monster Island — home to such great DIY spaces as Monster Island Basement and Secret Project Robot –will close its doors and knock down its walls, joining the ranks of the many New York City venues that went boom and then bust thanks to to landlord drama, money problems, and changing times. The multi-purpose space, famous for the smattering of graffiti wheat-pasted across its exterior, is planned for demolition this fall, but not before it throws one last annual block party this weekend. In homage to Monster Island and the legendary clubs that came before it, after the jump we take you on a visual tour of the late, great venues of New York.

CBGB (315 Bowery)

CBGB — Country, Bluegrass, and Blues — is, or rather was, the birthplace of New York’s ‘70s punk rock scene. What started out as a tiny, unimposing club where Bleecker meets the Bowery turned into a clubhouse for artists including the Ramones, Patti Smith — who got the last word there when it closed — Blondie, Talking Heads, and many, many more. After a scuffle with the Bowery Residents’ Committee, the space was ordered to shut down in 2006, and people still walk by John Varvatos, the high-end clothing store in its former address, with downturned heads.

The Roxy (515 West 18th Street)

Home to a roller disco in the late ‘70s, the Roxy became a hugely popular nightclub in the ‘80s that was particularly legendary for its weekly gay dance parties, Roxy Saturdays. Back then, celebrity DJs often spun at club nights and, later, it played host to pop concerts by artists like Madonna, Beyoncé, and Cher. The club’s downfall began in 2007, when it closed intermittently for short periods of time before its permanent shutdown the next year.

The Wetlands Preserve (161 Hudson Street)

Mistaking the former club for an environmentalist organization would only be half wrong. Larry Bloch opened the TriBeCa spot in 1989 with the intention of growing it into a space that would function as half hippie activism center, half rock club. During its lifespan, Wetlands was big in the jam-band scene and put on performances by Jeff Buckley, Oasis, Pearl Jam, Phish, Counting Crows, the Disco Biscuits, Rage Against the Machine, String Cheese Incident, and Sublime before closing in 2001.

Gerde’s Folk City (130 West 3rd Street)

This late Greenwich Village club opened in 1960 and hosted the first performances by many musicians whose careers would only begin to take off several years later. Folk City’s genres of choice changed with the times, hosting musicians like Peter, Paul and Mary, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, The Mamas and the Papas, and Bob Dylan in its earliest years and Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, and even Adam Sandler later on. Comedy was important to the club’s owners, who regularly hosted stand-up nights. The venue itself closed in 1987, but its owners didn’t let its name die out completely, continuing to throw together pop-up gigs on an ad-hoc basis.

The Limelight (656 Avenue of the Americas)

This Episcopal church-turned-drug rehabilitation center changed its face once again when Peter Gatien, famous club owner party boy, bought the space in 1983 and turned it into Limelight. The mid-19th-century gothic revival building served as a hub for rock and disco — and later techno and, appropriately, goth — music since its day one, when Andy Warhol hosted its opening night party. But in 2001, the Limelight shut its doors and made way for other clubs, including Avalon, to operate in its space over the next decade. Now, the Limelight is the Limelight Marketplace, a 12,000-square-foot retail bazaar.

The Palladium (14th Street between Irving Place and 3rd Avenue)

Originally the Academy of Music, this event space functioned as a movie theater from the late ‘20s up until 1971, when it was converted into a rock venue that would host live shows by The Ramones, The Band, Bruce Springsteen, Iggy Pop, Kiss, John Cale, The Clash, and a long list of new wave and metal acts before closing in 1999. Its most recognizable claim to fame is a tie between the Clash’s London Calling cover art, a shot taken in the Palladium, and the Ramones’ 2004 release of a live album recorded there. Now, it’s an NYU dorm.

Studio 54 (254 West 54th Street)

In less than a decade of existence, Studio 54 was not only THE place to be and be seen but also the emblem of a celeb-obsessed urban era of laissez-faire drug use, sex, and thought. And if those were the club’s media of choice, then Andy Warhol was its artist-in-residence. If you could weasel your way past the club’s red ropes, then you could sit, drink, and philosophize among the most awed celebrities of the day; those who did manage to make it in and bump into Salvador Dalí, Liza Minnelli, Margaux Hemingway, or Baryshnikov still brag about it at dinner parties today. As well they should.