Webster Hall has managed to soldier on over the years, while most of it's big club competitors long since called it a night. Their location in the East Village helps, and the club is something of an annex for less studious minded NYU students. Young crowds and cavernous space with many dark corners means you can expect the usual bacchanalian drives of the uninitiated, but ready to party, youth to find their outlet. With 5 or more unique environments throughout the building and a 1,500 capacity theatre space on the second floor, Webster Hall regularly hosts performances by the biggest artists in the world. Artists such as Ray Charles, Paul Simon, Green Day, The Killers, Prince, Nine Inch Nails, Micheal Bublé and Mick Jagger are among the notables that have graced Webster Hall's internationally recognized stage in recent years. Additionally, Webster Hall hosts the official NYC Halloween Parade Afterparty and New Years Eve Ball annually
Webster Hall has a remarkable and long history. Built in 1886, designed by renowned architect Charles Rentz, Webster Hall was described as the "Jewel of the Village" by Eugene O'Neil. It was where the original bohemians, like Emma Goldman, Marcel DuChamp and Margaret Sangor, created unique costume balls to benefit nascent social and political causes.
It was not unknown to witness Emma Goldman, the outspoken exponent of Anarchist philosophy on one night herald the cause of free love and birth control, and on the next, see the refined atmosphere and grace of a society function celebrating the nuptials of two of its elite.
Based upon the bacchanals in Paris and called such names as the "Blind Man's Ball," "The Pagan Rout", and "The Futurist Ball" they created the reputation of Greenwich Village which exists today. As Floyd Dell recalled,"they were spontaneously joyous and deliberately beautiful, focusing in a mood of playfulness the passion for loveliness which was one of the things that brought us to the village." It was the birth of the modern nightclub. During prohibition, the balls moved from the social and political trends of the past to the hedonistic attitude of the "speak." Protection largess was lavished upon local politicians and the police who could turn a blind eye to the merrymakers who attended despite, or perhaps because of, whispers that the venue was owned by the infamous mobster Al Capone. Appropriately enough, prohibition's repeal was the cause for one of Webster Hall's most legendary celebrations "The Return of John Barleycorn." But the depression and new political orthodoxy ended nightlife's first golden age.
In the 50's, R.C.A. Records recognized the extraordinary acoustical integrity of the building and converted it into their East Coast recording venue, Webster Hall studios. Carol Channing recorded "Hello Dolly," Harold Prince recorded "Fiddler on the Roof" and luminaries such as Julie Andrews, Elvis Presley, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra added their presence to the panoply of stars that the venue had witnessed. On May 1st, 1980 The Ritz opened as the famous showcase venue for emerging rock acts. Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Prince, Sting, Kiss, B.B. King, and Guns n' Roses all performed on what was routinely called,"the best stage in New York City." The Ritz was the first nightclub to feature a video component, which soon set the trend across America. The Ritz relocated in 1986 giving the opportunity for Webster Hall to be born.
In 1990, the Ballinger Family from Toronto, Canada, rewrote the rulebook on New York nightlife. They restored the luster of Webster Hall, fusing state of the art audio, video, and lighting technology with the spirit of the past. The original color scheme was painstakingly recreated and once again Webster Hall is a shining jewel of New York City.
Webster Hall is located in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. Long before the musical "Rent" brought in legions of pierced, tattooed teenagers from every corner of America (and drove up the rents), the East Village was an eclectic mix of elderly Ukranians and Poles, Dominican and Puerto Rican families, and assorted artists, wanna-be bohemians, punks, their followers, lovers and friends. (Did we leave anyone out?) Largely gone are the heroin dealers, all night parties, punk music extravaganzas and infamous Bagel Tree of the 1980s and early 1990s, but the real landmarks remain, including the Joseph Papp Public Theater, Tompkins Square Park, and Cooper Union. The Public offers some of New York’s finest Off-Broadway Theater as well as Joe’s Pub, with a diverse variety of live shows. Beautiful Tompkins Square Park offers something for everyone, including dog runs, basketball courts, a weekly market, outdoor music events, and occasionally local characters chatting late into the night to infrequent riots. To be fair, few other parks in America have played such an important role in radical or anarchist history. Many long-time residents complain of the neighborhood’s recent gentrification, and skyrocketing rents forced even legendary punk club CBGB's to exit the neighborhood, replaced by a John Varvatos boutique. And while there are truly many new restaurants and boutiques dotting Avenues A, B and C, lots of the famous watering holes, dives, and other unclassifiably scrappy bars remain. Some of our favorites include Mars on lower First Avenue, Zum Schneider on Avenue C, 2A on the corner of Second Street and Avenue A, and Lit Lounge, with its adjoining Fuse Gallery. Make sure to check out the Polish butcher stores on First Avenue and the nearby Italian pastry shops, walk along the Ukranian strip of Second Avenue, try one of the Japanese restaurants on East Ninth Street, and also walk along St. Marks Place, one of New York’s most eclectic streets. East 4th Street's Theater Row boasts cultural buildings which house eight theaters and twelve dance companies as well as a couple of community development groups. Among its members are New York Theater Workshop, La MaMa Experimental Theatre, Rod Rodgers Dance Co., WOW Cafe Theatre, Millennium Film Workshop, Duo Multicultural Arts Center, Teatro Circulo, Downtown Art, Alpha Omega Dance Co., Choices Theater, Teatro IATI, Cooper Square Committee and Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association. The Nuyorican Poets Café is still going strong on East Third Street between Avenues B and C. Since 1973 its mission has been to create a multi-cultural venue that provides a stage for artists traditionally underrepresented in the mainstream media and culture. Poetry slams, theater performances, open jam sessions for hip-hop, poetry and jazz, as well as unique screenplay readings all take place on a weekly basis in this intimate cultural setting. For film buffs, we would be remiss not to mention the Anthology Film Archives on East 2nd Street, a local theater best known for consistently showing the finest in avant-garde and experimental cinema. We also recommend the Landmark Sunshine Cinema on East Houston Street, home away from home for those who enjoy great acoustics and the company of die hard independent film fans. The East Village is also home to the trendy Cooper Square Hotel as well as the charming Gem Hotel, making it a great neighborhood to enjoy your stay in New York.