Looking up at this nondescript Chelsea water tower, you'd never guess there was a party going on inside! Called "The Night Heron", the illegal speakeasy popped up for just a short time this spring. The private, invite-only fête was dreamed up by Wanderlust Projects, which curates unique experiences that take place at unlikely locations. Click through the gallery below to see more photos of this swinging example of adaptive reuse.
The Night Heron seems a bit like something out of a Law and Order episode. Creator and architect N.D. Austin located the abandoned shed by searching the Buildings Department for violations indicating a neglectful landlord, which indicated an opportunity to transform the space at his will. There was no EventBrite or Facebook page inviting the public to the festivities. The only way to get in was to be gifted a pocket watch with a secret phone number pasted inside. The parties took place over the course of eight weekends, with three memorable performances per night. Repeat attendance was not allowed.
Once they found their way to the Chelsea water tower, guests were taken through a trap door and led up 12 flights of stairs through a decrepit building where they were greeted by live music, a bartender and petite tables built into the cedar walls. The space was no bigger than the size of a freight elevator but had carefully planned escape routes just in case the authorities managed to hear word of the happenings inside the tower.
“One of the things I wanted to do,” said Austin to the New York Times, “was give people the ability to share the experience itself. Exposure had to be limited for security reasons, so the only way you could share it was by passing it on to a person.” Austin’s co-conspirators, Myric Lehner and Mike “Dirby” Luongo, took two months to build out the space, which included the very helpful trap door and overhead stage.
The Night Heron is now officially closed but those curious enough to find out what might be next for the makeshift bar’s creators will do well to sign up for their newsletter.