A few years ago, at the once-desolate edge of far-west Chelsea, we went inside the former gay leather bar Eagle's Nest when it was being used as a temporary art gallery. This past summer I went back to 21st and 11th see what, if anything, had moved in since the High Line opened here.
Eagle, circa 1980s
Shuttered since 2000, the Eagle had become 21st Twenty-First, the home of "limited edition furniture." Much of the facade's graffiti art was left in place, but the windows with their sleek wooden trim, and the door punched through a once-barred window told a different story.
Inside, the ornate pressed-tin walls and ceiling were as they were--from the Eagle and the Eagle Open Kitchen before it, a longshoreman's bar from 1931 - 1970. White walls and platforms were added to showcase furniture that is more art than furniture.
The chairs are the sort that no one sits on. The end tables are signed and numbered. According to the catalog, each piece of furniture in this gallery "has a 'soul'--a personal 'voice' manifesting in a relationship between the 'artist' and collector."
There are no price tags.
It's hard to imagine crowds of sweaty, leather-clad men humping in the corners of this gallery. As Colors of Leather put it, this is where you'd "find the hunkiest, butchest, horniest, most handsome guys in the world. And they're at the Eagle for one reason--a good fuck, a hot suck, or whatever else the wonderful telltale system of keys and hankies announces they're into."
(Believe it or not, they also came for brunch.)
When it closed in 2000, the Eagle's employees found a new spot for a new Eagle--on West 28th Street. Today, with the High Line and a bunch of massive new condo towers moving in, we wonder what will happen to the Eagle--and if, one day, we'll see another gallery there filled with furniture meant only to be looked at, never put to use.
It's getting closer. Since writing this post, the furniture gallery has moved to W. 29th Street, another block rapidly transforming. I don't know what has taken its place at the old Eagle.
*Update: Looks like it's being demolished to make room for yet another High Line-hugging luxury tower.
Eagle Under Siege
Folsom East and Eagle