History - written by Paul Rudoff
The hulking, fortress-like brick Terminal Warehouse at 11th Avenue and West 28th Street was constructed in 1890 with a design known as American Round Arch by architect George Mallory on land purchased by industrialist William Wickes Rossiter. Rossiter's massive Terminal Warehouse offered shipping, warehousing and moving and packing spaces all in one building. Massive arches on the 11th and 12th Avenue ends admitted freight trains as spurs from the tracks running down the center of 11th Avenue, and coming in from shoreside on 12th Avenue, and easy admittance for goods. The Warehouse offered cold storage during summers in an era when private refrigeration was not as common as it became later in the 20th Century. Metallic letters preserved on the facade still advertise it. The Warehouse also specialized in the storage of large, bulky stage sets used in Broadway productions. However, the Warehouse was conflagration-prone and thousands of dollars of goods, including some of the stage sets, were lost to fire in the early days.
After Rossiter passed away in 1897, the Warehouse lasted for many decades as a storage venue. In 1986, it played host to the famed Tunnel nightclub, owned by Boaz Aharoni and Elli Dayan. The club was named for the tunnel-like shape of the main room, in which train tracks from the early 1900s ran through a sunken area of the dance floor. The club was architecturally distinctive: a long, narrow space with multiple rooms on several levels. The dance floor featured several dance cages. The decor of the club changed frequently. One room, decorated by artist Kenny Scharf, was called the Kenny Scharf Lava Lounge. Others were decorated as Victorian libraries, S/M dungeons, and lounges. The club featured unisex bathrooms, which were the converted locker rooms formerly used by the freight terminal's workers. They had modern stalls with partitions and doors for privacy, extant rows of old lockers attached to the wall, as well as marks where the former shower stalls had been removed. "Club Kids", including Michael Alig, Amanda Lepore, and RuPaul, often gathered in the V.I.P. room in the basement.
While the club attracted primarily gay audiences, it also attracted members of the hip hop community. One advantage of the multiple rooms of the club was the ability to host different types of parties, with as many as five or more DJs spinning different styles of music to varying crowds. Elli Dayan sold the property to Marco Riccota in January 1990, and later Peter Gatien acquired the 80,000-square-foot nightclub in 1992. Tunnel closed its doors late in 2001 due to non-payment of rent and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's quality-of-life campaign.