Author Archive

Pardon Me Sir, But Can I Queer Your Space?

Posted on: June 16th, 2009 by Guest Writer 10 Comments

 

Dolores Park

By Elizabeth Boylan

At what point does a neighborhood evolve into a full-out "gayborhood?"

Is it defined by a critical mass of queer people living in it or utilizing a particular space? I’ve always found rainbows to be fun and festive; perhaps we could calculate the number and size of rainbow flags in any given area to determine some sort of queer numerical value.

Certainly, the Castro in San Francisco ranks high on both of these standards of measure, and is one of the more well-known gayborhoods in America. I am a lesbian and spend a fair amount of time there, but I would not call it “my gayborhood.” See, as far as the LGBT community is concerned, the Castro runs heavy on the “G,” and relatively light on the “L,” “B” and “T.” It is primarily – and at times exclusively – a gay male-oriented space.

In my opinion, not all "gayborhoods" exist as discrete neighborhoods with clear borders. Instead, some subsist in fluidity, often occupying space in a temporary or transitory manner.

Gayborhoods can exist within, around and between any neighborhood. Places and spaces that aren’t explicitly recognized as gay can function as queer meeting areas. A strong showing of lesbians (or at least “potential lesbians”) at my weekend farmers market colors my shopping excursion queer. A gay rugby team or a women’s flag football league steps on a field and converts an ordinary patch of grass into a hub of queer activity. The individuals present transform these benign places into queer spaces, and the actors and participants of these events may feel a sense of community in this momentary queering.

Local gay bars often host “ladies nights,” but as these nights occur only for selected hours each week or month, their presence is not necessarily inscribed on the physical place. I would be hard pressed to identify a permanent, physical manifestation of the queerness of San Francisco’s Dolores Park, yet thousands of lesbians descend upon its grassy hills prior to the annual San Francisco Dyke March. Similarly, San Francisco Trans March organizers stage pre-march activities and performances for transgender folks, friends and allies in the park. Walk through that same space on the other 363 non-lesbian/trans days of the year, and you'll find a diverse, eclectic and eccentric mix of people that I would still consider “queer,” regardless of their sexual orientation.

These places, while not marked exclusively as gay, provide the opportunity for a variety of gayborhoods to coalesce temporarily or informally.

Many gay communities exist without the possession of buildings forming a unique neighborhood. We do not necessarily live in separate enclaves, as queer is but one of many dynamic identities we claim. However, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer identity becomes more salient in transient queer spaces.

While this fluidity provides flexibility and allows us to informally co-opt space, it can also render our places invisible in the built environment. That's why an inclusive analysis of gayborhoods will recognize the importance of elusive and amorphous communities, as well as those with physical borders.

Elizabeth Boylan is the administrative assistant for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Western Office in San Francisco.

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Pride & Revitalization Help 'Naptown' Wake Up

Posted on: June 11th, 2009 by Guest Writer 1 Comment

 

tpm_indianapolis

Written by Nicholas Murphy

A lot of people have this image of Indianapolis as a very generic, all-American city, with Midwestern values and not much in the way of culture and diversity. Indeed, for the longest time, the city had the nickname of “Naptown,” mainly because the downtown was one of those where it seemed like the sidewalks would roll up after 5 p.m.

When I first moved to Indianapolis in 1993, I was very much the country boy moving to the “big” city. Of course, I had never really felt at home in the country for things that came screaming out of the closet later, but for me, Indianapolis was home from the very beginning. Of course, at that time, the “Naptown” derogatory was very much in effect. The downtown was dreary and pretty desolate, with some shining spots, but in 1996 all of that began to change. Not only is that the year I told my best friend that I was gay, but that was also the year that Circle Center Mall opened in downtown, which marked the beginning of a makeover that has remade Indianapolis into a shining example of downtown revitalization.

metroprideBefore that, when I was just a young guy coming to grips with his sexuality, I had heard of places in and around Massachusetts Avenue (Mass Ave), gay bars and other establishments, where people like me could go and be themselves. Of course, at that time, my idea of a gay bar was pretty much the Blue Oyster Bar from the Police Academy movies, but still, it seemed like this exotic idea. Luckily, since I was underage at the time, there was a coffeehouse, The Abbey, at the corner of Mass Ave and College, which was a hangout for gay youth. So, with my school books in tow, I went down to study and take it all in. That was my first foray in to the gay life of Indianapolis, and while I was still an outsider looking in, it was great to be able to see people younger than me be so comfortable with themselves.

... Read More →

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Local Effort and Expertise Yields a New Landmark in Augusta, GA

Posted on: June 10th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Robyn A. Mainor

The National Historic Landmark plaque unveiling: Robert Osborne, First Vice President, Historic Augusta, Ray Rivera and Vicki Dixon, United States Department of the Interior, Mark McDonald, President and CEO, Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation; Erick Montgomery, Executive Director, Historic Augusta.

The National Historic Landmark plaque unveiling: Robert Osborne, First Vice President, Historic Augusta, Ray Rivera and Vicki Dixon, United States Department of the Interior, Mark McDonald, President and CEO, Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation; Erick Montgomery, Executive Director, Historic Augusta.

As a Partners in the Field representative, it is rewarding to participate in events spotlighting commitment to preservation of resources saved through local efforts and expertise. Friday, May 15th, 2009, was a long-awaited day for Historic Augusta, Inc. as the Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson was officially unveiled as Augusta’s newest National Historic Landmark. Announced in October 2008, Historic Augusta was eager to have the celebration during the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s Annual Meeting and Spring 2009 Ramble so preservationists from across the state would have a unique event to attend.

Augusta is home to five other National Historic Landmarks including the Old Medical College of Georgia and the Augusta Canal Industrial District. A crowd of more than seventy out of town guests and local enthusiasts gathered on the front lawn of 419 Seventh Street to watch as Mr. Ray Rivera and Ms. Vicki Dixon, both from the Department of the Interior, revealed the plaque and congratulated Historic Augusta’s Executive Director, Erick D. Montgomery, and First Vice President, Mr. Robert Osborne. After the ceremony, tours were given for all those who attended to highlight the award winning restoration which was completed in 2001, ten years after the house was purchased in 1991.

The Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson.

The Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson.

The Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson was built in 1859 by local stove merchant, Aaron H. Jones, a native of Eastport, Maine. The new house was sold for $10,000 in February, 1860 to the Trustees of the First Presbyterian Church. The Wilson Family moved into their new home soon after it was purchased. At the time, the family included the parents, Joseph and Janet Woodrow Wilson, also known as Jessie and Jeanie, two sisters, Marion (9) and Annie (6), and three year old Thomas Woodrow Wilson, called Tommy. Later, in 1867, a fourth child would be born in the house, Joseph R. Wilson, Jr. The house is two and one-half stories high, built of solid brick, and enhanced with a small portico on the front with balconies on either side. It had gas lights, 12 foot ceilings with plaster moldings and a fireplace in every room. Detached in the back yard was a two story brick service building that contained a modern 1860s kitchen, a laundry room, a wood storage room and two servant's rooms on the second floor. Across the back yard was a carriage house with a second floor hayloft where Tommy met with his friends of the Lightfoot Baseball Club. Here they practiced parliamentary procedure and operated under a set of bylaws drawn up by the future president. The Wilsons lived in the house for almost eleven years, witnessing the Civil War and Reconstruction.

The Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson is open for tours Tuesday through Saturday 10am thru 5pm. More information can be found through their website, www.wilsonboyhoodhome.org and www.historicaugusta.org.

Robyn A. Mainor is the Preservation Services Director for Historic Augusta, Inc., and a Field Representative in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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DC Bar

By Mark Meinke

Times change.

plus_one1Forty years ago, gay-friendly bars – and their patrons – began pushing the envelope in Washington, D.C. It was the envelope of regulations prohibiting standing with a drink, moving with a drink, dancing with someone of the same sex, and all of those other "reprehensible" things that police and zoning codes outlawed. Paul Kuntzler, campaign manager of Frank Kameny’s 1971 ground-breaking run for Congress, calls them the "transitional bars."

Strictly speaking, there were no bars in D.C. Prohibition ended, but D.C. ruled that only restaurants could serve drinks. And since diners are seated, there was no option to stand and drink and walk about and talk – all those things that normally happen in a bar or tavern. In fact, if you saw someone at another table and wanted to talk, you had to leave your drink behind and find a waiter or a waitress to bring it to you.

In the late 1960's, they pushed envelopes at the 1832 House (1832 Columbia Road, NW), the Pier 9 (1854 Half Street, SW) and JoAnna’s (430 8th Street, SE). Kirby Matson, manager at the 1832 House, argued that diners waiting for a table could stand with a drink, so he put a bar upstairs for the "waiting public." Code required that the waiting public be screened from the public, so he put up six inches of chicken wire. At the Pier 9 (pictured above), the small cocktail tables all had numbers on stands and a phone so that if you saw a cute someone at another table, you could call and talk without leaving your table. JoAnna’s, the "first nice women’s bar," opened in 1968 on 8th Street and put in a dance floor for (horrors!) same-sex dancing. It was an overnight success. Within months, there were three other clubs on 8th Street featuring same-sex dancing. And the police didn’t do a thing.

The first "super dance club" opened across the street from JoAnna’s as the Plus One at 529 8th Street, SE. Kuntzler remembers an evening in the summer of 1968 when police cars raced up 8th Street, blocking both ends of the street around the Plus One. The police got out of their cars, expecting the gays to take to their heels and run. They didn’t. The gay men just stood there looking at the police with a confused look. So the police got back in their cars, drove around the block and roared up the street again hoping that the gays would scatter. They didn’t.

Gay Guys – 1; Police – 0.

Times indeed changed.

Mark Meinke is the chair of the Rainbow History Project, an organization that he help found in November 2000. The group seeks to collect, preserve and promote an active knowledge of the history, arts and culture relevant to sexually-diverse communities in metropolitan Washington, DC.

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Join the National Trust for Historic Preservation as we celebrate Pride + Preservation throughout the month of June. Want to help us show some pride in place? Upload a This Place Matters photo of a building, site or neighborhood that matters to you and your local LGBT community.

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Miss Cookie Crawford Defends WeHo

Posted on: June 9th, 2009 by Guest Writer 12 Comments

 

cookie-tpm

By Cookie Crawford

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight raid on homes, severe

Like a drag queen of a certain age (okay, me), West Hollywood can appear quite pretty…as long as you don’t look too closely. We like to tout ourselves as a kindly, cultured village, but in preservation circles, our hell-bent-on-demolition City Council has been called the "Gay Mafia."

In the 1940’s and 50’s, we were a toddlin’ town, with our midnight lacework of gay bars safely ensconced just outside the City of Los Angeles. (Lose the shirt, pardner! No raids from the LAPD here!) Frisky starlets Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and the Black Dahlia were stashed in our balconied apartments, dreaming of better roles…and who they might have to, um, date, to snare them.

In the burgeoning village of West Hollywood, our local flavor was a bit like Greenwich Village; slightly seedy but artistic, and with good bone structure to our buildings. Not as swank as Beverly Hills to the west, perhaps, but not as utilitarian as plain old Hollywood, our neighbor to the east, either.

From behind the foliage that overgrew our bungalow courtyards, we watched property values rise. Years passed. Rent control helped. We designated and protected a handful of pretty buildings.

Suddenly, without warning, a battle cry cleaved our quiet village in twain when height averaging was yanked from the building code in 2001. (Height averaging is when a new building can only be as tall as the average height of the block’s existing structures. Who knew?) The grab for land development was on, and our now-aging starlets were unceremoniously tossed to the curb as their balconied apartments were ripped down to make way for looming condominium structures that bore a unified, "home cheapo" look.

We wept. Our glamour was shrinking!

Senior citizens were actually dying as they were evicted. Our City Council took to the airwaves, vowing that they deplored the Ellis Act that permitted landlords to break up homes just to make a quick (million) buck(s). How we loved our City Council in that moment. But then we saw them put children out on the street without compensation when they were gifted with a plot of rent stabilized housing on Laurel Avenue that they wanted to develop!

... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.