Chicago’s Gay History Trail (Part II)

Jun 13, 2011

To celebrate the Chicago History Museum‘s Out in Chicago exhibition, which runs through August, we put together a guide to some of the Windy City’s most noted sites in LGBT history.

Women and Children First Bookstore
Located in the heart of Andersonville, which used to be the largest lesbian neighborhood, WCF has been in business since 1979 and remains one of the largest feminist bookstores in the country.

Bijou Theater
This gay adult video store on North Wells in the Old Town neighborhood recently celebrated 40 years in business, since 1969, one of the last businesses to survive the “clean-up” of this former red light district. On the first floor is a theater, lounge and cruising garden. On the second floor are booths and, well, other such things.

Belmont Rocks (adjacent to Belmont Harbor off Lake Shore Drive)
The parksite became a popular cruising site for gay men by night, and by day the alternate site for women, particularly African American women, during  gay pride parade. The rocks have been removed but two other gay-friendly lakeside spots remain in the city.

Sidetrack Bar
Located in the heart of Boystown, Sidetrack started in 1982. Current co-owner and community leader Art Johnston was employed there as a bartender. He was one of the “gang of four” activists who fought to pass a 1988 city ordinance banning sexual orientation discrimination, and the group’s work led to the founding Equality Illinois.

The Baton Show Bar
Down the street from Lawson YMCA is the Baton Show Lounge, a popular female impersonator show bar, on North Clark. The Baton celebrated 40 years in 2009 and is recognized as the “longest and most prestigious” of its kind anywhere. The club is run by Jim Flint, who made history by appearing on the Phil Donahue Show.

University of Chicago, Hyde Park campus
U of C student Henry Weimhoff formed Chicago’s local chapter of the Gay Liberation Front on campus in 1969, a few months after Stonewall. He organized the first gay dance on campus in 1970. The GLF organized the first Lesbian Writers’ Conference in 1974.

La Cueva Bar
La Cueva is one of the oldest gay Latino bar in the country, home to longtime female impersonators such as Miss Ketty Teanga.

Thanks to our friends at Navigaytour for historical insights