What is the history and development of Boystown in Chicago?


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2017-11-12 23:37:18
2017-11-12 23:37:18

Several years ago Gay Chicago Magazine (Aug 10 1995) did an article on Boystown history. First, the gay community was first in the River North area around Clark and Hubbard. The Baton Bar is still in this area.

The area we now know as Boystown in the 1970's was a crime-riddled neighborhood, but Little Jim's opened there in 1975 and because gays were being priced out of the up-and-coming River North area, they moved further north. Gays have a way of making their neighborhoods great, and places where the general population want to be as well. So, soon other gay bars would move into the area. Sidetracks and the now gone Christopher St would open. Roscoe's must have came to be about this same time. There was even a lesbian bar there named the Ladybug.

In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Stonewall, we thank Mayor Daley for making the bright, rainbow colored towers a part of the city forever.

As the neighborhood continues to change, I hope we as a community continue to document the progress of the East Lakeview area of the North side, affectionately known as Boystown.

For a little more on Boystown, "Boystown" started as a pejorative nickname based on Newtown. There were many bars that came and went and served as cultural hubs for the young and gay. I remember Club la Ray in a large old roccoco theater on the southeast corner of Halsted and Belmont. This was a late night African American gay bar. There were often The most flamboyant of drag queens on the walk outside. There, where now sits a parking lot, was one of Boystown's great tributes to the wild and campy. Boystown is now a shadow of what it once was. Gays have much less need these days to ghetto-ize for safety, and increased rents in Boystown have pushed many out into other Northside neighborhoods. Boystown now lacks the intense concentration of young, carefree, gay residents it once posessed, yet, as a result of dispersion, gays are found all over the extended North and Northwest side of Chicago proper.


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