Main | Sunday, June 14, 2015

MAP: All Of The Former And Current Gay Bars In New York City History

Today's post about the coming closure of Candle Bar prompted JMG reader John to tip us to OUTgoing, a recently-launched project to map all of the former and current gay bars in New York City history. Citylab reports:
Jeff Ferzoco has created an interactive map, OUTgoing, that captures the ever-unfolding history of New York’s LGBT nightlife venues. Ferzoco, an information designer with his own company, linepointpath, came by the idea naturally. “I go out a lot,” he says. “Probably four or five nights a week.” While chatting about spots that had vanished over the years with a fellow patron at his local bar, Nowhere, he started thinking about mapping them all.

Soon, Ferzoco was delving into research, combing through histories such as Gay New York and The Gay Metropolis and consulting old pamphlets. (The “New York City Gay Scene Guide” of 1969 included listings for “all the exciting gay bars, clubs, baths, motels, meeting places THROUGHOUT the CITY” while the 1970 edition promised, “Realistic: Only those places where you will be welcome are listed.”)

The resulting map, which is very much a work in progress, is a fascinating trip through time and space. Each nightspot is marked with its dates, its audience, its “genre” (i.e., “leather” or “lesbian”), and Ferzoco’s source. Ultimately, the map will enable users to submit stories, photos, and other information. Currently, Ferzoco has marked 800 spots on the map. He estimates there will be as many as 1,500 in the end, covering all five boroughs as well as the surrounding area.

His research has uncovered revealing patterns. Between 1931 and 1960, Ferzoco found records of just 26 gay nightspots, a number that rocketed to 318 between 1961 and 1990, then dropped to 264 between 1991 and 2010 and stands at just 99 today. Those numbers reflect the complex history of the closet, the sexual revolution, the AIDS epidemic, and the mainstreaming of queer culture.
I was surprised to see that more than a dozen gay bars once populated the blocks around my place on the now quite dull Upper East Side. It looks like the Chirping Chicken outlet on First Avenue, which I patronize at least once a week, is located next to a storefront which was once home to a gay club called Mildred Pierce, which was open from 1970 - 1980. Fascinating stuff. Click around the map and share your memories.

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