Explore Chicago’s rich LGBTQ+ history!
Home to the country’s oldest gay neighborhood and Henry Gerber, the founder of the first LGBTQ+ organization, Chicago’s rich LGBTQ+ history runs deep within the city. This Pride month, learn more about the city’s LGBTQ legacy by exploring these 10 key city landmarks!
1. AIDS Garden
This Lakefront Garden was opened in 2019 to “to memorialize the early days of Chicago’s HIV epidemic, and to honor those who continue to fight against the disease today.” The garden is located next to the Belmont rocks, a popular meeting point for the LGBTQ+ community for decades, and features a 30-foot tall green sculpture by artist and AIDS activist Keith Haring.
You can visit Chicago’s AIDS Garden at 3003 N. Lakefront Trail.
2. Bughouse Square
This patch of green grass in Washington Square Park popularly known as Bughouse Square is one of the most celebrated open-air spots for public debate in the country. Bughouse Square is also a crucial place of LGBTQ+ history since the first Pride Parade in the nation kicked off in this spot on June 28, 1970. It is also a pretty popular hangout spot for members of Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community who have gathered here through the decades.
3. The Picasso Sculpture on Daley Plaza
The 1970 Pride Parade may have started at Bughouse square but it ended at Daley Plaza (known then as the Civic Center Plaza) where people closed of the march by dancing in a circle around the Picasso Sculpture!
3. Pearl Hart’s House
The beautiful townhouse located at 2821 N. Pine Grove Ave. was once home to lesbian rights activist Pearl Hart also known as “The Guardian Angel of the Gay Community.” Hart was one of the first female attorneys to practice criminal law in Chicago and became known for defending immigrants, lesbians and gay men, children, and other frequently oppressed groups. The Gerber/Hart Library & Archives was named in her honor.
You can find Pearl Hart’s former residence at 2821 N. Pine Grove Ave.
Located in Lincoln Park, this house was home to LGBTQ+ pioneer Henry Gerber. The activist was living here when he founded the Society of Human Rights in 1924. It was the first homosexual rights organization to be founded in the United States and its “Friendship and Freedom” newsletter is considered the first documented gay rights publication in the country. Unfortunately, Gerber’s society didn’t last long; police raided his house and shut the society down in 1925. In 2015, the row house was declared a national historical landmark, the second one in the country to be named as such for its centrality to American LGBTQ+ history.
You can find Henry Gerber’s House at 1704 N Crilly Ct.
Named in honor of gay rights activists Henry Gerber and Pearl Hart, this is the Midwest’s largest LGBTQ circulating library with over 14,000 volumes, 800 periodical titles, and 100 archival collections. The nonprofit focuses on Chicago and Midwest LGBTQ+ history and also hosts a number of lectures, workshops, exhibits and other events each year.
Find the Gerber/Hart Library & Archives at 6500 N. Clark St.
Women & Children First is a feminist bookstore that was founded to address the scarcity of feminist literature in Chicago. The bookstore located in the heart of Andersonville is often credited with helping to turn the neighborhood into a popular hub for Chicago’s lesbians, hence why Andersonville is often referred to as “Girlstown.”
You can find Women & Children First at 5233 N. Clark St.
Also located in Andersonville, the Leather Archives serves the mission of “making leather, kink, BDSM, and fetish accessible through research, preservation, education and community engagement” by being a library, museum and community archive for the Leather and BDSM Chicago community. Its exhibitions feature bondage gear as well as literature and art that show the subculture’s centrality to the LGBTQ movement.
You can find the Leather Archives & Museum at 6418 N. Greenview Ave.
Jane Addams founded Hull-House, Chicago’s first settlement in 1889. Settlements worked as centers that provided social services and aimed to help address social problems that arose amid urbanization, immigration and industrialization. Addams, a renowned activist, suffragette, feminist and lesbian. was given the Nobel Peace Prize for her fight for the rights of the disenfranchised and championed causes like child labor, public health, and race relations.
You can find the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum at 800 S Halsted St.
10. Margaret C. Anderson’s Home
Lesbian publisher and author, Margaret C. Anderson first moved to Chicago in 1908 into this lovely house in Uptown. While living there, Anderson founded The Little Review in 1914, which she co-edited with her lover, publisher Jane Heap. Their publications featured the works of renowned figures of American literature such as Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot and James Joyce among others.
You can find Margaret C. Anderson’s house at 837 W Ainslie St.
11. The Legacy Walk
This outdoor museum is located in the heart of Boystown, the oldest gay neighborhood in the country. The open-air exhibit features 25-foot tall rainbow pylons that celebrate key figures and events in LGBTQ+ history. The pylons’ bronze biographical memorials commemorate the life and work of LGBTQ+ individuals who have helped shape the world but “whose contributions, sexual orientation or gender identity have been overlooked, minimized or redacted entirely from most historic texts.” The pylons feature memorials to celebrities such as Oscar Wylde, Josephine Baker, David Kato, Alan Turing and Keith Haring.
After your visit to the Legacy Walk we recommend you to get lost and explore the rest of Boystown where you’ll find some awesome LGBTQ+ businesses such as the Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Bar, an inclusive venue patio bar serving delicious food with a side of dazzling live performances.
Find the Legacy walk on 3245-3704 N. Halsted St.
[Featured image: @jillthegrilledcheesesandwich, instagram]