The Philadelphia Gayborhood

Credit: Photo by J. Smith

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PhillyBite Philadelphia GayborhoodPhiladelphia, PA - The Philadelphia Gayborhood: The heart of Philadelphia’s gay community ever since World War II, the blocks along 11th Street and Broad Street, Pine Street and Chestnut Street acquired its nickname—the “Gayborhood”—during an October Out-fest celebration in 1995. In 2007, Mayor John Street added 36 rainbow street marks all-around the neighborhood. Ever since the rainbows have increased, decorating more street signs (72 in all), properties, businesses and crosswalks around 13th and Locust Streets.


Liberty Bell PhiladelphiaTavern on Camac – From 1920 to 1960, the wood block-paved Camac Street in between Walnut and Spruce Streets referred to as “Philadelphia’s Greenwich Village.” Maxine’s, a speakeasy and musical bar, had been the heart of LGBTQ life around Camac. Nowadays (and for the past 20 years), Maxine’s is named Tavern on Camac, the city’s longest continuously running LGBTQ bar, still with the piano bar (sing-alongs are popular), weekend dancing and a dinner-only restaurant. 243 S. Camac Street, (215) 545-0900, tavernoncamac.com

Liberty Bell PhiladelphiaVisit The AIDS Library Historical Marker – established in 1987; this community library had been the nation’s very first dedicated library of information on HIV treatments, services, and resources. At present, the safe center continues to provide referrals for regional and nationwide resources as well as provide the public with free internet access. Presently, it’s part of the Philadelphia FIGHT network of community health centers. 1233 Locust Street, 2nd floor (wheelchair accessible), (215) 985-4851, aidslibrary.org

Liberty Bell PhiladelphiaNightlife – Bar hopping rules the evening in the Gayborhood. Lively customers can be found engaging in singalongs at the piano bar Tavern on Camac, throwbacks a couple libations at Writer’s Block Rehab, Toasted Walnut or Knock, flirting at dance club Voyeur, catch a queer show or two at Tabu, hanging with close friends and perhaps have a nosh at Franky Bradley’s, imbibing at beer spots (Boxers, Ubar) or socializing at mega-club, bar and lounge Woody’s, a Gayborhood staple since 1980. Between 11th & 13th Streets and Pine & Chestnut Streets

Liberty Bell PhiladelphiaShopping – Independent stores have established their stakes in the community. Such as the clever handmade soaps and merchandise at Duross & Langel (which doubles as a men’s grooming lounge and salon), hip and Philly-centric finds from the gift shop Turney and Safran’s Open House and Verde, carefully curated Japanese housewares plus cosmetic merchandise from Rikumo, global jewelry at Bella Turka, original and vintage fine jewelry during Halloween and throwback Philly (and some other) sports team and fan gear at Mitchell & Ness and Shibe Vintage. Between 11th & Broad Streets and Pine & Chestnut Streets

Liberty Bell PhiladelphiaWilliam Way LGBT Community Center – The city’s LGBTQ community center occupied some rented spaces from 1976 to 1995 before settling into its very own home in 1996. William Way opens its doors 365 days a year, providing a wide variety of programs, support services, events and meeting spaces for the LGBTQ community. On the block-long western exterior wall of the building, artist Ann Northrup’s mural Pride & Progress depicts a tribute to Philadelphia’s LGBTQ history and culture. 1315 Spruce Street, (215) 732-2220, waygay40.org

Liberty Bell PhiladelphiaGayborhood Dining – 13th Street has grown to be the neighborhood’s eating place. It is here in which energetic businesswomen, chef Marcie Turney as well as life plus business partner Valerie Safran, grabbed an opportunity to open their first venture, Lolita, a fantastic romantic and innovative Mexican bistro—with excellent fresh-fruit margaritas. Nowadays, the duo manages and operates local Spanish destination Jamonera, all-American Bud & Marilyn’s, Italian trattoria Little Nonna’s, gourmet market Grocery, Mediterranean Barbuzzo, together with a pair of gift shops (see below), one particular chocolate-making studio, Marcie Blaine. However, that’s not all: The neighborhood is also home to Izakaya and coffee shop Double Knot, modern Asian Sampan, lounge-like upscale taqueria El Vez, elegant wine bar and ristorante Tredici Enoteca, stylish pizzeria Zavino, international stunner Maison 208 (with the city’s only retractable roof), chouquettes and eclairs at pristine bakeshop J’aime French Bakery and a few of the world’s very best gelato at Capogiro. 13th Street between Locust & Chestnut Streets

Liberty Bell PhiladelphiaPhilly AIDS Thrift @ Giovanni’s Room – The country’s longest-running LGBTQ bookstore was established along South Street in 1973 and moved in 1979 to its current Pine Street location. The unofficial community and cultural center is named after James Baldwin’s trailblazing novel and currently operated by Philly AIDS Thrift, a nonprofit secondhand shop situated at 710 S. 5th Street. Profits from the two stores go to individuals living with HIV & AIDS. A state historical marker is located outside the corner shop. 345 S. 12th Street, (215) 923-2960, phillyaidsthriftatgiovannisroom.com

Liberty Bell PhiladelphiaJohn Fryer Historical Marker – This new Pennsylvania Historical Society marker recognizes the deceased activist John Fryer, M.D. In 1965, the University of Pennsylvania expelled Fryer from his psychiatric residency program on the basis of his homosexuality, then deemed a mental illness by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1952. In 1972, Fryer, a faculty member at the Temple University School of Medicine, provided an impressive anonymous testimony that resulted in the APA’s 1973 declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness.13th & Locust Streets, phmc.pa.gov

Liberty Bell PhiladelphiaGloria Casarez Mural – The now-shuttered 12th Street Gym, long the neighborhood’s de facto official athletic center, bears artist Michelle Angela Ortiz’s portrait of the late Gloria Casarez, the City of Philadelphia’s first director of the Office of LGBTQ Affairs, founding member of the Philly Dyke March, longtime community activist and Philadelphia native. A City Council resolution renamed the block where A Tribute to Gloria Casarez stands “Gloria Casarez Way.” Casarez helped ensure Philadelphia adopted the nation’s broadest possible LGBTQ-rights protection during her time in City Hall. 204 S. 12th Street, muralarts.org

 

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