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Is Boystown Chicago Becoming a Ghost Town?

Boystown 2023?
I sure HOPE NOT!
Boystown is the name of a district within Chicago, Illinois. Situated within the neighborhood of Lakeview. Boystown has carved a niche all its own within the urban fabric of Chicago.

DID you know?? It was the first officially recognized gay village in the United States, as well as the cultural center of one of the largest lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) communities in the nation. 

Boystown is known for its colorful, lively nightlife and inviting atmosphere.  Boystown also includes some of Chicago’s Off-Loop Theater, specialty restaurants, gorgeous greystone and brownstone walk-up buildings and other historic architecture, trendy fashion outlets, wine boutiques, chain stores and independent shops. 

North Halsted Street is the main street of this bustling district. City planners have designated North Halsted an official pedestrian and bike route following a 1998 community project that resulted in the erection of 11 pairs of rainbow-colored abstract Art Deco pylons along the strip. History was made! And we must NOT LET THAT DIE!

There is  a great wiki article, which traces gay life in Chicago.

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.

These are wrenching times for many historic gay villages, with population shifts, booming development, and a waning sense of belonging that is also being felt in gay enclaves across the nation, from Key West, Fla., to West Hollywood and San Francisco, as they struggle to maintain cultural relevance in the face of gentrification. I GET IT.  I hear people all the time say, “Oh I’m going to Bucktown (or Wicker Park) tonight”.
Variety is fine – and everyone’s choice. But people are deserting our home, our village. Equal rights, equality for all is WHAT WE DESERVE. We deserve to be accepted where ever we choose to live or work. That does not mean we should abandon our roots, abandon our community, and our gay brothers and sisters who have great businesses WE NEED TO SUPPORT.

The New York Times analyzed the shift of the Castro in 2007.
In the Castro, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical
Society held public meetings earlier this year to grapple with such
questions as “Are Gay Neighborhoods Worth Saving?

“The Castro, and to a lesser extent the West Village, was where you
went to express yourself,” said Don F. Reuter, a New York author who is
researching a book on the rise and fall of gay neighborhoods, or
“gayborhoods.”

“Claiming physical territory was a powerful act,” Mr. Reuter said. “But the gay neighborhood is becoming a past-tense idea.”  – I think it’s a shame. They ARE worth saving.

I think someone like Ian Reisner, from THE OUT NYC, who wants to open his 2nd OUT hotel, in Boystown, means something. He wants to invest $30 million into Boystown and bring over 100 new jobs. The fact that THE ABBEY was sniffing around Boystown, means something. That it is still worth re-investing in!

ZACH STAFFORD did an awesome piece in this week’s RedEye.

He says, “Boystown is my go-to, my very own Cheers, but on a larger scale. I’m
certainly not alone, but as the weather starts to warm and the bar scene
beckons ever more urgently, I keep asking myself: Is this really a good
use of my time in Chicago, a progressive city with so much to do? Do I
need to bust out of Boystown for a change? I’m not so sure.

LGBT people understand what I’m talking about. Boystown is a gay
refuge, rainbow pillars and all. It’s become the place that we, as a
community, have built for ourselves over the years at times when most of
society told us we had no place. And in regards to going out, it’s a
community where many gay folks feel the most safe when tossing back a
few beers.


Sure, society has come a long way in terms of LGBT rights, but things
aren’t really that perfect yet. We, as LGBT people, still have a lot of
things to worry about when thinking of going out for a night on the
town.”

(Please read his full article).

Boystown should not be a place that you only patronize on Gay Pride Day. I don’t care where you live, people fought for us to have this community, and to be here. We need to support it!