Still Here. Still Queer. A History of the Gayborhood!
Many of us GLBTQ who live, work, and play on the Hill have started to feel like strangers as soon as Thursday night arrives. And we typically only come back to the hill once the dude dust settles on Sunday morning in time for the farmers market.
Thankfully over Pride Weekend several of our pals staged an old fashion Queer-In. First up our friend, Karyn Schwartz of Sugar Pill fame, staged a Queer-In and worked to make sure the Gayborhood was splattered with Queer Photos and statements from those of us from the community. Karyn and her team had projections up on the Hill with really amazing statements of Queer-dom via Dee Hubs. Please take the opportunity to check out the statements.
Also Staging a Queer-In Was Our Very Own BenDeLaCreme. Ben and Company staged a silent protest along the streets Capitol Hill. It was a beautiful and moving commentary on why Capitol Hill needs to remain and is currently the heart of the Gayborhood here in Seattle. In BenDeLaCreme’s words
Our desire to express and celebrate our strong connection to the gayborhood and each other, our LGBTQ community.
So where did Seattle’s Gayborhood birth itself anyways? Why is Capitol Hill known as the heart of the Gayborhood? The history of gay in Seattle (in terms of what is recorded) dates back at least as far as the Gold Rush. A state sodomy law was put in place in 1893, and so it is at this point that there becomes a public record of homosexuality in the Pacific Northwest (though it isn’t exactly the happiest kind of record). In spite of such laws and their enforcement, Seattle still developed communities where one could be openly gay, especially in Pioneer Square, which was nicknamed “Fairyville.” The Double Header opened in 1934 and has continuously operated until today, making it one of the oldest gay bars in the country. It’s a true dive today, not really recognized as a gay bar by passers-though, beloved of many regulars and an essential part of Seattle gay history.
Pioneer Square was one of the sites of Seattle’s first Gay Pride Week, which began on June 24, 1974. The week saw the opening of the Gay Community Center near Volunteer Park. On June 29, a picnic was held in Occidental Square, attended by around 200 people, according to an article by the Seattle PI written about the event, which continued into the evening when the crowd journeyed up to Volunteer Park in Capitol Hill for more activities, then back to Occidental Park for music and dancing. On the last day, a “Gay-In” was held at Seattle Center, at which people dressed in costume (or very little) and danced around the international fountain.
Decades later, the Gay-In continues on the final Sunday of Pride Week, and Capitol Hill’s parks are filled with activities. Pioneer Square is roughly the starting point of the massive parade, which now draws hundreds of thousands through downtown Seattle. Other parades on Capitol Hill celebrating Trans* Pride and the lesbian community happen earlier in the week, and drawing crowds to Capitol Hill’s Broadway, which was the site of the main parade for many years before it was moved downtown—and not without controversy.
Capitol Hill has become and remains for now the center of gay nightlife and businesses, but there are LGBTQ communities throughout Seattle. West Seattle is home to many older gay couples and families. Columbia City and Beacon Hill are becoming home to many younger LGBTQ people, who appreciate the lower rent and truly diverse communities. The town and the community is evolving over time. The once very artsy Belltown became known almost exclusively for clubs, bars and rowdy nightlife. Before that, it was home to a couple classic gay bars, such as Tugs. And before that Shelley’s Leg (seen in the photo above).
The bottom line is that over the weekend we let our Fairy dust settle into the Rainbow crosswalks and reclaimed Capitol Hill as the heart and soul of GLTBTQ’s Seattle. Yes the gays are all over this city – thank god. But Capitol Hill is and will remain the center of the Gayborhood in this city.