46 Places in San Francisco That Make Us Proud
This June is the 46th celebration of Pride Month. To get the party started, we're highlighting places of pride in San Francisco. While the Castro is known for its culture of pride, here are some locations across the city with significance to LGBT history and culture--plus some San Francisco areas that make locals and visitors alike proud of the city.
- Ambassador Hotel
One of the most important residential sites associated with the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco was the Ambassador Hotel at 55 Mason St. in the Tenderloin. The hotel accepted everyone, including drug users and acutely sick people who would have been screened out by other programs. The 150-unit Ambassador began to deteriorate in the 1990s, and was renovated and converted to low-income housing in 2003.
- Anna Klumpke Residence
Located at 731 14th Ave. across from the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park is the final home of the late, world-renowned painter, Anne Klumpke (1856-1942). In her adult years, Klumpke spent some time in France where she met her life partner, celebrated French animal painter Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899).
- Asia SF
Located at 201 Ninth St,, this San Francisco favorite combines restaurant, lounge and dance club elements to celebrate diversity. Since 1998 its world famous transgender stars, Ladies of Asia SF, have been the focal point of the experience and their talent has made it a go-to location for celebrations.
- Oracle Park
As the home of the San Francisco Giants, Oracle Park has hosted various events including LGBT nights. Players from the team were among the first to participate in the “It Gets Better” campaign. Located in the South Beach neighborhood at the corner of Third and King Street, Oracle Park is a city landmark with breathtaking views and classic design for all to experience.
- Black Cat Café
In 1933, The Black Cat Café opened at 710 Montgomery St., the home base of drag performer and civil rights activist José Sarria in the 1950s and early 1960s. During a time when homosexuality was not fully accepted, the owner, Sol Stoumen, lost his liquor license in 1949 for serving "persons of homosexual tendencies." After a successful fight in court, the California State Supreme Court legalized homosexual assembly--that is, the right to gather socially. Sarria went on to become the first openly gay person to run for office in the U.S. A street in the Castro now bears his name.
- Brava! For Women in the Arts
Brava! For Women in the Arts is a professional arts organization that cultivates and celebrates the intersection of feminism and multiculturalism. It was founded in 1986, and is currently owned and operated by the Brava Theater Center, spotlighting artists from around the Bay Area and beyond.
- The Castro
One of the first gay neighborhoods in the United States, the Castro is iconic for its queer identity and is one of the liveliest communities in San Francisco. Vibrant and bustling with activity, the Castro is home to the historic Castro Theatre and GLBT History Museum.
- Cliff's Variety
Cliff's Variety is a hardware, home goods, variety and fabric store located in the Castro. With a rich family history, it has been in business for more than 75 years and is considered a neighborhood institution at 479 Castro St.
- Club Fugazi
Home to Beach Blanket Babylon, which is now in its fourth decade and is the longest running revue in the U.S., with 15,000 performances. Seen by nearly six million people, BBB audiences love the show’s hilarious spoofs of pop culture, the spectacular costumes and the outrageously gigantic hats. Located at 678 Beach Blanket Babylon Blvd.
- Davies Symphony Hall
Home to world-renowned conductor, pianist and composer, Michael Tilson Thomas (widely known as “MTT”), who has directed the San Francisco Symphony since 1995. His music career has taken him across the world and into pop culture. Davies is located in the Civic Center at 201 Van Ness Ave.
- Dolores Park
A popular lounging and picnic location, the park allows visitors to take in stunning views of the city. Featured on the landmark HBO series Looking, it’s an iconic spot to visit. Stop by the nearby Bi-Rite Creamery to get a sweet taste on a warm day.
- Equality Hall
This Mission District location at 141-143 Albion St. is connected to two significant figures in LGBT history: Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, co-founder of the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, and Dr. Tom Waddell, Olympic decathlete and founder of the Gay Games. Separated by decades, both these pioneers lived or stayed in this building for some time.
- Gay Games at Kezar Stadium
San Francisco hosted the first Gay Games in 1982 at Kezar Stadium near Golden Gate Park, marking a watershed year for gay and lesbian athletics. The idea of the Gay Olympics was initiated by physician and former Olympic decathlete Dr. Tom Waddell, who in the summer of 1981 drove around the country with friends to see if the idea appealed to other gay men and lesbians.
- GLBT History Museum and Archives
Celebrating San Francisco’s queer past through exhibitions and programming, the GLBT History Museum (4127 18th St.) is the first full-scale, stand-alone museum of its kind in the United States. The museum is a project of the GLBT Historical Society, which houses its famed archives that contain an impressive collection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender historical materials.
- Glide Memorial Church
Three decades after it opened in the early 1930s, Glide Memorial Church (330 Ellis St.) joined the national movement among religious organizations to focus more actively on social justice. In 1964 ,Glide helped bring together homophile activists (precursors to the gay rights movement) and religious leaders in San Francisco to form the Council on Religion and the Homosexual (CRH)—the first organization in the U.S. to include “homosexual” in the title.
- Golden Gate Men's Chorus
The Golden Gate Men's Chorus (GGMC) is a gay men's chorus representing the ethnic and social diversity of San Francisco. Formed in 1982 by Dick Kramer, one of the founding fathers of the American gay choral movement, GGMC gives voice to the gay community through song and carries on the tradition of men’s choral music.
- Golden Gate Park / AIDS Memorial Grove
The National AIDS Memorial Grove, or “The Grove,” is located in the eastern part of Golden Gate Park, in the San Francisco Botanical Garden. This is a dedicated space where millions of Americans affected directly or indirectly by AIDS can gather to honor, cherish, embrace and heal.
Named after the late “Mayor of Castro Street,” Harvey Milk, Harvey’s Restaurant and Bar is located in the heart of the Castro and offers drinks, food, trivia and comedy shows. The building was previously home to the Elephant Walk bar/restaurant, which was praised by Milk in the 1970s for its important role as an accepting and safe place for the gay community. After a fire nearly destroyed the building and the Elephant Walk in 1988, it was reopened as “Harvey’s” in 1996, dedicated to serving as stewards of Harvey's legacy.
- Harvey Milk's Camera Shop
The Human Rights Campaign Action Center & Store, located at 575 Castro St., between 18th and 19th streets, is the historic home of civil rights legend Harvey Milk. This new location is the former home of Milk’s Castro Camera, where Milk worked, lived and organized the political campaign that eventually led him to be the first openly gay man elected into a major public office.
- Home of Emily Williams and Lillian Palmer
Built in 1913, the building at 1037-39 Broadway was designed by and home to pioneering female architect Emily Williams and her partner, Lillian Palmer. Emily Williams began her career as a teacher but after meeting journalist Lillian Palmer, she was inspired to pursue architecture, later starting her own firm and designing residential buildings in Pacific Grove, Carmel, San Jose and San Francisco.
- James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center on the Third Floor of the Main Library
This not only honors Hormel’s legacy, who among other achievements was America’s first openly gay ambassador, but also has curated exhibits and offers books, periodical and archival collections documenting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered history and culture, with a special emphasis on the Bay Area.
- Langley Porter
San Francisco became an important center for the study of gender and sexuality in the 1940s and 1950s through the work of the Langley Porter Clinic at 401 Parnassus Ave. Beginning in the 1940s, the clinic’s founding director, Dr. Karl Bowman, and his colleague Louise Lawrence made Langley Porter an international hub for research and medical care for transgender people.
- Macondray Lane of Tales of the City
Located on the south-eastern side of Russian Hill is a small pedestrian lane, extending two blocks east-west between Leavenworth and Taylor Street, that was recast by Armistead Maupin as Barbary Lane for his Tales of the City.
- Michael Taylor Residence
Interior designer Michael Taylor, recognized internationally as one of the most influential designers of the 20th century, gathered his inspiration here in San Francisco’s Sea Cliff neighborhood, from 1970 until his death in 1986. The acclaimed “Emperor of California Design” and named one of the “20 Great Designers of All Time” by Architectural Digest, Taylor was internationally recognizable for his “California Style.”
- Mission High School
The grand auditorium at Mission High School has hosted a number of events important to recent LGBTQ history. BiPol, the first bisexual political organization, organized the first national bisexual conference here. Historian Clare Hemmings writes that this event was understood as a “key moment in the development of bisexual identity and community.”
The storefront at 1510 Haight St. in San Francisco was home to the Mnasidika clothing boutique from 1965 to 1968. Embodying its Greek poetry roots of “a young female lover of Sappho,” the boutique was owned by an openly bisexual woman named Peggy Caserta.
- Mona's 440 Club
Well-known in the 1940s for its male-impersonating waitresses and lesbian entertainers, Mona’s 440 Club at 440 Broadway was arguably San Francisco’s first lesbian bar after the repeal of Prohibition.
- New Conservatory Theatre Center
Founded in 1981, the New Conservatory Theatre Center is a not-for-profit theatre company that has been in operation for 30 years. It is home to productions and theatre experiences for youth, artists, and the queer and allied communities.
- Osento Women's Baths
Closed in 2008 Osento Women’s Baths (955 Valencia St.) was one of the last survivors of the women’s and lesbian-feminist enclave of the 1970-80s. Located along San Francisco’s Valencia Corridor, this landmark was beloved by two generations of Bay Area lesbians who utilized the therapeutic spa from 1981- 2008. While no longer operational, you can still visit its location and capture shots of its exterior.
- Pink Triangle Park
Located in the Castro District, at the intersection of 17th and Market streets, the pink-quartz-filled triangular shaped mini-park is home to the first permanent, free-standing memorial in America to the thousands of persecuted homosexuals in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. Fifteen triangular granite columns stand – one for every 1,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender person estimated to have been killed during the Holocaust – with the triangle theme stemming from the Nazis forcing gay men to wear a pink triangle sewn to their clothes as an identifier and badge of shame.
- Polk Street
San Francisco's Polk Street was a thriving gay enclave from the 1960s to 1980s, but also (not coincidentally) the hippest place in the city to buy men's clothing. One of the first gay-owned businesses on Polk was the Town Squire men's clothing store at 1318 Polk, opened c. 1962 by August Territo and Terry Popek. Another popular gay clothing store was the Casual Man at 2060 Polk, opened c. 1965.
- Rainbow Flag at Market and Castro
“How action could create change” – the words of Harvey Milk and inspiration behind artist Gilbert Baker’s Rainbow Flag. In 1974, Baker met the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and was challenged to create a positive, bold symbol of pride for the gay community. In 1978, Baker’s handmade vibrant-colored flag was unfurled and blew in the wind for everyone to see. Now the Rainbow Flag is recognized not only as a flag but a call to action for those to stand for the pride and hope of the gay community.
- Rainbow Honor Walk
Honoring heroines and heroes of the LGBT communities, the Rainbow Honor Walk is located along Castro Street in the historic Castro District. Plaques currently honor 20 pioneers for their contributions to the community; the walk is being developed by an all-volunteer organization.
- San Francisco City Hall
Reopened in 1915, San Francisco City Hall is the seat of government for the City and County of San Francisco. The structure’s dome is the fifth largest in the world (taller than that of the United States Capitol by 42 feet). It was here in 2004 that a number of same-sex marriages were performed shortly after then-Mayor Gavin Newsom authorized staff to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite the fact that national marriage equality was still a decade away.
- San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus
The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus (SFGMC) is the world's first openly gay chorus, today with a membership of about 300 voices. Founded by gay music pioneer Jon Reed Sims, the group is most often credited with creating the LGBT choral movement with a mission to spread social equality for the LGBT community.
- San Francisco General Hospital Wards 5A and 5B
Wards 5A (1983) and 5B (1986), were the first hospital units in the world dedicated to housing those fighting AIDS. Between 1976 and 1997, over 15,500 San Franciscans died of AIDS, and approximately one-third of those who died were hospitalized here.
- San Francisco LGBT Community Center
The San Francisco LGBT Community Center (1800 Market St.) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting its diverse community to opportunities, resources and each other. The Center offers free services such as career counseling, job fairs, social activities, mentorships, workshops and more.
What’s made in our 49 square miles mirrors San Francisco’s ethos and ingenuity. SFMade, a non-profit organization, recognizes this and helps us discover locally made products. Among their ranks are Timbuk2, whose line of tough-as-hell messenger bike bags was born and bred in San Francisco, and Rickshaw Bags, whose 49 Miles Pride tote features a design from 3 Fish Studios.
- SIR Center
The Society for Individual Rights (SIR) was formed in San Francisco in September 1964 with the hope of creating a democratic organization that would include “all expressions of the homosexual community.” SIR opened the first gay community center in the country in 1966, marking it as “a symbol of our unity,” passion and responsibility in the larger community.
- Tea Room Theater
Located at 145 Eddy St. in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, the Tea Room Theatre is one of the rare and long-lasting vestiges of the neighborhood’s thriving gay and trans community in operation since the 1970s. Before it became a gay theater, it was an after-hours bar called the Letterman’s Club and before that it was the Aloha Club.
- Theatre Rhinoceros
Theatre Rhinoceros is the world’s oldest continuously producing professional queer theater, founded in 1977 by Allan B. Estes, Jr. Its mission is to produce works that enlighten, enrich, and explore both the ordinary and extraordinary aspects of the queer community. Performance locations vary.
- Trax Bar
The bar at 1437 Haight St. in Haight-Ashbury is the longest-running gay bar in the neighborhood and the only remnant of the Haight’s history as a pre-Castro LGBTQ enclave. The space that houses Trax has been a gay bar since the early 1970s when it was the Question Mark.
- Twin Peaks Tavern
First opened in 1935, but later purchased by lesbian friends Peggy Forster and Mary Ellen Cunha in 1971, Twin Peaks Tavern is believed to be the first gay bar in the nation to feature full-length, open plate glass windows that let its patrons look out and the public look in. At a time where gays still feared losing their jobs or being socially accepted, the bar has become a historic landmark over the last 40 years, and one of the Castro’s most memorable and welcoming establishments.
- Venetian Room at the Fairmont
After 21 years of being “dark”, the Venetian Room at the Fairmont San Francisco reopened in 2010. One of the most elegant showrooms in the world, it's where Tony Bennett first sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, Tina Turner and The Supremes performed regularly.
- Women's Building
Adorned with a beautiful mural, this Mission District building is not only a fantastic addition to your Instagram feed but also has significance in the LGBT community. The first women-owned and operated community center in the US, established predominately by a lesbian collective, it is a center for community and activism – most noteworthy for holding a memorial service for Harvey Milk shortly after his assassination.
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Of course we're proud to have SFMOMA back open to welcome visitors--but did you know that the museum (with free access to nearly 45,000 square feet of ground floor galleries) houses works by a number of renowned LGBT artists? Buy your tickets now to see creations by Mark Bradford, David Hockney, and Zoe Leonard, to name just a few.