Since the late nineteenth century, Minneapolis' Gateway District had been labeled a "vice" district or "skid row." Within the borders a general sense of permissiveness allowed bars, saloons, brothels, and gambling to flourish, albeit closely monitored to prevent its activities from moving to other parts of the city.

"Vice" behaviors, as defined by the city, included what is now defined as any sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression that fell outside of the traditional definition. Within the district, the LGBTQ+ community could begin to come together, forging connections and establishing a sense of identity.

It was in one such bar in the 1930s, the Onyx Bar, where Chuck Rowland was able to see himself reflected in the clientele. Rowland later moved to California where he was a founding member of the Mattachine Society in 1950, commonly recognized as the first national gay rights group. 

Understanding the past of LGBTQ+ community spaces is important. During times when queer and trans people face discrimination and violence on a local, state, and national level, finding or creating safe havens is vital.

Noah Barth

By the 1960s, Minneapolis Gateway District was declared as slums, and in the largest urban renewal project in the country, more than 20 blocks were demolished, displacing the communities and businesses that had been there.

And while the buildings where Minneapolis' original LGBTQ+ community congregated were demolished, the community continued to thrive. Bars like the Gay 90s, Sutton Place, Brass Rail, and the 19 Bar shifted the center of the LGBTQ+ community along Hennepin Avenue down to Loring Park.

You cannot demolish behavior. You demolish the buildings, you demolish the places where people hang out, they're just going to find another spot.

Stewart Van Cleve, Return to Skid Row

Return to Skid Row

Return to Skid Row

Further Reading