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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

These Walls Can Speak: Documenting and Preserving Queer Landmarks in S.F.

Posted By on Tue, Aug 14, 2012 at 7:30 AM

comptons_cafe_san_francisco.jpg

For the first time in history, the San Francisco Architectural Heritage will cosponsor a panel on historic preservation with the GLBT Historical Society. The San Francisco Architectural Heritage is a misunderstood organization, falsely believed to be monomaniacal about the city's most elite landmarks. Seeking greater collaboration and new audiences, both organizations prioritize significant physical locales associated with the community. "These Walls Can Speak: Telling the Stories of Queer Places" will explore the ways in which queer historic sites are being preserved, documented, and interpreted.

Gerry Takano, a preservation consultant and architect, will be participating on August 16. Takano originally moved to San Francisco to work for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and names the Castro as his favorite place of local, national, and international significance. Certainly, the Castro's visibility and continuity plays a significant role in the country's history and cultural development. In his opinion, "some GLBT persons are uncomfortable with the designation of the Castro as significant place unless the traditional determinations, such as architecture and other historical associations, are recognized first."

This photo was supposedly discarded and retrieved, and Takano identifies it as "a typical example of the 'underground' scene before 1970."
  • This photo was supposedly discarded and retrieved, and Takano identifies it as "a typical example of the 'underground' scene before 1970."

Mainstream homophobia necessitated that the GLBT movement move underground, amplifying the importance of specific bars, clubs, and public parks. "These unlikely places played a significant part in maintaining one's identity and sanity," Takano asserted. He points out that the Tenderloin's Compton Cafeteria, site of the 1966 transgender riots three years before the Stonewall Inn uprising, was only recently brought to light through a documentary. The building still exists.

San Quentin Prison, circa 1930. The prison held annual carnivals and talent shows. - THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY ARCHIVES
  • The University of California, Berkeley Archives
  • San Quentin Prison, circa 1930. The prison held annual carnivals and talent shows.
Takano is excited to be joined by a diverse panel, noting African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, and European-Americans are all represented. These experts include Gerard Koskovich, curator and communications director at the GLBT History Museum. Architect Alan Martinez will represent the San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission, of which he is a member. Transgender pioneer Felicia Elizondo will no doubt discuss the Tenderloin's place in GLBT history. Architectural historian Shayne Watson is a local expert on lesbian historic sites, while architectural historian Carson Anderson will moderate.

"These Walls Can Speak: Telling the Stories of Queer Places" will take place on Thursday, August 16 at 6 p.m. Visit the GLBT Historical Society for more information.

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook. Follow Alexis Coe on twitter @alexis_coe.
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Alexis Coe

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