Thymes Have Changed: Biting into the History of Eating Places 

Have you ever taken the time to think about why you eat at the places you eat? Maybe you have a favorite place to eat, or a place that reminds you of your childhood when you eat there. What’s the significance of eating at a restaurant versus at your home?

Eating places are exactly what it sounds like. Places where people consume food. This includes bistros, cafes, diners, restaurants, lunchrooms, and even your dining room. These spaces are often not just places for food consumption. They are places for ideas, fellowship, and business. The history of eating places is extremely complicated and has drastically changed in the past couple of centuries. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about eating places. 

1.) The first fast food restaurant wasn’t mcdonald’s

Historians actually consider the first fast food chain to be a restaurant called White Castle. White Castle was created by Walter Anderson around May 1921, during the roarin’ 20s in Wichita, Kansas. Anderson was not the richest man, but he was an entrepreneur. He decided to refurbish an old shoe repair stand and sell hamburgers for a nickel.[1]

Anderson began to make a profit and was able to eventually partner up with Billy Ingram to create the official White Castle design. Each restaurant or “Castle” had the same layout, with a grill, counter, 5 stools and was staffed by two male employees. The restaurant was known for its impeccable hygiene and speed.[1]

2.) Diners started in the United States

Diners actually evolved from lunch-wagons in the first decades of the 20th century.[2]  A lunch-wagon could be considered an early food truck made from a wagon. Later on, people began to use trolleys, streetcars, and railroad dining cars as a diner which is why the diner’s original style was narrow and elongated.[2]  The original diners were established in the North East of the United States because that is where there was a condensed population. Many diners were transported from New Jersey to other parts of New England, but not much farther out. It was very rare to see the early diner established south of Virginia or west of Ohio because traveling on local roads meant traveling at 10 miles per hour. [2] The streetcar era is what really spread the idea of the American diner we see today.

The menu of the diner stayed simple over time with basic American cuisine. The “true” diner rose around the 1920s; its menu is what most people are familiar with today. [2] This includes hamburgers, french fries, club sandwiches, and breakfast foods. Typically today the interior of a diner will be a rendition of the 1950s/1960s model.[2]

Miss Worchester Diner in Worchester, Massachusetts. Source: Photo via Flickr user Liz West
3.) Most colonial Americans never dined in a restaurant

Most of the Colonial Americans during the 17th and 18th century did not have any reason to dine in at commercial establishments – even if one was available to them. Before the industrial revolution, many colonials lived on farmland. They only traveled away from homes to go to the market or for civic duties. They did dine away from their homes, but only for special occasions such as church gatherings, weddings, funerals and other social events. Dining at taverns, inns, and boarding houses were seen as a luxury for the wealthy. [2]

4.) You’ve been eating wrong your whole life

According to Vivian Brown, author of Table Etiquette in The American Journal of Nursing, “If an individual does not know how to handle a cup of tea or a plate or a fork in an easy…manner [they] will find some opportunities closed to [them].”[3] Brown’s beliefs were not rare during the time she wrote her piece. Most people believed that having proper table manners was directly related to someones lifestyle. Her piece was published in 1933 during the Great Depression. A few of Browns “Nevers” include:

Never stir your tea and leave the spoon still standing.

Never fail to close the lips while you are chewing.

Never prop your weary head upon your forearm.

The video below will provide some more basic table manners.

5.) the white house’s old family dining room was opened to be viewed by the public for the first time in 2015

Michelle Obama who was the First Lady at the time opened the room for public viewing in 2015 through a joint effort with the Committee for the Preservation of the White house. [4] The room was refurbished for the special occasion with 20th century art and design. The history of the room dates back to 1825. A few items in the room include: 1939 ceramic plates, china and glassware; silver tea set manufactured by Graff, Washbourne, and Dun; 1950 pictorial weaving adapted as a wool rug; and New York World’s Fair Tableware.[4]


6.) females eat less and males eat more in mixed company


Date Eating. 2018. Man Eating Woman Watching. Image.

According to a study in the Journal of Health Psychology done by scholars Emily Brindal, Carlene Wilson, Philip Mohr and Gary Wittert, males and females change their eating habits in mixed company. The group examined females eating with the same sex, men eating with the same sex, and then a large mixed company setting. Their goal was to discover whether there were multiple social influences in a fast food eating environment. They found that in a larger group females ate less when a male was present, as males in the larger group setting consumed more when a female was present. [5]

They believed this supported a cultural norm of minimal eating for females. Their conclusion derived from the negative judgements around eating fast food, females may have seen eating less as a way to express their femininity. This reasserted the injunctive norm of how women should behave when eating. [5] As for males, they believed their norm was the opposite of minimal eating. One where their consumption was a way for them to assert their masculinity.[5]

7.) THe civil rights movement is believed to have started at a diner

On February 1, 1960 four students who attended an all-black technical school in North Carolina walked into a diner with the intention of ordering lunch. The diner they walked into had a strict whites-only policy, however the men refused to budge, they ended up staying at the counter until closing and brought back 15 more students the next  day.[6]

The Counter At Woolworth’s on May 28, 1963. Blackwell, Fred. 1963. The Counter At Woolworth’S On May 28,1963. Image.

The movement continued to gain traction and reached Jackson, Mississippi where the photo featured took place. In the Mississippi NAACP two large figures, Medgar Evers and Doris Allison were the people who were really at the head of the local movement in Jackson. [7]This particular sector was “radical” and received extreme and severe backlash from their racial counterparts as pictured.[7] Unfortunately, Ever’s was assassinated in June of 1963 and the achievements of the Jackson movement were minimal.[7]

8.) You’re more likely to eat unhealthily if you don’t eat at a designated eating place

A study done by the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California concluded that non-eating places are related to the eating occasions and the type of food consumed there. The study included having participants measure their physical activity through an ActiGraph accelerometer and GPS monitor and have them record all the places they visited and the food the consumed there.[8] Their results showed that people eating in non-eating places  were 1.3 times more likely to eat an unhealthy snack compared to a designated eating place.[8] Non-designated eating places include the couch, in front of a TV and a work space. The study concluded that the reason people were more likely to consume unhealthy foods was because of the vulnerability to convenience. When a person is eating in a non-designated eating place they are most likely looking for the most convenient and accessible food like packaged snacks, vending machine items or fast food.[8]

9.) In 18th century America dining rooms and dining tables weren’t a thing

During this time in America, people had multi-use rooms and typically shared a space. If a family was going to eat a meal, they typically ate in shifts. [2] The idea of the American family dinner developed in the mid-19th century. The dinner table since then has been identified as an important place of socialization or “civilization” of children. [9] It was from the idea of the dining room as a training place for social interaction that eating in moderation, table etiquette, and self-control really became part of American social virtues.[9] From then birthed the stereotypical 1950s happy nuclear family image.[9]

A scene from the TV show Leave It to Beaver. The 1950s emphasized the importance of a happy nuclear family — and in popular media, the dining table often became a place to showcase these idealized dynamics.
10.) the idea of “home” is shaped by eating places

In the book Consuming Geographies, David Bell and Gill Valentine discuss the idea of “Home” and how it has shaped American eating functions. [9]The dinner table also functioned as a way to serve the idea of the American Dream. People began to associate an eating space with the ability to produce a happy family. When a person remembers their childhood home, they also associate that with experiences that were based around an eating space because that is typically the place where the entire family is gathered. For those who didn’t have proper eating places, or did not have an entire family gather at a dinner table, their idea of home is very different from those who did have one.

Family dinner table

 The authors believed the importance of shared meals in the social production of households is further emphasized by the role that food plays in people’s memories of “home.” [9]



[1] Hogan, David G.. 1997. Selling ’em by the Sack : White Castle and the Creation of American Food. New York: NYU Press. Accessed February 28, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central.

[2] Pillsbury, Richard. 1990. From Boarding House To Bistro. Unwin Hyman: Boston.

[3] Brown, Vivian. “Table Etiquette.” The American Journal of Nursing33, no. 11 (1933): 1063-066. doi:10.2307/3411513.

[4] William Allman, “The Old Family Dinging Room Made New Again,: February 10, 2015. Accessed February 19, 2018.

[5] Brindal, Emily, Carlene Wilson, Philip Mohr, and Gary Wittert. 2015. “Eating In Groups: Do Multiple Social Influences Affect Intake In A Fast-Food Restaurant?”. Journal Of Health Psychology 20 (5): 483-489. doi:10.1177/1359105315576607.

[6] “Woolworth’s Lunch Counter – Separate Is Not Equal”. 2018. Americanhistory.Si.Edu.

[7] “We Shall Not Be Moved: The Jackson Woolworth’s Sit-In and the Movement It Inspired.” Journal Of Southern History 80, no. 3 (August 2014): 765-766. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed March 1, 2018).

[8] Liu, Jodi L., Bing Han, and Deborah A. Cohen. 2015. “Associations Between Eating Occasions And Places Of Consumption Among Adults”. Appetite 87: 199-204. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2014.12.217.

[9] Bell, David, and Gill Valentine. 2013. Consuming Geographies. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

A Basic Checklist of New England Villages

A New England Village is… Below, I describe ten key things that make up a village.

Maine Coast
Massachusetts Hill






A New England Village is a core geographical imagination and a term used a lot where I live in Massachusetts and Maine.  Just because a town is located in New England, many people think it automatically qualifies it as a “New England Village.”  However, that is simply not always the case, and to help clarify that confusion, I have comprised a list of the top ten key concepts that make a New England town a New England Village.


1) House of Worship:


From the arrival of the first English settlers in the mid-1600s, the cornerstone of any authentic New England Village is a House of Worship.  The majority of the original English settlers were from the East Anglia region of England, so most of the “First Parish” churches in New England are Congregational, which is what the religion of the Puritans eventually became.

First Parish in Wayland, MA. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Religious life acted as the hub for activity and dictated all facets of life, such as education, worship, and behavior.  Churches basically acted as the seat of local government to the early settlers, and many of the earliest churches housed records of births, deaths, marriages, and punishments.  Although not as influential now, the churches still stand in true New England Villages, and are often a center of social, if not religious, activity.  Many authentic New England churches still have architectural remnants such as the old horse stalls where the colonial settlers would house their horses and carriages during services, which typically lasted most of Sunday in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Academic source:


2) Town Meeting:

Another one of the key components of a New England Village is the existence of Town Meeting to debate and manage the important business of the town.  Town Meetings are an important part of town government in New England, and many towns in New England still operate through this manner.  It is a place for everyone to come and speak their minds, and debate in a parliamentary fashion.  It is the original form of representational government in colonial America.  Each person has a vote in town affairs which still exists today.  Originally, only men had the right to debate and vote, but Town Meeting has evolved over the centuries to include all citizens over the age of 18.  Town Meeting is a symbol of traditional American freedoms, in which basic levels of democracy are displayed.

Drawing of early town meeting.

The original intent of these town meetings was to disperse the settlement land out amongst the families in the village.  Land had to be distributed through the families and their offspring, as there were typically no pre-existing property boundaries with the original land grants.  Another important part of the original Town Meeting was to establish who would be the town minister.  The minister was basically the head of the town, acting as the main official in the newly formed government.

Academic source:


3) Commons:

One of the best ways to unify a community is to have shared spaces to work, mingle and converse.  That is why a New England Village must have shared Common land for townspeople to freely access.  It is similar in intent to college campuses and how they have commons or quads for all students to access.  The original intent of a town common was to graze livestock and gather for militia training, but over time it has evolved to include many different uses.  Many current activities on a town Common include gatherings and events like graduations and concerts.

Typically, a Common is what makes up the heart of a New England Village, so they typically were and are found in the center of the town.  Historically, often meetinghouses and churches were located on the Common, in large part because those were the most heavily visited buildings.  Additionally, usually main roads would converge there, helping to maximize the use of the town Common.  Particularly in the era of horse travel, it was important to locate most resources close to each other for the greatest efficiency of time and effort.  A Common, then and now, is a cultural hub for the town, where community can come together, and can observe traditions together.  It demonstrates the values of community and is a staple of any quintessential New England Village.  Perhaps the most famous Common of all is Boston Common, and all of the satellite elements surrounding a Common can be easily seen there, such as the State House, a historical church (Park Street Church), and a crazy convergence of busy roads.

Academic source:


4) Conservation Land:

Similar in concept to the town Common, another essential part of a New England Village is having conservation land for the public use.  This is land that won’t be developed, but rather is kept for its natural beauty and the enjoyment of its townspeople.  One of the original uses of conservation land was for hunting, but now that is usually prohibited, with the land being used primarily for recreational activities such as hiking, running, biking and trail-riding with horses.

Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System (CAPS) Statewide Massachusetts Assessment: November 2011

Conservation land in New England typically came about from donations by large landowners of unused farmland or of areas of geographical natural beauty, such as ponds, hills, and rivers.

Crystal Shores Conservation Area, Haverhill, MA

New England as a region seems rather unique in its preservation of conservation land and the importance of balancing development with responsible land stewardship.  One need only look at the suburban sprawl in places like Houston or St. Louis to appreciate this observation.  Farmland and pastures in these areas (and others like them) were turned over to rapid development without ecological consideration or protection.  Even though New England supports one of the densest human populations in the U.S., it is also one of the most heavily forested regions.

Academic source:


5) Cape Cod and Colonial Homes:

The classic architecture of homes that is seen in a drive through quaint New England towns and villages is either the Cape Cod or Colonial style.  There are original examples of this architecture still in existence today in this towns, but more commonly seen are modern, fancier versions that copy the basic features of these styles:  central chimney, steep roof, windows and dormers, and either clapboard or shingle siding.

Colonial Style House
Cape Cod Style House

As mentioned earlier, the original English settlers of New England were primarily families of East Anglian stock.  They were solidly middle-class and practical, and built homes that reflected this mindset.  Their homes were built to withstand the long, often snowy, bitter New England winters.  They used building materials that were readily available, which was wood, and employed techniques and styles that were familiar from their homeland.  In keeping with their focus on simplicity and plainness, there was little adornment on their homes.


Academic source:

Virginia Savage McAlester. A Field Guide to American Houses. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 2015.


6) Agrarian Roots:

Most New England Villages began as farming communities, with very little industry.  The seemingly unlimited land that was available in the New World attracted settlers that cleared the land for agriculture and grazing.  For over 200 years, the land in New England was deforested, eventually resulting in more than 70% destruction of regional forest cover.

Reminders of the agrarian past can be seen in the remnants of stone walls on conservation land forest.  These walls were built, using easily found granite rocks, to mark the property lines between farms.  Interestingly, unlike many other regions of the U.S., most of the New England forest is owned either privately or by nonprofits.  This is likely a combined consequence of these agrarian roots and the shrinking of agriculture in the region.

2012 USDA Agricultural Stats

Academic source:


7) Transcendentalism and Romanticism:

Jack and Rose from the Titanic

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were among the literary giants who were proponents of these philosophies.  Both philosophies believe in the power of the individual and personal freedom and in the divinity within nature and humanity, not surprisingly cornerstones of the New England Village, which was the heritage of both of these men.

John Gast, “American Progress”, 1872

The combination of their educational and religious upbringing and the agrarian and forested natural beauty of the New England landscape were instrumental in shaping their beliefs in these philosophies.  The key components of the New England Village created an environment that nurtured this idealistic philosophy and social movement, which interestingly had progressive views on feminism and community, particularly for its time.

Academic source:  Wood, J.S. (1991), “Build, Therefore, Your Own World”; The New England Village as Settlement Ideal. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 81: 32-50.


8) Manufacturing and Industrial Shift:

Industrial Shift

The shift from an agrarian to a manufacturing and industrial economy forever altered the idyllic image of the New England Village.  As the population shifted to the cities for job opportunities, many New England towns lost population and farms were either neglected or abandoned altogether.  The centerpieces of the agrarian New England Village, the church and obligation to community, were severely challenged and stressed.

Instead of largely self-contained farming communities, some New England towns and villages morphed into manufacturing and industrial hubs, often based on their proximity to falling water and newly-built road and railroads.  The urbanization of these towns and their surrounding towns marked the end of the New England Village in its original form in many of them.

Academic source:


9) Transportation:

New England Villages also experienced transformation as modes of efficient transportation changed from water-based schooners and steamboats to land-based railroads and then cars.  As mentioned previously, the prosperous coastal New England towns and villages were challenged in terms of population and opportunity by the growing industrial centers made easily accessible by rail and then car.

Night Highway

Post-World War II, New England saw the explosion of prosperity that the rest of the country experienced, often resulting in somewhat reckless development.  The mass availability of the automobile and development of the interstate system had a further deteriorating effect on the New England Village mystique.

Academic source:


10) Suburbanization:

After World War II, many New England Villages were further transformed from self-contained towns into suburban extensions of their closest metropolitan area.  Examples of this are the MetroWest, North Shore, and South Shore suburbs of Boston, and the Westchester County and southern Connecticut suburbs of New York City.

Levittown, PA

Town interests have changed from being primarily town-focused to regionally-focused in many of these New England towns and villages.  The generational commitment to the community is often lacking, with the resulting diminishing interest in the participatory dimensions that define community, such as Town Meeting attendance, church attendance, and so forth.  Hopefully, the New England Village does not become a core geographical imagination that is a distant memory only.

Academic source:

Example Listicle: The Radical and Untold History of Gay Bars

Below is an example Listicle. You need not follow this format, offer these types of points, use these kind of media, etc. This is JUST AN EXAMPLE. What it should offer you is an idea of the rigor and depth of each point. Given that I, Prof. Gieseking, and Ashley Hamelin created this based on my book (which took ten years) and Ashley’s 400-level research seminar paper from last spring, your Listicle will likely not be as well researched (yet!) but you have something to strive for! 😉

Gay bars are a staple of the American geographical imagination. Usually imagined to be in or linked to the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) neighborhood-and imagined as such straights and LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer) people alike-the mythical, all-welcoming, and ever affordable “gay bar”-lesbian, gay and lesbian, or LGBTQ bar, party or club-is the one of if not the most widely mentioned place in lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer histories, memoirs, and documentaries. These spaces are shaped by race, class, and, especially, gender. But their history is much more radical, complicated, and tied to political economy than you would imagine. Here are the top ten things you didn’t know about gay bars…
“Stormé DeLarverié by Diamondback Annie” Homo History 2014.

1. No one knows where or when the first “gay bar” popped into existence in the US. It is likely around the same time as such establishments as Europe, likely toward the end of the 19th or early 20th centuries. Such places would have been illegal based on local laws or, at a minimum, the people in them would be harassed and persecuted. As such, bars did not claim the identity of “gay bar” until around the mid-20th century. As early as the 1890s, historian George Chauncey writes, unnamed bars would have men singing in falsetto voices, acting in campy ways, or dressing in women’s clothes.
“Stonewall Riots: A Gay Protest Against Mafia Bars.” Friends of Ours: Mostly About Organized Crime 2010.

2. During World War II, formal lesbian and gay hubs began to congeal in major US cities. As historians John D’Emilio and Allen Bérubé revealed, same-sex segregation on the frontlines and at home allowed more gay men and lesbians to find one another.[1] Importantly, women could finally live away from home, by their own means, and as a group. However, heteronormative and racist moral policies and laws of the mid-20th century, such as the motion picture industry’s Hays Law, dominated everyday American life. Consequently, it was often the mafia with their kickbacks and connections who could create and sustain bars for LGBTQ people in urban areas.[2]
Paperback cover of Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold. 1995.

3. The most well-known and one of the only book-length lesbian histories, Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold, includes an entire chapter on lesbian bars, titled “I Could Hardly Wait to Get Back to That Bar.” Writing about working- and middle-class, black and white lesbians in Buffalo, New York, from the 1930s to the 1960s, historian Elizabeth Kennedy and activist Madelyn Davis describe how the bar-lesbian only, or mixed lesbian and gay-was the only semi-public or public space available for lesbians. The bar, they argued, afforded a space for open sexuality, radical gender presentation, community socializing, and what they term “prepolitical” gatherings before the rise of a national gay and lesbian movement.
1970 Stonewall March / First Pride Parade. Leonard Fink. 1970.

4. Drawing upon and also feeding the radical civil rights, feminist, Marxist, and Third World movements, the 1960s and 1970s lesbian and gay movement focused on what queer theorist Michael Warner calls a “democratic conception of activism.” The early movement called for “resistance to the regulation of sex and [an] aspiration to a queerer world,” namely in cities.[4]  A small number of protests, riots, and acts of resistance throughout US cities, largely conducted by working-class people of color and gender non-conforming people, paved the way for the most well-known and spontaneous riot on June 27, 1969 at Greenwich Village’s own The Stonewall Inn. On that day, LGBTQ people, largely poor and working-class people of color, fought back against police violence. The march following the five days of the Stonewall Riot continues to be celebrated annually and internationally as Pride.[5]
Eva Kotchever (“Eve Addams”) on right with an unidentified woman. Source: Kheldara on Tumblr from NYC Historic Sites. Undated.

5. Historian Lillian Faderman wrote that “lesbians claimed a bit of space for themselves in the clubs that catered to them and featured lesbian entertainers.”[6] At 129 MacDougal Street from 1925 to 1926, the brief but popular Eve Addams’ Tearoom posted a sign that read, “Men are admitted but not welcome.”[7] The after-theater club may have been the first equivalent to modern lesbian bars; Faderman notes that “there were not…enough females to support all-women’s clubs” until the 1930s.[8]

6. In 1979, Esta Noche, the first Latino gay bar in San Francisco, opened its doors. This bar provided a space for LGBTQ Latinos to socialize and be socialized. It was a space to watch drag performances and enjoy comedy shows. Beyond the entertainment, Esta Noche was a safe space for gay latinos. Bars and nightclubs have often become safe spaces for LGBTQ people to gather and to be free to be themselves without scrutiny or fear. Greggor Mattson wrote in his article about homonormative gay place making that bars “were the most important cultural institution where newly ‘out’ men were socialized, interpersonal contacts were made, social isolation was alleviated, and community art exhibitions, charity auctions and political meetings were held.”[24] For LGBTQ Latinos, a group that had faced a trifecta of discrimination, Esta Noche provided that space. Journalist Paul Flynn wrote in an article in The Guardian explaining that in gay bars “there is a shared vocabulary, built partly around disposition but also the raw necessity to pass on the things that school couldn’t teach you and that church refuses to.[25] He goes on to write “after the coat-check, you are the majority, not the minority. It is a feeling both strange and new. Because it is essentially a mating ground, it can be cruel and pernicious, but that hardness is dealt out on equal terms.”[26] Gay bars are more than just a place to dance and have fun they are places to learn about and understand yourself. They are places to find your people, to feel acceptance and to feel at home.
Sip-in Protest at Julius’, New York City. 1966.

7. “Cruising” is the term for walking or driving around in search of a partner for a sexual encounter. The slang term was and is still often used as a code word among gay men, and is still one that most heterosexuals didn’t pick up on. Gieseking writes, “By the sexual revolution of the late 1910s and 1920s, the first lesbian and gay bars of the city could be found in the left-leaning, already gentrifying, bohemian Greenwich Village neighborhood. Included were balls, saloons, parks, and waterfront cruising grounds of gay men.[9] Gay men “converted the street into a major cruising area, and it was soon called the Auction Block”. While in the past, cruising would usually take place on the street or in a park, bars and bath houses were also locations were cruising was common. Today, cruising can even be done online on chat rooms and through dating/hookup apps such as Grindr, Scruff, and Tinder.

8. Lesbians had bars since the 1920s and 1940s. After raids on bars began to slow and then stop in the 1960s and 1970s, some bars began to very slowly racially integrate but to divide by gender. The once required interdependence between gay men and women and their shared spaces would fade until the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1990s, the number of women-only bars multiplied, inspired by the feminist project to produce rooms and now bars of their own.[10]

Queer Nation NY Logo 1992.

9. Urban geographer Jack Gieseking’s forthcoming book, A Queer New York: Geographies of Lesbians, Dykes, and Queers, 1983-2008, will be the first lesbian and/or queer history of New York City. In his book, he explains that, given the emphasis on the roles of bars and parties in lesbian-queer lives, it is revealing that there were over 52 of these places for men on a 2008 Pride map of the southern half of Manhattan, and only four bars for women; only two lesbian bars remain there as of 2018.[11] Gieseking suggests this is largely linked to men’s greater incomes, political power, and claims to public space.
San Francisco Fox GIF by Animation Domination High-Def. Undated.

10. “To My Dear Community- It is with a heavy heart, great thought and consideration that I have made the very difficult decision to sell The Lexington Club,” wrote the owner of the only lesbian bar in San Francisco.[12] The 2014 Facebook post went on to list the reasons for closing, namely gentrification that pushed lesbians out of the Mission District and made the Lex’s rent and patron’s drinks too costly. The mainstream, straight media erupted in shock and awe at the 2014 closing of the last, let alone only, lesbian bar in America’s gayest city, and instead suggested explanations ranging from the “assimilation” of gays and lesbians to the end of lesbian culture itself. Since 2006, the last lesbian bars of many large cities had closed, including Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Omaha, Salt Lake City, Buffalo, Amarillo, Toronto, Louisville, Chicago, Albuquerque, Kansas City, Cleveland, and both Portlands. More had closed before; more would close thereafter; and gay men’s bars have also begin to close.[13] Some put the blame wholly on the rise of the internet, social media, and dating/hookup apps like Grindr, Scruff, OkCupid, and Tinder, however, as Gieseking writes, the increasing cost of residential and commercial properties, coupled with increasing cost of consumer goods and a stagnated wage rate has left little funds for leisure activities for most Americans.[14] Further, the lesser incomes and political power of women and gender non-conforming people have left much less space for lesbians, queers, and trans people, as well as LGBTQ people of color and LGBTQ working-class and even middle-class people. Yet, “as long as non-heterosexuals are discriminated against,” queer geographer Natalie Oswin writes, “queer spaces will remain something that, to borrow Spivak’s phrase, queers cannot not want.”[15] Surely, many LGBTQ people feel the need to create and share these very important and disappearing spaces.


[1] John D’Emilio, “Capitalism and Gay Identity,” in Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality, ed. Ann Snitow, Christine Stansell, and Sharon Thompson (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1983), 100-113; Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1983); Allan Bérubé, Coming Out Under Fire (New York: Plume, 1990).

[2] Vito Russo, The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (New York: Harper & Row, 1987); Joan Nestle, A Restricted Country: Essays and Short Stories (New York: Rivers Oram Press/Pandora List, 1988).

[3] Elizabeth Kennedy and Madeline Davis, Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community (New York: Penguin, 1994).

[4] Michael Warner, “Media Gays: A New Stone Wall,” The Nation, July 14, 1997, 15.

[5] These protests and riots included the 1959 Cooper’s Donuts Riot in Philadelphia, the 1965 Dewey’s Sit-In in Philadelphia, and the 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria Riot in the Tenderloin of San Francisco. Marc Stein, City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia, 1945-1972 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2004); Susan Stryker, “Transgender History, Homonormativity, and Disciplinarity,” Radical History Review, no. 100 (2008): 144-57; Susan Stryker, Transgender History (Berkeley, CA: Seal Press, 2008).

[6] Lillian Faderman, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Penguin, 1992), 88.

[7] In his NYC chapter for the National Park Service LGBTQ theme study, Shockley writes, “A Village columnist in 1931 reminisced that her club was ‘one of the most delightful hang-outs the Village ever had’ (Chauncey 242). After a police raid, Kotchever was convicted of ‘obscenity’ (for _Lesbian Love_, a collection of her short stories) and disorderly conduct, and was deported. Allegedly, ‘the police had received many complaints about objectionable persons visiting the tea room.'” Jay Shockley, “Preservation of LGBTQ Historic & Cultural Sites – A New York City Perspective,” in LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History, ed. Megan Springate (Washington, D.C.: National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 2016), 17-18; see also Chauncey, Gay New York.

[8] Faderman, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, 84, 88.

[9] George Chauncey, “Privacy Could Only Be Had in Public: Gay Uses of the Streets,” in Stud: Architectures of Masculinity, ed. Joel Sanders (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996), 224-67; Rich Wandel, “LGBT Community Center National History Archive: Gay Beach Photographs (c. 1950 – c. 1980)” (LGBT Community Center of New York City, 2017), LGBT Community Center National History Archive.

[10] Faderman, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers; Julie Abraham, “Review: Tales of the City,” The Women’s Review of Books 21, no. 3 (December 2003): 1-3.

[11] Next Magazine, “Pride Map 2008,” Next Magazine, June 2008.

[12] Lila Thirkfield, “Lexington Club: To My Dear Community,” Facebook (blog), October 23, 2014,

[13] Greggor Mattson, “Lesbian Bar Closures, Lost Womyn’s Space,” Greggor Mattson (blog), August 5, 2016,

[14] Jen Jack Gieseking, A Queer New York: Geographies of Lesbians, Dykes, and Queers, 1983-2008 (New York: NYU Press, 2019).

[15] Natalie Oswin, “Critical Geographies and the Uses of Sexuality: Deconstructing Queer Space,” Progress in Human Geography 32, no. 1 (2008): 100.