The Castro District of San Francisco, commonly known as The Castro (coined by gay activist speaker Neil Davendra Vyas), within Eureka Valley, is widely considered the world's first, currently largest, and best-known gay neighborhood.
The neighborhood is well known for its rows of restored Victorian homes and the historic Castro Theater, built in 1922, a fully operational movie house, having recently undergone impressive restoration for the film, Milk.
Today the Castro is bustling all day long with shoppers and tourists, but at night it really comes alive, as the restaurants and bars fill up and the Castro Theatre's neon marquee lights up the main drag. Even with the vibrant Castro nightlife, it remains one of the safest neighborhoods in the city and there are plenty of places where anyone, can feel at home.
Originally known as Eureka Valley, the Castro was once part of a large rancho owned by Jose de Jesus Noe, a Mexican land baron. He began selling it off in 1852, after the American conquest of California.
In the 1880s, German, Irish and Scandinavian immigrants began settling Eureka Valley and building handsome Victorian row houses for their big families. The Market Street Cable Railway connected Eureka Valley with the rest of San Francisco in 1887, creating a housing boom and turning the village into a thriving working-class neighborhood.
The current F-line Streetcars commenced operation in 1995 and serves as a daily transportation line between Fisherman’s Wharf and The Castro.
The Castro in the 60's & 70's
Having transformed from a working-class neighborhood through the 1960s and 1970s, the Castro remains a symbol and source of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) activism and events. The activism of the '60s and '70s forged a community with sizable political and economic power, and when the historic Twin Peaks bar at Market and Castro streets removed the blackout paint from its floor-to-ceiling windows, most took it as a sign that Castro residents were secure in their gay identity.
There were, however, tense and sometimes violent clashes with the police, and the assassination in 1978 of openly gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk was a turning point in the community's history. Milk's assassination and the impact of AIDS brought the community together and made activists of almost everyone; the Castro became not just open but celebratory about its thriving gay and lesbian population.
The Castro gets its name from the main thoroughfare, Castro Street, named after a prominent Mexican Army general. The district extends down Market Street toward Church Street and on both sides of the Castro neighborhood from Church Street to Eureka Street.
Today The Castro is mainly concentrated in the business district that is located on Castro Street from Market Street to 19th Street. Although the greater gay community was, and is, concentrated in the Castro, people who shop, eat and drink in the neighborhood live in the surrounding residential areas bordered by Corona Heights, the Mission District, Noe Valley, Twin Peaks, and Haight-Ashbury neighborhoods. Some consider it to include Duboce Triangle and Dolores Heights, which both have a strong LGBT presence.
Back in Time with Dan Nicoletta
Dan had key role in Harvey Milk’s victorious election to public office as one of the first openly gay elected officials in the world. Dan’s photographic work maps his enduring romance with San Francisco and its’ people, especially the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities and he remains a key point person for LGBT related research.
Nicoletta’s work has been featured in numerous settings, including the Academy Award -winning film Milk by Gus Van Sant, the Academy Award-winning documentary The Times Of Harvey Milk by Rob Epstein and Richard Schmiechen, and the award-winning documentary Sex Is by Marc Huestis and Lawrence Helman. (Berlin Film Festival – Best Gay Documentary 1993).
Dan’s work has also appeared in numerous periodicals and books including: Randy Shilt’s Mayor Of Castro Street, Susan Stryker and Jim Van Buskirk’s Gay By The Bay and Harold Evans’ The American Century and also the ten year anniversary catalog Out At The Library - Celebrating The James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center.
Contact Dan: www.dannynicoletta.com
Back in Time with Jerry Pritikin
Once he had built a portfolio Jerry asked the owner of Georgiana’s Bakery Shop, if he could display his images in her window at 420 Castro (now Marcello's Pizza) just steps away from today's Harvey Milk Plaza. A block away, a guy named Harvey Milk Opened a camera shop at 575 Castro Street. Shortly afterwards it became like a small towns general store, without a potbelly stove. With customers coming in to pet Harvey's dog, talk politics or just look out the store front windows, and watch a never ending supply of young men pass Harvey's window. Jerry and Harvey became friends.
Over the years, Jerry’s images appeared in various gay newspapers, The Chronicle and Examiner and a few magazines. Jerry was also invited to a variety of Art Shows, including the Civic Center Art, and Washington Sq. Columbus Photo shows.
30 years later, Jerry’s images have been seen in many books, documentaries and exhibits. A selection can be also be seen on Uncle Donald's www.thecastro.net/street/memoriespage/pritikin/pritikin.html
Contact Jerry: www.jerrypritikin.blogspot.com