Monday, October 24, 2011

Rose-El-Inn/Roselle Inn

Corner of Clark and Division Streets today
Rose-El-Inn/Roselle Inn

Location: 1251 North Clark Street (near West Division Street), Chicago, Illinois, USA

Opened: After 1933

Closed: Ordered closed December 24, 1934/ closed early 1935

From Out and Proud in Chicago:

After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the first bars catering exclusively to lesbians and gay men opened in Chicago. Among the best known were Waldman's, a gay male bar run by a married Jewish couple on North Michigan Avenue near East Randolph Street, and the Rose-El-Inn, a lesbian bar on North Clark Street near West Division Street.

And that is all I've been able to uncover about the Rose-El-Inn. I know that this general area continues to be a center of Chicago nightlife--and historically has been associated with much of Chicago's gay nightlife--but that's about it.

Update January 2012: Ah HAH! It appears there is an alternative spelling for this place: ROSELLE INN. We find additional information under this spelling at the Chicago History Museum blog:

Although 1933 marked the end of Prohibition, the Pansy Craze continued for almost another decade. But even as speakeasies were allowed to reclaim their status as bars, many queer–friendly spaces were shut down. The Ballyhoo Café, Dill Pickle Club, and two establishments frequented by lesbians, the Twelve Thirty Club and Roselle Inn, all closed in the mid-1930s. In October 1935, the Cabin Inn and the De Luxe Café were raided by the Chicago Police, who insisted that the drag queens “Put on pants or go to jail.” By the time Chicago entered the 1940s, the congeniality of Prohibition had past: a sharp line had been drawn between gay and lesbian bars and straight establishments.

Chad C. Heap in his book Slumming: Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife (1885-1940) further tells us that this nightlife "clean up" was launched by Mayor Edward J. Kelly in December 1934, and that by early 1935 "pansy" and lesbian entertainment had been virtually eradicated from the city's North Side:

Lesbian nightlife also suffered a major setback when two nightspots popular with both mannish women and heterosexuals--The Twelve-Thirty Club and the Roselle Inn--were shut down as part of the mayor's attack on "night clubs catering to women who prefer men's attire." Calling these cabarets "a disgrace to any city," Mayor Kelly vowed to purge Chicago of "every joint of such character" and announced that he would insist that the city council pass "an ordinance forbidding the impersonation of one sex by the opposite sex on any stage or place of amusement in the city of Chicago."

Also see the November 2005 article by Lucinda Fleeson on the "Gay 30s" in Chicago for a fascinating glimpse at gay and lesbian life during this time period.

Just to further complicate the naming issues: this place is referred to as the Roselle CLUB here (we're also informed that it was run by a woman named Eleanor Shelby). Or even as the Roselle ASSOCIATES CLUB here. Or even as just THE ROSELLE here. How about CLUB ROSAL as we we see it here? So pick a card, any card....

Photo: Corner of Clark and Division Streets today. "Much of Chicago's nightlife, including the Rush St. district and many bars and nightclubs are located close to the station." The station opened in 1943.

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