Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hotel Gorley Ladies Dining Room

Gorley's Lake Hotel (c. 1915-1930)
Hotel Gorley Ladies Dining Room

Location: Uniontown, Pennsylvania, USA

Opened: April 1908

Closed: Hotel closed in July 1957, when sold to the Society of Brothers

The Uniontown Morning Herald announced the opening of what was apparently first called the "Hotel Gorley" on April 3, 1908. Like many of the fine lakeside resorts of that era, it featured separate dining rooms for the ladies and the gentlemen. Here is how the described the ladies dining room, which (naturally!) was on the second floor--the typical location of ladies dining rooms, restaurants, dining rooms, and the like:

Gorley's Hotel
The ladies' dining room is on the second floor. It is a dream. No expense was spared to make this room  one of the brightest spots in the house. The walls are beautifully decorated with tapestry hangings that match window curtains of the finest materials. The floor is covered with a beautifully designed velvet brussels carpet. The chandeliers are of the most beautiful designs and are connected up with both electricity and natural gas.

Gorley's Lake Hotel
Unfortunately, some of the pages of this issue are no longer readily available, so the descriptions are abruptly cut off. So all we're told about the gent's area is the following: "Men's Dining Room to be Presided Over by a Pittsburg Expert."

The hotel's 21 rooms, we're assured, were "handsomely furnished"--though only six of the 21 rooms had "private bath rooms":

White enameled iron beds, with coverings as white as snow. Mahogany is the material used in the furniture of each room. Hot and cold flowing water is provided in stationary wash stands. The carpets on the floor are of the finest quality of brussels, while the walls and ceilings of each room are finished in colors that match the floor coverings.

Sounds so romantic....

A History of Uniontown tells us that Charles H. Gorley built this four-story brick hotel in 1907: "He ran this as a restaurant from April 4, 1908, as Hotel Gorley for a short time, but failing to secure a hotel license, he closed the place."

The evidence is not altogether clear, but it appears that at some point the hotel was acquired by new owners and significantly expanded. A 1927 ad in the Jewish Criterion describes a much bigger and grander place than the Gorley Hotel from 1908--assuming this is the same place:

75 Miles from Pitt:()urgh
Mountains Are Calling—Beautiful
and Picturesque—A Tonic for
the Tired Mind and Body
This popular summer resort offering you more pastime than any hotel on the National Highway. A resort hotel for discriminating guests. You are making no mistake in spending your vacation here. Hotel is New and Modern with 100 Rooms and Baths and Beach Bathing,
Boating, Dancing
11 Miles East of Uniontown,  Pa.

Time Magazine actually reported on the closing of Gorley's Lake Hotel in July 1957, when it was sold to the Society of Brothers--what Time described as "an obscure religious sect." Presumably the ladies dining room was long gone by then: 

It was a big night at Gorley's Lake Hotel. All four bars were going full blast, and some 500 revelers milled happily about the ivy-grown Allegheny Mountain resort near Uniontown, Pa. Some of them went in for a moonlight dip from the concrete bathing pavilion, and it was 4 a.m. before things quieted down; the management even set up a few drinks on the house all around—a flagrant violation of Pennsylvania liquor laws. But the 34-year-old hotel would not be needing its liquor license any more..

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


7th Avenue and 124th Street (1959)

Location: 7th Avenue (Harlem), New York, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: 1950s

In the Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures (2000), Bonnie Zimmerman says the following about the Wellsworth:

Public bar life was not as prominent in African American lesbian communities as it was for working-class white lesbians. In part, this was because, until the late 1960s, there were few bars or clubs that welcomed African American lesbian patronage. Most white lesbian bars were either alienating or notoriously racist. Few African American lesbians had the capital or political connections to have their own liquor licenses and establish their own bars. There were, however, some clubs that catered solely to African American lesbians at separate times or in separate spaces. In the 1950s, for example, the Wellsworth in Harlem was a straight bar in front and a lesbian bar in back. Yet bars carried the risk of legal trouble, public exposure and harassment from straight men, so many women avoided them.

This spatial arrangement at the Wellsworth is one we have seen at a number of lesbian bars from that era. Other examples where lesbians were pushed to the back room include the Palais in Detroit and the Goldenrod Inn in New Orleans. 

In a "Praise-Poem Collage" by Winnie Williams, we also see brief mention of the Wellsworth. The piece is entitled "An Autumn Memoir: Of Adam and Sunday Strolls in Mid-Century Harlem" and was published in The Crisis in February 1983: 

Looking east or west, long blocks of neat, brownstone homes;
Down seventh: drug stores, pawn shops, tailors, and small eateries.
We'd pass by Wellsworth's meeting/greeting Lounge
with its "Ladies Entrance" for the "gentler" sex.

We've posted on ladies entrances before, which were side doors, typically into a restaurant or tavern, that were intended for use by women patrons. Their expressed purpose was to allow women access to the ladies cafe/restaurant or dining room without having to pass through the male-dominated "regular" eating/drinking area. 

I have not seen a ladies entrance explicitly attached to a lesbian bar before. But I think there is increasing evidence that these ladies entrances and the safe passageway they provided into ladies cafes and the like were, at minimum, important predecessors to lesbian space as such. For example, Elise Chenier has documented how the old "ladies and escorts room" at Toronto's Hotel Rideau had developed into a lesbian socializing space by the 1950s.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

If Club

South Vermont Avenue & West 8th Street today
If Club

Location: 810 South Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, California, USA

Opened/Closed: 1940s-1960s

According to Gay L.A. by Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons, the If Club was a working-class lesbian bar that started in the 1940s, but continued to "flourish" into the 1950s:  

Terry DeCrescenzo, who had been a social worker, remembers that when she walked into the If Club, "a stereotypical dyke bar," as she describes it, the butches there called to each other, "Here comes a dish of ice cream." She was terrified. "I was in there for eight minutes," she says.

810 South Vermont Avenue today
Faderman and Timmons state that police harassment directed towards lesbians increased dramatically over the 1950s at the If Club and other Los Angeles area lesbian bars. An African-American woman named Meko reported that she and her friends were regularly "hauled in" by the LAPD just for standing outside the If Club. 

In a GLBTQ Encylopedia article by Dan Luckenbill, we're told that the If Club was not necessarily supportive of the early efforts aimed at lesbian networking and organizing:

9th and Vermont (c. 1948)
Alan Weeks Collection
In 1947, Vice Versa, a newsletter featuring reviews, articles, and editorials on lesbian life, was created in Los Angeles by a secretary who still prefers not to use her real name. The name she later chose was Lisa Ben, an anagram of lesbian. She called her writing for women "America's gayest magazine," the first written by lesbians and for lesbians. She produced only nine issues of Vice Versa, typing two originals of each with carbons. She learned that she could not mail them and even had difficulty distributing them by hand in lesbian bars such as the If Club.

A People's Guide to Los Angeles  informs us that from the late 1940s through the mid-1960s, this block of Vermont Avenue was home to "two working-class, racially mixed lesbian bars: the If Cafe (also known as the If Club) and the Open Door." The Open Door was located at 831 South Vermont Avenue:

"Crowd of butch girls, men in 40s, others from area," read the description for the If Cafe in 1966 in the Barfly gay guide; for the Open Door, the same guide noted simply, "Same crowd as at If Cafe." The  clientele of both bars was Black, white, and Latina, demonstrating that Queer life in Los Angeles did not exist only in white and affluent areas but was also embedded in working-class communities of color. 

Women at these clubs developed a strong, oppositional community, with their own styles and slang; for example, butch Black women termed themselves "hard dressers." Women's experiences at the If Cafe and Open Door also remind us that homophobic and racist police practices overlapped in postwar Los Angeles. Police frequently raided the bars and arrested the patrons, charging women either with "masquerading"--that is, wearing men's clothing--or prostitution. While some lesbians did work as prostitutes, many such charges were false and were used simply to harass and criminalize women who did not meet dominant and sexual norms. Black women, who were already more likely to be perceived as "loose" or "deviant" by the dominant culture, faced increased risk of arrest for lesbian behavior. The If Cafe and Open Door stayed open for years and produced a vibrant culture that carried over into activism and community life among lesbians of color in subsequent decades.     

Martin Turnbull also mentions the If Club in his list of Hollywood Places. He simply describes it as a "working class/industrial/butch lesbian hang out" from the 1930s. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


3300 Hamilton Street today


Location: 3300 Hamilton Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Opened/Closed: 1970s

From Gay and Lesbian Philadelphia by Thom Nickels.

Pudenda was a West Philadelphia women's collective that included "a mixture of gay and straight, working women, and women in school."

"It was open, anyone who needed a place to stay could live there. Eventually we had something like 15 women living in the house. People used to come to the house to come out. They knew it was a dyke house, they knew it would be accepting. We had wonderful times around the dining room table. We shared chores and cooked for one another. It was the healthiest way to come out," Arleen Olshan remembers.

Arleen Olshan was one of the original members of the Pudenda collective. A photograph of Arleen and three other original members can be seen on page 61.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Oaks' Cafe and Ladies' Restaurant

Rushford Spectator,
September 26, 1895

Oaks' Cafe and Ladies' Restaurant

Location: 246 Main Street, Buffalo, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: 1890s

The Oaks' Cafe and Ladies' Restaurant was apparently one of those places that catered to the theater crowd, as it was just opposite "the burned Academy of Music." It's certainly nice to imagine two ladies enjoying a pleasant lunch here before trotting off to the afternoon matinee.
Academy of Music (1893)

The Academy of Music wasn't a concert hall as such, despite the name. It began its life in 1852 under the name of the Metropolitan Theater. The name was changed to the Academy of Music in 1868. In its heyday, it was known as "Buffalo's best theater" and played host to the "dramatic superstars" of the nineteenth century.

246 Main Street today

As the ad above alludes to, the Academy burned to the ground on September 1, 1895 after a fire started in a nearby variety store. According to an article in the New York Times, the fire also damaged a liquor store, a saloon, and a "fur and hat store."

Fortunately, the Oaks' Cafe and Ladies Restaurant was spared, but it no doubt saw a drop in patronage after the fire. Maybe that's why the advertisement that ran after the fire emphasizes that its "prices within the reach of all."

Friday, December 7, 2012


An advertisement for Monokel, a lesbian bar in Berlin


Location: Budapester Strasse 14, Berlin, Germany

Opened: 1932

Closed: March 1933, when the Nazi party closed down Berlin's gay and lesbian bars

Way back in June 2011, I did a post on the Lost Lesbian Bars of Weimar Berlin. That post has consistently been the most popular posting here at Lost Womyn's Space, along with one on Le Monocle, a pre-war lesbian bar in Paris, which comes in at second. (For some reason, lesbian spaces from the 1930's rank very high in terms of general interest.)

Somehow up until now, I had never heard of the "Monokel" in Berlin. Very cool poster though. And totally one of those random accidental finds. I found this on a European history site, not on a lesbian or LGBT site.

In Florence Tamagne's A History of Homosexuality in Europe: Berlin, London, Paris 1919-1939, we see that  Monokel was on the list of gay and lesbian bars closed by the Nazis after they came to power. That list was published in Berliner Tageblatt on March 3, 1933. Tamagne also mentions that Monokel was one of the last of the lesbian clubs to open in 1932. (The other two were Manuela at 26 Joachimstaler Strasse and Geisha at 72 Augsburger Strasse.)

Restaurant for Ladies in Berlin

From the Temperance Caterer (UK),
February 15, 1903
Restaurant for Ladies in Berlin

Location: Berlin, Germany

Opened: 1903

Closed: ?

This is one of the more intriguing notices for a ladies restaurant. 

Typically the ads for ladies restaurants show that they're merely adjunct spaces attached to (male-only) dining areas. Not only that, but the ladies restaurants were nearly always open to male escorts. As a result, they sometimes had more men than women occupying the available tables and chairs.  

Not this one--which most unfortunately, has no name or address attached. This ladies restaurant in Berlin, which was advertised in a London temperance newspaper, was strictly for women

Berlin train station - Friedrichstrasse  (1900)
Restaurant for Ladies in Berlin.

A ladies restaurant on an extensive scale is about to be erected in Berlin. It is entirely to be managed by women, and only women will be employed as attendants. No men will be admitted or employed in any capacity whatsoever. The restaurant is intended for ladies, and more particularly young girls, shopping or passing through Berlin, who otherwise could not enter a restaurant unaccompanied, but must have recourse to one of the numerous confectioners' shops, where only tea and coffee and light refreshments are found. Ladies' hotels already exist near the large railway stations in Berlin, and a notice is posted in the railway carriages informing young girls travelling alone that ladies meet every train arriving in Berlin, and will assist them in finding suitable lodgings, or see them off if they are travelling further.
Women in wartime Berlin (1900)

Not only do we have no name or address for this restaurant, we have no names of any of the women involved or what organization that might have been associated with. Very frustrating! 

I have seen other women's organizations that met trains in large cities, in order to keep girls out of the hands of pimps and others who would lure them into prostitution or domestic exploitation in general. The White Rose Home for Colored Working Girls which was organized by African-American women in Harlem (USA) is but one example. Here we see a similar mission being carried out in Germany. 

Women window cleaners in Berlin (1900)
Hoping that by some lucky accident I stumble across more information on this restaurant and the women behind it. When or if I do, you know I will share it with you ASAP. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Smoking Cars for Women

The Smoke Nuisance (1886)
Smoking Cars for Women

Location: England

Opened: 1906

Closed: Existed at least into the 1920's

In the 19th century, smoking was defined as a strictly masculine activity, and definitely improper for ladies. Smoking was also an activity that was strongly attached to the idea of male space--the smoking rooms in hotels, clubs, and the like were typically reserved for gentlemen only. 
Smoking car on the Chicago Limited, which was
reserved for men only (1891)

One of the spaces where gentlemen used to enjoy their cigars--and do a little exclusionary male bonding--was aboard the smoking car on railroad trains. 

According to an 1881 piece in the New York Times, only a minority of the men who took up the seats in the smoking car were actually smoking. A good number of the rest, or so it is suggested, "have just quarreled with their wives, whom they have left in another car, and who can not follow them with angry tongue and umbrella to the smoking car." (Notice that in the illustration from the Chicago Limited, all the men in the smoking car are also white--except for the Black porter.)

Unfortunately, women began to associate smoking itself with male privilege and freedom, and soon took up the habit themselves as a way of declaring their personal autonomy and independence. 

And for a time, separate smoking cars for women came into being, just as there were for the men--at least on the English trains.

From the Bedford Daily Mail, August 23, 1906:

Bedford Daily Mail
August 23, 1906

Introduced in England, They Seem to Be in Demand

Fashionable women in England seem to be leading those in America in the smoking habit. According to Everyday Housekeeping, one of the first class carriages on a train that left London for Liverpool recently displayed the sign , "Ladies' smoking."

Women's smoking car (1920's)
It was the first time ever. A man called for the carriage, as they call a car in England, for his women friends, who occupied it for smoking purposes. Regular smoking carriages for women may now come into vogue over there.

Actually in America, the sentiment tended to run the other way, with municipal campaigns to ban public smoking by women. Part of the reason was that it was associated with excessive drinking and promiscuity--definite social no no's. Back in 1908, a woman named Ethel Powers protested one such ban:
Women smoking on bus (1925)

They have stopped women from smoking in public!
Their excuse for this is public decency.
They say it is wrong for women to smoke in public places – that it is offensive to those who look on and detrimental to the character and dignity of the fair sex.
Who say and do this?
Why, who else but those lords of creation — men.

Read the rest here.

By the 1920s, many younger women had taken up smoking with a vengeance. They smoked on the streets, on trains, on buses, in restaurants, and anywhere else they could get away with it.

And we now have the lung cancer rates to prove it....