Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Buick Cafe

4th and Washington (1946)

The Buick Café

Location: 1239 Southwest Washington, Portland, Oregon, USA

Opened/Closed: 1940s, 1950s

We're back in the northwestern U.S. for another posting from the 1999 Gay Portland Walking Tour:

The Buick Café, 1239 S.W. Washington.  In police reports of the Women’s Protective Division dating from 1949, this little restaurant on the northeast corner of 13th and Washington,  since demolished, was mentioned as the hangout for a group of lesbians who congregated at the Music Hall nightclub at Tenth and Stark.  The police department noted that “these women are reported to attempt their pick-up at the Music Hall and in case of failure before the Music Hall closes, they then retire to the Buick and look for other prospects.”  The report added that “these women were recently ousted from San Francisco for their actions and are, apparently, confirmed lesbians.”  The only mention of the Buick in the Oregonian is a June 4, 1959 ad seeking a waitress (p. 27).

Kind of a reminder that well-behaved women seldom make history. I don't know if we would have any evidence of this place at all if it weren't for police reports.

According to the Walking Tour, the Music Hall was a mixed gay place (though, not too surprisingly, more oriented towards the men):

The Music Hall, a.k.a Schneiderman’s Music Hall, 413½ S.W. Tenth.  One of the highlights of Portland’s gay and lesbian history is a visit to this wonderful building where, in the late 1940s, following World War II, many of the city’s gay men and lesbians came for entertainment and socializing.  Opened by Paul Schneiderman in 1937, the nightclub took its name from the tradition of the old English musical hall.  Its first mention in the Oregonian is in an article stating it was denied a liquor license, Mar. 13, 1937, p. 12.  Early on, it featured vaudeville-type entertainment as well as big name acts.

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