Sunday, January 25, 2015

Geneva House

Geneva House
96 Geneva Street today - an empty lot

Location: 96 Geneva Street, Highland Park, Michigan, USA

Opened: Early 1970s

Closed: Mid to late 70s?

This description of Geneva House is taken from a longer June 2014 PrideSource article called LGBT Time Capsule: Dr. Tim Retzloff Chronicles Detroit's LGBT History:

While commune style living may be more synonymous with San Francisco, the Detroit area had its own lesbian commune in the early 1970s when a small group of women took an ordinary wood-frame house at 96 Geneva St. at the corner of Second Blvd. in Highland Park and turned it into a lesbian-feminist sanctuary.

Geneva House had its origins with a feminist guerilla street theater troupe that performed on the Wayne State University campus and around downtown Detroit, but soon shifted to an all-lesbian commune that founder Jaye Spiro said housed the "Dyke House Gang."

Generally, five women lived at Geneva House at any given time, along with several pets, in an area that was racially mixed. There were four bedrooms, with one resident putting up a hammock to sleep in. One of those residents, Merilee Melvin, said "We all had very bad haircuts and there was a lot of no bra stuff and cotton T-shirts, baggy jeans; there was no dressing up. No girly stuff, it was a very anti-femme scene. And the Geneva House was sort of that thing."

"It kind of became, to some extent, a kind of lesbian community center," Melvin explained. "The Wayne State Gay Liberation Front would refer calls from women to our phone number. So we became this sort of informal lesbian helpline. And I remember talking to people on the phone. Man! Because in the early '70s, it was really hard to get information about what it means to be a lesbian."

Today, 96 Geneva Street is a vacant residential lot. In fact, it appears this former womyn's space is for sale and has an estimated market value of $58,500.

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