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Castro District
—  Neighborhood of San Francisco  —
Castro Street and its namesake Neighborhood, the Castro.
Nickname(s): The Castro, The Gay Mecca,
 - Board of Supervisors Bevan Dufty
 - State Assembly Tom Ammiano D)
 - State Senate Mark Leno (D)
 - U.S. House Nancy Pelosi (D)
Area [1]
 - Total 1.7 km2 (0.662 sq mi)
 - Land 1.7 km2 (0.662 sq mi)
Population (2008)
 - Total 12,503
 - Density 7,293.5/km2 (18,890/sq mi)
ZIP Code 94110, 94114
Area code(s) 415
The flag at the corner of Market, Castro, and 17th Street

The Castro District, commonly known as The Castro, is a neighborhood within Eureka Valley in San Francisco, California. It is widely considered the world's first, and currently largest and best-known gay neighborhood having transformed from a working-class neighborhood through the 1960s and 1970s. It remains a symbol and source of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) activism and events.



The corner of 20th Street and Castro

San Francisco's gay village is mostly concentrated in the business district that is located on Castro Street from Market Street to 19th Street. It extends down Market Street toward Church Street and on both sides of the Castro neighborhood from Church Street to Eureka Street. Although the greater gay community was, and is, concentrated in the Castro, many gay people 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.

Castro Street itself, which originates a few blocks north at the intersection of Divisadero and Waller Streets, runs south through Noe Valley, crossing the 24th Street business district and ending as a continuous street a few blocks farther south as it moves toward the Glen Park neighborhood. It reappears in several discontinuous sections before ultimately terminating at Chenery Street, in the heart of Glen Park.


Harvey Milk, shown here in 1973 at his store Castro Camera, used the business as headquarters when he ran for office for the first time. He began to style himself "The Mayor of Castro Street" and in 1974 launched the Castro Street Fair.

Castro Street was named for José Castro (1808–1860), a leader of Mexican opposition to U.S. rule in California in the 19th century, and governor of Alta California from 1835-1836.[3] The neighborhood now known as the Castro was born in 1887 when the Market Street Cable Railway built a line linking Eureka Valley to downtown.

In 1891, Alfred E. Clark built his well-known mansion at the corner of Douglass and Caselli Avenue at 250 Douglass which is commonly referred by locals as the "Caselli Mansion." It survived the 1906 earthquake and fire which destroyed a large portion of San Francisco.

From 1910 to 1920, the Castro was known as "Little Scandinavia" on account of the number of people of Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, and Finnish ancestry who lived there. A Finnish bathhouse (Finilla's) dating from this period was located behind the Café Flore on Market Street until 1986. The Cove on Castro diner used to be called The Norse Cove. The Scandinavian Seamen's Union was near 15th Street and Market, just around the corner from the Swedish-American Hall, which remains in the district. Scandinavian-style "half-timber" construction can still be seen in some of the buildings along Market Street between Castro and Church Streets.

The Castro became a working-class Irish neighborhood in the 1930s and remained so until the mid-1960s.

There was originally a cable car line with large double-ended cable cars that ran along Castro Street from Market Street to 29th St. until the tracks were dismantled in 1941 and it was replaced by the 24 bus.

According to Morgan Spurlock, who filmed "Straight Man in a Gay World", a 2005 episode of his documentary TV series 30 Days in the Castro, the U.S. military offloaded thousands of gay servicemen in San Francisco during World War II after they were discharged for being homosexuals. Many settled in the Castro, and this began the influx of homosexuals to the Castro neighborhood.

The Castro came of age as a gay center following the Summer of Love in the neighboring Haight-Ashbury district in 1967. The gathering brought tens of thousands of middle-class youth from all over the United States. The neighborhood, previously known as Eureka Valley, became known as the Castro, after the landmark theatre by that name near the corner of Castro and Market Streets. Many San Francisco gays also moved there after about 1970 from what had been the formerly most prominent gay neighborhood, Polk Gulch, because large Victorian houses were available at low rents or available for purchase for low down payments when their former middle-class owners had moved to the suburbs.

By 1973, Harvey Milk had opened a camera store there, Castro Camera, and began political involvement as a gay activist, further contributing to the notion of the Castro as a gay destination. Some of the culture of the late 1970s included what was termed the "Castro clone", a mode of dress and personal grooming -- tight denim pants, black or desert sand colored combat boots, tight T-shirt or, often, an Izod crocodile shirt, possibly a red plaid flannel outer shirt, and usually sporting a mustache or full beard -- in vogue with the gay male population at the time, and which gave rise to the nickname "Clone Canyon" for the stretch of Castro Street between 18th and Market Streets. There were numerous famous watering holes in the area contributing to the nightlife, including the Corner Grocery Bar, Toad Hall, the Pendulum, the Midnight Sun, Twin Peaks, and the Elephant Walk. A typical daytime street scene of the period is perhaps best illustrated by mentioning the male belly dancers who could be found holding forth in good weather at the corner of 18th and Castro on "Hibernia Beach," in front of the financial institution from which it drew its name. Then at night, after the bars closed at 2 AM, the men remaining at that hour often would line up along the sidewalk of 18th Street to indicate that they were still available to go home with someone.

The area was hit hard by the AIDS/HIV crisis of the 1980s. Beginning in 1984, city officials began a crackdown on bathhouses and launched initiatives that aimed to prevent the spread of AIDS. Kiosks lining Market Street and Castro Street now have posters promoting safe sex and testing right alongside those advertising online dating services.

Attractions & Characteristics

Stores on Castro near the intersection with 18th Street. Rainbow flags, which are commonly associated with gay pride, are hung as banners on streetlights along the road. [4][5][6]

One of the more notable features of the neighborhood is Castro Theatre, a movie palace built in 1922 and one of San Francisco's premier movie houses. 18th and Castro- San Francisco, a major intersection in the Castro where many historic events, marches, protests have taken and continue to take place. The GLBT Historical Society exhibit at 18th and Castro streets (499 Castro Street).[7] The F Market heritage streetcar line's turnaround at Market St.-17th St at the Castro Street Station, a Muni Metro subway station, attracts many tourists which was renamed Harvey Milk Plaza in honor of its most famous resident. His Camera Store and campaign headquarters on 575 Castro has a memorial plaque and mural.

Pink Triangle Park - 17th Street at Market, a city park and monument named after the pink triangles sewn to gay prisoners targeted by the Nazis during World War II.[8]

Harvey's (Bar), former site of the Elephant Walk Bar, which was violently raided by police after the White Night Riots.[9][10]

Twin Peaks (Bar), the first gay bar in the city, and possibly the United States, with plate glass windows so patrons were fully visible to the public is located right on the intersection of Market and Castro.[11]

The famed Hartford Street Zen Center is also located in the Castro. As well as the Most Holy Redeemer parish, 100 Diamond Street.[12]

Special events, parade and Steet fairs are held in the Castro include the Castro Street Fair, the Dyke March, the famed Halloween in the Castro which was discontinued in 2007 due to street violence; Pink Saturday, and the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival.

See also


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ Shilts, Randy (1982). The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, page 23. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0312523300.
  5. ^ "Harvey Bernard Milk". Biography Resource Center Online. Gale Group, 1999. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center, Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2008.
  6. ^ "Harvey Bernard Milk". Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. Gale Research, 1998.
  7. ^ Bajko, Matthew (2008-12-04), "Gay history museum opens in Castro", Bay Area Reporter,  
  8. ^
  9. ^ Davis, Kevin (10 June 2007, page 13). "Harvey's Marks 10 Years". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved 2008-01-30.  
  10. ^ Rogers, Fred (2000). "The Gay Pride 2000: Elephant Walk Took Brunt of Police Attack in the Castro". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 2008-04-10.  
  11. ^ Higgs, David (1999). Queer Sites: Gay Urban Histories Since 1600. Routledge. p. 180. ISBN 0415158974, 9780415158978. Retrieved 2008-08-18.  
  12. ^ Godfrey, Donal. Gays and Grays. The Story of the inclusio of the Gay Community at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in San Francisco. Lexington Books, 2008.

External links

Coordinates: 37°45′42″N 122°26′06″W / 37.76171°N 122.43512°W / 37.76171; -122.43512

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