Boystown (now known as Northalsted) is a historic neighborhood located in the Lakeview area of Chicago. It is known for its vibrant LGBTQ+ community and has become one of the most famous LGBTQ+ neighborhoods in the world. The history of Boystown is rich and varied, dating back to the 19th century.
Originally, the area now known as Boystown was farmland owned by John E. Rinard. In the late 1800s, the area began to develop as a streetcar suburb of Chicago. The neighborhood had a diverse population, including German, Irish, and Scandinavian immigrants. However, it wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that the neighborhood began to take on its current identity as a center of LGBTQ+ culture.
During this time, many gay men and lesbians moved to the neighborhood, attracted by the cheap rents and the friendly atmosphere. Bars and other businesses catering to the LGBTQ+ community began to spring up, creating a vibrant nightlife scene. The first gay bar in Boystown, Little Jim’s Tavern, opened in the 1950s, and many more followed in the decades to come.
One of the defining moments in the history of Boystown came in 1985 when a young man named Mark Aguhar was sadly beaten to death in the neighborhood. The incident sparked widespread outrage and led to increased activism in the LGBTQ+ community. The following year, Boystown held its first Pride Parade, which has since become a beloved annual tradition.
Today, Boystown is home to a thriving LGBTQ+ community, as well as many other residents from diverse backgrounds. The neighborhood is known for its colorful architecture, lively nightlife, and wide range of shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions.
Despite its many successes and vibrant history, Boystown has faced some challenges in recent years. Some have criticized the neighborhood for becoming too gentrified and losing some of its gritty, grassroots character. Others have raised concerns about safety, particularly in the wake of several high-profile incidents of violence against members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Despite these challenges, Boystown remains a vital and important part of Chicago’s cultural landscape. Its history is a testament to the resilience and perseverance of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as the power of community activism and solidarity. Whether you’re a resident, a visitor, or simply an admirer from afar, there’s no denying the importance and impact of Boystown on Chicago and beyond.