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Chicago Elevated Gives Boystown The Walking Tour Treatment

By Joseph Erbentraut in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 9, 2010 6:00PM

2010_06_09_boystownwalking.jpg Usually when we're walking along the streets of Boystown, the area's history is all too frequently lost on our bar- or brunch-focused minds. But a brand-new walking tour highlighting the gayborhood, presented by improviser (and former Chicagoista) Margaret Hicks of Chicago Elevated, lends a deeper, historical perspective to the area known for its overwhelming gayness and well-endowed rainbow pylons.

What better time than Pride Month to learn some history? The tour focuses on some of the businesses and landmarks that mark the homo-friendly strip of Halsted between Belmont and Addison. Starting at Roscoe's, one of the first bars on the strip to open up its windows and create a visibly gay presence in the 'hood when it was established in 1988, the tour continues with stops at Leigh Gallery and Gaymart. We were also treated to a wine tasting at Kafka.

Booze aside, the information on Chicago's queer history flowed, ranging from one of the original rumored-to-be-gay Illinois Republicans ("Honest" Abe Lincoln) to the "pansy craze" days and the first LGBT advocacy organization in the U.S., Chicago's Society for Human Rights, established by Henry Gerber in 1924. While some of the information wasn't new to this writer, a borderline-obsessed gay history nerd, the tour would be eye-opening for friends or family visiting from out-of-town. It's incredible to believe that, with all of the touring opportunities available around town, a walking tour of Boystown has not been offered previously. By the tour's end, we wound up at the beautifully decked-out Scarlet, formerly the Gentry, and helped ourselves to cheap martinis, a lushy end to an information-packed 90 minutes.

Interested in learning more about Boystown? Tours run Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 5-6:30 p.m., starting at Roscoe's, 3356 N. Halsted, and there's a $20 cover. To make a reservation or learn more about what the tour has to offer, visit the Chicago Elevated website.