The Castro District

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.

From 1910 to 1920, the Castro was known as “Little Scandinavia” because of the number of people of Swedish,Norwegian,

Castro Theater San Francisco

Castro Theater San Francisco (Photo credit: CaDeltaFoto)

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 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

English: The corner of Market, Castro, and 17t...

The Castro- Gay Mecca


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.

The U.S. military offloaded thousands of gay servicemen in San Francisco during World War II after they were discharged for their homosexuality. Many settled in the Castro, and thus began the influx of gays to the Castro neighborhood.[3]

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 neighborhoodPolk 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 fled to the suburbs.

The corner of 20th Street and Castro

20th and Castro Street

An area this broad and rich of course has more than one identity. Duboce Triangle, Mission Dolores, and Dolores Heights all either overlap or lie within the boundaries of the district. Other unofficial, tongue-in-cheek names include Safeway Heights, referencing the ubiquitously visible landmark sign; the Swish Alps, inspired by the density of gay and lesbian denizens in the slopes above Castro Street and KFC Heights referring to the KFC on Duboce.

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