The Castro District, commonly referenced as The Castro, is a neighborhood in Eureka Valley in San Francisco, California. The Castro is one of the United States' first and best-known gay neighborhoods, and it is currently the largest. The local news media view the intersection of Market and Castro as ground zero location for interviews when prominent news impacting the gay community occurs.
1887 - The neighborhood now known as the Castro was created when the Market Street Railway Company built a line linking Eureka Valley to downtown.
1910 to 1920 - The Castro was known as "Little Scandinavia" because 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. Scandinavian-style "half-timber" construction can still be seen in some of the buildings along Market Street between Castro and Church Streets.
1930s to 1960s - The Castro became a working-class Irish neighborhood.
1939 to 1945 - 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.
1941 - The tracks for the cable car line (with large double-ended cable cars that ran along Castro Street from Market Street to 29th St) were dismantled. It was replaced by the 24 bus.
1967 - The Castro came of age as a gay center following the Summer of Love in the neighboring Haight-Ashbury district. 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.
1970 - Many San Francisco gays also moved there 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 fled to the suburbs.
1973 - Harvey Milk, who would become the most famous resident of the neighborhood, opened a camera store, Castro Camera, and began political involvement as a gay activist, further contributing to the notion of the Castro as a gay destination.
1980s - The area was hit hard by the AIDS/HIV crisis. 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.
Food & Dining
There is a wide variety of restaurants in the Castro, but most aren't known for their food. Here's a starting point:
Hot Cookie - Anatomically correct cookies, butch bars, and cute underwear. Try the one with cayenne pepper.
Orphan Andy's - Greasy spoon diner with great people-watching.
The Cove - Friendly neighborhood diner.
La Tortilla - Cheap burritos, decent chicken mole, pretty paint job. Good place to hang out during a protest at 18th and Market.
The Castro is the center of the gay bar scene in San Francisco. Common spots include:
Twin Peaks Tavern - On the corner of Market and Castro, this historical tavern is quieter and lower key than the surrounding more hip bars. Appealing to an older crowd, it's one of the few places on the street when you can get a beer and actually hold a conversation over the music.
Moby Dick - At the corner of 18th and Hartford. Pinball machines, pool, plenty on draft, and big screens playing music videos. A good meeting place for a Craigslist hookup.
Q Bar - Purple, hip, young, and full of dancing.
440 Castro - Just your friendly neighborhood bar full of hunky hunky bears.
Midnight Sun - Dark, vinyl, and full of televisions. Where to go to watch the election, the Miss America pageant, Saturday Night Live, and the Giants playoffs.
There are five (5) sex toy stores in a 2-block area.
Castro Station is the outer-most in a series of central underground Muni stations.
The above-ground F-line train stops at the corner of Market and Castro.
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