Update: Yesterday evening, San Francisco’s city supervisors approved a resolution authorizing the creation of an official “gay and leather cultural district” in the city’s South of Market neighborhood, including the creation of a leather history alley with placards describing the area’s LGBTQ, leather and sexual history. The resolution gives the area — which is rich in leather stores, gay bars and home to the annual Dore Alley and Folsom Street Fairs — access to money and negotiating rights to help preserve it in an increasingly gentrified city of raising rents.
The original story is below.
Ringold Alley in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood has a storied history as being the city’s queer leather and cruising district during the ’60s and ’70s. And thanks to a $2 million project known as the San Francisco South of Market Leather History Alley, the area’s leather-clad legacy will get immortalized in a series of artistic accents.
What artistic accents can visitors expect?
According to The Bay Area Reporter, the accents include bronze bootprints laid into the sidewalks commemorate the leather queers that once walked those streets. The colors of the leather flag adorn some of the sidewalks along with commemorative markers bearing the names and bios of 30 individuals who helped develop the area during its heyday. Stone plinths around the area display the names of old businesses that once filled the area.
The city has tentatively scheduled a formal dedication ceremony for the project on Tuesday, July 25, 2017, five days before the city’s BDSM festival, the Up Your Alley Fair.
What’s Ringold Alley’s sexual history?
In the 1860s, Ringold Alley in the South of Market neighborhood was home to San Francisco’s working class homes and industries like mental bending, plastic molding and casket making, according to a historic plaque posted in the area. Around the 1960s, the factories, tenements and lunchrooms stood empty, and scores of gay men and lesbians began moving in and opening bars, bathhouses, retail shops and restaurants in the vacant buildings.
Before long, the South of Market area gained a reputation as the epicenter of the city’s leather scene. It had bars like The Toolbox, The Ramrod and The Stud, and got nicknamed “the Miracle Mile” and “Valley of the Kings.” It also became a popular cruising spot.
Eventually, the 1980s came,and redevelopment in the area (along with City Hall harassment over the fear of spreading AIDS) caused many of the businesses and bathhouses to close. But the area retained its leather presence. In fact, the leather-clad Up Your Alley Fair began in Ringold Alley as an AIDS fundraiser before moving two years later to Dore Alley where it’s still held today.