Today In LGBT History: Gay Spaces Before They Were Gay

Two web sites that focus on local information and history for Washington, D.C. helped me solve a bit of mystery and brought me some more knowledge about one of my favorite old haunts, the former Remington’s of Washington, D.C.

Remington’s was a hugely popular country-western gay bar on Capital Hill in Washington, D.C. It hosted dance lessons, regular performances from DC’s all male dance group, The DC Cowboys and on weekends would be packed to the gills with folks socializing and twirling around the floor in line dances and partner dances.

As D.C.’s nightlife moved more toward the center of the city and north to U Street area, Remington’s saw less and less patronage. Eventually, in the spring of 2014, the bar decided to close the saloon doors.

After the closing, I noticed a new sign hanging at the space, The Golden Garter. I assumed The Golden Garter was the new business taking over the former Remington’s space. Curious about what it could be, I asked the magic Google genie who directed me to the websites Ghosts of DC and the Hill is Home. Both provided some fascinating history on the building pre-Remington’s:

From The Hill is Home:

In 1934, Andrew Dorgan requested permission to open a bar there. He was given a hard time of it, as 639 was close to the schools at the corner of 7th and Pennsylvania. Nonetheless, a restaurant did open there, and throughout the Second World War, Joe Boyle’s Bar and Grill was a mecca for the hungry and thirsty. Boyle also supported a local baseball team, though his civic-mindedness did not extend to actually observing all the ration laws on the books at the time – in 1945, he found himself in trouble for improperly obtaining the food that he was serving.

Nonetheless, the bar managed to survive for another 15 years, succumbing to bankruptcy in 1961. The furnishings were auctioned off, and shortly thereafter, a new bar opened – the Roaring Twenties East. Riding a wave of nostalgia for all things Prohibition, the original Roaring Twenties on Georgia Avenue had been a success, and this was to be transplanted east of the Capitol, as well. It was, according to the Washington Star, an excellent place, with its worst aspect being that it was much too tempting a place for a newspaperman leaving the Star after a long day’s work.

Apparently, not enough Star reporters stopped by, because by 1968, the place had become the Golden Garter, and while the Roaring Twenties had “decorative” girls, according to the Star, the new place found itself looking for Go-Go dancers. The place did not last long, and in 1970, Weschler’s auction house – which had previously sold off the Roaring Twenties’s inventory – now was selling off everything from the Golden Garter – including the liquor license.

Below is an ad that the Ghosts of DC site dug up from newspaper archives on the space when it was the Golden Garter.

While it is fascinating to learn more about our own lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, it’s adds something to know the history of our spaces before they became our spaces. This broader examination of that history, may also, help us to save some of those spaces that are significant to us by tying them to that larger history.

Read the full Ghosts of DC blog post

Read the full The Hill is Home article

See photos from Remington’s past

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