Did Detroit Gayborhood Ever Exist?

Palmer Park mapI’m interested in the history of whether or not there was a Detroit gayborhood.

The Short Answer

After World War II, downtown Detroit was a hub for gay bars. Then, starting in the 1950s, the gay population began following the migration pattern of many Metro Detroiters, heading northward. By the 1970s, there was a community in the Palmer Park area that thrived until the late 1980s. But by the 1990s, a mostly-White segment of this population moved to suburbs like Royal Oak and Ferndale. Today, the area around Six Mile Road and Woodward Avenue has remained a hub for the African American gay community.

‘Michigan’s Gayest Square Mile’

Greg Piazza, a former Palmer Park resident, recalls, “There was one building we called ‘The Barracks’: 48 apartment units, 46 of them were gay men.” This was in the 1980s.

Piazza, author of A History of Detroit’s Palmer Park, says the architecture of the buildings, open-minded management, and some child-free living policies, attracted a strong gay contingent. He remembers that on nice days people would congregate on a stretch of lawn nicknamed, “The Green Beach.”

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