Palmer Park, Detroit’s Old Gayborhood, Sees a Renaissance

Palmer Park, Detroit - gayborhood

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Palmer Park was once Detroit’s premier gayborhood. Now, after decades of neglect, it’s coming around again.

Model D. reports:

This exquisite neighborhood — bordered by Woodward to the east, the park itself on its northern edge, Pontchartrain Blvd to the west and McNichols to the south — was home to much of Detroit’s Jewish community from the 1920s until the late ’70s, when Temple Israel moved from Palmer Park to West Bloomfield.

In the meantime, it had also become the locus of Detroit’s gay community. From the ’50s until the ’80s, the apartment district was Detroit’s “gayborhood,” where large numbers of gay men lived in close proximity and walked to nearby, gay-owned restaurants, bars, and stores. Gregory Piazza lived in the district from 1974 to 1991 and remembers it as “the most exciting place I’ve ever lived.” Piazza, who is responsible for the district’s national historic designation and annual walking tour, recalls that the gay population stabilized the neighborhood in the wake of the Jewish migration to the suburbs; but gays, too, were soon leaving in droves, heading north to Ferndale and Royal Oak in the wake of a long crime wave that, they felt, the police were not taking seriously.

Now?

Together, the ongoing revitalization of the park and rehabilitation of the apartment buildings are utterly transforming Palmer Park, turning it into a vibrant center of community activity and local pride where one constructive effort uplifts another.

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