San Francisco: Placing LGBTQ Histories in the City by the Bay

By Donna J. Graves and Shayne E. Watson
Outside the Williams Building, a tall structure
Williams Building, national headquarters of the Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis.

Photographer unknown. Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress (HABS CAL,38-SANFRA,212).


San Francisco is internationally recognized as a magnet and place of pilgrimage for LGBTQ people and a critical proving ground for advancements in queer culture, politics, and civil rights. The city has also pioneered efforts to identify, document, and preserve LGBTQ historic sites, and San Francisco was the site of foundational efforts to bring LGBTQ concerns into the preservation agenda. Those efforts are the focus of this chapter, as we outline our experience of preparing a citywide historic context statement for LGBTQ history in San Francisco, which was carried out from 2013 to 2016. We conclude with a summary of some of the key themes in San Francisco’s LGBTQ history and examples of historic properties associated with those themes. It is our hope that this chapter may inspire other towns and cities throughout the country to develop LGBTQ heritage preservation programs, as well as serve as an example of how the documentation of sites associated with LGBTQ heritage can be organized from conceptualization to implementation. Read more » [PDF 2.2 MB]

The views and conclusions contained in the essays are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Government. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Part of a series of articles titled LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History.

Last updated: August 11, 2017