The 21st Street Baths Were 'Definitely for the Discriminating Male'

Marginally Yours brings us this titillating scrap of Mission history. What’s he thinking about? What’s he looking at? Does somebody have a box of those shirts collecting dust in a basement somewhere? Where they at?

I assume this place went the way of Valencia Street’s funky, secret bathhouse for women, which, so I’ve heard, was definitely for the discriminating female.

[link via nuitnuageuse]

3 Responses to “The 21st Street Baths Were 'Definitely for the Discriminating Male'”

  1. The 21st Street baths was the last of the gay bath houses in San Francisco to close when the AIDS epidemic swept over the city in the 1980s. Not long after, the building was destroyed by fire. The site is now the location of a group of fake-Edwardian-style condos on 21st opposite the end of Bartlett St.

    In general, the Valencia corridor had a strong gay presence from the late 1950s into the 1980s, with dozens of gay bars, restaurants, and sex-related businesses. A few examples:

    • Starting in the early 1960s, what is now Range was the Fickle Fox, billed as the classiest gay restaurant in town — and later home to the first nude go-go boy show in the Mission.

    • In the early 1970s, what is now Zeitgeist was the Rainbow Cattle Company, a cowboy-themed gay bar that later moved to the Russian River. Look for the stained-glass window featuring the RCC logo that is still in place at Zeitgeist.

    • In the 1970s, the basement of a Victorian on the south side of 21st between Valencia and Guerrero was the location of The Catacombs, a legendary private sex club where San Francisco’s modern gay and lesbian SM scene emerged.

    As gay male nightlife was fading in the neighborhood in the late 1970s, a lesbian and feminist enclave emerged on Valencia between 18th and 24th. Part of that development was the recently closed Osento Women’s Baths at 955 Valencia. Unlike the 21st Street Baths, Osento was not a sex club, but a kind of feminist spiritual day spa.

    To learn more about the LGBT history of the Mission, visit the GLBT Historical Society (which itself had its first public offices in the Mission at the Redstone Building on 16th St.):

  2. Ferocious Foot Odor says:

    It could be argued that in the mid 70′s The Polk/Tenderloin, on across to SOMA, on up into the Mission and west to the Castro was one enormous gayborhood, with the only variance being density.

  3. tony walsh says:

    i am australian but was on holidays in the usa in august 1975 & celebrated my 26th birthday at the said fickle fox restaurant. i never made it to the baths though.