Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-11-14
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Local historian discusses Belmont Rocks' LGBTQ history at forum
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2018-04-24

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Author, scholar and historian Owen Keehnen discussed "Preserving Us: Documenting Life at the Belmont Rocks" April 19 at Columbia College.

Columbia College's Department of Humanities, History and Social Sciences sponsored the event, which Humanities and Cultural Studies Associate Professor Carmelo Esterrich moderated.

Keehnen explained the Rocks ( which he called the "uneven limestone slabs that ran from Belmont Harbor to Diversey Harbor" ) were the only safe space in Chicago through the 1970s-90s where LGBTQ people could be out in the open during the day. He noted the Rocks were popular during a time when LGBTQ bars did not have windows or if they had windows they were painted black.

In talking about his own experiences at the Rocks, Keehnen said he came to Chicago from Rockford, Illinois, in the '80s; he was looking for a place to get some sun along the lakefront—and that is how he found the Rocks. He noted that he spent every single day of that summer at the Rocks soaking in the openness and meeting new people.

"It really felt like I was coming home," said Keehnen. "I discovered my tribe in a way that the bars did not provide."

Esterrich asked the nature of the Rocks being simultaneously a public and private space, and how people behaved while in that space.

Keehnen said there were a lot of private spaces at the Rocks because of the unevenness of the limestone blocks so people were able to have sex or engage in other taboo activities without being seen, stating, "They were able to hide in plain sight, so to speak.

As for the city monitoring the space, Keehnen said he was aware of several arrests. Keehnen explained that during his research revealed charges including open alcohol, drug possession, swimming, nudity and indecent exposure.

Answering Esterrich's question about when and how did he decide to work on this project, Keehnen explained that last year while he was riding his bike to work he decided to check out the Rocks because he was early that day. He said that, in 2003, the Army Corps of Engineers decided the Rocks were unsafe so they were bulldozed and smoothed out into flat concrete. Keehnen noted that everything is "safe, clean and sterile now and nobody was there."

"It hit me like a punch in the gut," said Keehnen. "I took a picture of it and posted it on Facebook with the caption 'the Rocks are dead' and the response was immediate."

Keehnen said he got off of work that day and went through the pictures people had posted, and he posted some of his own from the era. He noted that people kept on sharing their own pictures and stories of how much the Rocks meant to them and this is how the project of preserving this history was born. Keehnen explained that "the project really found itself." He said that due to the amount of color photos and other artwork he wants to include this will probably be an e-book so it will not be expensive for buyers.

As for how Keehnen is collecting data and memories of the Rocks, he said it has been pretty informal, with him asking people to send their pictures and remembrances, adding that 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney's office has a lot of information about the Rocks. He added the project is not going to be academic, adding it will be a "big, messy, fun scrapbook" for the community and a "way to understand what the Rocks were because it is such a fragile piece of history."

One thing that has struck Keehnen during this process is how many people in the pictures have died of AIDS.

"The community loss during the epidemic makes preserving our history and the story of the era—the lives lived and lives lost—even more important," said Keehnen.

Esterrich wondered whether this project has made Keehnen see the Rocks differently.

"I was really surprised my personal fondness for the Rocks was so widespread among the community," said Keehnen. "If I regret anything about my time there it is that I did not mingle more and take more pictures"

A Q&A session followed.

Keehnen has requested that if people have photos, memories or material about what the Rocks meant to Chicago's LGBT community, to contact him at OwenKeehnen@yahoo.com .


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Author Miriam Frank headlines CTU LGBTQIA+ event 2018-11-14 - Out in the Union: A Labor History of Queer America author and Pride at Work founding member Miriam Frank was the featured speaker ...


Gay News

Brynn Tannehill: Trans activist calls for action in new book 2018-11-14 - Many readers remember Dr. David Ruben's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex ( But Were Afraid to Ask )—a 1969 best-selling ...


Gay News

AVER hosts 26th annual Veterans Day dinner 2018-11-12 - The American Veterans for Equal Rights ( AVER ) Chicago chapter hosted its 26th Annual Veterans Day Dinner Nov. 11 at Ann Sather ...


Gay News

Lakeside Pride Music Ensembles to honor Stonewall, LGBTQ history 2018-11-09 - It may be a difficult, shaky time for equality right now, but Lakeside Pride Music Ensembles continues to play on, promoting positivity and ...


Gay News

Queer Eye's Karamo Brown in Evanston Dec. 5 2018-11-07 - Television host and culture expert on the Emmy-winning Netflix reboot of Queer Eye, Karamo Brown says that the key to his success is ...


Gay News

Late gay artist's identity, politics intersect at MoCP 2018-11-07 - Several small portraits of collage artist Ralph Arnold hang at the entrance of the Museum of Contemporary Photography ( MoCP ), 600 S. ...


Gay News

Ex-Neo Nazi talks about what spurred him to change 2018-11-07 - To look into the eyes of Christian Picciolini—eyes that seem to smile in a nonthreatening and empathetic way—one would probably not believe at ...


Gay News

Michelle Obama giving book-tour tickets to groups 2018-11-07 - Michelle Obama and Live Nation have announced a selection of the local and community organizations that will receive free admission to the former ...


Gay News

David Jay Collins readings Nov. 9 2018-11-07 - Chicago author David Jay Collins will read scenes from his locally set novels Gaybash and Summerdale on Friday, Nov. 9, at 6:30 p.m., ...


Gay News

A Cradle Song: Part Four 2018-11-07 - A Cradle Song, written by Mark Zubro and illustrated by W.S. Reed, debuts in the Windy City Times as the new holiday classic. ...


 



Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.