Sunday, September 26, 2010

Queer Ottawa 2: A Place to Call Our Own 1975-1979

In connection to the Sept 12 and Sept 20 posts, we continue the series on tracing the movement of the Gays of Ottawa GO Centre around the Centretown area of Ottawa. The GO Centre was the first visible predominant LGBT space in Ottawa. The popularity of the GO Centre, it could be argued, revealed a market for LGBT social spaces and would subsequently lead to other commercial and service oriented LGBT spaces in the city and the proliferation of an open 'visible' queer identity to which a portion of the LGBT community came to embrace.

Between 1975 and 1979 the GO Centre would move twice due to circumstances beyond the groups control, namely fire and an uncooperative landlord who refused to deal with property safety issues. The first move in 1979 would be short lived and the community centre would moved again in 1979, but this will be dealt with in the next series post. I did have more photographs of articles and pictures from GO Info to supplement everything here, but of course, those files have disappeared somewhere into a digital black hole as well (sigh...this is going to bother me for a while). If anyone is interested in finding these articles I do have a list the dates and where to find the original documents, I just no longer have the images.

In January 1975, as a, “...very important step in GO’s development and proof of our growing success” (GO Info Nov-Dec 1975 issue) the GO Centre moved out of Pestalozzi College and into its own space at 378 Elgin St. (the north-west corner of Elgin and Gladstone streets).  Unfortunately, shortly after moving a fire ripped through a row of businesses in which the Go Centre was a part, as this article from the Ottawa Citizen from 17 February 1975 attests. A picture of the site in its current form follows the article (courtesy of Google Earth), I believe the current shorter large-windowed building replaced the burnt section after the fire but I'm not 100% on it. It's just an assumption from comparing the photos. I'd have to trace the history of the property to know for sure.
*Click on the picture above to see the whole article
Gays of Ottawa searched a new home for the GO Centre between February and June 1979. In May they almost moved into a space above Yesterday's Restaurant at the corner of O'Connor and Sparks streets. However, the deal fell through, with Gays of Ottawa citing discrimination as the reason.

After continuing to search the GO Centre moved into 2881/2 Bank St. (near the north-west corner of the intersection of Bank and Somerset streets) in June of  1979. This was short lived, however, as due to landlord refusing to bring the property up to health and safety codes Gays of Ottawa acted on the advice of a lawyer and decided to move once again in Nov of 1979. Below is a current photograph of the location (courtesy of Google Earth). The entrance was where the Tae Kawn Do entrance is now. This space is actually just a short distance down Bank St. from where Pink Triangle Services is currently housed. Pink Triangle Services (PTS) was created out of Gays of Ottawa in the 1980's in order to gain charitable status and to allow Gays of Ottawa to focus on legislative and legal issues while PTS took the educational and social services for the LGBT community.

Jordan Kerr
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