Preserving Us: Documenting Life at the Belmont Rocks

LGBTQIA+ historian Owen Keehnen will guest lecture on the legacy of the Belmont Rocks, a now-demolished safe space for queer people to unite in Chicago.

“This was LGBTQ public space. We didn’t have a lot of areas where we could just be gay outside. The Rocks was one of them.”

Owen Keehnen in August 2017

LGBTQIA+ author and historian Owen Keehnen will join Humanities, History and Social Sciences Associate Professor Carmelo Esterrich on April 19 to discuss Keehnen’s efforts to preserve the legacy of the Belmont Rocks, a now-demolished stretch of land along Lake Michigan that was once the only safe space for LGBTQIA+ people to congregate in the daylight. 

At the peak of the AIDS crisis, the Belmont Rocks were a safe space for queer people to unite and have a place for themselves, a “marvelous example of the determination of gay men to be visible and to be public and leave their mark in a sense,” says alum Doug Ischar ’85, whose photo series Marginal Waters documents the vibrancy of the Rocks.

Keehnen, the author of Chicago LGBT historical biographies Leatherman: The Legend of Chuck Renslow, Jim Flint: The Boy From Peoria, and Vernita Gray: From Woodstock to The White House, and the novels The Sand Bar and Matinee Idol, is currently at work on the anthology A Place for Us: LBGTQ Life at the Belmont Rocks.

Following Keehnen’s presentation will be an audience discussion and Q&A. 

Preserving Us: Documenting Life at the Belmont Rocks
Thursday, April 19
5:30-7 p.m.
624 S. Michigan Ave.
Library, 3rd Floor North Reading Room