The second Atlanta Pride March, June 25, 1972, from the Atlanta LGBTQ+ Historic Context Statement report. (Source: Edmund Marshall, photographer. Originally published in The Great Speckled Bird newspaper, July 3, 1972. Image hand colored by Stephanie Coffin. Courtesy of WRFG 89.3 FM Atlanta)

The second Atlanta Pride March, June 25, 1972, from the Atlanta LGBTQ+ Historic Context Statement report.

Credit: Source: Edmund Marshall, photographer. Originally published in The Great Speckled Bird newspaper, July 3, 1972. Image hand colored by Stephanie Coffin. Courtesy of WRFG 89.3 FM Atlanta

Tens of thousands of people are expected to flock to Piedmont Park this weekend, Oct. 14-15, for Atlanta Pride, one of the largest LGBTQ+ festivals in the country. They will all be participating in the evolving history of LGBTQ+ Atlanta.

The first Atlanta Pride rally was held in 1970 when about 100 people gathered in Piedmont Park on the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots. This milestone is just one of hundreds documented in the Atlanta LGBTQ+ Historic Context Statement, a 406-page report produced by the city’s Department of Planning and nonprofit organization Historic Atlanta.

The massive research document is a “pioneering preservation project … to better include LGBTQ+ places and spaces in Atlanta’s rich human and civil rights story,” according to the Department of Planning.

The seed for the historic context statement began in 2018 when Burkhart’s, a popular gay nightclub, closed, according to Charlie Paine, program manager for Historic Atlanta. The nightclub was located in the Ansley Square shopping center in Midtown, once renowned as the city’s “gayborhood.” But Midtown’s rapid development has led to the loss of many significant LGBTQ spaces and places.

“There was a lot of energy around the ambivalence and the growth of Midtown, specifically, and the LGBTQ+ community losing spaces and its history,” Paine told Rough Draft.

To address these issues, Historic Atlanta formed the LGBTQ Historic Preservation Advisory Committee. At its first meeting, members decided an LGBTQ+ historic context statement was needed to provide information and resources for preservationists, historians, planners and the general public.

Historic context statements are crucial in preservation efforts by providing detailed documentation of people, spaces, movements and events during a specific time period. They also provide guidance on how to evaluate resources for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

City administrators readily agreed to invest in the LGBTQ+ Atlanta Historic Context Statement and became one of a handful of major U.S. cities, such as New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, to identify and evaluate potential LGBTQ+ historic resources.

In 2021, the city received a nearly $25,000 Federal Historic Preservation Grant to develop the historic context statement for LGBTQ+ historic resources and preservation. Historic Atlanta, the Midtown Neighbors Association, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Mailchimp, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation and individual donors also contributed to funding the project.

The city’s involvement added “a very strong layer of legitimacy” to the research document, Paine said, and represents the city’s desire to discuss different preservation outcomes and possibilities in an inclusive manner.

The historic context statement focuses on major themes that “proved pivotal” for the development of Atlanta’s LGBTQ+ communities. They include early anti-lesbian and gay state laws, municipal ordinances, and police harassment; the origins of the city’s LGBTQ+ rights movement and growing political activism among its residents; religion to health care; arts and culture; and community life.

These themes provide a context for understanding the physical places associated with Atlanta’s LGBTQ+ community, Paine said, and should make everyone think about what should be preserved.


A map of Atlanta’s major LGBTQ enclaves during the 20th century. (City of Atlanta/Historic Atlanta)

A map of Atlanta’s major LGBTQ enclaves during the 20th century.

Credit: City of Atlanta/Historic Atlanta

Some of the places and information included in the Atlanta LGBTQ+ Historical Context statement:


Michael Hardwick’s apartment at 811 Ponce de Leon Place NE.

Michael Hardwick, a bartender at the gay bar The Cove, was arrested in 1982 in his Virginia-Highland apartment by Atlanta Police and charged with sodomy. Though the district attorney chose not to prosecute Hardwick on the sodomy charge, Hardwick sued Georgia’s attorney general, Michael Bowers, in order to invalidate the state’s sodomy law. The case was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 1986, the court ruled that Georgia’s sodomy law was constitutional, but only when it was applied to gay people. The law was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court in 2003 in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas case.

“That happened here in Atlanta and it really shaped LGBTQ life across the United States for quite some time,” Paine said. “Though the building has been pretty heavily altered, it is arguably the most significant [LGBTQ] building in the city of Atlanta.”


The H.M. Patterson & Sons Spring Hill Chapel

H.M. Patterson & Sons Spring Hill Chapel and funeral home, designed by the late architect Philip T. Shutze and opened in 1928, was given historical landmark status by the city in 2018. The chapel is being incorporated into a major development by Portman Holdings set to open in 2025. The current landmark status does not, however, recognize the chapel’s significance in Atlanta’s LGBTQ+ history.

“I think one of the most heartbreaking but important stories to tell out of the context statement is the story of the H.M. Patterson funeral home which has been recognized for its architecture,” Paine said. “However, a crucial part of its history is not recognized, and that’s the fact that during the AIDS crisis, it was one of the first and only funeral homes to accept bodies of victims of AIDS.

“This history is complex. It’s not always pretty,” Paine said. “But it’s all very important to the city’s history.”


The first Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance house at 1190 Mansfield Ave. NE in Candler Park

The Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance was formed in 1972 by a group of women who felt “increasingly unwelcome in some of Atlanta’s primarily heterosexual and anti-gay, socialist and feminist organizations and no longer willing to tolerate the male-dominated leadership of the Georgia Gay Liberation Front,” according to the report.


Bulldogs at 893 Peachtree St. NE in Midtown

Bulldogs opened on Peachtree Street in Midtown in 1978 and by the 1990s it became one of the more prominent spaces in Atlanta for Black gay men to gather. It is unique as the oldest remaining LGBTQ+ bar still operating in its original location, the report says.

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with Rough Draft Atlanta.

Tags: LGBTQ  Atlanta  Georgia  history