Monday, February 15, 2010

Milk's Castro Camera Store May
Finally Get the Plaque It Deserves

(The current guppy-sized plaque for Harvey Milk on Castro Street. Photo credit: MPetrelis.)

When I moved back to San Francisco in February of 1985, I had lived here in the late 1970s, my friend Brett Thomas and I were walking around the Castro highly medicated.

At the front of what had been gay icon Harvey Milk's camera store, and de facto community center, I asked a simple question: "Where the plaque to commemorate the historical significance of Harvey's shop?"

Brett broke laughing when he heard my words. "We're standing on it," he said.

Damn, with all the size queens in this town, I would have thought Harvey would have easily merited a large historical sign at the camera shop. But whatever the process was that created the pitifully small bronze marker in the sidewalk that hardly anyone notices, it didn't get the job done.

That should soon well change, and I've done my part to complain (like one should ever think I can't complain!), about the injustice of the current puny plaque.

The Bay Area Reporter's blog on Friday ran a piece by Matthew Bajko, detailing plans on the part of the Castro's gay Supervisor. From the BAR:

Last July local gay blogger Michael Petrelis did a walking tour of the Castro and photographed various LGBT historical markers in the city’s gayborhood. Among his collection that he posted to his blog was the the bronze marker the city placed in front of the building where slain gay rights leader Supervisor Harvey Milk had his camera shop and campaign headquarters on Castro Street.

The plaque (seen in above photo) is “almost-impossible to read,” wrote Petrelis. “One has to really be looking to notice it.”

That could soon change if out Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who holds the seat Milk once served in at City Hall, achieves his goal of laying in the ground a far larger – and more noticeable to passersby – historical marker this spring.

As part of the city’s celebrations of the state’s first official Harvey Milk Day on May 22 – timed to coincide with Milk’s birthday – Dufty would like to unveil a new sidewalk plaque in front of the store at 575 Castro Street, now home to gift shop Given.

“Since the film so many people come looking for Harvey’s camera store. The current sidewalk plaque is the size of a piece of paper,” said Dufty [...] “A lot of people miss it. I thought what a great opportunity to make the plaque more visible and to use the plaque to draw attention to the mural on the second floor.” [...]

And here is my photo of the mural of Harvey that beautifies the street from its perch above the entrance to the store:

Let's hope we are all standing around the old Milk camera store on Castro Street this May for the unveiling of a new, bigger plaque in the sidewalk.


Jerry Pritikin said...

There is a unique collection of images, made into plaques located just a little more than a block away... At Harvey Milk Plaza/ Castro @ Market Street. I am proud to be one of the photographers to have his image of Harvey there.It is often forgot, that Harvey Milk,had to leave 575 Castro Street, and moved to another location at Market and Castro when his greedy Landlord, Paul Langley... raised his rent by many hundreds of dollars... the same Landlord, who raised the rent of the "Elephant Walk" Bar at 18th & Castro from $6,000 to 12,000 a month, forcing them out of business... and guess what? Langley opened his own bar there and had the chutzpah to name it"Harvey's"! Thanks to Randy Shilts' book "The Mayor of Castro Street", and the "MILK" movie, most people are now aware of Harvey... his spirit NOW lives beyond the Castro.

Jerry Pritikin said...

I was just informed, that when you hit
on my name in the above comment... that it contains an error. I have a blog and search the archives for stories and images pertaining to the Castro, in the 1970's. This coming Pride Month and July, I'll be exhibiting over 40 images of that era at Chicago's Gage Gallery...