Gay History in Halifax

recollections by Frank Doucet

January 9, 2012

My gay life in Halifax began in 1972 when I heard about the club located in the GreenLantern building on Barrington Street through a gay couple that lived in my apartment building. I was in my 20s and dying to be able to dance with guys routinely. The manager was Dave Gray. The music was excellent at the time & the crowds were large usually starting after 11 p.m. with many patrons worried about being seen going into the building due to the volume of traffic on Barrington Street in the 70s. To take a break from dancing, many would sit outside the main door on the 3rd floor, literally. In those days the smell of cigarette smoke & grass was common. If I recall correctly closing time was 3 a.m.; Friday & Saturday club nights were always late nights.

As a young person believing in gay rights and the need to focus the community, I joined the Gay Alliance for Equality (GAE). Regular meetings were held at the UniversalistUnitarianChurch on Inglis Street. I was named treasurer of the GAE & served for a short period of time, until my expanding job duties in accounting caused me to resign.

One of the earlier gay hang-outs was the Cameo or Candlelight Lounge on Spring Garden Road next to the GardenViewRestaurant; both located where City Centre Atlantic is now located. The Cameo was a lot of fun due to the semi-circular booths & the piano. A broader cross section of gay men participated in regular fun sessions during the week, as opposed to the weekends when many straights would show up. The other advantage was the closeness to the cruising along Spring Garden, TheTriangle & of course the popular CitadelHill.

After the closing of the Cameo, the Dresden Arms Hotel located immediately behind, became the bar of choice during the week. It remained quite popular for all the same reasons until condos & the City Centre Atlantic development got under way.

TheHeidelberg was a well known restaurant located on Dresden Row, roughly in the area now occupied by the Bridal Shop behind the Shoppers Drug Mart on Spring Garden. The upstairs was converted into a dance bar that soon became popular with the gay men & women. It remained the gay dance bar until an effort was made to discourage the gays & attract the college crowd. Subsequently the bar became filled with straight crowds that would make a beer last the night & result in a bar filled to fire regulation capacity with no profit. This led to the closing of the bar.

The next dance club to open was the The Turret on Barrington Street. The name was derived from the prominent turret on this historic building. It was also a great dance bar with large crowds most weekends.