Charm City’s Rich LGBT Heritage

This June, Baltimore will celebrate its 42nd Annual Baltimore Pride – a festival that has grown from a small but poignant rally in 1975 and now attracts nearly 25,000 attendees every year. As locals and visitors celebrate this progressive city, and state (and rightfully so, Maryland became the first state to pass a same sex marriage bill by voter referendum) we invite you to explore the revolutionary LGBT milestones and monuments throughout Charm City.

Mount Vernon

Baltimore is home to a vibrant LGBT community that weaves throughout every distinct neighborhood. But when it comes to discovering the city’s colorful heritage, begin your journey in historically lively Mount Vernon. Known as Baltimore’s “gayborhood” and culture hub, Mount Vernon is home to festivals, theaters, museums, and architectural gems along with some of the city’s popular LGBT bars and businesses.

One part entertainment, two parts history – Mount Vernon has served as the backdrop for some of the most important LGBT pioneers and moments. Here you will find the site of Gertrude Stein’s Eager Street home alongside locations captured by John Waters and showcased on the silver screen in some of his earliest films.

Not-to-miss stops in Mount Vernon include:

  • Leon's Bar – this is the site of Baltimore’s oldest gay bar (since 1957) also believed to be a speakeasy during prohibition. Leon’s is located in the same building as Steampunk Alley, an alternative bar blending the Wild West, Victorian times and the Industrial Revolution.
  • Film Sites – Many movies have shot in and around Mount Vernon, with John Waters paving the way as both a Baltimore native and infamous director. Check out The Drinkery a stop in John Waters’ Pink Flamingos and a popular gay bar.
  • Gertrude Stein’s Home – Stein lived in Mount Vernon while she attended medical school at Johns Hopkins. Visit the site located at 215 E. Biddle St.
  • Chase Brexton Healthcare Clinic – one of the first volunteer-run gay health clinics in the country, founded in 1980.
  • Walter’s Art Museum – here you will find the original copy of “The Star-Spangled Banner” along with an impressive collection of masterpieces from the world’s most celebrated artists.


Charles Village

Known for its colorful “painted ladies” (brightly colored Victorian rowhomes), this distinct neighborhood was home to many of the central people and places of the Baltimore LGBT movement in the 1970s and ‘80s.

From pivotal landmarks like the St. Paul Street Church, to the feminist activists that gave a voice to the lesbian community, Charles Village has served as a haven for the human and civil rights moment throughout the decades. The neighborhood also has a wealth of well-known cultural and academic resources, with institutions such as Johns Hopkins University and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Not-to-miss stops in Charles Village include:

  • 31st Street Bookstore – Now known as Normals Book Store, this stop was an early location for the Baltimore Gay Alliance and Diana Press, a lesbian feminist press.
  • Metropolitan Community Church – this site is the home of Baltimore's oldest LGBT religious organization.
  • Johns Hopkins University – many gifted artists and activists actually attended the School of Medicine at this university, including Gertrude Stein. This was also the first medical college in the U.S. to admit women in 1893.


Visitors will find no shortage of historical stops and icons throughout Baltimore. If you want a guided experience and deeper understanding of the city’s LBGT heritage, check out Baltimore Heritage – this nonprofit organization celebrates the stories of Baltimore’s people and places through tours and education. Baltimore Heritage offers public and private tours of both Mount Vernon and Charles Village lead by the activists and historians that lived and breathed the subject.

With all of its charm, Baltimore is a destination where self-expression and revolutionary thinking collide – providing a rich history and innovative future for locals and visitors alike. Visit Charm City and dive right in to discover the treasures of Baltimore.