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THE LEGACY WALK

In Chicago we are extremely fortunate to have the World's Only Outdoor LGBTQ History Museum.

Located in the heart of the Lakeview neighborhood, the award-winning Legacy Walk, spans a half mile of the North Halsted corridor, stretching from Belmont Avenue to Grace Street. The walk currently features 37 bronze memorial markers. Each of these distinguished plaques commemorates either an LGBTQ hero or heroine from history or a significant LGBTQ historical event. The plaques are affixed to the 20 steel Rainbow Pylons which dominate the street scape and designating the area as the center of LGBTQ Chicago and making it the only architecturally-defined LGBTQ neighborhood on earth.

The Legacy Walk

The Legacy Walk is a history and education project dedicated to celebrating the importance of LGBTQ contributions to society in an effort to foster pride and promote acceptance. The first dedication of plaques occurred on October 11th, 2012 (National Coming Out Day) and additional plaques have been added annually around this significant LGBTQ date. As of 2017, three spots remain open on the North Halsted streetscape and one of those spaces, currently under contract, will celebrate the LGBTQ cultural and artistic importance of The Harlem Renaissance.

 

A Visitors’ Center in 2019

Founder and Executive Director of the Legacy Project and Legacy Walk, Victor Salvo explained what will happen when all the slots for the Legacy Walk plaques are filled. “Targeted for Fall 2018, the oldest bronze memorials will slowly be removed and sent off to be refinished and mounted for interior placement.” This replacement will add another exciting component to The Legacy Walk, a Visitors' Center which Salvo says is slated for 2019. “The Visitors’ Center will feature a gift shop, a museum gallery, and a gathering space from which guided tours will be staged. The "retired plaques" will be installed in the gathering space so that every tour can begin with an overview of the earliest memorials and a brief overview of the project's history.” 

 

Interactive Technology

Although Salvo had the vision for the Legacy Walk years before this bold celebration of LGBTQ history materialized, he maintains that the Legacy Walk is much as he originally envisioned it. “Maybe even better. The difference,” Salvo added, “is the digital component which allows a more interactive experience and makes the walk a more robust experience. The Legacy Walk is joined to our database through a cloud-based digital interface. Each element has a tag with a microchip below a Quick Response Code (QRC). Using a cellphone, the patron can either scan the QR Code or — if their phone is equipped with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology — tap their device against the microchip. Either action opens a digital portal where the user can read the biography, watch video about the subject, access additional reading resource links, download a lesson plan, or open a digitally interactive map of the entire installation.”

 

Legacy Walk Guided Tours

Guided tours of the Legacy Walk are also available. Legacy Walk tours include insights and additional biographical data about each of the Legacy Walk inductees as well as their historical significance. Salvo takes pride in personally conducting all of the tours. Several packages available for guided tours:

  • Full Tour
    A full Legacy Walk tour offers a fascinating glimpse into LGBT history. Total elapsed time for the full tour without stops is approximately 3.5 hours. If you don’t have time to enjoy the entire Legacy Walk, options are available.

  • Individual Zone
    The Legacy Walk Map is divided into three geographical zones – Red, Blue, and Purple – to limit the amount of walking you will do. Each zone of the tour lasts about 75 minutes.

  • Custom Selection
    To tailor the experience to your group’s interest, a “Custom Tour” of individuals is also available. Salvo will construct a tour covering exactly whom you select. Nine to twelve bronze markers can be viewed in an hour, depending on questions from the group.

Legacy Walk guided tours are reasonably priced and in some instances, free. Middle and High School Students may take the tour at no charge. College Students and Seniors are charged $10 dollars a person, and general adults tickets are $25. Discounts are offered to returning groups who prefer to do the tour in segments. Tours are available seven days a week and can be combined with breakfast, lunch, dinner, cocktails, or even shopping.

Salvo says typical reaction of those who take the tour is some variation on surprise with typical responses being: “You’ve really opened my eyes” or “I had no idea” or “I can’t believe everyone doesn’t know about the importance of this installation.”

Salvo adds that folks come away from the tour with compliments that it was both educational and entertaining.

 

And While You’re There...

Given the Legacy Walk’s length and the density, Salvo finds it optimal for those experiencing the walk to break it into segments. “This tour is a mile long with 37 plaques, up one side of Halsted for a half mile and down the other for another half mile with a lot of information to process. I recommend taking a break for a bite to eat, or a cocktail, or to just enjoy the energy of the neighborhood.”

When asked for recommended eateries along the route, Salvo maintains there is no shortage and mentioned: Lark (3441 North Halsted Street), Las Mananitas (3523 North Halsted Street), Forever Yogurt (3510 North Halsted Street), Yefseis Cafe (3344 North Halsted Street), and Drew’s on Halsted (3201 North Halsted Street). For a cocktail, Salvo chose the legendary video bar and entertainment center Sidetrack (3349 North Halsted Street) and the craft cocktail specialists Elixir Lounge (3452 N. Halsted).

 

The Bronze Memorials on Display

Legacy Walk

The plaques currently on display are The Pink Triangle, Alan Turing, Josephine Baker, Jane Addams, Dr. Sally Ride, Bayard Rustin, Dr. Alfred Kinsey, Cole Porter, Frank Kameny, Leonard Bernstein, Frida Kahlo, Fr. Mychal Judge, Dr. Tom Waddell, Harvey Milk, Barbara Jordan, Vito Russo, Sylvia Rivera, Daivd Kato, Lorraine Hansberry, Dra. Antonia Pantoja, Reinaldo Arenas, Alvin Ailey, Ruth Ellis, Audre Lorde, Oscar Wilde, Babe Didrikson, Leonard Matlovich, Dr. Margaret Chung, Walt Whitman, Keith Haring, James Baldwin, Christine Jorgensen, Billy Strayhorn, Two Spirit People, Barbara Gittings, Rudolf Nureyev, and the Stonewall Riot.

When asked which three of the 37 plaques on display are the most inspiring to him, Salvo took a moment to list:

  1. Alan Turing
  2. Bayard Rustin
  3. Jane Addams

Salvo promptly added that his list changes all the time. “These people and events are all a constant source of inspiration. The importance of their stories and the need to remember these heroes and heroines by having their lives set in bronze is the driving force behind this walk and this organization.”

 

For tour information visit the Legacy Project website or email info@legacyprojectchicago.org. Additional information about the organization as well as additional biographies of hundreds of LGBTQ people from history are available at the Legacy Project website: legacyprojectchicago.org

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