Queer San Francisco’s Lost History

Published Date Author: , August 26th, 2016

queer San Francisco

Osento, a Japanese bathhouse on Valencia Street in queer San Francisco, is long gone, closed now for nearly a decade. I could have used a soak, though: It was an uncommonly hot and muggy day in the city, and I’d been walking its streets for hours.

Back in the day, people looking for Osento on a similarly soupy afternoon were probably just as confounded. The women-only communal bathhouse, a frequent haunt for lesbians, didn’t have a sign out front. It was mostly known through word of mouth by its clientele, who say its founder ended a nearly three-decade run when she shuttered it in 2008 and moved north to Lake County, Calif.

Now it is a splendid Victorian dwelling, kaleidoscopic in hues of magenta, turquoise and gold. On its facade are stunning sculptured plaques of sea horses, conchs and starfish. Elaborate cast reliefs of tattooed mermaids by a San Francisco artist named Natasha Dikareva gaze ahead. While the relaxation rooms, saunas and a secluded deck for nude sunbathing were all gone, somehow the bathhouse’s spirit lives on.

By Elizabeth Zach – Full Story at The New York Times

San Francisco Gay Travel Resources

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