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Boystown, Chicago

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Boystown is the popular name of a locally recognized neighborhood enclave within Chicago, Illinois. Situated within the formal neighborhood of Lakeview, it was the first officially recognized gay village in the United States[1] as well as the cultural center of one of the largest lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) communities in the nation. Boystown has grown into a cultural haven for the nearly 300,000 LGBT residents estimated to live within the Chicago metropolitan area today.

The sector's informal boundaries are generally considered to be Addison Street on the north, Lake Shore Drive on the east, Belmont Avenue on the south, and Clark Street on the west. These streets correspond to the Chicago grid between blocks 3200 and 3600 North and to the east of 1100 West, which places Boystown approximately 6 km (4 miles) north-northwest of the Chicago Loop. More generally situated west of Belmont Harbor, encompassing the Lake View East commercial district, and just south of the Chicago Cubs' home base in the unofficially named Wrigleyville neighborhood, Boystown has carved a niche all its own within the urban fabric of Chicago proper. Within this area on North Halsted is the Center on Halsted, an LGBT community center.

Famous among day-trippers throughout the Midwest for its colorful nightlife and inviting atmosphere, Boystown is host to a true "round-the-clock" urban experience. It is within walking distance of trendy fashion outlets, Chicago's "Off-Loop" theater district, spectacular architecture, and many wine boutiques, specialty restaurants, and one-of-a-kind shops. Two major train stops fall within Boystown's boundaries, as well as numerous bus lines along routes plentiful with taxicabs, making the full Chicago experience accessible within minutes via mass transit.

North Halsted Street, also known as "Northalsted", is the central hub of this bustling district. It sports Chicago's highest concentration of LGBT-friendly establishments—-an eclectic mix of bars, coffeehouses, and restaurants in accord with the equally eclectic population of local hipsters and open-minded progressives. City planners have designated Northalsted an official pedestrian and bike route following a 1998 community project that resulted in the erection of 11 pairs of rainbow-colored abstract Art Deco pylons along the strip. Coupled with the ever-present rainbow flag that is posted upon nearly every entrance encountered on the Northalsted strip, these pillars also denote the many respectable gay-owned and operated venues that have become hotspots for weekenders throughout the city as well as residents of Boystown.

With Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's agreeing to endorse and host the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago, the city government's general acceptance of the LGBT community is as vibrant as ever, especially in the 44th Ward that includes Boystown. Chicago's only openly gay alderman—Thomas M. Tunney—represents the area on the Chicago City Council.

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