Silver Lake stairway may be renamed in honor of gay activist*

The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council tonight will consider a proposal* to name the Cove Avenue stairway in honor of Harry Hay, one of nation’s first gay rights activists, and spend $1,000 on a memorial plaque. In the early 1940s, Hay moved into a house near  the stairway in the 2300 block of Cove Avenue, according to  background submitted with the neighborhood council proposal. Nearly a decade later on November 11, 1950, Hay hosted  a meeting to present a proposal that would lead to the creation of the nation’s first gay rights group:

On a windy afternoon they spent several hours looking out at the  Silver Lake Reservoir and talking over what one of them called “the most  dangerous thing I’ve ever  read.”  The setting for this unprecedented discussion was the hillside next to the top of the     Cove Avenue staircase.  They informally called themselves the Society of Fools, and by April 1951 had become the Mattachine Society.

The proposal to name the Cove stairway east of the Silver Lake reservoirs in honor of Hay, who died nearly a decade ago,  would not require nearby residents to change their mailing addresses, said Elizabeth Bougart-Sharkov, who heads the neighborhood council’s Urban Design & Preservation Committee.  The committee, which adopted the proposal, received about 20 letters in support, she said.

If the neighborhood council’s Governing Board approves the proposal tonight, neighborhood council officials will work with Council District 13 and city departments to find out how a plaque could be installed on the steps, Bougart-Sharkov said.  The design, wording and location of the plaque still  have to be decided.

In addition, it’s stil not clear if that $1,000 would cover the cost of a plaque, and Bougart-Sharkov said some residents have indicated they would chip in to cover the cost.

Tonight’s meeting begins at 7 p.m in the Micheltorena Street School auditorium.

* Update: The motion was adopted unanimously by the Governing Board, reports Bourgart-Sharkov.


  1. Great news. For those involved tonight – best of luck with the pitch!

  2. Hay was a great (albeit controversial) man, and I’m glad to see he’s getting his due.

  3. Harry was a great man. He deserves to be honored.

  4. Darlings, why not use the money to install handrails for those of us who might need them for such a climb up/down those stairs?

  5. Pioneers like Harry Hay need to be remembered for standing up to bigotry and fighting for the rights of all people. This is a heart-warming occasion!

  6. Harry Hay does deserve to be recognized in this small way. I do agree with Pippo here that the next step for the councils to take is to consider hand rails for this long steep stairway.

  7. I met Harry Hay either in my senior year in high school or just after that. I am glad that he is getting this recognition in our town.

Post a Comment

Please keep your comments civil and on topic and refrain from personal attacks. The moderator reserves the right to edit or delete any comments. The Eastsider's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy apply to comments submitted by readers. Required fields are marked *