Apr 4, 2024 - Culture

Look back at St. Pete Beach's gay hangout

a black and white photo of people drinking beers on the beach

"Beach Scene at Jack's Place" circa 1950. Photo: Courtesy of Digital Commons at University of South Florida

You may know Sunset as the Tampa Bay LGBTQ community's adopted "gay beach." But did you know the area's queer beach scene dates back to the 1950s?

Queer Love in History recently highlighted scenes from Jack's Place, a gay bar in Madeira Beach. The photos shot by LGBTQ activist Bobby Smith show queer people out and proud in Madeira and the John's Pass area.

Why it matters: Smith captured scenes of queer joy around Tampa Bay during a time when gay bars were often targeted by police raids and queer people were investigated by the state.

  • Some queer women later alleged harassment and sexual abuse at the hands of police.

Flash forward: Jack's Place and the areas Smith captured in these photos are now condos.

Go deeper: Hundreds of Smith's photographs documenting Tampa Bay's LGBTQ+ communities from the 1950s to the 1970s are archived online.

a black and white photo of a group of people, some with shirts off and some not, smiling and looking at the camera. they're at the beach
Bobby Smith (top far right) with his friends at Jack's Place, circa 1950. Photo: Courtesy of Digital Commons at University of South Florida
a black and white photo of a couple at the beach smiling
"Couple Near the Water at Jack's Place," circa 1950. Photo: Courtesy of Digital Commons at University of South Florida
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