History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Wisconsin - Businesses - Bars and Clubs

Oregon House
Location: 235 S. 2nd Street, Milwaukee WI


July 1976
circa 1979

Male/ female



Oregon House first advertised in the August 1976 issue of the GPU News, and the August 1976 issue of the local "GLIB Guide" describes the business as follows: "The first of the new bars, the Oregon House, opened on the growing gay bar block of south Second Street. The Oregon House features a lobby, and the entire bar is paved in shag carpeting. Recently a dance floor was opened, called the Loading Dock. It's no disco, but is interesting. The Oregon House may expand upstairs in the future." The Guide in the same issue sums it up: "If you like shag carpeting, paneling and tasteful decor. May expand upstairs in the future. New."

Although this business did appear in the 1978 issue of the Damron Guide, it does not appear to have survived much past mid-late 1977.

LGBT researcher Michail Takach gave the following insight into the early history of this location, and the Oregon House as a 'gay bar', in the following posting in Facebook in 2022:

    March 1955: After World War II, many Fifth Ward buildings were vacated as commerce shifted from rail to air. The former "Marine District," as it was known, was already in pretty rough shape. It's hard to imagine nowadays, but the area had a reputation for being "roughneck" long before the gay bars. Check out the ad for Oregon Inn (235 S. 2nd St.) inviting people to come down and "check out Skid Row!". (That ad is shown to the right.)

    In July 1976, Sam Mazur opened the Oregon House here. As the story goes, he was offered this blighted city property for $1 in exchange for the Royal Hotel (435 W. Michigan St.) Oregon House was the first of many LGBTQ businesses to open here, including Phoenix, DejaVu and Dish.

This space was later occupied by at least 4 other LGBT bars: the Phoenix (approx 1979-1993); the lesbian bar Deja-Vu (1993-1994); followed by the mixed lesbian/gay bar, 'Dish' (approx. 1998-2000) and then by a mostly lesbian bar, 'Ginger' (approx. 2008-2011).

More information about this business is welcomed from anyone who can contribute it.

Article and Photos
(Gay Business Guide, 1977)
Interior photo
(main bar)
(Gay Business Guide, 1977)
Interior photo
(dance floor)
(Gay Business Guide, 1977)

View of the building, late 2006
(corner location at far left)
View of the building, late 2006
View of the block, late 2006

Advertisement, August 1976
(GPU News, August 1976)

Advertisement, December 1976
(GPU News, Dec. 1976)

Ad: 'Showtime' at Phoenix:
"formerly the Oregon House"
(GPU News, August 1978)

Advertisement for 'Oregon Inn',
before the Oregon House opened as gay
(courtesy Michail Takach)

Credits: web site concept, contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb;
Oregon Inn info and ad, and early history of the location by Michail Takach. Last updated: August-2023.

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