Between 8th and 9th Streets
Harrison and Folsom
Prior to the AIDS crisis, Ringold alley served as one of the go-to places for gay men to rendezvous after the numerous gay bars along Folsom Street (the “Miracle Mile”) closed for the night. Until the 1990s, Ringold Street continued to play a major role in San Francisco’s leather and gay SOMA scenes. Leather Memoir is a project to honor the history of this area.
“Leather Memoir” consists of several custom fabricated features. A black granite marker stone mounted at 9th and Ringold features an etched narrative, which includes a reproduction of Chuck Arnett’s long-gone mural, and an image of Mike Caffee’s Leather David statue.
Granite stones, recycled from San Francisco curbs, were cut, polished and engraved to honor community institutions.
This 2016/2017 $2 million project was designed by Miller Company Landscape Architects. A variety of community leaders were consulted on the design, including anthropologist and leather historian Gayle Rubin, Demetri Moshoyannis executive director of Folsom Street Events, and the late Jim Meko, former chair of the Western SoMa Citizens Planning Task Force.
The project, officially known as the San Francisco South of Market Leather History Alley, was the brain child of Jim Meko, who, prior to his death in 2015, had long pushed for a rezoning of Western SOMA that would honor the area’s leather history. A bootprint honoring Meko can be found near the black granite explanation plaque.
If you are interested in learning more about the SOMA leather scene Found SF has written a concise and interesting story of the neighborhood, which you can read here.
Jeffrey Miller (ASLA) is credited as the lead artist on the project. Miller is the principal and founder of Miller Company. He holds an M.L.A. from the University of Massachusetts School of Landscape Architecture.
The people honored with boot prints are:
1. Jim Kane, community leader, and biker
2. Ron Johnson, poet, and co-founder of the Rainbow Motorcycle Club
3. Steve McEachern, owner of the Catacombs, a gay and lesbian S/M fisting club
4. Cynthia Slater, founder of the Society of Janus
5. Tony Tavarossi, manager of the Why Not
6. Chuck Arnett, iconic leather artist, Toolbox muralist
7. Jack Haines, Fe-Be’s and The Slot owner
8. Alexis Muir, a transwoman who owned SOMA bars and baths
9. Sam Steward, author, and tattooist
10. Terry Thompson, SF Eagle manager
11. Philip M. Turner, founder of Daddy’s Bar
12. Hank Diethelm, The Brig owner
13. Ambush co-owners Kerry Brown, Ken Ferguson, David Delay
14. Alan Selby, founder of the store Mr. S Leather and known as the “Mayor of Folsom Street”
15. Peter Hartman, owner of 544 Natoma art gallery and theater
16. Robert Opel, Fey-Way Studios owner
17. Anthony F. (Tony) DeBlase, creator of the leather flag
18. Marcus Hernandez, Bay Area Reporter leather columnist
19. John Embry, founder, and publisher of Drummer magazine
20. Geoff Mains, author of “Urban Aboriginals”
21. Mark Thompson, author of “Leatherfolk” and co-founder of Black Leather Wings
22. Thom Gunn, poet
23. Paul Mariah, poet, printer and activist
24. Robert Davolt, author, and organizer of SF Pride leather contingent
25. Jim Meko, printer, and SOMA activist
26. Alexis Sorel, co-founder The 15 and Black Leather Wings member
27. Bert Herman, author, and publisher
28. T. Michael “Lurch” Sutton, biker and co-founder of the Bears of SF