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The story of Mary's Naturally bar is, in a lot of ways, the story of the Montrose.
Mary's building began
as a Montrose grocery store in the early 1900's.
Mary's owner Joe Anthony opened the bar in 1970, and Jim "Fanny" Farmer became owner soon thereafter. Public sex was common at Mary's -- its dark bathrooms and its backyard, were host to untold encounters. A trapeze, usually occupied by someone naked, hung from the ceiling, and there was a strict No Underwear "policy" in place. Newbies were often stripped of their underwear, which were ceremoniously tossed to the rafters.
The bar was also
a place where Houston's gay community organized.
While Farmer was great at populating barstools, he was not so great at bookkeeping and dealing with the TABC. In 1978, the bar's license was revoked. Mary's changed hands, and in the early 2000s, with the collapse of Enron and the economic downturn, it closed. In 2003, it reopened, but the rent on the now-prime real estate (with land assessed at $2.4 million) was steep. In 2006, Mary's signature mural was painted over -- either because of a city ordinance or because of a complaint about the bulges in characters' pants in the painting. It was restored and painted over again. In 2009, after a slow demise, Mary's closed for good.
It is likely that most of the patrons of the coffee shop now occupying the Mary's building don't know the place's history. Houston natives will remember that it was a gay bar. But Mary's was more than that: it was a place where a community gathered, grew, and where a part of it was laid to rest.