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MARY'S, NATURALLY

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.
By the early 70's, the area, with 20-30 gay bars, was a gayborhood. Stonewall had just happened in 1969, and the Montrose was a sort of safe haven, where, as Ray Hill has said, bikers, artists, gays, and hippies were all friendly to each other at local late-night hangouts.

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.
In 1980, the group that became the AIDS Foundation met there. The Gay Political Caucus also began at Mary's. As the gay community lost many to the AIDS crisis, Mary's was the place to attend a fundraising rally. In Mary's Outback garden, around 300 peoples' ashes are thought to have been scattered, including those of owner Fanny Farmer.

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 In 1978, the bar's license was revoked.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.

Link to more information on Mary's