Toronto’s oldest gay bathhouse, Club Toronto, has closed to become an “upscale swinger’s club,” the fancy name for a straight bathhouse.
On April Fool’s Day, a hand-written note appeared on the red door of Club Toronto reading simply, “Closed forever.” It was no joke. After 37 years as a bathhouse, the large brick house at Mutual and Carlton streets is being gutted to make way, according to the landlord, for an upscale swingers’ club. When it opened in the summer of 1973 as the Club Baths, it offered a unique blend of sexual and social interaction for gay men. “It was a great place to be in the 1970s and ’80s,” says former regular Freddy Strickland, a retired meat inspector. “It was my home away from home — movies, saunas, meeting interesting people and relaxing in the whirlpool. It was one of the most important places for me then.” “What many people don’t realize was that for many closeted gay men, Club Toronto was as much social-psychological refuge as it was a place to get off,” says Rick Stenhouse, who worked at Club Toronto in 1973.
Read the above-linked story for a fascinating retelling of the infamous 1981 raid of five Toronto bathhouses, in which over 300 gay men were arrested.