History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Businesses - Retail Establishments

The Lib Bookstore
Location: 601 N. 5th Street (at Michigan), Milwaukee


Business & Clientele:

Gay & Lesbian Bookstore
Male/ Female



The Lib bookstore is believed to have opened in 1971, in the location formerly housing The Loop Cafe. The Lib Bookstore's first known appearance in local LGBT media was in 1979, when the GPU News printed an article about arrests made there. Advertising a year later still touted "50 peep shows". Advertising continued and the bookstore was still listed in directories of business in RAGG magazine as late as 1983 (but with an unlisted phone number!).

The same building had previously held two other LGBT landmarks: the The Loop Cafe from 1963 to 1970, and next door in the same building the New Yorker Lounge from about 1952 to 1975.

The black and white photo to the right is the only vintage photo known of both the site of the Loop Cafe (the first business on the left with the sign "FINE FOOD"), and the New Yorker gay bar (next door with the "Blatz" sign: 605 N. 5th St.). The color photo is the building about to be torn down, with "The Lib Bookstore" signage still visible.

    The large hotel beyond in both photos, with the sign "Sheraton-Schroeder" in the older photo, was so-named from 1965-1971. The hotel was bought in 1972 by the Marcus Corporation, and renamed the Marc Plaza. As of 2015, it is the Milwaukee Hilton.

The Lib remained open until 1986. Boston Store had recently purchased the entire half-block building, and demolished it late in 1986 for a parking structure.

Recollections: The following are recollections of others who have been kind enough to submit their personal memories to the webmaster. You are welcome to do the same! (Recollections collected and organized by Jamie Taylor.)

    ---> "The Lib on 5th and Michigan from '74 - '81 had a glory hole in the bathroom."
                                    - Josie Carter (July-2009)

Article: Five men arrested at bookstore, Sept. 1979
GPU News, vol. 8 no. 12, pg. 15
Advertisement, "We're Exposing the Best", artwork by Perry Edwards;
Dec. 1980
GPU News, vol. 10 no. 3, pg. 19
Advertisement of 50 peep shows, August 1980
Milwaukee Calendar, vol 3 no. 16, pg. 37
Advertisement for cards & calendars available at The Lib, Dec. 1980
Milwaukee Calendar, vol 3 no. 26, pg. 37

Article, source unknown
(courtesy Michail Takach)

Photo of bldg about to be torn down, late 1986
(photo by Don Schwamb)

Credits: contents by Don Schwamb and Michail Takach.
Web site concept, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: February-2022.

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