Keepers of the Flame

For 50 years, the LGBTQ+ community has made the second floor of the Fire Truck House its home.

September 2023

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Keepers of the Flame

Photo: Norman Plate/Stanford University Archives

In 1973–74, things were looking up for the Gay People’s Union (GPU). Literally. Over the course of that school year, the three-year-old social support and consciousness-raising group moved from a single desk in the basement of Old Union to a small office in the Fire Truck House to the latter building’s entire second floor. Its ascendance aligned with societal shifts: In June 1970, activists in New York City marched in what would later be considered the first gay pride parade; in December 1973, the American Psychiatric Association approved a resolution to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.

The GPU embraced its new quarters, even naming its newsletter the Firehouse Flame. Juan Ahonen-Jover, MS ’84, PhD ’85, described the space as a “safe” and “happy” refuge during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. “I could be there,” he said in a Stanford oral history interview. When Stanford set out to renovate the building, which opened in 1904 and housed a volunteer student fire department until 1968, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance at Stanford jumped in to ensure the preservation of its historical character. Today, the second floor of the Fire Truck House is known as the Q-Spot, “a place to relax, study, and hang out with the queer community and a growing family of potted plants,” as the Queer Student Resources website puts it.

Rebecca Beyer is a Boston-area journalist. Email her at stanford.magazine@stanford.edu.

Vintage 1973 Collection

Stanford is 50! It turns out we’re not the only one. Walk with us down memory lane as we sample some of the wonders and horrors of the 1973–74 academic year on the Farm, and in the world around.

Start the Presses

Were Golden

89 Rodins Find a New Home

A Godfather Delivers a Ransom Payment

A Splashy Debut

The Winds of Freedom

SLE Club

‘Until the Birds Took Over the Singing’

The Poet and the Coup

Steps Toward Saving Salamanders Are Set in Motion

A Sequel for Supersonic Flight?

The First Stanford Astronaut Returns from Space

The End of the Nursing Education Era

Keepers of the Flame

50 Years After the Stanford Murders, Three of Four Families Have Answers

A Classic Is Released

A Young Lawyer Wins an Educational Equity Case

Joining the Force


The Axe Is Stolen One Last Time

Fit to Be Tried

For Commencement Speaker, a Watergate Special Prosecutor

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