Man’s Country was a wildly popular bathhouse chain that had branches in New York City and Chicago in the 1970s and 1980s and even had a commercial that played on Manhattan All Access Cable television.
Gay bathhouses emerged in the mid-20th century as private establishments where gay, bisexual, and straight men who played could socialize, relax, and engage in sexual activities. These venues provided a safe space for gay men at a time when homosexuality was heavily stigmatized and even criminalized in many places.
Man’s Country was founded by Chuck Renslow, a prominent figure in Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community. Renslow was an entrepreneur, activist, and publisher of gay-oriented publications. He established the bathhouse as a place where gay men could come together, explore their sexuality, and find a sense of community.
Man’s Country in NYC was located on a residential street in a former office building.
The most interesting thing about Man’s Country was that the main orgy room featured a full-sized tractor-trailer cab for us to fulfill your trucker fantasies and have sex on/under/inside, you name it. It was also famous for its $1.00 Tuesday night rates, that attracted mammoth numbers of men.
While popular Man’s Country never reached the same popularity level as the downtown St. Marks Baths or the uptown Everard Baths but it was well visited, to say the least.
Man’s Country in NYC closed at the beginning of the AIDS crisis in 1983.
Ultimately, in 2018, Man’s Country in Chicago closed its doors permanently. Its closure marked the end of an era for the gay community in Chicago, And the loss of one of the few safe gay spaces for men left.
The Windy City Times has written an excellent article on the history of the past 43 years that Man’s Country has existed.
One paragraph, in particular, serves as a wonderful summation:
“Renslow is rightfully proud to say that for a long while Man’s Country was the finest bathhouse in the country. After 43 years, the eventual closing of these doors will also be the end of an era. For generations, Man’s Country stood as a symbol for the evolution of gay liberation and consciousness. Though its original grandeur has tarnished, the value and necessity of this building and its place in the evolution of Chicago LGBT history cannot be minimized.”
The closing of Man’s Country was a true end of an era.