These Six NYC LGBTQ Historical Sites Are Being Considered for Landmark Designation
May 15, 2019
By: Jeff Taylor
They include the residences of Audre Lorde and James Baldwin, as well as early meeting places for the community.
Six sites with LGBTQ and American historical significance are up for consideration for possible landmark designation in New York City.
The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission will consider the following locations for the designation, which would protect the buildings from being demolished or having their exteriors substantially altered: The Audre Lorde Residence, on Staten Island; the James Baldwin Residence, on the Upper West Side; Women’s Liberation Center, in Chelsea; Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse, in SoHo; plus Caffe Cino, and The LGBT Community Center—both in Greenwich Village.
Lorde, a lesbian writer and civil rights activist, lived at 207 St. Paul’s Avenue, where she authored books, carried out organizing work, and launched a feminist press, called Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press.
Fellow writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin lived at 137 West 71st Street from the mid-1960s onward, while splitting his time between there and France. It was in this building “where he worked on plays, screenplays and novels and corresponded with other prominent literary and cultural figures,” as the landmarks commission notes, according to The New York Times.
The Women’s Liberation Center was a meeting and organizing space that operated at 243 West 20th Street from 1972 to 1987.
The Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) was formed in December 1969, in the wake of the Stonewall riots, as a radical, non-assimilationist, inclusive LGBTQ liberation collective. The group met at a firehouse in SoHo, at 99 Wooster Street, from 1971 to 1974, which also served as an essential LGBTQ community center during those years.
Caffe Cino was located at 31 Cornelia Street, and is credited with birthing Off-Off Broadway, and giving LGBTQ playwrights a place to stage productions of works that at times went against laws making it illegal to depict homosexuality onstage.
The LGBT Community Center is still at 208 West 13th Street, continuing its mission of offering support services to LGBTQ people, which it began in 1983. It is notable for having been essential to the founding of ACT UP, GLAAD, Las Buenas Amigas, Queer Nation, and the Lesbian Avengers. It also served as the meeting place for the Metropolitan Community Church of New York, as well as SAGE.
“We are thrilled that our research was a catalyst for the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s review of cultural landmarks, which highlight the rich LGBT history of New York City,” said Andrew Dolkart, co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, in a statement.
“We met with the Commission’s chair, Sarah Carroll, and her staff to discuss how important LGBT-related sites are to the history of New York and are pleased that these cultural sites may soon be designated alongside the city’s architectural landmarks, adding to the diversity of places officially recognized by the city.”
The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project has been researching LGBTQ historical sites for more than two decades, and advocating for recognition and protection of these places, with nearly 200 entries published online, at nyclgbtsites.org.
“Literally hundreds of other NYC sites, from the Walt Whitman Residence in Brooklyn to Julius’ Bar in Greenwich Village to the Billy Strayhorn & Aaron Bridgers Residence in Harlem, merit further consideration for formal designation as cultural landmarks,” said NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project co-director Ken Lustbader.
The six sites detailed above have been calendared by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission for public hearing on June 4.