James Baldwin Residence Officially Listed as Historic Site

20190912
By: N. Jamiyla Chisholm

The NYC row house on 137 West 71st Street is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

 

 

Anyone who’s ever read literary giant James Baldwin knows how much he loved New York City and how he championed both his Blackness and queerness. So it’s only fitting that his former home, a remodeled row house that he resided in from 1965 until his death in 1987, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project announced on Thursday (September 12).

Known as the James Baldwin Residence, the 137 West 71st Street location was nominated by the Project to be included in a National Park Service grant to increase LGBTQ+ diversity on the National Register. Facilitated by the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), the building was listed officially on September 3, 2019. Baldwin may not have believed in using identifying labels besides Black, but he did break, then repair with civil rights activism through literature and debate, his position as a gay Black man in America.

Tax photo of 137 West 71st Street, 1964 (a year before James Baldwin bought the building).

 

“Seeing James Baldwin’s NYC residence listed on the National Register of Historic Places is the realization of our mission, in part, to increase LGBT representation on this important official inventory of sites and to formally recognize the U.S. home most closely associated with Baldwin, a pivotal voice of 20th century America,” Amanda Davis, project manager of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, said in an emailed statement. “We are delighted that our years of research into Baldwin’s connections to New York City and this home, specifically, have resulted in the site’s recognition at both the local, state, and national levels.”

On June 18, 2019, while the city was celebrating World Pride and gearing up for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, the James Baldwin Residence was designated a NYC Individual Landmark by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. Baldwin’s home was one of six sites—including the Audre Lorde Residence—recognized as a result of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project’s nomination from earlier in the month.

“The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project has created a national model for recognizing the underrepresented history of LGBT New Yorkers,” said Erik Kulleseid, commissioner of parks, recreation and historic preservation. “We are truly grateful for this collaboration and congratulate the LGBT Historic Sites Project on this latest achievement of officially designating the residence of gay author, activist and New Yorker, James Baldwin, to the National Register.”

Click here to read the article in COLORLINES.

 

Other coverage:

James Baldwin’s Home Is Now a Nationally Registered Historic Place

20190916
By: Matt Baume

The designation, provided by the National Park Service, provides minor protections for the integrity of the structure.

 

Out Magazine, James Baldwin

 

The childhood home of James Baldwin is now in the National Register of Historic Places, establishing the ordinary looking building as having played a key role in the shaping of American culture. The building joins several other LGBTQ+ landmarks in New York City in receiving historic designations this year.

Built in 1890, Baldwin lived in the small four-story building at 137 West 71st Street from the mid 1960s to the late ‘80s. You’d never guess there’s anything significant about the grey, brick walk-up just from looking at it.

“Seeing James Baldwin’s NYC residence listed on the National Register of Historic Places is the realization of our mission, in part, to increase [LGBTQ+] representation on this important official inventory of sites and to formally recognize the U.S. home most closely associated with Baldwin, a pivotal voice of 20th century America,” Amanda Davis, project manager at the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, said in a statement.

Baldwin had a complicated relationship with what we would today recognize as the LGBTQ+ community. As a young man, he lived in Greenwich Village, where even in the 1930s and 40s there was an air of comparative sexual freedom. That was followed by many years in France, during which time he published his most famous novels: Go Tell It On the Mountain in 1953 and Giovanni’s Room in 1956, both of which featured gay characters.

Returning to America in the early 60s, he wrote Another Country, which touched on both same-sex and interracial relationships. Baldwin himself had experience with both, but according to the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, “he generally eschewed labels and did not self-identify as gay.”

But he did speak about homosexuality, particularly toward the end of his life.

“A man can fall in love with a man; a woman can fall in love with a woman,” Baldwin said in 1987. “There’s nothing anybody can do about it. It’s not in the province of the law. It has nothing to do with the church. And if you lie about that, you lie about everything. And no one has a right to try to tell another human being whom he or she can or should love.”

In the 71st St. building, Baldwin occupied a ground-floor apartment and housed his mother, sister, and her children on upper floors. It was a gathering place for many notable Black literary figures throughout the 70s and 80s, and Toni Morrison lived in the building for a short period.

With its designation on the National Register of Historic Places, the building gains yet another layer of recognition. Earlier this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the Upper West Side sitewould also be nominated for a listing on the state’s register, noting in a statement that “Baldwin transformed and continues to transform discussions about race and sexuality in America and abroad.”

It also enjoys local historic designation, with the Landmarks Preservation Commission designating Baldwin’s home as a NYC landmark this past June.

That came in a wave of historic recognition for LGBTQ+ landmarks in New York. The Commission also selected the Gay Activist Alliance Firehouse, which was built in the 1880s and used to organize protests by the Gay Activist Alliance in the 1970s.

Caffe Cino was also designated as a historic landmark. Another 19th-century structure, the cafe was home to experimental theater works off-off-Broadway. Also given protection was the LGBT Community Center, home to queer community events since 1983, and the Women’s Liberation Center, another former firehouse used to organize protests starting in the 1970s.

Audre Lorde’s house on Staten Island was noted as historic as well.

Click here to read the article in OUT.

 

Other coverage:

James Baldwin Just Got a Huge Shout-Out From the U.S. Government

September 12, 2019
By: Sam Manzella

The legendary writer’s NYC home is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

One of our greatest gay literary lions has received a major nod from the United States National Park Service.

Queer author and civil rights activist James Baldwin, known for his groundbreaking contributions to black and queer literature in mid-20th-century America, lived in the same Manhattan residence at 137 W. 71st St. from 1965 until his death in 1987. Now, with the support of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, Baldwin’s house has become an official listing on the U.S. government’s National Register of Historic Places.

The recognition comes after Baldwin’s house was added to the New York State Historic Register, which was approved in June 2019, also due in part to a recommendation from the Project.

 

Baldwin in his New York City apartment circa 1963.
Baldwin in his New York City apartment circa 1963.

In a press release provided to NewNowNext, Amanda Davis, project manager of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, explained how and why the group pushed the NPS to recognize Baldwin’s Manhattan residence. Davis called Baldwin a “pivotal voice of 20th-century America,” noting that the addition is the culmination of the group’s “years of research into Baldwin’s connections to New York City and this home, specifically.”

Erik Kulleseid, commissioner of the NYS Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation, also praised Baldwin’s contributions to LGBTQ history and thanked the Project for its work to highlight historic NYC spots of queer cultural value:

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project has created a national model for recognizing the underrepresented history of LGBT New Yorkers. We are truly grateful for this collaboration and congratulate the LGBT Historic Sites Project on this latest achievement of officially designating the residence of gay author, activist, and New Yorker James Baldwin to the National Register.

Ken Lustbader, co-director of the organization, told NewNowNext earlier this year that he has worked to identify and catalog places of queer cultural value in the five boroughs for about 25 years.

Lustbader’s work with the Project also helped get the famed Stonewall Inn listed on the National Register back in 1999 and the Stonewall National Monument designated in 2016.

Click here to read the article in NewNowNext.

 

Other coverage:

James Baldwin’s former Upper West Side home receives national landmark status

September 12, 2019
By: Dana Schulz

 

In June, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission designated six sites significant to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, including the former home of James Baldwin on the Upper West Side. Now, the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project tells us that the Baldwin residence at 137 West 71st Street has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, which recognizes his role nationally as relates to LGBT and civil rights history.

 

James Baldwin, 1969
James Baldwin in 1969, via Allan Warren on Wiki Commons

 

James Baldwin was born in Harlem in 1924. He became a regarded author, playwright, and civil rights activist, focusing largely on the topics of race and sexuality. He moved into a remodeled rowhouse on West 71st Street in 1965 and lived there on and off until his death in 1987, throughout which some of his family members had apartments in the building, as did Toni Morrison. Other prominent writers and musicians spent time at the residence, including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, and Amira Baraka.

During his time there, Baldwin authored “Just Above My Head,” one of his novels that “featured gay and bisexual characters and spoke openly about same-sex relationships and LGBT issues,” according to the LGBT Sites Project. Although Baldwin himself never self-identified as gay, he did speak of his relationship with men and championed the community through his activism and writing.

“Seeing James Baldwin’s NYC residence listed on the National Register of Historic Places is the realization of our mission, in part, to increase LGBT representation on this important official inventory of sites and to formally recognize the U.S. home most closely associated with Baldwin, a pivotal voice of 20th century America,” said Amanda Davis, project manager of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, in a press release. “We are delighted that our years of research into Baldwin’s connections to New York City and this home, specifically, have resulted in the site’s recognition at both the local, state, and national levels.”

Prior to living on the Upper West Side, Baldwin resided in Greenwich Village at 81 Horatio Street from 1958 to 1963. In 2015, Village Preservation unveiled a historic plaque on the building to commemorate him.

Click here to read the article in 6sqft.

 

Other coverage:

 

James Baldwin NYC residence added to National Register of Historic Places

20190912

We are extremely pleased to share the news that the James Baldwin Residence, located at 137 West 71st Street, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This announcement comes after two years of focused effort on behalf of the Project, and soon after the author and civil rights activist’s Upper West Side rowhouse’s designation as an NYC Individual Landmark during #Stonewall50 and WorldPride.

 

     

Photos: (l) Tax photo of 137 West 71st Street, 1964 (a year before James Baldwin bought the building). Courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives; (r) 137 West 71st Street, on the Upper West Side, 2016. Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

 

The nomination was initiated and researched by the Project as part of a National Park Service grant to increase LGBT diversity on the National Register, facilitated by the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). The NYS SHPO confirmed on September 3, 2019, the official listing of the New York City site.

As a gay black author, civil rights activist, and social commentator, Baldwin transformed, and continues to transform, discussions about race and sexuality in America and abroad.

Seeing James Baldwin’s NYC residence listed on the National Register of Historic Places is the realization of our mission, in part, to increase LGBT representation on this important official inventory of sites and to formally recognize the U.S. home most closely associated with Baldwin, a pivotal voice of 20th century America. We are delighted that our years of research into Baldwin’s connections to New York City and this home, specifically, have resulted in the site’s recognition at both the local, state, and national levels.

The National Register listing follows the site’s listing on the State Register of Historic Places, which occurred on July 15, 2019.

Literary icon and civil rights activist James Baldwin used this Upper West Side remodeled rowhouse as his New York City residence from 1965 until his death in 1987. Although he generally eschewed labels and did not self-identify as gay, he was open about the fact that he had relationships with men and spoke openly about various LGBT issues. He first wrote about his own sexuality in his 1985 essay, “Freaks and the American Ideal of Manhood.” Baldwin wrote several novels that featured gay and bisexual characters, such as his groundbreaking second novel, Giovanni’s Room (1956), and spoke openly about same-sex relationships and LGBT issues.

“The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project has created a national model for recognizing the underrepresented history of LGBT New Yorkers. We are truly grateful for this collaboration and congratulate the LGBT Historic Sites Project on this latest achievement of officially designating the residence of gay author, activist and New Yorker, James Baldwin, to the National Register, said Erik Kulleseid, Commissioner of the NYS Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation (SHPO).

The National Register of Historic Places is the federal government’s honorary list of sites deemed significant to American history and includes over 93,500 sites across the country, yet the LGBT community remains vastly underrepresented with less than twenty sites. To date, the Project has been involved with seven of the 22 LGBT-related listings on the National Register. Additionally, the Project authored the Historic Context Statement for LGBT History in New York City (2018) to help guide the New York State Historic Preservation Office and New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in evaluating LGBT historic sites. The Project is also surveying sites that appear eligible for official listing and is nominating sites to the National Register of Historic Places; see what has been listed so far in New York City.

The James Baldwin Residence was designated a NYC Individual Landmark by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission on June 18, 2019, at the onset of WorldPride and a month of celebration in lead-up to the 50th anniversary of the game-changing Stonewall uprising. The Project’s research served as a key foundation for the Commission’s evaluation of this and five other LGBT historic sites; its advocacy brought a wave of public support to these sites in advance of their important public hearing before the Commission. The Project remains grateful to all those who supported these designations, in particular New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a champion for preservation LGBT history in New York City. Revisit the Project’s testimony on the James Baldwin Residence (here).

 

“Broadway Theater District” published, added to VAMONDE app

September 10, 2019

40+ theaters celebrated in new LGBT theme:
“Broadway Theater District”

published to website and added to the VAMONDE app

 

Our Curated Themes make it easy for you to explore NYC’s LGBT historic sites by subjects of interest. The latest addition—to both our website and our channel on the VAMONDE app (download from Apple or Google Play!)—is a 40+ site collection of theaters on and around Broadway, from 41st to 54th Streets.

Whether a star with name in flashing lights on a marquee or a member of the chorus line, so many LGBT individuals have contributed their talents to our theater history. We celebrate them with our new Broadway Theater District theme.

 

Search “LGBT” on the VAMONDE app and you’ll find our adventure,
featuring the Broadway Theater District sites, right away.

New York City has long been considered the leading American center for arts and culture, and the arts—especially theater—constitute one of New York’s primary economic forces. Throughout the 20th century, the LGBT community has had a significant and disproportionate impact on the Broadway stage, even as the New York Legislature-enacted Wales Padlock Law (1927-1967) made it illegal for theaters to show plays that featured gay and lesbian characters (though some productions managed to get around this restriction).

This curated collection spotlights the Broadway Theater District and its associations with major LGBT performers and creators. Research for this new theme has been supported, in part, by a grant from the Manhattan Community Awards Program, facilitated by the Office of Borough President Gale Brewer.

 

DOWNLOAD the VAMONDE app from Apple or Google Play!