PAST EVENT

Saving 99 Ryerson: The Peculiar Problem of Landmarking Brooklyn’s Earliest LGBT Site

June 22, 2021 | 6:00PM to 7:00PM

Saving 99 Ryerson image

After nearly five years of petitions and two rejections from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, a group of activists persevere in their efforts to landmark Whitman’s house at 99 Ryerson Street, Brooklyn: the only extant residence of over 30 while Whitman lived in NYC, the house in which he completed the first edition of Leaves of Grass in1855, and the place where he received his first literary pilgrims, including a November 1855 visit from Ralph Waldo Emerson.  So why hasn’t this cradle of American poetry been landmarked?  Should it be?  Join us for a roundtable discussion on the historic and cultural significance of the structure, the story of the campaign to ‘Save the Walt Whitman House’, plans for the future– and how you can help.

View the Event Livestream Page

Karen Karbiener, president and founding member of the Walt Whitman Initiative, is a Whitman scholar and teaches at New York University. Winner of the Kluge Fellowship at the Library of Congress and a Fulbright recipient, she has published widely on Whitman (most recently working with Brian Selznick on Live Oak, with Moss, a new illustrated edition of Whitman’s secret same-sex love poems).  As a cultural activist in her hometown, Karen has been working on the campaign to preserve 99 Ryerson Street since 2017, and gave testimony at the hearing to landmark 227 Duffield Place, Brooklyn, last year.

Ken Lustbader is a co-founder and co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, an award-winning cultural heritage initiative that is documenting and memorializing LGBT place-based history in New York City. For almost 30 years, he has been national leader in issues related to LGBT history, documentation, and historic preservation. Between 2007 and 2015, he served as Historic Preservation Program Officer at the J.M. Kaplan Fund where he was responsible for US and international grant initiatives. Prior to that he was lead consultant for the Lower Manhattan Emergency Preservation Fund, which resulted in the conservation of in situ elements of the World Trade Center that are now integral components of the National 9/11 Memorial Museum. Between 1994 and 2002, he was the Director of the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Sacred Sites Program.

Jay Shockley is a co-founder and co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. He retired in 2015 as senior historian at the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission where since 1979 he researched and wrote over 100 designation reports covering all aspects of the city’s history. In 1993, he helped pioneer the concept of recognizing LGBT place-based history by incorporating it into the Commission’s reports. He co-authored the Stonewall nomination, which resulted in the first-ever National Register (1999) and National Historic Landmark (2000) listings for an LGBT site.

Brad Vogel is a poet, attorney, preservationist, and sail freight agent. An advocate for designating Whitman’s Leaves of Grass House a city landmark, he serves on the board of the Walt Whitman Initiative. Brad is the author of the poetry collection Broad Meadow Bird and was a finalist for the 2020 Erskine J. Poetry Prize. Brad brings poetry to life in original events including the annual Dawn Reading in canoes for the Brooklyn Book Festival, and NYC Poets Afloat (a microresidency and reading series aboard vessels in NY Harbor). He captains the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club.

 

PAST EVENT

From the Queen City to the Big Apple: LGBTQ Historical Connections in WNY and NYC

June 29, 2021 | 6:00PM to 7:30PM

Join Preservation Buffalo Niagara and the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project as we explore some of the landmarks of the gay liberation movement in both NYC and WNY. By comparing the sites, we’ll be able to gain new insights into similarities and differences between each city’s activities in the movement as well as work to establish a more comprehensive narrative of LGBTQ history in New York State.  The presentation will also feature a special message from Daniel Mackay, Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation at State of New York Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation.

Panelists include:

Moderated by Christiana Limniatis, Director of Preservation Services, Preservation Buffalo Niagara

Advanced registration required (CLICK HERE).

 

Historians and Preservationists Convene to Discuss LGBTQ+ Landmarks During Pride Month

June 18, 2021
By: Abigail Gruskin

NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project's Amanda Davis in Our Town

NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project pushes for landmark recognition despite obstacles

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, a local nonprofit advocating for recognition of historic buildings with queer pasts, lists the Stonewall Inn on its interactive map of LGBTQ+ sites in the city — along with over 350 additional, though perhaps lesser-known, sites of significance.

“The goal of the project is to broaden people’s knowledge of the city’s LGBT history, beyond the globally-recognized Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village,” Project Manager Amanda Davis said during an online panel hosted by the Preservation League of New York State last Thursday. “And in doing so, help push the conversation forward in rethinking how we interpret historic sites.”

At last week’s event, Davis was joined by historic preservation consultant Jeffrey “Free” Harris and Jeffry Iovannone, who spotlights LGBTQ+ landmarks in a blog series for Preservation Buffalo Niagara, for brief presentations and a conversation moderated by Larry Francer, the associate director of the Landmark Society of Western New York. The panelists addressed the unique hurdles of nominating sites for formal recognition based specifically on their LGBTQ+-related histories, but also spoke to the impact that such designations hold for the queer community.

Davis, Harris and Iovannone presented detailed information on a selection of LGBTQ+ sites in New York, most already bearing landmark status. For a building to be nationally recognized as a landmark, it must be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. The Stonewall Inn, Davis explained, was the first building in the U.S. to be recognized as a landmark for its significance as a site of LGBTQ+ history. Now, ten such sites in the city are similarly recognized by the state and national registers.

Trials and Tribulations

In addition to outlining the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project’s mission, Davis also dove into the challenges facing those who wish to register buildings as landmarks for their roles in LGBTQ+ history. The group, led by historians with ties to Columbia University, has penned a “historic context statement” for New York City to help situate individual sites within a broader history of queer culture in an effort to make the process of reviewing a building for landmark status more straightforward. Still, other hurdles persist.

“Owner consent is needed for a property to be listed on the National Register … and this can be a challenge when an owner doesn’t want to be associated with LGBT history,” Davis said.

Davis also mentioned that convincingly “identifying” historic figures as part of the LGBTQ+ community can prove difficult.

Beyond locating new sites for historic landmark recognition, Davis and others acknowledged that in some cases, pre-existing landmark listings must be amended to include reference to sites’ LGBTQ+ pasts, which may have originally been neglected. “History is not fixed,” Davis said. “We can go back in time and re-evaluate and include narratives that were left out.”

In other cases, sites of LGBTQ+ importance are in jeopardy of ceasing to exist altogether. “A lot of our sites are located in places that usually go through a great deal of change, neighborhoods that change,” explained Harris, whose presentation focused on African American LGBTQ+ historical sites. “They’re in areas that, you know, over time we see that they are gentrified or they’re torn down.”

In Western New York, there are currently no landmarks recognized exclusively for their ties to LGBTQ+ historical figures or events by the National Register of Historic Places — a reality which Iovannone hopes to soon change.

Underscoring LGBTQ+ Stories

The mission of Preservation Buffalo Niagara’s “Gay Places” initiative, which Iovannone cofounded in 2020, is not only to commemorate LGBTQ+ sites in Western New York, but also to shift the narrative that queer history is rooted solely in hotspots on either coast of the country.

“If we have sites in places like Buffalo or Rochester, right, that are listed on the National Register and have that sort of prestige and authenticity,” he explained, “it makes it much more, I think, difficult to ignore what happened outside of large cities on the coast.”

In addition to crafting blog posts that dive into LGBTQ+ history in the area and hosting informational events, Iovannone also broke ground on nominating the former home of transgender activist Peggie Ames, located in Clarence, New York, for landmark status with the National Register of Historic Places.

Presentations acknowledged that sites with LGBTQ+ significance can be appreciated even without official landmark status, especially through events that engage the local community, like walking tours. Still, Davis, Harris and Iovannone agreed that landmark status is a valuable way to recognize and legitimize the community’s history.

“There’s no question in my mind,” Harris said, “that the honorific of a National Register listing is important to people.”

See the original article on Our Town here.

Initiative uncovers historical sites linked to the LGBTQ+ movement across New York City

June 23, 2021
By: Lauren Glassberg

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) — A new initiative is aiming to uncover historical sites linked to the LGBTQ+ movement across New York City that could be both informative and preservative.

The Stonewall Inn, where the gay rights movement was born, is a destination spot for many — including Brienne Pfifer and her ally friends who are visiting from Portland.

“This is giving me chills,” Pfifer said.

Across the street is Christopher Park, a national monument, currently surrounded by Pride flags.

“It’s my number one spot,” said Natalie Derewjanko, visiting from Chicago. “First stop in the city today.”

But what many visitors may not know about are the unmarked sites that also have LGBTQ+ ties, some dating back to the 1700s.

“We’re another minority community that has a rich history,” Jay Shockley said. “But no one was looking at it.”

That’s why he and his co-founders started the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, focused on making an invisible history visible.

“Even within the LGBT community, when we described what we were interested in, there was like, what else is there besides bars?” he said.

It turns out there’s whole lot — their website currently has 350 locations across all five boroughs.

They include what was once called the Ridiculous Theater Company, founded by a gay man, and a women’s detention center that also housed lesbians.

There’s also shop that was once a gay bookstore and community center.

“Our main goal is to teach our community we have a very rich history,” Shockley said.

People can use the data and map to create their own tours, where they can learn about those lesser known gems.

“I’d love to know the history of everywhere,” Pfifer said. “It’s such a beautiful thing. I’d love to know more.”

The initiative could also help preserve some of these sites by helping people learn and remember their significance.

See the original video on ABC7 News here.

 

New York’s gay bars are still vital, especially post-COVID, owners say | Pride and Pandemic

20210615
By: Chris Welch

NEW YORK – For many, a place colloquially known as a “gay bar” was the only place you could go where you weren’t compelled to lie about who you were.

“The gay community had nowhere else to meet publicly,” said Ken Lustbader, the co-founder of NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

“This was their place, their safe place to be themselves,” said Helen Buford, the owner of Julius’ Bar, “[a place] where they weren’t accepted anywhere else.

“[It’s] a place where they know if they hit on someone, they’re not going to get beaten up or murdered,” said Lisa Cannistraci, the owner of Henrietta Hudson.

“People could lose their jobs, their families, employment, religious associations,” Lustbader added. “So bars became really safe spaces.”

But the gay bar of the past was much different than the one we think of today where every inch is covered in rainbow flags.

“In many cases, they were private clubs with bouncers at the door,” Lustbader said. “They were bottle clubs, you had a sign, a fictitious name in many cases to get in.”
You’d have to either be in possession of an underground guidebook listing places considered “safe” or rely on word of mouth.

That was all because of state law.

“After prohibition, the State Liquor Authority is formed, which has a regulation that basically says if you serve people who are disorderly you can lose your license,” Lustbader said. “Disorderly people were considered homosexuals.”

But you could easily argue that a certain black-and-white photograph — showing a group of men being denied a drink — laid the groundwork for the gay bars of today. And Randy Wicker, on the far end of the bar in that photo, was one of those men.

“We were saying, ‘We are homosexuals and we want to order a cocktail,'” Wicker said.

That’s when the bartender held out his hand.

“Saying, ‘No, oh no, not here. ‘Cause we already have trouble with that,'” Wicker said.

See, those well-dressed patrons — some of the earliest gay rights protestors — knew that Julius’ Bar in Greenwich Village was already being closely watched by state authorities due to prior infractions. So those protestors thought something might go down. And that was the purpose that night.

“We wanted to have a place refuse to serve us for being homosexual,” Wicker said.

So they brought a photographer and newspaper reporter with them to document it. The incident has become known as the “sip in.”

“That would be the first case against homosexuals actually proactively documented,” Lustbader said.

And it all happened in 1966 — three years prior to the Stonewall riots, widely seen as the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement.

But this piece of history, Julius’ Bar, was almost gone for good thanks to COVID.

“I had such a deflated feeling,” Buford said. “I was pretty down, I have to say. When we first closed, it was awful.”

But thanks to federal loans, community support, and donations from the LGBT-focused nonprofit Gill Foundation, the city’s oldest gay bar is here to stay.

But others — like Tom Johnson, the former owner of Therapy Lounge — weren’t as lucky.

“We sell drinks to people to pay for ourselves, to pay for our shows, to pay for everything,” Johnson said from his new home in Chicago. “If we’re not selling drinks, what are you going to do?”

In 2003, Therapy Lounge became one of the first gay bars to open up in Hell’s Kitchen, paving the way for a slew of others and changing the face of the neighborhood into one that, these days, has lot more rainbow flags that it used to.

But Therapy’s business model was no match for the past year’s COVID restrictions.

“We couldn’t open up for delivery to-go out of Therapy with burgers and nachos, and a 20-foot space in front,” Johnson said. “It just wouldn’t cut it when you have 5,000 square feet and the only time you really made money was on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night when the place was at capacity for hours.”

But even though Johnson won’t be part of it, he said he is confident New York’s gay nightlife will come back.

Someone who will be a part of that comeback is Alexi Minko, even though for a period it was touch-and-go for his bar, Alibi Lounge.

“Like the kids say, ‘The struggle is real,'” Minko said with a laugh.

He has kept a remarkably upbeat attitude, considering the financial setback. See, like most gay bars, Alibi — one of the only gay- and Black-owned businesses in Harlem — was not accustomed to making money with curbside takeout.

“Because Alibi is not, was not, a restaurant. We were more a club-type of lounge establishment,” Minko said. “Between the months of April to June, it was absolutely impossible, it was a nightmare.”

He had to lay off five of his eight employees. But he said that thanks to donations and the generosity of his landlord, Alibi Lounge will stay open. And this Pride Month marks Alibi’s fifth anniversary.

Also still around — and celebrating its 30th anniversary — is the West Village‘s Henrietta Hudson, one of the city’s only remaining lesbian bars. But COVID has without a doubt left its mark here, too.

“COVID changed people,” Cannistraci, the owner, said. “It changed me.

And she said she knew the pandemic would also change customers’ attitudes toward a crowded space.

“I knew then packed dance floors would be the last thing to open,” she said.

That is why after more than a year to finalize plans and undergo construction, Henrietta recently opened up with a renewed focus.

“I wouldn’t say COVID changed it — I’d say COVID activated it,” Cannistraci said.

The bar puts less emphasis on the dancefloor and more on a quieter, culinary experience.

“With all the isolation, I think people want to sit and actually look each other in the eye and talk to them,” Cannistraci said from her brand-new colorful outdoor dining structure.

That right there is one of the reasons she believes that even in 2021 — with all the progress we’ve made — there is still a need for a gay bar. A need to meet other people who share the same shoes in a safe space.

“They sit down at the bar and you can see their shoulders just go down, and there’s this exhale,” Cannistraci said. “You know, they’re home.”

Johnson, the former owner of Therapy Lounge, called it “strength in numbers.”

“If you’re the only gay guy in a straight bar and they come at you with a pool stick and start beating you up,” he said, “it’s different when you’re all together and you have a more secure safe space, where like-minded people will protect you.”

Julius’ Buford said bars catering to the LGBTQ community can’t disappear.

“People can’t go back in the closet,” she said. “They have to be free to be who they are and to love who they want to love.”

BARS MENTIONED

Julius’ | 159 W. 10 St., New York, N.Y. 10014 | 877-746-0528 | juliusbarny.com
Henrietta Hudson | 438 Hudson St., New York, N.Y. 10014 | 212-924-3347 | henriettahudson.com
Alibi Lounge | 2376 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., New York, N.Y. 10030 | 917-472-7789 | alibiharlem.com

 

Read the full story and watch the video at Fox 5 News.

NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project ‘Making An Invisible History Visible’

June 14, 2021
By: Natalie Duddridge (CBS News)

Andrew Dolkart on CBS News -- Yahoo! News Click image to see full video on Yahoo! News

The Stonewall Inn is probably the best known site when it comes to LGBTQ history and activism. But there are hundreds of other touchpoints in this culture and history that have amazing stories behind them. CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reports.

Watch the full video at Yahoo! News.

Pride Month: NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project ‘Making An Invisible History Visible’

20210614
By: Natalie Duddridge

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The Stonewall Inn is probably the best known site when it comes to LGBTQ history and activism.  But there are hundreds of other touchpoints in this culture and history that have amazing stories behind them.

In buildings grand and non-descript, locations famous and private, there is rich LGBTQ history in just about every corner of New York City.

The national recognition for this historic site is due in large part to the work of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, which highlights New York City LGBT community’s influence in the arts, literature, and social justice. It also nominates sites to the National Register of Historic Places.

“We like to say that we’re making an invisible history visible,” said Andrew Dolkart, co-founder of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

“We have posted on our site over 350 sites, and we have a list with well over double that number that we would like to, to add,” Dolkart said.

Locations on the Historic Sites Project provide walking or armchair tours in the five boroughs. For example, on Staten Island, there is the Alice Austin House.

“Alice Austin was a pioneering woman photographer… when it became a house museum, they refuse to acknowledge that there was any lesbian relationship,” Dolkart said.

Through the work of the Historic Sites Project, Austen’s sexuality is now embraced as part her cultural contributions. Some of her provocative images included women dressed in male drag. Austen lived in the home with Gertrude Tate, her partner of 53 years.

The West Side Tennis Club in Queens was the home of the US Open for over 60 years, featuring history-making players such as Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King .

“This is where Renee Richards, who was the first trans woman to compete in a professional tournament, tournament play, and this was very controversial as this still is today,” Dolkart said.

Other historic sites include the entire Theater District.

“We have mentioned every single Broadway theater,” Dolkart said.

Dolkart says LGBTQ contributions are critical to all aspects of this business from the artistic to the technical.

There are dozens of historical residences to peruse too. St. Luke’s Place was home to famed director Aurthur Laurents. Playwright and gay activist Larry Kramer lived at 2 Fifth Avenue. Harlem Renaissance poet Lanston Hughes on East 127th street, and there’s the Lexington Avenue home of artist Andy Warhol. Literary icon James Baldwin’s rowhouse on West 71st street is listed on the national registry, as is the Bleecker Street home of playwright Lorraine Hansberry.

“It’s where she wrote A Raisin in the Sun, the first play on Broadway that was written by a Black woman, and the first play by a Black woman to win the New York Drama Circle Critics Award,” Dolkart said.

The Church of the Holy Apostles is also more than a noted New York City landmark.

“It has this really important social history that relates to the LGBT community, because it was the home of many of the earliest post-Stonewall activist organizations from 1969 to 1974,” Dolkart said.

Also relative to Stonewall was the Wooster Street firehouse, headquarters of the Gay Activists Alliance.

“In the early 1970s, they were involved in civil rights activism. They were involved in trying to end the entrapment of gay men and lesbians,” Dolkart siad.

The GAA moved out of that building in 1974, because of a fire, allegedly set by a homophobic arsonist.

That firehouse is also part of the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District.

Watch the full video at CBS New York.

Pride Is Coming Back to New York. Check Out These Events

20210603
By: Erik Piepenburg

 

NYC LGBT Historic Sites project in New York Times -- Pride Events
A return of 2019-style revelry. After last year’s Pride was canceled because of the pandemic, organizers are easing back into in-person events.Credit…Calla Kessler/The New York Times

 

The march on June 27 will be mostly virtual. But not to worry: There are plenty of in-person events, performances and celebratory exhibitions throughout the city this month.

Take a look at New York City’s Pride Month programming, and the pandemic-related clouds that shadowed Pride 2020 appear to be passing. Thanks to new state rules that ease mask mandates and capacity limits, many events this year can take place not from behind a screen but in person. People aren’t wasting time: Many events have sold out quickly.

The pandemic isn’t over, of course. Many businesses and organizations still have Covid protocols in place, and rules could change at the drop of the hat.

But Pride is regaining some of its sparkle this year. From family-friendly afternoons to potty-mouthed drag queen nights, here’s a selection of in-person events to help make this Pride Month a reason to — finally! — celebrate face to face.


Tours

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project offers a series of self-guided tours of significant queer locations across New York City. Many of the tours are grouped by theme, like lesbian activism and transgender history. The Village Pride Tour includes stops at Christopher Park, across from the Stonewall Inn, the landmark bar Julius’ and the former home of the Sea Colony, a popular lesbian watering hole.

Read the full article with all event listings at New York Times.

Historic Sites Project explores LGBT history in NYC

20210602
By: Diane Bair and Pamela Wright

The group highlights the community’s influence in the arts, literature, and social justice

 

NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project in Boston Globe
Christopher Park was designated the Stonewall National Monument in 2016 to recognize the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, a key turning point in the LGBT civil rights movement.COURTESY/NYC LGBT HISTORIC SITES PROJECT

NEW YORK — We looked up at the modest three-story building at 337 Bleecker St. in Greenwich Village. It was officially listed to the National Register of Historic Places in April 2021. This was the former residence of Black lesbian playwright and activist Lorraine Hansberry, who lived here in a third-floor apartment from 1953 to 1960. It’s here where Hansberry wrote “A Raisin in the Sun” (1959), becoming the first African American playwright and the youngest playwright ever to win the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play. It’s also where Hansberry read the play aloud to her friend Philip Rose, who went on to produce it, and where she posed for a Vogue magazine article, one month after the play’s premiere.

The national recognition for this historic site is due in large part to the work of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, which highlights New York City LGBT community’s influence in the arts, literature, and social justice. It also nominates sites to the National Register of Historic Places.

Lorraine Hansberry residence
The modest three-story building in Greenwich Village was the former residence of Black lesbian playwright and activist Lorraine Hansberry, who lived here in a third-floor apartment from 1953 to 1960. It was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places in April 2021.COURTESY/NYC LGBT HISTORIC SITES PROJECT

Our project encourages you to take a second look at the physical places you walk past every day and to appreciate a history that, until our initiative, has largely been invisible,” says Ken Lustbader, co-director, NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. “If you visit our website map, you’ll see that we’ve created an LGBT cultural heritage landscape.”

The project has identified 350 significant sites throughout the city that are important to LGBT history and offers 22 curated themes and tours. For example, the AIDS Crisis tour includes residences of influential AIDS activists and artists, and locations where events and demonstrations were held, and the Art and Architecture tour highlights the ways LGBT people have helped shape the landscape of the city. The 1970s Lesbian Activism and Community tour includes 16 sites, like the Women’s Liberation Center, which was just listed on the National Register of Historic Places in May 2021, and the former residence of renowned Black lesbian activist Audre Lorde. The Broadway Theater tour is the largest, with 42 sites.

We decided to explore Greenwich Village, an historic center for the LGBT community, and hub of activism. The self-guided Greenwich Village history tour, made in partnership with the National Parks Conservation Association, was one of the first themed tours the organization developed. It includes 17 sites within an easy, walkable loop.

Snake Pit entrance
Entrance to the Snake Pit was in the basement of this corner building. In 1970, less than a year after Stonewall, the police raided the Snake Pit bar and detained many people at the local police station, sparking protest marches and demonstrations.COURTESY/NYC LGBT HISTORIC SITES PROJECT

After visiting the Hansberry House, we walked to Christopher Park, where the tour begins. The park was designated the Stonewall National Monument in 2016 to recognize the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, a key turning point in the LGBT civil rights movement. After the uprising, Christopher Street would become one of the best-known LGBT streets in the world and remains a popular area for LGBT and queer youth of color.

We strolled the park and read the tour map. “Bleecker Street in the 1890s had a number of ‘fairy’ bars, often subject to raids, where cross-dressing young men solicited male customers,” according to the tour guide. Later, the Village became one of the first neighborhoods in New York City with a large LGBT population, and the location of many bars and clubs that welcomed LGBT customers. “Gay bars were crucial to creating a sense of community and cultivating political action in an era of discrimination,” we read.

Christopher Street
After the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, Christopher Street would become one of the best-known LGBT streets in the world.COURTESY/NYC LGBT HISTORIC SITES PROJECT

We passed the site of the infamous Stonewall Inn, the bar that police raided in 1969, sparking the uprising and the site of the former office of the Mattachine Society, an early national gay rights organization, once considered quite radical. It’s now home to the historic Kettle of Fish bar, established in 1950 and popular with beat musicians and writers.

We visited Marie’s Crisis Café, an historic piano bar that first opened in 1920 as a speakeasy, and discovered that the lesbian novelist Patricia Highsmith was a regular here. Highsmith wrote 22 novels under the pen name Claire Morgan, including “Strangers on a Train” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” Many of her novels were set in Greenwich Village. Next, we headed to Washington Place to the site of the start of New York’s First Pride March, held in 1970.

It was a beautiful, warm spring day, and the village was hopping. After the long COVID-19 shutdown and slowdown, folks were out and about, sidewalk cafes, and coffeehouses were open, and parks were filled with dog walkers and families. It felt good.

Stonewall
The infamous Stonewall Inn is the bar that police raided in 1969, igniting the Stonewall Uprising.COURTESY/NYC LGBT HISTORIC SITES PROJECT

We didn’t mind hauling it up to 10th Street to visit Julius’ Bar. During the 1960s, the New York State Liquor Authority regularly revoked the licenses of bars known to serve gay men and lesbians. On April 21, 1966, members of the Mattachine Society staged the Sip-In protest here, publicizing and challenging the Authority’s discriminatory practice. According to our tour map, “It was one of the earliest pre-Stonewall public actions for LGBT rights and a big step forward in legitimizing LGBT bars in New York.”

We ended our tour with a walk down Greenwich Avenue, once known as the “cruisiest street in the Village.”

For more information, visit www.nyclgbtsites.org. In addition to the 350 historic Web entries, the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project is now researching 300 additional sites in the city, and working on other themes, including City of Immigrants, Communities of Color, Progressive-Era Reformers, and Gay-Owned Businesses. They’re also planning to produce brief, virtual thematic tours that viewers could watch on their YouTube channel.

Interactive map reveals lesser-known landmarks in Queens’ LGBTQ rights movement June 29, 2020

June 29, 2020
By: David Brand

 

LGBTQ RIGHTS PIONEER FRANK KAMENY GREW UP IN THIS HOME ON 115TH STREET IN RICHMOND HILL, ONE OF 16 QUEENS SITES INCLUDED IN THE NEW INTERACTIVE NYC LGBT HISTORIC SITES PROJECT MAP. PHOTOS VIA NYC LGBT RIGHTS PROJECT, DAVD VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

That modest brick home on 115th Street in Richmond Hill? Easy to miss, but it’s an iconic location in LGBTQ New Yorkers’ long struggle for equity.

So is a stretch of Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood, a Jackson Heights street corner and even the New York State Pavilion in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

All four sites are included in a citywide initiative known as the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, which highlights the pivotal role that lesser known locations played in the ongoing movement for LGBTQ rights. The project, which features an interactive map, documents 270 historic landmarks, including 16 so far in Queens.

“All of this history is largely unknown to the general public and we want to educate the LGBT community and youth about this history and make it visible,” said Project Manager Amanda Davis, an Astoria resident. “It goes well beyond the obvious neighborhoods of Greenwich Village and places in Manhattan, which tend to get a lot of attention.”

“Queens has a really great history, too,” she added.

Take that unassuming, semi-detached house in Richmond Hill. It was the childhood home of pioneering activist Frank Kameny, who became a leading strategist for the LGBT rights movement after he was fired by the federal government because he was gay. Kameny was later honored by President Barack Obama at the White House.

Myrtle Avenue was the scene of an important 1993 rally known as the March for Truth, organized by the Anti-Violence Project and Queens Gays and Lesbians United. The demonstrators came together to respond to backlash to a public school curriculum that included information about families with LGBT parents. The “Children of the Rainbow” curriculum riled homophobic parents and school officials and set off controversy across the city, starting in Queens’ School District 24.

At the intersection of 78th Street and 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights, a street sign designates Julio Rivera Corner to honor the 29-year-old gay bartender who was tortured and murdered by three men near the location in 1990.

The early 1990s march and murder, Davis said, “made people in Queens realize we have to become more visible, we are your friends, your family. We’re not just in Manhattan.”

The famous New York State Pavilion is included in the project because of its association with Architect Philip Johnson and artists Robert Indiana, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol, all of whom identified as gay or bisexual.

Other locations include St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Astoria, which served as the mid-90s meeting place for the Queens chapter of SAGE, an organization for older LGBTQ adults.

“It’s important to highlight the role of churches in a positive way,” Davis said “There are progressive, welcoming and inclusive places.”

The Jackson Heights starting point of the first Queens Pride Parade, founded in 1993, is on the NYC LGBT Rights Project map. So is the Austin Street home of Kitty Genovese, whose death fueled sensationalized and false reporting that contributed to a perception of apathetic New Yorkers. Genovese lived in the home with her girlfriend.

Councilmember Daniel Dromm, a Queens Pride Parade co-founder, said the march has draw more attention to the LGBTQ rights movement over the past 27 years. This year’s event was cancelled because of COVID-19, but organizers Zachariah Boyer and Mo George ensured events took place virtually to mark Pride month.

“Pride marches bring visibility to our community, and that has always been key to the success of the wider LGBTQ rights movement,” Dromm said. “By celebrating Queens Pride virtually on June 7th, we continued to be visible and celebrate who we are — and did so in a safe and responsible manner. It took a lot of creativity and looked very different from past pride events, but it was a major success.”

Nine other Queens locations are also included in the NYC LGBT Historic Sites project. To learn more, or to recommend additional sites, visit nyclgbtsites.org.

“We hope that our website inspires the LGBT community and youth, who are often not taught this history, in particular,” the creators, led by Executive Director Ken Lustbader, write on the website. “Now more than ever it is important to raise public awareness about the community’s contributions to American history as well as the struggles it has faced in achieving acceptance and equality under the law.”

Tour New York’s LGBTQ+ historic sites through this 3D experience

June 25, 2020
By: Shaye Weaver

It’s a “powerful tool for anyone, anywhere in the world, to connect viscerally to the sites.”

There’s a new way to get perspective this Pride—a 3D tour of New York’s LGBTQ+ landmarks, from the Stonewall Inn to Christopher Park.

2020 has presented us with some challenges, but it’s nothing the LGBTQ+ community can’t handle. The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project and the non-profit archiver CyArk teamed up to create the 3D tour so that New Yorkers and people around the world can still commemorate and get a deeper understanding of LGBTQ+ history this month and beyond.

The new tour, which you can access here, uses high-resolution 3D models, captured by CyArk using photogrammetry and LIDAR. Ken Lustbader, co-founder of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites project, narrates the tour that covers nine different locations that illuminate the events of the history-making 1969 Stonewall uprising and the activism that followed.

“This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Christopher Street Liberation Day March, NYC’s first-ever Pride march,” Lustbader said. “Unfortunately, the realities of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic prohibit our LGBTQ community from gathering in large numbers to celebrate. The 3D model created by CyArk, paired with our historic narrative, is a powerful tool for anyone, anywhere in the world, to connect viscerally to the sites that represent our history.”

Tourists can actually go inside the Stonewall Inn, for example, and pan around, to learn about the famous bar, which was at first a mafia-owned gay bar that had bouncers and a fee to get in. While inside, we learn exactly where the riots began, and what the bar looked like during that time. (It was bigger with a full dance floor in one space and the bar in the next.)

See it for yourself at cyark.org/projects/stonewall-national-monument.

Former Residence Of Celebrated Writer Lorraine Hansberry Is Now A National Historic Place

20210519
By: Keenan "HIGz" Higgins

Beloved playwright and writer Lorraine Hansberry did a lot for Black culture in her 34 years of life, from giving us fine works of art like the unforgettable play A Raisin in the Sun to her activism for both the African American and LGBTQ communities that she proudly was a member of. Now, her old residence in New York City has been officially nominated to the New York State Register of Historic Places as a way to honor her memory.

Hansberry’s humble abode, located at 337 Bleecker Street in the city’s gay-friendly Greenwich Village neighborhood, was nominated to be recognized by the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project in March 2021. Working alongside the New York State Historic Preservation Office, the address was successfully and officially added to the National Register list last month.

The life of Lorraine was one of complication and oftentimes contradiction, especially being that she came into living at the now-historic residence with her husband at the time, Broadway theater producer Robert Nemiroff. It was in this apartment that she was also able to privately explore her lesbianism, which may have led to the couple’s separation four years after marriage. However, whether she was with a man or a woman, Lorraine Hansberry proved that she couldn’t be defined by her sexuality by letting her amazing skills as a writer speak for itself.

“While residing at 337 Bleecker Street, Hansberry lived parallel lives,” reads the official press release, which continues by adding, “one as a celebrated playwright and the other as a woman who privately explored her homosexuality through her writing, relationships, and social circle.” Although it’s been well over five decades since passing away due to pancreatic cancer, Lorraine Hansberry and her illustrious legacy will live on forever…especially on Bleecker Street in NYC.

Lorraine Hansberry residence is now listed as a national historic site

20210519
By: Sytonia Reid

The ‘Raisin in the Sun’ playwright is honored for her work and support of the LGBTQ+ community

The New York City home of indelible playwright and activist Lorraine Hansberry is now officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Though she kept her sexuality private throughout her lifetime, Hansberry routinely addressed LGBTQ+ topics in her writing and had romantic relationships with women.

Her home’s designation as a historic place follows the advocacy efforts of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

“Honoring the very place where Lorraine Hansberry lived and worked through these State and National Register listings marks another important step in our mission to highlight the contributions of LGBT people to American history,” said Amanda Davis, project manager, NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project in a press release.

The Chicago-born writer is best known for her play A Raisin In the Sun which premiered on Broadway in 1959. The play’s title stems from a line in the poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes.

Hansberry bonded with other writers and artists who were part of the LGBTQ+ community including James Baldwin and Nina Simone. She worked on the play at her apartment on 337 Bleecker Street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village–a location where numerous historic events have taken place including the 1969 Stonewall uprising. She lived in the apartment from 1953 to 1960, according to the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

“Hansberry’s active involvement in the civil rights movement and her influential writings on gender expectations and being a lesbian in 1950s America make her a thought-provoking figure for our time,” added Davis. “The proximity of the Lorraine Hansberry Residence to Stonewall National Monument also provides an invaluable opportunity for tours and school groups to expand on their understanding of LGBT history beyond the 1969 Stonewall uprising”.

In recent years, scholars have learned more about Hansberry’s life. She was a contributor to the The Ladder magazine which was the country’s first nationally-distributed lesbian magazines, and many of those writings have been cited by journalists and scholars, along with her journal entries.

In one of her Ladder pieces, Hansberry asserts, “What ought to be clear is that one is oppressed or discriminated against because one is different, not ‘wrong,’ or ‘bad’ somehow.”

People can view archival photos, video documentaries and learn more about Hansberry on the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project website.

“For many students across the country, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun is a first introduction to theater and playwriting. Not included in many of the curricula is the all too brief life of the author,” said NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation commissioner Erik Kulleseid.

“The listing of Hansberry’s residence in the NYS and National Registers adds to the scholarship of her life as a gay author in the 1950s and 60s.”

 

Residence of Lorraine Hansberry Listed to National Register of Historic Places

20210519
By: BWW News Desk

Hansberry was also a dedicated activist for social justice, and she remains an important figure at the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality.

Lorraine HansberryThe former residence of Black lesbian playwright and activist Lorraine Hansberry has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, underscoring Hansberry’s incredible contributions to American arts and culture. Her play, A Raisin in the Sun (1959), was the first play by a Black woman to appear on Broadway. The Lorraine Hansberry Residence, at 337 Bleecker Street, in Greenwich Village, was first successfully nominated to the New York State Register of Historic Places by the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project in March 2021, in collaboration with the New York State Historic Preservation Office. The historic site was officially listed to the National Register in April 2021.

While residing at 337 Bleecker Street, Hansberry lived parallel lives: one as a celebrated playwright and the other as a woman who privately explored her homosexuality through her writing, relationships, and social circle.

Amanda Davis, Project Manager, NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project: “Honoring the very place where Lorraine Hansberry lived and worked through these State and National Register listings marks another important step in our mission to highlight the contributions of LGBT people to American history. The site is also one of what we hope is a growing number of historic places nationwide that celebrates the achievements of Black women and lesbians of color. Hansberry’s active involvement in the civil rights movement and her influential writings on gender expectations and being a lesbian in 1950s America make her a thought-provoking figure for our time. The proximity of the Lorraine Hansberry Residence to Stonewall National Monument also provides an invaluable opportunity for tours and school groups to expand on their understanding of LGBT history beyond the 1969 Stonewall uprising.”

Erik Kulleseid, Commissioner of the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation: “For many students across the country, Lorraine Hansberry‘s A Raisin in the Sun is a first introduction to theater and playwriting. Not included in many of the curricula is the all too brief life of the author. The listing of Hansberry’s residence in the NYS and National Registers adds to the scholarship of her life as a gay author in the 1950s and 60s. Our partnership with the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project continues to yield listings in the registers and solidifies New York’s leadership in the recognition of the lives and contributions of the LGBTQ+ community.”

From the National Register nomination, completed by the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project:

The property at 337 Bleecker Street, in Greenwich Village, is nationally significant under Criterion B for its association with the pioneering Black lesbian playwright, writer, and activist Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965). Hansberry resided in a third-floor apartment in the building from 1953 to 1960, the period of significance. During this time, she wrote her groundbreaking play A Raisin in the Sun in the apartment and, in 1957, first read it aloud there to her friend Philip Rose, who went on to produce it. In March 1959, Hansberry made history as the first Black woman to have a play staged on Broadway with Raisin’s premiere at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, in Manhattan. She became the first African American playwright, and the youngest playwright ever, to win the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play.

An instant celebrity, Hansberry was photographed in her book-lined apartment on Bleecker Street for Vogue Magazine one month after the play’s premiere. A Raisin in the Sun, considered a classic, has become part of established literary canon and is taught in schools throughout the United States. The play is also still widely produced.

Hansberry was also a dedicated activist for social justice, and she remains an important figure at the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality. She worked alongside civil rights activists, such as her friends, writer James Baldwin and singer Nina Simone, and contributed to a variety of publications that focused on racial justice, communist, women’s equality, and LGBT causes in her lifetime. Many of these articles were written in her apartment at 337 Bleecker Street.

Even before the success of A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry privately began to explore her lesbian identity; she found community in her small lesbian social circle in Greenwich Village and had at least two relationships with women who lived close by to her Bleecker Street apartment. While she was vocal about civil rights and other issues – speaking at an NAACP rally in Washington Square Park in 1959, for example – she remained private about her sexuality, choosing instead to participate in LGBT issues anonymously through her writing, both before and after she achieved fame for Raisin. She was among the earliest literary contributors to The Ladder (1956-1972), the national monthly magazine of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), the country’s first lesbian rights organization, founded in San Francisco in 1955.

Playwright Lorraine Hansberry’s Former New York City Residence Receives Historic Distinction

May 23, 2021
By: Brandee Sanders

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project teamed up with the New York State Historic Preservation Office for the effort.

Hansberry tweetRenowned playwright and activist Lorraine Hansberry’s contributions to the arts will forever be embedded in the fabric of history and an effort to preserve a significant element of her journey has moved forward. According to Broadway World, the visionary’s former New York City residence has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The home—where Hansberry dwelled between the years of 1953 and 1960—is located at 337 Bleecker Street; in the heart of the Greenwich Village neighborhood. The residence served as the backdrop for Hansberry’s evolution as a pivotal figure. Her time there was one of both professional and personal progression as she made triumphs in her career and explored and embraced her homosexuality. In the space, she penned A Raisin in the Sun which made it to the Ethel Barrymore Theater stage, making her the first African American woman playwright to have her work performed on Broadway. She used the proceeds she earned from the play to acquire the residential building in 1960.

Three years prior to her Broadway debut she and her husband separated. She later formed a long-time relationship with Dorothy Secules, one of the building’s residents. It was in her Bleecker Street apartment where she penned poignant pieces that explored racial justice, LGBT rights and women’s equality.

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project teamed up with the New York State Historic Preservation Office for the effort. “Honoring the very place where Lorraine Hansberry lived and worked through these State and National Register listings marks another important step in our mission to highlight the contributions of LGBT people to American history,” Amanda Davis, who serves as Project Manager for NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, said in a statement. “The site is also one of what we hope is a growing number of historic places nationwide that celebrates the achievements of Black women and lesbians of color. Hansberry’s active involvement in the civil rights movement and her influential writings on gender expectations and being a lesbian in 1950s America make her a thought-provoking figure for our time. The proximity of the Lorraine Hansberry Residence to Stonewall National Monument also provides an invaluable opportunity for tours and school groups to expand on their understanding of LGBT history beyond the 1969 Stonewall uprising.”

News about Hansberry’s residence being added to the National Register of Historic Places comes nearly two months after civil rights leader Malcolm X’s childhood home in Boston was placed on the list.

Celebrating Pride Month with History

20210531
By: George Bodarky

LGBT flag

 

This month, WFUV News is teaming up with the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project to explore the impact of local people and places in LGBTQ history. The series explores several themes from Lesbian rights activism to New York City’s literary scene.

LESBIAN RIGHTS ACTIVISM:

ARTS AND THEATER SCENE:

THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE:

NEW YORK CITY’S LITERARY SCENE:

ACTIVISM OUTSIDE MANHATTAN:

PAST EVENT

Virtual LGBT Trivia Night & Fundraiser

June 9, 2021 | 6:30PM to 7:30PM

 

** suggested $5 minimum donation; thank you for supporting our fundraiser! **

Broadway babies, cinephiles and art connoisseurs, test your knowledge of the LGBT community’s impact and legacy in American arts and culture at our first ever VIRTUAL TRIVIA NIGHT and fundraiser.

Join us Wednesday, June 9th, at 6:30PM EST with historian (and bona fide British pub quiz host!) George Benson for 5 rounds — equal parts challenging and amusing — of trivia informed by the Project’s ever-increasing directory of NYC’s LGBT historic sites. Trivia will be hosted on Zoom.

GRAND PRIZE (in addition to bragging rights): an original, authenticated print of the pivotal moment in 1966 that became known as the “Sip-In” at Julius’ Bar in Greenwich Village. Taken by legendary Village Voice photographer Fred W. McDarrah, the image captures the exact moment when Mattachine Society activists John Timmons, Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell, and Randy Wicker were denied service at Julius’ after informing the bartender of their sexual orientation. The photograph is printed from the original negative and stamped with official authorization by the Estate of Fred W. McDarrah, and are signed by two “Sip-In” participants: the late Dick Leitsch (1935-2018) and Randy Wicker (b. 1938).

This event is made possible with generous support from American Express, Consolidated Edison, and NYC & Company Foundation.