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