Exploring LGBT Historic Sites in Queens
October 20, 2022 | 6:00 PM
Amanda Davis, project manager of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, will introduce attendees to the multilayered LGBTQ histories embedded in New York City’s built environment, with a special focus on sites located in the borough of Queens. She will also discuss how her organization works both to preserve these sites and present them to the public.
This live virtual presentation will be moderated by Aithne Bialo-Padin, Lecturer in the Department of History at Queensborough Community College / CUNY.
A Celebration of Audre Lorde
October 27, 2022 | 6:30pm
Project manager Amanda Davis will take part in this virtual event hosted by the College of Staten Island. From the College’s event description:
Please join us to celebrate the life, work, and accomplishments of Audre Lorde – Black poet, writer, radical feminist, Womanist, lesbian, and human rights activist – on the 30th anniversary of her death and the 50th of her moving to Staten Island with her partner Frances Clayton and two children. Audre Lorde lived in the Stapleton Heights neighborhood for 17 years, teaching at Hunter College and producing some of her most important work. Faculty members from the College of Staten Island and community partners and friends will make brief presentations about the many dimensions of Lorde’s life, work, and legacy. In addition, students from the College will read and reflect on the significance of Lorde’s poetry in their lives today. In addition, clips of Audre Lorde reading and speaking will be presented. The event will conclude with questions, comments, and reflections from audience members. Please note: Advance registration is required for this event; register at tinyurl.com/csialcelebration
This event is co-sponsored by the College of Staten Island School of Education, Department of the Library, Department of English, Office of Student Life – LGBTQ Resource Center/Pluralism & Diversity, Bertha Harris Women’s Center, and the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program. We are especially grateful for the participation of the Alice Austen House Museum, NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, and the Staten Island African American Heritage Tour.
“Homos, Lezzies, and Undesirables”: Gay Bar Raids and Closures in NYC
June 21, 2022 | 6:30PM
In the 19th and 20th centuries, gay and lesbian bars and clubs were subject to various oppressive forms of social control by the police, religiously-affiliated individuals and groups — such as the 19th-century New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, that dictated morality and raided bars and clubs — and eventually the State Liquor Authority (SLA) in 1934. After the end of Prohibition, almost all LGBT bars and gathering spaces came to be controlled by the Mafia. In this talk, co-director Jay Shockley will highlight locations that were routinely raided by the police and the acts of civil disobedience activists organized in response, such as the Sea Colony, a 1950s-60s lesbian bar; Julius’, now known for the Mattachine Society’s 1966 “Sip-In”; and more.
This event is presented with the support of the New York Community Trust and Con Edison.
Photo: The Sea Colony, first floor of 52, 50, and 48 Eighth Avenue (left to right), 1964. Photo by John Barrington Bayley. Courtesy of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.
A Visit to Ferncliff Cemetery
October 24, 2022
By: Amanda Davis
Happy LGBT History Month! A couple of weeks ago, I visited Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, just north of the city in Westchester County. It’s a place I’ve been wanting to visit for a few years now because it’s where writer and activist James Baldwin is buried.
Before my mother and I drove to the cemetery, I looked up the “Celebrities & Notables” list on Ferncliff’s website to see who else we might visit. It’s a pretty impressive list!
LGBT notables there that we didn’t visit, due to time constraints, include society leader Elsa Maxwell (1883-1963), actress Ona Munson (1910-1955), who played Belle Watling in Gone with the Wind (1939), and novelist Cornell Woolrich (1903-1968). Also of note is Conrad Veidt (1893-1943), a straight actor who starred in what is believed to be the world’s earliest pro-gay film, the German silent movie Different from the Others (1919). It was co-written by sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, who is not buried at Ferncliff but whose 1930s visit to New York City is mapped on our website. Gay icon Judy Garland (1922-1969) was interred at Ferncliff until 2017, when she was moved to Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles at the request of her daughter, Liza Minnelli.
The following three people from Ferncliff’s list of notables — all pioneering LGBT African Americans — are featured on our website. With Pride flag in hand, my mother and I navigated our way around the cemetery to pay our respects on what turned out to be a picture-perfect October day.
The first gravesite we visited was Jackie “Moms” Mabley (1899-1915), a stand-up comedian in the mid-20th century who was known as “The Funniest Woman in the World.” She is mentioned in two places on our website: the Apollo Theater in Harlem, where she is credited as the first woman to headline a performance there, and the Ed Sullivan Theater in Midtown, where she appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in the 1960s.
We next visited novelist and civil rights activist James Baldwin (1924-1987). He is featured in several places on our website, including his Upper West Side residence, which we successfully nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 2019 for its significance to Black and LGBT history. The rowhouse at 81 Horatio Street in Greenwich Village, where he lived from 1958 to 1961, was where he worked on his third novel, Another Country (1962). This December will mark the 35th anniversary of his death.
Our last stop was the gravesite of blues legend Alberta Hunter (1895-1984). She is featured in several places on our website, including her Harlem residence at 133 West 138th Street, which she owned from 1927 until at least 1945, and the Apollo Theater, where she performed.
I almost thought we weren’t going to find her because when we followed the grave numbering system the spot where she should have been was just a patch of grass. We looked in several other places and then, when I was just about to call it a day, I looked to my right and saw her smiling face looking back at me! If you’d like to visit her just know that she’s in the same row that you’d think she’d be (if you follow the numbering system) but she’s a bit further down to the left. We also shared a quick clip of the Pride flag swaying in the breeze by her gravesite on our Instagram page to commemorate the anniversary of her death on October 17th.
More Cemetery Tributes
The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project team loves paying tribute to LGBT people in their final resting places. Co-director Jay Shockley and I visited Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C., last month to visit the likes of gay rights leaders Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings, Kay Lahusen, and Leonard Matlovich, as well as Alain Locke, known as the “Dean” of the Harlem Renaissance. You can catch our Instagram Reel from that trip.
Want to join us in the future? We lead cemetery tours annually at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn and Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx and place Pride flags at the gravesites of LGBT notables. These are typically held in either the spring or the fall and are always very moving and popular events. Follow us on social media (@nyclgbtsites) or subscribe to our email list (sign-up box below) to be the first to know the next time we schedule an outing.
In Support of Lesbian Herstory Archives NYC Landmark Designation
October 20, 2022
to be presented at public hearing on October 25, 2022
Testimony in Support of the Proposed Designation of the
Lesbian Herstory Archives, 484 14th Street, Brooklyn,
as a New York City Landmark
Tuesday, October 25, 2022
My name is Amanda Davis and I am the project manager of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, a cultural heritage initiative founded by historic preservationists in 2015 to document historic places connected to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in the city’s five boroughs.
The Project strongly supports the designation of the Lesbian Herstory Archives as a New York City Landmark, the first LGBT historic site to be designated in Brooklyn. When we launched our website with an inaugural 100 sites, the Lesbian Herstory Archives was included. Founded in 1974 in the Upper West Side apartment of Joan Nestle, the Archives bought its current Park Slope rowhouse in 1991, officially reopening in June 1993. The purchase ensured that the Archives would have a permanent space, which continues to serve the lesbian community today. Its resources, particularly its archival photographs, have been invaluable to our Project in documenting many of the over 400-plus sites on our website.
With a history that spans nearly fifty years – thirty of those years in Park Slope – the Lesbian Herstory Archives is likely the first, long-standing, lesbian-specific community space in New York City. It is also an early example of a group run by and for lesbians. The Archives was born out of a need to provide a voice for lesbians, who often felt underrepresented and unheard in gay male-dominated groups, and to connect emerging lesbian artists and writers with more established ones, at a time when lesbians were less visible in mainstream culture. Access to previously unknown lesbian-affirming literature, ephemera, and other archival items has also empowered women and linked them with their past. Archives coordinator Saskia Scheffer once noted that “Most people would throw everything out about lesbians, or only keep the negative things. … But the Archives house the collective memory of what happened to us as a group.”
The Lesbian Herstory Archives’ location in Park Slope also speaks to the importance of the neighborhood to LGBT history. By the 1990s, Park Slope was popular with lesbians and their families as a place to live and find community, and several lesbian-associated groups and businesses, including the Archives, operated there. As a result, the designation of the Lesbian Herstory Archives building as a New York City Landmark would also highlight and celebrate Park Slope’s historic significance to the lesbian community.
The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project proudly supports this proposed designation.