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:

Forgotten but pivotal moment in gay-rights movement took place 50 years ago in NYC

20190307
By: MURI ASSUNÇÃO

 

The New York Daily News cover showing a 23-year-old man who had jumped out of a police precinct and ended up impaled on a fence. “Spiked on Iron Fence.”(New York Daily News)
The New York Daily News cover showing a 23-year-old man who had jumped out of a police precinct and ended up impaled on a fence. “Spiked on Iron Fence.”(New York Daily News)

While millions gathered in New York City in June to celebrate 50 years of the Stonewall uprising, there’s surprisingly little attention paid to confrontations between the NYPD and the LGBTQ community that took place after those six days in the summer of 1969.

An equally important episode took place less than nine months after those culture-changing summer days.

The Snake Pit raid, a NYPD offensive on LGBTQ patrons of another another gay-run bar — located just six blocks from the Stonewall Inn — ended with 167 arrests, a quick response by some recently formed queer rights organizations, a march of about 500 angry protesters, as well as plenty of mainstream media coverage, including a dramatic Daily News cover of a 23-year-old man who had jumped off a police precinct and ended up impaled on a fence.

The headline read “Spiked on Iron Fence.”

According to Ken Lustbader, a historic preservationist and the co-founder of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, the Snake Pit was an after-hours bar that occupied the basement space under 215 W 10th St. in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.

 

Snake Pit Bar

 

In the early hours of March 8, 1970 — 50 years ago Sunday — the bar was raided by Seymour Pine, the same lieutenant who’d raided the Stonewall Inn a little over eight months earlier.

Fearing an episode like the six-day Stonewall uprising, Pine took a more drastic approach.

“He didn’t want to have another Stonewall and didn’t want people milling around on the streets,” Lustbader told the Daily News on Friday. “So basically they took everyone out of the bar — there were 167 men from the primarily adult male gay bar — and took them to the 6th precinct, which was at that time on Charles St., a block and a half away.”

 

Gay Activists Alliance flyer for the Snake Pit raid protest, March 1970.(NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project)
Gay Activists Alliance flyer for the Snake Pit raid protest, March 1970.(NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project)

 

One of those booked was a 23-year-old Argentinian immigrant, Diego Viñales, who “got apparently scared and jumped out the window and was impaled on the fence, which the Daily News photograph shows,” Lustbader added.

Unable to get Viñales off the fence, the NYPD called the fire department to help. After word got out, some 500 protesters gathered to march from Christopher Park, now Stonewall National Monument, to the police station later that afternoon.

Viñales was finally cut loose and taken to nearby St. Vincent’s Hospital, where he spent several days, but ultimately survived and moved back to Argentina.

 

23-year-old Argentinian immigrant, Diego Viñales, apparently got scared and jumped out the precinct window and was impaled on an iron fence.(Giorandino, Frank/New York Daily News)
23-year-old Argentinian immigrant, Diego Viñales, apparently got scared and jumped out the precinct window and was impaled on an iron fence.(Giorandino, Frank/New York Daily News)

 

The NYPD decided to arrest and book Snake Pit patrons as a way to avoid mayhem and to stop a potential Stonewall 2.0. Instead, the arrests mobilized early queer liberation groups that had formed and gained strength after the uprising of 1969.

Some of the arrested men found an empty police office at the stationhouse and started making phone calls.

“That’s when the GAA [Gay Activists Alliance] along the Gay Liberation Front, which was formed in July, 1969 right after Stonewall, got together and organized a march with about 500 people,” said Lustbader.

A flyer put out by the GAA calling for the gathering of the LGBTQ groups read, in dramatic handwritten form, “One boy either fell or jumped out precinct window, landed and was impaled on a metal fence! Any way you look at it — that boy was PUSHED!! We are all being pushed.”

Although the Snake Pit raid is rarely brought up in conversations about the foundations of early queer liberation movement, “it’s a really important pivotal point [in LGBTQ history], which was picked up with good press as opposed to the bad press that Stonewall got in many cases.”

The little-known raid also ended up adding some high-profile voices to the growing list of activist fighters for LGBTQ rights.

Morty Manford was eating a sandwich at Mama’s Chicken Rib, a popular gay coffee shop on Greenwich Avenue, when he saw “hundreds of people with protest signs,” and decided to join in.

“The purpose of this march was to protest police conduct at the raid of a bar called the Snake Pit,” Manford told journalist Eric Marcus in 1989, an interview featured in an episode of the popular “Making Gay History” podcast.

 

A current-day photo of the stairwell and iron rail that leads to the former basement entrance of the Snake Pit, located to the left of the apartment building entry.(NYC LGBT historic Sites Project)
A current-day photo of the stairwell and iron rail that leads to the former basement entrance of the Snake Pit, located to the left of the apartment building entry.(NYC LGBT historic Sites Project)

 

“The moral outrage was certainly very personal in my own heart. At the conclusion a number of people all went over to the Gay Liberation Front headquarters at 14th Street and 6th Avenue,” he said. That’s when he learned about the weekly meetings of the Gay Activists Alliance, which became his primary activist involvement.

Vito Russo a co-founder of ACT UP and GLAAD, told Marcus that “for the first time the organized response reached me on a gut level. And that was the following Thursday when I went to my first Gay Activists Alliance meeting.”

 

The history of the LGBT rights movement in New York City

On Feb. 29, the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, which has two entries on its website linked to event — one for the former location of the Snake Pit Bar and one for the former 6th Police Precinct Station House — honored all the men arrested that night by bringing 167 balloons to the location.

 

Click here to read the article in the New York Daily News. 

Artist Georgia O’Keeffe and Writer Patricia Highsmith Added to Project Website

November 25, 2019
By: Gabe Herman

Two former artist homes in Manhattan added to LGBT historic registry

 

Author Patricia Highsmith lived at 48 Grove St., at Bleecker Street, from 1940-42. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

 

A nonprofit added the former homes of artist Georgia O’Keeffe and author Patricia Highsmith

Two former Manhattan residences of legendary American artists have been added to a nonprofit’s registry of city sites with connections to the LGBT community that have historic social significance.

The nonprofit NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, which looks to increase awareness of extant sites with LGBT connections, and protect such sites, added the former homes of artist Georgia O’Keeffe and author Patricia Highsmith to its website.

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) was famous for modern paintings of flowers, Southwest landscapes and New York skyscrapers. The nonprofit has added 525 Lexington Ave., between East 48th and 49th Streets, to its website of historic sites, based on O’Keeffe living and working there in suite 3003 at the Hotel Shelton (now the Marriott East Side) from 1925 to 1936.

The nonprofit noted that although O’Keeffe was married to the photographer and art dealer Alfred Stieglitz, she also had relationships with women throughout her life.

“Georgia O’Keeffe’s 30th-floor suite factored heavily into the artist’s work,“ said Amanda Davis, project manager for the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. “It’s especially powerful to see O’Keeffe’s paintings of her view from the Hotel Shelton, to understand the City as she perceived it from atop, then, the tallest hotel in not only Manhattan but the world.”

 

Georgia O’Keeffe lived and worked for several years at 525 Lexington Ave. (Google Maps)

 

O’Keeffe made several paintings between 1925 and 1929 that featured the building and the view from her suite. The nonprofit noted a 1928 quote from O’Keeffe about working high up in a hotel.

“I know it’s unusual for an artist to want to work way up near the roof of a big hotel, in the heart of a roaring city, but I think that’s just what the artist of today needs for stimulus,” O’Keefe said. “He has to have a place where he can behold the city as a unit before his eyes but at the same time have enough space left to work …”

Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995) wrote short stories and 22 novels, including “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Strangers on a Train.”

The nonprofit has added 48 Grove St. in the West Village, where Highsmith lived from 1940 to 1942 while studying at Barnard College. Two of her novels, “Edith’s Diary” and “Found in the Street,” featured Grove Street in the story.

Greenwich Village would influence her later work, and Highsmith often visited the area’s piano bars and lesbian bars, according to the preservation group. Her 1952 novel “The Price of Salt” featured a lesbian romance and was based on the author’s encounter with a woman while working at Bloomingdale’s.

“Patricia Highsmith’s time at Barnard shaped her as an emerging writer, and it was there that she first started to write fiction,” said Sarah Sargent, a historic preservationist and researcher who consulted with the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project on the Highsmith and O’Keeffe sites. “Highsmith also served as editor of the Barnard Quarterly, a campus literary magazine, and it was during her junior year at Barnard that she met artist Buffie Johnson and the two had a brief romantic relationship.”

Click here to read the article in The Villager.

 

 

Manhattan Residences of Georgia O’Keeffe and Patricia Highsmith Published

20191125
By: Gabe Herman

Two former artist homes in Manhattan added to LGBT historic registry

 

Author Patricia Highsmith lived at 48 Grove St., at Bleecker Street, from 1940-42. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

 

A nonprofit added the former homes of artist Georgia O’Keeffe and author Patricia Highsmith

Two former Manhattan residences of legendary American artists have been added to a nonprofit’s registry of city sites with connections to the LGBT community that have historic social significance.

The nonprofit NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, which looks to increase awareness of extant sites with LGBT connections, and protect such sites, added the former homes of artist Georgia O’Keeffe and author Patricia Highsmith to its website.

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) was famous for modern paintings of flowers, Southwest landscapes and New York skyscrapers. The nonprofit has added 525 Lexington Ave., between East 48th and 49th Streets, to its website of historic sites, based on O’Keeffe living and working there in suite 3003 at the Hotel Shelton (now the Marriott East Side) from 1925 to 1936.

The nonprofit noted that although O’Keeffe was married to the photographer and art dealer Alfred Stieglitz, she also had relationships with women throughout her life.

“Georgia O’Keeffe’s 30th-floor suite factored heavily into the artist’s work,“ said Amanda Davis, project manager for the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. “It’s especially powerful to see O’Keeffe’s paintings of her view from the Hotel Shelton, to understand the City as she perceived it from atop, then, the tallest hotel in not only Manhattan but the world.”

 

Georgia O’Keeffe lived and worked for several years at 525 Lexington Ave. (Google Maps)

 

O’Keeffe made several paintings between 1925 and 1929 that featured the building and the view from her suite. The nonprofit noted a 1928 quote from O’Keeffe about working high up in a hotel.

“I know it’s unusual for an artist to want to work way up near the roof of a big hotel, in the heart of a roaring city, but I think that’s just what the artist of today needs for stimulus,” O’Keefe said. “He has to have a place where he can behold the city as a unit before his eyes but at the same time have enough space left to work …”

Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995) wrote short stories and 22 novels, including “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Strangers on a Train.”

The nonprofit has added 48 Grove St. in the West Village, where Highsmith lived from 1940 to 1942 while studying at Barnard College. Two of her novels, “Edith’s Diary” and “Found in the Street,” featured Grove Street in the story.

Greenwich Village would influence her later work, and Highsmith often visited the area’s piano bars and lesbian bars, according to the preservation group. Her 1952 novel “The Price of Salt” featured a lesbian romance and was based on the author’s encounter with a woman while working at Bloomingdale’s.

“Patricia Highsmith’s time at Barnard shaped her as an emerging writer, and it was there that she first started to write fiction,” said Sarah Sargent, a historic preservationist and researcher who consulted with the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project on the Highsmith and O’Keeffe sites. “Highsmith also served as editor of the Barnard Quarterly, a campus literary magazine, and it was during her junior year at Barnard that she met artist Buffie Johnson and the two had a brief romantic relationship.”

Click here to read the article in amNewYork.

 

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.

 

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HARLEM WEEK 2019: Mapping gay history in Harlem and beyond

August 16, 2019
By: Jared McCallister

Walls of Jericho Frieze

The 1941 8-foot by 80-foot “Green Pastures: The Walls of Jericho” frieze by African-American Harlem Renaissance sculptor Richmond Barthé. (Ken Lustbader/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2018)

Before millions recently celebrated and reflected on the Stonewall Inn uprising and its motivation for the battle for gay rights, the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project was mapping the history of the movement — including contributions from Harlem and the city’s African-American community.

Featured historic locations in the website’s “Influential Black New Yorkers” and “Harlem Renaissance” sections are the former residences of singer Ethel Waters, jazz great Billy Strayhorn and literary giants Langston Hughes, Lorraine Hansberry and James Baldwin.

Among the site’s Harlem highlights are:

  • Openly gay archivist and historian Alexander Gumby’s Harlem Renaissance-era Gumby Book Studio, on the second floor of a Fifth Ave. rowhouse uptown.
  • The Countee Cullen Branch of the New York Public Library, named for the prominent gay poet Cullen. It’s the first New York Public Library system branch to be named for an African-American, according to the project.

The historic sites, which are located throughout the five boroughs, include:

  • A Staten Island house on St. Paul’s Ave. where lesbian writer/activist Audre Lorde lived with her partner and two children for 15 years.
  • The 8-by-80-foot “Green Pastures: The Walls of Jericho” — by Harlem Renaissance sculptor Richmond Barthé — which was placed at the city’s Kingsborough Houses in 1941.

These locations are just four of more than 200 sites highlighted in the project.

Under the theme, “Making an invisible history visible,” the project has been shining a spotlight on historic and cultural sites linked to the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to show what its creators call “the richness of the city’s LGBT history and the community’s influence on America.”

“These curated themes help us highlight the significant contributions that LGBT people of color have made to our city’s and country’s collective history, from important cultural movements such as the Harlem Renaissance to the arts, literature, and activism,” said project manager Amanda Davis.

“So much of what was learned in the fight for LGBT equality was based on the model set by the black civil rights movement, and it’s been eye-opening to see just how much of an influence LGBT New Yorkers of color have had on both fronts she said, adding that the project is “ongoing and growing.”

“We’re continuing to document LGBT sites throughout the city’s five boroughs with the goal of increasing diversity in our entries, writing new National Register of Historic Places nominations, conducting public outreach, etc.. said Davis, noting that donations help fund the initiative.

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project is an initiative of the Fund for the City of New York’s Partner Program.

Started in 2015, the project — a scholarly initiative designed to be an educational resource — follows in the footsteps of the nation’s first map for LGBT historic sites, created in 1994 by the Organization of Lesbian and Gay Architects + Designers.

And the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project is based on more than a quarter-century of research by its directors – Andrew Dolkart, architectural historian and a Columbia University professor, historic preservation consultant Ken Lustbader and former city Landmarks Preservation Commission senior historian Jay Shockley.

There many ways to search the website — by borough, decade, neighborhood and other categories. The locations include educational institutions, medical facilities, community spaces, performance venues and businesses.

And the initiative is ongoing. According to project representatives, additional sites for the project are being sought, including “activist demonstration and meeting locations, performance venues, former residences of notable people, works of public art and architecture, medical facilities associated with the AIDS crisis, and important social centers such as community spaces and bars, clubs, and restaurants.”

To help fund the not-for-profit effort, donations can be made on the project’s website.

Visit the project at www.nyclgbtsites.org to get information or make donations.

Checks — made payable to the Fund for the City of New York, with “NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project” written on them — can be mailed to: Fund for the City of New York, 121 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10013. All donations are fully tax-deductible, and company matching-gift programs terms may apply.

Six significant LGBTQ sites in New York City are landmarked

June 18, 2019
By: Devin Gannon

 

LGBT sites 6sqft
Top, left to right: GAA Firehouse, James Baldwin Residence, LGBT Community Center; Bottom, left to right: Audre Lorde Residence, Women’s Liberation Center, Caffe Cino; Photos courtesy of NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project

Six sites significant to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community of New York City officially became city landmarks on Tuesday. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse, the Women’s Liberation Center, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, Caffe Cino, James Baldwin’s Upper West Side home, and the Staten Island home of Audre Lorde. The designations coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, as well as the city’s first time hosting WorldPride.

LPC Chair Sarah Carroll on Tuesday said she was proud of the designations. “These six new individual landmarks build on our designation of the Stonewall Inn by recognizing some of the foundational locations for LGBT activism in the second half of the 20th century, important groups who fought for equality and provided support, and acclaimed African-American authors and activists whose published works have been inspirational to many people and whose legacy resonates today.”

The sites were proposed for landmark status based on recommendations by the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project during a meeting earlier this year with the commission and a representative from City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office.

“New York City played such an important role in moving the LGBTQ civil rights movement forward and we owe it to those who fought in this movement to ensure that their legacy lives on,” Johnson said in a statement. “These sites memorialize the diversity and intersectionality of the LGBTQ rights movement and will make excellent additions to the city’s amazing list of landmarks.”

Two buildings in Greenwich Village were designated, including Caffe Cino, the first Off-Off-Broadway theater that became a safe haven for gay performers, and the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse on Wooster Street, which served as a meeting space for the LGBT community following the Stonewall uprising.

“On the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which also occurred in Greenwich Village, we should be reflecting back upon that history of progress and honoring the people and places which made it possible,” Andrew Berman, the executive director of Village Preservation, said in a statement.

“We will continue to fight for the recognition and preservation of the history of the LGBT community and other marginalized and underrepresented communities which have often found a home and support in our neighborhoods — it’s one of the aspects of our neighborhoods’ history of which we are most proud.”

The LPC also landmarked the Anglo-Italianate former firehouse on West 20th Street which housed the Women’s Liberation Center from 1972 to 1987 and The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center on West 13th Street. And two residences of notable LGBT New Yorkers made the cut: James Baldwin’s Upper West Side house and Audre Lorde’s home on Staten Island. As 6sqft reported on Monday, the New York State Board for Historic Preservation recommended 18 properties be added to the State and National Registers of Historic Places, including Baldwin’s home at 137 West 71st Street.

“We hope that these designations, based in part on our recommendations to the Commission, will be a model not only for continuing recognition in New York City, but for designations across the country beyond Stonewall 50 celebrations,” Andrew Dolkart, co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, said in a statement.

Historic LGBTQ Sites to See During Pride in NYC

June 12, 2019
By: Melissa Kravitz

 

Stonewall Inn
The Stonewall Inn | Brian/Flickr

“LGBTQ history is American history,” says Ken Lustbader, co-Director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. Together with his co-founders (and one paid employee), these preservationists and historians identify and document the spaces and places where LGBTQ people made significant contributions to New York City and the nation as a whole. “We’re looking at NYC through [an] LGBTQ lens and making this invisible history visible by conveying the rich history of LGBTQ people in NYC,” Lustbader says.

The organization has nearly 200 New York City historical sites listed on its website, with an aim to develop the most comprehensive LGBTQ cultural map in New York City, or any city in America. The sites include the obvious, like The Stonewall Inn, where the namesake riots started in 1969, and the broad, like “the entire Theater District,” as Lustbader says.

The endeavor reaches all corners of the city, spotlighting Flushing Meadow Park, where openly gay architect Philip Johnson designed the New York State Pavilion for the 1964 World’s Fair, and the 19th Century Bronx home of Christine Jorgensen, where she made headlines after her sex reassignment surgery. Prominent LGBTQ people have been marginalized from mainstream history, but Lustbader and his “passion project” colleagues are working to change that.

Still, there are shortcomings: Racial discrimination often prevented LGBTQ people of color from gaining capital to open bars and restaurants, and many important sites, like those of pivotal to 1980s ball culture, have disappeared due to gentrification. Lustbader and his co-directors are working to uncover underrepresented narratives and better include people of color in their preservation efforts.

The team is also preparing an app and visiting local classrooms to, “educate the next generation that LGBTQ Americans have really contributed to society, politics, art, literature and the general health of our country,” Lustbader says.

With the project’s resources and walking tours, any New Yorker can dip into queer history at LGBTQ heritage sites citywide. Here are a few to start with:

 

The Stonewall Inn

Greenwich Village

 

Yep, this is the bar known for the historic June 1969 riots, when queer activists fought back against discriminatory police raids. Lustbader says that it’s important for visitors to realize that this is not the “birthplace of the modern liberation movement,” and calling it such can minimize the previous activism led to that pivotal night. Recognizing this and what preceded this turning point, and understanding the streets where all the action took place is a huge part of comprehending LGBTQ history.

 

 

Julius' Bar
Courtesy of Julius’

Julius’

West Village

 

One of New York City’s longest-standing gay bars, this is a second home to LGBTQ people eager to dig into a burger or share a few drinks with newfound friends. While the interiors have historic charm — the building dates back to 1826 and housed a grocery store before it was converted to a bar in 1864 — its power is derived from the history of the people who supported it along the way. Julius’ survived as a speakeasy during Prohibition, and began attracting a gay clientele in the decades that followed. In April 1966 (pre-Stonewall), it sparked a “sip in,” to fight a New York State Liquor Authority regulation prohibiting bars and restaurants from serving homosexuals.

Julio Rivera Corner

Jackson Heights

 

A solemn place to visit, this site memorializes Julio Rivera, a gay New Yorker who was murdered by three skinheads in 1990. The tragedy helped generate political movement, especially in Queens, for LGBTQ visibility and fight against discrimination.

 

Theater district
Times Square | Manu Padilla/Shutterstock

Theater District

Midtown West

 

While sites like Stonewall are famously important to America’s queer history, others may be more subtle. Lustbader recommends looking at the Times Square area through a new lens, to comprehend the massive role LGBTQ people (whether out or not) have had Broadway and theater culture. “It’s amazing to be able to understand that so many theaters have such a rich LGBT overlay,” he says.

 

Edna St. Vincent Millay Residence

West Village

 

The narrowest house in Manhattan is worth a visit for history buffs and architecture fanatics alike. Bisexual poet Edna St. Vincent Millay lived here from 1923-1925, writing in cramped quarters decades before creatives could toil in the relative comfort of WeWork spaces. The townhouse sold for $3.25 million in 2013, and the backyard garden (private access only, sorry) is #goals.

 

The Ranble
The Ramble | Ryan DeBerardinis/Shutterstock

The Ramble

Central Park

It’s easy to take the beautiful oasis in the middle of Manhattan at face value: Nice grass, few garbage heaps, plenty of room for outdoor imbibing. But the green acreage also had deep significance to gay New Yorkers and visitors throughout the 19th Century. The Ramble was a well-known cruising spot, and the city’s early Gay Pride Marches ventured from Christopher Street to Central Park.

Audre Lorde Residence

Staten Island

 

Black lesbian writer and activist Audre Lorde lived here with her partner and two children from 1972 to 1987. Here, she worked on various books and poems, and also co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press with black lesbian feminist Barbara Smith.

 

Alice Austen House
Alice Austen House Museum

Alice Austen House

Staten Island

 

This picturesque historic Dutch farmhouse (built in 1690) was home to photographer Alice Austen and her partner, Gertrude Tate in the early 19th Century. A National Historic Landmark since 1993, it now showcases Austen’s work, hosts weddings and opens its picturesque grounds to visitors. And at $5 a pop, it may be the most reasonable museum admission in all of New York.

 

Albatross barAlbatross barAlbatross barAlbatross barAlbatross barAlbatross barAlbatross barAlbatross barAlbatross barAlbatross barAlbatross barAlbatross barAlbatross barAlbatross bar
Courtesy of Albatross

Albatross Bar

Astoria

 

The oldest gay bar in Queens, the old guard may remember this dive right off Astoria Boulevard as a lesbian bar, while recent regulars will know it as a straight up queer bar with Drag Race viewing parties and live drag queen performances. Albatross is full of lore, and frequently packed with locals and regulars vying to ensure its continued success.

 

Project has led in preserving L.G.B.T. sites

May 26, 2019
By: Gabe Herman

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project is a young organization, headed by veteran preservationists, that is having a big impact in protecting local L.G.B.T. sites, plus increasing awareness of the community’s importance to the city and country.

NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project team
Members of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, from left, Jay Shockley, Andrew Dolkart, Amanda Davis and Ken Lustbader. (Courtesy Jay Shockley)

The Project’s Web site has mapped 175 historical and cultural sites in the five boroughs that are associated with the L.G.B.T. community. Shockley said they plan to increase that soon to 200, and are working on documenting every Broadway theater with connections to the community.

“Our project virtually is the history of New York City, but done through an L.G.B.T. lens,” Shockley said. Sites date back to the 17th century, and go up to as recent as 2000. In keeping with the preservationist spirit, only sites still in existence are mapped.

Shockley said the L.G.B.T. community has had an outsized impact on American history and culture, but that some friends and colleagues of the project’s founders didn’t understand their mission at first.

“Even within the gay community, there was this self-imposed myth that there was no history prior to Stonewall,” Shockley said.

Some people they knew also questioned whether there were important sites beyond gay bars.

“We had to destroy those two myths,” he said.

The Project launched with the first-ever L.G.B.T. grant from the National Park Service, for $50,000, from the agency’s Underrepresented Community Grant Program.

Some of the categories of sites that the Project maps include performance venues, medical facilities, residences, public spaces and cultural and educational institutions.

And the Project was instrumental in recently getting six L.G.B.T. historic sites calendared by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. The hearing is set for June, which is also the 50thanniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

Those six sites include Caffe Cino and the L.G.B.T. Community Center in the Village, the Women’s Liberation Center in Chelsea, and the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse in Soho.

“We are thrilled that our research was a catalyst for the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s review of cultural landmarks, which highlight the rich L.G.B.T. history of New York City,” said Dolkart in a statement when the six sites were calendared. “We met with the commission’s chairperson, Sarah Carroll, and her staff to discuss how important L.G.B.T.-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.”

Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village
The Stonewall Inn, which was designated a national monument in 2016. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

The roots of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project go back to the early 1990s, according to Shockley. The group’s founders were involved in 1993 in a mapping project with the Organization of Lesbian and Gay Architects and Designers, or OLGAD. A networking group, it was one of the first efforts by gay people to connect professionally, Shockley said.

The map was the first L.G.B.T. site-based history project in America, and half of the sites were in the Village.

“We were the first people in the Unites States to connect the fact that the L.G.B.T. community had history,” Shockley said.

Shockley worked at L.P.C. for more than 35 years, where he started to incorporate L.G.B.T history into designation reports, many of them concerning Village locations.

In 1994, there was a push to landmark the Stonewall Inn on the riots’ 25th anniversary. But the attempt didn’t succeed until five years later, when Shockley and Dolkart were lead authors in the Stonewall nomination.

The Stonewall Inn was declared a national monument in 2016.

“Everything from Stonewall came from people in our project,” Shockley said. “Obama didn’t wave a magic wand when it became a national monument. We did the groundwork.”

And the Project’s work continues, as it has been recognized with preservation awards. The organization was given the New York State Historic Preservation Award last November, and in 2019 the Excellence in Historic Preservation Award from the Preservation League of New York State.

Shockley acknowledged the magnitude of the Project trying to map so many sites related to the L.G.B.T. community, especially because there isn’t just a single topic on which to focus.

“Our community has impacted everything that has ever happened in this city,” he said.

Click here to read the article in The Villager.

6 New York City LGBTQ landmarks might be created to keep the city’s queer history alive

May 17, 2019
By: Melissa Kravitz

 

Rainbow flag

On June 24, 2016, President Obama declared The Stonewall Inn a national monument, nearly five decades after the Stonewall Uprising of June 1969. In doing so, the famed New York City bar became the first LGBTQ-focused national landmark in America. “I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country, the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us,” Obama said in a White House statement at the time. “That we are stronger together. That out of many, we are one.” Now, New York City preservationists are following in the president’s footsteps, putting six historic LGBTQ sites up for official landmark protection status this May.

While LGBTQ people have undeniably characterized American history, from Stonewall activist Marsha P Johnson to California politician Harvey Milk to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, The Stonewall Inn is currently the only official national monument celebrating the LGBTQ community. With no others seemingly in the queue, it’s up to historians and city committees to protect queer heritage, as NYC is trying to do. The city already gave Stonewall landmark status in 2015 (separate from its national designation a year later), and this month, six more sites — the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Community Center and Caffe Cino, both in the West Village; the James Baldwin Residence on the Upper West Side; the Women’s Liberation Center in Chelsea; the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse in SoHo; and the Audre Lorde Residence on Staten Island — will be reviewed by New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission for consideration.

Landmark status, as well as national monument status, is essential in preserving history, as it keeps the space from being torn down or replaced. When a building is landmarked, it allows future generations to viscerally understand the place where major events happened, and see the historic and cultural contributions left on society by individuals before them. This designation is especially important for places influential in shaping civil rights, as many LGBTQ activists and events are often not written about in textbooks or major media. Landmarking queer spaces not only protects the buildings, but informs the world about LGBTQ history and legacy they might otherwise never know about.

Recently, New York has pushed for more focus on its queer history, with the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, a scholarly effort to record and preserve history of buildings relevant to LGBTQ history and culture, finding over 100 sites that deserve preservation. The organization believes these venues should be protected either by NYC itself or the United States government, and it’s pushed for an increase in LGBTQ representation on the National Register of Historic Places, i.e. the service that determines national monuments. To date, the National Park Service has noted 25 sites with prominent contributions to the nation’s LGBTQ heritage, though it’s unknown yet if any are actually likely to become monuments.

Across America, several major cities are home to LGBTQ memorials, like St. Louis’ Transgender Memorial Garden, San Francisco’s Pink Triangle Park, and Indianapolis’ AIDS Memorial, but efforts to preserve other relics of LGBTQ history — including both monuments and museums — around the country are still quite rare. This is unfortunately no surprise, as queer history has been systematically devalued and ignored in America for generations.

Yet organizations like the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, as well as the Velvet Foundation (which has been trying to fund America’s first National LGBT Museum since 2007), the Los Angeles Conservancy, and the Rainbow Heritage Network, are working to keep queer history alive. In New York, public hearings and a vote are required to officially landmark sites, and so on Tuesday, May 21, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission will decide if they’ll move forward with the process for the six sites up for the status.

Without protection, these historic LGBTQ places, like too many sites before them (including NYC’s Paradise Garage, an organizing space pivotal to the aftermath of Stonewall), may get torn down and forgotten by the masses, their history and legacy erased.

 

 

Historic LGBTQ sites may be designated NYC landmarks

May 15, 2019
By: Gwen Aviles

The six sites include the Audre Lorde Residence in Staten Island and The LGBT Community Center in Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood.

LGBTQ Center in Greenwich Village
New York City’s LGBT Community Center has served as a hub for the community since 1983. Travis Mark / The LGBT Community Center

As the 50th anniversary of the seminal Stonewall uprising approaches, New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is considering designating as landmarks six sites that reflect the historical significance of the city’s LGBTQ community.

The sites include the Audre Lorde Residence in Staten Island, Caffe Cino and The LGBT Community Center in the West Village, the James Baldwin Residence in the Upper West Side, the Women’s Liberation Center in Chelsea and the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse in SoHo.

“These six proposed landmarks recognize groups and individuals that helped move forward the LGBT civil rights movement by creating political and community support structures, and by bringing LGBT cultural expression into the public realm,” Sarah Carroll, the chairwoman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, said in a statement shared with NBC News. “These sites are tangible connections to this important New York City history.”

Audre Lorde
Caribbean-American writer, poet and activist Audre Lorde lectures students at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, in 1983. Robert Alexander / Getty Images

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, an organization dedicated to documenting buildings tied to influential LGBTQ trailblazers across the five boroughs, curated a list of more than 200 sites in an initiative titled “Historic Context Statement for LGBT History in New York City.” The organization sent a truncated version of this list to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which then, along with New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, identified the six places now picked for possible landmark designation, according to Ken Lustbader, co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project

“We worked to ensure that the sites reflected the totality of New York City’s LGBT community, that it represents the diversity of people and time periods,” Lustbader told NBC News. “We hope these sites represent the beginning of continued recognition of LGBT sites as significant to New York City and American history.”

The Audre Lorde Residence on St. Paul’s Avenue in Staten Island was home to acclaimed writer, professor, activist and black lesbian feminist Audre Lorde from 1972 to 1987. Lorde, who lived in the home with her partner and two children, often worked in the house’s study and wrote numerous books there, including “Coal,” “The Cancer Journals” and “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name.”

Cafe Cino on Cornelia Street in Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood is “widely recognized as the birthplace of Off-Off-Broadway theater,” according to the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. Joe Cino rented a ground-story space in the building in 1958, intending to run a small coffeehouse. Yet soon enough, patrons began staging avant-garde performances there. Caffe Cino became known for elevating the works of unknown playwrights, including William M. Hoffman, who credits his career to the space. Many of Caffe Cino’s early productions featured gay characters and LGBTQ issues, and as a result, the space became a haven for gay men. Caffe Cino closed in 1968, a year after Cino’s death.

New York City’s LGBT Community Center has served as a hub for the community since 1983. Located in the West Village of Manhattan, the center is the birthplace of The Gender Identity Project, which is the longest running provider for transgender and gender-nonconforming people in the state. The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), Dignity/New York and more than 400 other organizations have gathered in the center for meetings since it first opened its doors.

James Baldwin
Author James Baldwin Ted Thai / The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

The James Baldwin Residence on Manhattan’s Upper West Side served as the iconic writer’s home from 1965 until his death in 1987. Though the civil rights activist and literary intellectual did not self-identify as gay, he spoke openly about LGBTQ issues and wrote several novels that featured gay and bisexual characters, including “Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone” (1968) and “Just Above My Head” (1979), which were published while he lived in the 71st Street residence.

Founded in the 1970s, the Women’s Liberation Center was an integral meeting space for women’s groups, including several that specifically focused on the city’s lesbian community. The Lesbian Feminist Liberation, a group that sought to ensure lesbians were visible and heard at political and pride marches, and Lesbian Switchboard, a volunteer-led counseling hotline, were two of the many groups that met in the center. The Women’s Liberation Center closed in 1997.

The Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse, a firehouse in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, served as the headquarters for the Gay Activists Alliance from 1971 to 1974. The group was considered the most influential American gay political activist organization in the early 1970s. The firehouse also brought together other LGBTQ groups, such as Gay Youth, the Lesbian Feminist Liberation and Gay Men’s Health Project, for social events.

The commission granted the Stonewall Inn, the Greenwich Village gay bar where the seminal 1969 Stonewall uprising took place, landmark status in 2015. Yet, Lustbader said that beyond Stonewall — which is the only LGBTQ space to hold landmark status — and these six sites, there are a host of other places integral to preserving the LGBTQ history of New York City .

“There are many other NYC sites that should be considered for formal designation as cultural landmarks,” Lustbader said, citing Walt Whitman’s residence in Brooklyn as an example.

“LGBT historical landmarks give the community a sense of pride, a sense of hope and a sense of continuity,” Lustbader said. “They serve as a reminder that LGBT history is just as important as other history.”

Click here to read the article at NBC News.

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.

Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde

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.

James Baldwin
James Baldwin

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.

GAA in a parade
Yigal Mann/Pix/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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.

Click here to read the article at New Now Next.

 

A Gay Theater and James Baldwin’s N.Y. Apartment May Get Landmark Protection

May 15, 2019
By: James Barron

The landmarks commission will consider giving landmark status to six buildings based on their historical, not architectural, significance.

A building that houses the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in Manhattan is one of six sites being considered for landmark status for their role in gay history in New York. Credit: Holly Pickett for The New York Times

All six played a critical role in the gay rights movement. One was a storefront restaurant that New York City officials described as the city’s first gay theater and the place where Off Off Broadway got its start. Another was home to a number of lesbian and feminist groups in the 1970s and 1980s.

Now, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is moving toward considering landmark status for the six sites.

The agency was born in the 1960s in response to the anger over the demolition of the old Pennsylvania Station, which the novelist Thomas Wolfe described as “vast enough to hold the sound of time.”

Since then, the commission has conferred landmark status on individual buildings and on neighborhoods based mainly on architectural significance and historical merit.

But over the years the commission has also granted landmark protection based on historical or cultural significance.

The six places under consideration do not include the Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village bar and the site of a major turning point in the gay rights movement, because it has already been recognized. The commission gave it landmark status in 2015 because of its significance in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history. In 2016, then-President Barack Obama designated the building and the area around it the Stonewall National Monument.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and the World Pride celebration will come to New York City for the first time.

Five of the six landmarks-to-be are already in designated historic districts, so the protection afforded by landmark status would be new for only one. But Sarah Carroll, the chairwoman of the landmarks commission, said the new designations would add “an extra layer of protection” if future owners sought permission for exterior changes.

The city is also weighing giving landmark protection to the home of the writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin. Credit: Holly Pickett for The New York Times

“We wanted to explicitly recognize the association with LGBT history,” she said. “In most cases, the designation of the historic districts in which the buildings already exist did not recognize this history.”

Since its start, the commission has expanded its mandate toward recognizing buildings for what happened in them, not just their presence on the landscape, with a number of other designations, among them Louis Armstrong’s house in Queens, a landmark since 1988.

A year ago, the commission created a historic district in Harlem, citing the “rich social, cultural and political life” that went on there as well as the architecture. It includes the home of the ragtime composer Scott Joplin and the national headquarters for the March on Washington in 1965.

The six most recent sites were chosen based on their contribution to gay history. Recognizing more than architecture “is really important,” said Andrew S. Dolkart, co-director of the LGBT Historic Sites Project, which recommended sites for the LGBT designations.

“In general, it’s really important that preservation move beyond just works of architecture, not to denigrate that — I’m an architectural historian,” he said, adding, “We really need to recognize places of cultural and historical significance.”

Giving the six buildings landmark status would put documentation about them in the commission’s files that would be taken into account if owners sought to make changes to the outside, Ms. Carroll said. That information, she said, “would guide our thinking” and could prove especially important for facades that “might not have been seen as typical or traditional in that particular historic district.”

She said that could be a concern for one of the six buildings, at 137 West 71st Street. It was the New York home of the writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin from the mid-1960s on.

Mr. Baldwin photographed in his apartment in 1972. Credit: Jack Manning/The New York Times

For years he mainly lived in France and died at his home there in 1987.

But he described himself as a “commuter,” not an expatriate. The landmarks commission noted that he kept an apartment in the 71st Street building “where he worked on plays, screenplays and novels and corresponded with other prominent literary and cultural figures” when he was in New York. His niece Aisha Karefa-Smart wrote in 2013 that the building’s “energy and vitality” surged “to a fever pitch as soon as he hit the door.”

The building was built as one in a line of four rowhouses in 1890 but was altered in 1961. The original facade was stripped off, replaced with light-colored brick. Stairs leading to the parlor-floor entrance were demolished, the front door was moved down to the street level and glass-brick windows were installed next to it.

Baldwin bought it in 1965. His family sold the building in 1994, according to the current owner, Romeo Salta, who said he was “ambivalent” about a landmark designation.

“Quite frankly, we were contemplating, not in the immediate future but sometime down the line, fixing up the facade because in my opinion, it’s not a very good-looking building,” Mr. Salta said.

“I’ve got no problem with honoring Mr. Baldwin,” he said, but added, “I think there are other ways of honoring Mr. Baldwin short of declaring his old building a landmark because it has no architectural merit at all.”

The commission described another of the six buildings as the birthplace of Off Off Broadway, a four-story tenement-and-store building at 31 Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village.

From 1958 to 1968, the store space was occupied by a restaurant called Caffe Cino. At the time, the commission’s staff noted in a report on the building, “portraying homosexuality in theatrical productions was illegal,” but Caffe Cino “became a center for gay artists to share their work” as the city’s first gay theater.

Playwrights who got their start there included John Guare, who later wrote “Six Degrees of Separation,” and Lanford Wilson, who wrote “Fifth of July,’’ according to the commission.

It is in the Greenwich Village Historic District, just as the Baldwin House is in a historic district on the Upper West Side.

The building on West 20th Street in Manhattan was once home to the Women’s Liberation Center. Credit: Holly Pickett for The New York Times

The one building not within the boundaries of a historic district is a former firehouse once known as the women’s liberation center. The building, at 243 West 20th Street, is still owned by the city and is now rented to a group that trains women for construction and maintenance work.

Ms. Carroll said she and members of the commission’s staff worked with the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, and the New York City LGBT Historic Sites Project. She said Mr. Johnson did not suggest specific sites, but he said through a spokesman that the choices “will make excellent additions” to the roster of landmarks.

The commission will decide on Tuesday whether to begin the formal process of landmarking the sites, including holding public hearings and, eventually, votes on official designation.

Simeon Bankoff, the executive director of the Historic District Council, a preservation group, called the six potential designations “a terrific step forward to recognizing unrecognized history.” But he and William Dobbs, a historically minded advocate, said they wished the commission would designate more landmarks of significance in the gay rights movement.

Mr. Dobbs mentioned a building on the corner of 14th Street and the Avenue of the Americas that was the meeting place of the Gay Liberation Front, the first activist organization formed after the Stonewall rebellion. That building has been sold to a developer and is being demolished.

“The story of these landmarks is they get torn down,” he said. “It’s especially painful because there aren’t very many LGBT landmarks.”

Click here to read the article on The New York Times

Preserving Walt Whitman’s Clinton Hill house: Poet’s 200th birthday improves odds

May 9, 2019
By: Lore Croghan

 

Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman, the Brooklyn Eagle’s editor in the 1840s, is widely considered America’s greatest poet. Enhanced image by Great Bridge Associates

Ahead of two important cultural milestones, preservationists are renewing a stalled effort to landmark the Clinton Hill home where famed Brooklyn poet Walt Whitman wrote “Leaves of Grass” — despite opposition from the property’s owner.

The Coalition to Save Walt Whitman’s House is demanding landmark designation for 99 Ryerson St. as Whitman’s 200th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots approach. Landmarking has eluded the property for years, though new support from local elected officials, as well as the publicity bonanza expected around the two anniversaries, could help secure historic protections.

Walt Whitman published his first edition of his ground-breaking poetry collection “Leaves of Grass” while living in the modest Clinton Hill building.

“It is the center, the desk, of the great gay American of Letters,” Professor Karen Karbiener, president of the Walt Whitman Initiative, told the Brooklyn Eagle. “He is our poet who first represented, 100 years before Stonewall, not only the idea of celebrating difference but even imagining a community.”

A team of preservation experts and the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project are members of the Coalition to Save Walt Whitman’s House, as is the Walt Whitman Initiative. More than 5,400 people have signed its petition calling for 99 Ryerson St.’s landmarking.

Whitman, who is widely considered America’s greatest poet, was born on May 31, 1819, and died in 1892. He was the editor of the Eagle in the 1840s.

He lived in more than 30 places in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The only one still standing is Leaves of Grass House, which is the coalition’s name for 99 Ryerson St.

LGBTQ+ historic site

Walt Whitman home at 99 Ryerson Street, Brooklyn
Walt Whitman lived at 99 Ryerson St., which is the second house from the left. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

As a cultural landmark, the aluminum siding-covered house at 99 Ryerson St. is Brooklyn’s equivalent of the legendary gay bar The Stonewall Inn, the advocates say.

In 2017, the city Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected the Whitman coalition’s first proposal to put 99 Ryerson St. onto the commission’s calendar for landmarking consideration. The agency cited architectural alterations to the house since Whitman’s day, such as the addition of a floor and modern siding.

Leaves of Grass House’s roles in the city’s literary history and the history of LGBTQ+ New York are more significant than its architectural features, Karbiener believes.

The wood-frame house built in the 1850s “is not beautiful,” admits Karbiener, who is a Whitman scholar and a New York University professor. But, she says, “it is a cultural landmark and should be designated.”

In 2015 the LPC designated the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village as a city landmark primarily because of its significance in LGBTQ+ history, the New York Times reported. The bar was the scene of the 1969 riots that launched the LGBTQ+ rights movement.

According to a posting on the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project’s website, Whitman poems that expressed “male-male love” made him “iconic in the United States and Europe as one of the first people to openly express the concept of men loving men.”

The Ryerson Street house is one of the oldest existing New York City buildings associated with someone who would now be considered an LGBTQ+ resident, the website says. Whitman, four of his brothers and his parents lived there between May 1, 1855, and May 1, 1856. His father died there.

The ‘holy grail’ for Whitman’s fans

Karen Karbiener
Professor Karen Karbiener is president of the Walt Whitman Initiative, which is trying to get his Clinton Hill house designated as a landmark. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Karbiener fears for the future of Leaves of Grass House if it’s not landmarked.

“It could be torn down and a spindly tower built in its place,” she said. “And history would be erased.”

She used to take people inside 99 Ryerson St. during walking tours she leads of sites important to Whitman’s life.

“It’s like the holy grail,” she said.

A man she thought was 99 Ryerson St.’s owner would sometimes be sitting on the stoop. He would graciously open the door and let everybody step inside the threshold.

“He was very kind,” Karbiener recalled. “It meant there was a continued spirit of goodwill in the building,” from Whitman’s era to the present day.

She wasn’t worried then about getting the house landmarked because “it had such a good caretaker,” she said.

In 2014, Karbiener stopped seeing the kind man at 99 Ryerson St. Nobody has let her inside the house since then.

Owners don’t support landmarking

According to city Finance Department records, the Horacio Downs Living Trust owns 99 Ryerson St.

Horacio Downs bought the house with Imogene Downs in 1970 and became its sole owner in 1987, Finance Department records indicate. He transferred the property’s ownership to the trust in 2009.

The Eagle left messages for the trust through contact info listed in Finance Department records, rang doorbells at 99 Ryerson St. and dropped a note for the owners through the mail slot. There was no response.

Whitman coalition members have been unable to win the property owners’ support for landmarking 99 Ryerson St.

They tried repeatedly to contact Glenda Downs, Walt Whitman Initiative board member Brad Vogel told the Eagle. Downs’ name is listed in the public record in connection with the Horacio Downs Living Trust.

A different woman responded to their queries by saying the property owners planned to tell the Landmarks Preservation Commission they prefer 99 Ryerson St. not be landmarked.

The Eagle attempted to reach her but was unsuccessful.

‘Great art can begin from the streets’

The LPC takes property owners’ opposition into account when making designation decisions — but has landmarked buildings whose owners were opposed.

It’s helpful to have the support of the City Councilmember who represents the district where a landmarking candidate is located. In the case of 99 Ryerson St., that’s Laurie Cumbo.

Last year, she signed a letter calling for the house to be landmarked that emphasized its significance to the LGBTQ+ community, the Eagle previously reported. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and several other councilmembers also signed the letter.

Karbiener said in her recent interview with the Eagle that 99 Ryerson St. was built for the working class. It’s where Whitman — who was born into a family plagued by alcoholism and mental illness and who dropped out of school at age 11 — began writing poetry of enormous literary merit.

“Standing in front of the house is refreshing,” Karbiener said. “You see that great art can begin from the streets of New York.”

Click here to read the article in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Project Consults on Upcoming Exhibition Highlighting LGBTQ Nightlife and Activism

May 5, 2019
By: Muri Assunção

 

 

Nobody knows who threw the first punch, or cocktail glass, high-heel shoe, or beer bottle that sparked the Stonewall Riots, a series of protests seen as the catalyst for the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

But in the early hours of June 28, 1969, after a police raid at The Stonewall Inn on Christopher St., the long-marginalized gay community decided to fight back.

For six violent nights, trans women of color, homeless LGBTQ youth, lesbians, drag queens, gay men, and their allies rioted, protested, got arrested, and changed the course of history. Though not the community’s first act of defiance — or the last — the Stonewall uprising became the defining moment in the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the riots, the The New-York Historical Society is taking a look at its legacy and what those blood-shedding nights in Manhattan’s West Village meant in the battle for LGBTQ acceptance in New York City, the U.S., and beyond.

On view from May 24 to Sept. 22, “Stonewall 50 at New-York Historical Society” will feature two exhibitions and one special installation to highlight how the LGBTQ movement fits into New York history.

 

 

Dr. Louise Mirrer, the Society’s president and CEO, hopes to show “the critical role played by Stonewall in helping our nation towards a more perfect union,” she said.

And that path was forged in some of the unlikeliest places.

“Nightlife spaces, whether, they’re bars, restaurants, dance halls, or performance venues, have always enabled members of the LGBTQ community to meet, mingle and socialize outside of their homes, their jobs or on the streets,” Ken Lustbader, NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project’s co-director told the Daily News.

Lustbader worked as a consultant in “Letting Loose and Fighting Back: LGBTQ Nightlife Before and After Stonewall.” The exhibit, curated by Rebecca Klassen, the Society’s Assistant Curator of Material Culture, explores how nightlife has shaped the community’s identity, and strengthened its activism.

 

 

Visitors will get a chance to see artifacts from iconic gay venues from as far back as the 1950s. The exterior sign for the Paradise Garage, and a lighter with a sticker from the Ramrod, the popular leather bar that appeared in the Village People’s Y.M.C.A. video and was the scene of a deadly anti-gay shooting in 1980.

Legendary lesbian activist and Harlem Renaissance dancer Mabel Hampton is featured in “By the Force of Our Presence: Highlights from the Lesbian Herstory Archives,” which deals specifically with women and their contributions to the larger LGBTQ community.

The exhibition wraps up with “Say It Loud, Out and Proud: Fifty Years of Pride,” a timeline of LGBTQ history.

From Stonewall, to AIDS, to marches and changes in legislation, the piece acts as a teaching aid.

“There’s a graphic component that draws from 50 years of photographs of marches to create a compelling seamless visual sense of ongoing marching, work, and activism,” Klassen explained.

Click here to read the article on New York Daily News.

 

Photos, top to bottom:

[1] On view from May 24 to Sept. 22, “Stonewall 50 at New-York Historical Society” will feature two exhibitions and one special installation to highlight how the LGBTQ movement fits into New York history.

[2] National Park Service (founded 1916), Paper fan, 2016 Paper, wood. (Stonewall 50 at New-York Historical Society)

[3] Kenny Chanel and Bobby Revlon, House of Milan Ball, NYC Gay Community Center, 1990 Digital print courtesy of Chantal Regnault (b. 1945). (Stonewall 50 at New-York Historical Society)

[4] ACT UP activists at Pride March, 1988, by Eugene Gordon. (Stonewall 50 at New-York Historical Society)

[5] Dr. Martens (founded 1960), Christina McKnight’s Dyke March boots, ca. 1993–2000. The Lesbian Herstory Archives. (Stonewall 50 at New-York Historical Society)

 

 

Spreading the word about “Stonewall: The Basics”

April 15, 2019

We’re grateful to the Windy City Times for their coverage of our newly-announced “Stonewall: The Basics” factsheet.

Co-produced by the Project, Making Gay History, the New York Public Library, GLSEN, the National Parks Conservation Association, and the Stonewall 50 Consortium, “Stonewall: The Basics” is a new FAQ-style primer on the historic Stonewall uprising and an easy-to-understand guide to the people, circumstances, and legacy of the Stonewall uprising, which began in New York City’s Greenwich Village on June 28, 1969.

Read more via Windy City Times (here).

Momentum Builds to Preserve Richmond Barthé’s Brooklyn Frieze

20181129
By: Zachary Small

Today marked the second article in as many days — this time in Hyperallergic — on gay African American sculptor Richmond Barthé and his art-deco frieze at Kingsborough Houses in Brooklyn.

Green Pastures: The Walls of Jericho is Barthé’s largest work. Originally a site-specific piece meant for an amphitheater at Harlem River Houses, the work was installed in its current location in Brooklyn when the planned amphitheater was not realized (because it was a publicly funded project through the Works Progress Administration, Barthé had no say as to its ultimate location).

Following a visit to the work, art professor Michele Bogart (@urbaninsideout on Twitter) noticed the dilapidation of the work and issued a public cry for restoring the frieze:

“Traveling to Brooklyn to see the state of Barthé’s frieze last week, Bogart was shocked by what she saw: open joints, hairline cracks, large holes, and disfigurations threatened to disintegrate whatever the ice, wind, and rain had left behind.”

The published stories piqued the interest of Twitter’s art lovers, and the interest of Swann Galleries, an auction house that has experience with Barthé’s work. The gallery announced it would lead the effort to have a conservator perform a cost assessment for restoring the frieze. This is only the first step, a way to gauge what it might take for interested parties to work together toward preservation, but it’s inspiring that this cause has drawn such interest. And that interest has only continued to grow, with many continuing to express on social media their support for seeing the art preserved.

We love this story! Many thanks to everyone who has shown so much interest in what happens to this important piece of public art and its connections to LGBT and African American history. To stay informed on further developments, Swann Galleries has created a dedicated mailing list for anyone interested in learning more about how they can get involved in any future efforts.

To read the full story at Hyperallergic, click here.

Richmond Barthé’s Brooklyn Frieze in amNewYork

November 27, 2018
By: Mark Chiusano

Today, amNewYork ran an article about the state of Richmond Barthé’s public art “Green Pastures: The Walls of Jericho,” an NYC LGBT historic site located at Brooklyn’s Kingsborough Houses since 1941.

The article was spurred by Stonybrook Universtiy art professor Michele Bogart, who expressed concern for the artwork’s state of disrepair. From amNewYork:

“The reader was Michele Bogart, a former vice president of what is now the city’s Public Design Commission. She had heard that the art was in trouble and was shocked at the state of the panels when she went to take pictures of them on Friday, a surprising and imposing freestanding art-deco wall in the middle of the towers. There are open joints, hairline cracks, large holes or disfigurations between some of the dancers’ legs. All can lead to worse problems when rain seeps in, and ice and snow.”

Barthé, who was gay, is considered one of the most important sculptors of African American modernism in the first half of the twentieth century, known for work portraying religious subjects, African American history, notable performers and for public work.

This public work is the artist’s largest and was originally intended for the wall of an amphitheater at Harlem River Houses. That amphitheater was never built and the piece was installed, without Barthé’s consultation, at the Kingsborough Houses in Brooklyn.

 

Richmond Barthe’s “Green Pastures: The Walls of Jericho”

To read the full story, click here.

Celebrate LGBT History Month With a Special Trolley Tour of Green-Wood Cemetery

October 11, 2018
By: Susan De Vries

Brownstoner logo

 

Photo via NYC LGBT Historic Sites Initiative
Photo via NYC LGBT Historic Sites Initiative

 

October is LGBT History Month and if you need a bit of education on some of the leading figures of the 19th and 20th century then a special tour at Green-Wood Cemetery will provide some answers.

This weekend you can hop on a trolley and take a ride while learning more about the LGBT figures who make up some of the “permanent residents” of the historic cemetery. Spots along the tour will include the grave sites of Paul Jabara, co-writer of “It’s Raining Men,” and Emma Stebbins, sculptor of the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. The tour will be lead by Andrew Dolkart and Ken Lustbader, Co-Directors of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

Green-Wood Cemetery
Photo by Susan De Vries

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project was begun in 2015. It uses research gathered over 25 years by the organization’s founders to boost public awareness of the significance of the sites as well as the LGBT community’s role in the history of the U.S. In addition to documenting and mapping historic locations, the group is working to nominate sites to the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service, which oversees the National Register of Historic Places, announced an LBGTQ Heritage Theme Study in 2014, part of an effort to expand the diversity of American history represented on the Register.

The “Gay Green-Wood” tour takes place on Sunday, October 14 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $25, and $20 for members Green-Wood and Brooklyn Historical Society. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Click here to read the full article at Brownstoner

 

Celebrate LGBTQ History Month with this interactive map of historic N.Y.C. sites

20181012
By: Gabrielle Golenda

 

 

Members of the Gay Liberation Front with GAY POWER shirts at City Hall, New York in 1969-1972 (Diana Davies/Courtesy New York Public Library)
Members of the Gay Liberation Front with GAY POWER shirts at City Hall, New York in 1969-1972 (Diana Davies/Courtesy New York Public Library)

This month is LGBTQ History Month and to honor it The Municipal Art Society (MAS) of New York featured a panel about historic sites associated with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights movement at this week’s MAS Summit in New York City. Every year, the conference explores how present-day issues can be informed and challenged by historical advocacy.

On Tuesday the ninth annual program featured a lecture led by the co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, Ken Lustbader, who, in his own words, is trying to put LGBT history on the map by “looking at it through a rainbow lens.”

Stonewall Inn Window with a protest sign (Diana Davies/Courtesy New York Public Library)
Stonewall Inn Window with a protest sign (Diana Davies/Courtesy New York Public Library)

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a police raid at the Stonewall Inn gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village. Lustbader recalled that the riot wasn’t the first at the Christopher Street institution, but one that is especially remembered for the days-long protest where patrons were inspired to fight back, forever marking the N.Y.C. neighborhood as the unofficial cradle of the LGBT rights movement.

Stonewall Inn in 1969 (Diana Davies/Courtesy New York Public Library)
Stonewall Inn in 1969 (Diana Davies/Courtesy New York Public Library)

Stonewall Inn is just one of the places the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project documents in its interactive map of historic and cultural sites associated with the community in all five boroughs. From the Angel of the Waters statue atop the Bethesda Fountain—an 1860s masterpiece by lesbian sculptor Emma Stebbins and the earliest public artwork by a woman in New York City—to Carnegie Hall—the venue famous for hosting countless performances and works by LGBT artists—the list of historic sites reaches way beyond bars and clubs.

Continuously being added to, the network of hundreds of locations illustrates the richness of the movement’s history and its influence in the United States. Covering sites dating from the city’s founding in the 17th century to the year 2000, it currently lists 5 locations in Staten Island, 12 in Queens, 123 in Manhattan, 8 in Brooklyn, and 4 in The Bronx. The 150 pins presently live on the map can be filtered by cultural significance, neighborhood, era, and LGBT category.

Screenshot of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project interactive map (Courtesy NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project)
Screenshot of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project interactive map (Courtesy NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project)

The organization also offers themed tours that rotate throughout the year, including ones on Jewish New York, Transgender History, and The AIDS Crisis.

Many of the movement’s historic sites were unappreciated and a vast majority remain completely unknown. Landmarking LGBT sites comes with its own set of unique challenges. When a potential landmark cannot be evaluated on architectural grounds alone, a site’s social history can be difficult to establish because of a lack of proper documentation of LGBT sites. According to Lustbader, there’s historically been almost no record of various sites keeping because of stigma and fear of exposure. There’s another caveat: proving identity and gender can be difficult for LGBT people.

Protesters holding Christopher Street Liberation Day banner, 1970 (Diana Davies/Courtesy New York Public Library)
Protesters holding Christopher Street Liberation Day banner, 1970 (Diana Davies/Courtesy New York Public Library)

Today, there are now 17 LGBT-related sites of the more than 93,000 listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Lustbader and fellow project directors Andrew S. Dolkart and Jay Shockley confronted these challenges with 25 years of LGBT-specific research conducted by historic preservation professionals and numerous outreach events and crowdsourcing opportunities to develop a step-by-step guide to evaluate state and national LGBT register listings. The guide and all of their research can be accessed in the Historic Context Statement for LGBT History in New York.

Discover hundreds of places that represent NYC’s LGBT past on nyclgbtsites.org. Each site contains descriptive historical accounts, contemporary and archival photographs, related ephemera, and multimedia presentations. Happy cruising!

 

Click here to read the full article at The Architect’s Newspaper

 

 

 

AIDS Activist’s Elmhurst Corner Added To LGBT History Map

August 15, 2018
By: Danielle Woodward

 

Patch logo

 

Daniel Dromm and others at Guillermo Vasquez corner

 

ELMHURST, QUEENS — Locals are reminded of Guillermo Vasquez’s role in LGBT history every time they walk past the Elmhurst street corner bearing his name.

The intersection of 77th Street and Broadway has, for years, been home to the street sign honoring the late Jackson Heights activist who helped organize the first Queens Pride Parade. Now, that corner – and Vasquez’s name – will go from a neighborhood reminder to a historic spot in New York City’s LGBT history.

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project’s latest map documenting historic places in the city’s LBTQ history will now include the Guillermo Vasquez Corner in Elmhurst, organizers announced Wednesday. The ever-evolving digital interactive map features places across the city’s five boroughs that have shaped the LGBT community’s history and impact on the city.

Vasquez, a Colombian-born immigrant, came to New York City to study international law and political science and found his lifetime home after in Queens, where he became a leading activist for AIDS, gay rights and the borough’s Latino community.

He was a founding member of the Queens Hispanic Coalition and Queens Gays and Lesbians United, where he pushed for visibility of the LGBT community and raised awareness about the AIDS epidemic. He also advocated for LGBT rites with city and statewide organizations such as the Anti-Violence Project and the Empire State Pride Agenda.

But Vasquez is perhaps most remembered for his role in organizing the first Queens Pride Parade in 1993 and serving as a translator for Spanish-speaking participants. The LGBT parade, which began as a vigil for Julio Rivera after the 29-year-old was murdered for being gay, is now recognized as the second largest in the city with upwards of 40,000 attendees each year.

Vasquez, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1996, was recognized for his work years later by local leaders, who co-named the intersection of 77th Street and Broadway in his honor in 2013. The corner was right outside Love Boat, a former Latino bar where Vasquez educated the community about HIV/AIDS.

“If it wasn’t for Julio, the Queens LGBT movement would not have gotten as far as it has gotten,” said Queens City Councilman Daniel Dromm.

“Julio did not die in vain. He changed people’s lives.”

A spokesperson for the LGBT Historic Sites Project said at a time where historic spots across NYC are being demolished, it’s important for the group to honor early activists like Vasquez who carved out the community’s space in the city.

“It is more important than ever to remember the determination of LGBT equal rights pioneers and the physical sites which place key people and events in history,” the group said in a statement.

Vasquez’s street corner marks the ninth Queens site on the digital interactive map, but organizers said several more in the borough are being vetted for publication in the late summer and early fall.

Other Queens sites on the historic map include:

  • Bum Bum Bar in Woodside
  • West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills
  • Frank Kameny Residence in South Richmond Hill
  • Kitty Genovese Residence in Kew Gardens
  • Julio Rivera Corner in Jackson Heights
  • New York State Pavilion in Corona
  • Riis Park Beach in the Rockaways
  • Manford Family Residence in Murray Hill

 

Image: NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm and Nayibe Nunez-Berger, president of the Latin American Cultural Center of Queens, hold the Guillermo Vasquez Corner sign at the street co-naming ceremony. Photo by Ana Luisa Castaño/Queens Latino via the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project

Click here to read the full article at Patch.

 

Click here to read the full article on QNS.com

 

 

Elmhurst corner co-named for Latino activist added to interactive map of historic LGBT sites

20180814
By: Emily Davenport

 

Queens news QNS logo

Daniel Dromm and others at Guillermo Vasquez corner
Photo by Ana Luisa Castaño via Queens Latino.
NYC Councilman Daniel Dromm and Nayibe Nunez-Berger, president of the Latin American Cultural Center of Queens, hold the Guillermo Vasquez Corner sign at the July 27, 2013, street co-naming ceremony.

 

An Elmhurst corner co-named for a Colombian-born Queens resident who helped organize annual Queens Pride Parade has been added to a digital map of historic LGBT spots in New York City.

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project announced that it has added Guillermo Vasquez Corner, located at the corner of 77th Street and Broadway, has been added to their interactive map. The map features diverse places from the 17th century to the year 2000 that are important to local LGBT history.

Born near Cali, Columbia, Guillermo Vasquez emigrated to Queens in 1972 to study international law. A longtime resident of Jackson Heights, Vasquez was a key advocate for the borough’s Latino community and pushed for LGBT visibility in Queens. He also raised awareness about the AIDS epidemic, particularly in the Latino community.

A member of Queens Gays and Lesbians United, Vasquez would go on to serve on the board of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a statewide organization that advocated for LGBT rights. In 1993, he helped organize the first Queens Pride Parade as a member of the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee and served as a translator for Spanish-speaking participants. Vasquez would later pass away due to AIDS-related complications in 1996.

The corner of 77th Street and Broadway was co-named “Guillermo Vasquez Corner” back in 2013. The sign was unveiled next to the Love Boat, a former gay Latino bar where Vasquez educated the community about HIV/AIDS.

“He was a fierce soldier in the battle against HIV/AIDS and a bridge between Latino activists and other movements for social justice.” said NYC Councilman Daniel Dromm at the unveiling.

Guillermo Vasquez
Guillermo Vasquez

“Guillermo Vasquez Corner” joins eight other historic sites for the LGBT community on the interactive map. The publication of the “Guillermo Vasquez Corner” entry on The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project’s website comes just days before the 18th anniversary of the silent candlelight vigil for Julio Rivera that took place in Jackson Heights on Aug. 18, 1990.

Rivera, a 29-year-old Puerto Rican man from the Bronx, was brutally attacked by three skinheads from a local street gang in the P.S. 69 schoolyard because he was gay. Rivera later died of his injuries at Elmhurst Hospital.

The vigil is considered the first successful gay public demonstration in Queens and marked the expansion of LGBT activism beyond Manhattan and connecting activists in both boroughs. In 2013, the southwest corner of 78th Street and 37th Avenue was co-named “Julio Rivera Corner” to honor his memory, and was later added to the interactive map.

“If it wasn’t for Julio, the Queens LGBT movement would not have gotten as far as it has gotten. Julio did not die in vain. He changed people’s lives,” Councilman Daniel Dromm said of Julio Rivera in 2015.

 

NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project Guillermo Vasquez Corner
Photo by Amanda Davis/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project

Click here to read the full article on QNS.com

 

 

 

Place and Community: An Interview with the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project

20180626
By: Gotham Center

Gotham Center logo

 

What is the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project? How did it come to be?

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project is a cultural heritage initiative that is documenting historic places associated with the LGBT community throughout the city’s five boroughs. We’re focusing on sites directly connected to LGBT history, but also sites that show the impact the LGBT community has made on New York and American culture. Our goal is to broaden people’s understanding of this history beyond Stonewall by documenting all kinds of sites (such as community spaces, former residences of notable figures, activist demonstration locations, and performance venues) from the founding of New Amsterdam in the 17th century to the year 2000. We’re putting an LGBT lens on the city’s history and currently have over 130 sites mapped, with an internal master list of over 300 more sites, and counting. We’re also nominating LGBT-related sites to the National Register of Historic Places, the federal government’s honorary list of sites deemed significant to American history, in order to increase LGBT representation.

The project began in 2015, but its roots really formed in the early 1990s. At that time, our three project directors/founders — Andrew Dolkart, Ken Lustbader, and Jay Shockley — were part of the Organization of Lesbian and Gay Architects + Designers (OLGAD), which produced a map of LGBT historic sites in Greenwich Village, Midtown, and Harlem. They each continued researching and writing about LGBT history over the years — which included nominating Stonewall as the first-ever LGBT listing on the National Register in 1999 and first-ever LGBT National Historic Landmark in 2000 — and in 2014 they applied for an Underrepresented Communities grant from the National Park Service, administered by the New York State Historic Preservation Office. With additional matching grants from the New York Community Trust, the Arcus Foundation, and others, they hired me as project manager a year later.

Amanda DavisWhat new aspects of the project have developed over the past year?

The project began as a survey of historic sites intended to be placed on a publicly-accessible map (now available on our website) and submitted more formally to the New York State Historic Preservation Office. Since then, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of people, including a new generation of LGBT activists, who have approached us with ways to take this project in directions we hadn’t necessarily anticipated. From the beginning we have been giving educational presentations to high school and college students as well as adults, but over a year ago we were contacted by both an educational consultant and the founders of History UnErased who felt that the content on our website could be used as an effective curriculum tool. We recently presented our work to public school teachers at an NYC Department of Education conference, and were thrilled with the enthusiastic response. We are working with all these stakeholders to implement LGBT history into the city’s public school curriculum.

How do you feel a place-based approach provides a unique perspective on New York’s LGBT history?

It’s one thing to talk about history and see it in photos; it’s quite another, I think, to be able to stand in front of the building and connect with the people and events that came before you. We heard from a schoolteacher recently who wanted to take her daughter to see the buildings where gay and lesbian civil rights activists James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, and Bayard Rustin lived. There is something about that tangible link to history — a hidden history — that is so powerful.

Place also holds particular meaning for marginalized groups. More so (but not exclusively) in the past, the LGBT community would have been acutely aware of which spaces they could exist openly and which they could not. It is interesting from a preservation perspective to take that into account when recording these histories. When I wrote the National Register nomination for the Caffe Cino, I focused on its importance as the birthplace of Off-Off-Broadway, but also for its pioneering role in developing gay theater and supporting gay artists in the pre-Stonewall era (when it was illegal to depict homosexuality on stage). I found quotes from gay playwrights who spoke about walking through the Cino’s doors and feeling like they could write about anything. One of the most moving remembrances came from the late playwright William Hoffman, who said, “I never would have been a playwright without the Caffe Cino. I never certainly would have written about gay subjects that freely. That was the kind of empowerment that the place gave us. We were no longer victims.”

Do you think of yourself as a preservationist organization? Is part of your goal to landmark or advocate for the preservation of the sites you feature that are still standing?

Yes, we definitely see ourselves as a preservationist organization. We all have worked as historic preservationists in various capacities and graduated from Columbia’s Historic Preservation program. Our project is very much place-based and focuses on sites that are still standing, though we do have an internal list of demolished sites. The narrative of each site focuses more on the LGBT-related cultural significance, but a few of the buildings and works of public art that we have mapped were designed by gay and lesbian architects and artists. In addition, we’re seeing that our research has direct social justice connections by providing a physical link to prior protests, community centers, and activists.

As far as landmarking and advocating for the preservation of these sites, one of the most important aspects of the project is to first raise public awareness of LGBT history and the cultural contributions of the community to American history; it’s virtually impossible to rally the public and elected officials around a campaign to protect sites from demolition/extensive alterations if most people are unaware that this history even exists. Having said that, we have written three nominations to the State and National Registers of Historic Places (Julius’, Caffe Cino, and Earl Hall at Columbia University) and amended the National Register nomination for the Alice Austen House on Staten Island to include its LGBT history. Those were written as part of the National Park Service (NPS) grant and we are writing two more as part of a second grant. We’ve also just submitted a context statement for LGBT history in New York City to the New York State Historic Preservation Office (which administers the NPS grants) in order to provide guidance to the state office, preservationists, and others in recognizing and evaluating LGBT historic sites. At the city level, we’re working with the Walt Whitman Coalition to advocate that the Landmarks Preservation Commission designate Whitman’s house, at 99 Ryerson Street in Brooklyn, a New York City Landmark.

How do you hope people will use your content?

We see the website as a starting off point to inspire further research, whether this be done by students, scholars, or anyone with an interest in this history. The effort to landmark Walt Whitman’s home actually began with a young preservationist who was shocked to learn through our website and presentations that the building wasn’t a protected landmark. We are also hoping people will walk by some of these buildings and take pride in the fact that LGBT history happened there or they will look again at a site or person they may have already known about with a new perspective. For those who don’t live in the New York City area, and perhaps do not feel they can be open about their sexuality or gender identity, our website can be a valuable and affirming resource. LGBT history, people, and events are rarely taught or even discussed in the classroom — and even then they are limited to urban centers like New York City or San Francisco — ​so we hope that our website can be a learning tool for all youth.

What’s next for the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project?

We’ve been busy during Pride Month giving presentations and attending various events. On June 26th, we’ll be giving our first-ever public walking tour of sites around Stonewall National Monument. As I mentioned earlier, we have two more National Register nominations to complete. We have a few ideas for which sites we would like to focus on, but we first have to obtain owner consent and evaluate the interior integrity of the space, both challenging. We’re also part of the Stonewall50 Consortium, which is an organization that has brought together cultural institutions and groups in order to facilitate discussion about programming and events to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in 2019. Through this, we are part of a team of advisors for the New-York Historical Society’s May-September 2019 exhibition on LGBTQ bars and nightlife in the pre- and post-Stonewall eras. The exhibition will focus on these spaces as sites of liberation, activism, and oppression, and will help contextualize the Stonewall uprising.

We are also looking at various ways in which we can take the information on our website and make it even more useful for people, particularly for those who will be visiting the city for World Pride (New York City is the host city in 2019). We’ve exploring the idea of an app with curated walking tours.

Finally, we’re always working on adding more sites to the website as they are researched and written. A historic preservation graduate student is currently researching pre-Stonewall lesbian bar spaces that we will begin publishing to our website in late June. Through continued research and public outreach, we are also focusing our efforts on documenting more sites associated with women, people of color, and the transgender community as well as those sites located in upper Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island.

 

Amanda Davis is an architectural historian and has been the project manager of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project since its founding in 2015. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in architectural history from the University of Virginia and a Master’s in historic preservation from Columbia University.

 

Q&A: Alumna Amanda Davis is On a Mission to Save NYC’s LGBTQ Landmarks

20180621
By: Caroline Newman

 

Caffe Cino
Davis is working to protect sites like Caffe Cino, the birthplace of off-off-Broadway experimental theater, shown here in 1962. (Photo by Brian Merlis)

You likely know about The Stonewall Inn, home of the 1969 riots that marked a key turning point in the modern fight for gay rights in the United States.

However, you might not know about the hundreds of other places in New York City that have played an important role in LGBTQ history, from one of America’s oldest gay bars, Julius,’ to grim sites like the street corner where Julio Rivera was murdered in a 1990 hate crime that sparked the first Queens Pride Parade.

Uncovering and recognizing those sites is the biggest and most rewarding part of Amanda Davis’s job.

Davis, who graduated in 2004 from the University of Virginia School of Architecture, recently was named to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “40 Under 40: People Saving Places” list. She is the project manager for the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, founded in 2015 by architectural historians Andrew Dolkart, Ken Lustbader and Jay Shockley to educate residents and tourists about LGBTQ history in New York City.

Davis graduated from UVA in 2004 with a degree in architectural history. (Contributed photo)

Together with the founders, Davis – the project’s only full-time employee – finds and researches sites, adds them to the project’s interactive map and prepares nominations for the National Register of Historic Places, which is the federal government’s honorary list of historic places around the country deemed significant to American history.

We caught up with her earlier in June – recently designated as “Pride Month” in New York City – to learn more about her work.

Q. When did you first become interested in architectural history?

A. In some ways, it was a happy accident. I had not decided what I wanted to major in and I needed another class to take during the second semester of my first year. Scrolling through the course catalogue, I happened upon [former architectural history lecturer] Camille Wells’ class, “Thomas Jefferson, Architect.”

It was fascinating. I loved learning about history through the built environment, and I transferred into the School of Architecture the next year to study architectural history.

Q. How did you get involved in the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project?

A. I was working as an architectural historian for a nonprofit in Greenwich Village when I heard about the project manager opening. One of the founders was my professor in graduate school at Columbia [University], and another was a former coworker. I thought it was a great opportunity to work on history that had not really been explored.

Within the field of historic preservation, I knew of only a few LGBTQ projects in California at that time. The LGBTQ community is such a big part of New York, but so much of its history has not been discovered. I wanted to be part of bringing that history to light.

Q. What kind of day-to-day work does that mission require?

A. There is a lot of archival research and sleuthing. I lead survey efforts to identify and research sites, relying on historical documentation, reports from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, public library archives and other sources.

We also hold a lot of public events, reaching out to various groups around the city to tell them about what we are learning and also get ideas from them about sites we should research.

Once I have the research, I work on updating our website and interactive map and also nominate sites for honorary recognition by the state or federal government or for official protection at the local level by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. A grant we received from the National Park Service requires us to write seven nominations for the National Register of Historic Places; we have completed five so far.

Q. How many sites have you explored so far?

A. We launched our new website last year with information on about 100 sites. Now, we have prioritized about 350 additional sites for further research and recognition. It’s a pretty diverse list, representing different boroughs, ethnic groups and time periods from the 17th century to the year 2000.

Alice Austen's house, Clear Comfort
Photographer Alice Austen’s Staten Island home is now a museum and one of many sites the project has won recognition for. (Photo by Amanda Davis)

 

Q. If you were to pick a few sites for someone visiting New York to discover, what would they be?

A. A lot of people know about The Stonewall Inn, but there are so many other sites that can tell us a lot about LGBTQ history and about members of the gay community who have positively impacted New York City and American culture.

There are other historic bars like Julius,’ near Stonewall, where four gay rights activists from the Mattachine Society conducted a “sip-in” in 1966, modeled after the sit-ins happening in the civil rights movement. They wanted to bring attention to the discrimination that gay men and lesbians faced in bars.

There is a great house museum, the Alice Austen House on Staten Island, where we recently worked with staff to add LGBTQ history to the narrative the museum portrays. Austen, a celebrated turn-of-the-20th-century photographer, had lived with her partner of 53 years, Gertrude Tate, but until recently Gertrude was erased from the narrative.

I also loved working on the National Register of Historic Places nomination for Caffe Cino, the birthplace of off-off-Broadway and a pioneer in the development of gay theater at a time when depicting homosexuality on stage was illegal.

Another interesting and poignant site is the corner where Julio Rivera, a gay Latino man, was murdered in Jackson Heights in 1990. That crime really galvanized both the Latino and the gay communities in Queens and eventually inspired the Queens Pride Parade, which began in 1993.

Daniel Dromm and community remembers Julio Rivera
Julio Rivera’s friends and family gathered with City Council Member Daniel Dromm on the 20th anniversary of his murder in July 2010. (Contributed photo)

Q. What do you find most rewarding about the work you do?

A. It has been amazing to see how people respond to the project and how far it has come. We held a workshop for public schoolteachers last week who were very enthusiastic about using our site in their classrooms. We also give historic tours to young people; on a recent tour one teen told me that she thought she was alone until she learned about some of this history.

It’s amazing to see – time and again – how the information can impact people.

Q. Anything else to add?

A. We are always adding more places and have a suggestion form on our website where anyone can submit historic sites they feel should be included on our map. I would love to hear from people.

 


 

“NYC’s Proud History”

June 20, 2018
By: Jack Ford

Project co-directors Ken Lustbader and Andrew Dolkart joined Jack Ford yesterday for a great conversation on NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project’s journey to document LGBT culture in New York City.

 

Ken Lustbader and Andrew Dolkart on Metrofocus

 

They talk about our place-based, scholarly effort to document this unique history, our interactive map, and go over a couple very special sites.

Click here to see the full video on MetroFocus.

You Could Be in a Gay Bar Right Now and Not Even Know It

20180620
By: Brian Sloan

New York Times Logo

A lesbian bar from the 1920s. A “fairy den” from the 1890s. An Ecstasy-fueled disco from the 1990s. Celebrating the hidden places in Manhattan where gay night life once flourished.

Eve Addams Tea Room
Visitors gathered outside the site of the Eve Addam’s Tearoom, a lesbian hangout in the 1920s.

NYT Gay Bar Was Here
The Gay Bars That Are Gone tour paid homage to the Palladium near Union Square, a former club that is now a dormitory. Credit Amy Lombard for The New York Times

“Amanda Davis, a historian for the NYC L.G.B.T. Historic Sites Project, offered a history lesson in front of the former Eve Addams’ Tea Room (129 MacDougal Street), a lesbian hot spot from the mid-1920s run by a Polish-Jewish émigré named Eva Kotchever. A sign on the door, she said, once warned: ‘Men are admitted, but not welcome.'”

To read the full article on the “Gay Bars That Are Gone” Jane’s Walk in the New York Times, click here.


 

11 LGBTQ Historic Landmarks In New York City

20180618
By: James Michael Nichols

Huffpost logo

 LGBTQ history is, in many ways, New York City history.

Huffpost PRIDE article image
Illustration: Huffpost

It’s impossible to consider the history of the LGBTQ movement without thinking about New York City.

From the riots at Stonewall to sip-ins at Julius’, the history of the queer movement is intimately intertwined with New York’s.

A new project is helping document and connect some of the most significant locations for LGBTQ people across the city’s five boroughs.

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project is working to create a large-scale documentation of sites around the city that convey the community’s influence on American culture.

The New York Community Trust, an organization with a history of funding projects that advance and protect LGBTQ history, was the first private funder of the project.

“The project has identified sites that date back hundreds of years to today that illustrate important moments in the struggle for LGBT civil rights,” said Kerry McCarthy of the New York Community Trust. “But also sites that shine a light on important aspects of our heritage and history as New Yorkers and Americans, given the incredible contributions that LGBT New Yorkers have made.”

“Most people conceptualize Stonewall as the birthplace of LGBT activism, but we really want to show people that there was LGBT lives and LGBT history and LGBT narrative in New York City that led up to Stonewall and contributed to that starting in the 17th century,” Ken Lustbader of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project told HuffPost. “Real activism in New York was taking place in the 1950s and ’60s, predating Stonewall, and if it wasn’t for those people already organizing, there would not have been a Stonewall.”

Below, check out 11 of the places listed in the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, and head here to view the growing database of queer history in New York City.

Site descriptions have been republished with permission from the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

 

LGBT Community Center

Christy Havranek/HuffPost
Christy Havranek/HuffPost

Since 1983, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center has served as a vital support system for hundreds of thousands of people.

The center has witnessed the founding of ACT UP, GLAAD, Las Buenas Amigas, Queer Nation and the Lesbian Avengers and for many years was the meeting location for the Metropolitan Community Church of New York and SAGE.

The Gender Identity Project, which was established here in 1989, is the longest-running service provider for the transgender and gender-nonconforming community in the state.

 

Christopher Street Piers

Damon Dahlen/HuffPost
Damon Dahlen/HuffPost

For over a century, the Greenwich Village Hudson River waterfront, including the Christopher Street Pier at West 10th Street, has been a destination for the LGBT community that has evolved from a place for cruising and sex for gay men to an important safe haven for a marginalized queer community — mostly queer homeless youths of color.

From 1971 to 1983, the interiors of the piers’ ruin-like terminals featured a diverse range of artistic work, including site-based installations, photography, murals and performances.

 

Lorraine Hansberry Residence

Christy Havranek/HuffPost
Christy Havranek/HuffPost

 

Damon Dahlen/HuffPost
Damon Dahlen/HuffPost

From 1953 to 1960, playwright and activist Lorraine Hansberry resided in the third-floor apartment of this building.

While here, Hansberry lived parallel lives: one as the celebrated playwright of “A Raisin in the Sun,” the first play by a black woman to appear on Broadway, and the other as a woman who privately explored her homosexuality through her writing, relationships and social circle.

 

Lesbian Herstory Archives

Christy Havranek/HuffPost
Christy Havranek/HuffPost

Founded in 1974, the Lesbian Herstory Archives was first housed on the Upper West Side of Manhattan before opening its current location in Brooklyn’s Park Slope in 1993.

The volunteer-based archives, which also serves as a museum and community center, has one of the world’s largest collection of records “by and about lesbians and their communities,” according to its website.

 

New York Stock Exchange – ACT UP Demonstrations

Christy Havranek/HuffPost
Christy Havranek/HuffPost

The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power formed in 1987 to call attention to the AIDS crisis. In 1988 and ’89, it held two huge demonstrations at the New York Stock Exchange to protest the high price of the AIDS drug AZT, which was unaffordable to most people living with HIV.

 

Stonewall Inn

Damon Dahlen/HuffPost
Damon Dahlen/HuffPost

From June 28 to July 3, 1969, LGBT patrons of the Stonewall Inn and members of the local community took the unusual action of fighting back during a routine police raid at the bar.

The events during that six-day period are seen as the beginning of the modern LGBT rights movement, with large numbers of groups forming around the country in the following years.

The Stonewall Inn was the first LGBT site in the country to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places (1999) and named a National Historic Landmark (2000), with additional city, state and federal recognition in 2015 and 2016.

 

Julius’

Damon Dahlen/HuffPost
Damon Dahlen/HuffPost

On April 21, 1966, a sip-in was organized by members of the Mattachine Society, one of the country’s earliest gay rights organizations, to challenge the State Liquor Authority’s discriminatory policy of revoking the licenses of bars that served known or suspected gay men and lesbians.

 

Rivington House

Damon Dahlen/HuffPost
Damon Dahlen/HuffPost

In 1995 this former public school reopened as a 219-bed nursing home for people with AIDS — the largest of its kind in New York City.

Rivington House was controversially sold by the city to a private developer in 2015.

 

Audre Lorde Residence

Christy Havranek/HuffPost
Christy Havranek/HuffPost

Acclaimed black lesbian feminist, writer and activist Audre Lorde lived here with her partner and two children from 1972 to 1987.

In that time, Lorde was a prolific and influential writer, co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press and spoke at the 1979 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

 

Bayard Rustin Residence

Damon Dahlen/HuffPost
Damon Dahlen/HuffPost

Bayard Rustin, one of the most important yet least-known figures of the civil rights movement, lived in an apartment in this Chelsea building complex from 1963 to his death in 1987.

While here, he served as the lead organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and took part in numerous social justice campaigns around the world.

 

Transy House

Christy Havranek/HuffPost
Christy Havranek/HuffPost

Transy House was a transgender collective operated by Rusty Mae Moore and Chelsea Goodwin from 1995 to 2008.

It provided shelter for trans and gender-nonconforming people in need, served as a center for trans activism and was the last residence of pioneering LGBT rights activist Sylvia Rivera.

#TheFutureIsQueer is HuffPost’s monthlong celebration of queerness, not just as an identity but as action in the world. Find all of our Pride Month coverage here.

Click here to read the full article on Huffpost.


 

Project takes NYC’s LGBT history out of the closet, and into the spotlight

20180514
By: Kristin Toussaint

Metro US News Logo

 

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project has found about 400 real places in all five boroughs tied to LGBT history from the 17th century to 2000, and plans to add even more.

Project co-director Ken Lustbader

 

When the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village was designated a National Monument in 2016, it was the first and only historic site out of about 92,000 in the National Park System to be recognized for its connection to the LGBT community. After a police raid of the gay bar in 1969, riots there sparked the gay rights movement.

Now, in 2018, there are still less than 20 sites on the National Register of Historic Places recognized for their tie to LGBT history, out of more than 93,000 properties across the country, said historian Jay Shockley.

The New York City LGBT Historic Sites Project, which Shockley co-founded with Ken Lustbader and Andrew Dolkart, has been responsible for the national listing of six of those sites.

But that’s just the beginning. Through their project, they’ve identified hundreds of historic LGBT sites across all five boroughs that show the timeline of that community way before, and beyond, Stonewall.

LGBT history predates Stonewall by hundreds of years, Lustbader said, and the project has identified about 400 properties around New York City from the 17th century to the year 2000, and they’re continually adding more.

“This is a cultural heritage initiative,” he said. “It’s about place-based history, like residences, performance venues, commemorations — showing that LGBT history is American history by creating a physical landscape.”

These sites are listed on the project’s website at nyclgbtsites.org via an interactive map, and the founders hope people use that to create their own historical tour of the city. And, these places aren’t just interesting or relevant to those within the LGBT community, they say.

NYC LGBT Sites interactive map from Metro New York

“We’re the only project, as far as we know, in the United States that looks at it both ways, [meaning] the influence of the LGBT community on American culture, not just sites that are important to the community itself,” Shockley said.

They’ve highlighted LGBT artists who have influenced all sorts, like where author Truman Capote lived to buildings designed by LGBT architects.

“What they’re trying to do is bring LGBT history out of the closet and into the spotlight, because LGBT history is New York City history, is American history,” said Kerry McCarthy, program director for arts and historic preservation with the New York Community Trust.

The Trust is a community foundation that funds nonprofits with the goal of improving the city. It was the first private funder of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

Recently, McCarthy and some Trust donors (not directly linked to this project) did a walking tour around Greenwich Village with Lustbader and Shockley. Though they barely scratched the surface of LGBT history in New York, Kerry said it was nice to have a chance to see at least part of the project’s map “come alive.”

“We think it’s terrific to shine a light on LGBT history because it has been in the shadows,” McCarthy said, “and the more people understand the significant cultural role the LGBT community has played, the better off we’ll be as New Yorkers, and Americans.”

 

Click to read the article on Metro New York.

Photos (from top): (1) Ken Lustbader shows a historic photo of the original Stewart’s Cafeteria, later called Life Cafeteria, in Greenwich Village, which attracted a prominent gay and lesbian following. Photo: Amy Wolf for The New York Community Trust; (2) A screenshot of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project interactive map.


 

An Urgent Effort to Document New York’s LGBTQ History Before It Disappears

20180405
By: Muri Assunção

 

The former meeting place of the Gay Liberation Front is slated for demolition — but a group of historian-activists is racing to document sites like it, before they disappear.

A historic New York building that was the meeting place of the Gay Liberation Front — once a leading gay rights organization, and the first in the nation formed after the Stonewall Riots — has been marked for destruction. As the planned demolition approaches, a group devoted to LGBTQ history is racing to document sites like it, before they disappear.

The saga began two years ago, when the luxury real estate giant Extell Developments purchased four adjacent buildings in Greenwich Village, with plans of demolition reportedly set for next year. The $50 million deal was one of many Extell purchases from the family-run Duell Management, and it could’ve been seen as just another example of high-rise developments erasing old Manhattan’s charm. But the building at 69 West 14th Street, on the corner of 6th Avenue, has special significance for those who remember New York’s LGBTQ history.

The Gay Liberation Front (GLF) mobilized in 1969, after a police raid and subsequent riot at the Stonewall Inn. The structure, built in 1909, not only housed the group’s social and political gatherings, but was also the site of major cultural contributions to New York City and beyond, such as housing both the first Merce Cunningham studio and The Living Theatre, a venue that once hosted a reading by Frank O’Hara and Gregory Corso. (They were famously heckled by a drunk Jack Kerouac.)

Last month, as the last storefront tenants of the building — PMT Dance Studio and Moscot Eyewear, one of New York City’s oldest businesses — closed their doors, the inevitable wrecking ball felt as close as ever. And with it, an important cultural heritage site with ties to the very early days of the queer liberation movement seemed closer to extinction.

The planned demolition “is a real loss that shows the significance of LGBT spaces and cultural sites in the city should be recognized,” Ken Lustbader, a co-founder of the New York City LGBT Historic Sites Project told Hyperallergic. “We’re trying to get ahead of the curve proactively to identify these sites that show and convey LGBT history.”

Lustbader, Jay Shockley, and Andrew Dolkart founded the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project as a nonprofit in 2014, after receiving a grant from the National Park Service —“the first ever LGBT-related grant given” by the agency, Shockley said. Their mandate was to identify and research sites that have been important historically and culturally to the LGBTQ community.

The project also nominates sites to the National Register of Historic Places, an honorary federal list that includes over 93,500 sites across the country. LGBTQ history remains seriously underrepresented, with less than 20 sites in the Register.

Since its inception, the Project has added five New York City sites. Earlier this year, Earl Hall at Columbia University was listed for its affiliation with the Student Homophile League, the first gay student organization in the country, founded in 1966 at Columbia University. Last year, it listed Greenwich Village’s Caffe Cino, and it amended the nomination to the Alice Austen House on Staten Island, which had been “written in the 1970s but needed to be amended to update her same-sex relationship and add more information about her pioneering transgressive photography.” Julius Bar and the Bayard Rustin Residence were added in 2016. (Stonewall was added to the registry in 1999, with help from Shockley and Dolkart.)This is first time in the four-year history of the organization that a site is actively being threatened with demolition. The threat of losing such an important piece of queer history underscores the urgency of the organization’s work: to document neglected, forgotten, and vanishing sites that shaped LGBTQ communities and American culture.

This year, the Project partnered with New York City’s Historic District Council (HDC) in Six to Celebrate, an effort to “identify sites in the city that are significant related to cultural heritage.” The importance of this site, where GLF organized resistance to the persecution of LGBTQ communities, “cannot be overstated,” Shockley said.

For the organization’s founders, the importance of national history is matched by an awareness of local transformation. Lustbader and Shockley live blocks away from the GLF’s former meeting site. “There’s been increasing discussion over the last year about all new developments on 14th Street,” Shockley said, describing another planned demolition at an adjacent site. The 1952 building where Banksy recently drew his now-famous rat sold last year, for $42.4 million, is set to be torn down to make room for a condominium and retail space. That building also had a 110-foot-long mural in its lobby: Julien Binford’s “A Memory of 14th Street and 6th Avenue.” If it weren’t for the joint efforts of New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and the community-based preservation group Save Chelsea, that too, would’ve been destroyed forever. “14th Street, like every place else in Manhattan, is getting attacked by high rise development,” Shockley said.

There are currently 118 sites on the NYC LGBT Sites website. 400 have been nominated by the public and are currently in the project’s database. The process of researching and factually checking data is lengthy: “photographic documentation, multi-media, interviews,” said Lustbader. “We don’t want information that isn’t fully vetted.” Once they are satisfied with the factual accuracy, they make specific sites public “based on some priorities that include rarity, timing with anniversaries, and significance.”

As the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots approaches, the Project’s goal is to expand the research to past Manhattan, and to adapt their research for use in classrooms. Two more nominations to the National Register of Historic Places are also in the works, but their names can’t be announced yet, since consent from the property owners is needed. The organization is also working to secure “individual landmark” status for the Walt Whitman Residence in Brooklyn.

Photos, top to bottom: (1) 69 West 14th Street, as it appeared before the departure of its longtime tenant Moscot Eyewear (2016, courtesy Christopher D. Brazee and NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project); (2) The Stonewall Inn in 1969 (via Wikimedia); (3) Peter Hujar, “Gay Liberation Front Poster Image” (1969), gelatin silver print, 18 1/2 x 12 1/2 inches (courtesy The Morgan Library & Museum, © Peter Hujar Archive, LLC); (4) The Stonewall Inn as it appeared during Pride Week 2016 (via Wikimedia); (5) The cover of Ink, an alternative newspaper that covered the GLF in 1971 (via Wikimedia).

Sip-In History Fill-In (Letter to the Editor)

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By: Amanda Davis, Andrew S. Dolkart, Ken Lustbader and Jay Shockley

To The Editor:

Re “Friends and fans toast ‘Sip-In’ leader Leitsch” (news article, March 9):

We first met Dick Leitsch shortly before the 50th anniversary of the Sip-In on April 21, 2016. One of the first accomplishments of our New York City L.G.B.T. Historic Sites Project was the listing of Julius’ on the National Register of Historic Places, which was announced at our anniversary celebration there. Since then, we have come to regard Dick as a friend, and cherish his important accomplishments during his time heading the Mattachine Society in the 1960s.

We’d like to clarify a few points about Julius’ and the Sip-In. There has been a bar at that location since the mid-19th century, and under the current name since around 1930. The New York State Liquor Authority was created in 1934 at the end of Prohibition. Under the S.L.A.’s loose “regulations,” a bar that was “disorderly” could lose its license, and early on, the mere presence of gay men or lesbians came to be interpreted as being in that category. After the Sip-In, there was no court case in New York about gay bars. The Sip-In publicity, and Mattachine’s negotiating the interest of William H. Booth, the African-American chairperson of the New York City Commission on Human Rights, caused the S.L.A. to disavow having had such a policy on homosexuals.

Helen Buford, the current owner of Julius’, is a wonderful steward of the bar and its history. We are pleased the upcoming April 21 event for the Sip-In anniversary will also be a fundraiser for our project.

Finally, Dick Leitsch’s wishes for his funeral and for his remains’ final resting place is for them both to be at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields on Hudson St., not the Church of the Village.

Amanda Davis, Andrew S. Dolkart, Ken Lustbader and Jay Shockley
Davis, Dolkart, Lustbader and Shockley are members, New York City LGBT Historic Sites Project

 

Click here to read the original March 9, 2018, article.

Click here to read the Letter to the Editor on TheVillager.com.

Battlegrounds and Bachelor Flats

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By: Jay Shockley

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project represents 25 years of work by founders Andrew Dolkart, Ken Lustbader, and Jay Shockley to document significant sites in the history of of LGBT people in New York City. Visit the project website to explore.

The first initiative to document historic and cultural sites associated with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in the five boroughs, the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project launched its website in March 2017, but the project is more than a quarter century in the making. Jay Shockley worked as senior historian at the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, researching and writing over 100 designation reports covering all aspects of the city’s architectural, social, and cultural history, before turning his attention full-time to this project, which he directs together with Andrew Dolkart and Ken Lustbader. Related in certain ways to contemporaneous domestic and international efforts, the New York City project identifies and advocates for the preservation of LGBT historic sites in the city’s five boroughs, with a website featuring an interactive map of 111 sites and counting. Below, Shockley looks backward and forward, through the project and through his career, discussing the challenges that come with “making an invisible history visible.” – JM

Jacob Moore (JM): Tell me about the origins of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. Specifically, I’m hoping we might talk about what I see as the three different ways it engages with design and representation. Not only does it identify architectures and urban sites of significance, and employ techniques of representation for the organization and display of that information, but it also contends very directly with representation in a political sense. It clearly speaks to the way that political representation has changed from the 1960s to the present by engaging with historic sites themselves, reaching much further back in time.

Jay Shockley (JS): Yes, our project pushes way beyond that. Our earliest site that we have currently online is from 1802. Also, it’s important to me to point out that the three of us who are the project, Andrew Dolkart, Ken Lustbader, and myself, are all historic preservationists, as is our project manager, Amanda Davis. So as a baseline we would absolutely say that this is architectural because the project is all site-based and every single story that we tell on the website — 111 so far — is architecture- and cultural heritage-based, unlike so many other projects that are online.

JM: Your point about it being rooted with a group of historic preservationists is really well taken, and I’m curious how your approach to that work has taken personal identity into consideration.

JS: I grew up in Baltimore and my family was Maryland-rooted on both sides for generations, with a real sense of place-based identity. It pained me that there were significant buildings, places that I loved, that were torn down. I went to Columbia, which is the first graduate program in historic preservation in the United States, for graduate school, and through a variety of circumstances, I got a part-time job at the Landmarks Commission and ended up being there for 35-and-a-half years. I worked on everything from 18th-century projects to World War II and everything in between. At a certain point, you realize there are all sorts of categories of buildings in New York — all sorts of categories of people — that are not getting addressed through historic preservation. One of the great ironies is that there’s a huge number of LGBT people that are in the design profession, in preservation in particular, but also cultural heritage, museum directors, museum curators, historians, professors, librarians, archivists … the number of LGBT professionals is just mind-blowing.

JM: Sort of an unspoken truth?

JS: Yes. At various points when I was working at the Commission, we were in the middle of the national culture wars and debates, with people like Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond claiming that the LGBT community is destroying American culture when it was exactly the opposite. In many ways we’re both a creative force of American culture and we’re curators of that culture. So back in ’92, ’93, this organization called OLGAD (Organization of Lesbian + Gay Architects and Designers) briefly popped up. There were about a dozen of us historic preservationists who got together and produced a walking tour map in time for the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. One side was the Village, the other side was half Midtown and half Harlem. We now believe that was the first effort in the entire United States to do a site-based LGBT history. Andrew Dolkart and Ken Lustbader were part of that group, as was I. For almost the last 25 years we talked about doing something else, which ended up morphing into this project with a website.

In the meantime, despite the fact that New York has only one specifically designated landmark for LGBT purposes — Stonewall — the city has more LGBT documentation by far than any other city in the US due to staff efforts at the Commission. To New York’s shame, five other cities designated LGBT-associated buildings before we did, but then it finally came around in 2015 when Stonewall was made a city landmark. It was actually the week that marriage was legalized nationally; the Commission knew the Supreme Court decision was going to be coming out. They wanted to hop on the bandwagon.

Detail from “A Guide to Lesbian & Gay New York Historical Landmarks” (1994), published by the Organization of Lesbian + Gay Architects and Designers. Image courtesy of NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project

JM: Can you say more about how Stonewall led the way in terms of designation? And also about the need to expand the public’s understanding of LGBT spaces “beyond” Stonewall, as you state in the project’s mission?

JS: As we were promoting this idea of LGBT place-based history, even with personal friends, even with other gay people, we’d always get this puzzled look, like, “What on earth are you talking about? What is there beyond bars?” So our motivation was to get this history out, as our tagline goes: making invisible history visible. It was to alert all the governmental decision-making bodies, like the Landmarks Commission, the New York State Preservation Office, much less the National Register of Historic Places, in part to destroy all these myths that history started at Stonewall. In our next round of sites, we’re going to include one 17th-century site of execution. There are two documented cases where men in New Amsterdam were killed for a charge of sodomy.

This map shows the 17th century Lower Manhattan waterfront, including the site at the intersection of Whitehall Street and the waterfront where men were executed for sodomy at least twice. Re-draft of the Castello Plan, New Amsterdam in 1660, drafted by John Wolcott Adams and Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes, 1916. Image via the New York Public Library, Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, courtesy of NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project

JM: Where did that happen?

JS: It was called “The Place of Executions.” It was the original southern shoreline of Manhattan at Whitehall. So we’re going to pin it on the map at about Whitehall and Water Street. They were outdoor executions. Another one was a known place that men looking for other men would go. In the 1840s, City Hall Park and the adjacent blocks of Broadway became notorious for young, working-class men selling their favors. Beyond this chronological diversity, I should also say that obviously the scope of our project is all five boroughs and the great diversity within the LGBT communities. We’re trying to destroy the myth that only Manhattan is where everything happened. But because our project is only extant sites, there are obviously a whole bunch of sites that just don’t exist anymore, which makes it challenging.

JM: What does that mean technically? For example, in the context of this execution place, what’s extant about it?

JS: Well, whatever they had at the time, whether it was a platform or whatever else, obviously doesn’t exist. But elsewhere we’re very much incorporating outdoor spaces, things like Central Park, so this felt just as legitimate. One thing that we originally thought we were going to exclude is the earliest gay rights outdoor protest that ever happened in New York. It was in front of the US Army Induction Center near Battery Park in Lower Manhattan in 1964. The building’s been torn down, but we’ve been rethinking it since the protest happened on the sidewalk in front of the building. That space still exists. That was such a significant event.

It was organized to protest the exclusion and discrimination of gay people in the military. Actually, our first accomplishment, before the website was launched, we got Julius’ Bar listed on the National Register of Historic Places literally one day before the 50th anniversary of the 1966 Sip-in. We specifically did that to show that there was a lot of activism pre-Stonewall. And that wasn’t even one of the earliest protests in New York. People picketed at the United Nations. The Mattachine Society’s Sip-in was probably the first thing that actually had a result because the state liquor authority, whose policies made it illegal to sell known homosexuals a drink, had to back away from enforcement because they got so much negative publicity. There was a psychiatrist speaking at Cooper Union about how gay people could be converted and so on and so forth in the early 60s, so there was a protest there that pre-dated the Sip-in.

Mattachine Society members John Timmons, Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell, and Randy Wicker being refused service by the bartender at Julius’, April 21, 1966. Photo by Fred W. McDarrah, courtesy of Estate of Fred W. McDarrah

 

JM: I’ve read that it’s a lot easier to get these places designated when you can point to other work, outside of preservation, that covers the topic. How does your work rely on or coordinate with history-writing more generally?

JS: It makes it easier if certain sites are discussed; the sad fact of the matter is that there’s very little LGBT history out there that’s site-based. Obviously there are things generally on personalities, biographies, general histories. Honing in specifically on Stonewall, at the same time that we published our map for OLGAD, we started a discussion at the National Park Service on having the site listed and we got back a response from the Department of the Interior that was very negative. Absent any other cultural context or precedent, it basically boiled down to: “Why is a ‘riot’ worthy of commemoration? If you people do something positive then maybe that should be commemorated instead.”

Participants of the Stonewall uprising in front of the bar, June 29, 1969. Photo by Fred W. McDarrah, courtesy of Estate of Fred W. McDarrah

 

JM: Wow. So this was in the early 1990s?

JS: That’s right. This is before a group of gay staffers at the Department of the Interior, including a gay Assistant Secretary of the Interior, helped push the nomination forward. Another issue was the fact that to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places you need owner consent, and the owners of the Stonewall were absolutely not interested. The two women considering the nomination at state level worked out an absolutely brilliant, unprecedented concept that allowed it to go forward. They said that if you include not just the Stonewall building but all the streets where the rebellion happened, it could be modeled after a Civil War battlefield, as an outdoor space. The side benefit is that the city of New York now had 50 percent ownership. It wasn’t just the owners of Stonewall. As long as you have 50 percent compliance in a situation like that, it can proceed. So that’s how Stonewall got listed. Thank god they kept it under the radar enough that there wasn’t any political opposition coming out of D.C. Stonewall was the first LGBT-related property listed on the National Register and it was fast-tracked the following year in 2000 to become the first LGBT National Historic Landmark, which is a rarefied subset of buildings that are on the National Register. Up until about three years ago, it was the only LGBT property.

There are over 92,000 properties in the United States listed on the National Register. As we speak there are 16 LGBT-related properties nationally, out of 50 states. Pathetic. We have said for 25 years that if you really analyze the National Register, there are probably thousands of properties already listed that should be interpreted for LGBT history — things like Eleanor Roosevelt’s house at Hyde Park or Willa Cather’s house in Nebraska. None of those are documented or have any mention of the personal history of their occupants. Walt Whitman’s birthplace, his house in Camden, New Jersey — there are hundreds, if not thousands, of places on the National Register that need to be re-interpreted. Only in the last year or two is the National Register allowing that.

JM: That’s interesting that they’re now allowing reinterpretation of existing designations. How does that work?

JS: You can now do a cultural overlay. We recently did a cultural overlay of the Alice Austen House in Staten Island. It was already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it is even a National Historic Landmark, but the original nomination never mentioned that she was a lesbian and had a 50-year relationship with another woman who lived with her, and it didn’t discuss her as a pioneering female photographer. So that’s what we did for that amendment.

The childhood home of pioneering female photographer Alice Austen, where she later lived with her partner of 53 years, Gertrude Tate. The site’s National Register of Historic Places nomination was amended in 2017 to include Austen and Tate’s relationship. Photo by Alice Austen via the New York Public Library Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy

 

JM: Who is the audience for this project? It’s very clearly about both places that are important for LGBT people as well as places made important by LGBT people.

JS: I’m glad you mentioned that, because we’re the first project in the United States, literally, that thought of it as two-fold. We very much wanted it focused on properties of import to the LGBT communities, but we also wanted to do the flip side, which is to highlight the impact we’ve had on American history and culture. When we first got funding from the National Park Service, I’m sure they didn’t realize that was the focus. Even people in the field of historic preservation or in governmental bodies that deal with such things assumed it would be the equivalent of the way Black civil rights sites have been traditionally designated.

During the height of the culture wars, Fran Lebowitz said, “If you removed all of the homosexuals and homosexual influence from what is generally regarded as American culture, you would pretty much be left with Let’s Make a Deal.” That is the crux of our project. In terms of constituencies, we are aiming at the LGBT community, but we’re also aiming at all the decision-making, governmental bodies. We want this to be a useful database for why properties are important and what properties are in what neighborhoods. We really want it to be used as an educational tool.

JM: Your essay for the National Park Service publication, LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History, discusses the Wilbraham, and in so doing paints the bachelor flat as a type that was leading your team to other sites of significance. Are there other specific examples where cultural heritage becomes represented by a particular architecture?

JS: We have found that there are several building types of significance, parallel to the Wilbraham but for a totally different class of men. Mills House on Bleecker Street was a philanthropic project where working class men could move to New York and stay out of evil boarding houses. But since they (there were several, actually) were built for 100 percent men, it was basically a wonderful place to introduce men coming to New York to gay life. That’s a parallel working-class example to the Wilbraham, which was for very upscale professional and upper-middle-class men. By the same token, the YMCA in Harlem played a very important role for LGBT black men coming to New York who had so few options for a place to stay, much less live for an indeterminate amount of time. The two YMCA buildings on 135th Street face each other — one was the older building and then it became so overcrowded they built what was then considered the country’s most state-of-the-art YMCA right across the street. A number of very prominent LGBT African-American men, including Langston Hughes, are known to have stayed there.

The Harlem YMCA Branch main building, located at West 135th Street, was constructed in 1932. Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota Libraries, Kautz Family YMCA Archives

JS: We have a few sites that were really important for casual meeting places. Stewart’s Cafeteria at Christopher Street and Seventh Avenue South was very popular in the 1930s. It was a late-night place. Cafeterias were places where those with very little money or no money at all could hang out. Horn and Hardart, the automat, fell in that category. There’s a surviving one up at Broadway and 104th Street. It’s a designated landmark I did the report for, a really beautiful polychrome terra cotta building.

JM: Can I ask — since I think it almost goes without saying what the urgency of a project like this is in a political context like the one we have today — what you think might be different about a project like this today, as opposed to if it had been possible to do something similar even 20 years ago?

JS: Wilbraham is a very good example. When I first wrote that, and I had the discussions of why that building type developed because of all the perceived gender threats of single men living in various places in New York by themselves, the then-chair of the Commission absolutely vetoed it. The first comment I got was, “no sex is allowed in our reports.” And it was nothing sexual! It was talking about gender roles and the directly related reason why these buildings were constructed.

JM: Beyond expanding the list, where does the project go from here?

JS: In the short term, we have obligations for a total of seven National Register properties to be listed, which is turning out to be really difficult. So many LGBT-related properties are not architecturally distinguished; it’s far easier dealing with high-style buildings by discernible architects. You still have negative perceptions of people who are building owners but who are not part of the community ­­­— who don’t want to be associated with the community — even through an honorary historic listing. The state of New York is requiring interior access and interior integrity, which is almost insurmountable. Then our current goal is just to keep the project constantly moving and getting more people aware of it and engaged with it, and we’re starting slowly to get nominations from the public.

JM: From the beginning you clearly knew that the website was going to be crucial. What sort of outreach was planned from the start and how much have you discovered after beginning? Was the role of social media always considered?

JS: We had wanted for 25 years to do something else, but we didn’t know exactly what, so we concocted that it’d be a website. We did not want a crowd-sourced project where anybody could pin whatever they wanted. We wanted this to be curated, for a variety of reasons. We didn’t just want people putting really personal stuff, like this is where I met my husband, or the first place I had sex. Nor did we want people putting homophobic stuff on it.

JM: How do you think of the acronym “LGBT”? Is there a Q? Have you come up against any challenges when trying to determine what’s in and what’s out?

JS: The project itself has some very defined boundaries. It’s just the city of New York. It’s just the five boroughs. To be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, there’s a 50-year timeline rule. So Stonewall had to reach way beyond that because it was only 30 when Stonewall was listed. We had to prove extraordinary importance. So we picked 2000 as our cut-off date into the future.

In terms of the naming of the project, the audience is LGBT and Q, but from a historical perspective we didn’t want to include the Q, since the sites are pre-2000. We’ve anticipated somebody questioning us not using the “Q” in the project name. We did it for a whole variety of reasons. You have to be aware that the use of “Q” was still very controversial and not standardized when the project began. The NYC LGBT Center on 13th Street has never officially incorporated Q into the name of the organization, for example. Terminology about sexuality and gender has continually evolved. Heterosexual and homosexual is late 19th century. Bisexual and transgender only started developing in the 20th century and have been used in different contexts for different things. Some people have said: “How can you call someone living in the mid-19th century a lesbian? That term didn’t exist then.” Terminology about gender and sexuality, as everything to do with the LGBT community’s history, is fraught. The more famous the person being labeled, the more controversial.

JM: Are there any sites for which the inclusion has given you pause, due to the possible controversy?

JS: If you look carefully at some of the things online on our website, we’ve purposely pushed a few buttons. But we’re not some sort of gossip site, casually mentioning things just because we want to. It’s all sourced and it’s all cited. People like Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Walt Whitman, Alexander Hamilton, we’ve not steered away from that at all. We’ve purposely included lots of sex sites and things that are sex-related. We’re not trying to steer out of any controversy at all. We want this to come across as relevant to the reality of the today’s America as we believe it is, controversy and all.

Jacob R. Moore is a critic, curator, and editor based in New York. His work has been exhibited internationally and published in various magazines and journals including Artforum, Future Anterior, and the Avery Review, where he is also a contributing editor.

Jay Shockley retired in 2015 as senior historian at the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, where he had worked since 1979, during which time he helped pioneer the concept of recognizing LGBT place-based history by incorporating it into the Commission’s reports. He is a cofounder, together with Andrew S. Dolkart and Ken Lustbader, of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

Click here to read the article on Urban Omnibus.com.

Could Walt Whitman’s Brooklyn Home Become a Landmark?

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By: Susan de Vries

One of America’s most influential 19th century poets, Walt Whitman was a Brooklynite for 28 years and through many changes in career — printer, journalist, teacher. But few physical reminders of his time in the borough remain.

One home connected to Whitman, 99 Ryerson Street in Wallabout, is where he self-published Leaves of Grass, now considered a masterwork of American literature. The modest wood-frame house is not a New York City landmark nor within a local historic district, and one Brooklyn resident is hoping to change that.

Brad Vogel, lawyer, poet and preservationist, was surprised to learn from the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project that Whitman’s home was not already a local landmark. Vogel recently submitting a formal Request For Evaluation (RFE) to the Landmarks Commission to move forward a discussion about the cultural and historic significance of the house.

The simple RFE form offers the general public a way to submit an individual, interior or scenic landmark for consideration — all submissions must be 30 years or older and not already designated within a historic district.

In urging Landmarks to consider the property, Vogel asked that the building not be evaluated on architectural grounds alone or considered with a “rigid adherence to a pristine-architecure-only landmarking mindset.” Indeed, the house, like many pre-Civil War structures in Brooklyn, has been altered over time.

Now covered with vinyl siding, most of the — likely modest — architectural details the building once had are hidden from view. The exact date of construction is unknown, but it was Whitman’s home in 1855 when he published the first version of Leaves of Grass. Whitman continued to revise the work until his death in 1892.

As Brownstoner columnist and preservationist Suzanne Spellen argued in writing about the house, “what makes it special among all the other covered-up, remuddled pre-Civil War houses houses on this block is that it is the last remaining home of the great Brooklyn (and American) poet.” Whitman moved from the home in 1862 and left Brooklyn altogether in the 1870s.

Vogel has reached out to other preservationists to weigh in on the matter. In a letter of support for Vogel’s RFE submission, the Historic Districts Council asked for serious consideration of the house for its “great cultural significance,” noting that while the house has been altered, “one cannot restore what is not there, and that is why it is imperative that this building remain standing.”

A few other memorials here honor Brooklyn’s poet. There is a plaque on the exterior of the Eagle Warehouse which was constructed on the original location of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, where Whitman once worked.

His poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” is inscribed along the railings of Fulton Ferry Landing and Walt Whitman Park is located off Cadman Plaza East in Downtown Brooklyn. Not far from Whitman’s house, the Walt Whitman Houses, a NYCHA development, bear the acclaimed author’s name.

There is a historic sited dedicated to Whitman on Long Island. The small Huntington Station farmhouse where Whitman was born, in 1819, and where he lived until moving to Brooklyn at the age of four was saved in the 1950s and is now a state historic site.

While Landmarks considers the RFE, Vogel hopes the idea of preserving Whitman’s home will stir the imagination of New Yorkers and lead to more thorough scholarship about the house.

“We’re going to need to rely in large part on a groundswell of public outcry,” Vogel told Brownstoner. “Imagine if this building were demolished five years from now because we did not act: We would lose one of the city’s only remaining tangible links to Walt Whitman and one of America’s most celebrated literary works.”

All photos by Susan de Vries for Brownstoner, with exception of Instagram post by Brad Vogel (@bowerybird) and image of Walt Whitman circa 1854 (via Library of Congress).

Click here to read the article on Brownstoner.com.

#LGBTHistoryMonth with Teachers College at Columbia University

20171010
By: Jackie Heltz

From EdLab at Teachers College at Columbia University.

Beginning in 1994, the month of October (February in the UK) was declared LGBT History month; a 31-day observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history and the history of the gay rights and civil rights movements.

As luck would have it, NLT is right on trend with the publication of this week’s Seen in NY episode: NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. Founded by three graduates of the Columbia University Historic Preservation Program, the initiative is the first to “document historic and cultural sites associated with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in the five boroughs. ” Sites shed light on an otherwise invisible history and explore everything from theatres to bars, museums, residences, monuments, and even education institutions including Columbia University which was home to the first gay student organization in the nation back in 1967.

As an added bonus, I was invited to join a private NYC LGBT Historic Sites walking tour of the Greenwich Village. Over the course of about 90 minutes we covered nearly 50 sites including Eleanor Roosevelt’s apartment, Judson Memorial Church, the Little Red Schoolhouse, and Julius’– a bar brought into the public eye as the site of the 1966 Sip-In which was responsible for the state liquor authority’s reversal of its discriminatory policies against serving openly gay patrons.

We hope you’ll check out and share tomorrow’s SiNY!

Documenting and celebrating lesbian nightlife in NYC

20171011
By: Karen Loew

In all of New York City, four lesbian bars: Henrietta Hudson’s and the Cubby Hole, both in the West Village; Ginger’s in Park Slope, Brooklyn; and the Bum Bum Bar (pronounced boom-boom), in Woodside, Queens.

Artist Gwen Shockey is documenting the dwindling number of spaces in New York City dedicated to lesbian nightlife. CityLab spoke with Shockey, on the occasion of her recent exhibition “No Man’s Land” at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, and with our own Ken Lustbader about the “grassroots” research Shockey employs, through archival research, oral histories and photography.

 

 

Preserving the Meaning of Lesbian Bars

As gay people and places are more accepted than ever, their bars are dwindling in number—especially for women. Now artists are documenting what these spaces mean to the community.

 

Photo: The bar at Henrietta Hudson’s in New York, photo by Karen Loew.

We rolled through the doors of Henrietta Hudson’s early on a weekend night. It was well before the club became electric, but my new pal Angola was already excited. “I gotta look around,” she said as we entered the first of three rooms, complete with dance floor, pool table, two bars, and seating nooks. “This is like the Vatican.”

Somehow, neither Angola nor I had visited Henrietta’s before. This venerable “bar and girl” in Manhattan’s West Village is one of only four lesbian bars still open for business in all of New York City. That sounds shocking until you learn that San Francisco has none at all. This fact is part of the reason we finally stopped by: It was a celebration following the opening of “No Man’s Land,” an artwork exhibition by Gwen Shockey on display at New York’s Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. Her multimedia piece, installed for just one weekend in late September, responds to the reality of the dwindling number of spaces dedicated to lesbian nightlife.

At a time when gay people and places are more accepted than ever, the number of gay bars is declining. The decrease is far starker for women’s bars, because there were never as many of those in the first place. The causes include the “mainstreaming” that allows LGBTQ people to mingle elsewhere, the prevalence of hook-up apps, and the high cost of urban real estate. The circumstances vary in each place; some surmise, for example, that San Diego still sustains two lesbian bars because it’s a military town and a port town.

Scenes from the ‘No Man’s Land’ installation. Left: A video of Henrietta Hudson’s exterior. Right: A recreation of Henrietta Hudson’s restroom doors, with signs labeled “Whichever.” (Karen Loew)

Shockey’s exhibit echoes the scenes of New York’s four remaining lesbian bars. It feels like a bar in its own right: Lights are low, disco balls glint, drinks are poured, music plays, and visitors mingle. In the room with them are four unattached walls that represent the bars. On one side of each wall, a video shows a bar’s exterior; on the other side is a recreation of that bar’s bathroom doors. These four bars are Henrietta’s; the Cubby Hole, also in the West Village; Ginger’s in Park Slope, Brooklyn; and the Bum Bum Bar (pronounced boom-boom), in Woodside, Queens.

Shockey’s work laps into the realms of history, sociology, and preservation. Through recorded interviews with lesbians of every age and station, she’s learned about some 90 past bars and parties in New York, and photographed many of the addresses. Some of these interviews and prints will be included in her upcoming show in Brooklyn. Next, she’d like to make a book out of her photos and interviews, along with the histories she’s uncovered.

With this project, Shockey joins other gay artists whose work includes documenting the gay physical world, past and present—artists as concerned with spaces as with the body. Edie Fake makes intricate architectural drawings of real and imagined queer spaces from his native Chicago. Kaucyila Brooke has recorded and mapped past and present lesbian bars in three California cities, as well as Cologne, Germany. A faculty member at the California Institute of the Arts, Brooke says she began her ongoing project, “The Boy Mechanic,” in 1996 because, “It just felt pressing.” She wanted to capture the memories of places before they were lost—even though many of the places themselves weren’t much to look at.

Still, they must be seen, so Brooke took up documenting vernacular architecture: the everyday, often undistinguished structures that fill so much of the built environment.

“You have buildings that are designed to be something, by an architect,” she says. “But lesbian bars were usually something else before. And the bar owner tries to change the interior. This architecture that gets adapted and turned into something… is just interesting to me in terms of reusing things.”

It’s part of the “thrift economy” that expresses the “fugitive” nature of space for women and lesbians. Lesbian bars generally have understated facades, for example, in order to draw less attention from hostile men or police authorities.

Her photographs, videos, and other media have “to do with space, instead of looking at the body. Can you recognize anything by looking at a space? [Like] the difference between the surface and what’s underneath it, or inside of it?”

People who are trained in just that kind of detective work launched another effort—with more history, less art—two years ago. A team of historic preservation professionals is behind the NYC LGBT Sites Project, which aims to become an all-encompassing documentation of places where LGBT people have gathered—particularly when they illuminate the community’s impact on American culture. The project’s goal of “making an invisible history visible” is enriched by all kinds of participation, says Co-Director Ken Lustbader.

“We are really interested in having people understand the visceral connection to a location,” Lustbader said. “One of the most interesting ways that this [documentation] is being done is by the enthusiasts, and the more grassroots historians.”

That includes Shockey’s trove of interviews, Hugh Ryan’s research on the queer Brooklyn waterfront, or any number of entertaining Instagram accounts. In fact, it seems possible that whether rooted in New Orleans or floating on the internet, the diverse collectors of this invisible history are just getting started.

Because one thing’s for sure, lesbian bars are still essential. The heartbreaking words of interviewees in Brooke’s San Diego video still ring true. “Everybody out there was against us. And we would go into this little dark place, it was a bar, and find each other. And become friends. And care about each other,” one woman says.

“It was just nice to be in an environment where you could just be free. And just relax,” says another.

Ask the tall, skinny dyke from New Zealand who was having a high time at Henrietta Hudson’s on her very first night in New York City, already kissing a pretty girl and taking recommendations on where to find the best fried chicken. Or the handsome trans woman, recently moved to NYC from North Carolina, who happily accepted Angola’s offer to “be her gay mom” (and, impressively, set off to visit the three other lesbian bars in a single night). Or the bar patron who received advice from E., the mellow-fabulous bartender, on how to get a traditional male barber to cut a woman’s hair. Or anyone on the soon-crowded dance floor, if you could peel them away.

Lesbian and bisexual women of every description were free, and relaxed, and finding each other. It’s a thing of the present, not just the past.

Click to read the article on CityLab.


 

Featured in new LGBTQ design and lifestyle magazine

20170924
By: Deborah L. Martin

Exuberance, New York’s first LGBTQ luxury design and lifestyle magazine, has just premiered its first issue … and there we are, on page 40! Our sincere thanks to the editorial team at Exuberance for introducing your readership to the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

And be sure to flip to the end for a special tribute to the Stonewall National Monument (page 98).

Click here to read Exuberance online.

Featured imaged: “Gay Liberation,” sculpted by George Segal and unveiled in Christopher Park in 1992. Featured on page 98 of Exuberance magazine.

 

20-site Greenwich Village walking tour conveys Stonewall uprising’s pivotal history

20170929
By: Tanay Warerkar

From Curbed.com

Earlier today, the National Parks Conservation Association launched a walking tour that’s dedicated to telling the story behind the 1969 Stonewall uprising and the subsequent fight for LGBTQ rights.

This self-guided walking tour will include 20 different stops near and around the Stonewall Inn (now a national monument), in the Greenwich Village area. In creating this walking tour, the NPCA partnered with NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project and built on their groundbreaking work identifying sites of historic importance to the LGBTQ community in the city.

“Stonewall isn’t just a building, it’s the birthplace of an important movement,” Cortney Worrall, the Northeast senior regional director for NPCA, said in a statement. “And the supporting role the surrounding neighborhood played in this movement can only fully be understood by walking the streets and reliving how the uprising unfolded. This is how we remember our painful past, and what keeps our country from repeating it.”

Stops on this tour include the former home of the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop (the country’s first LGBTQ bookstore) on Christopher Street; Julius’ Bar, where the Mattachine Society held a “sip-in” to protest the State Liquor Authority’s policy of revoking licenses from bars that served lesbians and gay men; and the snake pit, a basement bar that too was raided less than a year after the Stonewall uprising.

“Our mission is to make the invisible history of New York City’s LGBT community, which can be felt throughout the city but particularly here in Greenwich Village, a visible and better understood facet of our city’s historical fabric,” Jay Shockley, co-director of the Historic Sites Project, said in a statement.

Read the original article on Curbed.com.

National Historic Designation of Staten Island’s Alice Austen House to Include LGBTQ Status

20170629

 

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project is pleased to have amended the National Register listing of the Alice Austen House to reflect her importance to American photography and her 50 year relationship with Gertrude Tate. We’re working to ensure that these hidden narratives become known since LGBT history is American history.”

— Andrew Dolkart, lead listing author and Project co-director

Read the complete article.

Video: Tour historic LGBT sites in Greenwich Village, from Stonewall and beyond

20170629

WATCH as we tour Greenwich Village sites significant to LGBT history in NYC, The Stonewall Inn, Julius’ bar, Fedora and more.

Interview: The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project Talks Gay History and Advocacy in NYC

June 28, 2017

We spoke with 6sqft about Pride Month, the origins of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project and the future of gay advocacy in NYC. Read the full article.

Explore Brooklyn’s LGBT History at Six Historic Sites

20170626

Many thanks to Brownstoner for highlighting our Brooklyn entries, including: Truman Capote’s Home, Transy House, Lesbian Herstory Archives, Green-Wood Cemetery, Starlight Lounge and Walt Whitman House! Enjoy reading this article!

Photo: Trans activist Slyvia Rivera, center, of the Transy House in Park Slope / photo by Luis Carle/National Portrait Gallery/Smithsonian.

10 Notable Sites, featured by Untapped Cities

June 23, 2017

 

Which LGBT performance venue bills itself as “the oldest collectively-run performance space for women and/or trans artists in the known universe?” Cruise through this great round-up of Project entries from Untapped Cities.

 
Photo: Protestors at the Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day, via New York Public Library.

 

25 Historic LGBTQ Sites to Visit

June 21, 2017

Curbed NY has mapped 25 LGBT historic sites to visit before the Pride March this Sunday … or any time of year! New sites mapped since the maps initial release last year, so be sure to click through and see historic sites such as: The Stonewall Inn, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, Julius’s bar, Lesbian Herstory Archives, Alice Austen House Museum, NYC AIDS Memorial, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, Judson Memorial Church, Cubbyhole bar, and Housing Works Bookstore Cafe.

Explore the map.

New York’s L.G.B.T.Q. Story Began Well Before Stonewall

20170619

We spoke with The New York Times about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement before — and beyond — The Stonewall Inn:

“L.G.B.T. history is American history, and the contributions of L.G.B.T. Americans to the wider culture have been huge. If you took them away I don’t know what America would look like.”

Read the full article here. Then, watch the #Daily360 video published as follow-up to this terrific article, by Liam Stack.

Video: We are Proud

20170615

As part of ABC7’s coverage of the 48th NYC Pride March, we were featured as one of the station’s vignettes about various people and groups who are remembering the past and celebrating the community’s strides this Pride Month.

 

Preservationists Create Interactive Map of Historic LGBT Sites in NYC

20170501

Today we were featured on Towleroad.

Preservationists Launch Interactive Map of Historic Sites of LGBT Activism and Culture

20170424

We were picked up by Joe. My. God. in this article.

Explore NYC’s Rich History with a New Interactive Map

May 3, 2017

Today we were featured in Travel + Leisure.

Our co-director Jay Shockley pointed out that “Part of our project is to reinterpret American history through an LGBT lens” and that “One major aspect of our project is to prove that there’s a lot of history before Stonewall.”

Our co-director Ken Lustbader also shared that “One of the issues is really to make sure we are getting the diverse representation of the LGBT community,” which we are working on through research and community outreach.

See New York’s Historic LGBT Sites in a New Interactive Map

April 24, 2017

Our work was picked up in Curbed New York, which you can read in full via this link.

NYC’s Hidden LGBT Historic Sites Get Illuminated on Interactive Map

April 24, 2017

Thanks to DNA Info for covering our interactive map in their recent article.

Our co-director Ken Lustbader notes in the piece that “We’re talking about LGBT history, which is often covert, hidden, transitory, dismissed,” and that our project is “not just self-referential. It’s showing that LGBT history is American history.”

Kerry McCarthy of the New York Community Trust, one of our project partners, says that the project “shows so much of the contributions [that] LGBT members have made to the society at large.” She added, “If history is written by the victors and no one writes your history you remain invisible.”

Explore Historic LGBT Sites in NYC

20170329

Today we launched our interactive map of 100 LGBT historic sites across the five boroughs of NYC! This is only the beginning. We have hundreds of sites in our database waiting to be researched and added to the map.

While we work on that, we wanted to thank 6sqft, a blog of City Realty, for covering the launch of our project and for highlighting some of the features you’ll find on our website. You can read the article over at 6sqft.

Mapping Where LGBT History Unfolded in New York

20160722

In this article from City Lab, the Atlantic’s urbanism website, project directors Andrew Dolkart and Ken Lustbader talk about the importance of documenting LGBT history in New York. The piece also discusses other LGBT preservation efforts around the country.

Read the full article via City Lab.

NYC Pride: Tracing the History of NYC’s Gay Neighborhoods from Past to Present

June 30, 2016

Following President Obama’s designation of Stonewall National Monument last week, the Brick Underground ran a story on the changing nature of gay neighborhoods over the years. Project co-director Ken Lustbader weighs in at the end of the piece about the importance of documenting LGBT history beyond the well-known sites such as Stonewall.

Read the full story via the Brick Underground.

The Oldest Gay Bars in New York

20160625

The Daily Beast explores some of the oldest sites in New York that we would identify today as gay bars. These are all places that our project has uncovered since our work began last year. Ken Lustbader, our project co-director, and George Chauncey, author of Gay New York and a member of our advisory committee, are quoted in the piece.

Read the whole article via The Daily Beast.

Meet the Preservationists Who Are Cataloging NYC’s LGBT History

June 24, 2016

In this article from Curbed, our project co-director Ken Lustbader discusses our research process and the kinds of LGBT historic sites we are documenting around the five boroughs. He says, “More than anything we want this project to be fun and to provoke curiosity. There was a strong, thriving LGBT community in New York even before Stonewall, and it has had a direct impact on American culture. Our project is just one of the many ways to tell those stories.” The piece also covers our recent pride flagging events at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn and Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

Read the whole story via Curbed.

New York’s Oldest Gay Bar Approved for Landmark Status

April 21, 2016

Thanks to the Washington Blade for its continuing coverage of our nomination of Julius’ to the National Register of Historic Places! In the article, project co-director Ken Lustbader said, “We’re thrilled that it is officially listed and that the National Park Service added another site recognizing LGBT history and allowing LGBT history to stand alongside American History.”

Read the full story via the Washington Blade.

New York’s Oldest Gay Bar Nominated for Landmark Status

April 14, 2016

The Washington Blade covered our nomination of Julius’ to the National Register of Historic Places and featured excerpts from our report.

Read the full story via the Washington Blade.

Beyond Stonewall: Five More New York LGBT History Sites

20160412

The National Trust for Historic Preservation helped highlight our work by featuring five historic sites in New York City associated with LGBT history. All of these places, plus many more, will be featured on our interactive map once it launches in the near future.

See which sites were featured on the National Trust’s blog.

Activists Work to Give Official Designation to Historic LGBT Sites

20150619

Our co-directors Andrew Dolkart and Ken Lustbader spoke with NY1 about the importance of reinterpreting sites for their LGBT history, citing one example of Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. Kerry McCarthy of the New York Community Trust, one of our lead grant supporters, also spoke about the importance of our project.

Read the full story and watch the video on the NY1 website.

Sites of Resistance: Mapping LGBTQ History with New York City Preservationists

20150616

Before our project officially launched in August 2015, the American Historical Association interviewed our co-director Jay Shockley on the importance of our project.

Read the full story on the blog of the American Historical Association.