overview

Since 1998, this Chelsea building has been the headquarters of the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, the global leader in LGBT healthcare.

Before moving here, Callen-Lorde was known as the Community Health Project, which opened in 1983 in the early days of the AIDS epidemic.

Header Photo
Credit: Google Maps, 2021.

History

In response to the AIDS epidemic, the Community Health Project (CHP) formed in 1983 as a result of a merger between the countercultural St. Mark’s Community Clinic, founded in the East Village in December 1969, and the Gay Men’s Health Project, founded at Liberation House in Greenwich Village in 1972. CHP operated from a small space in what would soon become the LGBT Community Center in Greenwich Village.

In 1985, CHP opened the nation’s first community-based HIV clinic in conjunction with Bellevue Hospital. CHP’s small, volunteer-run clinic included a significant number of staff from nearby St. Vincent’s Hospital, the first and largest AIDS ward on the East Coast. In the early 1990s, CHP expanded its services to include, for example, the Lesbian Health Program, the Transgender Health & Education Program (THE), and Health Outreach to Teens (HOTT).

With the goal of becoming a primary care facility, CHP was in need of a larger space that was code compliant with the New York State Department of Health. In 1996, CHP, with assistance from the State of New York, purchased the abandoned 27,000-square-foot, six-floor building at 356 West 18th Street in Chelsea. After a gut renovation, the facility opened on March 2, 1998. CHP, which closed its location at the LGBT Community Center on February 25th of that year, then became the Michael Callen-Audre Lorde Community Health Center (more commonly referred to as Callen-Lorde or the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center). It was named in honor of singer, songwriter, and AIDS activist Michael Callen (1955-1993) and Black lesbian feminist, writer, and activist Audre Lorde (1934-1992). A 1998 flyer announcing the opening of the new facility noted that it was New York City’s only health care center primarily serving the LGBT community and those living with HIV/AIDS.

Callen-Lorde, the global leader in LGBT healthcare, continues to operate from its Chelsea headquarters. It opened a satellite clinic, the Thea Spyer Center – named in honor of Dr. Thea Clara Spyer (1931-2009), wife of LGBT rights activist Edie Windsor (1929-2017) – in 2015, Callen-Lorde Bronx in 2016, and Callen-Lorde Brooklyn in 2020.

Entry by Amanda Davis, project manager (March 2024).

NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: John Ph. Voelker (Thanhauser & Esterson Architects P.C., gut renovation)
  • Year Built: 1911 (1997-98, gut renovation)

Sources

  1. “LGBTQ History Month,” Callen-Lorde, October 17, 2022, bit.ly/3THKIlH.

  2. “New Home for Gay/Lesbian Health Center,” The New York Times, January 12, 1997, bit.ly/3PySgVv.

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