Charles Leslie & Fritz Lohman Residence
Charles Leslie and Fritz Lohman, the founders of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art (formerly the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art), first began displaying gay-themed artworks in their loft in this SoHo building in 1969.
While living here, they advocated for the protection of SoHo’s historic cast-iron buildings and opened several galleries celebrating the works of LGBT artists, at a time when this kind of artwork was considered controversial.
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Partners Charles Leslie (b. 1933) and Fritz Lohman (J. Fredric Lohman; 1922-2009) launched the first gay art space in New York in their SoHo loft, at 131 Prince Street, 4R, in 1969. Leslie and Lohman were also major players in the establishment of SoHo, first, as an arts community, and, ultimately, as a trendsetting commercial hub.
Leslie, born and raised in Deadwood, South Dakota, attended the Pasadena Playhouse College of Theatre Arts and the Sorbonne in Paris. Lohman, born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, ran a successful interior design business for 40 years that catered to a wealthy clientele, including Barbara Walters and the late French fashion designer Jacques Fath.
During the 1970s, Leslie and Lohman waged a legal battle with the city to rezone 12 commercial blocks to residential. In the end, their efforts resulted in 48 square blocks being rezoned into what is known today as SoHo. At the same time, they joined the efforts to save the district’s historic cast-iron buildings, which resulted in the designation of the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1973. “We fought an aggressive battle with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to declare SoHo a landmark because of its amazing assemblage of cast-iron buildings,’’ Leslie said.
The couple’s best known legacy is the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art (formerly the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art), which had its origins in their SoHo loft at 131 Prince Street, 4R.
When we first set up house, we became aware that many great artists were gay … We noticed that a lot of them had amazing works of erotica and political and social imagery that resonated with the gay community.
They decided to exhibit gay-themed works, which most art galleries deemed too controversial at the time, in their home in 1969 and 1970. The turnout exceeded expectations when hundreds of people came. Leslie and Lohman soon opened a gallery on Broome Street, which closed in 1981.
In 1987, they co-founded the Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation, a non-profit organization which has grown exponentially ever since, and opened the Leslie-Lohman Gallery in a building next door. The gallery moved to its current location at 26 Wooster Street in 2006, was later renamed the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, and is now the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art.
- Architect or Builder: W. Pigueron
- Year Built: 1903
Charles Leslie, phone call with Jerry Kajpust, June 17, 2019. [source of all Leslie quotes]
Jerry Kajpust, Director of External Affairs, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, e-mail to NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, June 18, 2019.
Kris Grey, Deputy Director of Education and Visitor Experience, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project Site Suggestion Form, 2018.