overview

The writer Mercedes de Acosta, known for her tell-all autobiography that detailed her love affairs with some of the world’s most famous women, lived in this apartment building in the 1960s, the last years of her life.

In the interwar years, she was a well-known society figure who attended the city’s drag clubs and speakeasies.

Header Photo
Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2016.

History

Controversial, pants-wearing lesbian writer Mercedes de Acosta (1893-1968) lived her last years in this apartment building at 315 East 68th Street. The daughter of wealthy Cuban immigrants, she grew up in New York, and from the 1920s to the ’40s was a figure in both society and the city’s drag clubs and speakeasies.

Though she was the author of books of various genres, de Acosta is not well remembered today as a writer except for her 1960 tell-all autobiography, Here Lies the Heart, which caused the alienation of many of her friends (some claimed it was blatantly false). It detailed her love affairs with some of the world’s most famous women – she boasted “I can get any woman from any man” – including Alla NazimovaEva Le GallienneIsadora DuncanMarlene Dietrich, and, most obsessively, Greta Garbo.

After a life marked by fame, glamour, and wealth, de Acosta at the end had a variety of illnesses and died in poverty.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: George and Edward Blum
  • Year Built: 1930-31

Sources

  1. Daniel Hurewitz, Stepping Out: Nine Walks Through New York City’s Gay and Lesbian Past (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1997).

  2. Extravagant Crowd: Carl van Vechten’s Portraits of Women – Mercedes de Acosta,” Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University, bit.ly/2eLzSUR.

  3. Mercedes de Acosta,” Robert A. Schanke, bit.ly/2eLzfed.

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Lesbian Life Before Stonewall

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