overview

From Lillian Wald’s founding of a public health facility for the poor, to Berenice Abbott’s photographs of a changing city, to Lorraine Hansberry’s groundbreaking play A Raisin in the Sun, lesbians have left an indelible mark on New York City since at least the mid-19th century.

Often rejecting traditional gender roles, they lived in same-sex relationships and forged careers in politics and the arts long before the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s.

This curated collection includes the residences of pioneering lesbians as well as important early lesbian social spaces.

Header Photo
Poet Elsa Gidlow lived in Chelsea when she wrote On a Grey Thread (1923), believed to be the first book of openly lesbian poems to be published in North America. Source: Elsa, I Come with My Songs, p. 201. Courtesy of Shayne Watson.

Featured Historic Sites ( 13 )

A
2 Hylan Boulevard

Pioneering female photographer Alice Austen grew up in her family’s home where she later lived with schoolteacher Gertrude Tate, her partner of 53 years. Austen’s work includes early images of... Learn More

B
263-267 Henry Street

In 1893, public health nurse and progressive reformer Lillian Wald co-founded the Henry Street Settlement to provide no-cost medical services to poor immigrants living in cramped tenements on the Lower... Learn More

C
122 East 17th Street

Elsie de Wolfe, often credited as America’s first professional interior designer, and Elisabeth Marbury, one of the world’s leading, and pioneering female, theatrical agents and producers, lived together in this... Learn More

D
129 Macdougal Street

Eve Adams, the name adopted by a Polish-Jewish lesbian émigré, operated a popular gay and lesbian tearoom near Washington Square in Greenwich Village from 1925 to 1926. It closed when... Learn More

E
171 West 12th Street

This building was one of many apartment houses in Greenwich Village that attracted same-sex couples. After its completion in 1923, this was home to a number of women in the... Learn More

F
447 West 22nd Street

Poet Elsa Gidlow, though largely associated with the San Francisco Bay Area, likely wrote her groundbreaking book of poetry On a Grey Thread while living at this Manhattan address in the early... Learn More

G
130 West 3rd Street

Tony Pastor’s Downtown, in business from 1939 to 1967, was a mob-backed club with a mixed clientele but popular with lesbians. The New York State Liquor Authority revoked its liquor... Learn More

H
50 Commerce Street

Noted photographer Berenice Abbott lived here with her partner, the influential art critic Elizabeth McCausland, from 1935 to 1965. Abbott is best known for her 1930s photographs featured in the... Learn More

I
639 East 169th Street

Mabel Hampton was an African-American performer during the Harlem Renaissance and, in the 1970s and ‘80s, a key member of the Lesbian Herstory Archives. An icon of the New York... Learn More

J
29 Washington Square West

Between 1942 and 1949, this 16-story apartment building on MacDougal Street and Waverly Place was the New York City residence of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. During this time period, she... Learn More

K
337 Bleecker Street

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... Learn More

L
112 Waverly Place

In 1960, playwright Lorraine Hansberry bought this building with money earned from her award-winning play, A Raisin in the Sun (1959). Remaining active in the civil rights movement, Hansberry began a relationship... Learn More

M
315 East 68th Street

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... Learn More

Other Curated Themes

7 Sites

Transgender History

25 Sites

Gay-Owned Businesses

17 Sites

Communities of Color

24 Sites

Activism Outside Manhattan

18 Sites

Literary New York

13 Sites

Downtown Arts Scene

21 Sites

City of Immigrants

18 Sites

1970s Lesbian Activism & Community

7 Sites

The Bronx

8 Sites

Brooklyn Heights

7 Sites

Jackson Heights

12 Sites

Staten Island

10 Sites

Why We March

15 Sites

Village Pride Tour

20 Sites

Gay Activists Alliance

13 Sites

The Harlem Renaissance

12 Sites

Jewish New York

19 Sites

Pre-20th Century History

24 Sites

Bars & Nightlife

13 Sites

Activism Before Stonewall

23 Sites

Homophobia & Transphobia

43 Sites

Broadway Theater District

11 Sites

Influential Black New Yorkers

13 Sites

Early Community Centers

11 Sites

The AIDS Crisis

25 Sites

LGBT-Named Public Schools

14 Sites

Art & Architecture

10 Sites

National Register Listings

21 Sites

Spotlight on the Theater