Stonewall Gains Federal Recognition on its 30th Anniversary
First Gay/Lesbian Site to be Listed on National Register of Historic Places
On Monday, June 21st, 1999, in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Assistant Secretary of the Interior John Berry announced the addition of the site of the Stonewall Uprising to the National Register of Historic Places. This is the first site listed on the National Register for its association with gay and lesbian history. The announcement was made in a special ceremony to kick off this year’s Gay Pride celebrations, held each year to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.
The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and the Organization of Lesbian and Gay Architects and Designers sponsored the national register application. Architectural historian Andrew Dolkart was the primary author of the report. David Carter, a historian currently writing an in-depth history of the Uprising for St. Martin’s Press was the primary researcher. The Jeffrey B. Soref Fund of Stonewall Community Foundation provided financial support for the initiative.
Thirty years ago this month, early in the morning of Saturday, June 28, 1969, the modern gay and lesbian civil rights movement was born — as gay men and women resisted a routine police raid on the Stonewall Inn, located at 51-53 Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. The raid set off six days and nights of rioting, street demonstrations, and protests as thousands of gay people took to the streets in Greenwich Village to demand an end to police harassment. The rebellion at Stonewall is regarded as the single most enduring event in the history of the gay and lesbian civil rights movement. This insurrection gave birth to the gay liberation phase of the lesbian and gay rights movement, transforming the struggle for homosexual equality from a small group of activists into a mass movement, making possible a rapid series of political successes.
The Stonewall nomination (which included the Stonewall Inn, Christopher Park and the surrounding neighborhood Streets) was unanimously approved by the New York State Board of Historic Preservation on March 24th, adding the site to the New York State Register of Historic Places. On May 27th the Keeper of the Register listed Stonewall on the National Register of Historic Places. The designation received numerous letters of support from organizations and individuals including U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler, State Senator Eric Schneiderman, State Assemblymember Deborah Glick, State Senator Thomas Duane, NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Jennifer Raab, New York City Councilmember Christine Quinn and historians Martin Duberman, Fred Wasserman and George Chauncey.
According to Kimberly Stahlman Kearns, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, “The listing of Stonewall on the National Register is a major milestone for the American Historic Preservation movement. It signals a commitment to a more inclusive approach to historic preservation that goes beyond recognizing architectural monuments to also honor the rich and diverse cultural heritage of the American population. For the first time, this includes the heritage of gay and lesbian Americans.” Established by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register of Historic Places is the federal government’s official list of the nation’s most important historic properties. There are currently over 70,000 sites on the National Register.
Click here to read more about the National Register listing from the New York Times.