Fighting to Preserve 186 Spring Street, LGBT History, and the South Village
GVSHP is fighting to preserve the entire South Village and particularly 186 Spring Street, an 1824 house currently threatened with demolition, located within GVSHP’s proposed South Village Historic District (the first third of which was landmarked by the City in 2010).
We are pleased to report there is a glimmer of hope regarding 186 Spring Street. While the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) initially refused to consider saving the nearly 200 year old house, GVSHP did more digging and found some incredible but nearly forgotten history of the house and its residents’ connection to remarkable accomplishments in the early struggle for gay rights and against AIDS. Residents of the house, a ‘gay commune’ in the early 1970’s, founded some of the largest and most influential local and national LGBT organizations, many of which survive today. This included Jim Owles, the first openly-gay candidate for public office in New York City and an advocate for the first gay rights laws in New York City and State (decades before they became law), and Dr. Bruce Voeller, the subject of a landmark Supreme Court case establishing parental rights for gay men and lesbians, who conducted the first studies showing condoms could prevent AIDS transmission, successfully coined the term “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome” (AIDS) to replace the inaccurate and stigmatizing “Gay Related Immune Defense Disorder,” helped secure the American Psychiatric Association's removal of homosexuality from its official Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973, leading the way to multiple legal reforms, and helped end the U.S. Civil Service Commission’s prohibition on gay people serving in government employment in 1975, ending decades of witch hunts against government workers suspected of being gay. Read the full history HERE.
With these latest discoveries about 186 Spring Street’s important history, GVSHP was able to secure letters of support for saving it and the whole South Village from State Senator Tom Duane, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, and City Council Speaker Quinn; the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; City Councilmember Danny Dromm; City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer; the Preservation League of NY State; the LGBT Community Center; Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats; and the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, among others, and there has been continued positive media coverage of the preservation effort, including in The Villager newspaper (read HERE). The City has not yet issued demolition permits for 186 Spring Street and the LPC has said that they are taking a second look at this new information we provided and our request to save the house. But this could change at any time and demolition could still move ahead.
HOW TO HELP:
Find out more about 186 Spring Street HERE, the South Village HERE, and the Village’s LGBT history HERE.