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Recognizing and Protecting LGBT Landmarks

GVSHP is spearheading an effort to get the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to recognize and protect historically significant sites connected to the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) rights movement.  Many of the most important such sites in the world are located right here in New York, largely in and around the Village. But none are currently recognized or protected for their connection to LGBT history by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, even though both the State and Federal government has done so. City recognition is critical because State and Federal designations are largely honorific, while only City designation regulates and prevents compromise or demolition of privately-owned historic properties.

GVSHP recently wrote the LPC urging them to take steps to recognize and protect some of the most important LGBT landmarks in New York -- the Stonewall Inn (51-53 Christopher Street), Julius’ Bar (159 West 10th Street), and the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse (99 Wooster Street). The Stonewall Inn was the site of the 1969 riots which sparked the modern LGBT rights movement; Julius’ is the oldest gay bar in New York and the site in 1966 of the first civil disobedience action for lesbian and gay rights, which led to the lifting of New York State’s ban on gay bars; and the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse was the headquarters and community center of the premiere gay activist group of the post-Stonewall era, which pioneered a series of “zaps” against government, business, and media figures for discriminatory actions and policies. Currently all three sites fall within designated historic districts (Stonewall and Julius’ within the Greenwich Village Historic District, and the GAA Firehouse within the SoHo Cast-Iron Historic District), though none are noted in any way for their connection to LGBT history in the designation reports -- the governing regulatory documents of historic districts.  Thus all are vulnerable to future compromise or loss. Read GVSHP’s letter to the LPC here.

This can be easily changed by amending the designation reports for these districts to include information about the LGBT history of these sites, or by considering the sites for additional individual landmark designation. In 1999 both New York State and the Federal government approved the nomination of the Stonewall Inn for the State and National Registers of Historic Places (the sites was co-nominated by GVSHP), and in 2012 New York State approved GVSHP’s request for a determination of eligibility for Julius’ Bar for the State and National Registers both based upon LGBT history.  But the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission is yet to approve a single site for landmark designation based upon LGBT history, and has let several sites such as 186 Spring Street and the Provincetown Playhouse and Apartments fall before the wrecking ball.

The LPC has indicated they will consider GVSHP’s request, but has made no commitment to move ahead. GVSHP has reached out to several other preservation organizations, elected officials, and community groups to support this effort -- read support letters here.  Read coverage in today's DNAinfo.


Read more about LGBT history and the Village and East Village here. Read about some recent progress on getting the LPC to recognize LGBT history in the South Village here.

Next: 03/10/14


Home : Preservation : LGBT History : 02/11/14

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