For over two decades, New York City has been in the forefront nationally in the historic preservation of LGBTQ historic and cultural sites. Beginning in the early 1990s, a number of historic preservationists, historians, and artists began documenting LGBTQ history and worked on projects to bring official commemoration and public awareness of significant LGBTQ sites.
Given that New York is the largest American city and has a dense urban building fabric, and also that the various New York LGBTQ communities have been so prominent in LGBTQ rights and other social movements, and all aspects of American arts and culture, it is no surprise that there are many notable sites.
Join the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project’s co-director Ken Lustbader and project manager Amanda Davis in this video tour of historic sites around Greenwich Village that play an equally important role as the Stonewall Inn in LGBT history and advocacy in NYC and beyond.
Due to unjust laws and social mores, socialization among LGBTQ people was limited to small groups until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. LGBTQ people created social and political spaces in order to share face-to-face contact and find community. The physical landscape of LGBTQ lives, therefore, plays a special role in this group’s history.
The New York City LGBT Historic Sites Project, initially conceived as a two -year project, is currently surveying, documenting, and evaluating previously unknown and undocumented properties in all five boroughs of the city associated with LGBTQ historic and cultural themes, as well as those already locally designated or listed on the NRHP, flagged for LGBTQ connections. A publically accessible, online map of sites has now been created.
The project provides context documentation for New York City’s LGBTQ history and extant sites that show the impact that the LGBT community has had in fields such as the arts, literature, and social justice. You will also discover important gathering spaces, such as bars, clubs, and community centers that, until fairly recently, were the only places where LGBT people could come together and be themselves in a way that they often could not be in their personal and professional lives.
The Gansevoort Market Historic District was designated in 2003! Included are LGBT history in places such as 669-685 Hudson Street (pictured below), location of the gay clubs Triangle, Barn, Attic, Sewer, and J’s Hangout.
Sites range from bars such as Stonewall to the Starlight Lounge in Crown Heights, and a number of important social and political spaces that served as an alternative to the (often Mafia-run) bar scene that were established in New York City, before the 1983 opening of the The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in Greenwich Village. Curated Themes & Tours: Early Community Centers
DID YOU KNOW? The original Stonewall bar where the 1969 uprising took place was actually located in both of these buildings, not just the one on the left.
From choreographers to performers to costumers and more, LGBT New Yorkers’ contributions to the art of dance is remarkable. LGBT history happened on the dance floor, at underground bars and under disco balls. Learn more:
The researchers also dive into the famous disco club Studio 54, finding that many of the sound and interior designers were gay men who later died of AIDS, giving the club’s history a “layer of pathos” in a story that might otherwise remain untold, explained Ken Lustbader, who directs the project with Columbia professors of architectural history Andrew Dolkart and retired historian from the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission Jay Shockley.
The Louis N. Jaffe Art Theater, a former Yiddish theater, was the location of the Mafia-controlled 181 Club from 1945 to 1953. The theater was known for its lavish shows of female impersonators (a term used at the time), and the pioneering Off-Broadway Phoenix Theater (in operation from 1953 to 1961). It was also the residence of several LGBT artists from the 1970s to the 1990s, such as the iconic Jackie Curtis.
Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and more. American musical life and history dovetails with the legacies of countless LGBT artists. Fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent was among the many gay and bisexual men who flocked to legendary Studio 54 nightclub in the late 1970s (discomania reigned!). In that same decade, he was painted by pop artist Andy Warhol, whose Carnegie Hill townhouse (along with Studio 54) is featured on the website.
Studio 54 – Documentary
“Because there are so few places for this community to go, when Starlite was open, they came from all over. It went from being a neighborhood bar in the ’50s and early ’60s into being really an institution in the gay black community.” (Kate Kunath, director) Learn more about LGBT history in the borough of Brooklyn:
LGBT social and activism groups met throughout NYC, and largely in Greenwich Village. From the Gay Liberation Front’s Alternate U. to the Gay Activists Alliance and more
“Everard’s Turkish Baths plays a major role in New York’s gay life. On weekend nights, there is almost always a waiting line after 10 PM, sometimes over an hour long for dormitory space and longer yet for rooms.” (Gaedicker’s Sodom-on-Hudson, 1949) Learn more about the Everard Baths and other sites affiliated with “Cruising & Sex”:
If you are new to their project be sure to visit their FB page and click the blue “Sign Up” button to the right under the cover photo to receive news about #NYCLGBT Historic Sites and to be privy to all sorts of additional tidbits from LGBT History.
Lastly, don’t forget to tell your friends so they can continue to make this invisible history VISIBLE!
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