6 LGBTQ Landmarks Join The Stonewall Inn As Historic Sites In NYC
New York City is celebrating this year's pride month in a big way. The city is home to both World Pride festivities and Stonewall 50, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the historic Stonewall uprising. Now, the Big Apple has taken another step to honor its LGBTQ history. There are now six new historic LGBTQ landmarks in New York City, and they are an important part of the city's past and its future.
As Curbed reported, New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted to give the six sites landmark status on Tuesday. As the LPC's website described, a landmark designation means that a "building has special historical, cultural, or aesthetic value to the City of New York, state or nation, is an important part of the City's heritage ..."
NBC indicated that the LPC, along with New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, selected the six sites from a longer list of locations provided to them by the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. Ken Lustbader, the co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, noted to the network that his organization is "thrilled" about the LPC's vote.
Prior to Tuesday's announcement, only one historic LGBTQ site — the Stonewall Inn — held landmark status in New York City. Here's a closer look at each of the six sites that will now join the bar in holding this special designation.
The Women’s Liberation Center
According to the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, the Women's Liberation Center was a large meeting space that served as a hub for various groups and organizations that provided services to the city's lesbian community. It was based in an old firehouse building in Chelsea from 1972 to 1987, according to Curbed .
The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project noted that the Women's Liberation Center served as an office and meeting space for the Lesbian Feminist Liberation, a lesbian rights advocacy group, beginning in 1973. The group planned various activism events from this location.
Moreover, the Women's Liberation Center also housed the Lesbian Switchboard until 1987. According to the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center, the Lesbian Switchboard provided "peer counseling, factual information and referrals to the general public and the lesbian community." The Center added that the switchboard sought to "provide information on a broad range of issues of concern to lesbians" and serve as an information hub "about relevant organizations and events."
The Audre Lorde Residence
According to the Poetry Foundation, Audre Lorde was "a self-described 'black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet' who dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting ... injustices of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia." The Foundation noted that Lorde is known for both her poetry and prose, and she published many acclaimed works throughout her career. She was also New York's State Poet Laureate from 1991-1993 and a co-founder of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, the Foundation added.
Lorde lived in her Staten Island home from 1972 to 1987 with her two children and her partner, Frances Clayton, the LGBT Historic Sites Project noted. While residing in this house, Lorde wrote many of her well-known works from her upstairs office, including Coal, The Black Unicorn, The Cancer Journals, and Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, the Project added.
As Atlas Obscura described, Greenwich Village's Caffe Cino is largely considered the birthplace of "Off-Off Broadway" theater — a noncommercial, more experimental approach to the art. Moreover, as the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project noted, Caffe Cino is also considered "highly significant as a pioneer in the development of gay theater, at a time when it was still illegal to depict homosexuality on stage."
Caffe Cino operated on Cornelia Street from 1958 through 1968. Atlas Obscura reported that most plays depicted at the cafe were created by gay men — and they often featured gay men as their main characters as well. The outlet emphasized that the location was considered a hub for New York's gay theater community.
The coffeehouse closed in 1968 following the death of its owner, Joe Cino.
New York City’s LGBT Community Center
The still-operational Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center opened in the West Village in 1983. According to the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, the Center has played a crucial role in the origins of many of the country's most well-known LGBTQ advocacy organizations and service providers. The Project noted that "ACT UP, GLAAD, Las Buenas Amigas, Queer Nation, the Lesbian Avengers, and the Gender Identity Project" were all founded at the Center. The Center is also home to the LGBT Community Center National History Archive.
On its current website, the center stresses its continued commitment to providing a myriad of services to the LGBTQ community in New York City. "We offer the LGBTQ communities of NYC advocacy, health and wellness programs; arts, entertainment and cultural events; recovery, parenthood and family support services."
The James Baldwin Residence
James Baldwin was a writer and civil rights activist who resided in his Upper West Side residence from 1965 until his death in 1987. According to Oprah magazine, Baldwin's books offered progressive and insightful commentary on sexuality, race, and religion. Baldwin didn't self-identify as part of the LGBTQ community, though his work pointedly brought significant attention to LGBTQ issues, the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project noted.
Baldwin also became highly involved in the African American civil rights movement, both through his writing and through his participation in marches and activism events.
The Project further noted that, while Baldwin spent much of his time abroad (in France), his New York City residence was "an important social hub for civil rights activists and black literary figures."
Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse
The Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) was founded in 1969 in the wake of the Stonewall uprising. The organization was created as an advocacy group to "to secure basic human rights, dignity, and freedom for all gay people," according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
According to the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, GAA used the firehouse to plan various LGBTQ activism events in the 1970s. It was also home to many LGBTQ social activities, including regular Friday night film screenings and Saturday night dances.
Given their groundbreaking and highly influential contributions to the city and its LGBTQ community, these landmarks now have a mark of distinction that serves to even further cement their important place in New York's history.