June is Gay Pride Month

This year’s Gay Pride Month certainly got off to an auspicious start with the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission finally agreeing to consider the Stonewall Inn for individual landmark designation — a proposal GVSHP has been spearheading for the last year and a half — which would make it New York City’s first LGBT landmark.

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The Stonewall Inn

But there’s lots of different ways to celebrate Gay Pride Month or just learn a little bit more about LGBT history, and GVSHP’s got plenty of ways to do it!

Programs:  On June 23rd we have a slide lecture Gay Liberation in Photos with Ellen Shumsky, and (if you’re planning ahead) our July 21 slideshow and lecture Night Vision: The west Village At Night with photographer Efrain Gonzalez will certainly cover lots of LGBT life.

Activism:  Stonewall may have been calendared for consideration for landmark designation, but that doesn’t mean it’s been landmarked yet.  Hold June 23rd on your calendar to attend and testify in support at the Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing on the proposal (time TBD, but it will be during the day), and in the meantime, write to the LPC urging them to not only designate Stonewall but to consider the three other very important LGBT history sites GVSHP has also proposed for landmark designation.

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Find out if Gay Street is really ‘gay’.

Remember How Far We’ve Come:  In recent years the LPC has been quite resistant to landmarking sites based upon LGBT history — take a look at how as recently as just two years ago GVSHP reported on how the agency was willing to celebrate gay pride, but unwilling to designate gay landmarks, and in 2012, the double-standard the LPC applied in evaluating potential landmarks with connections to LGBT history, as compared to other kinds of history.

Remember the Losses:  In our recent past we’ve lost people and places we should never forget.  Read more about 186 Spring Street, a nearly 200 year old house the City allowed to be demolished in spite of an incredible connection to the gay liberation movement and early AIDS activism here and here, about the first ominous reporting in the New York Times in 1981 about a “rare cancer seen in 41 homosexuals,” and about the secret lesbian life of Kitty Genovese.

Mom and Church:  GVSHP was proud to honor the special contributions made to Village and LGBT history by the Church of the Village and Jeanne Manford, founder of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.  This now international organization was founded at the Greenwich Village Church in 1973 by Manford, who died at 92 in 2013.  GVSHP and PFLAG placed a plaque on the building to mark the historic event.

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Is Gay Street Really ‘Gay’?:  Spoiler: It’s not, but the story offers some fascinating glimpses into the gay history of the Village and the history of the evolution of the word ‘gay.’

Take A Sip:  Stonewall isn’t the only important historic gay watering hole in NYC, nor even the only one to contribute to gay activism or LGBT liberation.  Three years before Stonewall, in 1966, activists staged a “sip-in” (a take on the ubiquitous “sit-ins” of the era) at Julius’ Bar at 159 West 10th Street to demand that they be served alcohol even after openly stating that they were homosexuals.  At the time, New York State did not allow alcohol to be served in bars to anyone considered “disorderly,” and homosexuals were considered, to say the least, inherently so.  This rule made gay bars de facto illegal, which is why they were run by mafia, often raided by the police, and not very nice places to spend time for the most part.  This was the first planned civil disobedience for LGBT rights ever, and it resulted in New York State regulations being changed.

Contemplate Statistics:  Take a look at some 2010 Census data to see where gay couples lived, and have migrated to, in New York City over the years.

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It all hinged upon a Greenwich Village gay marriage.

Drag Yourself to the Pyramid:  Find out more about the history of the Pyramid Club at 101 Avenue A — once dubbed New York City’s first “drag landmark”– a space GVSHP has extensively researched and fought to get included in the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District.

Remember A Dog Day Afternoon:  See how the landmark film was connected to an early gay marriage in the Village.

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There’s LGBT history around every corner in Greenwich Village; in this case, find out more in the South Village Historic District designation report.

Have A Ball:  One of the first sites landmarked in New York City with reference to its history connected to LGBT people is Webster Hall, the site of early 20th century drag balls and other events for the LGBT community, first proposed for landmark designation by GVSHP in 2007.  You can read the city’s landmark designation report for the site here.

Read A Report:  Webster Hall was one of the first but certainly not the last site in New York City which has been landmarked with some reference to its role in connection to LGBT history, and nearly all are in the Village or East Village, and were proposed for designation by GVSHP.  These include:

Gansevoort Market Historic District Designation Report Designated September, 2003, and nominated by GVSHP’s Save Gansevoort Market project, this report includes the history of gay establishments in the area and the area’s historic role in New York’s gay community.
Gansevoort Market Historic District, Part I
Gansevoort Market Historic District, Part II

127 MacDougal Street Landmark Designation Report Designated June, 2004, nominated by GVSHP and the NY Landmarks Conservancy. This report includes the history of early lesbian and gay establishments on MacDougal Street.

129 MacDougal Street Landmark Designation Report Designated June, 2004, nominated by GVSHP and the NY Landmarks Conservancy. This report includes the history of early lesbian and gay establishments on MacDougal Street.

131 MacDougal Street Landmark Designation Report Designated June, 2004, nominated by GVSHP and the NY Landmarks Conservancy. This report includes the history of early lesbian and gay establishments on MacDougal Street.

Weehawken Street Historic District Designation Report Designated May, 2005 in response to GVSHP’s “Campaign to Save the Far West Village.” Includes history of gay establishments in the area and the area’s historic role in New York’s gay community.

Proposal for a South Village Historic District Written by Andrew Dolkart, commissioned by GVSHP to support proposal for a South Village Historic District. Includes the role played by MacDougal, Bleecker, and West 3rd Streets in the late 19th/early 20th centuries as the center of lesbian and gay life in New York. (see pp.66-67)

South Village Historic District Designation Report This historic district report documents the rich array of 19th and early 20th century sites connected to the development of this neighborhood as a mecca for immigrants, artists, writers, and musicians in the 20th century, as well as achapter focused specifically on the neighborhood’s LGBT history. The South Village was once the center of the world for LGBT New Yorkers. In fact, a century ago, the South Village was one of the few places on earth with an open and visible concentration of establishments catering to the LGBT community, attracting visitors and tourists from around the world.

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PFLAG plaque

Still want more?  See GVSHP’s Village LGBT history webpage here, the Guide to Lesbian and Gay Historical Landmarks Map on our website here, or just search our website using LGBT or gay — you’ll find lots there!

It’s June, so go forth and celebrate LGBT Pride and History Month — there’s lots of ways to do it!

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Andrew Berman

Andrew Berman has been the Executive Director of GVSHP since 2002.