A Guide to Lesbian & Gay New York Historical Landmarks

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0: Cherry Lane Theater
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1: Edna St. Vincent Millay House
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2: Berenice Abbott Studio
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3: Lesbian & Gay Community Services Center
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4: Julius'
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5: Fedora Restaurant
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6: Stewart's Cafeteria
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7: Christopher Street
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8: St. Luke's Place
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9: Elisbabeth Irwin High School
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10: Daughters of Bilitis
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11: Caffe Cino
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12: Provincetown Playhouse
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13: Eve's Place
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14: San Remo
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15: Stonewall Place & Christopher Park
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16: Stonewall Inn
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17: Patchin Place
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18: 171 West 12th Street
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19: James Beard House
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20: Murray Hall House
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21: Eleanor Roosevelt Apartment
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22: Willa Cather Apartment
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23: Forbes Magazine Building
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24: Esther Lape/Elizabeth Read House
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25: Washington Square
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26: MacDougal Street
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27: Judson Memorial Church
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28: Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse
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29: The Bagatelle
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30: Webster Hall
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31: Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop
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32: Columbia Hall ("Paresis Hall")
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0: Cherry Lane Theater

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38 Commerce Street. The experimental Cherry Lane Theatre was formed in 1924 by Edna St. Vincent Millay and a group of friends. Located in a former brewery, it continued to be used as a theater after the initial company disbanded in 1926. During the early 1960s, the Cherry Lane had a close association with playwright Edward Albee, featuring his The Zoo Story, The American Dream, The Sandbox, and The Death of Bessie Smith. In 1969 the theater put on To Be Young, Gifted and Black, a retrospective look at the life and career of Lorraine Hansberry. Recent successes include the revival of Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr. Sloane and David Steven's The Sum of Us.


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1: Edna St. Vincent Millay House

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75 Bedford Street. This tiny dwelling, often called the narrowest house in New York City, was the most notable of Edna St. Vincent Millay's many Village residences. In 1923, Millay became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. As an undergrad at Vassar, Millay was known as "Vincent" and, although she married Eugen Boissevain, all of her love affairs until the age of 25 are thought to have been with women.


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2: Berenice Abbott Studio

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50 Commerce Street.
Berenice Abbott went to Europe in 1921 to study sculpture and returned to New York in 1929 a photographer. Best known for her 1930s urban views published in 1939 as Changing New York, she was also a sought-after portraitist. Among her lesbian subjects were New Yorker writer Janet Flanner, writer Djuna Barnes; Jane Heap and Margaret Anderson, founders in 1914 of the avant-garde literary magazaine Little Review, and poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.


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3: Lesbian & Gay Community Services Center

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208 West 13th Street. Established in 1983 in this 19th century school, the Lesbian & Gay Community Services Center is the focal point for gay and lesbian activities in the region. A meeting place for nearly 400 groups representing the rich diversity of the community, the Center serves over 4,000 people per week and has witnessed the birth of a number of nationally important organizations including GLAAD, ACT UP and Stonewall 25. Among the works of art created for the Center is the Keith Haring mural in the second-floor men's room.


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4: Julius'

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159 West 10th Street. Opened in 1864, Julius' is reputed to be the oldest bar in the West Village. During the 1950s, Julius' began attracting gay customers. Serving gay patrons was in violation of the State Liquor Authority's rules, prompting many bar owners to post signs stating "If you are gay, please go away." In 1966, members of the Mattachine Society staged a "sip-in" here and were turned away. They had the city's Commission on Human Rights bring a discrimination case, and in 1967 the state court ruled that the Liquor Authority needed "substantial evidence" of indecent behavior (not same-sex kissing or touching) to close a bar, thereby reversing years of discrimination.


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5: Fedora Restaurant

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239 West Fourth Street. During a period of slow business in 1952, a mailing to several hundred gay men resulted in Fedora's becoming a popular gay watering hole. It is now New York's oldest continually operating restaurant with a large gay clientele.


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6: Stewart's Cafeteria

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(Later, Life Cafeteria) 116 Seveneth Avenue South. Stewart's opened in 1933 and quickly became a popular haunt for lesbians and gay men. Its plate-glass windows allowed those walking by to see the large congregation of homosexuals. Crowds were sometimes three to four deep, peering at the "dykes, fags, pansies, [and] lesbians" as one voyeur described the scene. Stewart's closed in the mid-1930s, subsequently replaced by the equally popular Life Cafeteria.


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7: Christopher Street

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After the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, Christopher Street (site of the Stonewall Inn) became the best-identified gay and lesbian street in the country. For decades, men had traveled to its terminus at the West Street Piers, a popular location for sexual encounters. However, it was not until the mid-1960s that the street became a nationally recognized cruising ground. Christopher Street's development as a gay street was due, in part, to the migration of gay life towards the West Village, from MacDougal Street in the 1920s, to Eighth Street in the 1940s, and then west to Greenwich Avenue in the 1950s, and eventually to Christopher Street. Christopher Street's permanence as a gay enclave was sustained with the emergence in the 1960s and '70s of gay-owned and gay-friendly stores, and the proliferation of gay bars.


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8: St. Luke's Place

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This beautiful street has been a favorite address for leaders in the arts and entertainment industry since the 1920s. Among its illlustrious gay and lesbian residents were poet Marianne Moore (No. 14), playwright/director Arthur Laurents (No. 9), and painters Paul Cadmus and Jared French (No. 5), who numbered British novelist E.M. Forster amoung their houseguests. Residents who had roles in raising gay "consciousness" were author Sherwood Anderson (No. 12), whose 1920s novel Winesburg, Ohio is notable for its sympathetic treatment of gay characters, and comedian Flip Wilson (No. 3) whose drag character "Geraldine" flirted outrageously with handsome male guest stars on national television in the 1960s.


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9: Elisbabeth Irwin High School

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34-40 Charlton Street. The Elisabeth Irwin High School is named for the founder of Greenwich Village's Little Red Schoolhouse, the influential demonstration school for progressive education.


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10: Daughters of Bilitis

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26-32 Charlton Street. Beginning in 1963, a basement office in this apartment building was home to the New York Chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian organization in America (founded 1955). Organized in 1958 under the leadership of Barbara Gittings, the New York Chapter was at the forefront of the gay rights movement. New York DOB participated in such landmark events as the 1965 White House protest against federal employment discrimination and the Independence Day demonstrations in Philadelphia (1965-69) that were the precursors of contemporary Gay Pride marches.


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11: Caffe Cino

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31 Cornelia Street. In 1958, Joe Cino opened a coffeehouse that became a hangout for people involved in art, photography, poetry, and theater, including many lesbians and gay men. It soon became an experimental performance space, now considered the first Off-Off-Broadway theater, as well as New York's first gay theater. Caffe Cino helped to launch the careers of playwrights Tom Eyen, William Hoffman, Robert Patrick, Doric Wilson, and Lanford Wilson, among others. It closed in 1968, the year after Cino's suicide.


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12: Provincetown Playhouse

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133-139 MacDougal Street. The Provincetown Playhouse was founded in 1916 as a serious amateur theater. Originally located in a rowhouse at No. 139, it moved in 1918 into a former stable at No. 133 (these were combined when the property was rebuilt in 1941-42). Eugene O'Neill was Provincetown's most famous early playwright, but Edna St. Vincent Millay and Djuna Barnes were also associated with the theater. The theater closed in 1929, ending what some consider the first major Off-Broadway theater experiment. In a later incarnation the theater housed Edward Albee's first play The Zoo Story (1960); Marty Martin's Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein (1979) with Pat Carroll; and Charles Busch's Vampire Lesbians of Sodom (1985).


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13: Eve's Place

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129 MacDougal Street. This rowhouse was the location of a speakeasy popular with lesbians in the mid-1920s. It was run by Eva ("Eve Addams") Kotchever, a Polish Jew. After the club was raided and closed in 1926, Eve was deported on the grounds of writing an "indecent" book.


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14: San Remo

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93 MacDougal Street. Originally a working-class bar established in 1925, the San Remo became a favored spot for artists and writers in the late 1940s and early 1950s and attracted a number of gay artists. Among these were poets and writers James Agee, W.H. Auden, Allen Ginsberg, and Harold Norse; composer John Cage; dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham; and painter Larry Rivers.


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15: Stonewall Place & Christopher Park

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New York City has recognized the historic importance of the Stonewall Rebellion by renaming Christopher Street (between Seventh Avenue South and Waverly Place) in 1989 as Stonewall Place and by placing George Segal's commemorative sculpture, Gay Liberation (1980), in Christopher Park in 1992. In the 1980s the park received its current design by landscape architect Philip Winslow, who later died of AIDS.


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16: Stonewall Inn

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51-53 Christopher Street. The Stonewall Rebellion, the catalytic event in the development of the modern lesbian and gay rights movement, began on the street in front of the Stonewall Inn, a bar that originally encompassed both storefronts of this building. In the 1960s, police raids on gay bars were routine. But at 1am, on June 28, 1969, something unprecedented happened--gays and lesbians fought back! They forced the police to retreat into the bar and set off five days of rioting in nearby streets. The sense of pride and identity engendered by this rebellion gave life to the nascent Gay Liberation movement, and the anniversary of the rebellion is now celebrated internationally.


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17: Patchin Place

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These modest brick rowhouses became a popular address in bohemian Greenwich Village, claiming such residents as political revolutionary John Reed, who lived at No. 7 in 1918, and author Djuna Barnes, who became a long-time resident of No. 5 after the publication of her lesbian novel Nightwood in 1936 (Barnes insisted that she was not a lesbian, but just happened to be in love with Thelma Wood, the former lover of photographer Berenice Abbott).


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18: 171 West 12th Street

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Between 1920 and 1950, many of the 24 apartments in this building housed influential women. Lesbians of note at this address included Communist Party Leaders Grace Hutchins and Anna Rochester, political radical Polly Porter, and Democratic Party leader Mary Dewson. Artist Nancy Cook and educator Marion Dickerman organized the Todhunter School on East 80th Street and the Val-Kill furniture factory near Hyde Park, in partnership with their friend Eleanor Roosevelt.


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19: James Beard House

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(Now, James Beard Foundation) 167 West 12th Street. This house was purchased in 1973 by chef James Beard who lived here with his lover, architect Gino Cofacci. Beard and Cofacci redesigned the ground-floor interior to house Beard's kitchen, the scene of his famous classes and cooking demonstrations.


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20: Murray Hall House

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457 Sixth Avenue. This modest building contained the home and employment agency of Murray Hall, a prominent Tammany Hall politician, who was revealed after her death in 1901 to have been a "passing" woman. Hall began living as a man in New York in the 1870s. Her fellow politicians regarded her as an influential leader, a fearless poker player, and an "all round good fellow." She married twice and both wives had occasion to complain of their "husband's" attentions to other women.


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21: Eleanor Roosevelt Apartment

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29 Washington Square West. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt maintained an apartment here from 1942 to 1949. As early as the 1920s, Roosevelt had associations with Greenwich Village and women who lived there.


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22: Willa Cather Apartment

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82 Washington Place West. Novelist Willa Cather, then an editor for McClure's Magazine, lived in this building with her lover Edith Lewis from about 1908 to 1913.


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23: Forbes Magazine Building

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60-62 Fifth Avenue. The Forbes Building was purchased along with an adjoining residence at 11 West 12th Street in 1925 by Malcolm Stevenson Forbes' grandfather, B.C. Forbes. Once Malcolm inherited Forbes Magazine, he had time to pursue his passions for hot air ballooning, motorcycles, and collecting antique toys, Faberge eggs, and attractive male employees. Malcolm frequently "dropped by" and asked new male employees to dinner, a night that often included viewing his vast collection of gay erotic art, an invitation to the sauna, and sex.


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24: Esther Lape/Elizabeth Read House

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20 East 11th Street. Writer Esther Lape and attorney Elizabeth Read, who lived together in this house for over two decades, were influential suffragist/political reformers and founders of the League of Women Voters. Their close friend Eleanor Roosevelt rented an apartment here from 1933 to 1942. During her years as First Lady, this address was her private haven where she could enjoy "her own company" when staying in New York City.


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25: Washington Square

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By the early 20th century Washington Square was a cruising ground for gay men, and the park's west side was later popularly referred to as the "meat rack."


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26: MacDougal Street

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During the 1920s, the block of MacDougal Street south of the square became the best known commercial strip of New York's lesbian and gay community, lined with restaurants, tearooms and speakeasies.


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27: Judson Memorial Church

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55 Washington Square South. In the 1940s the activist congregation of this church began sponsoring avant-garde exhibits and performances. Playwright and minister Al Carmines led the church and staged his works here after 1958. In the 1960s and 1970s the church was used as a hall for gay and lesbian political gatherings, including a mass protest in 1966 after the Lindsay administration attempted to "clean up" Washington Square.


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28: Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse

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99 Wooster Street. Founded in December 1969 by Marty Robinson, Jim Owles, and Arthur Evans as an offshoot of the leftist Gay Liberation Front, the GAA was an activist group famous for its "zaps." GAA became the leading gay liberation organization of the early 1970s. In 1970, GAA moved into this firehouse, which soon became the lesbian and gay community's first organizational and social center in New York. An arson fire in 1974 forced GAA to cut back on its functions; it officiallly disbanded in 1981.


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29: The Bagatelle

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86 University Place. Only a handful of lesbian bars existed in Greenwich Village during the 1950s. The Bagatelle, along with the Sea Colony on Eighth Avenue and the Swing Rendezvous on MacDougal Street, were among the most popular. Lesbian bars offered women the only opportunity to meet in public spaces; however, there was always the threat that plainclothes police could arrest you for transvestism if you were not wearing at least three articles of female clothing.


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30: Webster Hall

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125 East 11th Street. From 1913 until the late 1920s, Webster Hall hosted dances that attracted Greenwich Village's bohemian population. Various organizations sponsored lavish masquerade balls. Included in the frolicking were hundreds of gay men, many of whom attended in drag. Their presence, while tolerated, was continually under surveillance by private anti-vice societies. By the early 1920s gay men and lesbians were organizing their own balls at Webster Hall. It is currently a popular dance club under the same name.


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31: Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop

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(Original Location) 291 Mercer Street. Gay activist Craig Rodwell opened the nation's first lesbian and gay bookstore at this storefront in November 1967. It soon became an active meeting place for the gay and lesbian community. In naming the store, Rodwell chose Oscar Wilde since the name was easily identifiable as gay. From the beginning, Rodwell refused to sell material he deemed did not contribute to a positive image of the lesbian and gay community; this raised the ire of many, who charged the store with censorship. In 1973, the bookstore relocated to its current site, 15 Christopher Street.


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32: Columbia Hall ("Paresis Hall")

392 Bowery (demolished). During the 1890s, Columbia Hall (colloquially referred to as "Paresis Hall;" paresis being a medical term for insanity) was one of the many beer gardens and dance halls on the Bowery that were the headquarters for middle-and upper-class female impersonators. Owners of these establishments encouraged the presence of "fairies" in order to attract out-of-towners wanting to see the underworld, in some instances hiring female impersonators as waiters or prostitutes. "Paresis Hall" was also the meeting site of the Cercle Hermaphroditis, possibly the first homosexual civil rights organization in the United States.


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