On November 22, 2022, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate the Lesbian Herstory Archives as an Individual Landmark. The Lesbian Herstory Archive, located at 484 14th Street in Park Slope, is home to the nation’s largest collection of lesbian-related historic material and records. The Renaissance Revival-style building contains material dating from the 1950s to the present and includes oral histories, audio-visual materials, personal and professional papers, periodicals and files on lesbian activist and community groups.
The Archive was founded in 1974 by Joan Nestle, Deborah Edel and other activists and was part of a grass-roots effort to make a physical space to preserve and highlight lesbian history. By the late 1980s, the Archive outgrew its space and needed to relocate. Funds were raised and the Archive purchased 484 14th Street in 1991, where it has been located ever since. While 484 14th Street is already a part of the Park Slope Historic District, the historic district predates the archive’s arrival, so the historic district designation does not make mention of the building’s significance to LGBTQ+ history. Designating the building as an individual landmark officially recognizes those contributions and creates the first landmark in Brooklyn associated with the LGBTQ+ community.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission previously held a public hearing for the Lesbian Herstory Archive in late October. For CityLand’s prior coverage, click here.
The Commission voted unanimously to designate the Lesbian Herstory Archive. Landmarks Chair Sarah Carroll stated, “I am delighted Commission has designated the home of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, an important community space and a nationally important collection of LGBTQ+ historical materials. For over 30 years, the building has been the site of the Archives’ essential role in preserving and telling the stories of a mostly unseen community of women, including many who have contributed to America’s cultural, political, and social history. This designation draws attention to the importance of the Lesbian Herstory Archives to New York City and the country’s history and to LGBTQ+ communities.”
Saskia Scheffer, coordinator at the Lesbian Herstory Archives, stated, “The Lesbian Herstory Archives appreciate and gladly accept the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commision’s decision to declare our Archives an official landmark. This decision acknowledges the importance of our mission and our continued commitment to preserving the evidence of lesbian lives for current and future generations.”
Council Member Shahana Hanif, who represents Park Slope, stated, “I am thrilled that our community is gaining a Queer landmark location. With Queer rights and Queer people under attack in our nation daily, the designation of the Lesbian Herstory Archives as a City landmark is an important move to further solidify Queer history into the fabric of our City. For over 30 years, this site has been a physical archive for study, analysis, and community gathering among LGBTQ New Yorkers. With today’s designation, we’ll ensure this vital Queer space is in our City for decades to come.”
By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)