Stonewall Inn to be considered as Possible Individual Landmark

Site of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, a catalyzing event in the history of the LGBT-rights movement, originally constructed as stables. On June 2, 2015, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to add the Stonewall Inn to its calendar for consideration as a potential individual City landmark, formally starting the designation process. The building stands at 51 and 53 Christopher Street in Manhattan, and lies within the Greenwich Village Historic District.

The subject property was originally built as two stable buildings in the 1840s that were merged in 1930, for use as a bakery. A new façade was created at the time of the merger, designed by architect William Bayard Willis. In 1934, it was converted to the Stonewall Inn Restaurant, and after a fire, re-conceived as a bar catering to a gay clientele.

The inn’s significance primarily lies in its role in the history of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender liberation movement. The bar was raided by police, a regular occurrence at gay bars, on the evening of June 27, 1969. On that night, however, the patrons fiercely protested, sparking several nights of rioting. Several activist organizations were formed in the aftermath of the riots, and the first anniversary of the rebellion was commemorated in New York by the Christopher Street Liberation Day. LGBT-pride celebrations in several other cities adopted the date, and it ultimately morphed into the internationally recognized LGBT Pride Month of June.

The building has undergone significant alterations, since its construction, but retains essentially the same appearance as it had in 1969. The projecting sign that identified the bar in 1969 has been lost, but the location still possesses the brick-clad ground floor, arched entrances, and stuccoed upper stories. The site is listed in the Federal National Historic Landmarks Program.

Landmarks Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan strongly recommended the commission to add the site to its calendar, and commented on the appropriateness of the first step toward designation occurring in June. Srinivasan stated that the site “represents a powerful movement” in the history of New York City as well as the nation. While already within the boundaries of a historic district, Srinivasan said individual landmark designation would ensure the protection of the site’s envelope and features.

Commissioner Fred Bland followed the Chair’s remarks, and said the commission should consider more items significant for their cultural history, even if they lack architectural importance or integrity. Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron also endorsed the motion, saying “buildings remember, and they testify to history.”

A date for a public hearing on the potential designation was set for June 23, 2015.

LPC: Stonewall Inn, 51-53 Christopher Street, Manhattan (LP-2574) (June 2, 2015).

By: Jesse Denno (Jesse is a full-time staff writer at the Center for NYC Law)

EDIT: A previous version of this story stated no date had been set for a public hearing.  The public hearing has been scheduled for June 23, 2015.

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