BRUSH UP

You’ve Heard Of Stonewall, But How About These Four Other LGBT National Landmarks?

stonewall-innToday, the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission votes on whether or not to add the Stonewall Inn to its calendar to be considered for landmark status. As the New York Times notes, once a venue makes it onto the calendar, the likelihood of receiving the status is all but certain.

“The agency has been working on this for some time and LGBT pride month is an ideal occasion to recommend this iconic cultural landmark,” Meenakshi Srinivasan, the commission’s chair, said in a statement.

While the West Village bar has become a national symbol of gay rights since the famous 1969 riots there, it’s hardly the only place of LGBT significance with a history that deserves to be passed down.

In fact, the Stonewall is already one of only five sites recognized as a National Historic Landmark.

We thought it was as good a time as any to brush up on these four other lesser-known landmarks:

Dr. Franklin E. Kameny House, Washington D.C.

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Frank Kameny began a life of LGBT advocacy after he was fired from the US Army’s Map Service in 1957 because he was gay. He co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington with Jack Nichols, and is considered by many to be the father of gay activism. From this house, he “led his campaign against sodomy laws, helped overturn the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of homosexuality as a mental illness, lobbied against the federal government’s refusal to grant security clearances to homosexuals, and became the first openly gay candidate to run for Congress.” We take these things for granted today, but Kameny was considered a true radical of his day, and “his day” wasn’t all that long ago.

Carrington House, Fire Island, NY

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Built in 1912, the Carrington house is part of the earliest wave of development on Fire Island and is the oldest surviving building in Chery Grove. New York theater director Frank Carrington acquired the house in 1927, and along with the area’s burgeoning arts community, was responsible for establishing Fire Island as a welcoming retreat for the LGBT community. The island’s remote yet accessible location made it perfect for gay visitors looking for some freedom to be themselves, if only for a short while. Carrington hosted many queer artists at the property, from New York City Ballet co-founder Lincoln Kerstein to fashion designer Bill Blass to screen legend Katharine Hepburn. It was during a stay at the house that Truman Capote wrote his 1958 novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Cherry Grove Community House and Theatre, Fire Island, NY

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Speaking of Fire Island, the Cherry Grove Community House and Theatre was also instrumental in establishing Fire Island as a gay refuge, and stands as the oldest continually operating gay summer theater in the United States. By the mid 1940s, a homeowner’s associated had formed on Fire Island as a de facto government. In 1948, the association founded an “Artistic Activity Group” which held theatrical performances at the Community House. “Veteran theater performers and directors such as Frank Carrington, Cheryl Crawford (co-founded the Actors Studio), and novelist Carson McCullers provided creative direction. Broadway and Hollywood actors and actresses such as Peggy Fears, Nancy Walker, and Betty Garde performed at the shows.”

James Merrill House, Stonington, CT

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Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Ingram Merrill purchased this house with his partner David Jackson in 1954, where Merrill spent summers writing works like Divine Comedies and The Changing Light at Sandover. In addition to being one of our artistic national treasures, Merrill “created the Ingram Merrill Foundation in the 1950s [which] subsidized literature, the arts, and public television, with grants directed particularly to writers and artists showing early promise.” Upon Merrill’s death in 1995, the property was converted into apartments for writers to live rent-free for twelve month residencies. The decor has been left virtually identical to when Merrill and Jackson lived there, and over thirty writers have made it a temporary home to focus on writing.

The former Chicago home of Henry Garbner, founder of the Society for Human Rights, the first American gay civil-rights organization, and the former San Francisco home of the late gay supervisor Harvey Milk are expected to make the list next. 

What do you think deserves to be added?

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