Initiative uncovers historical sites linked to the LGBTQ+ movement across New York City

Lauren Glassberg Image
Wednesday, June 23, 2021
Historical sites linked to the LGBTQ+ movement by new intiative
Lauren Glassberg reports on the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- A new initiative is aiming to uncover historical sites linked to the LGBTQ+ movement across New York City that could be both informative and preservative.

The Stonewall Inn, where the gay rights movement was born, is a destination spot for many -- including Brienne Pfifer and her ally friends who are visiting from Portland.

"This is giving me chills," Pfifer said.

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When Yvonne Ritter was 18, she celebrated her birthday at the Stonewall Inn on the night of the riots.

Across the street is Christopher Park, a national monument, currently surrounded by Pride flags.

"It's my number one spot," said Natalie Derewjanko, visiting from Chicago. "First stop in the city today."

But what many visitors may not know about are the unmarked sites that also have LGBTQ+ ties, some dating back to the 1700s.

"We're another minority community that has a rich history," Jay Shockley said. "But no one was looking at it."

That's why he and his co-founders started the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, focused on making an invisible history visible.

"Even within the LGBT community, when we described what we were interested in, there was like, what else is there besides bars?" he said.

It turns out there's whole lot -- their website currently has 350 locations across all five boroughs.

They include what was once called the Ridiculous Theater Company, founded by a gay man, and a women's detention center that also housed lesbians.

There's also shop that was once a gay bookstore and community center.

"Our main goal is to teach our community we have a very rich history," Shockley said.

People can use the data and map to create their own tours, where they can learn about those lesser known gems.

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"I'd love to know the history of everywhere," Pfifer said. "It's such a beautiful thing. I'd love to know more."

The initiative could also help preserve some of these sites by helping people learn and remember their significance.


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