A historic gay site in New York City recently became a landmark. The Stonewall Inn, which is located on Christopher Street, is a well-known and respected property in the Greenwich Village Historic District, one that played a major role in the 1969 fight against local law enforcement during the gay rights movement.
During that era, the Stonewall Inn was the only establishment where gay couples were allowed to dance slow and close. Back in the late 1960s, people would come to enjoy Motown music played on the jukebox and mingle with other gay people from around the city.
Today where the Stonewall Inn was once located are two brick and mortar buildings, one a nail and spa business and another a bar, also called the Stonewall Inn. The focus during a recently scheduled meeting was to turn these two structures into one landmark, hailed for its role in transforming the social history of New York City.
The Gay Rights Movement
On June 28, a hearing was held by the Landmark Preservation Commission where approval was granted in getting the Stonewall landmark status. As stated by commission spokeswoman Meenakshi Srinivasan, with the approval, the building is now the first of its kind designated by the panel within a historic district.
The timing of the meeting could not have been more perfect. The commission met on the anniversary of the uprising that occurred at the Stonewall Inn. However, the meeting was also held during the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, which is a group established to bring light to the modern day movement for gay rights.
In a statement from Srinivasan, turning the Stonewall Inn into a New York City landmark has been on the agenda for quite some time. Having scheduled the meeting during the LGBT Pride Month was the ideal time to recommend that the iconic Stonewall Inn be recognized for the significant role it played during the gay rights movement back in 1969 and on into today.
Originally, the Stonewall Inn was constructed in the 1840s as two stables but then in 1930, they were both rebuilt. However, in 1967, the Stonewall opened as a gay bar. The exterior of the building was left unmarked excluding a broken neon sign that read “Stonewall Inn”. Even with little outward advertisement, the establishment became a popular hot spot for gays.
For the first two years, things appeared to run smoothly but in search of bootlegged alcohol, eight police officers raided the Stonewall Inn in the early morning hours of June 28. Inside were approximately 200 people but only men dressed as women were arrested. Instead of the crowd dispersing, people began to congregate outside with a large number of individuals getting involved. Soon, scuffles with law enforcement broke out and as a direct insult to officers, pennies were thrown at them.
With the crowd growing and things getting more and more out of control, police called for backup. Although the doors to the Stonewall Inn closed following the riots, the establishment’s relevance to gays has never died.
Andrew Berman, executive director for the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation said, without question the Stonewall Inn was a very unique case. Rather than significance lessening, it has increased dramatically over the years. Thirty years after the riots of June 28, not only is the Inn listed on the National Register of Historic Places but now, added as a National Historic Landmark.
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