clock menu more-arrow no yes

The U.S. LGBTQ History Sites That We Should Preserve

View as Map

Earlier this month, Chicago's Henry Gerber House, a starting point for the gay rights movement in the United States, was designated a National Historic Landmark by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, making it the second such LGBT heritage site to be landmarked in the United States (after New York's Stonewall Inn). But that's far from the only such site on the radar of the Rainbow Heritage Network, a group trying to gain recognition and most importantly, protection, for the nation's LGBTQ History.

A coalition of more than 400 preservationists and gay rights activists, Rainbow Heritage, which started in January, has begun to push for preservation on a national level. According to one of the founders, Mark Meinke, who also worked with the Rainbow History Project, preserving LGBTQ sites on a local, state and federal level presents its own unique challenges.

"We're trying to spur local, grass roots interest in queer communities," he says, "and many of our community sites have traditionally been in marginal economic areas, since it was cheaper and less likely for neighbors to object. Our community isn't all about Mount Vernons. As these areas gentrify, we can easily lose historic sites, so the Rainbow Heritage Network is trying to ensure that more are saved."

Meinke points to the recent loss of the Michels-Carey house site in San Diego, demolished seemingly without notice, as an object lesson in why it's so important to focus on preservation now. The group has started working with the National Park Service on their LGBTQ Heritage Initiative, but believes it's important to be proactive about preserving their history.

"Recently, people were more worried about preserving their jobs, not preserving their history," says Meinke. "Now a new generation is aware there was a history that came before them. If you're, say, a Latino, you can see that history in front of you. Not a lot of our history has been preserved. People without a history can be erased."



· Durable Rainbow: MoMA Adds the Rainbow Flag to Its Permanent Collection [Curbed]
· Preservation Watch archives [Curbed]

Read More

1. Reed Erickson Home

Copy Link
4047 Hundred Oaks Avenue
Baton Rouge, LA 70808

Following his transition in 1963-1965 from female to male under the care of Dr. Harry Benjamin, Reed Erickson moved back to Baton Rouge, where, as Rita Alma Erickson, he had previously been a student at LSU. Here he incorporated the Erickson Educational Foundation that would channel his philanthropy to the transgender and gay activist communities.

2. Harry Hay Home

Copy Link
2328 Cove Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90039

One of the nation's earliest gay rights groups was founded here. In 1950 at this Cove Avenue residence, Harry Hay, Rudi Gernreich, and two of their friends, Chuck Rowland and Bob Hull, began meeting every week to discuss homosexuality and homosexual disenfranchisement, setting the stage for the modern gay rights movement. The group organized the Mattachine Society. The nearby Mattachine Steps marker was placed in 2012 to honor their efforts.

3. Dr. Fritz Klein Home

Copy Link
5484 Lenox Drive
San Diego, CA 92114

Dr. Fritz Klein, a leading researcher on bisexualism, community organizer and a creator of the Klein scale (an expansion of the Kinsey scale) and founder of the American Institute of Bisexuality, lived here with his partner, Tom Reise, until his death in 2006 .

4. San Francisco Bisexual Center

Copy Link
Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA

Opened in 1976 by Maggi Rubenstein and Harriet Leve, the center, the first of its kind in the world, created a sense of community and support for California bisexuals. The center closed in 1985.

5. Dr. Harry Benjamin's Office

Copy Link
450 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

The ornate office building was the site of Dr. Harry Benjamin's San Francisco practice, which supported transgender individuals. For many years, Benjamin was seen as the one physician who would help transsexual individuals. His Standards of Care (1979) and 1966 book The Transsexual Phenomenon became the foundation of medical practice and counseling for transgender care. One of Benjamin's earliest transgender cases was that of Reed Erickson who transitioned under Dr. Benjamin's care in 1965.

6. Bloodroot

Copy Link
85 Ferris Street
Bridgeport, CT 06605

Founded around 1974 by lesbian feminists in an effort to create their own institutions and organizations, Bloodroot began as a bookstore and restaurant. It's still known for its vegetarian and vegan cuisine, run by two of the original members of the collective, Selma Miriam and Noel Furie.

7. Hendrie Hall

Copy Link
Yale University, 165 Elm Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Hendrie Hall at Yale University housed a variety of LGBTQ organizations in the late 1970s, such as Yalesbians, the New Haven Gay Alliance, the New Haven Gay Coffeehouse, and the New Haven Gay Switchboard.

8. Gay Liberation Front House

Copy Link
1620 S Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20009

The Gay Liberation Front house was a political collective that offered support groups, meeting, space, and a haven for gay youth. Breadbox, GLF's outreach to gay street youth, was published from here.

9. Guild Press

Copy Link
813 8th Street Northeast
Washington, DC 20002

H Lynn Womack's Guild Press published calendars, gay guides, and books from this building on Barracks Row from 1964 to 1971, in the shadows of the U.S. Capitol Building. Guild Press and Womack became the subject of several obscenity prosecutions that resulted in significant changes to obscenity law and liberalization of censorship law. The Supreme Court's 1962 decision, Manual Enterprises Inc. vs. Day, which Womack brought to the court after being told his magazines were "unmailable," held that homosexual publications were not obscene per se. The Press also briefly published (1970) a national gay newspaper, The Gay Forum.

10. Elizabeth Bishop House

Copy Link
624 White Street
Key West, FL 33040

Critically acclaimed lesbian poet Elizabeth Bishop purchased the house in Key West with her partner Louise Crane. She lived here and in Brazil with subsequent partners Marjorie Stevens and Lota de Macedo.

11. Smokey's Den

Copy Link
127 N. Fifth St.
Springfield IL 441 East Washington St. Springfield, IL

This club was owned by iconic lesbian club owner Mary Lou "Smokey" Schneider. Opened in 1966, the club presented drag shows with the Smokettes that drew fans from St. Louis on weekends.

12. Sweet Evening Breeze Home

Copy Link
186 Prall Street
Lexington, KY 40508

James R. Herndon was known for many years as Miss Sweets, a well-known and much-loved drag performer in Lexington respected for his skills as an orderly and for his kindness and generosity.

13. Gay Community News Offices

Copy Link
22 Bromfield Street
Boston, MA 02108

Gay Community News, the gay community newspaper of record, published here from 1973 to 1992. The paper's reach in the gay movement was so widespread, members were occasionally referred to as the "GCN Mafia."

14. Bisexual Resource Center

Copy Link
29 Stanhope Street
Boston, MA 02116

Originally known as the East Coast Bisexual Network when it was founded in 1985, The Bisexual Resource Center advocated for bisexual visibility and support. The center grew out of the first national conference of bisexuals.

15. Equal Time Newspaper Offices

Copy Link
600 Fairview Avenue North
Saint Paul, MN 55104

From 1982 to 1994, Equal Times published on the west side of St. Paul, focusing on political and social issues. Alison Bechdel wrote the Dykes to Watch Out for comic strip for the paper.

16. Gay House

Copy Link
216 Ridgewood Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55403

The original Gay Liberation Front-inspired LGBT community center near the University of Minnesota. Known as FREE, it offered counseling, community activities and legal referrals. In the early 1970s.

Loading comments...

1. Reed Erickson Home

4047 Hundred Oaks Avenue, Baton Rouge, LA 70808

Following his transition in 1963-1965 from female to male under the care of Dr. Harry Benjamin, Reed Erickson moved back to Baton Rouge, where, as Rita Alma Erickson, he had previously been a student at LSU. Here he incorporated the Erickson Educational Foundation that would channel his philanthropy to the transgender and gay activist communities.

4047 Hundred Oaks Avenue
Baton Rouge, LA 70808

2. Harry Hay Home

2328 Cove Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90039

One of the nation's earliest gay rights groups was founded here. In 1950 at this Cove Avenue residence, Harry Hay, Rudi Gernreich, and two of their friends, Chuck Rowland and Bob Hull, began meeting every week to discuss homosexuality and homosexual disenfranchisement, setting the stage for the modern gay rights movement. The group organized the Mattachine Society. The nearby Mattachine Steps marker was placed in 2012 to honor their efforts.

2328 Cove Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90039

3. Dr. Fritz Klein Home

5484 Lenox Drive, San Diego, CA 92114

Dr. Fritz Klein, a leading researcher on bisexualism, community organizer and a creator of the Klein scale (an expansion of the Kinsey scale) and founder of the American Institute of Bisexuality, lived here with his partner, Tom Reise, until his death in 2006 .

5484 Lenox Drive
San Diego, CA 92114

4. San Francisco Bisexual Center

Hayes Street, San Francisco, CA

Opened in 1976 by Maggi Rubenstein and Harriet Leve, the center, the first of its kind in the world, created a sense of community and support for California bisexuals. The center closed in 1985.

Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA

5. Dr. Harry Benjamin's Office

450 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

The ornate office building was the site of Dr. Harry Benjamin's San Francisco practice, which supported transgender individuals. For many years, Benjamin was seen as the one physician who would help transsexual individuals. His Standards of Care (1979) and 1966 book The Transsexual Phenomenon became the foundation of medical practice and counseling for transgender care. One of Benjamin's earliest transgender cases was that of Reed Erickson who transitioned under Dr. Benjamin's care in 1965.

450 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

6. Bloodroot

85 Ferris Street, Bridgeport, CT 06605

Founded around 1974 by lesbian feminists in an effort to create their own institutions and organizations, Bloodroot began as a bookstore and restaurant. It's still known for its vegetarian and vegan cuisine, run by two of the original members of the collective, Selma Miriam and Noel Furie.

85 Ferris Street
Bridgeport, CT 06605

7. Hendrie Hall

Yale University, 165 Elm Street, New Haven, CT 06511

Hendrie Hall at Yale University housed a variety of LGBTQ organizations in the late 1970s, such as Yalesbians, the New Haven Gay Alliance, the New Haven Gay Coffeehouse, and the New Haven Gay Switchboard.

Yale University, 165 Elm Street
New Haven, CT 06511

8. Gay Liberation Front House

1620 S Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20009

The Gay Liberation Front house was a political collective that offered support groups, meeting, space, and a haven for gay youth. Breadbox, GLF's outreach to gay street youth, was published from here.

1620 S Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20009

9. Guild Press

813 8th Street Northeast, Washington, DC 20002

H Lynn Womack's Guild Press published calendars, gay guides, and books from this building on Barracks Row from 1964 to 1971, in the shadows of the U.S. Capitol Building. Guild Press and Womack became the subject of several obscenity prosecutions that resulted in significant changes to obscenity law and liberalization of censorship law. The Supreme Court's 1962 decision, Manual Enterprises Inc. vs. Day, which Womack brought to the court after being told his magazines were "unmailable," held that homosexual publications were not obscene per se. The Press also briefly published (1970) a national gay newspaper, The Gay Forum.

813 8th Street Northeast
Washington, DC 20002

10. Elizabeth Bishop House

624 White Street, Key West, FL 33040

Critically acclaimed lesbian poet Elizabeth Bishop purchased the house in Key West with her partner Louise Crane. She lived here and in Brazil with subsequent partners Marjorie Stevens and Lota de Macedo.

624 White Street
Key West, FL 33040

11. Smokey's Den

127 N. Fifth St., Springfield IL 441 East Washington St. Springfield, IL

This club was owned by iconic lesbian club owner Mary Lou "Smokey" Schneider. Opened in 1966, the club presented drag shows with the Smokettes that drew fans from St. Louis on weekends.

127 N. Fifth St.
Springfield IL 441 East Washington St. Springfield, IL

12. Sweet Evening Breeze Home

186 Prall Street, Lexington, KY 40508

James R. Herndon was known for many years as Miss Sweets, a well-known and much-loved drag performer in Lexington respected for his skills as an orderly and for his kindness and generosity.

186 Prall Street
Lexington, KY 40508

13. Gay Community News Offices

22 Bromfield Street, Boston, MA 02108

Gay Community News, the gay community newspaper of record, published here from 1973 to 1992. The paper's reach in the gay movement was so widespread, members were occasionally referred to as the "GCN Mafia."

22 Bromfield Street
Boston, MA 02108

14. Bisexual Resource Center

29 Stanhope Street, Boston, MA 02116

Originally known as the East Coast Bisexual Network when it was founded in 1985, The Bisexual Resource Center advocated for bisexual visibility and support. The center grew out of the first national conference of bisexuals.

29 Stanhope Street
Boston, MA 02116

15. Equal Time Newspaper Offices

600 Fairview Avenue North, Saint Paul, MN 55104

From 1982 to 1994, Equal Times published on the west side of St. Paul, focusing on political and social issues. Alison Bechdel wrote the Dykes to Watch Out for comic strip for the paper.

600 Fairview Avenue North
Saint Paul, MN 55104

16. Gay House

216 Ridgewood Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55403

The original Gay Liberation Front-inspired LGBT community center near the University of Minnesota. Known as FREE, it offered counseling, community activities and legal referrals. In the early 1970s.

216 Ridgewood Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55403