Travel

Historic LGBTQ Sites You Need to See in NYC

Published On 06/12/2019 Published On 06/12/2019
Stonewall Inn
The Stonewall Inn | Brian/Flickr
The Stonewall Inn | Yana Paskova/Stringer/Getty Images News

The Stonewall Inn

Greenwich Village

Yep, this is the bar known for the historic June 1969 riots, when queer activists fought back against discriminatory police raids. Lustbader says that it’s important for visitors to realize that this is not the “birthplace of the modern liberation movement,” and calling it such can minimize the previous activism led to that pivotal night. Recognizing this and what preceded this turning point, and understanding the streets where all the action took place is a huge part of comprehending LGBTQ history.

Courtesy of Julius'

Julius'

West Village

One of New York City’s longest-standing gay bars, this is a second home to LGBTQ people eager to dig into a burger or share a few drinks with newfound friends. While the interiors have historic charm -- the building dates back to 1826 and housed a grocery store before it was converted to a bar in 1864 -- its power is derived from the history of the people who supported it along the way. Julius’ survived as a speakeasy during Prohibition, and began attracting a gay clientele in the decades that followed. In April 1966 (pre-Stonewall), it sparked a “sip in,” to fight a New York State Liquor Authority regulation prohibiting bars and restaurants from serving homosexuals.

Julio Rivera Corner

Jackson Heights

A solemn place to visit, this site memorializes Julio Rivera, a gay New Yorker who was murdered by three skinheads in 1990. The tragedy helped generate political movement, especially in Queens, for LGBTQ visibility and fight against discrimination.

Times Square | Manu Padilla/Shutterstock

Theater District

Midtown West

While sites like Stonewall are famously important to America’s queer history, others may be more subtle. Lustbader recommends looking at the Times Square area through a new lens, to comprehend the massive role LGBTQ people (whether out or not) have had Broadway and theater culture. “It’s amazing to be able to understand that so many theaters have such a rich LGBT overlay,” he says.

Edna St. Vincent Millay Residence

West Village

The narrowest house in Manhattan is worth a visit for history buffs and architecture fanatics alike. Bisexual poet Edna St. Vincent Millay lived here from 1923-1925, writing in cramped quarters decades before creatives could toil in the relative comfort of WeWork spaces. The townhouse sold for $3.25 million in 2013, and the backyard garden (private access only, sorry) is #goals.

The Ramble | Ryan DeBerardinis/Shutterstock

The Ramble

Central Park

It’s easy to take the beautiful oasis in the middle of Manhattan at face value: Nice grass, few garbage heaps, plenty of room for outdoor imbibing. But the green acreage also had deep significance to gay New Yorkers and visitors throughout the 19th Century. The Ramble was a well-known cruising spot, and the city’s early Gay Pride Marches ventured from Christopher Street to Central Park.

Audre Lorde Residence

Staten Island

Black lesbian writer and activist Audre Lorde lived here with her partner and two children from 1972 to 1987. Here, she worked on various books and poems, and also co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press with black lesbian feminist Barbara Smith.

Alice Austen House Museum

Alice Austen House

Staten Island

This picturesque historic Dutch farmhouse (built in 1690) was home to photographer Alice Austen and her partner, Gertrude Tate in the early 19th Century. A National Historic Landmark since 1993, it now showcases Austen’s work, hosts weddings and opens its picturesque grounds to visitors. And at $5 a pop, it may be the most reasonable museum admission in all of New York.

Courtesy of Albatross

Albatross Bar

Astoria

The oldest gay bar in Queens, the old guard may remember this dive right off Astoria Boulevard as a lesbian bar, while recent regulars will know it as a straight up queer bar with Drag Race viewing parties and live drag queen performances. Albatross is full of lore, and frequently packed with locals and regulars vying to ensure its continued success.