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LGBT History and 186 Spring Street

In light of demolition plans that GVSHP uncovered for the Federal row house at 186 Spring Street, we recently discovered an incredible bit of history about the building. If surviving nearly 190 years in the ever-changing landscape of New York City isn’t remarkable enough, 186 Spring also stands as a significant link to the early years of the AIDS and LGBT Rights Movements.

As you can see in today’s New York Times (read here), the Landmarks Preservation Commission is now taking another look at saving the house based upon this history we have uncovered. We need your help right away to push them to recognize this landmark of LGBT and AIDS activism and history!

In the post-Stonewall era, 186 Spring was a “gay commune” for some of the most prominent and influential activists of the time, including Jim Owles, Arnie Kantrowitz, and Bruce Voeller. During their residency there they founded:

  • The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
  • The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
  • The Gay Activists Alliance

All of these organizations have had a profound effect on our city and our country, and paved the way for equal rights to members of the LGBT community. Jim Owles was the first openly gay candidate for public office in NYC, and lobbied for the very first anti-discrimination laws in the city and in Albany.

Bruce Voeller, a scientist and early AIDS activist, conducted the first study showing that condoms can prevent the spread of AIDS; he successfully pushed to rename what was then called “Gay Related Immune Defense Disorder” (GRIDD) the more accurate “Acquired Immune Deficiency Disorder” (AIDS). Voeller was also the subject of a landmark case before the United States Supreme Court establishing the rights of lesbians and gay men to visit and have access to their children at a time when they were still considered by many to be mentally ill and a danger to children.

Time is of the essence to save this building from the wrecking ball! We ask that you to send a letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission as soon as possible urging them to landmark 186 Spring Street for its significance to the early years of the AIDS and LGBT Rights Movements. You can do this by using our sample letter and spreading the word to friends! We would love it if you sent a copy to GVSHP.

To read more about the significance of this building, please see our letters to the LPC here and here

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