Walk Through LGBTQ+ History with Our Civil Rights and Social Justice Map
Every June, New Yorkers and people from around the world gather in our city to celebrate Pride Month and honor the memory of the Stonewall Riots, three nights in 1969 that helped launch the modern fight for LGBTQ+ rights. And while the Stonewall Inn at 53 Christopher Street is indeed a landmark of that movement — one officially designated by New York City and a national monument as well — it is not the only one to honor that struggle in our communities.
Village Preservation’s Civil Rights and Social Justice Map highlights more than 50 noteworthy sites across Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo marking LGBTQ+ history. Here are just a few of the sites found in our neighborhoods that had an impact on this civil rights movement on a national and sometimes global scale.
Church of the Village/Site of First PFLAG Meeting, 201 West 13th Street
The organization Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) is today the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ family and ally organization, with nearly 400 chapters and 250,000 members and supporters crossing multiple generations of families across America. The group was born following the 1972 Christopher Street Liberation Day March (precursor to the modern-day Pride March), when Queens mother and teacher Jeanne Manford marched alongside her gay son Morty. She held aloft a sign reading “Parents of Gays Unite in Support for Our Children” that inspired many gay and lesbian people to run up to Jeanne and beg her to talk to their parents. Instead, she decided to begin a support group that first met at the Duane United Methodist Church at 201 West 13th Street (predecessor to the current Church of the Village) on March 11, 1973.
In 2013, Village Preservation partnered with PFLAG and the Church of the Village to place a plaque on the front of the church, commemorating the first meeting and founding of PFLAG.
Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (former location), 55-57 Bethune Street
Congregation Beit Simchat Torah is the world’s largest LGBTQ+ synagogue. Founded in 1973 by 12 Jewish gay men, it serves Jews of all sexual orientations and gender identities, and their families and friends. It originally met at Chelsea’s Church of the Holy Apostles at 300 Ninth Avenue. In 1976, they began renting space in the Westbeth Artists Community at 55-57 Bethune Street, overlooking that building’s iconic courtyard. It would remain there for more than four decades, playing an active role in the growth, challenges, heartbreaks, and delights of LGBTQ+ life in the Village, from the AIDS crisis to the first meeting of the community’s Hebrew School for children.
In 2016, the congregation moved to 130 West 30th Street — read more about its new home in a Cass Gilbert–designed building here.
Daughters of Bilitis (final location), 141 Prince Street
Originally founded in San Francisco in 1955, the Daughters of Bilitis was the first lesbian organization in the United States. In 1958, Barbara Gittings and Marion Glass founded the group’s New York chapter, which shared an office with the gay male organization the Mattachine Society. The initially tiny chapter bounced around the city for the next dozen years; the chapter’s final location was in a loft at 141 Prince Street, in a building that is still extant. The organization folded in 1970, and its publication The Ladder ran out of funds two years later, but it did inspire the creation of dozens more lesbian and feminist organizations across the country.
Gay Activist Alliance Firehouse (former location), 99 Wooster Street
The Gay Activists Alliance was founded in December 1969, six months after the Stonewall Riots. It grew into a leading organization in the gay liberation movement, starting off at the Church of the Holy Apostles at 300 Ninth Avenue; the group’s success forced it to search for a larger space that could serve as a community center, which it found in a former firehouse at 99 Wooster Street that dates from the 1850s but features notable redesign work by prolific fire-department architect Napoleon LeBrun in 1881–82. Here the Alliance planned sit-ins, picket lines, and “zaps,” direct but nonviolent performance art as a form of political protest aimed at politicians and celebrities. GAA was also the first group to adopt the lambda, a symbol of the organization and eventually of LGBTQ+ rights.
After years of advocacy efforts, Village Preservation succeeded in getting the former firehouse and Alliance headquarters landmarked in 2019.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, 208 West 13th Street
Accompanying the Gay Activist Alliance Firehouse into the ranks of NYC landmarks (also thanks to our work) is the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center at 208 West 13th Street. The Center has been a focal point for the LGBTQ+ community in New York City since its founding in 1983. It acquired the three-story Italianate-style former school from the City of New York in 1984, a beautiful brick Italianate structure that was originally built in the 19th century as P.S. 16. In the decades since the Center was established, it has played a key role in supporting the rights, health, and wellness of the community, welcoming hundreds of community groups and hosting meetings, celebrations, workshops, cultural events, and mental health and social services. Other organizations that have been located or got their starts here include SAGE (Senior Action in a Gay Environment), the Metropolitan Community Church (an LGBT congregation), the AIDS activist group ACT UP, and GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation).
Read more about the building’s history here.
National Gay Task Force Headquarters, 80 Fifth Avenue
The National Gay Task Force (now called the National LGBTQ Task Force) was founded in 1973 and was originally located at 80 Fifth Avenue. This was the Task Force’s very first headquarters and its only one in New York, and it remained here for more than a dozen years until moving to the nation’s capital in 1986. The founding members of the task force, including Dr. Howard Brown, Martin Duberman, Barbara Gittings, Ron Gold, Frank Kameny, Natalie Rockhill, and Bruce Voeller, knew it was time to create change on a national level. Among its early accomplishments, the Task Force helped get the federal government to drop its ban on employing gay people, successfully pushed the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses, and arranged the first meeting between the White House and a gay advocacy group.
Also during its time at 80 Fifth Avenue, the Task Force staff conducted the first national survey of corporate hiring policies (called Project Open Employment) to determine whether U.S. employers explicitly barred discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This was followed by a survey of municipal police departments, laying the groundwork for ongoing campaigns to secure protections by government and private employers against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (and eventually gender identity as well). The Task Force remains a social justice advocacy nonprofit organizing the grassroots power of the LGBTQ+ community and advancing a progressive vision of liberation.
Read more about the organization’s history at 80 Fifth Avenue here.
St. Joseph’s Church/First Meeting of the Gay Officers Action League, 371 Sixth Avenue
In 1982, the first meeting of the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL), now an organization with 36 chapters across the country representing LGBTQ+ persons in law enforcement and criminal justice professions, was held in the basement of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church at 371 Sixth Avenue. In the 1980s, the church became known as one of the most welcoming and accepting Catholic churches in the city for gay congregants; to this day the church holds a special mass during LGBTQ+ Pride Month in June to commemorate those lost to AIDS.
The GOAL meeting was organized by Sergeant Charles H. Cochrane, who in 1981 became the first NYPD officer to publicly reveal that he was gay when he testified in front of the New York City Council in support of a gay rights bill. Eleven officers attended GOAL’s first meeting at the church, although it was uncommon and even dangerous for police officers to come out. Since GOAL’s establishment, hundreds of NYPD officers have come out. The corner of Sixth Avenue and Washington Place in front of the church was named in honor of Cochrane after his death from cancer in 2008.
Learn more about the work by the New York chapter of GOAL here.
Visit our Civil Rights and Social Justice Map to explore more of our communities’ LGBTQ+ history as well as important sites in marking civil rights history for Blacks, women, Latinos, Asian Americans, and more.