After 10-Year Campaign, Julius’ Bar Is Landmarked! Fight for More Needed Landmark Designations
We’re thrilled to announce that after a decade-long campaign led by Village Preservation, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted this morning to landmark 159 West 10th Street, a circa 1825 structure home to Julius’ Bar. Julius’ is the city’s oldest gay bar and one of the city’s oldest continuously operating bars; in 1966, it was also the scene of a “Sip-In” protesting discriminatory laws and regulations that criminalized gay bars and other spaces which catered to or served LGBTQ+ patrons. Three years before the Stonewall Riots (which occurred around the corner) and based upon the “sit-ins” against segregation at Southern lunch counters, the Julius’ Sip-In was one of the very first planned actions of civil disobedience for LGBTQ+ rights.
Village Preservation has been waging a campaign for 10 years to have the history of Julius’ Bar honored and recognized. Exactly 10 years ago this week, we filed a request for the State of New York to find Julius’ Bar eligible for the State and National Registers of Historic Places, which the State subsequently found. This was one of less than a handful of sites across the country that had at the time been determined eligible for the State and National Registers of Historic Places based upon LGBTQ+ history. A year later, we formally proposed Julius’ along with the Stonewall Inn, the LGBT Community Center, and the former Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse as the city’s very first designated LGBTQ+ landmarks. The Stonewall Inn was landmarked in 2015, becoming the city’s first designated LGBTQ+ landmark, and the LGBT Center and GAA Firehouse were designated in 2019. As part of our ongoing campaign to get the City to also landmark Julius’, in 2016 we partnered with the Estate of Fred W. McDarrah, the Village Voice photographer who took the iconic photo of the 1966 Sip-In, to raise funds and awareness for landmark designation. And earlier this year, we unveiled a historic plaque for the building commemorating the Sip-In, which original Sip-In participants and organizers, as well as the journalist who originally reported on the story, attended.
Honoring and protecting LGBTQ+ and all civil rights history in our neighborhoods has been a special part of Village Preservation’s mission, and the organization has proposed and secured landmark designation for sites connected to LGBTQ+, African American, women’s, immigrant, Latinx, and social justice history. Village Preservation helped secure National Register of Historic Places listing and NYC landmark designation of the Stonewall Inn in 1999 and 2015, respectively (the first such LGBTQ+ designation of either type), and last year secured landmark designation of 70 Fifth Avenue, the former headquarters of the NAACP and The Crisis Magazine, and home to an unrivaled array of women’s, peace, labor, civil rights, humanitarian, and social justice organizations.
But there’s much more work to be done. Within feet of Julius’ are multiple other endangered historic civil rights sites we’ve been campaigning to get the Landmarks Preservation Commission to protect, including the former headquarters of the first national gay rights organization at 80 Fifth Avenue and the former headquarters of the NYC Woman Suffrage League at 10 West 14th Street (both within our proposed South of Union Square Historic District), the home of one of 19th-century New York’s leading crusaders for voting rights and freedom for African Americans at 50 West 13th Street, and the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary at 218 Second Avenue, where groundbreaking care and services has been provided for the visually and hearing impaired for over 150 years. The City is yet to act on these and other endangered sites in our neighborhoods we’ve been campaigning to protect.