A Stonewall visitor center will celebrate LGBTQ history

When it opens, it will be the first visitor center within the national park system dedicated to LGBTQ history.

Outside Manhattan’s Stonewall Inn bar, June 18, 2019, which in 2016 was designated a national monument. Demetrius Freeman/The New York Times

NEW YORK — The first visitor center within the national park system dedicated to LGBTQ history will honor and explore the history of the 1969 Stonewall uprising, a galvanizing moment in the fight for equality, the center’s managers said Tuesday.

When it opens in 2024, the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center will occupy a vacant storefront in Greenwich Village in Manhattan next door to the Stonewall Inn bar, which was designated a national monument in 2016.

Pride Live, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, is overseeing the creation of the site, which will include input from historians, activists, community leaders and allies. The organization is partnering with the National Park Service, which will use the center as a base for its rangers.


“Our goal is to create a place that honors both the bravery and courage of the past five decades of the movement while also motivating the next generation of leaders to take up the fight, because we know that there is more work to be done when it comes to full equality,” said Ann Marie Gothard, president of Pride Live’s board of directors.

The visitor center is being funded with donations, and a groundbreaking ceremony will take place Friday. The 3,700-square-foot space will include exhibitions, in-person and virtual tours and art displays that examine the uprising and its legacy.

In the early hours of June 28, 1969, police officers conducted one of their frequent raids on the Stonewall Inn, but this time, frustrated patrons gathered outside instead of going home. They were joined by transgender, gay and lesbian teenagers and adults, and the police responded to the angry, swelling crowd with violence.

Mounting tensions about harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ people erupted, and demonstrators clashed with police officers outside the bar and in the surrounding streets for several days.

There had been several protests against police treatment of gay and transgender people across the country in the years leading up to the rebellion, but the uprising at Stonewall was a turning point in the modern gay rights movement.


President Barack Obama designated the Stonewall Inn a national monument in June 2016. The monument consists of 7.7 acres that includes Christopher Park across the street from the bar as well as several surrounding streets and sidewalks that were the setting for spontaneous protests in 1969.

“While the Stonewall National Monument may be one of the smallest by acreage in the national park system, the significance of it is huge,” Gothard said.

At the time of the uprising, the Stonewall Inn occupied both the space at 53 Christopher St., where the Stonewall Inn bar still operates today, and 51 Christopher St., next door, which will house the visitor center. The visitor center location has over the decades been vacant and housed eateries, including a bagel shop.

Gothard said she hoped the visitor center would generate more interest in preserving historical sites important to the LGBTQ community.

In recent years, the National Park Service, which is part of the Interior Department, has made an effort to better showcase underrepresented people and issues in American history. In 2016, the Park Service and the National Park Foundation published a study of LGBTQ history in the United States that included a list of important cultural sites.

“On this spot, an energized group of people created a movement for equality that continues to this day,” Chuck Sams, director of the National Park Service, said in a statement. “The visitor center and its exhibits will celebrate and acknowledge LGBTQ+ accomplishments and serve as a place where people can learn about and connect with the LGBTQ+ community’s ongoing struggle for civil liberties.”


The announcement of the visitor center comes as Republican-controlled legislatures in several states have passed laws limiting the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people.

In March, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed legislation prohibiting classroom instruction and discussion focused on sexual orientation and gender identity, a measure described by its opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. In February, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas told state agencies that medically accepted treatments for transgender adolescents should be classified as “child abuse” under existing state law. Abbott’s order is being challenged in court.

This month, President Joe Biden signed an executive order aimed at countering these efforts.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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