Historic New York gay bar Stonewall Inn gains landmark status

  • Stonewall Inn, Greenwich Village, New York City, September 1969.
  • Patrons at the Stonewall Inn attempt to impede police arrests outside the bar on Christopher Street in New York City’s Greenwich Village on June 28, 1969.
  • An unidentified group of young people celebrate outside the boarded-up Stonewall Inn after riots over the weekend in late June 1969. The bar and surrounding area were the site of a series of demonstrations and riots that led to the formation of the modern gay rights movement in the United States. 
  • An unidentified group of young people celebrate outside the boarded-up Stonewall Inn after riots over the weekend in late June 1969. The bar and surrounding area were the site of a series of demonstrations and riots that led to the formation of the modern gay rights movement in the United States. 
  • Hand-painted text on a boarded-up window of the Stonewall Inn after riots in June 1969. The text reads, “We homosexuals plead with our people to please help maintain peaceful and quiet conduct on the streets of the Village – Mattachine.” The Mattachine Society was an early American gay rights organization; the bar and surrounding area were the site of a series of demonstrations and riots that led to the formation of the modern gay rights movement in the United States. 
  • Crowds gathered on the evening of July 2, 1969, five nights after a raid on the Stonewall Inn, a nightclub on New York City’s Christopher Street popular among gay men and lesbians, which tipped off disturbances. The Stonewall uprising has come to be seen as a defining event in the development of the gay rights movement.
  • A Gay Liberation Front march on Times Square in New York City in 1969.
  • Handwritten chalk text on a boarded-up window of the Stonewall Inn after riots in June 1969. The text reads, “Gay Prohibition Corupts (sic) Cops and Feeds Mafia” and refers to payoffs made to police officers by the owners of gang-operated, then-illegal gay bars. The bar and surrounding area were the site of a series of demonstrations and riots that led to the formation of the modern gay rights movement in the United States.
  • A Gay Activist Alliance protest march and demonstration against mafia-controlled gay bars and police harassment in August 1971.
  • Gay bar patrons defend their turf and the bar owner as gay rights activists picket to fight the mob control of Greenwich Village gay clubs like Christopher’s’ End Bar in August 1971.

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Hailed as one of the birthplaces of the modern gay rights movement, Stonewall Inn has solidified its place in history after being granted landmark status in New York City.

On Monday, in a unanimous vote by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, the city opted to designate the iconic Greenwich Village bar as an individual landmark, marking the first time a structure has been given landmark status due to its importance to the LGBT community.

In the late 1960s, Stonewall Inn provided a social space for gays and lesbians at a time when serving alcohol to the gay community was barred. During the early morning hours of July 28, 1969, the bar found itself at a crossroads between whiskey and history, when patrons refused to vacate the grounds after a police raid. The patrons were joined by friends, strangers and members of the community to protest the treatment by police. Protesters clashed with police on and off for days.

Months later, LGBT activist organizations such as the Gay Liberation Front, the Gay Activists Alliance, Radicalesbians, and the Street Transvestites Action began to emerge. As the fight and support against discrimination grew, the movement also inspired many pride parades seen in cities across the country, including New York and San Francisco. 

In a statement released by the city, New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman expressed his content with the decision. “I’m so proud that New York City has formally recognized and protected the historic importance of Stonewall as the birthplace of the modern LGBT civil rights movement. When I think of Stonewall being preserved for future generations, I think of my four year old daughter, and I’m relieved to know that she’ll have access to the history that helped her dads build the family she grew up in. My sincere thanks to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for taking this important step today.” 

The landmark status granted to Stonewall Inn comes during Pride Month and ahead of an imminent ruling by the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of gay marriage. As early as Thursday, the high Court is expected to release its decision on Obergefell v. Gross. At issue is whether the 14th Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex. With 37 states already allowing same-sex couples to be wed, the Supreme Court’s decision could land marriage equality in the history books, right next to Stonewall Inn.

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography

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