• LBGT Heritage Initiative

Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender Heritage Initiative

image of map of USA showing LBGT sites   Places with LGBTQ Heritage: This map shows existing places identified by a researcher or community member as important to LGBTQ history. In-depth research has not been done on these, so some information may be incomplete or incorrect. A few are listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NR). Others may be eligible, but lack research or evaluation; therefore, inclusion here does not indicate that any particular place is NR eligible.

image of Secretary Jewell at the Stonewall Inn; for the panel   On May 30, 2014, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced a new theme study to identify places and events associated with the story of LGBT Americans for inclusion in the parks and programs of the National Park Service. Secretary Jewell made the announcement outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City. The theme study is part of the broader heritage initiative with the following goals:

engaging scholars, preservationists and community members to identify, research, and tell the stories of LGBT associated properties;

  • encouraging national parks, national heritage areas, and other affiliated areas to interpret LGBT stories associated with them;
  • identifying, documenting, and nominating LGBT-associated sites as national historic landmarks;
  • increasing the number of listings of LGBT-associated properties in the National Register of Historic Places. 

We Welcome Your Participation!

Please submit your comments and ideas to us online at parkplanning.nps.gov/lgbtlaunch or via email:lgbthistory@nps.gov

LGBT Heritage Initiative Highlights 

The National Park Service LGBT Initiative projects explore how the legacy of lesbians, gays, bisexual, and transgendered individuals can be recognized, preserved, and interpreted for future generations.

This website highlights projects undertaken by National Park Service parks and programs as part of the Service’s commitment to telling the full and inclusive history of America.

Image of scholar roundtable  

On June 10, 2014 the National Park Service hosted a scholars' roundtable about this initiative. Watch the video of the inaugural LGBT Theme Study Panel discussion.

Transcript of Video

 

The history of Civil Rights underscores a large part of American experience. The National Park Service is proud to be a part of this continuing legacy of freedom and justice. Directed by Americans to steward and teach the nation’s history, the National Park Service connects and amplifies important national stories in cooperation with partner communities across the United States. Rigorous research, thoughtful interpretation and continual collaboration with the American public support such notable sites as Women’s Rights National Historic Park at Seneca Falls, New York (1980); Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, Atlanta, Georgia (1980); Brown vs, Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka Kansas (1992); Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site in Little Rock, Arkansas (1998); the Votes for Women History Trail (2009); Manzanar National Historic Site, Los Angeles, California (1992); and the Caesar E. Chavez National Monument, Keane, California (2012). These are only a few of the nation’s historic sites and stories dedicated to the important and continuing legacy of American civil rights.

The NPS LGBT Initiative is the latest effort in this proud NPS tradition of the documentation and interpretation of civil rights history. Recognizing that identities and communities are historically situated, the LGBT Initiative acknowledges lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender citizens in the United States, their contributions to American life and culture and their efforts to create a safe and legitimate social and political place in American society. It explores various ways that this history can be recognized, preserved and interpreted for future generations.

National Historic Landmarks Program

The National Historic Landmarks Program study, Civil Rights in America: A Framework for Identifying Significant Sites included topics related to the history of minority groups within the United States and recommended additional studies to assist the National Park Service with telling the civil rights stories related to these groups. Researching and telling the stories of civil rights connects such stories with the full experience of people’s lives.

One LGBT historic property is a National Historic Landmark (NHL), a designation given only to those properties having extraordinary significance in American history. This NHL is Stonewall, Greenwich Village, New York.

Image of the Stonewall Inn   Stonewall was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2000 for its association with events that outstandingly represent the struggle for gay civil rights in America. The Stonewall Inn was a gay bar in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. As part of a pattern of raids and harassment of gay establishments, the bar was raided by the New York City police at about 1:30 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, June 28, 1969.

The reaction of the bar's patrons and of the crowd that assembled in the street (which included a diverse segment of the gay community and other Greenwich Village residents and visitors) was not typical of such events. Instead of dispersing, the crowd became increasingly angry as the Stonewall's employees and patrons were arrested. Soon participants began chanting, throwing pennies, beer cans and other objects, and the police were forced back into the bar. Reinforcements were called in, and for several hours the police tried to clear the streets while the crowd fought back. Over the next few evenings the uprising continued. Two quiet nights followed before the final episode of street fighting occurred, late Wednesday evening and early Thursday morning, July 2nd and 3rd. The street events occurred outside the Stonewall Inn, in Christopher Park (across the street from the bar), along Christopher Street between Seventh Avenue South and Greenwich Avenue, and along adjacent streets, notably Waverly Place, Gay Street, Greenwich Avenue, Sixth Avenue and West 10th Street. At its peak, the crowd included several thousand people. The events associated with this site are regarded by many as the single most important event that led to the modern gay and lesbian liberation movement and to the struggle for civil rights for gay and lesbian Americans.

National Register of Historic Places

Four LGBT history-related properties are presently included in the National Register of Historic Places, the nation’s inventory of properties deemed central to its history and worthy of recognition and preservation. These are: the Dr. Franklin E. Kameny Residence, Washington, D.C. (listed 2011); the Cherry Grove Community House and Theater, Fire Island, New York (listed 2013); the James Merrill House, Stonington, Connecticut (listed 2013); and the Carrington House, Fire Island, New York (listed 2014).

Image of Dr. Franklin E. Kameny Residence   The Dr. Franklin E. Kameny Residence in Washington D.C. was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2011, under Criteria A and B for its association with gay civil rights activist Frank Kameny and the national gay civil rights movement. Kameny, known as the “father of gay activism,” affected the tone and direction of the national gay civil rights struggle by espousing a positive affirmation of sexuality, coining the term “Gay is Good;” seeking publicity for the movement and its goals; denouncing the movement’s respect for experts; and motivating and organizing gay rights activists.

One of Kameny’s most important and primary targets was advocating for the equal treatment of homosexuals in Federal employment through the Mattachine Society of Washington, DC, which he founded, after he was fired from Federal service in 1957 for refusing to answer questions regarding his sexuality. Following decades of legal struggles against discrimination toward gays in civil service, Kameny and the Mattachine Society gained a major victory when the Federal government overturned its policy of considering gays unsuitable for civil service. Kameny was also responsible for the removal of homosexuality as a mental disorder from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in 1975. The house served as a working headquarters and archives for Kameny’s extended and prolific involvement in the homophile/gay civil rights struggle from 1962 to 1975, a period in which he achieved his most important victories against the unequal treatment of gays.

Cherry Grove   The Cherry Grove Community House and Theatre on Fire Island in New York was listed in the National Register in 2013 under Criterion A in the areas of Social History, Performing Arts, and Community Planning and Development. The Community House and Theatre is exceptionally significant in social history for the enormous role it played in shaping what gradually evolved into America's First Gay and Lesbian Town.


Located in the hamlet of Cherry Grove on Fire Island, the building was floated across Long Island's Great South Bay to serve as the community house for the Cherry Grove Property Owners Association, Inc., which organized in 1944 to serve this small, beach colony's civic needs. In 1948, a theater addition was constructed, completing the building seen today. As an organization, the association influenced the community's development, facilitating gradual social acceptance, self-affirmation, and integration of its gay and lesbian residents into Cherry Grove's governing affairs and civic life. This integration of homosexual residents into daily life and events at its community house afforded Cherry Grove a singular status; it became the one of the first and, for many years, the only gay and lesbian influenced geography in the United States.

Merrill House  

The 1901 James Merrill House (listed 2013) is a late-Victorian commercial-residential block on Water Street in Stonington Borough, a picturesque maritime village in the southeastern corner of Connecticut near the Rhode Island border. The eclectically-styled, shingle-clad building originally contained street-level retail space, second-floor club rooms and third-floor living quarters.


In 1956 the property was purchased by noted American poet James Ingram Merrill (1926-1995) and his partner David Noyes Jackson (1922-2001), who used the third floor as their private living and guest space. Adding an attic studio and rooftop deck, the men transformed their quarters with a distinctively quirky decor that remains largely intact.

The James Merrill House is significant for its close, forty-one year association with Merrill, one of his generation’s most acclaimed poets. Over the course of his extraordinary career, this erudite and accomplished writer produced twenty-five volumes of poetry and three plays, two novels, numerous essays, and a memoir. Merrill garnered nearly every major award in his field, including the Pulitzer Prize; two National Book Awards in Poetry; the National Book Critics Circle Award; the Library of Congress’ first Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry; Yale’s Bollingen Prize for Poetry; and the Medal of Honor for Literature from the National Arts Club. Merrill produced virtually all his major writing during his ownership of this property, and during this period Stonington came to play a vital role in the poet’s life. The home he shared here with David Jackson became a magnet for leading intellectuals and cultural figures of the day, while Merrill’s poetry increasingly resonated with references to the pleasures and peccadilloes of life in this close-knit community.

Carrington  House  

The Carrington House (listed 2014) in New York is one of the earliest extant residential properties in the resort communities of Cherry Grove and the Pines and among the earliest known vacation homes on Fire Island, a 32-mile-long barrier island known primarily as a summer resort. Built ca. 1912 as a summer home by Frederick Marquet, the cottage is associated with the earliest wave of development of Fire Island as a popular recreational destination.


The cottage is also significant as a distinctive, intact example of a typical early twentieth-century beach bungalow, characterized by a single-story side-gable form, front porch, and wood shingle cladding. The property is also locally significant as an important link to the development of Fire Island (particularly the Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove) as a community friendly to both gay culture and the arts because of its association with Frank Carrington, a prominent theater director and patron of the arts with a large circle of acquaintances whom he introduced to Fire Island. Carrington acquired the property in 1927. In addition to Carrington, the property has been linked to several other prominent artists who rented the property from him, including Truman Capote, who wrote his famous novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s there.