- New York
Greenwich Village is the most famous bohemian neighborhood in New York City, New York.
Artists, writers, musicians, thinkers and other creative, unconventional types have flocked here since the early 20th century, establishing a community where people could relax and be themselves, proudly. Given this history, it makes sense that this is where the country’s gay and lesbian civil rights movement took root. Today, that movement is honored with the Stonewall National Monument, which was just named a US Park (or whatever the official term is).
What Happened at Stonewall?
The movement began in 1969 on what appeared to be a typical summer night in Greenwich Village. On June 28, patrons drank and socialized at the Stonewall Inn, a tavern catering to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals. Then, suddenly, New York police offices raided the tavern as they had many times before, flipping on the lights to demand identification and proof that male and female patrons were wearing gender-appropriate clothing. Anyone who didn’t comply would be thrown in jail.
But on this summer evening, many men and women fought the harassment. Most agree that lesbian performer Stormé DeLarverie threw the first punch at police, setting off days of riots and demonstrations by thousands of New Yorkers frustrated with the systematic persecution of LGBT individuals.
Protests and uprisings had previously taken place in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and other cities. But unlike any before, New York’s Stonewall uprising galvanized the LGBT community, igniting a unified front for sexual and gender equality.
Stonewall National Monument includes Christopher Park and the park’s bordering block of Christopher Street, situated directly across from the Stonewall Inn.
Visit the Stonewall National Monument
Today, a stroll down Christopher Street invites visitors to absorb some of that history on the very lanes where the uprising took place. The Stonewall Inn still stands two stories tall — in a space much larger than the original — and operates as a bar and performance venue with nightly happy hours, a pool table, and regular parties and live shows for the LGBT community and all who visit.
While most already considered Stonewall and Christopher Street the city’s unofficial gathering place for LGBT events and memorials, in June 2016 the area became the newest U.S. National Monument.
The designation by President Barack Obama encompasses the tavern and Christopher Park across the street, home to sculptor George Segal’s “Gay Liberation” statues since 1992. The monument’s unveiling took place on June 26, 2016, the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. It is the first national monument dedicated to LGBT rights.
The new Stonewall designation ensures that this pocket of LGBT history will be preserved and protected for generations. The monument also serves as a public place where visitors from around the globe can join in understanding and celebrating the heritage of this historic site.
“We know that we are keepers of history,” says Stacy Lentz, co-owner of the Stonewall Inn since 2006. “We really try to make [Stonewall] a space for the entire community, like it was 1969. Even though it was a bit seedy back then, it was still a gathering place, and we want to keep that alive.”
Inside Christopher Park and the Stonewall National Monument, travelers can see George Segal’s “Gay Liberation” statues, which were added to the park in 1992.