National Park Service to open Stonewall visitor center dedicated to LGBTQ history

·3 min read
Richard Drew

The first National Park Service visitor center focused on teaching LGBTQ history will open right next door to New York City’s historic Stonewall Inn.

Pride Live, the LGBTQ advocacy group spearheading the project, announced Tuesday that the Stonewall Inn — the site of a June 1969 uprising that’s widely considered a major milestone in the modern gay rights movement — will be reunited with its neighboring building in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood to “commemorate the events of the Stonewall Rebellion in their authentic locations,” according to a news release.

The Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center will provide an “immersive experience” to visitors with tours, exhibits, lectures and visual displays centered around LGBTQ culture and history. Park rangers for the Stonewall Inn, which was designated as a national monument by President Barack Obama in 2016, will also work out of the center.

Ann Marie Gothard, a member of Pride Live’s board of directors, told NBC News the visitor center came out of a desire to both “capture the essence” of the era when the uprising took place and connect young people with the legacy of Stonewall. She said part of the purpose of the center will be to include and “motivate the next generation of leaders.”

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“If you’ve ever gone down and kind of just observed tourists visiting Stonewall Inn, you’ll see that individuals of a certain age, because it’s a bar, are not allowed to go in,” she said. “So we really want to create a space that’s welcoming for all, whether you represent the gay community or you’re an ally.”

The original Stonewall Inn consisted of what is now two separate buildings: 53 Christopher St., where the current bar is located, and 51 Christopher St., where the visitor center will be. Gothard said Pride Live is convening a group of experts and historians to look into how the two buildings were separated.

The announcement comes during Pride Month, which is celebrated every year in June by LGBTQ people around the world in part to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall uprising. On June 28, 1969, when police attempted to raid the establishment — a common occurrence at that time, when it was illegal to serve alcohol to “homosexuals” — they were met with fierce resistance, sparking a dayslong rebellion and what many consider to be a watershed moment in the history of queer liberation.

The next year, 1970, saw the first annual Pride march in New York City, what was then called the Christopher Street Liberation Day march. In the decades since, many have come to acknowledge Stonewall as hallowed ground and a symbol in the fight for LGBTQ rights.

In a statement Tuesday, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the visitor center an important memorial to commemorate “an iconic and pivotal moment” in U.S. history. He said he was proud the first center of its kind will open up in New York.

The nearly 3,700-square-foot building is set to open in summer 2024.

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