New York City’s oldest gay bar is the city’s newest landmark. The Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday voted unanimously to designate Julius’ Bar as an individual landmark, citing the significant role the historic Greenwich Village establishment played in advancing rights for LGBTQ+ New Yorkers. The bar was the site of the 1966 “Sip-In,” a protest by members of the Mattachine Society against a New York state law that prohibited bars from serving “suspected gay men or lesbians.”
New York City’s oldest gay bar is on its way to becoming an individual landmark. The Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday voted to calendar Julius’ Bar, a Greenwich Village establishment known for its historic 1966 “Sip-In” when members of the Mattachine Society protested the state law that prohibited bars from serving “suspected gay men or lesbians.” Considered one of the city’s most significant sites related to LGBTQ+ history, Julius’ Bar played an instrumental role in advancing the rights of gay New Yorkers.
Owner Helen Buford with longtime bartender Daniel Onzo
On the corner of West 10th and Waverly Place sits Julius’ Bar, New York City’s oldest gay bar. Constructed in the middle of the 19th-century, the landmarked Greenwich Village building first opened as a grocery store and later became a bar. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously operating bars in the city, Julius’ is also known for its historic “Sip-In” on April 26, 1966, when members of the Mattachine Society–one of the country’s earliest LGBT rights organizations–protested the state law that prohibited bars from serving “suspected gay men or lesbians.” Not only did the demonstration lead to the courts ruling in 1967 that gay people had the legal right to assemble and be served alcohol, but it also became one of the most significant instances of gay rights activism before the Stonewall Riots in 1969.
Like many businesses forced to close because of the coronavirus pandemic, especially now that indoor dining is on hold indefinitely, Julius’ owner Helen Buford is struggling to pay the bills and launched a fundraising campaign this month to help save the bar. Ahead, go behind the scenes of Julius’ while it remains closed, learn about its unique history from longtime bartenders Daniel Onzo and Tracy O’ Neill, and hear more from Helen about the struggle to survive as a small business during COVID-19.
On the corner of West 10th Street and Waverly Place, Julius’ Bar stands as the oldest gay bar in New York City. It’s also known for the “Sip-In” that took place here in 1966, which ultimately led to legal LGBT bars and was one of the most significant instances of LGBT activism prior to Stonewall. Julius’ was forced to close its doors in mid-March amidst the COVID crisis, and they’ve since been unable to reopen. Therefore, they’ve launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $50,000 that will keep them and their employees afloat until indoor dining is permitted.
By Andrew Berman of Village Preservation, Thu, May 30, 2019
Last year’s Pride Parade outside the Stonewall Inn, via Wiki Commons
In about a month New York will be in the throes of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, three nights of disturbances from June 28th to June 30th 1969, which are recognized globally as the start of the modern LGBT rights movement. But Stonewall is only one of the scores of important LGBT landmarks in Greenwich Village – the homes of people, events, businesses and institutions dating from more than a century ago to just a few years ago. Thanks to landmark designation, most of these sites still stand. Here are just some of the dazzling array of those, all still extant, which can be found in the neighborhood which is arguably the nexus of the LGBT universe.
Forty-eight years ago, just after 1:00am on June 28th, police raided Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn, the well-known gay bar on Christopher Street. Unlike past raids against gay bars, the crowd outside fought back, throwing bottles at the cops and protesting around the site for the next six days. According to the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, the event is “generally credited as the beginning of the modern LGBT rights movement,” sparking “the next major phase of the gay liberation movement, which involved more radical political action and assertiveness during the 1970s.” But as they also note in an earlier interview with 6sqft, the struggle for LGBT rights existed long before Stonewall.
Join the Project’s co-director Ken Lustbader and project manager Amanda Davis in this video tour of historic sites around the neighborhood that play an equally important role in LGBT history and advocacy in NYC and beyond.
“Where did lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) history happen in New York City? In what buildings did influential LGBT activists and artists live and work, and on what streets did groups demonstrate for their equal rights?” These are the questions that the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project is answering through a first-of-its-kind initiative to document historic and cultural sites associated with the LGBT community in the five boroughs. Through a map-based online archive, based on 25 years of research of advocacy, the group hopes to make “invisible history visible” by exploring sites related to everything from theater and art to social activism and health.
To mark Pride Month, 6sqft recently talked with the Historic Sites Project’s directors–architectural historian and preservation professor at Columbia Andrew S. Dolkart; historic preservation consultant Ken Lustbader; and former senior historian at the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission Jay Shockley–along with their project manager, preservationist Amanda Davis, about the roots of the initiative, LGBT history in NYC, and the future of gay advocacy.
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