Lesbian & Gay Historic Preservation Success in Washington, DC

Gays, lesbians, the homophile movement all received a burst of recognition Thursday when the Historic Preservation Review Board voted unanimously to make Franklin Kameny’s house Washington DC’s first gay site on the DC List of Historic Sites. The Board also decided to raise the nomination to the National Register of Historic Sites at the National Park Service. Dr. Kameny’s transforming role in creating a militant, and successful, campaign for gay civil rights in employment, accommodation, and assembly and reversing legal, medical and clerical opposition to gay rights. The house was also his office and the location where he coined the slogan, “Gay is good.”

Members of the Rainbow History Project established a committee to write the nomination in 2003. After working with the Historic Preservation Office, the Rainbow Committee, particularly Mark Meinke, resubmitted the proposal. The DC Preservation Board worked on the project in 2008. ANC3D unanimously approved the nomination of the Kameny site as a DC historic landmark a year later.

The effort gained momentum through the solicitation of the support of others. The National Trust for Historic Preservation supported the nomination with a letter to the Historic Preservation Office. Rainbow History Project members solicited support from a large number of historians and organizations, including the American Historical Association’s Committee on LGBT History, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign. Mark Meinke, chair of Rainbow History commented that “This designation adds the Kameny home and office to a handful of GLBT sites recognized in the US. Kameny’s home now joins Henry Gerber’s home in Chicago, the Harvey Milk camera shop and home in San Francisco, and the Stonewall Inn in New York City, amongst a few others, as preserved historic gay community sites.”

Former Director of Diversity for the National Trust for Historic Preservation Jeffrey Harris observed that the house on 5020 Cathedral Avenue, NW and other historic designations entail a significant amount of effort. “However, I think someone should also look at the prospect of landmarking Paula Giddings place in Philly, and the home of the lady who married her long time partner in California.”

Media coverage of the designation included some gay press and coverage through the Associated Press wire service. The Washington Blade ran a feature. The Washington Post ran a super piece with details about the effort, about Dr. Kameny’s life and a nice photograph. The Minnesota Star Tribune, San Francisco Gate and Fresno Bee picked up the AP story. Intriguingly, news outlets, such as the Washington Business Journal, assigned a reporter to write a small blurb about the designation. The Las Vegas television station, KTNV (ABC) and the city’s radio station KDWN, carried the story as well. Viva Las Vegas! Other information sources featured the story. Topix, and my favorite, Slog.

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3 comments so far

  1. Gay Past on

    FOR THE RECORD:
    Thank you for the very complete article about Dr Kameny’s historic home.

    A few comments … Rainbow History is delighted that the DC Preservation League decided in late September 2008 to co-sponsor the nomination of the Kameny house. However, the responsibility for and work of creating the nomination and submitting it to the Historic Preservation Office lies entirely with Rainbow History Project.

    While local ANC approval is an important part of the process, the Advisory Neighborhood Commission did not review and approve the nomination until January 2009 following a presentation by Mark Meinke.

    Finally, we would like to mention that the National Trust for Historic Preservation supported the nomination with a letter to the Historic Preservation Office.

    • bla2222 on

      I appreciate your comments. I made revisions to the piece before posting it from Bilerico that addressed many of the facts.

  2. […] the original here:  Lesbian & Gay Historic Preservation Success in Washington, DC … Share and […]


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