Online Extra: Political Notes: All but two US states included on LGBT historic sites map

  • by Matthew S. Bajko
  • Monday April 20, 2015
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The old maxim "We are everywhere" about LGBT people is proving true as evidenced by a map of U.S. LGBT historic sites.

The number of places listed from sea to shining sea has now reached 650 sites of special importance in the fight for LGBT equality in America. They include widely known buildings like the Stonewall Inn gay bar in New York City to more obscure locations, such as the San Francisco home where gay author Armistead Maupin wrote the first entries in his Tales of the City newspaper series that later was the site of the first staff meeting for pioneering bisexual magazine Anything That Moves.

And although two states have yet to be represented on the map, Arkansas and Mississippi, organizers of the effort to pinpoint places of LGBT historical interest say it is only a matter of time before all 50 states are included.

"We just added several sites in Alaska," said Megan Springate, who is overseeing the creation of a National Historic Landmark LGBTQ Theme Study and proposed framework for the National Park Service. "We are also looking at getting all of the U.S. territories and possessions included on the map."

The document, due to be completed by June 2016, is part of a national effort to see more LGBT sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, be designated as a National Historic Landmark, or both. In addition, the documentation for properties already listed on the register or that have landmark status are being reviewed to see if their connections to LGBT history can be added.

It is all part of the National Park Service's ongoing LGBTQ Heritage Initiative to highlight LGBT history throughout the hundreds of properties, national monuments, conservation areas, and park sites that are under its jurisdiction.

According to park service officials, only five properties in the country have been granted some form of federal historic preservation recognition specifically due to their relationship to LGBT history. There are four sites presently included in the National Register of Historic Places and one �" the Stonewall Inn �" listed as a National Historic Landmark. The second landmark, the Chicago home of gay rights pioneer Henry Gerber, should be finalized as soon as next month.

A sixth site is the National AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. It is federally recognized as a national memorial and is affiliated with the National Park Service, although a local nonprofit board privately manages the glen.

The sextet of officially recognized sites is designated by red push pin symbols on the online map of LGBT sites across the country, which can be accessed at,-92.021484&msa=0&spn=33.371539,76.552734&mid=zUo4VdCIQUrM.kpjJD0fu37MU.

Since it was first created over a year ago, the interactive map has been upgraded so that viewers can select to see solely the sites with federal recognition. They can also opt to just see the three sites �" designated by yellow balloons �" whose LGBT ties are referenced in their federal listing.

One such listing, for the Upper Tenderloin Historic District in San Francisco, includes Compton's Cafeteria and explains that transgender and gay regulars of the long gone 24-hour eatery rioted in August 1966 in reaction to endemic police repression. The listing for the Alice Austen House, a National Historic Landmark in New York, mentions that the photographer, whose works included women in bed and cross-dressing, lived there for years with her companion Gertrude Tate.

The third property is the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Virginia, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was where, in 1982, the Transgender Education Association was founded.

A fourth toggle �" this time using teal balloons �" brings up dozens of listed sites whose LGBT history is not currently mentioned. Among these is Alcatraz, the former federal prison on an island in San Francisco Bay that in 1933 housed Frank Bolt (Prisoner Number 1), who was charged with sodomy, according to the map listing.

Another example is the Kansas home of Carry Nation, a radical prohibition activist in the late 1880s who had a long relationship with Zuleika Dobson, according to the entry on the map. A third is Georgia O'Keeffe's home and studio in New Mexico, a National Historic Landmark the artist designed in collaboration with her partner, Maria Chabot.

There are also options to show just the hundreds of unlisted places with ties to LGBT history �" denoted by dark blue balloons on the map �" or merely the countless properties of LGBT significance that have been demolished �" located on the map by blue push pins.

"Being on the map does not mean the site is eligible or will be listed" on the national register or deemed a landmark, explained Springate, who identifies as queer and is seeking a doctorate in archaeology at the University of Maryland, during a talk in San Francisco last week about the park service project.

Key to winning federal recognition for the unlisted sites is first having the support of the property owners, as many of the sites are privately controlled. The paperwork required is onerous, and the approval process can last anywhere from 18 months to two years.

A state's historic preservation office and the state's National Register Review Board must first review applications. Those accepted are then submitted by the state to the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. for final review and listing by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places.

The National Park Service makes a listing decision within 45 days, according to the information listed at It also notes that national register nominations of tribal properties start with the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, while nominations of federal properties start with the agency's Federal Preservation officer.

Regardless of whether a property of LGBT historical interest merits having official federal recognition, and notwithstanding the opinion of its owner, the public is invited to submit additional LGBT sites for inclusion on the map Springate is curating, as she continues to regularly add new properties to it.

To submit places for inclusion on the map, or to propose corrections to properties already listed, visit


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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected].