January 5, 2017 at 7:19 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Interior Dept. awards D.C. $50,000 grant for LGBT historic sites
LGBT historic sites

The Interior Department is looking for more D.C. sites of LGBT significance, like the former home of activist Frank Kameny, which is one of just two sites so far designated as historically significant to the LGBT community. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Department of Interior announced on Thursday that it has awarded the D.C. Office of Historic Preservation a $50,000 grant to help identify LGBT-related sites of significance in the District that would be eligible for being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The D.C. grant is part of a total of $500,000 in grants announced Thursday by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to help fund projects in nine states, two Indian tribes and a local government. Jewell said the projects will help identify sites representing Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, women and LGBTQ Americans.

“Our nation has been shaped by the contributions of a diverse array of Americans, yet the National Register of Historic Places does not appropriately yet reflect this rich diversity,” Jewell said. “These grants will enable us to work with partners to identify important sites that will help tell a more complete story of our journey.”

“The grants are supported by a Historic Preservation Fund that receives revenue from federal oil leases on the Outer Continental Shelf, providing assistance for a broad range of preservation projects without expending tax dollars,” the announcement says.

The announcement notes that the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites, three quarters of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, currently has close to 750 landmarks and historic districts.

“However, only two sites have been listed specifically for their LGBTQ significance,” the announcement says.

Those two include the Northwest Washington house of the late D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny and the Capitol Hill house that a lesbian separatist collective known as the Furies used as their headquarters in the early 1970s.

“LGBTQ heritage in Washington from the mid-19th century through the 1990s as reflected in the built environment, identifying and evaluating buildings, sites, and gathering places important to the LGBTQ communities is the basis of the context statement and resultant local and National Register nominations,” the announcement statement says.

The project supported by the $50,000 grant “will increase public awareness of Washington’s LGBTQ communities, provide a framework for identifying the various communities and resources within Washington, and contribute to and begin to expand the local and national inventory of sites associated with this underrepresented sector of Washington, D.C.,” according to the announcement.

Edward Giefer, associate director of the D.C. Office of Planning, which oversees the D.C. Historic Preservation Office, said his office applied for the grant after receiving an announcement from the Interior Department last year inviting states and D.C. to do so.

Thursday’s announcement says the Interior Department awarded a $49,999 grant to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to help identify at least two additional sites and/or “historic district amendments” as National Historic Landmarks.

It notes that the site of the Stonewall Inn gay bar in New York City became “the first and only” LGBT-related National Historic Landmark (NHL) until last year, when the Henry Gerber House in Chicago was so designated. Gerber was one of Chicago’s early gay rights advocates.

“The project’s primary theme is LGBT history from the founding of New York City through the 20th Century,” the announcement says.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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