The Stonewall Inn, a New York City bar widely recognized as the birthplace of the modern U.S. LGBT rights movement, was granted historic landmark status by city officials on Tuesday.
The unanimous vote by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission was hailed by activists and supporters of the designation.
“The site was the starting point of the Stonewall rebellion and is one of the most important sites associated with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) history in New York City and the nation,” said the designation (PDF). “This marks the first time a site is designated as a New York City landmark primarily for its significance to LGBT history.”
Every person who spoke at a public hearing supported the designation, according to The New York Times.
“The Stonewall Inn is a rarity — a tipping point in history where we know, with absolute clarity, that everything changed,” Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer said in a statement. “This building has a unique place in the history of our city and in the struggle for dignity and equal rights in our society.”
The Stonewall Inn became an instant gay rights symbol when riots spontaneously erupted on June 28, 1969, after a police raid at the Greenwich Village bar, known for serving a gay clientele in an era of intolerance of homosexuality.
As police detained people without ID and those who appeared to be cross-dressing, a crowd gathered outside and began attacking the police with bottles and bricks.
The designation comes days before the 46th anniversary of the riots, which are commemorated by gay pride marches throughout the U.S. and elsewhere.
The designation covers two adjoining two-story buildings on Christopher Street. The brick and stucco facades of the two structures, originally built as stables in the 1840s, are essentially unchanged since 1969.
Jim Fouratt, 74, who said he participated in the protests, held back tears and said he struggled to contain his emotions after the commission’s announcement, which he attended.
“I’m thrilled,” he said. “I was a witness to that time, and I’m a witness of today.”
The Stonewall Inn is already part of the Greenwich Village Historic District and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its new designation as a city landmark provides more stringent safeguards guiding any future alteration to the property.
Commissioners suggested that the designation on cultural rather than architectural grounds might mark a critical milestone in the commission’s methods of choosing landmarks. Several speakers noted the Stonewall Inn would not have earned landmark status on aesthetic grounds.
“It ain’t a pretty piece of architecture,” said Michael Devonshire, a member of the commission. But, he added, “this fantastic spot represents that period of strength and dignity for the LGBT community that absolutely deserves our designation and protection.”
Al Jazeera with wire services