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Timeline of Greenwich/West Village Gay History, 1931-1970

The LGBT consciousness of NYC's first gayborhood awakens

By

Christopher Street in the West Village
Photo by Lauren M. Krauze

1948    Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer's book New York: Confidential!, an exposé of "The Big City After Dark", says "not all New York's queer (or, as they say it, 'gay') people live in Greenwich Village" -- but clearly by then many do.

1950    Beats-to-be Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso meet at the lesbian Pony Stable Inn (150 W. 4th St. at Sixth Ave.).

1950s   The Sea Colony (52 Eighth Ave., between Horatio and W. 4th Sts.), though subject to constant police harassment, is one of the most popular lesbian bars.

1958    Caffe Cino (31 Cornelia St., between Bleecker and W. 4th Sts.) opens, serving a largely gay and bohemian clientele and spawning the development of off-Broadway theater.

1966    To protest a State Liquor Authority policy denying gay people the right to be served at bars, Mattachine Society members stage a "sip-in" at Julius (still open to this day, 159 W. 10th St., at Waverly Pl.), which Rudolph Nureyev, Truman Capote, and Tennessee Williams are also said to have frequented over the years.

1967    The Oscar Wilde Bookshop (original location 291 Mercer St., at Waverly St.) opens, becoming the first gay bookstore in the country.

1968    Oscar Wilde Bookshop owner Craig Rodwell begins editing the New York HYMNAL, written exclusively for the gay community and spreading such slogans as "Gay Power" and "Gay Is Good."

1969    Despite a several-year decline in gay bar raids, police descend on the Stonewall Inn (51 Christopher St., between W. 4th St. and Waverly Pl.) on June 28, sparking a violent riot during which more than 2,000 protesters confronted over 400 police.

1969    Around 500 people march down a heavily policed Christopher Street on July 2 in the first Gay Pride demonstration.

1969    The first Gay Power group convenes in Greenwich Village on July 9, producing the manifesto What Homosexuals Want.

1970    After-hours gay bar The Snake Pit (211 W. 10th St., at Bleecker St.) is raided on March 8 and everyone present is arrested, including Argentine national Diego Vinales, who is so distraught that he jumps from the second floor precinct window (135 Charles St., between Greenwich and Washington Sts.), only to be impaled on six 14-inch spikes on a fence below; he lives, but only barely, becoming a rallying figure of the new activist movement through slogans like "Any way you look at it, that boy was pushed!"

1970    Thousands walk from Washington Place and Sixth Avenue to Sheep Meadow in Central Park in the first Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day March on June 28, the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

 

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