Julius’ Bar Building – 155-159 West 10th Street (aka 186-188 Waverly Place)
ITEM PROPOSED FOR PUBLIC HEARING
The proposed designation of a 19th-century former row house in Greenwich Village, which since 1930 has housed Julius’ Bar, the scene of significant events in the history of the fight for LGBTQ+ rights.
As the citywide advocate for New York’s architectural, historical and cultural Landmarks, HDC enthusiastically supports the designation of The Julius’ Bar Building as an individual cultural landmark.
This Arts-and-Crafts style building was built in three sections throughout the 19th century, and was altered twice in the 20th Century. As a whole, the structure was recognized on its architectural merits in 1969 as part of the Greenwich Village Historic District.
The late ‘60s are also relevant to this site as its foremost period of cultural significance. On April 21, 1966, three years prior to the Stonewall Uprising, activists Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell, Randy Wicker and John Timmons, ordered drinks at Julius’ Bar, announced they were gay, and were refused service.
The event, known as a “Sip-In” was publicized by the Mattachine Society, a pioneering Gay Civil Rights organization led by Leitsch, Rodwell and Wicker. It was also covered by the New York Times, and the iconic photo of the bartender with his hand covering a glass to deny service, was captured by a Village Voice
Though the LGBTQ+ community faced rampant discrimination at the time of the Sip-in, the demonstrators were met with solidarity from other civil rights groups. Most notably, The former state head of the NAACP and new head of the city’s Commission on Human Rights, William H. Booth, pledged his commitment to ending discrimination against gay New Yorkers.
A subsequent court ruling concerning the entrapment arrest of a gay Julius’ customer held that presence of a single gay customer did not, on its own, make an establishment disorderly, and stipulated that the Liquor Authority could no longer shutter a bar based on the arrest of a single gay patron.
The events at Julius’ Bar in the late 1960s, and their cultural, social and legal legacies represent pivotal moments in the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ civil rights, and cement Julius’s Bar as an exceedingly important space in LGBTQ+ history, and thereby in American history.
HDC is glad that the LPC is designating spaces that represent a broader, more equitable portrait of New York. It is vital that the LGBTQ+ community be represented in landmark designations. HDC hopes that the LPC will continue to landmark LGBTQ+ sites around the city, especially those outside of historic districts that at this time have no protection from development.
HDC also believes that cultural landmark designations are a vital part of the LPC’s mandate. In 2018, HDC chose cultural landmarks citywide as part of our 6 to celebrate advocacy, and we have identified several meritorious sites which lack landmark protection, sit outside of historic districts, and are outside of Manhattan. We hope the commission will continue to survey and recognize culturally significant sites throughout New York, especially those in the outer boroughs, and those associated with communities which have been historically underserved by the LPC.