Stonewall Inn

New York, New York | C.1930

Photo Credit: Lewis Miller Design

What may look like an unassuming storefront bar is actually the site of one of the most important events in American LGBTQIA history. Now an openly proud monument to the gay community, in 1969, it served its patrons in secret.

Opening in 1930 as a speakeasy, the bar was soon closed by federal prohibition agents. In 1934, it relocated to the now famous Christopher Street location, where a large vertical sign proclaimed “Bonnie’s Stonewall Inn” in honor of its owner Vincent Bonavia.

When a fire devastated the space in 1964, members of the Mafia saw an opportunity to run a secret establishment for the gay community. Purchasing the space and painting the entire interior black to cover fire damage, the Stonewall Inn became one of the only places in the city for members of the gay community to dance, commune, and celebrate life’s simple moments.

In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, police raided the bar like they had many times before. However, tensions rose and a crowd began to grow outside of the Inn, swelling as the night went on. Riots soon broke out fighting back against this oppression of the gay community, later transitioning into demonstrations with thousands of people over the next six days. While participants may not have known then, the riots are widely considered to be the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBTQIA rights in the United States.

The Stonewall Inn was reopened in 2007, paying homage to its historic meaning in the fight for equality. In 2016, it would be named a national monument, the first LGBTQIA site to be recognized under such a protection. Routinely crowded with folks from all different walks of life, the joy that can be found inside is no longer confidential.

Written By: Seamus McMahon

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