Anyone who’s ever read literary giant James Baldwin knows how much he loved New York City and how he championed both his Blackness and queerness. So it’s only fitting that his former home, a remodeled row house that he resided in from 1965 until his death in 1987, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project announced on Thursday (September 12).
Known as the James Baldwin Residence, the 137 West 71st Street location was nominated by the Project to be included in a National Park Service grant to increase LGBTQ+ diversity on the National Register. Facilitated by the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), the building was listed officially on September 3, 2019. Baldwin may not have believed in using identifying labels besides Black, but he did break, then repair with civil rights activism through literature and debate, his position as a gay Black man in America.
“Seeing James Baldwin’s NYC residence listed on the National Register of Historic Places is the realization of our mission, in part, to increase LGBT representation on this important official inventory of sites and to formally recognize the U.S. home most closely associated with Baldwin, a pivotal voice of 20th century America,” Amanda Davis, project manager of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, said in an emailed statement. “We are delighted that our years of research into Baldwin’s connections to New York City and this home, specifically, have resulted in the site’s recognition at both the local, state, and national levels.”
On June 18, 2019, while the city was celebrating World Pride and gearing up for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, the James Baldwin Residence was designated a NYC Individual Landmark by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. Baldwin’s home was one of six sites—including the Audre Lorde Residence—recognized as a result of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project’s nomination from earlier in the month.
“The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project has created a national model for recognizing the underrepresented history of LGBT New Yorkers,” said Erik Kulleseid, commissioner of parks, recreation and historic preservation. “We are truly grateful for this collaboration and congratulate the LGBT Historic Sites Project on this latest achievement of officially designating the residence of gay author, activist and New Yorker, James Baldwin, to the National Register.”