Metro Weekly

James Baldwin’s New York residence added to National Register of Historic Places

Building where writer and activist James Baldwin lived for two decades becomes 22nd LGBTQ site on National Register

James Baldwin residence – Photo: Christopher D. Barzee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

The James Baldwin Residence, the New York City building that once housed the prominent African-American LGBTQ novelist, playwright, and activist James Baldwin, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The building, located at 137 W. 71st St. on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, served as Baldwin’s residence from 1965 until his death in 1987. 

The site’s nomination to the National Register was initiated and researched by the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, as part of a National Park Service grant to increase the number of LGBTQ-related sites on the Register, facilitated by the New York State Preservation Office.

With the addition of the James Baldwin Residence, there are now 22 LGBTQ-themed sites on the Register, seven of which were nominated by the Historic Sites Project. Altogether, the Register contains over 93,500 sites of historical importance across the country.

As an author, civil rights activist, and social commentator, Baldwin helped change societal attitudes around race and sexuality in America and abroad. Although he did not self-identify as gay, he was open about his relationships with men, and wrote several novels that featured gay and bisexual characters and touched on same-sex relationships and LGBTQ issues. 

“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, the project manager of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, said in a 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.”

James Baldwin – Photo: Sjakkelien Vollebregt/Anefo, via Wikimedia.

The James Baldwin Residence was previously designated a NYC Individual Landmark by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission on June 18, at the start of this year’s World Pride/NYC Pride celebrations. The Historic Sites Project’s research about the significance of the Baldwin Residence was used to influence the Commission’s decision to designate it and five other LGBTQ historic sites as city landmarks.

“The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project has created a national model for recognizing the underrepresented history of LGBT New Yorkers,” Erik Kullesid, the commissioner of the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, said in a statement. “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.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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