The building is culturally significant as the home since 1991 of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, the nation’s oldest and largest collection of lesbian-related historical material.
It is the first individual landmark in Brooklyn designated for its LGBTQ+ associations.
NEW YORK – Today, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) designated the Lesbian Herstory Archives at 484 14th Street as an individual landmark. The building is culturally significant as the home since 1991 of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, the nation’s oldest and largest collection of lesbian-related historical material. It is the first individual landmark in Brooklyn designated for its associations with the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or questioning) community.
“The lesbian community has played an immeasurable role in the LGBTQ+ rights movement and will forever be a vital piece of New York City’s past, present, and future,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “By designating the Lesbian Herstory Archives – the first individual landmark in Brooklyn designated specifically for its LGBTQ+ significance – we pay tribute to this vital part of our collective history. This landmark reflects the incredible stories of lesbians, who, against all odds, fought for and achieved the equality and acceptance they deserved.”
“I am delighted Commission has designated the home of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, an important community space and a nationally important collection of LGBTQ+ historical materials,” said Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Sarah Carroll. “For over 30 years, the building has been the site of the Archives’ essential role in preserving and telling the stories of a mostly unseen community of women, including many who have contributed to America’s cultural, political, and social history. This designation draws attention to the importance of the Lesbian Herstory Archives to New York City and the country’s history and to LGBTQ+ communities.”
The Lesbian Herstory Archives’ home at 484 14th Street is located just west of Prospect Park within the Park Slope Historic District, designated in 1973. Because the historic district designation predated the Archives’ arrival in 1991, there is no mention of the building’s LGBTQ+ significance. The designation of 484 14th Street as an individual landmark highlights this important history and emphasizes preservation of the building to its period of association with the Lesbian Herstory Archives.
The organization’s headquarters for over 30 years, this Renaissance Revival style building is where the Archives expanded its collection, grew to national prominence, and continues to serve as a vital educational organization, community space, and center for lesbian history and culture.
The Lesbian Herstory Archives, founded in 1974 by activists Joan Nestle, Deborah Edel, and others, began as a grass-roots attempt to end the silence around lesbian history, and to create a physical archive for study, analysis, and community gathering. At a time when the LGBTQ+ community faced widespread legal and social discrimination, the Archives fought to bring lesbian cultural artifacts into public view, and to normalize them as an integral piece of American history. The project was national in scope from its early years, and was intentionally feminist in nature, using the term “herstory” to note the rejection of patriarchy. It was also inclusive, with women of color counted among the organization’s early supporters and contributors.
By the late 1980s, the collection had outgrown its space and by 1991 the Archives had raised enough funds to purchase 484 14th Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn, which had become a center of the lesbian community in New York City. Since purchasing 484 14th Street in 1991, the organization has diligently maintained the building and it retains a high degree of integrity and historic character within the surrounding streetscape.
Materials in the Archives, dating from the 1950s to the present, include periodicals, files on lesbian activist and community groups, audio-visual materials, oral histories, and the personal and professional papers of lesbians from a diversity of cultural, ethnic, and class-based communities.
“I am thrilled that our community is gaining a Queer landmark location. With Queer rights and Queer people under attack in our nation daily, the designation of the Lesbian Herstory Archives as a City landmark is an important move to further solidify Queer history into the fabric of our City,” said Council Member Shahan Hanif. “For over 30 years, this site has been a physical archive for study, analysis, and community gathering among LGBTQ New Yorkers. With today’s designation, we’ll ensure this vital Queer space is in our City for decades to come.”
“The Lesbian Herstory Archives appreciate and gladly accept the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commision's decision to declare our Archives an official landmark,” said Saskia Scheffer, coordinator, Lesbian Herstory Archives. “This decision acknowledges the importance of our mission and our continued commitment to preserving the evidence of lesbian lives for current and future generations.”
"We’re thrilled that the Lesbian Herstory Archives, a women-owned building, has been officially recognized as a New York City Landmark, further solidifying the importance of including LGBTQ history in the broader narrative of American history,” said Amanda Davis, project manager, NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. “The designation — the first for an LGBTQ site in Brooklyn — acknowledges the pioneering lesbian women who, nearly 50 years ago, came together to create an affirming space for their community. Perhaps most significantly, these women reclaimed their past by saving and preserving lesbian-related records, photographs, and ephemera for future generations of queer women.”
About the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC)
The Landmarks Preservation Commission is the mayoral agency responsible for protecting and preserving New York City’s architecturally, historically and culturally significant buildings and sites. Since its creation in 1965, LPC has granted landmark status to more than 37,500 buildings and sites, including 1,447 individual landmarks, 121 interior landmarks, 11 scenic landmarks, and 154 historic districts and extensions in all five boroughs. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/landmarks and connect with us via www.facebook.com/NYCLandmarks and www.twitter.com/nyclandmarks.