And then there were condos
For a brief moment in the late summer, it seemed possible, if not probable, that the red brick row house at 186 Spring Street might become the first gay rights landmark in the city to be officially recognized by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, the Soho rowhouse sheltered a number of prominent gay rights activists, among them Bruce Voeller (who was a leader in the fight against AIDS), Arnie Kantrowitz and Jim Owles, who was the president of the Gay Activists Alliance at the time he lived there, an influential organization that emerged in the aftermath of the Stonewall Riots. Until the spring, it belonged to another notable New Yorker, Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz.
But on a rainy morning last week, the building was surrounded by neither city officials nor map-clutching tourists, but by a demolition crew tasked with tearing it down to make way for a seven-story luxury condo.
Historic preservationists and gay rights activists have won a skirmish in their campaign to save 186 Spring Street, a SoHo townhouse that sheltered a number of gay rights activists in the post-Stonewall era—earning landmark designation eligibility from the state and national historic registers. But without a designation from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, the house’s demolition still looms as the most likely possibility.
Earning a spot on the State and National registers would be a coup for the preservationists. “It’s truly historic—only one other place in the United States has been placed on the state and national registers in relation to gay and lesbian history,” said Andrew Berman, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. The other place, also in Manhattan, is the Stonewall Inn.
It turns out that the federal-style rowhouse at 186 Spring Street has lots of friends in high places. Unfortunately, it may not have made them soon enough.
Today, in the latest bid to save the Soho townhouse from demolition, gay rights activists and local politicians rallied in front 186 Spring Street, highlighting the building’s role in gay rights and AIDS activism. The house served as a kind of gay commune for activists and organizations in the 1970s and early 1980s.