Stonewall monument is "first LGBTQIA+ visitor centre in National Parks Service"

EDG Architecture + Engineering and Nate Berkus were among the team that restored a historic building for the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center in New York City.

The Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center (SNMVC) occupies 2,100 square feet (195 square metres) in part of the historic Stonewall Inn, a location noteworthy for protests and riots in support of gay rights in the United States in the late 1960s.

Stonewall national monument gallery
EDG Architecture + Engineering and Nate Berkus are among the designers who contributed the recently opened Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center

New York studio EDG Architecture + Engineering led the visitor centre’s architectural design and renovation, while designers Chicago designer Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent contributed to the interiors. New York studio Local Projects led the design of its exhibits.

Located at 51 Christopher Street, the visitor centre takes up one-half of the original Stonewall Inn bar, which was opened in 1967 and spanned 51 and 53 Christopher Street.

Stonewall national monument desk area
Illuminated shelving sits behind a welcome desk

Featuring curved arches on both facades, the original structure housed horse stables that date back to the 1840s.

EDG Architecture + Engineering said “great care” was taken in renovating the building, which included restoration to its facade and highlighting the passageway that once linked the two spaces as part of the exhibit.

Stonewall national monument interior wall
The visitor centre is located in one-half of the former Stonewall Inn bar

“Great care was taken during the specification of repair materials and methods due to the building’s historical prominence and the necessity for maintaining the façade’s historic properties,” said the studio.

Led by non-profit Pride Live and its co-founders Diana Rodriguez and Ann Marie Gothard, the visitor centre will ultimately serve as an “educational resource”.

It was designed to host multi-media exhibits dedicated to “a rich tapestry of LGBTQIA+ history and culture”, including a theatre for film and events and a replica of the bar’s original jukebox.

Stonewall national monument juxebox
It includes multi-media exhibits dedicated to LGBTQIA+ history and the events of the Stonewall uprising

“Upon entering the centre, visitors will be guided through a multifaceted learning experience that speaks to today’s generations, encouraging them to carry forward the Stonewall legacy and the ongoing fight for full equality.”

A number of large corporations sponsored aspects of the design.

Visitors are greeted by a Google-sponsored digital exhibit featuring a film showing “the impact of Stonewall’s legacy around the world” before entering the main space.

Stonewall national monument listening
A video series highlights those involved in the Stonewall movement

An installation by artist Fewocious sits near the entrance. The Brooklyn-based NFT artist created the pieces during the centre’s groundbreaking in 2022, which include phrases such as “today I reflect” and “alive”.

An exhibit curated by SNMVC founding partner Mark Segal runs along the length of the main space to one side, depicting the events that led up to the Stonewall uprising, while a long desk backed by rainbow-illuminated shelving sits across from it.

The replica jukebox, which was “supported by Amazon” according to the team, sits in the centre with music curated by DJ Honey Dijon.

Towards the back, a small nook holds a rotating exhibit curated by students of Parsons School of Design and will share “the experiences of young Queer people and allies”.

Stonewall national monument exhibit
The space includes a rotating exhibit by students from Parsons School of Design

The small Theater is divided from the main area by a grey curtain along the furthest wall.

The project follows the establishment of the Stonewall Inn as a National Monument and an addition to the parks system under President Obama in 2016.

“I’m designating the Stonewall National Monument as the newest addition to America’s National Park System,” said Obama during the announcement.

“Stonewall will be our first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights. I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country, the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us. That we are stronger together.”

Stonewall national monument painting
Art by Fewocious sits at the entrance

Since its opening, the Stonewall Inn bar has undergone a number of changes in ownership, programming, closings and openings, with its origins dating back to a speakeasy opened in 1930.

The visitor centre’s opening on 28 June 2024 marked the 55th anniversary of the Stonewall uprisings.

“As the first LGBTQIA+ visitor center in the National Park Service, this day signifies a landmark achievement in American history and honors the relentless spirit that ignited the worldwide LGBTQIA+ rights movement,” said the team.

Led by Rodriguez and Gothar, its transformation into a visitor centre was a six-year undertaking.

The opening comes near the end of Pride month in the US, which has June as a time to celebrate LGBTQ+ people and culture . Recently, American artist Jeffrey Gibson hung colourful tapestries from the ceiling of Kew Gardens that spoke to the artist’s view of “queer nature”; and LGBTQ+ designers and researchers spoke to the evolution of queer spaces and how to protect them.

The photography is by Stephen Kent Johnson.

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