Brett Abrams

Historic DC: Frank Kameny's house

Filed By Brett Abrams | February 28, 2009 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, The Movement
Tags: Frank Kameny, Historic Preservation Review Board, LGBT history, National Park Service, Rainbow History Project, Washington D.C.

Gays, lesbians, the homophile movement all received a burst of recognition Thursday when the Historic Preservation Review Board voted unanimously to make Franklin Kameny's house Washington DC's first gay site on the DC List of Historic Sites. The Board also decided to raise the nomination to the National Register of Historic Sites at the National Park Service.

Dr. Kameny's transforming role in creating a militant, and successful, campaign for gay civil rights in employment, accommodation, and assembly and reversing legal, medical and clerical opposition to gay rights. The house was also his office and the location where he coined the slogan, "Gay is good."

Members of the Rainbow History Project established a committee to write the nomination in 2003. After working with the Historic Preservation Office, the Rainbow Committee, particularly Mark Meinke, resubmitted the proposal. The DC Preservation Board worked on the project in 2008. The effort begins at the local level with the nomination of the site starting with the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission. ANC3D unanimously approved the nomination of the Kameny site as a DC historic landmark.

The effort gained momentum through the solicitation of the support of others. Rainbow History Project members solicited support from a large number of historians and organizations, including the American Historical Association's Committee on LGBT History, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign.

Mark Meinke, chair of Rainbow History commented that "This designation adds the Kameny home and office to a handful of GLBT sites recognized in the US. Kameny's home now joins Henry Gerber's home in Chicago, the Harvey Milk camera shop and home in San Francisco, and the Stonewall Inn in New York City, amongst a few others, as preserved historic gay community sites."

Former Director of Diversity for the National Trust for Historic Preservation Jeffrey Harris observed that the house on 5020 Cathedral Avenue, NW and other historic designations entail a significant amount of effort. "However, I think someone should also look at the prospect of landmarking Paula Giddings place in Philly, and the home of the lady who married her long time partner in California."

Media coverage of the designation included some gay press and coverage through the Associated Press wire service. The Washington Blade ran a feature. The Washington Post ran a super piece with details about the effort, about Dr. Kameny's life and a nice photograph. The Minnesota Star Tribune, San Francisco Gate and Fresno Bee picked up the AP story.

Intriguingly, news outlets, such as the Washington Business Journal, assigned a reporter to write a small blurb about the designation. The Las Vegas television station, KTNV (ABC) and the city's radio station KDWN, carried the story as well. Viva Las Vegas!

Other information sources featured the story. Topix, and my favorite, Slog.

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Wonderful news.

There's a vast gap in "official" American history and we're it. This has always been a society of titanic struggles for equality and we've always been part of them. And we've made our own struggle a cutting edge in the fight to extend the borders of democracy.

Too much of that history has been lost because of bigotry.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | March 1, 2009 12:32 AM

Dr. Kameny has been a hero to me since he gave an electrifying speech at IU in 1975. He will be 84 next May, and I am sure he still has all the bravery required, to speak truth to power.

I'm thrilled our community is getting some long-due recognition. Dr. Kameny is an obvious choice to honor as one of the "founding fathers" of our movement. We owe him more than we can ever repay.

It is great to hear that there is a strong personal connection for some of the readers.
I agree that it is important to claim your history and over the last two decades there have been great community studies written about NYC (Chauncey); LA (Faderman/Timmons); Buffalo (Kennedy/Davis); Philadelphia (Stein); SF (many people) that have given us some of the history ignored in mainstream stories of the US.

I'm planning, over the next few months, to write about the people who are part of the local gay history groups that are saving the materials that help make writing LGBTQ history possible.

I hope to begin with the Rainbow History Project, which played such a vital role in preserving Dr. Kameny's House for posterity.

Thank you for the very complete article about Dr Kameny's historic home.

A few comments ... Rainbow History is delighted that the DC Preservation League decided in late September 2008 to co-sponsor the nomination of the Kameny house. However, the responsibility for and work of creating the nomination and submitting it to the Historic Preservation Office lies entirely with Rainbow History Project.

While local ANC approval is an important part of the process, the Advisory Neighborhood Commission did not review and approve the nomination until January 2009 following a presentation by Mark Meinke.

Finally, we would like to mention that the National Trust for Historic Preservation supported the nomination with a letter to the Historic Preservation Office.

edna lavey | March 10, 2009 6:18 PM

This is what Frank always wanted.

I am very sorry that he does not have the morality or honesty to ever mention how he came to own the house.

Do you not recall that he whined about having only .20 a day? Now he very casually says "I have no family", "I bought the house in 1984". HOW???

I was in the room when he called his mother in a panic, and hysterically SCREAMED and DEMANDED money.

He had lots of family. He had sister who helped to invest the money. He inherited a lot of family money, which he quickly and mysteriosly squandered.

He owed his sister gratitute. She de-closeted him with his mother in 1965, Very very painful He has returned her kindness with enormous insults. Very very sick, She would be satisfied with a "thank You" instead of an accusation of "venemous."
I am sorry that he is incapable of emotions - sympathy, empathy, personal relations. His sister is disabled, widowed alone. His mother lived to 101 and he took no responsibility. He dis not come to his sister's husband's funderal - he still insults her.

I hate his support of bestility, and dishonesty using the Declar. of Indedence to justify it,

I am the sister, and terribly terribly hurt.