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Julius’s Bar in Greenwich Village nominated for State and National Registers of Historic Places

Julius's Bar in Greenwich Village - the site

Julius's Bar in Greenwich Village - the site of a famous 1966 "Sip In" that expanded the rights of gays and lesbians - is one of 19 places in the state recommended for the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Helen Buford, owner of Julius’s Bar

The New York State Board for Historic Preservation has nominated 19 places and properties throughout the state - including three in NYC - for inclusion in the State National Registers of Historic Places.

Beth Olam Cemetery in Brooklyn and Queens – established in 1851 by three synagogues – and the Salem United Methodist Church – built in 1887 – were suggested for inclusion as well Julius’s Bar in Greenwich Village – the site of a famous “Sip In” in 1966 that eventually overturned a law against serving liquor to homosexuals on the grounds gays and lesbians were inherently “disorderly.”

“I’m just extremely thrilled and honored,” said Julius’s owner and “caretaker of history,” Helen Buford. “I would really love it if (the recommendation was approved) before our 50th anniversary of the Sip In,” on April 21, she said.

On April 21, 1966, three smartly dressed members of the gay rights organization the Mattachine Society (accompanied by reporters) identified themselves as gay and announced their intention to remain orderly to a Julius bartender. The bartender declined to serve them, placing his palm over a glass for emphasis – an image captured in an iconic photo. The Mattachines legally challenged the rule by the State Liquor Authority, eventually getting the law abolished, eroding one aspect of discrimination then routinely experienced by gays and lesbians.

The Sip In occurred “three years before Stonewall: It’s civil rights history” said Buford. Being included in a state and national register is also a helpful hedge to preserve mom and pop businesses such as hers against the depredations of developers and gentrification, she noted. “The building is already a landmark and we’re in a historical district,” but she has nine years to go in a ten year lease “and that ten years flies by,” Buford said.

Numerous tour groups now stop by the tavern at 159 W. 10th St. bar, which was once a haunt of Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee and Truman Capote, and which has been in continuous use as a bar since 1864. Next month, Buford is planning to observe the 50th anniversary of the Sip In and hopes that younger people “will stop by to learn that here is where everything started.”


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