Two former artist homes in Manhattan added to LGBT historic registry

Author Patricia Highsmith lived at 48 Grove St., at Bleecker Street, from 1940-42. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

BY GABE HERMAN | Two former Manhattan residences of legendary American artists have been added to a nonprofit’s registry of city sites with connections to the LGBT community that have historic social significance.

The nonprofit NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, which looks to increase awareness of extant sites with LGBT connections, and protect such sites, added the former homes of artist Georgia O’Keeffe and author Patricia Highsmith to its website.

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) was famous for modern paintings of flowers, Southwest landscapes and New York skyscrapers. The nonprofit has added 525 Lexington Ave., between East 48 and 49 Streets, to its website of historic sites, based on O’Keeffe living and working there in suite 3003 at the Hotel Shelton (now the Marriott East Side) from 1925 to 1936.

The nonprofit noted that although O’Keeffe was married to the photographer and art dealer Alfred Stieglitz, she also had relationships with women throughout her life.

“Georgia O’Keeffe’s 30th-floor suite factored heavily into the artist’s work,“ said Amanda Davis, project manager for the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. “It’s especially powerful to see O’Keeffe’s paintings of her view from the Hotel Shelton, to understand the City as she perceived it from atop, then, the tallest hotel in not only Manhattan but the world.”

Georgia O’Keeffe lived and worked for several years at 525 Lexington Ave. (Google Maps)

O’Keeffe made several paintings between 1925 and 1929 that featured the building and the view from her suite. The nonprofit noted a 1928 quote from O’Keeffe about working high up in a hotel.

“I know it’s unusual for an artist to want to work way up near the roof of a big hotel, in the heart of a roaring city, but I think that’s just what the artist of today needs for stimulus,” O’Keefe said. “He has to have a place where he can behold the city as a unit before his eyes but at the same time have enough space left to work …”

Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995) wrote short stories and 22 novels, including “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Strangers on a Train.”

The nonprofit has added 48 Grove St. in the West Village, where Highsmith lived from 1940 to 1942 while studying at Barnard College. Two of her novels, “Edith’s Diary” and “Found in the Street,” featured Grove Street in the story.

Greenwich Village would influence her later work, and Highsmith often visited the area’s piano bars and lesbian bars, according to the preservation group. Her 1952 novel “The Price of Salt” featured a lesbian romance and was based on the author’s encounter with a woman while working at Bloomingdale’s.

“Patricia Highsmith’s time at Barnard shaped her as an emerging writer, and it was there that she first started to write fiction,” said Sarah Sargent, a historic preservationist and researcher who consulted with the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project on the Highsmith and O’Keeffe sites. “Highsmith also served as editor of the Barnard Quarterly, a campus literary magazine, and it was during her junior year at Barnard that she met artist Buffie Johnson and the two had a brief romantic relationship.”

More information can be found at nyclgbtsites.org.