DC's LGBTQ+ History

When the Founding Fathers established Washington, DC, as a federal territory in 1790, the fledgling government criminalized homosexuality as the British had. A desire for uniformity and a “normalcy” defined by American officials resulted in numerous repressions and segregations through ensuing centuries, targeting those who did not fit into a traditional family structure. The strictness of gender roles and gender identities in the United States, combined with a genuine fear of “divergent” sexual behaviors resulted in a myriad of negative interactions between the general public, the police state, and the emerging LGBTQ+ community.

As the seat of federal power, it is no surprise that Washington, DC, has been a major focal point in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights and resistance. From protests to lift the ban on gay and lesbian federal workers to those legalizing same-sex marriage, DC has a strong history of activism and community. According to the Williams Institute, DC is currently the gayest city in America with the most LGBTQ+ identifying individuals per capita. DC’s long-standing LGBTQ+ community deserves recognition for making the city a safe space.

This tour is a collection of sites located in the District that have been historically significant to the city’s LBGTQ+ community. Not every site is a designated landmark, yet each location is historically significant. Additionally, some sites are designated, but the official documentation does not include LGBTQ+ history.

Like other marginalized communities with histories of oppression, the LGBTQ+ community’s history is scattered and incomplete, and there are ongoing research efforts to continue adding sites to this digital collection. Due to the criminalization of homosexuality, many archival materials used to create historical accounts are missing (e.g., journals, photographs, and public records).

However, the DC Preservation League is committed to continuing its efforts to document the histories of communities currently underrepresented on the DC Inventory of Historic Sites. If you have information on a site you believe to be historically significant, please contact DCPL’s Community Outreach & Grants Manager, Zachary Burt (zach@dcpreservation.org).

For additional information related to this tour, please see the Historic Context Statement for Washington’s LGBTQ Resources, which can be found here: https://dcpreservation.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Washington-LGBTQ-Historic-Context-Statement.pdf

Annie's Paramount Steakhouse

Initially opened as a “musty little beer joint” in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC, Paramount Steakhouse (later renamed Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse)) became a haven for the LGBTQ+ community, almost entirely by accident. George…

Slowe-Burrill House

This cross-gabled Queen Anne frame house at 1256 Kearny Street NE was built for prosperous Irish immigrants James T. and Hannah Ward. The house was probably completed in 1893, and the couple remained there until selling the property in 1918 to…

The Furies Collective

The row house at 219 11th Street SE, historically home to the Furies Collective, is a two-story, early 20th-century brick dwelling located in the Capitol Hill Historic District. Built in 1913, the house is one of a pair of dwellings in a block of…

Franklin Kameny Residence

Beginning in 1962 and continuing for nearly 40 years, this ordinary brick Colonial Revival house served as the home and office of Dr. Franklin E. Kameny, one of the leading lights of the gay rights movement, and considered the father of gay activism.…

DC's LGBTQ+ History: Lamda Rising

Deacon Maccubbin opened Lamda Rising bookstore in 1974 in a 300-square-foot space on 19th Street NW. The bookstore opened at a significant time for the LGBTQ+ movement, as only one year prior to the store's opening the American Psychiatric…

DC's LGBTQ+ History: Nob Hill

This corner spot in Columbia Heights was once the site of Nob Hill, a popular African American gay bar. Nob Hill operated from 1957 to 2004, and, according to the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), which documented the site in 2016, this…

DC’s LGBTQ+ History: Phase One

Phase One was a popular lesbian bar on DC's Barracks Row (8th Street SE), which was once referred to as "Gay Way," thanks to its many LGBTQ+ friendly businesses. Allen Carroll and his partner Chris Jansen opened the bar in 1971. Soon after opening in…

Civil Rights Site: Civic and Social Life - The Clubhouse

The ClubHouse (also known as the Clubhouse and the Club House), constructed in phases between 1930 and 1945, served as an automobile garage and showroom before becoming DC’s top African American dance club from 1975 to 1990. As AIDS became an…

DC's LGBTQ+ History: Howard Hall at Saint Elizabeths Hospital

In 1852, Congress chartered Saint Elizabeths Hospital as the Government Hospital for the Insane, with a mission of providing “the most humane care and enlightened curative treatment” for patients from the Army, Navy, and District of Columbia. The…

DC's LGBTQ+ History: US Supreme Court

As the most influential court in the United States, Americans have long understood the importance of the US Supreme Court and many view it as a final avenue to right a legal wrong. LGBTQ+ Americans, like other minority groups, have relied on the…

Congressional Cemetery Historic District

The original four and one-half acre tract of Congressional Cemetery was purchased from the Government for $200 on April 4, 1807 as a private burial ground. On March 30, 1812, several years after Christ Church was built, Ingle, one of the buyers,…

Lafayette Square Historic District

Lafayette Square is the formal public park opposite the White House, and with its surrounding frame of buildings constitutes the Lafayette Square Historic District. The Historic District includes government buildings, one-time residences, and…
For additional information related to this tour, please see the Historic Context Statement for Washington’s LGBTQ Resources, which can be found here: https://dcpreservation.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Washington-LGBTQ-Historic-Context-Statement.pdf