Stonewall Inn - History and Facts | History Hit

Stonewall Inn

New York, United States

Lily Johnson

03 Feb 2021
Image Credit: Alamy

About Stonewall Inn

The Stonewall Inn, often referred to simply as Stonewall, is a gay bar and recreational pub in the Greenwich Village area of New York City. It was the site of the 1969 Stonewall riots which are largely considered the be the start of the modern LGBTQ liberation movement.

Stonewall Inn history 

The Stonewall Inn has occupied 51-53 Christopher Street since 1934, when it was a bar and restaurant. In 1966, the Mafia invested in Stonewall, turning it into a gay bar for what they believed was a lucrative business market. Often these establishments could only be run through organised crime groups due to laws against soliciting homosexual relations.

Stonewall’s two dance floors and jukebox established it as a popular bar, where it was one of the only places in the city that LGBTQ couples could openly interact and dance together. Police raids on gay bars were common, occurring around once a month per establishment, however in the period just before the riots this had increased. 

In the early hours of the morning on 28 June, 1969, one such raid took place on the Stonewall Inn. The bar staff were arrested and patrons inside widely set upon, with anyone not wearing three items of ‘gender appropriate’ clothing arrested. 

Those removed from the building gathered in crowds outside, and following the blatant assault of a handcuffed lesbian woman by police, mass upheaval took place. The confrontations ensued the next night and set off a number of protests and demonstrations in New York City the following week and beyond.

The gay liberation movement’s roots are often traced back to the bold actions of those at Stonewall, including influential LGBTQ figures Marsha P. Johnson and Stormé DeLarverie, the latter widely supposed to be the handcuffed woman whose arrest instigated the rebellion.

Stonewall today 

Today the Stonewall Inn still resides on 51-53 Christopher Street. After changing hands a number of times following the riots it resumed as a gay bar in the 1990s, and today hosts drag shows, local music nights, cabaret and karaoke among other things. Since the passing of New York’s Marriage Equality Act in 2011, it also now offers gay wedding receptions. 

LGBTQ pride celebrations are held at Stonewall every year commemorating its landmark place in history, while in 2016 the Stonewall National Monument was established encompassing the nearby Christopher Park. Commemorations to the rebellion and its rebels may be found throughout, as you are able to walk through some of New York’s more sidelined, yet arguably most important history.

Getting to Stonewall

Stonewall is located in the heart of Greenwich Village in Lower Manhattan. The closest subway station is Christopher St – Sheridan Sq, while the closest Bus station is 7 Av S/W 10 St, both a 2-minute walk away. The closest train station is 9th Street, a 4-minute walk away.