A brief overview of The Center's history and milestones.

A dream born in the wake of the 1969 Stonewall riots was fulfilled when the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center Inc. took title to 208 West 13th Street in December 1984. This exhibit provides a glimpse into the history of our organization and how – through our support and that of others – life for LGBT New Yorkers has continued to evolve.

The Founders incorporate Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center Inc. on July 6, 1983.

In December of 1983, the City approves the sale of the former Food and Maritime Trades High School at 208 West 13th Street to The Center. On December 20, 1983, The New York Times runs an article by David Dunlap with the headline “Sale of Site to Homosexuals Planned.”

The city and The Center close the deal in 1984. The cost: $1,500,000.

The Center serves as a space to organize around the HIV and AIDS crisis, as well as a space for the community to hold events and meetings. Here Robert Woodworth discusses the early days of The Center.

In 1985 The Center launches its first cultural program, Second Tuesdays, which brings in prominent figures from the arts, politics and academia to speak directly to the lesbian and gay community.

Speakers include Audre Lorde, Fran Lebowitz and Quentin Crisp among others.

In 1985 The Center takes in the Harvey Milk High School of the Institute for the Protection of Lesbian and Gay Youth (now known as the Hetrick-Martin Institute) when it is evicted from its original location. The school remains at The Center until June 1986.

Activist, author and playwright Larry Kramer appears at Second Tuesdays at The Center on March 10, 1987. He rages at the government’s unresponsiveness to the AIDS crisis and motivates the crowd to create ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power.

The Center provides an office in the West Wing for the regional organizing office for the October 11, 1987 Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

In 1988 volunteers, including Harvey Fierstein (center), create the Quilt Workshop at the Center as part of the national effort to create panels for the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Panels are displayed on the Great Lawn in Central Park in June and later on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

In 1989 The Center launches programming for LGBT youth in a positive, healthy, alcohol- and drug-free community environment.

In 1989 The Center presents Imagining Stonewall, an exhibition in honor of the 20th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, and The Center Show, a collection of site-specific installations by 50 internationally known and emerging painters, photographers, videographers and sculptors curated by Rick Barnett and Barbara Sahlman.

The Center Show opens on June 1, 1989 to great fanfare in local and arts press. It features a mural in the second floor men’s room entitled “Once Upon a Time” by iconic gay artist Keith Haring as well as work by Arch Connelly, Nancy Spero, David LaChapelle, Grace Graupe-Pillard and Gran Fury.

The Center receives its first New York State social services grant in 1988 and launches Project Connect to provide alcohol and substance abuse prevention services.

The Pat Parker/Vito Russo Center Library opens at the Center in 1991. The library starts out with 500 volumes on racks that are rolled into the first floor assembly hall for library hours.

In 1992 The Center receives several awards for its façade restoration, including the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission Certificate of Merit, The New York Landmarks Conservancy Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award, and The Metropolitan Chapter of the Victorian Society in America’s Certificate of Merit.

Joan Rivers hosts “Joan Rivers and Her Funny Friends,” featuring an illustrious cast of dozens of prominent lesbian and gay entertainers, at a gala benefiting The Center on October 5, 1992.

The Center and other organizations charter buses to the National March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation on April 25. A million people attend the March.

In 1996 The Center begins Promote the Vote, America’s largest nonpartisan lesbian and gay voter registration and mobilization program at the time.

In 1998, over Labor Day weekend, The Center relocates to One Little West 12th Street in the Meatpacking District, so that renovations can begin at 208 West 13th Street.

July of 2001 The Center moves back to 208 West 13th Street as the $14 million renovation is completed. The building is dedicated as The Diamond/Kaplan building in honor of the million dollar lead gift from Shelley Kaplan.

The Center’s separate mental health and social services programs merge to form a comprehensive health and wellness program, better serving the LGBT Community.

In January of 2003 The David Bohnett CyberCenter opens at The Center, made possible through generous funds awarded by The David Bohnett Foundation.

To this day, visitors use the David Bohnett CyberCenter to surf the net, take classes, meet friends and seek services. Pictured here is the cyber center and front desk as they are today.

Executive Director Richard Burns celebrates 20 years at the helm of The Center in 2006. In 1987, shortly after Burns joined the Center, it was facing foreclosure on its mortgage. In Burns’ 20th year, The Center employs a staff of 80 and has an annual budget of $8 million.

In November of 2007, The Center's recovery program becomes the first LGBT treatment program licensed to accept insurance and Medicaid in New York State. In the first six months, 243 people benefit from the program.

The Center celebrates its 25th anniversary by serving as Grand Marshal for the NYC Pride March, and producing programming throughout the year featuring notable names such as Elaine Stritch, Harvey Fierstein, Kate Clinton and Edward Albee.

Richard Burns completes his 22-year tenure as executive director in February of 2009. Following a national search, Glennda Testone begins her services as executive director in November of the same year.

The New York State Marriage Equality Act takes effect on July 24, 2011. To celebrate, The Center welcomes newly-weds and their friends and families to a wedding reception honoring their love and commitment; 350 people attend.

The Center unveils the newly restored Keith Haring mural, “Once Upon a Time,” at a special reception in March of 2012. In honor of Haring's life and work, The Center dedicates the month to programming designed to celebrate the mural and Haring’s legacy.

Keith Haring's mural, "Once Upon a Time," at The Center.

On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in United States v. Windsor, declaring Section 3 of the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional. Edie’s press conference in response to the announcement was held at The Center.

In 2012 The Center breaks ground on a $9.1 million capital renovation. Pictured is the lobby in 2012, before the renovation.

The Center reopens the Pat Parker/Vito Russo Library and the National History Archive in its new location on the fourth floor in 2014

The Center celebrates the completion of renovations on February 3, 2015. The celebrations include a ribbon cutting ceremony and art exhibition, "Once Upon a Time and Now," honoring the 1989 Center Show.

Today The Center welcomes more than 300,000 visitors every year and provides social, cultural, wellness and health-based programming to support the vibrancy of the LGBT community in NYC. Visit The Center to see what we have for you—we’re open 365 days a year!
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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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