Tony Pastor’s Downtown / Gay Community Center

130 W 3rd St New York

LGBT Washington Square Park & Environs/Tony Pastor’s Downtown / Gay Community Center
NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project
Written By NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project

The first initiative to document historic and cultural sites associated with the LGBT community in New York City, illustrating the richness of the city's history and the community's influence on America.

Overview

Tony Pastor’s Downtown, in business from 1939 to 1967, was a mob-backed club with a mixed clientele but popular with lesbians. The New York State Liquor Authority revoked its liquor license in 1967. In 1970-71, this was the location of the utopian Gay Community Center, started by the Gay Liberation Front and Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries.

History

From the 1920s, and particularly in the 1930s and after World War II, the area of Greenwich Village south of Washington Square continued as the location of many bars and clubs that catered to, welcomed, or merely tolerated, the LGBT community. Reflecting the not wholly hospitable climate of the post-war period, even in this neighborhood, many of these bars (largely lesbian) were located in the shadow of the elevated train that ran along West 3rd Street.

Tony Pastor’s Downtown, in business from 1939 to 1967, had a mixed clientele of lesbians and tourists, some gay men, and female impersonators (a term used at the time). Raided on morals charges in 1944 for permitting lesbians to “loiter” on the premises, Pastor’s survived apparently with mob backing. The New York State Liquor Authority, however, revoked its liquor license in 1967 because, in the homophobic language of the agency,

“[The bar had] become disorderly in that it permitted homosexuals, degenerates and undesirables to be on the license premises and conduct themselves in an offensive and indecent manner.” New York State Liquor Authority, 1967
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In the immediate aftermath of Stonewall, the earliest LGBT activist organization founded in July 1969 was the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). Another, formed in Fall 1970, was the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR). Though of brief duration (December 1970-1971), the utopian Gay Community Center, started by these two groups, was located in this building. It served as an LGBT social center, with such activities as classes and discussion groups. GLF held Sunday meetings and dances here, which were formerly at the Church of the Holy Apostles and Alternate U.

This was also the headquarters of Radicalesbians, spun off from the male-dominated GLF in 1970, and the meeting place of Gay Youth, for GLF members under the age of 21. A theft of funds forced the Center to close in 1971.

Building Information

Architect or Builder: Joseph M. Dunn Year Built: 1874-75

Sources

Daniel Hurewitz, Stepping Out: Nine Walks Through New York City’s Gay and Lesbian Past (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1997). Jay Shockley, “The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Community’s Presence in the South Village,” South Village Historic District Designation Report (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 2013). Stephan Cohen, The Gay Liberation Youth Movement in New York: “An Army of Lovers Cannot Fail” (New York: Routledge, 2008).

Cover Photo

Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2017.

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