Cherry Grove’s Community House and Theater officially designated a Historic Site by National Register For Historic Preservation
Published by lgbtweekly.com
June 13, 2013
The Cherry Grove Community House and Theater in Fire Island has been added to the official list of the National Register of Historic Places of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
The house, believed to be the oldest continuously operating gay and lesbian theater in the U.S., is only the second site of its kind in the state and third in the country to achieve this honor and recognition as an LGBT site. The others are Stonewall Inn in New York City and the Dr. Franklin E. Kameny House in Washington, D.C. This designation was made possible by the site’s recent recognition in the New York Register of Historic Places.
“We are honored and tremendously thrilled,” said Diane Romano, president of the Cherry Grove Community Association, Inc. (CGCAI), which owns and operates the house. “This house has been the heart and soul of Cherry Grove for more than six decades and holds a unique and iconic place in the lives of gay men and women everywhere. We believe it has always had exceptional historic significance, and it’s so gratifying that both New York state and the National Register think so too.”
According to Thom Hansen (Panzi), president of the Arts Project of Cherry Grove (APCG), which manages the theater’s theatrical and arts offerings, “The APCG has continuously produced theatrical productions since 1948, from plays to musicals to classical recitals, and has hosted some of the greatest talents, gay and straight, over the decades. This national recognition and designation mark an important part in our history and serve as a reminder to everyone of how vital our theater is – not only to Cherry Grove, but also to the LGBT community.”
Over the decades, the community house has hosted hundreds of local theatrical productions and has hosted performances by internationally known entertainers. Its roster of famous visitors and residents includes poet W.H. Auden; playwright Tennessee Williams; three internationally famous 20th-century fashion photographers, Richard Avedon, Lillian Bassman and Paul Himmel; actresses Nancy Walker, Tallulah Bankhead and Hermione Gingold; comedienne Kaye Ballard; performer Julie Wilson; and New Yorker journalist Janet Flanner.
Hansen noted, “This year’s performance lineup includes singers Ann Hampton, comedienne Lea DeLaria, a classical music recital and some very special local productions featuring Cherry Grove’s legendary artists.”
Carl Luss of national law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, took the lead on compiling the complex and thorough nomination submission on behalf of CGCAI on a volunteer basis. The extensive application process involved gathering many relevant historical facts and stitching together a compelling story to demonstrate the historical value of the structure. Luss is a past recipient of a Community Honors Award from the association for his contributions to Cherry Grove community development projects.