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Illustration for LGBTQ landmarks POI
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

20 landmarks that underscore L.A.’s pivotal role in the fight for LGBTQ rights

While Pride is celebrated each June to mark the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in New York City, take some time to also appreciate the rich history of LGBTQ activism in Los Angeles.

We’ve selected 20 landmarks across the city that highlight the work Angelenos have done for decades to fight for the right to exist, to love and to live in peace.

Some locations no longer exist as they once did, but the memory of what happened in these important places has been preserved in books, documents, photographs and first-person accounts.

It’s worth noting that today’s legal weed scene wouldn’t exist without the efforts of LGBTQ activists.

Take, for example, Cooper Do-Nuts, a long-gone 24-hour cafe in downtown Los Angeles where a group of queer people rebelled against police harassment by throwing coffee cups and stirring straws at LAPD officers attempting to make arrests.

The undertold story of that May 1959 uprising was one of several gaps that prompted Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons to write their 2009 book, “Gay L. A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians.”

Street signs next to a concrete stairway.
The Mattachine Steps on Cove Avenue in Silver Lake near the former home of early gay activist Harry Hay.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

“We discovered that, historically, more lesbian and gay institutions started in Los Angeles than anywhere else on the planet, and that L.A.'s multifaceted, multiracial, and multicultural lesbian and gay activism continues to have tremendous impact worldwide,” they wrote.

Today, Los Angeles’ LGBTQ history is being preserved by organizations such as the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries and the June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives in West Hollywood (both of which are on our list).

“L.A. is one of those places where things can happen that can’t always happen somewhere else,” said Angela Brinskele, director of communications at the Mazer archives.

For Brinskele, maintaining queer history in Los Angeles is about making sure the next generations know that there were others before them and have a sense of the history of the gay rights movement.

“Even today, depending on where you live in the world and what kind of family or religion you’re brought up in, you can still think you’re the only queer person in the world,” she said. “A big principle that we live by is we’re not going to let our history be made to disappear.”

It is with that sentiment that we’ve compiled this initial list of landmarks and points of interest. It is, we know from the outset, far from exhaustive. However, it is a starting point and a list we hope to add to so that the city’s rich LGBTQ history — and the local places where it has been made — never disappear.

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Colorful artwork displayed in an outdoor park
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

The Wall Las Memorias AIDS Monument

Lincoln Heights
In 1993, Richard L. Zaldivar founded the Wall Las Memorias, a community health organization that serves the LGBTQ, Latino and underserved communities through education on health issues including HIV and AIDS. The Wall Las Memorias AIDS Monument in Lincoln Park grew out of Zaldivar’s desire to create a place where those who lost loved ones to AIDS complications can find solace and remember. The memorial, the country’s first publicly funded AIDS monument, was dedicated on Dec. 1, 2004 — World AIDS Day.

Designed by architect David Angelo and artist Robin Brailsford, the memorial features eight panels — six with murals inspired by life with AIDS in the Latino community and two listing names of people who have died from AIDS complications. The 9,000-square-foot memorial includes a park area with benches and a large archway.
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A round metal plaque set in the ground.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Yangna plaque — El Pueblo de Los Ángeles Historical Monument

Downtown L.A.
El Pueblo de Los Ángeles, near the site of Los Angeles’ 1781 founding settlement, contains a plaque to honor Yangna, a large Tongva village in what is now downtown Los Angeles. Many Native American tribes, including the Tongva, describe individuals who embody the male and female genders as two-spirit people. In 2019, L.A. Pride kicked off with a blessing led by L. Frank Manriquez, a two-spirit Tongva-Ajachmem activist, artist and scholar.
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A nighttime street view outside New Jalisco Bar.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The New Jalisco Bar

Downtown L.A.
Originally a billiards bar called Jalisco Inn, the New Jalisco Bar has been a haven for LGBTQ Latinos since Maria Rosa Garcia and her husband, Sergio Hernandez, took over ownership of the venue in 2005. The pandemic has been particularly hard on gay bars, and several decades-old favorites — including Rage and Gold Coast — were forced to permanently close their doors. Fans of New Jalisco donated more than $82,000 to a GoFundMe to help the bar stay afloat.
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People sitting in an outdoor park.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Cooper Do-Nuts

Downtown L.A.
Before the Stonewall uprising in New York, there was Cooper Do-Nuts in downtown L.A. In May 1959, two LAPD officers entered the 24-hour cafe popular with the gay and transgender communities and started asking for IDs, a common form of police harassment. When officers attempted to overfill a police car with detained people, patrons threw donuts, coffee cups, stirring straws and everything they could get their hands on, forcing the officers to leave and return with reinforcements. Many historians consider the small uprising to be the first of its kind. The building at the exact street address no longer stands; the land is part of San Julian Park at 312 E. 5th St.
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A downtown L.A. street adjacent to Pershing Square.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Pershing Square

Downtown L.A.
From the 1920s to the 1960s, Pershing Square was the center of “The Run,” a cluster of gay-friendly establishments and cruising spots connecting the park to gay bars on Main Street in downtown Los Angeles. The park was also a space where the LGBTQ community was able to gather to socialize and discuss issues, though the park lost some of its charm after the city built a three-story parking garage under it in 1951. In recent years, it has been the site of the DTLA Proud Festival.

First designated as a public space in 1866, the park has had several names, including La Plaza Abaja, Los Angeles Park and Central Park. In 1918, it was named after Gen. John Pershing, who led American forces in Europe during World War I.
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A brown, Craftsman-style house with a white painted porch.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Morris Kight's former residence

Westlake
In 1969, Morris Kight co-founded the Los Angeles chapter of the Gay Liberation Front, a gay rights group that formed in the wake of the Stonewall uprising in New York City. Kight held meetings at his Westlake residence, a Craftsman-style home he lived in from 1967 to 1974. Kight also helped launch what is now the Los Angeles LGBT Center and Christopher Street West, the nonprofit that has organized Los Angeles’ Pride parade and festival.
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A brick building fronted by a brick fence and a swath of green lawn.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries

University Park Archives
Based on the International Gay & Lesbian Archives, an extensive collection of LGBTQ-related materials started by pioneer activist Jim Kepner in 1942, and merged with the holdings of ONE Institute in 1994, the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives is considered to be the largest repository of LGBTQ materials in the world. It contains more than 700 archival collections of personal papers, 30,000 volumes of books and monographs, more than 4,000 paintings, drawings, works on paper, photographs and sculptural objects, 4,000 films, 21,000 videos and 6,900 audio recordings. In addition to the main space located near the University of Southern California, there’s an off-site exhibition space, the ONE Gallery, West Hollywood at 626 N. Robertson Blvd. in West Hollywood.
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The colorful exterior of the Catch One nightclub.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Jewel's Catch One

Arlington Heights
For 42 years, Jewel’s Catch One was a haven for members of L.A.'s Black LGBTQ community who faced discrimination at predominantly white gay clubs and harassment from the Los Angeles Police Department. In 2016, founder Jewel Thais-Williams was the Los Angeles Pride grand marshal. That same year the club’s story was told in a Netflix documentary. Jewel’s Catch One closed in 2015, but the newest iteration of the club is called Catch One to honor the original’s legacy.
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A  bearded man dressed in black leather stands on the stone-lined steps of a house.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Tom of Finland House

Echo Park
This former home of homoerotic artist Touko Laaksonen — better known as Tom of Finland — and currently owned by Laaksonen’s lover, business partner and muse, Durk Dehner, houses the Tom of Finland Foundation. Its holdings include the largest collection of Tom art (about 1,500 works), part of a 100,000-plus collection of images, related materials and vintage pornography that’s billed as the world’s largest repository of erotic art. In 2016, the city made the home a historic cultural monument.
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A house across the street from a reservoir.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Harry Hay's former residence

Silver Lake
This is the former home of communist, labor activist and gay rights advocate Harry Hay, who hosted the founding meetings of the Mattachine Society in 1950. One of the first nationwide gay rights organizations, it’s considered one of the opening salvos in the modern gay rights movement. Just to the right of the front gate (which is a private residence) is the top of a steep concrete stairway that leads down toward the Silver Lake Reservoir. On Cole Avenue at the base of the stairs — which is also accessible via Silver Lake Boulevard — is a sign that dubs them the Mattachine Steps and reads: “Harry Hay founded the Mattachine Society on this hillside on November 11, 1950.”
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A merry-go-round in a park
(AaronP / Bauer-Griffin / GC Images)

Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round

Griffith Park
The Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round, in the east-central part of the park off Crystal Springs Drive, was built in 1926 by the Spillman Engineering Co. and brought to the park in 1937. Its 68 horses are carved to include jewel-encrusted bridles and blankets decorated with sunflowers and lion heads. It also happened to be the meeting point for a series of “gay-in” protests organized to encourage the LGBTQ community to come out of the closet and foster public acceptance. The first one took place there on Memorial Day 1968, and other high-profile protests there, organized by the Gay Liberation Front, followed in 1970 and 1971. A digital version of the April 5, 1970, event poster, designed by Bruce Reifel, can be viewed in the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives at USC.
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A black and white sign hanging on the side of a white building reads: The Black Cat
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

The Black Cat

Silver Lake Bar
As patrons at the Black Cat gay bar kissed to ring in New Year’s Day 1967, plainclothes Los Angeles police officers beat patrons and arrested 14 people on charges of lewd conduct. Activists responded by grabbing picket signs and staging a public protest against the raid outside the bar on Feb. 11, 1967, a gay rights demonstration that predated the Stonewall riots by two years. In 2008, the city of Los Angeles declared this historic cultural monument No. 939, described as the “site of the first documented LGBT civil rights demonstration in the nation.” The site, still called the Black Cat, now houses a gastropub.
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The Melrose Gate of Paramount Pictures Studio.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Paramount Pictures

Hollywood
The birthplace of many a Hollywood career also happens to be the birthplace of the country’s first lesbian publication, Vice Versa, thanks to the singular efforts of RKO Studios publicity department secretary Edythe Eyde (writing under the pseudonym Lisa Ben — an anagram of “lesbian”), who published the underground publication from June 1947 to February 1948. That department was located in a building on the western side of the main lot (which Paramount acquired in 1967) near the 780 Gower St. entrance.
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The exterior of the Los Angeles LGBT Center Anita May Rosenstein Campus
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles LGBT Center

Hollywood Service Organization
Founded in 1969, the Los Angeles LGBT Center provides the LGBTQ community with a range of health and social services at 10 locations across the city but considers its newest space — the 183,700-square-foot Anita May Rosenstein Campus on McCadden Place in Hollywood — its flagship. With more than 50,000 visits a month (that’s more than half a million a year), it provides free and low-cost services for more LGBT people than any other organization in the world.
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A busy street intersection including multiple cars and pedestrian traffic.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Site of the first Pride parade

Hollywood
This intersection marks the starting point of the nation’s first legally permitted gay pride parade, which took place on June 28, 1970. Organized by the Christopher Street West Assn. to commemorate the Stonewall uprising on Christopher Street in New York City the year before, the original parade route went east along Hollywood Boulevard for nine blocks — to Vine Street — before doubling back to the Hollywood and Highland starting point.

Last year, the street was the site of racial justice protests and marches after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. On Hollywood Boulevard between Highland Avenue and Orange Drive, a permanent street mural was installed as a tribute to the June 14, 2020, All Black Lives Matter march, which called for LGBTQ rights and racial justice.
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Exterior of Plummer Park's stucco, tile-roofed Great Hall and Long Hall.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Plummer Park's Great Hall/Long Hall

West Hollywood
Plummer Park’s Great Hall/Long Hall served as the meeting place for the Los Angeles chapter of ACT UP — short for AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power — from 1987 to 1996. Having a central meeting place was critical for the group, which used nonviolent direct actions to gain media attention and protest inaction from the federal government and private sector toward the AIDS epidemic.
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The Streamline Moderne exterior of June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives

West Hollywood Archives
Originally called the West Coast Lesbian Collections and founded in 1981 in Oakland, Calif., the archives were brought to Los Angeles six years later through the efforts of Connexxus Women’s Center/Centro de Mujeres. Named in honor of community activist and supporter June L. Mazer, it is the largest major archive on the West Coast dedicated to preserving and promoting lesbian and feminist history and culture. Its holdings include more than 2,300 titles of published materials as well as personal letters and scrapbooks, artwork, manuscripts, records, photographs, videotapes, private papers and clothing.
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A view of Beth Chayim Chadashim synagogue.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Beth Chayim Chadashim

Mid-City
Temple Beth Chayim Chadashim (the House of New Life) held its first service in the Westside home of co-founder Jerry Gordon on June 9, 1972, with 15 people attending. According to its official history, this gathering established BCC as “the world’s first synagogue founded by and for lesbians and gay men.” A 1973 fire caused BCC to leave its meeting spot at Metropolitan Community Church. By late 1977, BCC moved in to 6000 W. Pico Blvd. after meeting in temporary locations. On April 10, 2011, there was a dedication for BCC’s new temple home at 6090 W. Pico Blvd.
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A lifeguard tower on a beach next to three people doing yoga
(Nick Agro / For The Times)

Will Rogers State Beach

Pacific Palisades
Named after actor and philosopher cowboy Will Rogers, whose widow, Betty, donated the land to the state of California, Will Rogers State Beach consists of approximately 103 acres of beach stretching more than three miles. A part of that sandy space — just north of the Beach Club near lifeguard tower 18 — has been so popular with the LGBTQ community over the years that it’s earned the nickname Ginger Rogers Beach.
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A beige stucco house surrounded by a white metal and brick fence.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

The Rev. Troy Perry's former residence

Huntington Park
In 1968, the Rev. Troy Perry placed an ad in the Advocate magazine announcing a new pro-LGBTQ church. The first service of the Metropolitan Community Church took place on Oct. 6, 1968, in the living room of the house he rented in Huntington Park. It was attended by 12 people — nine friends of Perry’s and three people who saw the ad. Two months later, Perry officiated what Time magazine called the first public same-sex wedding at his home. The church quickly outgrew the house and moved to a larger venue.

Today, the church estimates is has 43,000 members spread across congregations around the world. The Huntington Park home is a private residence, but visitors can attend a service at the congregation’s current location in Los Feliz at 4607 Prospect Ave.
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