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National Parks Service recognizing more LGBTQ historical sites

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Posted at 11:03 AM, Jan 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-04 13:34:45-05

When thinking of the most historical places in the U.S., things like the Washington Monument or U.S. Capitol often come to mind. But historical sites that proved crucial for equal rights are getting more recognition.

At 91, Walter Cole holds the Guinness world record for the oldest performing drag queen. He performs under the name "Darcelle" at Darcelle XV, his club in Portland, Oregon.

Darcelle XV is one of only two known drag clubs that were open in the U.S. before 1970. It was recently added to the national register of historic places, and it's the first LGBTQ Oregon business to be designated a national historic site.

"We found out that his club is the oldest in America that is still continuous and the same location from the beginning to the end," said Donnie Horn, the executive director of Triangle Productions in Portland, Oregon. "There's one more in Chicago that has just like, two, or three years (ago), moved (locations)."

The club was also around long before LGBTQ became a category for nomination for historic sites in 2000.

Before that, the National Park Service says other similar historic places may have been listed under a less descriptive area of significance, like "social history," so it's hard to know exactly how many listed today are LGTBQ significant.

In fact, the earliest nomination to specifically identify LGBTQ appears to be the Stonewall Inn in New York City. The bar was the site of an uprising in 1969 that helped inspire the Gay Rights movement. It was listed in the national register in 1999, designated in 2000 and became a national monument in 2016, paving the way for other nominations.

"It was kind of hiding you were in a club, or you were whatever, you were still hiding," Horn said. "Now it's full bore, I am who I am, and I think there's that shift. But remember, there was many people that came before you that plowed down all of these fences to get where we are today."

Over the years, the National Park Service has expanded the "areas of significance" to places to recognize more properties that may be of interest to specific communities.

It also has grants to help cover surveys and inventories of historic properties associated with communities underrepresented in the national register.