Writer James Baldwin bought the building at 137 West 71st Street in 1965, and lived there on and off for the last two decades of his life. Now the city is considering designating the building between Columbus and Broadway as a landmark, part of a group of city structures being considered because of their connection to LGBT history.
“Although he generally eschewed labels and did not self-identify as gay, Baldwin wrote several novels that featured gay and bisexual characters and spoke openly about same-sex relationships and LGBT issues,” notes the LGBT Historic Sites Project, which has mapped important sites. Among those books is Giovanni’s Room and Just Above My Head, which Baldwin wrote when he owned the place on 71st.
The building was constructed in 1890, but renovated in 1961. Baldwin lived there on and off until his death in 1987, and his family members had apartments there. It also became a hangout spot for some of the most prominent musicians and artists of the time.
“Major writers and jazz musicians, including Toni Morrison—who briefly lived here—Amiri Baraka, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and Max Roach visited the Baldwins here and were considered members of their extended family,” according to the city’s description of the site.