A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from June 29, 2019
Gay Greenwich Village

The term “Gay Greenwich Village” and the name “Gay Street” have both contributed to the understanding—or misunderstanding—of the word “gay.”


Paris, France, has been frequently called called “Gay Paree” since the 19th century. Manhattan’s Greenwich Village has been called “Gay Greenwich Village” since at least 1919, inspired in part by the Greenwich Village Follies of that year. “Gay” meant “joyful” and “lively” and “fun-loving.”

“Of gay Greenwich Village I’ve often heard tell...” was printed in The Illustrated Buffalo Express (Buffalo, NY) on March 23, 1919. “Gay Greenwich Village Follies” was printed in the Ogden (UT) Standard-Examiner on March 21, 1921. “It (Jimmy Kelly’s Greenwich Village rendezvous at 181 Sullivan Street—ed.) is the gayest spot in that gayest of gay sections, dear old Greenwich Village” was printed in The Morning Telegraph (New York, NY) on July 20, 1934.

“Amber Hollibaugh will screen Gay Greenwich Village, a new video detailing the history of Manhattan’s oldest lesbian and gay community” was printed in a newsletter of The San Francisco Bay Area Gay & Lesbian Historical Society in 1985 or 1986.


Gay Street is located in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, between Christopher Street and Waverly Place. “The corner of Greenwich and Gay-st.” was printed in The National Advocate for the Country (New York, NY) on March 28, 1817. There are several citations of Gay Street in 1827 and 1828. The street was widened in 1833.

It’s not known who Gay Street was named after. Baltimore, Maryland, has had a “Gay Street” since the 1700s. New York’s Gay Street was not named after American attorney, journalist and abolitionist Sydney Howard Gay (1814-1888), who was a teenager in the 1820s who lived in Massachusetts. There were several people named “Gay” in the New York City Directories (see below).

Ziegfeld Follies showgirl Betty Compton (1904-1944) lived at 12 Gay Street while she was the mistress of New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker (1881-1946, NYC mayor 1926-1932). Later, Frank Paris lived at 12 Gay Street and created the famous puppet Howdy Doody.

The comedy-mystery movie A Night to Remember (1942) was set at 13 Gay Street.

The play My Sister Eileen (1938 book, 1940 play) (the basis for the 1953 musical Wonderful Town) was based on sisters who lived at 14 Gay Street.

In June 2019 during Pride Month, Gay Street was temporarily renamed “Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Nonbinary, Pansexual, Two Spirit, + Street.” There is no doubt that when Gay Street was named in the early 1800s, the “Gay” name had nothing to do with the current LGBTQ meaning of “gay.” It’s not certain if Gay Street had any influence at all on the term “Gay Greenwich Village.” It’s also not certain if Gay Street had any influence at all on the term “gay” (LGBTQ). Nevertheless, the name “Gay Street” is at least a fortunate coincidence for the later terms.

Wikipedia: Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village (/ˈɡrɛnɪtʃ/ GREN-itch, /ˈɡrɪn-/ GRIN-, /-ɪdʒ/ -⁠ij) often referred to by locals as simply “the Village”, is a neighborhood on the west side of Manhattan, New York City, within Lower Manhattan. Broadly, Greenwich Village is bounded by 14th Street to the north, Broadway to the east, Houston Street to the south, and the Hudson River to the west. Greenwich Village also contains several subsections, including the West Village west of Seventh Avenue and the Meatpacking District in the northwest corner of Greenwich Village.

In the 20th century, Greenwich Village was known as an artists’ haven, the Bohemian capital, the cradle of the modern LGBT movement, and the East Coast birthplace of both the Beat and ‘60s counterculture movements. Groenwijck, one of the Dutch names for the village (meaning “Green District"), was Anglicized to Greenwich. Greenwich Village contains Washington Square Park, as well as two of New York’s private colleges, New York University (NYU) and the New School.

Wikipedia: Gay Street (Manhattan)
Gay Street is a short, angled street that marks off one block of Greenwich Village in the New York City borough of Manhattan. The street’s name does not refer to the LGBT character of Greenwich Village, or to any other LGBT issues for that matter. The name may come from a family named Gay who owned land or lived there in colonial times: a newspaper of May 11, 1775 contains a classified ad where an “R. Gay”, living in the Bowery, offers a gelding for sale.
Since it was once too narrow to be a full-fledged street, the City of New York widened it in 1833.

New York City Directory (1799)
Pg. 232:
Gay, Luther, grocer, 113 Fly-market
Gay, widow, 7 Bridge-street
Gay, Kirkpatrick, 1 Fayette

New York City Directory (1800)
Pg. 209:
Gay, widow, 18 Marketfield
Gay, Jennet, 35 Bancker

New York City Directory (1801)
Pg. 176:
Gay, Gennet, 42 James

New York City Directory (1811)
Pg. 109:
Gay Anthony, bath house 17 Chamber
Gay Jennet, rear 13 Mott
Gay Kirkpatrick, 25 James

28 March 1817, The National Advocate for the Country (New York, NY), pg. 3, col. 5 ad:
At 11 o’clock A. M. at the corner of Greenwich and Gay-st., a large quantity of board, plank, &c.

New York City Directory (1821)
Pg. 191:
Gay Calvin, dep. surveyor 46 Forsyth
Gay widow Jane, rear 13 Mott

25 August 1827, Commercial Advertiser (New York, NY), pg. 4, col. 2:
Gay st.
(Assessed to Alfred S. Pell.—ed.)

20 February 1928, New-York (NY) American, pg. 1, col. 2 ad:
Also—the two-story brick front House and Lot, No. 16 Gay street, near Sixth street.

18 September 1828, Commercial Advertiser (New York, NY), pg. 1, col. 2:
Gay street

14 January 1831, New-York (NY) American, pg. 4, col. 2 ad:
...bounded easterly by a place called “Gay street,” ...

New York City Directory (1831)
Pg. 292:
Gay Frederick A. merchant 105 Front h. 24 Broadway
Gay John B. carter 77 Hamersley
Gay Martha widow of Calvin, 79 Bowery
Gay & Cheney, druggists 100 Fulton c. William

New York City Directory (1934)
Pg. 277:
Gay Frederick A. merchant 173 Water h. 43 Bleecker
Gay John C. merchant 540 Broadway h. 339 Greenwich
Gay & Fullerton, merchants 173 Water
Gay Martha widow of Calvin, 268 Bowery

New York City Directory (1841)
Pg. 294:
Gay Frederick A. merchant 15 Old-slip h. 232 Laurens
Gay Hamilton, broker 42 Wall
Gay John, clerk 24 Avenue 8th
Gay Peter, hostler 299 Fourth
Gay Martha widow of Calvin, 158 Spring

New York City Directory (1851)
Pg. 208:
Gay Amos W. 20 Mers. Exch. h. Brooklyn
GAY CALVIN B. lawyer 15 Wall, H. Jamaica, L. I.
Gay George, segars, 442 1/2 Broadway, h. 67 Union pl.
Gay Harvey S. physician, 50 Forsyth
Gay Henry B. customhouse, h. 49 Fifth
GAY J. W. millinery, late 239 now 253 Greenwich, h. Chamberlaine hotel
Gay Jacob, shoemaker, 269 Bleecker
Gay James, tinsmith, 195 Varick
Gay James F. express, 1 Wall
Gay Jesse, engineer, 10 Columbia
Gay Joseph, ostler, 6 Stuyvesant
Gay Joseph, blacksmith, 80 W. 25th
Gay Robert P. late feed, 265 E. Broadway
Gay Sydney H. editor, 142 Nassau, h. Staten Island
Gay Wilkes clerk, 173 Pearl, h. 305 Sixth
Gay William mer. 250 Pearl, h. Connecticut
Gay’s establishment, millinery, old number 239 new number 253 Greenwich

23 March 1919, The Illustrated Buffalo Express (Buffalo, NY), “The Riddlers’ Knotty Kinks,” pg. 30, cols. 5-6:
Of gay Greenwich Village I’ve often heard tell,
But to dine there alone is as funny as—well,
I’ve eaten chop-suey on Mott street and Pell!

6 July 1919, New York (NY) Times, pg. 11, col. 2 ad:
Sale of Lamps
Artistic novelties with our own especially designed shades of gay “Greenwich Village” Silks.
(Lord & Taylor department store.—ed.)

Chronicling America
23 March 1921, Ogden (UT) Standard-Examiner, pg. 8, col. 3 photo caption:
JANE CARROLL, dark lashed prima donna in Gay Greenwich Village Follies, Orpheum, Tuesday and Wednesday, March 29-30

3 February 1922, Women’s Wear (New York, NY), pg. 62, col. 1:
Gay Greenwich Village Colors Staid Fourteenth St. Stores
Frills and Fancies Brighten Up Old Establishments in Time-Honored Shopping Center—Bohemians’ Requirements Find Stores Catering to Them—But Will New Trimming Drive Away Popular Price Trade?

11 March 1922, Greensboro (NC) Daily News, pg. 3, col. 1 ad:
A Bohemian Revel of New York’s Gay Greenwich Village
“Rose of Washington Square”

25 March 1923, San Francisco (CA) Chronicle, pg. 2F banner headline:
Gay Greenwich Village Opens Arms to Chorus Girls

8 December 1924, Asbury Park (NJ) Evening Press, pg. 5, col. 5 ad:
“The Acid Test”—She lived in New York’s gay Greenwich Village, when she married and moved to a suburban town.
(True Story Magazine.—ed.)

15 December 1925, State-Times (Baton Rouge, LA), pg. 1, col. 7:
Former Darling and Beautiful Spy
of the Confederacy Dies Friendless
and Alone in Gay Greenwich Village

By Associated Press

7 February 1926, Denver (CO) Post, “Grim Tragedies Behind the Gay Masks of Greenwich Village,” magazine sec., pg. 6, col. 1:
And a block down the street a woman with tragic eyes and lined cheeks is telling a sympathetic welfare worker how “gay” Greenwich Village has ruined her peace by wrecking three of her beloved children.

9 October 1928, The Morning Oregonian (Portland, OR), pg. 7, col. 6 ad:
What a role for Gilbert! Mocking, scoffing at convention...the king of hearts of gay Greenwich Village!

11 July 1930, Plainfield (NJ) Courier-News, pg. 17, col. 3 ad:
(The movie The Golden Calf.—ed.)
An eyeful of Golden Girls, earful of Golden Tunes, stockingful of Golden Charm in a delightfully daring musical romance of gay Greenwich Village!

19 July 1931, Bay City (MI) Sunday Times, pg. 16, col. 2 ad:
Pretty Ex-Follies Girl’s Escapades With Gay Greenwich Village Artist Stir New York Society Circles!
(The movie Laughter with Nancy Carroll.—ed.)

20 July 1934, The Morning Telegraph (New York, NY), “Roaming ‘Round Manhattan” with Jack Collins, pg. 2, col. 3:
We can easily understand why this is so as in your rounder’s opinion, it (Jimmy Kelly’s Greenwich Village rendezvous at 181 Sullivan Street—ed.) is the gayest spot in that gayest of gay sections, dear old Greenwich Village.

29 October 1937, New Orleans (LA) Item, pg. 8, col. 2 ad:
(Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell and Robert Benchley in the movie Live, Love and Learn.—ed.)

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
22 March 1939, The Daily Register (Elmhurst, NY), “Broadway” by Lou Cortese, pg. 3, col. 1:
Pink-laced gentlemen with swaying hips and hard-jawed gals with mannish clothes still romp at gay Greenwich Village bistros where the air is thick with smoke and the talk is full of “husbands” and “wives” though the boys and gals who answer to those calls are often mis-gendered.

23 August 1942, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, “Notes of the Theater,” pt. 6, pg. 2, col. 2:
At last, a closing date for “My Sister Eileen” has been announced. If you have not seen the gay Greenwich Village comedy, which is being presented at popular prices, you will have to make your way to the Harris theater before Sept. 10, or miss it forever.

Chronicling America
24 December 1942, The Evening Star (Washington, DC), pg. A-10, col. 3 ad:
Something new in laughter in gay Greenwich Village!
(The movie A Night to Remember with Brian Aherne and Loretta Young.—ed.)

30 September 1945, Sunday News (New York, NY), “Baseball’s Big Four Who Have Come Back: Feller, Keller, Ruffing and Greenberg Prove a Point” by Joe Trimble and Hy Turkin, pg. C7, col. 3:
Born in gay Greenwich Village on New Year’s Day, 1911, (Hank—ed.) Greenberg likes liveliness, and is often seen in bright light sites, but the perennial Broadway rumors linking him to this or that showgirl, model, socialite, etc., are the malarkey.

11 April 1954, The Sunday Press (Binghamton, NY), ‘Rialto Roaming,” pg. 11-C, col. 1:
A group coyly called the Carefree Playshop plans a production based on the life of Maxwell Bodenheim, the one-time ringleader of gay Greenwich Village who was recently found murdered in a Skid Row slum.

Google Books
The Great Broadway Period

By Robert Baral
New York, NY: Fleet Press Corp.
1970, ©1962
Pg. 134:
1928 — The last Follies for The Bohemians, Inc., was housed again in the Winter Garden — and could easily have been dubbed: A Night in Greenwich Village, Gay Greenwich Village, or Artists and Models in Greenwich Village, after the usual sample of Shubert revues.

Google Books
The Society (The San Francisco Bay Area Gay & Lesbian Historical Society)
Volumes 1-2
1985 (This Google Books date may be incorrect by a year.—ed.)
Pg. ?:
Amber Hollibaugh will screen Gay Greenwich Village, a new video detailing the history of Manhattan’s oldest lesbian and gay community, on Friday evening, March 21, 7:30 p.m., at Modern Times Bookstore, 768 Valencia Street, San Francisco.

31 August 1986, Daily News (New York, NY), TV sec., pg. 8, col. 4:
31 Neighborhood Voices.
“Gay Greenwich Village”

GOogle Books
Naming New York:
Manhattan Places & How They Got Their Names

By Sanna Feirstein
New York, NY: NYU Press
Pg. 85:
GAY STREET For Sidney Howard Gay, 1814-1888, mid-19th-century managing director of the New York Tribune.

Hell’s Kitchen, the new gay Chelsea which was the new gay Greenwich Village \o/ http://instagr.am/p/QGfHD2vur3/
9:56 PM - 27 Sep 2012

Off the Grid (Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation)
Is Gay Street really ‘gay’?
Andrew Berman Posted on October 10, 2012 Posted in West Village
Gay originally meant happy, carefree, exuberant.  However, by the late 19th and especially the early 20th century, the connotations of the word gay came to be increasingly associated with a lifestyle unfettered by the conventions of the day; as time went on, this especially came to mean the sexual conventions of the day.  The term ‘gay’ was associated with both men and women, many of whom lived in places like Greenwich Village or Paris, often habitues of the cafes and clubs of these unconventional communities, typically unmarried, frequently without traditional jobs, who did not seem to care what the rest of the world thought of them, and lived the “gay life.” No doubt some of these iconoclasts were “gay” by today’s definition, but many were not.  It was not until the mid-20th century that use of the term “gay” came to more commonly mean specifically those attracted to the same sex, and not until the late 20th century that this definition had come to eclipse other uses and associations.
The name appears to go back to at least 1827.  According to “The Street Book:  An Encyclopedia of Manhattan’s Street Names and Their Origins” by Henry Moscow (one of many books available in GVSHP’s library), the name Gay Street first appears officially in the New York City Common Council minutes in 1827 — when Greenwich Village was first being settled as a suburb of New York by merchants fleeing the yellow fever epidemics downtown, and long before Greenwich Village had come to acquire any associations with the “gay” life — carefree, same-sex, or otherwise.

Urhokas Men
As the photographer for the Village Voice, the only (somewhat) mainstream media outlet on earth paying serious and respectful attention to gay issues and events in the 1960s and 1970s, Fred W.
#LGBTEvents #Stonewall #Respect
8:01 AM - 31 Oct 2018

LGBTQ Nation
NYC temporarily renames Gay Street to be more inclusive for World Pride
If you think the list of letters to describe our community is getting long, wait until you check out the new sign for Gay Street.

By Bil Browning Monday, June 17, 2019
To honor World Pride, New York City is renaming the iconic Gay Street in Greenwich Village to be more inclusive. But if you think ever-expanding list of letters to describe the LGBTQ community is getting too long, wait until you see the street sign.

For two weeks, Gay Street will be called “Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Nonbinary, Pansexual, Two Spirit, + Street.” And, of course, the tongue-tangling name requires a new sign – maybe the most awesomely queer street sign on Earth.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNeighborhoods • Saturday, June 29, 2019 • Permalink