Luke Perkins, Manager of Communications and Public Relations
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The project will utilize a community-driven survey model that builds on an LGBTQ+ Survey Plan completed in June 2023 as well as the extensive community engagement undertaken by History Colorado with LGBTQ+ Coloradans over the last four years. Central to this model is the formation of a Community Working Group comprising LGBTQ+ historians, scholars, advocates and community members to identify and prioritize which properties are surveyed, and ultimately, which will be nominated to the National Register.
“This project will not be community engagement in name only, but a true and full embrace of community decision making,” said Damion Pechota, National and State Register Historian. “The extreme contradictions in LGBTQ+ History in Colorado have produced a deep and important history that demands further study and research, particularly to explore the connection between the LGBTQ+ community and the tangible built environment. This can only be accomplished with the expertise of those most closely connected to this history.”
The process of uncovering historical resources of importance to the LGBTQ+ community is challenging. Much of this history is unknown or overlooked as locations were often kept secret to protect privacy and ensure personal safety in the face of discrimination.
“LGBTQ+ history in Colorado is a study of extreme contrasts and challenges. On the one hand, we are home to the country’s first openly gay man to be elected Governor, and gained national attention when Boulder County Clerk Clela Rorex issued six same-sex marriage licenses in 1975,” said Aaron Marcus, Gill Foundation Associate Curator of LGBTQ+ History. “However, Colorado voters passed Amendment 2, prohibiting the state from enacting anti-discrimination protections for gay, lesbian, and bisexual citizens. More recently Colorado made national news and was dealt two setbacks in the SCOTUS rulings, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and 303 Creative LLC v Elenis.”
Despite these obstacles, this project has enormous potential to significantly expand LGBTQ+ representation on the State and National Registers through both new nominations and amendments to existing nominations. Currently, only two historic properties in Colorado are recognized for their significance to LGBTQ+ history:
The Boulder County Courthouse, which had its National Register nomination amended in the 2018 National Register to recognize it as the site of the first same-sex marriage licenses issued in the United States
“As is too often the case with underrepresented communities, the history of the LGBTQ+ community was not considered publicly significant when many nominations were written for historical resources currently on the National Register. This is an incredible opportunity to update those nominations to ensure they tell a more complete history,” Pechota said. “Examples of properties in Denver that are ripe for amendments include: the Ship’s Tavern bar in the Brown Palace Hotel, St. Paul’s Methodist Church, the Downtown Denver Central YMCA, and Cheesman Park where the Pride Parade starts every year.”
Research and nominations completed as a result of this grant will advance the Colorado Heritage for All Program, which is an intentional effort by History Colorado to redress decades of the State and National Registers not fully representing the complete history of the state. The Colorado Heritage for All Program aims to add historic designations to 150 currently unrecognized historic resources that tell the stories of marginalized communities by the end of 2026.
This project marks the fourth occasion that History Colorado has received an Underrepresented Community Grant from the Historic Preservation Fund administered by the National Park Service. Previous grants were received in 2022, 2021, and 2017 to nominate properties associated with Black History, the women’s suffrage movement, and Hispano communities in the San Luis Valley respectively. In total, these four Underrepresented Community Grants have amounted to $225,999 in funding for projects led by History Colorado.
Since 2014, the Historic Preservation Fund administered by the National Park Service has awarded $7 million across the United States through the Underrepresented Communities Grants Program with a goal of funding the identification, planning, and development of nominations to the National Register of Historic Places for diverse communities.
About History Colorado
History Colorado is a division of the Colorado Department of Higher Education and a 501(c)3 non-profit that has served more than 75,000 students and 500,000 people in Colorado each year. It is a 144-year-old institution that operates eleven museums and historic sites, a free public research center, the Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation which provides technical assistance, educational opportunities, and other access to archaeology and historic preservation, and the History Colorado State Historical Fund (SHF), which is one of the nation’s largest state funded preservation programs of its kind. More than 70% of SHF grants are allocated in rural areas of the state. Additionally, the offices of the State Archaeologist and the State Historic Preservation Officer are part of History Colorado.
History Colorado’s mission is to create a better future for Colorado by inspiring wonder in our past. We serve as the state’s memory, preserving and sharing the places, stories, and material culture of Colorado through educational programs, historic preservation grants, collecting, outreach to Colorado communities, the History Colorado Center and Stephen H. Hart Research Center in Denver, and 10 other museums and historic attractions statewide. History Colorado is one of only six Smithsonian Affiliates in Colorado. Visit HistoryColorado.org, or call 303-HISTORY, for more information. #HistoryColorado