Housed within the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s Historic Resources Program, the LGBTQ+ Historic Sites Project is a multi-year effort to identify, document, and preserve historic resources associated with lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer+ histories. While LGBTQ+ histories have been documented by community historians and scholars for many years, this project represents the first time that Portland's Historic Resources Program has sought to advance inclusion, recognition, and protection of LGBTQ+ historic sites.
Between 2022- 2024, the project will survey buildings and other places associated with LGBTQ+ histories, develop a citywide context statement detailing the significance of those resources, and nominate one or more resources to the National Register of Historic Places.
As the historic preservation movement developed in the mid- and late 20th century, standard professional practices largely excluded social, cultural, and intangible heritage from designation and protection efforts. In the last two decades, however, the field has started to reconsider how these professional practices have ignored and even harmed underrepresented communities.
Specific to LGBTQ+ historic preservation, in 2014 the National Park Service launched the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative to better recognize, preserve, and interpret the historic significance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals, institutions, and events. A result of that initiative, LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History, was published in 2016 to provide national context and guidance to local communities for the identification, documentation, designation, and protection of historic sites associated with LGBTQ+ histories.
Since the publication of LGBTQ America, several cities and states have developed historic context statements, conducted historic resource surveys, and prepared local and National Register landmark nominations to advance the preservation of LGBTQ+ historic sites at the local level. In 2020, Portland’s Darcelle XV Showplace was nominated to and listed in the National Register, becoming Oregon’s first historic resource to be designated for its significant association to LGBTQ+ history. The designation of Darcelle XV, which included extensive coordination between Triangle Productions!, the State Historic Preservation Office, and the City of Portland, provided the template needed to advance a larger citywide LGBTQ+ historic sites documentation and preservation project.
Steps and timeline
The National Park Service awarded the City of Portland with an Underrepresented Communities Grant in Fall 2021 to support the documentation and contextualization of historic resources associated with LGBTQ+ histories. To further support the success of the project, Oregon State Historic Preservation Office awarded an additional grant to the City in 2023. The public will be invited to review grant-funded drafts of each project component through early 2024 with expected completion in mid-2024.