The New York Historical Society just opened a new exhibit all about my favorite place on earth, Cherry Grove, Fire Island. Featuring a collection of photos and other memorabilia collected by the Cherry Grove Archive, the show, Safe/Haven: Gay Life in 1950s Cherry Grove, is a free, outdoor exhibition that takes place in their rear courtyard. The exhibit explores one of the first gay beach communities in the United States. Alongside Provincetown, Massachusetts, and Saugatuck-Douglas, Michigan, Cherry Grove truly provided a safe haven for people who had to spend most of their time pretending to be something they weren’t. I can imagine what a relief that must have been!
““It was an escape for everyone to be able to come out here on the weekend and be yourself. It was a safe haven. I could say to someone, ‘I’m Audrey Hartmann … and I’m gay.’”
I so vividly remember my first trip to Cherry Grove when I was newly out. It seemed like a miracle. It’s still a magical place for me and our friends. I am acutely aware how privileged Beloved and I are to be able to live openly, and I know there are still many, many people who don’t have that luxury.
You can check out the Safe/Haven: Gay Life in 1950s Cherry Grove exhibit on the New York Historical Society website. And if you’d like to learn more about Cherry Grove, I also recommend you read Cherry Grove, Fire Island: Sixty Years in America’s First Gay and Lesbian Town by Esther Newton.