LGBTQ Print Culture Walking Tour of Ithaca

This walking tour takes you to locations related to Ithaca's history of LGBTQ publications.

LGBTQ Print Culture Walking Tour of Ithaca

Ithaca, New York 14850, United States

Created By: Ithaca Heritage

Tour Information

This walking tour takes you to locations related to Ithaca's history of LGBTQ publications and shops from the 20th century.


The gay liberation and women’s movements of the 1970s resulted in the emergence of a thriving gay and lesbian (today, LGBTQ) print culture made by and for the community. Publications developed alongside the growth of lesbian and gay organizations throughout the United States, the establishment of annual Gay Pride marches, and an increased number of people coming out. Print media was not merely a result of gay liberation. Networks of readers that formed around publications allowed LGBTQ people to build community in ways that supported the broader movement. According to historian Benjamin Serby, “these symbolic connections, forged in text, were critical to the coalescence and growth of gay liberation after Stonewall.”

In the wake of the Stonewall uprising of 1969, newspapers and magazines such as the Gay Liberation Front’s COME OUT!, GAY, Drag, Gay Community News, Fag Rag, Sojourner, Tapestry, and The Lesbian Tide emerged in large cities on the East and West coasts in addition to a variety of regional and local publications in smaller cities and rural towns throughout the United States.

The general sexism that permeated society, coupled with gender differences between lesbians and gay men, resulted in Women in Print, a movement connected to gay liberation and Second Wave feminism. Women, many of whom were lesbian, attempted to create, in the words of historian Trysh Travis, “an alternative communications circuit—a woman-centered network of readers and writers, editors, printers, publishers, distributors, and retailers” to capture women’s experiences and insights in printed forms free from patriarchal and capitalist control. In doing so, these women believed they could change not only print media, but the dominant culture as a whole. As a result, an assortment of feminist periodicals and small presses flourished during the 1970s and 1980s.

If not for the emergence of LGBTQ print culture, vital information and a new perspective on what it meant to be LGBTQ would not have been otherwise available. As trailblazing gay historian John D’Emilio observes, these publications “played a decisive role in building [LGBTQ] organizations and communities and in fostering political mobilization.” While explorations of LGBTQ history tend to center major U.S. cities, this self-guided tour focuses on sites related to LGBTQ+ print culture in Ithaca, a small city in the Finger Lakes region of Central New York, and home of Cornell University.


Total distance travelled: 1.0 mi

Elevation: Mostly flat

A printable PDF of the tour is available at

Listen to the tour on SoundCloud:



This tour and associated research was created by Jeff Iovannone, PhD, in partnership with Historic Ithaca in 2023. Audio produced by Dr. Jeffry Iovannone.

The self-guided PocketSights tour was modified from Dr. Iovannone's guided ' LGBTQ+ Print Culture Walk & Talk' first hosted on June 17th 2023 in collaboration with Historic Ithaca.

Tour Map

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What You'll See on the Tour

The building once located at 306 East State Street, known as the White Building and demolished circa 1990, was the second home of the Ithaca Gay People’s Center. The center’s origins date to the late 1960s with the establishment of the ... Read more
In July 1976, the Gay People’s Center organized a boycott and picket of Nite Court, a bar located at 215 North Aurora Street, whose owner, Louis Cataldo, had a policy against allowing couples of the same gender to touch while dancing. On ... Read more
For a decade, beginning in 1984, the mixed commercial and residential building at 307 West State Street was home to the women’s bookstore Smedley’s. According to the 1976 Women’s Resource Guide to Ithaca, Smedley’s was “a feminist... Read more
The transitional Queen Anne-Colonial Revival house located at 323 North Geneva Street in downtown Ithaca was owned by gay novelist and publisher Larry Mitchell from 1977 to 1983. In 1972 Mitchell purchased a plot of land in Caroline, New Yo... Read more
In 1984, the bookshop moved from 119 East Buffalo Street to 307 West State Street. Under Zahava’s ownership, Smedley’s was not only a bookstore, but served as a gathering place, information center, and haven for all kinds of women. In a... Read more
The Firebrand Books Building is located at 141-143 East State Street on The Commons, a pedestrian mall in downtown Ithaca. The building was constructed in 1872 for the prominent local publishing and bookselling firm Andrus, McChain, & L... Read more
The Cornell Local History Research Library and Archives are a department of The History Center in Tompkins County and are located on the first floor of the Tompkins Center for History & Culture. Our collections contain nearly 100,00... Read more


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