The Shack Cherry Grove: A Historical and Cultural Landmark for the LGBTQ+ Community

Nestled amidst the dunes of Fire Island, New York, the Shack Cherry Grove stands as a testament to the bohemian and LGBTQ+ legacy that has shaped this vibrant community. Its rich history, literary and artistic significance, and ongoing role as a cultural hub make it a destination that captivates visitors and locals alike.

Throughout the years, the Shack has played a pivotal role in the development of Cherry Grove as a haven for LGBTQ+ individuals, fostering a sense of belonging and acceptance. It has served as a gathering place for artists, writers, and activists, inspiring countless works of art and literature that have celebrated queer liberation and creativity.

Historical Significance of the Shack Cherry Grove

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The Shack Cherry Grove, originally known as the “Pavilion”, was established in 1948 by John “Broadway” Rosselli, a flamboyant Broadway costume designer. The structure was initially a simple wooden platform with a canvas roof, providing shelter from the sun and rain for beachgoers.

In 1950, Rosselli purchased the land and hired architect Horace Gifford to design a more permanent structure. The new Shack, completed in 1951, featured a unique and eclectic architectural style, blending elements of Spanish Colonial, Art Deco, and Polynesian design.

The building’s open-air design, with its large windows and wraparound porches, allowed for ample natural light and ventilation.

The Shack as a Hub for the Bohemian and LGBTQ+ Community, The shack cherry grove

The Shack quickly became a focal point for the bohemian and LGBTQ+ community in Cherry Grove. It provided a safe and welcoming space for individuals who often faced discrimination and social stigma. The Shack hosted a variety of events, including drag shows, costume parties, and live music performances.

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It also became a gathering place for artists, writers, and musicians, fostering a vibrant and creative atmosphere.

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Literary and Artistic Legacy

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The Shack at Cherry Grove has been a muse for countless literary and artistic endeavors. In literature, it has been featured in works by Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and Edmund White. These authors have captured the Shack’s unique atmosphere and its role as a haven for queer expression.

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Portrayal in Literary Works

Tennessee Williams’ play “Suddenly, Last Summer” (1958) features a character who visits the Shack and is drawn into its decadent world. Truman Capote’s novel “Other Voices, Other Rooms” (1948) also references the Shack, describing it as a place where “the outcasts and the misfits” could find acceptance.

Edmund White’s memoir “My Lives” (2005) provides a vivid account of the Shack’s heyday in the 1970s and 1980s.


The Shack has also been immortalized in artworks, such as paintings by David Hockney and photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe. Hockney’s painting “The Shack” (1976) depicts the exterior of the building, while Mapplethorpe’s photograph “Shack Cherry Grove, Fire Island, New York” (1978) captures the interior’s intimate and bohemian atmosphere.

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Cultural Impact

The Shack at Cherry Grove has had a profound cultural impact as a symbol of queer liberation and creativity. It has been a gathering place for LGBTQ+ people for decades, providing a space for them to express themselves freely and celebrate their identities.

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The Shack’s legacy continues to inspire artists and writers today, who continue to explore its unique history and significance.

Modern-Day Preservation and Revitalization: The Shack Cherry Grove

The Shack Cherry Grove has undergone significant efforts to preserve and restore its historical significance. In 1997, it was designated as a New York City Landmark, recognizing its architectural and cultural importance. The city has invested in restoration projects to maintain the building’s integrity, including repairs to the roof, windows, and exterior.

Today, the Shack continues to serve as a vibrant cultural hub for the community. It hosts a variety of exhibitions, performances, and community events. These events range from art exhibitions featuring local artists to musical performances and literary readings. The Shack also serves as a meeting space for community organizations and residents.

Ongoing Challenges and Opportunities

Preserving the legacy of the Shack Cherry Grove faces ongoing challenges, including funding for restoration and maintenance, and the need to balance historical preservation with contemporary use. However, there are also opportunities to enhance the Shack’s role as a cultural center.

Collaborations with local organizations and artists can expand programming and engage a broader audience.

Community and Cultural Center

The shack cherry grove

The Shack at Cherry Grove serves as a pivotal gathering place for the community, fostering a profound sense of belonging and connection. It is a vibrant hub where residents and visitors alike converge to engage in diverse events, workshops, and gatherings that celebrate the unique spirit of Cherry Grove.

A Haven for LGBTQ+ History and Activism

The Shack holds immense significance as a hub for LGBTQ+ history and activism. It has been a sanctuary for the LGBTQ+ community, providing a safe and inclusive space for individuals to connect, organize, and advocate for their rights. Throughout its history, the Shack has played a crucial role in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality, hosting countless meetings, rallies, and events that have shaped the course of the movement.

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Tourism and Cultural Heritage

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The Shack Cherry Grove stands as a captivating destination for tourists seeking to delve into the rich history and vibrant culture of the LGBTQ+ community. Its allure lies in the opportunity to witness firsthand the struggles, triumphs, and enduring spirit that has shaped the community.

Guided tours led by knowledgeable historians provide an immersive experience, offering insights into the Shack’s pivotal role in the development of Cherry Grove and the broader LGBTQ+ rights movement. Historical walking trails meander through the streets, revealing landmarks and stories that illuminate the community’s past.

Economic and Cultural Benefits

Preserving and promoting the Shack as a tourist attraction not only safeguards its historical significance but also generates substantial economic benefits. Tourism revenue supports local businesses, creates employment opportunities, and stimulates economic growth in the region.

Beyond its economic impact, the Shack’s cultural heritage fosters a sense of community and pride among LGBTQ+ individuals and allies alike. It serves as a reminder of the progress made and the ongoing challenges faced by the community, inspiring visitors to reflect on the importance of equality and inclusion.

Final Thoughts

Today, the Shack Cherry Grove continues to be a cherished landmark, preserved as a historical site and a vibrant community center. Its legacy as a symbol of LGBTQ+ history and culture endures, attracting visitors from around the world who seek to experience its unique charm and embrace the spirit of inclusivity that has defined it for generations.


What is the significance of the Shack Cherry Grove?

The Shack Cherry Grove is a historical landmark and cultural hub that has played a pivotal role in the development of Cherry Grove as a bohemian and LGBTQ+ community.

How has the Shack influenced LGBTQ+ literature and art?

The Shack has been featured in numerous literary works and memoirs, and has inspired countless works of art, capturing the essence of queer liberation and creativity.

What are the current uses of the Shack Cherry Grove?

Today, the Shack serves as a historical landmark, hosting exhibitions, performances, and community events, while also fostering a sense of belonging and connection for the LGBTQ+ community.