History Comes To Life at Stonewall Museum | WATCH

  • New exhibit recreates the historic Stonewall Inn bar

The Stonewall Riot of 1969 changed the course of human history, but the visceral memories of the sound of breaking glass, the smell of burning fires, and the images of overturned police cars are fading.

Now, the Stonewall Museum in Fort Lauderdale is recreating the Stonewall Inn bar from New York. The exhibit, inside the ArtServe building at 1350 E. Sunrise Blvd., recreates the bar as it would have looked like before the raids. Inside you find a table and chairs, a bar with glasses, a jukebox playing 45s and even an old cigarette machine.

At the exhibit opening on June 1, supporters mixed and mingles, sipped drinks and ate munchies before a surprise guest appeared. Tree (he prefers to go by just Tree, but he’s also on social media as Tree Sequoia), a patron at Stonewall during the riot, was on hand to relive that night and share his experiences.

“I was a good kid all my life, til there I am shaking police cars and setting them on fire,” he said before the exhibit opening. “People always ask if I was afraid. I tell ‘em no, I was having the time of my life.” (Watch Tree’s full interview on OutSFL’s YouTube page, OutSFLLive.)

Police raids on queer bars were common back then, and the personal stakes were very high.

“We had no rights in the old days. It was a disease. It was against the law to serve homosexuals alcohol. They used to publish names in the newspaper. A landlord could evict you in a day or two.”

Although it’s been 55 years, Tree has vivid memories of the night. “The vice squad was involved. One of the precinct cops saw what was going on and came in and helped us get out. We were with a friend, Gregory, a catholic priest. In 1969 that wouldn’t have been good being caught in there.”

Tree is now a bartender at Stonewall Inn and also visits LGBTQ communities and shares his stories and experiences.

“I’m not gonna retire until I’m 100,” he says. At 85, he’s still got 15 years to go. “Wherever I go, people follow me. I don’t call them customers, I call them kids. Even if they’re 70, they’re my kids.”

The exhibit runs through September.



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