Fire Island

The beach resort communities of Cherry Grove and the Fire Island Pines play a central part in US gay social and political life. Cherry Grove is the first lesbian and gay resort community.

gay fire island

Located on the Atlantic ocean, 70 miles from New York City, they were first claimed as gay territory as far back as the first half of the twentieth century: the 1930s saw the arrival of lesbian and gay theater people in Cherry Grove. The number of gay Grovers grew under the oppressive climate during the post-WWII McCarthy era of lavender scare; eventually, full-blown infrastructural constructions including houses designed using naturally weathering cedar in the 60s further catapulted both communities to the status of gay meccas. (Photo Credit: Tom Bianchi)

At midcentury, Peggy Feurs, a Broadway showgirl built the original yacht club in the Pines Harbor, which was rebuilt by John B. Whyte. In 1976 Whyte refused service to Terry Warren, a drag queen from Cherry Grove. On July 4, Warren returned to the Pines with a boatload of drag queens, inaugurating The Invasion, a tradition that continues today.

Cherry Grove and the Pines are well-known for their decadent night life, musical theater, dance, and art events, as well as for their activisms around LGBT issues.

In 1983, Nikki Fried and her friends from “Romper Room,” the name of their shared house in the Pines, established a morning party on the beach to raise funds to fight AIDs and to benefit the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (est. 1982), the oldest AIDs education and service organization.

Today, gays and lesbians of all colors plan their trips to Cherry Grove and the Pines to mingle with a community of intimate strangers, where they celebrate, define, and refine what it means to be gay in the United States.


Esther Newton, Cherry Grove, Fire Island: Sixty Years in America’s First Gay and Lesbian Town (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014)

Andrew Holleran, Dancer from the Dance: A Novel (New York: William Morrow, 1978)

Christopher Bascom Rawlins, Fire Island Modernist: Horace Gifford and the Architecture of Seduction (New York: Metropolis Books, 2013)