It is most notable for the Stonewall Inn, which was located on Christopher Street. As a result of the Stonewall riots in 1969, the street became the center of New York State's gay rights movement in the late 1970s. To this day, the inn and the street serve as an international symbol of gay pride.
Christopher Street is named after Charles Christopher Amos, the owner of the inherited estate which included the location of the street. Amos is also the namesake of nearby Charles Street, and of the former Amos Street, which is now West 10th Street.
Christopher Street is, technically, the oldest street in the West Village, as it ran along the south boundary of Admiral Sir Peter Warren's estate, which abutted the old Greenwich Road (now Greenwich Avenue) to the east and extended north to the next landing on the North River, at present-day Gansevoort Street. The street was briefly called Skinner Road after Colonel William Skinner, Sir Peter's son-in-law. The street received its current name in 1799, when the Warren land was acquired by Warren's eventual heir, Charles Christopher Amos. Charles Street remains, but Amos Street is now 10th Street.
The road ran past the churchyard wall of the Church of St. Luke in the Fields (built 1820–22; rebuilt after a fire, 1981–85) still standing on its left, down to the ferry landing, commemorated in the block-long Weehawken Street (laid out in 1829), the shortest street in the West Village. At the Hudson River, with its foundation in the river and extending north to 10th Street, Newgate Prison, the first New York State Prison, occupied the site from 1796 to 1829, when the institution was removed to Sing Sing and the City plotted and sold the land.
West Street is on more recently filled land, but the procession of boats that had made the inaugural pass through the Erie Canal stopped at the ferry dock at the foot of Christopher Street, November 4, 1825, where it was met by a delegation from the city; together they proceeded to the Lower Bay, where the cask of water brought from the Great Lakes was ceremoniously emptied into the salt water.
In 1961, Jane Jacobs, resident in the area and author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities published that same year, headed a group that successfully stopped Mayor Robert Wagner's plan to demolish twelve blocks along West Street north of Christopher Street, including the north side of Christopher Street to Hudson Street, and an additional two blocks south of it, slated for "urban renewal".
In the 1970s, Christopher Street became the "Main Street" of gay New York. Large numbers of gay men would stroll its length at seemingly all hours. Gay bars and stores selling leather fetish clothing and artistic decorative items flourished at that time. This changed dramatically with the loss of many gay men during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. The apparent center of gay life subsequently shifted north of 14th Street to Chelsea.
Christopher Street is the site of the Stonewall Inn, the bar whose patrons fought back against a police raid, starting the 1969 Stonewall riots that are widely seen as the birth of the gay liberation movement. The Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee formed to commemorate the first anniversary of that event, the beginning of the international tradition of a late-June event to celebrate gay pride. The annual gay pride festivals in Berlin, Cologne, and other German cities are known as Christopher Street Days or "CSD".
Christopher Street magazine, a respected gay magazine, began publication in July 1976 and folded in December 1995.
At the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue and Christopher Street is the Hess triangle, a mosaic which reads "Property of the Hess Estate Which Has Never Been Dedicated for Public Purpose". A surveying error for the subway line left this small triangle remained in private possession.
On the TV show NYPD Blue, season 7, episode 3 (June 2000) "The Man with Two Right Shoes" shows Christopher Street directly after detectives mention "hitting the fairy bars" to find a gay, male prostitute.
The Lou Reed song "Halloween Parade" from his 1989 album New York begins with the line "There's a downtown fairy singing out 'Proud Mary' as she cruises Christopher Street."
^Sawyer-Lauðcanno, Christopher. "E.E. Cummings: A Biography", p. 135, Google Books. Accessed October 7, 2007. "On March 2 he moved out of the Brevoort Hotel, where he had been staying, and took up residence at 11 Christopher Street, in the West Village."
^Embury, Stuart P. (2006). "Chapter One: The Early Years". The Art and Life of Luigi Lucioni. Embury Publishing Company. pp. 1–3.
^"Dawn Powell, Novelist, Is Dead; Author of Witty, Satirical Books; Middle Class Was the Object of Her Stinging Fiction-13 Books Published", The New York Times, November 16, 1965. "Miss Powell, who had resided in Greenwich Village most of her life, maintained an apartment at 95 Christopher Street, where she did most of her writing in recent years."