Art of Aging: A Philadelphia first for the LGBTQ community

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia has always been a city of firsts and that includes LGBTQ history.

As we celebrate Pride Month, Art of Aging has the story of another "Philadelphia first."

The John C. Anderson apartments in Philadelphia's so-called Gayborhood are a historic achievement.

"But it's the first officially sanctioned, federally funded LGBT senior affordable living facility," said Mark Segal, founder of John C. Anderson Apartments.

Not only did the building make history, but its residents did too.

On July 4, 1965, John S. James, a pioneer in the gay rights movement, traveled from D.C. to protest equal rights for gays at Independence Hall.

"Well, I felt nervous. There hadn't been a demonstration like this before," said James.

Now James, a resident of the John C. Anderson apartments gets to be reminded of his contribution every time he walks through the lobby.

"One of my passions in life is LGBT history," said Segal.

The vision for the building came from Mark Sega, the only Philadelphian believed to have participated in the Stonewall Riots in New York City, 50 years ago this week.

Segal added, "One of the things that I fought for my whole life is inclusion and diversity, that's why I was a member of the Gay Liberation Front."

Segal says low-income LGBT seniors, many of them pioneers in the gay rights movement deserve an elegant and affordable place to call home.

"Many of them didn't have good jobs where they would get a 401K, so many of them, unfortunately, are being forced out of the rent-controlled buildings," said Segal.

Segal pitched the project to President Barack Obama in 2010.

"And we wanted to have a place for them to live in the neighborhood they built.

The 56-unit, 6-story apartment building opened on South 13th Street in 2014.

Resident Elizabeth Coffey-Williams said, "And it's a beautiful place."

Coffey-Williams, an actor, says she is grateful to live there. "This building serves as an example to give people a place to live and not just live but thrive," she added.

Resident Frank J. Potopa said, "To this day, we are still very much involved in the civil rights of LGBT people."

However, most days you will find them tending the award-winning courtyard garden, which features a fountain donated by Segal.

"It's one effort that we make to welcome people," said Coffey-Williams.

"Every time I come over here, I get to see a community that is doing more than anything I could have dreamed of. I'm proud of them," said Segal.
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