LAMBDA RISING, an LGBT bookstore that opened in 1974 in Washington D.C. closed its doors. Founded by Deacon Maccubbin in 1974 with 250 titles, it was known for its wide selection of books, ranging from queer theory and religion to erotica, as well as DVDs, music CDs and gifts.
The bookstore was originally located in 300 square feet at 1724 20th Street NW. It moved to a 900-square-foot retail space at 2001 S Street NW in 1979 and, in 1984, moved to a 4,800-square-foot space at 1625 Connecticut Avenue in Dupont Circle, one of Washington’s popular gay and lesbian neighborhoods.
A second store in Baltimore, MD believed to be the only gay bookstore in Maryland, opened in 1984 and closed in the spring of 2008. Director John Waters declared that store’s closing “very, very sad”. Waters, a long-time customer, said the Baltimore shop was “a seriously good bookshop, with the added touch of porno. … I always went in there to find books that I didn’t know about and couldn’t find anywhere else.” A third store in Rehobeth Beach, Delawareopened in 1991 and closed in December 2009. A fourth store in Norfolk, VA, opened in 1996 and closed in June 2007.
In February 1975, Lambda Rising ran the world’s first gay-oriented television commercial. It aired on WRC (owned by NBC) and WTOP (the local CBS affiliate, now WUSA). Also in 1975, Lambda Rising organized Gay Pride Day, the forerunner to Capital Pride, Washington’s first annual gay pride celebration, and continued to host the event for the next four years before turning it over to a non-profit organization.
To support LGBT literature, Lambda Rising created the Lambda Book Report in 1987 and the annual Lambda Literary Award, also known as “the Lammys,” in 1989. In 1996, Lambda Rising turned those projects over to the new non-profit Lambda Literary Foundation.
In February 2003, Lambda Rising bought the Oscar Wilde Bookshop, the country’s first gay and lesbian bookstore, to save it from closing. The store was founded by Craig Rodwell in 1967 at 15 Mercer Street in Greenwich Village, later moving to the corner of Christopher and Gay Streets in Manhattan. After working with the New York staff staff for three years and getting the store on solid financial footing, Lambda Rising sold the store to the long-time manager in order to return the store to local control. In December 2009, Maccubbin announced that Lambda Rising’s two stores would close by January 2010.
In his statement, Maccubbin said, “The phrase ‘mission accomplished’ has gotten a bad rap in recent years, but in this case, it certainly applies…”When we set out to establish Lambda Rising in 1974, it was intended as a demonstration of the demand for gay and lesbian literature. We thought… we could encourage the writing and publishing of LGBT books, and sooner or later other bookstores would put those books on their own shelves and there would be less need for a specifically gay and lesbian bookstore. Today, thirty-five years later, nearly every general bookstore carries LGBT books.”
The store closed its doors on December 31, 2010.