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The Once and Future New York

The Once and Future New York: Historic Preservation and the Modern City

Randall Mason
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    The Once and Future New York
    Book Description:

    Rich with archival research, The Once and Future New York documents the emergence of historic preservation in New York at the turn of the twentieth century. Against the charge that preservationists were antiquarians concerned only with significant buildings, Mason instead asserts that many were social reformers interested in recovering the city’s history. Even more important, he demonstrates that historic preservation in this period was integral to modern urban development.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6813-7
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction Preservation and Its History in New York
    (pp. ix-xxxiv)

    The front page of the New York Times on October 29, 1963, read “Demolition Starts at Penn Station; Architects Picket.” Pennsylvania Station was a civic monument by any measure. Designed by the country’s leading architects, McKim, Mead, and White, to bring the powerful Pennsylvania Railroad staight into Manhattan, upon completion in 1910 , the station won immediate fame as a gateway, technological marvel, and symbol of New York City’s ascendance. Modeled after the Roman baths of Caracalla, the station’s refined neoclassical facades were matched by soaring interior spaces. Destruction of the vast structure was controversial and painstaking, and it was...

  4. One Memory Sites: Buildings, Parks, Events
    (pp. 1-62)

    Every city has its memorials, marked sites, treasured places, museums, stories, rituals, ruins, places left behind; they are inscribed in the life of the city “like the lines of a hand,” as Italo Calvino famously wrote.¹ Historians, architects, and urbanists have long given short shrift to the aspect of city building that deposits and erodes historical memory, assuming that historic places are found rather than made.² It follows that historic places have been regarded as hidden treasures or adornments rather than purposeful infrastructure. But New York’s memorial landscape was purposely constructed to meet social needs and political desires — markers of...

  5. Portfolio: Frank Cousins’s Photographs for the Art Commission, 1913
    (pp. None)
  6. Two The Preservation and Destruction of St. John’s Chapel
    (pp. 63-120)

    St. John’s Chapel, a large Episcopal church on Varick Street, was designed by architect John McComb for Trinity Parish and completed in 1807. The chapel closed in 1909 and was torn down in 1918. The will of the chapel’s owner, the Vestry of Trinity Church, to redevelop the site ultimately prevailed over the pleas of the congregation and historic preservationists to preserve the building. This chapter relates the long, complicated story of the preservation and destruction of St. John’s Chapel, focusing on the years between 1908 and 1918 when the chapel was a prominent and contested memory site. The little-known...

  7. Three City Hall Park: Hearth of Official Civic Memory
    (pp. 121-176)

    Splendidly set apart from the bustling street, City Hall sat protected in its elegant park, surrounded by lawns and rows of elms. White marble gleaming from the storied steps to the top of the cupola, City Hall and the old Commons created a scene of civic grandeur and serenity — a mythic scene from the 1830s, dreamed of by reformers in the 1900s as the centerpiece of the memory infrastructure. “City Hall Park as it appeared before the Post-office was built, and as it should be restored,” read Edward Hall’s caption to an 1830 engraving of an idealized City Hall and...

  8. Four Bronx River Parkway: Modern Highway, Environmental Improvement, Memory Infrastructure
    (pp. 177-232)

    The Bronx River Parkway was much more than a road through the country.¹ This remarkable project was really many projects in one: a major regional landscape improvement effort, involving environmental restoration, billboard removal, and slum clearance; a new model of modern automobile highway design; a triumph of corporate organization and real estate investment; and a work of memory infrastructure.

    Planned and built between 1906 and 1925 on an expanding edge of the New York City metropolis, the parkway was an ambitious regional-planning project integrating several kinds of infrastructure — transportation, public health, recreational, social, economic, administrative. It was planned and executed...

  9. Conclusion Looking Critically at Preservaton’s Own Past
    (pp. 233-250)

    The economist and New Deal technocrat Stuart Chase wrote a series of articles forHarper’s Monthlyin 1929–30 appraising the prospects of New York City. He reflected on the changes the city had undergone in the preceding generation — since becoming a true metropolis and the capital of capitalism. Chase began by recounting the reception of modern New York as a place — how the cityseemedto the visitor and the citizen:

    Coming into Manhattan, I begin to feel a strange uneasiness like a slight attack of seasickness; leaving it, I suddenly grow more cheerful. Why? I am no confirmed...

  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 251-252)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 253-286)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 287-300)
  13. Index
    (pp. 301-308)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 309-309)