Philip has worked in the Milstein Division for almost five years as a reference librarian. On a daily basis, he takes the journey with New Yorkers looking to learn more about their city and more often than not, to answer deeply personal questions about their families. It’s a unique position to be in, and one that he takes very seriously. Originally from London, Philip has a particular expertise in helping people conduct research on building history in New York. He writes blog posts on the topic for the library and teaches a bi-monthly course aptly titled, “Who Lives in a House Like This? How to Research the History of Your New York City Home,” during which he instructs New Yorkers how to get started with their research.
We recently spoke to Philip about his role at the library, and, as expected, he was full of helpful resources.
As you probably already know, 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the NYC landmarks law. And one of the ways the city is marking the historic event is with an exhibit at the New York School of Interior Design called Rescued, Restored, Reimagined: New York’s Landmark Interiors, which focuses on some of the 117 public spaces throughout the five boroughs that have been designated interior landmarks. In conjunction with this exhibit, Open House New York recently hosted an interior landmark scavenger hunt (for which 6sqft took eighth place out of 40 teams!), which brought participants to designated interior spaces in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn over the course of seven hours.
One of the spots we visited was the Four Seasons restaurant inside the famed Seagram Building. Through our scavenger hunt challenges here, we learned just how groundbreaking this restaurant was for its innovative design and role as the quintessential Midtown “power lunch” spot. But the Four Seasons, despite its landmark status, is facing an uncertain future.
Firehouses represent some of the most beautiful architecture in New York City, and now instead of just peeking inside through the windows (or ogling the FDNY calendar) you’ll have the chance to get up close and personal with these firehouses (and maybe even some of the calendar models). To mark its 150th anniversary, the FDNY is hosting a citywide open house on Saturday, May 2nd where the public will be welcomed inside.
We often talk about specific neighborhoods’ immigration history–Little Germany in the East Village, El Barrio in East Harlem, or the capital of Jewish America on the Lower East Side. But when we look at the city as a whole, there’s been some pretty interesting immigration patterns over its nearly-400-year history. To visualize this timeline, the data gurus over at Metrocosm have put together an interactive infographic that shows the change in these immigration waves from 1626 to 2013 and how they relate to world events regarding these given countries.
Yesterday we rounded up some of the most heinous crimes committed against architecture in New York City, but today we’re taking a look at the sunnier side of things. Our list of architectural saviors includes sites saved from the wrecking ball, as well as those that have remained intact and been adaptively reused. And with city-wide preservationists celebrating this year’s 50th anniversary of the landmarks law, what better time to take a look back?
At Monday’s MCNY symposium “Redefining Preservation for the 21st Century,” starchitect Robert A.M. Stern lamented about 2 Columbus Circle and its renovation that rendered it completely unrecognizable. What Stern saw as a modernist architectural wonder, notable for its esthetics, cultural importance (it was built to challenge MoMA and the prevailing architectural style at the time), and history (the building originally served as a museum for the art collection of Huntington Hartford), others saw as a hulking grey slab. Despite the efforts of Stern and others to have the building landmarked, it was ultimately altered completely.
This story is not unique; there are plenty of worthy historic buildings in New York City that have been heavily changed, let to fall into disrepair, or altogether demolished. And in many of these cases, the general public realized their significance only after they were destroyed. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the NYC landmarks law, we’ve rounded up some of the most cringe-worthy crimes committed against architecture.
Concerted efforts to preserve the city’s buildings are a relatively new phenomenon; it wasn’t until 50 years ago that the NYC Landmarks Law was enacted, providing protection for the city’s most storied structures. While many of us feel that New York wouldn’t be half of what it is today if developers were allowed free range of our urbanscape, a video by ReasonTV contends that the Landmarks Act is actually keeping the city from its true potential.
Washington Irving (L) and the cover of Salmagundi (R)
No, the answer isn’t from “Batman.” Creators of the comic book series were originally going to name its location Civic City, Capital City, or Coast City, but then flipped through a New York City phonebook and found Gotham Jewelers, lending inspiration to the now-famous Gotham City. But from where did this jewelry store get its name? The answer dates back to an 1807 issue of Washington Irving‘s satirical periodical Salmagundi which lampooned New York culture and politics.
Whether you celebrate Passover or not, you’ve undoubtedly seen the pink boxes of Streit’s Matzo in the grocery store each spring. For 90 years, Streit’s has been churning out this iconic product at the rate of almost 900 pounds of matzo an hour on Rivington Street on the Lower East Side. But at the beginning of the year, New Yorkers received the sad news that the last family-owned matzo factory in the U.S. was purchased by a developer and the company would be moving its operations to New Jersey (a move also echoed this week by Junior’s Cheesecake).
But before they head across the Hudson, photographer Joseph O. Holmes has captured the final days of this fifth-generation working-class landmark, which Fast Co. Design aptly describes as “New York’s Jewish Willy Wonka Factory.” His black-and-white photos are somber, telling of his personal feelings about the loss of Streit’s and the gentrification of the Lower East Side.
Long before VICE became a media giant gobbling up much of Williamsburg‘s north side real estate and displacing some of the neighborhood’s beloved institutions, it was just a regular ol’ start-up company consisting of three guys putting out an indie mag from a small office in Montreal.
A recently uncovered video made for a ’90s reality TV show transports us to that far more innocent time, introducing us to the founding fathers of the magazine, Suroosh Alvi, Shane Smith, and Gavin McInnes, and documenting their days as the get ready for a move to New York City with hopes of taking their publication to the next level. Although the then-best buds have long left the realm in which we normal folks dwell, the concerns they expressed in the video back then—”I’m scared of being poor there,” McInnes says at one point—bring them back down to earth with us regular folks just trying to make it in the city.
Jump ahead for an intimate look at the trio 15 years ago, chatting about the roots of the magazine and the saucy side of Canada—and watch as they stress out over searching for NYC apartments.