Former NAACP headquarters in Greenwich Village is now a New York City landmark

May 18, 2021

Street View of 70 Fifth Avenue, Map data © 2020 Google; Photo of W.E.B. DuBois in 1918 from Library of Congress, via Wikimedia Commons

A building in Greenwich Village that once served as the headquarters for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and housed W.E.B. DuBois’ trailblazing magazine The Crisis, is now a New York City landmark. The Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday voted to designate 70 Fifth Avenue, a Neoclassical Beaux-Arts building designed by Charles A. Rich and built between 1912 and 1914. The commission on Tuesday also landmarked the Holyrood Episcopal Church-Iglesia Santa Cruz in Washington Heights.

Located on the southwest corner of 13th Street, the 12-story building at 70 Fifth Avenue, known as the Educational Building, was built in 1912. The national headquarters of the NAACP was located at 70 Fifth Avenue from February 1914 to July 1923. During this time, the civil rights organization, which was founded in New York, launched critical campaigns against lynching, employment discrimination, voting disenfranchisement, and more.

It was at this site where the NAACP organized the silent protest down Fifth Avenue following the East St. Louis riots in 1917, introduced anti-lynching legislation to Congress, and many other historic legal challenges.

W.E.B. DuBois, a co-founder of the NAACP, created the magazine The Crisis as the house periodical for the organization. Considered the first magazine dedicated to Black Americans, The Crisis showcased the work of many Black artists and writers of the Harlem Renaissance, including Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. DuBois also later created The Brownies’ Book magazine, the first made specifically for Black children.

Groups like Village Preservation have been pushing for the building to be landmarked for years. Andrew Berman, executive director of Village Preservation, applauded the commission’s decision.

“We are thrilled that after three years of campaigning to see this singularly important piece of New York and American history honored and recognized, it has finally received the protections from New York City that it deserves,” Berman said in a statement on Tuesday. “Few structures anywhere could be said to have been part of so many crucial campaigns for African American civil rights, for preserving civil liberties, for preventing genocide, for establishing peace, and for the rights of workers, to say nothing of the great writers and artists whose careers were also launched here.”

Landmarks on Tuesday also voted to designate the Holyrood Episcopal Church-Iglesia Santa Cruz in Washington Heights, citing its sophisticated Gothic Revival design and the significant role it has played in the neighborhood’s Latino community for the last four decades.

“This building has been very important to our community and has contributed so much to our neighborhood both culturally and spiritually,” Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez said, referring to the church. “The Holyrood Episcopal Church-Iglesia Santa Cruz landmark is not only significant because of the history of the building, but it also represents a place that has always welcomed immigrants.”

The commission on Tuesday held a public hearing on the Conference House Park Archaeological Site in Tottenville, Staten Island. According to the commission, the 20 acres of land at 29 Satterlee Street are associated with 8,000 years of occupation by Native American people.

It is considered the largest and best-preserved archaeological site associated with Native Americans in New York City. The site would become the city’s first landmark to recognize its thousands of years of Native American habitation, according to the LPC. The final meeting on this proposed landmark is scheduled for June.

These three items were first calendered by the LPC  in January, coinciding with a new framework created by the agency. According to Chair Sarah Carroll, the equity framework ensures diversity and inclusion in designations, effective outreach, and transparency and fairness.

“The last year has been one of the most challenging our nation has faced, with attacks on democracy, the pandemic, with the loss of life, damage to the economy and how it exposed systemic failures, as well as the killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and the despair and anger expressed subsequently,” Carroll said during a meeting in January. “I believe these events made it important for us to publicly reaffirm our commitment to equity in all aspects of our work.”

Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on January 20, 2021, and has been updated.


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