They’re all buried in Brooklyn’s Historic Green-Wood Cemetery along with abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, musician Leonard Bernstein, industrialist Peter Cooper, composer Fred Ebb, piano manufacturer Henry Steinway, decorative master Louis Comfort Tiffany – and roughly 560,000 others – many equally famous (some infamous) and hailing from the worlds of sports, the arts, entertainment, politics, the military and industry. Continue reading
The Museum of the City of New York and the South Street Seaport Museum have launched a joint “catablog” which provides online access to finding aids for their archival collections. The archivists at both museums will continue to make more finding aids accessible via the
Edited by Gajus Scheltema and Heleen Westerhuijs with an introduction by Russell Shorto, this guide tours important sites and also serves as a cultural and historical reference. Seventeen international scholars explore topics such as Dutch art and architecture, Dutch cooking, immigration during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, furniture and antiques, and more. Color photographs and maps are included throughout the guide. Continue reading
The one-day conference, co-curated by TCLF Founder and President Charles A. Birnbaum and CPC Associate Vice President for Planning Lane Addonizio examines the management of nature and culture in the stewardship of Central Park. The conference will feature speakers from public institutions and landscape architecture firms across the country, and follows up on the sold out, similarly themed conference held last year at the Jay Heritage Center in Rye, New York.
The conference will be followed on October 6-7 by
Nevertheless, managing a park that is both a culturally significant landscape and natural habitat is delicate- this conference specifically examines sustainability, the agendas of different constituencies, diversity, the role of people, and public education.
Creating a progression of varied landscape experiences was a primary goal of Central Park’s designers. Within the landscapes themselves, horticultural diversity was also a goal. In the Ramble, both exotic and native plants were to provide a sense of lushness and intricacy, realizing Olmsted’s intended “wild garden”effect. Neglect of the Park’s woodlands over a prolonged period resulted in a lack of horticultural and social (as well as scenic) diversity. What park stewards know is “letting nature take
its course” is not sustainable. While the woodlands serve to provide the experience of escape from urban life, they are in fact designed urban landscapes that require consistent management.
The conference features two panels addressing this stewardship dilemma- the first (the morning session) focuses on “lessons learned” by public sector stewards at Prospect Park (Brooklyn), New York Botanical Garden, and The Presidio (San Francisco)- the second (afternoon session) will be comprised of landscape architects in private practice with experience in urban parks (complete list below).
Speakers and Moderators:
• Eric W. Sanderson, Senior Conservation Ecologist, Wildlife Conservation
• Christian Zimmerman, Vice President for Design & Construction, The Prospect
Park Alliance, Brooklyn, NY
• Michael Boland, Chief Planning, Projects & Programs Officer, The Presidio
Trust, San Francisco, CA
• Todd Forrest, Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living
Collections, The New York Botanical Garden
• Elizabeth K. Meyer, Associate Professor, University of Virginia, School of
Architecture, Landscape Architecture (moderator)
• Dennis McGlade, President/Partner, OLIN, Philadelphia, PA and Los Angeles,
• Margie Ruddick, Margie Ruddick Landscape, Philadelphia, PA
• Keith Bowers, Biohabitats, Baltimore, MD
Registration is $150 and is available at the
About the Central Park Conservancy
The mission of the Central Park Conservancy is to restore, manage and enhance
Central Park in partnership with the public, for the enjoyment of present and future
generations. A private, not-for-profit organization founded in 1980, the Conservancy
provides 85 percent of Central Park’s $46million park-wide expense budget and is
responsible for all basic care of the Park. Since 1980, the Conservancy has overseen
the investment of more than $650 million into Central Park. For more information on
the Conservancy, please visit
About The Cultural Landscape Foundation
“Activist New York,” the inaugural exhibition in the Museum of the City of New York’s new Puffin Foundation Gallery, will examine the ways in which ordinary New Yorkers have advocated, agitated, and exercised their power to shape the city’s – and the nation’s – future. Centuries of activist efforts, representing the full spectrum of political ideologies, will be illuminated through a series of installations featuring 14 New York movements ranging from the mid-17th century to today.
The exhibition will feature historic artifacts and images from the museum’s collection as well as pieces on loan from other collections, along with interactive elements that enable visitors to explore and express their own views. For the first three weeks of the exhibition attendees will have a chance to view the original “Flushing Remonstrance,” the 1657 landmark document protesting restrictions against Quakers in New Amsterdam.
“Activist New York” begins and ends with questions of religious freedom, from the struggle for religious tolerance in Dutch New Netherland, to today’s debate over a Muslim Cultural Center near Ground Zero. In between, the exhibition examines a wide range of social movements that transformed laws and assumptions regarding race, gender, class, sexuality, economic justice, and other issues.
The Puffin Foundation Gallery is situated in a newly renovated and climate-controlled 2000 square foot south gallery on the Museum’s second floor, and named for the foundation that has supported the gallery with a gift of $3.25 million.
The exhibition unfolds through a series of 14 examples of New York activism:
1. Let Us Stay: The Struggle for Religious Tolerance in Dutch New Netherland, 1650-1664
The exhibition features the Flushing Remonstrance, one of the earliest arguments for religious liberty and tolerance in American history.
2. Beware of Foreign Influence: Nativists and Immigrants, 1830-1860
This section explores efforts to prohibit or limit immigration and contain its impact on 19 th -century New York. Nativists fought to curtail the largely Catholic immigrant community’s access to citizenship, the vote, and public office. The section also illustrates the ways Catholic New Yorkers combated nativism by establishing their own independent institutions to support their community.
3. What Has New York to Do with Slavery? 1827-1865
While New York City was a center of the abolitionist movement, it was also home to many people who sided with the Southern slave owners. This conflict was dramatically revealed in the Draft Riots of July 1863, where the issues of class and race came to a head in a harrowing, violent confrontation. The exhibition chronicles the efforts of both sides of the debate.
4. New York is the Battleground: Woman Suffrage, 1900-1920
In the early 20 th century,New York became the epicenter for organizational activity of the national woman suffrage movement, with suffragists pioneering new methods of behind-the-scenes organizing and media-savvy publicity. The installation also documents the movement against woman suffrage through anti-suffrage images and messages published by aNew York lithograph firm.
5. Houses of Welcome: The Settlement House Movement, 1890-1925
Immigrants in New York at the turn of the 20th century faced overcrowding, illness, and poverty. This section of the exhibition shows how a new type of agent for change—the settlement house worker—combated those conditions by moving into slum neighborhoods to provide instructions in parenting, health, and citizenship.
6. I Am a Working Girl! Upheaval in the Garment Trades, 1909-1915
This installation examines the events that led to reform and improvement of deplorable workplace conditions, including the 1909 “Uprising of the 20,000,” an industry-wide strike by workers affiliated with the fledgling International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union, and the 1911 Triangle Waist factory fire tragedy.
7. Art for the Masses: An Activist Theater, 1930-1945
This movement looks at the politically engaged New Yorktheater groups that used their art to confront Depression-era poverty, labor exploitation, political corruption, racial tension, and the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe.
8. We Shall Not Be Moved:New York and Civil Rights, 1945-1964
This installation revealsNew York City’s role in the early Civil Rights struggle of the post-World War II era, from the “Boycott Jim Crow” and anti-lynching movements through the emergence of CORE and SNCC, to the Black Power era of the mid-1960s.
9. What’s Wrong with New York? Conservative Activism, 1962-1973
This segment of the exhibition looks at groups, such as “Parents and Taxpayers,” that were unhappy with a leftward drift in the city and blamed it for an increase in disorder, crime, and the swelling municipal budget. Many joined a new third party, the Conservative Party of New York, formed in 1962.
10. Stop the Wrecking Ball! Preserving Historic New York, 1955-1970
This case study shows how the loss of some of the city’s greatest cultural and architectural landmarks fed the efforts of the early historic preservation movement and eventually led to the creation of New York’s groundbreaking Landmarks Preservation Law.
11. “Gay Is Good”: Civil Rights for Gays and Lesbians, 1969-2012
This installation shows how the Stonewall Riots galvanized the modern gay rights movement in New York and led to the creation of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, ACT UP, and other organizations. The installation brings the story up to date with the successful campaign to secure the legalization of gay marriages in New York State.
12. “Don’t Move, Improve”: Reviving the South Bronx, 1970-2012
The South Bronx became an international icon of urban blight in the 1970s. This section of the exhibition examines grassroots advocacy groups, community organizations, and church congregations that took ownership of the rebuilding of their neighborhoods into livable, affordable communities.
13. Love Your Lane: Bicycle Advocacy, 1965-2011
Amid concerns about ecology, traffic congestion, and pollution, pioneering activists lobbied for changes in the traffic laws. Today, as part of the Bloomberg administration PlaNYC’s effort to build a greener, more sustainable city, bike lanes proliferate, as does agitation against for and against them, as this installation documents.
14. Park 51: 2010-2012
This section provides a detailed exploration of the controversy over the construction of an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, which is reminiscent of the long and turbulent saga of activism surrounding issues of religious expression in New York City.
Interactive elements throughout the exhibition provide opportunities to dig more deeply and bring the historic stories up to date. A series of touch screens present a timeline of the history of activism in the city, with more than two hundred examples ranging from slave revolts of the 18th century to the Newsboys’ Strike of 1899 to the woman behind the movement that led to New York’s 1978 “pooper scooper” law. Additional kiosks with touch screens invite visitors to explore the work of contemporary activist groups and send email messages to these groups expressing the visitors’ views on current activism. In addition, members of the general public may submit photographs of contemporary activist in the city to a photo blog housed on the Museum’s website (
“Activist New York” has been organized by an exhibition team led by Sarah M. Henry, the Museum’s Deputy Director and Chief Curator. Steven H. Jaffe served as guest curator, and Christina Ziegler-McPherson as associate guest curator. The exhibition team was aided by the Puffin Foundation Gallery Advisory Committee, chaired by Peter G. Carroll, Executive Director, Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, and comprising scholars and activists Esther Cohen, Joshua Freeman, Victor Navasky, Bruno Quinson, Christopher Rhomberg, Tom Roderick, and Perry, Gladys, and Neal Rosenstein.
Photo: Picketers during a 1910 garment workers strike (Library of Congress)
Laying out Manhattan’s street grid and providing a rationale for the growth of New York was the city’s first great civic enterprise, not to mention a brazenly ambitious project and major milestone in the history of city planning. The grid created the physical conditions for business and society to flourish and embodied the drive and discipline for which the city would come to be known. The Greatest Grid does more than memorialize such a visionary effort, it also serves as reference full of rare images and information.
The Greatest Grid shares the history of the Commissioners’ plan, incorporating archival photos and illustrations, primary documents and testimony, and magnificent maps with essential analysis. The text, written by leading historians of New York City, follows the grid’s initial design, implementation, and evolution, and then speaks to its enduring influence. A foldout map, accompanied by explanatory notes, reproduces the Commissioners’ original plan, and additional maps and prints chart the city’s pre-1811 irregular growth patterns and local precedent for the grid’s design.
This text describes the social, political, and intellectual figures who were instrumental in remaking early New York, not in the image of old Europe but as a reflection of other American cities and a distinct New World sensibility. The grid reaffirmed old hierarchies while creating new opportunities for power and advancement, giving rise to the multicultural, highly networked landscape New Yorkers are familiar with today.
Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through
To learn how to submit an application for conducting onsite research, send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org. In your request indicate the collections of interest and describe your research need. Before contacting the Museum to inquire about a research appointment, visit the Museum’s Collections Portal (
The following onsite collections will be open to research appointments:
Manuscripts & Ephemera
Manuscript and ephemera holdings augment and complement other elements of the collections and are particularly strong in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century materials. The Manuscripts include papers related to notable New Yorkers, organizations, and events from the 17th century to the present. The ephemera collections include objects such as society dinner menus, trade cards, maps, Valentines, badges, Christmas cards, and material related to public ceremonies, special events, schools, sports, the shipping trade, transportation, statues and monuments, retail trade, and the police and fire departments.
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs
The Prints, Drawings, and Photographs Collection documents the built environment of the city and its changing cultural, political, and social landscape from its earliest days to the present. Photographic holdings include collections on Berenice Abbott, Jacob Riis, and the photographic archives of Gottscho-Scheleisner, LOOK Magazine, Byron Co., and the Wurts Brothers. Drawings range from18th-century pastel portraits and mural studies to political cartoons and architectural renderings. Specific collections include the archives of the Planning Board of the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the Harry T. Peters Collection of hand-colored Currier & Ives prints, and the Martin Wong Graffiti Collection.
The Theater Collection documents theatrical activity in New York City from the late 18th century to the present day. The heart of the Theater holdings is the John Golden Archive, which consists of approximately 40,000 folders, organized into files on productions, personalities, and performance spaces. The Theater Collection also holds collections on Burlesque, Circus, Minstrelsy, and Vaudeville. Files contain a wide range of material including photographs, contracts, correspondence, playbills, manuscripts, advertising materials, reviews, obituaries, clippings, sheet music, autographs, account records, prompt books, and ephemera.
The Museum also holds collections of Costumes and Textiles, Decorative Arts and Furniture, and Paintings and Sculpture- however, due to the special preparation necessary for handling these objects, access is extremely limited. For specific inquiries into these collections, email email@example.com
The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan for Manhattan, 1811—2011 will document the development of the “Commissioners’ Plan,” which in 1811 specified numbered streets and avenues outlining equal rectangular blocks ranging from (today’s) Houston Street to 155th Street and from First Avenue to Twelfth Avenue.
The exhibition, which is organized on the occasion of the bicentennial of the plan, will elucidate, through maps, photographs, and other historic documents, this monumental infrastructure project—the city’s first such civic endeavor—which transformed New York throughout the 19th century and laid the foundation for its distinctive character.
Some 225 artifacts will be on view in the exhibition, which is organized chronologically and geographically, leading visitors from 17th-century, pre-grid New York through the planning process and the explicit 1811 Commissioners’ Plan, and from the massive and elaborate implementation of the plan to contemporary reflections on New York and visions for its future.
“The 1811 grid was a bold expression of optimism and ambition,” Susan Henshaw Jones, the Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum said. “City commissioners anticipated New York’s propulsive growth and projected that the city—still relatively small at the time and concentrated in what is now Lower Manhattan and Greenwich Village—would extend to the heights of Harlem. The 1811 plan has demonstrated remarkable longevity as well as the flexibility to adapt to two centuries of unforeseeable change, including modifications such as Broadway and Central Park. The real miracle of the plan was that it was enforced.”
The exhibition will showcase the illustrious—most notably, John Randel, Jr., who measured the grid with obsessive care. Randel was an apprentice to Simeon DeWitt, the surveyor general of New York State from 1784 to 1834. Between 1808 and 1810 Randel measured the lines of streets and avenues at right angles to each other, and recorded distances and details about the island, its features, and its inhabitants. This resulted in a manuscript map of the grid plan, which he completed by March 1811. Randel continued surveying the island from 1811 to 1817, setting marble monuments (one of which will be on view in the exhibition- there were to have been 1,800) to mark the intersections of the coming grid. Between 1818 and 1820 Randel drafted a series of 91 large-scale maps of the island, now known as the Randel Farm Maps (ten of which will be on view). An article written in the 1850s cited Randel as “one of our most accurate engineers,” further stating that his survey of New York City was done “with such a mathematical exactness as to defy an error of half an inch in ten miles.”
The commissioners’ detailed notes about the grid will also be on view in the exhibition, explaining the plan and expressing their intent to “lay out streets, roads, and public squares, of such width, extent, and direction, as to them shall seem most conducive to public good…-” (From “An Act relative to Improvements, touching the laying out of Streets and roads in the City of New-York, and for other purposes. Passed April 3, 1807.” )
Other colorful figures will be highlighted, including William M. “Boss” Tweed, who implemented high-quality improvements, advanced services, and pushed forward many amenities while at the same time benefitting his associates.
Other rare and exquisitely detailed maps dating from 1776 to the present will be on view, alongside stunning archival photographs portraying the island of Manhattan throughout various stages of excavation. An extraordinary street-by-street explanation of the plan in the words of the commissioners—Gouverneur Morris, Simeon De Witt, and John Rutherfurd—will be on view as will other historic documents, plans, prints, and more.
The merits of the grid will be debated. Historians have viewed it as the emblem of democracy, with blocks that are equal and no inherently privileged sites. Historians have also praised its utility, its neat subdivisions that support real estate development. The rectangular lots of Manhattan’s grid parallel Thomas Jefferson’s national survey, which organized land sales in square-mile townships. The grid manifests Cartesian ideals of order, with streets and avenues that are numbered rather than named for trees, people, or places. Frederick Law Olmsted bemoaned its dumb utility and lack of monuments and other features. Jane Jacobs credited city streets with creating New York’s public realm. And Rem Koolhaas called the grid “the most courageous act of prediction in Western civilization: the land it divides, unoccupied- the population it describes, conjectural- the buildings it locates, phantoms- the activities it frames, nonexistent.”
The Greatest Grid will reframe ideas about New York, revealing the plan to be much more than a layout of streets and avenues. The grid provided a framework that balanced public order with private initiative. It predetermined the placement of the city’s infrastructure, including transportation services, the delivery of electricity and water, and most other interactions. Manhattan’s grid has provided a remarkably flexible framework for growth and change.
Visitors will have the opportunity to consider New York’s preparation for the future and whether or not the grid will enable the city to face 21st-century challenges. New proposals for the city, the results of a competition, will be on view in a separate, related exhibition co-sponsored by the Architectural League. The Greatest Grid will also feature “12 x 155,” a conceptual art video by artist Neil Goldberg along with other artistic responses, such as original drawings from the graphic novel City of Glass (Picador, 2004) by Paul Auster, illustrated by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli
The Greatest Grid is co-sponsored by the Manhattan Borough President’s Office.
The exhibition is accompanied by a companion book of the same title, co-published by the Museum of the City of New York and Columbia University Press. Dr. Hilary Ballon, University Professor of Urban Studies & Architecture at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, conceived of the exhibition, is its curator, and is the editor of the companion book.
A related exhibition, on view concurrently at the Museum, will feature the results of a competition in which architects and planners were asked for submissions using the Manhattan street grid as a catalyst for thinking about the present and future of New York- this exhibition is co-sponsored by the Architectural League of New York.
Reservations required for the following events. Call 917-492-3395 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is $6 museum members- $8 seniors and students- $12 non-members- and $6 when you mention New York History.
Tuesday, October 11 at 6:30 PM
The “Lady’s Eye”: More than Walls and Beyond the Fringe
Between the two world wars, at the same time that pioneering female interior designers like Dorothy Draper and Elsie DeWolfe were making a name for themselves using a modernist aesthetic, another group of women active in design and preservation were promoting the Colonial Revival style as a hallmark of profession. Discover the influence of women like Bertha Benkard and Nancy McClelland, in a discussion with Pauline Metcalf, author of Syrie Maugham (Acanthus Press, 2010), and others as they explore the roles that women played in making the Colonial Revival and that the Colonial Revival played in creating the field of interior design. Reservations required.
Saturday, October 22 from 9:30 AM to 1:00 PM
Living With History:
Restoring, Redesigning, and Reviving New York’s Landmark Interiors
In the past decade the city has been the setting for some extraordinary projects aimed at bringing historic buildings back to life. This half-day symposium will showcase some of those projects, highlighting the various and sometimes controversial approaches to preserving the past while accommodating the needs of modern life. Presenters include architectural historian Matt Postal on New York’s landmark designation process- designer Jamie Drake on the ongoing preservation of Gracie Mansion- Cleary Larkin of Beyer Blinder Belle on the restoration of the Beacon Theater- Franklin D. Vagnone, Executive Director of the Historic House Trust, on the contrasting approaches to preserving Brooklyn’s Wyckoff Farmhouse and Lott House- designer Eric Cohler on his restoration of the iconic A. Conger Goodyear house by Edward Durrell Stone- and Frank Mahon, Senior Designer of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, on retrofitting the International Style Manufacturers Hanover Trust building on Fifth Avenue for retail use. Presented in partnership with the New York School of Interior Design. $25 Museum members, seniors, and students- $35 non-members.
Wednesday, October 26 at 6:30 PM
Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill
In 1926, then soon-to-be First Lady of New York State—and, eventually, the nation—Eleanor Roosevelt founded Val-Kill Industries, dedicated to crafting replicas of early American furniture, pewter, and weavings, as a way to provide jobs and training to local men and women. Val-Kill’s reproductions were carried by leading department stores and specialty shops in various American cities and were the subject of a 1927 exhibition and sale in Mrs. Roosevelt’s East Side townhouse. Maurine H. Beasley, professor and author of Eleanor Roosevelt: Transformative First Lady (University Press of Kansas, 2010), takes a closer look at the story of Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill and its cultural relevance then and now. Co-sponsored by the Roosevelt Institute. Reservations required.