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Check out an historic building near you – no special knowledge required

An information page for the St. Mark's Historic District on the Neighborhood Preservation Center's designation database.
An information page for the St. Mark’s Historic District on the Neighborhood Preservation Center’s designation database.

Designation reports are detailed documents created by New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission at the time a building or district is landmarked. These reports often serve as guidelines when the Commission needs to determine the appropriateness of future changes to the property. So what do historic designation reports have to offer those outside the field of historic preservation? Turns out, plenty.  

Designation report entry for 232 East 11th Street, the home of the Neighborhood Preservation Center, and other preservation groups such as the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

As a snapshot of the architecture at the time of designation, as well as a document containing historic information about a district or a property, designation reports are amazing tools for property owners, researchers, and those just interested in learning about a New York City community. But if a researcher does not know the name of a landmark district or property, designation reports can be hard to locate. The Neighborhood Preservation Center, a resource center that shares information and facilitates exchange among those working to improve and protect neighborhoods, has changed all that. They created a designation report database that allows the public to search all designation reports by a number of keywords, allowing anyone to access these little treasure troves of information.

The historic exterior of 232 East 11th Street.
The historic exterior of 232 East 11th Street.

The database allows researchers to search by address, neighborhood, dates, architect, and more. It allows a researcher to explore not just one historic district, but to compile statistics about designations across the city. It can even assist the casual researcher in locating a landmark, just by having the address or neighborhood, without needing to know the name of the district. And the database contains older designation reports that are not available on the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s website, as they were created before digital technology.

We here at Off the Grid have a certain fondness for the Neighborhood Preservation Center, and not only because the Center serves as our office. Check out the center’s other preservation related offerings on their website. The center is turning 13 years old this coming November 1st, and you can support all the Center has to offer, including their amazing designation report database, by attending an all-out preservation party at Webster Hall. Tickets are available here.


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