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Early Preservation and the Jefferson Market Library

The Jefferson Market Library (image via NYPL)
The Jefferson Market Library (image via NYPL)

GVSHP Board of Advisors member Carol Greitzer was very active in the early preservation movement of the 1960’s.  A female Democratic District leader in the Village in the 1960’s, she served as the Village’s representative on the City Council from 1969 to 1991, and remains a resident of Greenwich Village.

Carol recently contacted GVSHP with an interesting photo and story. During the 1950’s and 60’s she  organized contests about landmarks for Village students. During Christmas week, 1959, Greitzer organized a Greenwich Village Treasure Hunt for children to promote the use of the Jefferson Market Courthouse for a library. According to the New York Public Library, “By 1959, the building had become home to only pigeons and rats and was considered such an architectural eyesore the city planned to knock it down and erect an apartment building.”

Villagers rallied to save the building, and in 1961 Mayor Wagner announced that it would be preserved and converted into a public library.

Standing: Henry Hope Reed & Carol Greitzer. Seated (L-R) James Vanderpool, Ruth Wittenberg, Giorgio Cavaglieri
Standing: Henry Hope Reed & Carol Greitzer. Seated (L-R) James Vanderpool, Ruth Wittenberg, Giorgio Cavaglieri

The photo on the right depicts the judging panel for one of the contests, exact year unknown. Standing are Carol Greitzer and Henry Hope Reed. Greitzer met Reed years earlier on a Municipal Arts Society walking tour. He was an influential architecture critic and author who started the MAS walking tours in 1956. Reed was also a member of the GVSHP Board of Advisors until his death in 2013. We can all thank him for his efforts to close the Central Park loop to traffic.

Seated, from left to right, are James Vanderpool, Ruth Wittenberg, and Giorgio Cavaglieri. Vanderpool was a preservation activist and served as the first Director of the Landmarks Preservation Commission when it was founded in 1965. Ruth Wittenberg was also an early preservation activist. She was a suffragette, a civil rights activist, and she served on Community Board 2 for almost 40 years. She played a large role in the 1969 designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District and the restoration of the Jefferson Market Courthouse. Cavaglieri was an architectural perservationist who managed the restoration of the Jefferorson Market Courthouse. He was born in Italy and served in the Italian army under Mussolini. When Italian Jews were stripped of their citizenship he left and earned a bronze star in the American army during WWII. He was involved in a variety of preservation efforts including Penn Station and Grand Central Station.

Learn more about early preservation history here.

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