We recently added copies of GVSHP’s newsletter The Anthemion dating back to the organization’s founding in the early 1980s to our website, which you can view here. There is so much rich history about the work of our organization and ever-changing preservation and development issues over the years contained within them; in fact, as you see the organization growing, you also see some pretty meaningful progress being made on preservation issues, some of which we take for granted today and probably can’t imagine living without.
To illustrate, this Throwback Thursday we’re zooming in on our Spring, 1982 issue, where you might notice right away that the name of GVSHP was then The Greenwich Village Trust for Historic Preservation. Of course, that’s not the only thing that’s changed since then.
As in many of our newsletters, there are stories of buildings, like the U.S. Appraiser’s Warehouse, now known as The Archive Building, located on the block bounded by Christopher, Washington, Greenwich, and Barrow Streets. In 1982, the former federal building had been empty for years, and the battle over its ultimate fate had been raging for much of that time. Our newsletter announced that a novel plan to preserve and reuse the building by turning it into apartments had just been approved, and we looked forward to its implementation. The Archive opened as an apartment building several years later, and has remained so ever since.
There are also updates on two public squares still so important to Greenwich Village. One article is headlined “”Lost” Square to be Regained” and it is about how Christopher Park and the real Sheridan Square were mistaken for half a century.
How mix-up began
The mix-up between Sheridan Square and Christopher Park goes back to 1936, when a bronze statue of Civil War hero Philip Henry Sheridan, commissioned by the General Sheridan Memorial Association, was erected in Christopher Park. The records are silent on why Christopher Park was chosen, but one logical explanation is that there were no facilities for a statue in Sheridan Square, and Christopher Park was conveniently close at hand. A newspaper reporter covering the unveiling of the monument mistakenly wrote that the statue of the “valiant hero (was placed) in the Square that bears his name.” As often happens, later writers perpetuated the error as fact.
Perhaps more strikingly, the article goes on to note the work of the Sheridan Square Association to seek to transform Sheridan Square from the asphalt lot it was at the time (!) into a lushly planted viewing garden. A few years later it was (see images from the archeological dig GVSHP supervised when the reconstruction was done), and remains a green jewel in the neighborhood today.
Another article covered the renaming of the square at 6th and Greenwich to honor Ruth Wittenberg:
Manhattan Community Board 2 has named a square in the Village for Ruth Wittenberg, honorary president and a founding member of the Greenwich Village Trust, in recognition of her unselfish service to the community. It is located at Sixth and Greenwich Avenues, near the southern end of the Jefferson Market Library Garden, and was formerly known as the Village Square triangle.
It goes on to mention the 1981 Community Board 2 resolution at the time:
The resolution which the Community Board adopted unanimously at its December 18, 1981, meeting highlights Ruth Wittenberg’s guidance in the campaign which established a Landmarks Preservation Law for this city and led to the designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District and the SoHo Cast Iron Historic District; her efforts in the saving and reworking of Washington Square Park; and especially her work in helping to transform a deserted courthouse into the Jefferson Market Library, and the site of the former Women’s House of Detention into a garden.
There was also lots of big news and progress for our organization that year. On April 1, 1982, the organization moved into the landmark Salamgundi Club at 47 Fifth Avenue, where we remained until 1999.
And Regina Kellerman was named the Executive Director:
Regina M. Kellerman, architectural historian and a founding advisor of the Greenwich Village Trust, was named its Executive Director in September 1981.
Mrs. Kellerman brings to her post firsthand knowledge of the architecture of New York. As director of research in the 1960s for the Landmarks Preservation Commission, she supervised its first architectural survey of the five boroughs. She is especially familiar with the architecture of Greenwich Village, having personally documented the history and design of many of its buildings. She is the author of the chapters on the historical development and architectural importance of the Village in the Commission’s designation report.
After leaving the Commission, Mrs. Kellerman was instrumental in the saving of SoHo. In the 1970s, while a doctoral candidate at Pennsylvania State University, she was field director of an architectural and environmental study of SoHo underwritten by the National Science Foundation. The subsequent report, of which she was co-author, was submitted to the Landmarks Commission and served as the basis for the designation of the SoHo Cast-Iron Historic District.
The Spring issue of The Anthemion also noted that 200 new members had answered the recent call for support. Which reminds me, are you a member of Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation? Click here to join or renew today, and help us carry on for a few more decades!