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Celebrating Our 40th Anniversary – A Strong Start

We began our journey in 1980 as the Greenwich Village Trust for Historic Preservation.

Village Preservation is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year, and in honor of this momentous milestone, we have created an interactive storymap that charts the historic journey of our organization. During that span, we have worked tirelessly to preserve our neighborhoods — no easy feat — and despite being a “child” of the 1980s, our early days were no less exciting, and laid the groundwork for decades of progress to follow.

The March 8, 1981 edition of the Sunday New York Times, covering the fire at St. Luke’s.

Though it would be a few years before we welcomed our first Executive Director, Village Preservation, founded in 1980 as the Greenwich Village Trust for Historic Preservation, came out of the gate strong in 1981 by helping in the efforts to rebuild the historic St. Luke’s Church at 487 Hudson Street, Greenwich Village’s oldest church, after a devastating fire. We also supported efforts to restore the Congregation Shearith Israel Cemetery on West 11th Street, the oldest green space in Greenwich Village.

Regina Kellerman (second from right).

Scholar and preservationist Regina Kellerman, who was involved with some of the earliest work of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, would take the reigns in 1982 as our first Executive Director. Later that year she oversaw an architectural dig at Sheridan Square, uncovering colonial artifacts and helping to transform what had been an asphalt traffic island in a lush garden. Our Historic Image Archive, another one of our fantastic resources, contains dozens of images of the Sheridan Square dig which attracted attention from neighbors and the media alike.

Archaeologists excavate Sheridan Square in 1982.

It is clear that Kellerman’s background in historic preservation and research made a lasting impact on Village Preservation (our Resources page is a good example of our continued attention to detail), and in 1984, along with Columbia University’s historic preservation graduate program, we sponsored a study of the history of the architecture of the Gansevoort Meat Market.

Over fifteen years later, in 2000, we eventually formed the Save Gansevoort Task Force to further research, advocate, and garner support for landmark designation of the Meatpacking District. Three years later, after an almost 20-year journey, the Gansevoort Market Historic District was finally designated in a unanimous vote by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. This would be the first new historic district in Greenwich Village since 1969.

In 1985, we continued to make strides in understanding our neighborhoods and conducted building research on some it is unlandmarked sections, from the Bowery to 7th Avenue South, and Broadway from Houston Street to 14th Street. This research helped lay the groundwork decades later when we fought for expanded landmark protections in NoHo, the South Village, and the current ongoing fight in the area South of Union Square.

The 1980s closed out on a high note, with the publication of our book, The Architecture of the Greenwich Village Waterfront, along with an exhibition on the cultural and architectural history of the waterfront at the Municipal Art Society. This book formed the basis for the argument for the extension of the Greenwich Village Historic District which became a reality in 2006. Also in 2006, the Weehawken Street Historic District was designated, helping to secure a beautiful section of the waterfront which had already endured many changes in its history.

Though her tenure as the executive director would end in 1990, Kellerman would continue to serve as a Trustee and then as a member of the Preservation Committee and Board of Advisors. She also served on Village Preservation’s Preservation Committee until her death in 2008.

We all know a strong start can be an invaluable key to helping solidify the future. It was clear from the beginning that Village Preservation was destined to achieve many great things, and we encourage you to explore all of our hard-fought battles and victories in our 40th Anniversary StoryMap. Please consider helping us prepare for the next 40 years by becoming a member or donating today.

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