November 2023 Programs: Jane Jacobs, the Former “Colored” School No. 4, and More
Did you know that Village Preservation members receive advance notice of many of our public programs? Our tours and other programs sometimes offer limited seating or spaces. By becoming a member, you can take advantage of that advanced notice and register before the general public. Find out how to become a member here.
For videos, details, and other media from our past programs, click here.
Former “Colored” School No. 4: A Newly Designated City Landmark
Wednesday, November 8
Neighboring Chelsea and Greenwich Village share a historic intimacy. Indeed, the significance of Manhattan’s former “Colored” School No. 4 at 128 West 17th Street — which the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated an official landmark last May — ripples below West 14th Street, where “Colored” Schools were also located. The schoolhouse was built in 1849-50, then in 1860 was relegated to African American students and teachers until it closed in 1894. Hidden in plain sight, the unassuming building is the last tangible relic of the city’s more than century-old racial-caste public school system, born of the late 18th-century African Free School. The rare surviving site offers a telling window into the complex trajectory of the Black experience in our great metropolis.
This lecture will be presented by Eric K. Washington, the independent scholar and author who first brought (Former) Colored School No. 4 to both the attention of the Landmarks Commission and to wide public awareness. He spearheaded the collaborative community support (including Village Preservation) that led to the building’s landmark designation. Mayor Adams allocated $6 million for its rehabilitation. Eric has received the Historic District Council’s 2023 Grassroots Preservation Award, and the Victorian Society of New York’s 2022 Preservation Award.
Eric’s historical overview of (Former) Colored School No. 4 will introduce many of its notable Black teachers, students, and visitors, many of whom were denizens of the Village’s so-called “Little Africa” community. They include the eponymous subject of his award-winning biography, Boss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal, which received Columbia University’s Herbert H. Lehman Prize for Distinguished Scholarship of New York History, the Guides Association of New York City’s GANYC Apple Award and special recognition from the Municipal Art Society’s Brendan Gill Prize committee.
The Uses, Misuses, and Limitations of Jane Jacobs in Planning the Contemporary Neighborhood
Tuesday, November 14
It is an irony of history that Jane Jacobs, the author of the most famous attack on the field of planning, is regarded today as its preeminent lodestar. Her most prominent work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, continues to shape our understanding of cities and to fuel discussion surrounding their study and planning. In that book, Jacobs grounded her arguments in meticulous observations of 1950s Greenwich Village to weigh in on matters as far ranging as the ideal city form, the importance of older buildings, the functional uses of diversity, the relationship between built form and social activity, and the proper vantage point for analyzing neighborhoods. Jacobs’ insights on these matters remain common currency in planning and preservation debate, and are regularly deployed in support of even contradictory propositions.
Does this widespread application of Jacobs’ work stem at this point merely from the legitimacy that she provides by association? Or do her perspectives on Greenwich Village, as it was over 60 years ago — perspectives developed in response to the excesses of planning practice at the time — remain relevant to the planning of our neighborhoods today? In short, what are the uses, misuses, and limitations of Jane Jacobs in planning the contemporary neighborhood?
To help us think through these questions, we will be joined by three of our foremost urban scholars.
Susan S. Fainstein is a Senior Research Fellow in the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Her work has made major contributions in the areas of planning theory, urban theory, urban redevelopment, and comparative urban policy focusing on the United States, Europe, and East Asia.
Sharon Zukin is Professor Emerita of Sociology at Brooklyn College and at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her work has grappled with many of the transformations to urban life and urban living in New York City over the past half century.
M. Christine Boyer is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at the Princeton School of Architecture. Her research interests have included the history of the city, city planning, preservation planning, and computer science.
Early Survivors: Traces of 18th Century Manhattan
Wednesday, November 15
A surprising number of pre- and post-Revolutionary structures survive in ‘the city that’s never finished.’ From grand country mansions to taverns, townhouses, churches, and the earliest park in New York City, one can easily visit remnants of early New-York from one tip of Manhattan Island to the other, including in Greenwich Village and the East Village. This is a great way to explore different neighborhoods, too.
Anthony Bellov takes you on a virtual tour from the comfort of your home to these landmarks in our neighborhoods and beyond – some of national importance, some you may not know exist – while sharing tips on how to visit them in person.
Anthony Bellov holds a bachelor’s in Architecture from Pratt Institute and a Master’s in Museum Leadership from Bank Street College of Education. An artist member of the prestigious Salmagundi Club, he recently presented a lecture series there, “Before Salmagundi,” exploring transformations to the 1853 Fifth Avenue mansion over the years. That series may be enjoyed on YouTube. He is a long-time volunteer and spokesperson for the Merchant’s House Museum, a board member of the American Research Center in Egypt and a member of The Society of Old Brooklynites.
Insider’s Tour of Jefferson Market Library and Clocktower
Thursday, November 16
Pre-Registration is Required.
Spaces are limited.
For Village Preservation members at the $100 level and above.
If you weren’t able to take part in September, join us for this encore presentation of an exclusive insider’s tour of one of New York and Greenwich Village’s great historic landmarks, Jefferson Market Library! Originally built in 1876 as a courthouse by Frederick Clark Withers and Calvert Vaux (co-designer of Central Park) in the Victorian Gothic style along with an adjacent prison and market (since demolished), Jefferson Market Library was voted one of the ten most beautiful buildings in America by an architect’s poll in the 1880s. But by the mid-20th century it was deemed outdated and unfashionable, and almost fell to the wrecking ball after it was largely abandoned by the city.
Reimagined as a public library in 1967, the landmark building has gone through many renovations and reiterations, restoring and reusing spaces previously intended for holding prisoners and hearing court cases as places for learning, gathering, and contemplation. The clocktower, once used as a fire lookout for its sweeping views and then abandoned, has been restored and the clock working again.
Longtime Jefferson Market branch librarian Frank Collerius will lead us on a tour of these remarkable spaces, their history, the changes they have undergone, and their current uses. The tour will culminate in a visit to the rarely-opened Clocktower, where tour goers will be able to take in unrivaled views of Greenwich Village and beyond.
Capacity for the tour is limited, so we strongly encourage you to reserve your spot now while available.
Accessibility Notice: Please note that reaching the top of tower requires climbing nearly 150 narrow winding steps. The staircase is also very dusty. You will be required to sign a waiver before climbing to the top of the tower. Please wear weather appropriate clothing.
The Tredwells’ World: A Historic Walking Tour of 19th Century Noho
Sunday, November 26
$20, or free for Merchants House Museum and Village Preservation members.
Join us for a journey back in time to the elite “Bond Street area,” home to Astors, Vanderbilts, Delanos — and the Tredwells, who lived in the Merchant’s House. You’ll see how the neighborhood surrounding the Tredwells’ home evolved from a refined and tranquil residential enclave into a busy commercial center. Visit important 19th century landmark buildings on this tour through 21st century NoHo.