Jefferson Market Courthouse in New York

A Love Affair with a Landmark in Manhattan: An Arresting Drama in Greenwich Village. [Opinions expressed are the views of OLD JEFF unless attributed to other - - potentially less-reliable - - sources, i.e., newcomers who have not been around since 1832 on Sixth Avenue.]

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Don't Get Mad, Get M.A.S.!

Almost half-a-century ago, a brave soul named Margot Gayle was trying to preserve the only 19th century building still remaining on the triangular site of the Jefferson Market judicial complex on Sixth Avenue, designed in the 1870s by Frederick Withers. New York City had put this antique on the auction block (and a buyer might wish to demolish it).

In order to protect this architectural gem, Margot's group of preservationists approached The New York Public Library. Since Greenwich Village, a neighborhood of writers, had only a pocket-size library on Hudson Street, the Sixth Avenue location was ideal for another branch. The library folks were joyful. But they, too, wanted to tear down the existing Venetian Gothic structure and have a modern facility. Their books, they reasoned, deserved brand new bricks and other built-in conveniences.

The preservationists reached out to M.A.S. for help.
The Municipal Art Society created an effective public awareness campaign about Jefferson Market’s history through lectures, walking tours, and other efforts. The organizers decided to target both the general public and city officials, feeling that there was a certain amount of apathy in the latter. Among the ideas that had been examined [way back in those days before the Landmarks Preservation Commission existed], explained Kent Barwick, was the potential for historic preservation and regulation of features of buildings.
In 1961, M.A.S. issued a press release: we rescued Jefferson Market Court. Victory!

The Municipal Art Society of New York is located in midtown Manhattan in the Urban Center at the landmarked Villard Houses. The Urban Center houses the offices of the Society, the Architectural League, and New Yorkers for Parks, as well as Urban Center Books, New York City's leading bookstore for architecture and related arts.
You can visit or write these diligent preservationists:
The Municipal Art Society
Kent Barwick, President
457 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022
T.:212-935-3960 * Fax:212-753-1816 *
Jasper Goldman, Advocacy Associate:

Jefferson Market.