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Articles By: andrea marpillero-colomina

Andrea grew up in downtown Manhattan, where she spent decades developing a passionate dislike of pigeons. She has a Master’s in Urban Planning from Columbia, which she mostly uses as cred whilst picking fights politely informing people about neighborhood names and boundaries. She loves old maps, bridges, and public transit drama. Read her sometimes grouchy blog: http://plandrea.tumblr.com/. Tweet me: @urbandrea

Bill de Blasio-NYC Mayor-2013Image via Flickr  by Kevdiaphoto

Bill de Blasio already has a parody Twitter account (@BilldeBleezy) in his honor. The mayor elect, who will assume office in January as the 109th chief public official of the City of New York, represents a major paradigm shift in the political drumbeat in the most visited city in United States. His predecessor, three-term serving billionaire Michael Bloomberg, has a Twitter parody, too, but de Blasio’s will no doubt be of a decidedly different tone. For starters, his Spanish is markedly better.


2012 is the second year of the Hadrian Awards Gala After Party.  Pretty, young, semi-intellectual things made such a strong showing at the 2011 After Party that the World Monuments Fund spent the next several months researching how to best capture and invest in the younger preservation advocate crowd.

The outcome was to create more opportunities for young preservation enthusiasts to come together: in July 2012, WMF launched the Maoi Circle, allowing young historic preservation and architecture professionals to get involved with WMF’s well regarded circles, via activities and event programming. The Maoi Circle is intended for professionals ages 21 to 45 with enthusiasm for global cultural heritage and historic preservation. The not so youthful membership fee is $150 (Justify it: $115 is tax-deductible!), which includes extensive invites to select WMF events and discounts to others.


Canterbury Provincial Government Buildings in Christchurch, New Zealand after the 2011 Earthquake.

For the launch, the ever intrepid Pauline Evelliard organized a creative wine tasting event for new young members, pairing one of five wines with a WMF project / site: Buenos Aires Historic Center, Argentina; Easter Island, Chile; Palazzo Farnese, Italy; Canterbury Provincial Government Buildings, New Zealand; Route 66, USA.


Moai Circle members had the chance to take a private tour of the Morris-Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights.

Since launching over the summer, WMF has organized a number of additional events for the Maoi Circle, including  tours of the Eero Saarinen TWA Terminal at JFK and the Morris-Jumel Mansion, and invitations to WMF lectures.

Back to the event: This year’s Hadrian Award winner was Kenneth I. Chenault, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of American Express. American Express was a founding sponsor of the World Monuments Watch in 1996, and reaffirmed its commitment in 2012 by pledging $5 million to the Watch over the next five years. This spring, with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, they gave $3 million in grants to the winners of the Partners in Preservation initiative in New York City.


The Chatsworth estate has been in the Duke of Devonshire’s family since the 16th century.

The Duke of Devonshire, KCVO, CBE, DL, received the Watch Award, honoring his commitment to preservation, especially his dedicated work at Chatsworth, also known as Britain’s best stately home (natch!).

No giant surprises here; preservation awards aren’t exactly the Golden Globes. But for the preservation geeks enthusiasts among us, the partymakers at WMF are always excellent company with whom to celebrate our love of cultural heritage. The generous pours of wine and delicious canapés certainly contribute to the joviality of the mood, but even the newcomers know the passions run highest over saving the monuments.

Tenement Museum exterior The Tenement Museum is housed in a 1863 building on historic Orchard Street on the Lower East Side. Image: Greg Scaffidi/AMNH.

Tucked on the Lower East Side, just blocks from the Williamsburg Bridge, the Tenement Museum embodies and represents the history of how New York as we know it came to be. Housed at 97 Orchard Street, the museum tells the stories of the immigrant families that lived within its walls between 1863 and 1935.

The building that is now the Tenement Museum was discovered by historians Ruth Abrams and Anita Jacobson in 1988, during their prolonged search to find a location from which to found a museum celebrating immigrant history. Abrams and Jacobson happened upon the building while seeking out a storefront location from which to run tours of the Lower East Side. The building, which had not been inhabited for over fifty years, was a time capsule, filled with artifacts that helped tell the stories of the many previous occupants.

Unrestored interior of the Tenement Museum. In 1988, two historians discovered the impeccably preserved spaces in the unoccupied building now housing the museum. Image: New York Diary Star.

After years of careful archiving, extensive research and meticulous restoration, the Tenement Museum opened its first apartment to the public in 1992. Since then has opened six additional apartments, each telling the story of a family that lived at 97 Orchard. Life as a working class immigrant New Yorker is painstakingly recreated at the Museum, which is accessible via guided tour only. Each apartment has been restored and decorated with era-appropriate furnishings and details. Historians poured over an array of documents and photographs, interviewing as many former residents and family members they could find in order to reconstruct daily life in these apartments.

Tenement Museum restored interior
The kitchen of a restored apartment, home to a German immigrant family in 1878. Image: tokyojinga.

The significance and potency of the Tenement Museum has not gone unnoticed. Since it’s inception, the Museum has received significant financial support from individual and institutional donors. In September 2011, the Museum opened a 10,500 square foot expanded visitor center and shop at 103 Orchard Street, with new programming and a permanent exhibition space.

Tenement Museum Tour The Museum offers a range of guided tours each day.

Likewise, leading scholars have recognized the importance of the Tenement Museum. Andrew Dolkart, Director of the Historic Preservation Program at Columbia University, wrote the award-winning book Biography of a Tenement House in New York City: An Architectural History of 97 Orchard Street, which documents and interprets the architectural and social history of the building.

When asked to comment on the Museum’s participation in the Partners in Preservation initiative, Dolkart responded, “The Tenement Museum is one of the most exciting preservation projects in America, a pioneering effort to interpret the lives of the working-class immigrants who were so important to the economic success of New York City and the nation as a whole.”

The Tenement Museum is one of the 40 locations in this year’s Partners for Preservation, a community-based initiative by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. As New York City’s first-ever citywide grassroots preservation effort, the call-to-action program will enlist the aid of all New Yorkers, and anyone who loves New York, to vote online to allocate $3 million dollars to the preservation projects most important to them. The funds would be used to “arrest” the deterioration of the “instructive ruin” apartments, left intact in an effort to illustrate the effect of time on the building.

Click here to vote for the Tenement Museum, and find out more about the Tenement Museum @tenementmuseum and Facebook.
Follow Untapped Cities on Twitter and Facebook. Get in touch with the author @urbandrea.

Untapped Cities is an official blog ambassador for  Partners in Preservation  , a community-based initiative by  American Express  and the  National Trust for Historic Preservation  to raise awareness of the importance of historic places. For complete coverage, follow our  Partners in Preservation category.

City Island Nautical Museum
The City Island Nautical Museum was declared a NYC landmark in 2011. Image: walkingoffthebigapple.

The sheer adorableness of the City Island Nautical Museum is not to be underestimated. On a recent misty Saturday afternoon, the entryway teemed with cheerful volunteers seemingly all named Barbara. The four Barbaras are in fact local celebrities on City Island, where they are known as the “Barbarashop Quartet” (yes, really) and celebrated for their preservation advocacy efforts.

In January 2012, the building which houses the Museum, a former public school, was designated a landmark by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, because of its “special character and a special historical and aesthetic interest and value as part of the development, heritage and cultural characteristics of New York City.” Despite its landmark status, volunteers pointed out that the building is in need of restoration; in particular, the exterior stairs are cracked and in poor condition.

The announcement of the Partners in Preservation initiative has made headlines on City Island and stirred up excitement. The Barbaras and other staff have galvanized the community to celebrate the Museum, where the story of the island’s fascinating maritime history unfolds.

City Island Nautical Museum.
City Island boasts an extensive maritime history, proudly displayed at the Museum.

City Island was settled by Europeans in the early 1600s, and remained in private hands until the end of the 1700s. In the early nineteenth, many of City Island’s residents were fishermen, taking advantage of the then prospering oyster industry. By mid-century the oyster industry began to fail, and in 1862, the first shipyard was established.

In the years following the Civil War, as recreational maritime travel rapidly increased in popularity, the island took advantage of its advantageous location just north of New York City and developed into a substantive industry hub for the construction and rebuilding of ships and luxury yachts. City Island remained an important shipbuilding and yachting center into the twentieth century and through the two world wars, during which the shipbuilders were in high demand to build war craft and tug boats.

City Island Nautical Museum
The Museum’s exhibits include a wide array of artifacts and objects that bring the island’s history to life.

In the second half of the twentieth century, the yachting industry returned. As the exhibits and volunteers at the Museum will proudly tell you, City Island shipbuilders built several sailboats that won in America’s Cup races throughout the later decades of the last century.

The Museum works hard to breathe life into this little known history. In one room, photographs along with boat models, and restored boats and boat parts showcase the island’s long, proud building industry. Another room showcases historic documents, maps and other objects that help illustrate the story of the island’s nautical history. In the hallway are historic photographs of the island and the members of its many nautical clubs.

The Museum is operated by the City Island Historical Society, and is funded by donations, grants, and membership dues; admission is free. The staff are all volunteers, who knowledgeably share pieces of City Island history with visitors. This Museum embodies the need to celebrate and preserve smaller, lesser-known historical sites in New York City, where little known local histories emerge and are lovingly told.

Funding from Partners in Preservation would restore the steps to the  Nautical Museum which have deteriorated over the past 112 years. The original design would be restored and a handicapped ramp would be resurfaced.

Click here to vote for the City Island Nautical Museum, and find out more about it on Facebook. Follow Untapped Cities on Twitter and Facebook. Get in touch with the author @urbandrea.

Untapped Cities is an official blog ambassador for  Partners in Preservation  , a community-based initiative by  American Express  and the  National Trust for Historic Preservation  to raise awareness of the importance of historic places. For complete coverage, follow our  Partners in Preservation category.