Today the Museum of the City of New York announced its selection as a finalist in Partners in Preservation’s New York City 2012 program. The partnership between American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, , provides preservation grants for local historic places. New York City has been named as this year’s location and the seventh city to participate. The Museum would use the award to restore the façade of its landmark Georgian Revival building, which features an elegant wrought-iron entrance gate and two life-size bronze sculptures of Alexander Hamilton and DeWitt Clinton. These features have remained entirely untouched since they were first installed in 1932.
The Museum is one of 40 finalists competing for a $250,000 grant. The finalist will be chosen by popular vote. Individuals can vote for the Museum of the City of New York once a day by logging on to http://www.helpmcny.com/. Voting will be open from April 26 to May 21.
The Museum was chosen because of the distinct historic details of its landmark Fifth Avenue building, which stands at the top of Museum Mile. The restoration would further the preservation of one of the premier examples of the Colonial Revival style in New York City.
The two impressive bronze statues adorning the façade were commissioned and designed specifically for the Museum. The now-weathered masterpieces were created by sculptor Adolph A. Weinman (1870-1952), who was also responsible for the "Mercury" dime and "Walking Liberty" half dollar for the U. S. Mint, and friezes for the U. S. Supreme Court building. The life-size statues boast their subjects in carefully selected poses. Hamilton appears as he does in a statuette owned by direct descendant Mr. Pierpont M. Hamilton, and Clinton’s stately stance was designed by Weinman, who requested a live model dressed in period costume to pose while he sculpted. It is believed Weinman used this technique before when he employed silent movie actress and popular live model Audrey Munson as inspiration for the “Walking Liberty” half dollar in the early 1900s.
The Museum’s 19-foot painted, wrought iron gate, installed in 1932, is accented by hand-shaped decorative elements and supported by marble piers. Restoration of the gate requires cleaning, stripping of decades of coatings, and stabilization to ensure that it will endure for many more years. The gate is attributed to the renowned designer and manufacturer, E.F. Caldwell and Co., who also produced lighting and metal features for Radio City Music Hall, Penn Station, the Waldorf-Astoria, and Grand Central Terminal. In the company of these other great New York treasures, the Museum’s Caldwell gate is an impressive architectural element worthy of careful restoration.
“Commissioned specifically for the Museum by influential designers of the time, both the iron gate and bronze statues are important to our history, as well as New York City’s architectural landscape. These distinct features complement the building’s character, and Partners in Preservation offers the public a wonderful opportunity to support their restoration and longevity,” said Susan Henshaw Jones, Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum of the City of New York.
The Museum has welcomed visitors from the city, the region, and the world to its landmark building for over 80 years. In 2006, the Museum initiated a capital campaign for a Modernization and Expansion Project that centers on the renovation and expansion of its historic building, the construction of new climate-controlled collections storage, and the creation of new state-of-the-art exhibition space. The Museum engaged the award-winning firm of Ennead Architects to undertake this three-phase project. The $92 million project, of which more than $89 million has been raised, will enhance every aspect of the institution’s operations and help the Museum to achieve its goal of being a world-class museum for and about New York. Completion is anticipated in 2014. Restoration of the distinguished façade is part of this project.
Some of the accomplishments of the project to date are: the completion of a three-level addition to the rear of the 1932 building that houses a two-story climate-controlled, state-of-the-art curatorial center for Museum collections, topped by a soaring 3,000-square foot space for exhibitions now named the James G. Dinan and Elizabeth R. Miller Gallery; the restoration of historic elements in the landmark building; and the installation of sophisticated mechanical and electrical systems.
ABOUT OPEN HOUSE WEEKEND
In honor of Partners in Preservation and in appreciation of public support, the Museum will host an Open House Weekend on Saturday, May 5 and Sunday, May 6 with exhibition tours, family programs, and free ice cream. On Saturday at 10am “Planning Urban Places and Spaces,” a family workshop, takes participants on an exploration of urban transportation. On Sunday at 10am and noon, participants may tour the blockbuster exhibition The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811-2011 and learn how the city’s street grid has evolved over the past 200 years.
ABOUT PARTNERS IN PRESERVATION
Each year, American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation review hundreds of project proposals before selecting the participating Partners in Preservation projects. New York City is the seventh metropolitan area to be selected to participate, which in the past has made grants for preservation projects in San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, Greater Boston, Seattle-Puget Sound, and Saint Paul/Minneapolis. The prospective grantees, each of which is a nonprofit organization or a government agency, complete formal grant applications, and are then reviewed towards specific criteria that includes their historic significance and accessibility to the public, demonstration of community support and organizational excellence, and evidence of a coherent and sustainable preservation plan. Voters are allotted one vote per day, from April 26 through May 21, 2012, to help give away $3 million to preserve historic places in New York City.
ABOUT THE MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK
Founded in 1923 as a private, nonprofit corporation, the Museum of the City of New York celebrates and interprets the city, educating the public about its distinctive character, especially its heritage of diversity, opportunity, and perpetual transformation. The Museum connects the past, present, and future of New York City, and serves the people of the city as well as visitors from around the world through exhibitions, school and public programs, publications, and collections.