Lucy Moses Honors

It was eight years ago today on May 8, 2006 that GVSHP was honored with the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Lucy G. Moses Award for organizational excellence.  We were in great company that night at St. Bartholomew’s Church, including Evelyn and Everett Ottner, the Park Slope preservation pioneers, who received the Preservation Leadership Award, and then-City Councilmember (now Manhattan Borough President) Gale Brewer, who received the Legislative Leadership Award.

The night was a great honor for GVSHP.  Less than a week earlier we had succeeded in getting the Greenwich Village Historic District extended for the first time in its thirty-seven year history and a new Weehawken Street Historic District designated, extending landmark protections to dozens of buildings in the imminently endangered Far West Village. This followed our successful 2005 effort to get much of the Far West Village downzoned, and our 2003 effort to get much of the Meatpacking District landmarked.

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This week the New York Landmarks Conservancy gave out a new batch of Lucy Moses awards to some very deserving recipients.  On this auspicious occasion and anniversary, we thought we’d take a closer look at the Lucy Moses Awards and see who exactly Lucy Moses was.

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The 2007 Lucy G. Moses Awards — (l. to r.) Honoree Kent Barwick, NYLC President Peg Breen, NYC Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Roberta Brandes Gratz

First, congratulations to all of this year’s honorees, which includes Greenwich Village’s own Jefferson Market Library.  According to the New York Landmarks Conservancy, the Jefferson Market Library was chosen because

The Jefferson Market Branch of the New York Public Library is significant not only for its design and use of vibrant polychrome materials, but as one of the country’s earliest adaptive re-use projects—a transformative event in the preservation movement. The High Victorian Gothic structure opened as the Third Judicial District Courthouse in 1877. When the closed courthouse was slated for demolition in 1958, preservationists orchestrated a successful campaign to convert it into a library. Architect Giorgio Cavaglieri restored the exterior and redesigned the interior. The library opened in 1967 but facing budget cutbacks in 1974, it nearly closed. Once again there was a public outcry and the decision was rescinded one month later.

Following several years of delay with a gloomy sidewalk bridge in place, this restoration improved many failing building elements. Crumbling sandstone ornamentation was re-carved in place by artisans, and replacement pieces were sculpted from the original Ohio sandstone. Ashlar stones were cleaned and repaired; the deep-red Philadelphia brick was repointed. The main tower’s finial was secured and tied back to the tower substructure, using an elaborate pipe scaffolding erected around the top of the tower. Missing and broken slates were replaced at the slate roof and a new copper drainage system installed. And elements of the 1960s adaptation, such as the aluminum frame windows were preserved to represent that significant phase of the building’s history.

This year was the Conservancy’s 24th Lucy Moses Awards, and since its inception scores of individuals, organizations, and projects have been honored.  But who is Lucy Moses, and why is her name attached to this prestigious honor, which the Conservancy calls its “highest honors for outstanding preservation efforts”?

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The Jefferson Market Library — 2014 Lucy G. Moses Award winner.

The Conservancy calls Lucy Moses “a dedicated New Yorker whose generosity benefited the City for over 50 years…[her] many gifts to parks, hospitals, schools, and cultural institutions are a record of caring and commitment that will live for generations.”

Upon her passing in 1990 at the age of 103, the New York Times said

Mrs. Moses’s philanthropic interests largely reflected the activities of her husband, Henry L. Moses, whom she married in 1914. A lawyer and financier, he was president of Montefiore Hospital for many years. After his death in 1961 she established the Henry L. Moses Research Institute at the hospital.

Mrs. Moses was born in New York. As a child she was accompanied by a governess when she went skating in Central Park or took walks. Later, as a young woman beginning a 40-year career as a volunteer in settlement-house work, she cared for the children of poor families.

Beginning in the 20’s, she also worked as a volunteer at Montefiore, first in the wards and later in the epilepsy clinic.

She donated tens of millions of dollars to philanthropy, a major part going to the medical field. In addition to gifts to Montefiore, she established the Lucy G. Moses Cardiothoracic Center, an advanced research and training institution, at the Mount Sinai Medical Center, She also contributed to health programs in Burma, Israel and South Korea. After her husband’s death, she became president of the Henry and Lucy Moses Fund, which the couple established in 1942 to support education, music and the arts.

Mrs. Moses contributed for projects like the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies and providing a wheelchair lift and other equipment for the handicapped at Carnegie Hall. She donated to New York University for studies in Egyptian art. Columbia University also received gifts for its housing program and a study hall in the Law School.

Mrs. Moses was a leading supporter of the opera and Lincoln Center. In 1983 she received the first Frederick Law Olmstead award for helping to restore the Bow Bridge over the Central Park Lake. ”They called me the Florence Nightingale of the trees,” Mrs. Moses said at the time. ”I’ve also been called Mother of the Park. I’ve had such fun.”

 If you are interested in learning more about some other pioneers in the preservation movement, check out GVSHP’s oral history interviews with Margot Gayle, Jane Jacobs, Edwin Fancher and Norman Redlich, among many others, here.

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Andrew Berman

Andrew Berman has been the Executive Director of GVSHP since 2002.

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