Bard Birthday Breakfast Benefit 2013
December 10, 2013
The Manhattan Penthouse
The 2013 Bard Birthday Breakfast Benefit was one of the Archive Project’s most successful fundraisers to date, a fitting tribute to the milestones the event marked. As our tenth annual benefit, the breakfast was the culmination of a decade of celebrations that similarly honored the history of the preservation movement. And the event also marked what would have been Albert Bard’s 147th birthday. Bard was dedicated to protecting the aesthetic values of special places, drafting the New York State legislation authorizing the Landmarks Law (known as the Bard Act), and advocating for City Beautiful concerns ranging from billboard control to zoning. Finally, 2013 marked yet another preservation milestone as the 50th year since demolition began on New York City’s Pennsylvania Station, a monumental loss that is regarded as a galvanizing influence on preservation advocacy and policy in the United States.
To commemorate this 50th anniversary, the featured speaker at the 2013 Bard Birthday Breakfast Benefit was Michael Rossi. Rossi is an independent documentary film and non-fiction television producer whose most recent work is The Rise & Fall of Penn Station, a film made for the award-winning PBS series American Experience. Rossi has spent the last 13 years producing, directing, shooting, and editing national programs for public television. His production credits include the children’s engineering series Design Squad Nation (for which he won an Emmy Award) and various films for the American Experience series. Rossi has also contributed to PBS’s Frontline, and his company, Rossi Films, has completed production work on documentaries, feature films, television shows, music videos, and commercials. The Rise & Fall of Penn Station went on to premiere on PBS in February 2014. Rossi was introduced by Lorraine B. Diehl, the author of the now classic study The Late, Great Pennsylvania Station.
In his absorbing lecture entitled Pennsylvania Station: Archives, Preservation, & Storytelling, Rossi discussed the many decisions required of documentary filmmakers and how archival research informs the creation of non-fiction film. Rossi delved into extensive archival collections in his research for The Rise & Fall of Penn Station, especially those at the Pennsylvania State Archives and the records of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company at Temple University. These institutional archives were significant in the filmmaking process, and Rossi explored how the contents of these repositories affected the documentary’s development, as well as the essential role that personal collections and first person interviews played in completing the narrative arc. Rossi also showed several clips from the film itself, which incorporated extraordinary archival photographs of the building’s construction, the workers who burrowed tunnels beneath the Hudson and East Rivers, the gleaming architectural masterpiece upon its completion, and its heartbreaking demolition. Rossi also described the creative process of layering music, unique sound effects, and interview clips over historic photographs to bring the story to life.
Although Rossi’s new documentary focuses primarily on Pennsylvania Station as an engineering feat rather than the station’s demise, preservationists in attendance were enthralled with the film clips, which showed the monumentality of the construction project, the breathtaking final product, and how devastating its demolition was after a life of only 50 years. The film is another reminder of what was lost with this extraordinary structure and the danger posed when a city lacks legal protection for its architectural heritage. The film in its entirety can now be viewed on the PBS website by clicking here.
The Manhattan Penthouse
80 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10011