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Charles Culp Burlingham


Sometimes listed as Charles C. Burlingham, C.C. Burlingham, CCB.


Charles Culp Burlingham, civic leader and reformer, was born on August 31, 1858, in Plainfield, New Jersey. He graduated from Harvard University in 1879, and he received his LL.B. from Columbia University in 1881. After being admitted to the bar that same year, he worked as an attorney and partner in the law firm of Burlingham and Veeder, Clark and Hupper. The New York City based firm specialized in admiralty law. Burlingham gained notoriety for his work defending the White Star Line after the sinking of the Titanic1.

C.C. Burlingham spent his life laboring for civic concerns. In recognition of his contributions, he was often referred to as "New York’s First Citizen." He sought to improve the administration of justice and to cleanse the New York City government of its internal corruption2.

C.C. Burlingham was a skilled writer. He authored many publications and articles including: "Francis Lewis, One of the New York Signers of the Declaration of Independence" (privately printed), "Joseph Redlich" (Harvard Law Review, 1937), and "Joe Evans, 1857-18983."

He died on June 6, 1959 in New York City, at the age of 1014.

Offices Held

  • President of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York
  • President Board of Education in New York City
  • President of the Welfare Council of New York City

Charles Culp Burlingham was a civic leader throughout his life, and preservation issues ranked high on his list of priorities. He often employed his letter writing skills and his political connections to advance preservation causes.

- Burlingham battled against Robert Moses' proposed Brooklyn-Battery Bridge.In 1939, the City’s Tunnel Authority announced its plan to construct a Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. The tunnel was approved by the U.S. Department of War. Developer Robert Moses, however, was determined to construct a Brooklyn-Battery Bridge instead of a tunnel. Moses possessed the necessary funds to back his project, and thus the City Council and State Legislature ruled in his favor. Amongst others, C.C. Burlingham actively opposed the bridge. He appealed to the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, for support. He subsequently wrote a long letter, which was published in the Herald Tribune, explaining his opposition to the construction. Burlingham sent a copy of the letter to President Franklin Roosevelt. Soon after, Secretary of War, Harry Woodring, denied the permit required to construct the bridge on the grounds that it was "Seaward of a vital Navy establishment, and would potentially block access from New York Harbor." The refusal spared the aesthetics of Battery Park, which would have been greatly marred by the construction of the bridge5.

- Burlingham played a role in the fight to save Castle Clinton6.

- In the late 1940's, Burlingham joined the ranks of Greenwich Village activists, who fought to preserve the architectural character of the Village7.

Archives, Personal files, and Ephemera

The Papers of Charles C. Burlingham
The Harvard Law School Library
Cambridge, MA 02138
Finding aid can be accessed on-line at:
  • 1. The finding aid to the papers of Charles Culp Burlingham @
  • 2. "Charles Culp Burlingham, New York’s First Citizen," a lecture given by George Martin, Friday March 21, 2003 at the New York Preservation Archives Project.
  • 3. Charles C. Burlingham: Twentieth Century Crusader, A Retrospective Exhibit at the Harvard Law School, August 25- December 31, 1980.
  • 4. The finding aid to the papers of Charles Culp Burlingham @
  • 5. "Charles Culp Burlingham, New York’s First Citizen," a lecture given by George Martin, Friday March 21, 2003 at:
  • 6. Anthony C. Wood. Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect A City's Landmarks. (New York: Routledge, 2007). Page 49.
  • 7. Ibid., 169.