Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Sometimes listed as Jackie Kennedy, Jackie Onassis.
Jacqueline Bouvier was born on July 28, 1929 in East Hampton, New York. She lived a privileged childhood, growing up in both East Hampton and Manhattan.1 She was educated at Vassar College and George Washington University. During her time at the latter institution, Jacqueline Bouvier began her life in Washington, D.C.2
In 1952, Jacqueline met and began dating John F. Kennedy, a young politician. By September 1953, the two were married. With the presidential election of 1960, Jacqueline Kennedy became the First Lady of the United States.3 In her position as First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy "built her historic preservation legacy" through her restoration of the White House.4 While managing the restoration of the White House, she educated millions of Americans about historic preservation through an hour long television program on CBS. This project sparked Jacqueline Kennedy's interest in historic preservation, which she remained dedicated to for the rest of her life.
Following the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, Jacqueline moved to New York City with her children and began a new life. In 1968, she married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, but continued to live part-time in New York.5
Following the death of her second husband in 1975, Jacqueline Onassis lived and worked in New York City. She was a member of the Municipal Art Society's Board of Directors.6 Grounded by her previous interest and experience with historic preservation, she spent her time in New York fighting for significant landmarks including Grand Central Terminal and St. Bartholomew's Church.7
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis died in New York City on May 19, 1994 at age 64.8
Involvement in Preservation Campaigns and Related Activities
Lafayette Square in Washington
Following the restoration of the White House in 1961, Jacqueline Kennedy turned her attention to the preservation of the surrounding area, Lafayette Square. The area had been slated for demolition to make way for new federal buildings. Jackie Kennedy's fear of losing the historic character of this neighborhood led her to fight for its protection.9
During this campaign the First Lady met with David E. Finley, chairman of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, and expressed her desire to preserve the area. For Jacqueline Kennedy, this battle also evidenced the need for legislation regarding historic preservation. She reportedly told Finley she "would like to have Congress pass a law establishing something on the order of Monuments Historiques in France."10 Jacqueline Kennedy's interest in Lafayette Square and her work to preserve it was ultimately successful.11 Her desire to see a historic preservation law also came to fruition with the passing of the Historic Preservation Act in 1966.
Jacqueline Kennedy's role in the effort to preserve Lafayette Square was not only essential to winning this battle, but also to shaping the future of historic preservation. Upon the passage of the Historic Preservation Act, members of Congress referred to her work as "a model, not only for preservation in this city, but for large and small communities throughout America."12
Grand Central Terminal
In 1975, when Grand Central was threatened with demolition, Jacqueline Onassis lent her support to the preservation cause. She began her involvement with the campaign mildly at first by joining the citizens committee at the Municipal Art Society.13 Soon she became the public face of the campaign. As a well-known figure, she brought great attention to the campaign. A colleague noted, "Jackie brought enormous visibility to the campaign...By standing up and speaking out for the terminal, she made it a success. And she made it not just a struggle involving New Yorkers, but people all over the country."14
She helped lead the fight by forming the Committee to Save Grand Central Station.15 With this committee she participated in rallies at the terminal. She and a group of Grand Central supporters also traveled by train (Landmark Express) to Washington D.C., to bring attention to the Supreme Court hearing.16
Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Landmarks Law and Grand Central Terminal was saved from having a 53-story tower built atop it.17
St. Bartholomew's Church
In 1984, a new battle arose when St. Bartholomew's Church announced plans to build a new office building on the site of the church's community house. The rationale for the new building was that revenue from the offices would subsidize St. Bart's social programs.18 Immediately, Jacqueline Onassis stepped in to preserve the landmark by suggesting an alternative fundraising drive.19 St. Bart's minister, Reverend Thomas Bowers, rejected this option and found himself and the church in a battle with New York City's toughest preservationists.
For this fight, preservationists, including Jackie Onassis, participated in another "Landmark Express" similar to the one to Washington for Grand Central. This time they ventured to Albany to fight for their cause.20 On this trip, Jacqueline Onassis testified in favor for St. Bart's landmark status.21
In 1987, Jacqueline Onassis once again spoke out in favor of preservation. This time the battle centered on a proposed office building to be built in Columbus Circle. With this battle, she played a less public role, but still exerted great influence. The developer attempting to erect the structure, Mortimer Zuckerman, found his opponent formidable, and made adjustments to the original plan.22
Archives, Personal Files, and Ephemera
- 1. "Biography of Jacqueline Kennedy," About the White House: First Ladies. http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/firstladies/jacquelinekennedy/.
- 2. McFadden, Robert D. "Death of a First Lady: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Dies of Cancer at 64," New York Times. May 20, 1994.
- 3. "Biography of Jacqueline Kennedy."
- 4. Galop, Kathleen P. "The Historic Preservation Legacy of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis." Forum Journal, (2006): 35-44.
- 5. McFadden.
- 6. Gilmartin, Gregory F. Shaping the City: New York and the Municipal Art Society. New York: Clarkson Potter, 1995.
- 7. McFadden, Robert D. "Jackie, New Yorker: Friends Recall a Fighter for Her City," New York Times. May 22, 1994.
- 8. McFadden, Robert D. "Death of a First Lady: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Dies of Cancer at 64," New York Times_. May 20, 1994.
- 9. Galop, Kathleen P. "The Historic Preservation Legacy of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis." Forum Journal, (2006): 35-44.
- 10. Ibid.
- 11. "Lafayette Park Revived," The Washington Post. December 20, 1965.
- 12. Moe, Richard and Leonard Zax, "Jackie's Washington: How She Rescued the City's History," Washington Post. May 29, 1994.
- 13. Gilmartin, Gregory F. Shaping the City: New York and the Municipal Art Society. New York: Clarkson Potter, 1995.
- 14. McFadden, Robert D. "Jackie, New Yorker: Friends Recall a Fighter for Her City," New York Times. May 22, 1994.
- 15. Henry, Diane. "Jackie Onassis Fights for a Cause: She Joins in Forming a Group to Rescue the Grand Central," New York Times. January 31, 1975.
- 16. Collins, Nancy. "Riding the Rails for Grand Central: Jacqueline Onassis, Supporting the Station's 'Landmark' Status," Washington Post. April 17, 1978.
- 17. Weaver, Warren. "Tower over Grand Central Barred as Court Upholds Landmarks Law," New York Times. June 27, 1978.
- 18. Margolick, David. "Church's Fight on Landmarks," New York Times. January 31, 1984.
- 19. Gilmartin.
- 20. Barbanel, Josh. "Landmark Status Debated in Albany," New York Times. February 9, 1984.
- 21. Gilmartin.
- 22. Scardino, Albert. "Developer vs. Himself over Colesium Project," New York Times. January 4, 1989.