In Memoriam: Christopher Gray
May 2, 2017
Article from the Spring 2017 Newsletter
Christopher Gray, an architectural historian and journalist whose “Streetscapes” column in The New York Times exposed a broad readership to the richness of New York City’s urban fabric, passed away in March 2017 at the age of 66. “Streetscapes,” which ran from 1987 to 2014 in The New York Times’s Sunday Real Estate section, focused on the architecture, social history, and preservation policies of New York City and displayed Mr. Gray’s wide breadth of knowledge on these topics. Over 1,450 installments of this column were published during the course of 27 years, becoming a widely popular piece that combined educational lessons with the wry asides of a seasoned guide. Mr. Gray’s features often inspired readers to take the time to appreciate New York City’s architecture and to explore their own archival research on buildings of personal interest.
In addition to his columns and books, Mr. Gray contributed to the overall scholarship of New York City architecture through his Office for Metropolitan History, which he founded in 1975 to offer his research skills in determining a building’s history by referencing archival resources. His role was also acknowledged in many important books about New York City buildings, including the AIA Guide to New York City and Robert A.M. Stern’s New York book series. Gray received awards for his research and writing from the American Institute of Architects, Classical America, the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, the New York Society Library, and the Preservation League of New York State.
Mr. Gray did not consider himself a preservationist, but his writing extolled the virtues of eccentric historic buildings and often overtly focused on preservation history; for example his 2014 column “Belles of the Wrecking Ball” documented some of New York City’s greatest architectural losses. His witty writings fostered an appreciation of New York City’s architectural essence and these columns survive as his legacy to lovers of the built environment.