Events & News

Fiftieth Anniversary of Jane Jacobs’ First Book

October 4, 2011
6:30 PM
Hudson Park Branch Library

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of Jane Jacobs’ first book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. The New York Preservation Archive Project joined the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation to co-sponsor an event celebrating Jacobs’ groundbreaking publication. On October 4 at Hudson Park Branch Library, Anthony C. Wood, founder and chair of the Archive Project, led a conversation with Jason Epstein, the book’s original editor. Mr. Epstein shared his personal experiences in working with Jane Jacobs and his reflections on the book, still considered an essential urbanist reference after half a century. Epstein’s fascinating reminiscences of Jacobs, whom he called a “kindred spirit,” shed light on why there continues to be sustained interest in her work. Epstein suggested that Jacobs’ inquisitiveness, independence, and exuberance enlivened her writings on the dynamics of civilization and remarked that it is both noteworthy and inevitable that her masterpiece has survived for fifty years. In a superb recollection, Epstein chronicles in the introduction to the 50th Anniversary edition of Death and Life the reaction to the book’s publication by the figure who would eventually become Jacobs’ ideological enemy:

“When Robert Moses received a copy of Death and Life from Bennett Cerf, the publisher of Random House, he replied, ‘Dear Bennett: I am returning the book that you sent me. Aside from the fact that it is intemperate it is also libelous…Sell this junk to someone else. Cordially, Robert Moses.’”

Hudson Park Branch Library
66 Leroy Street
New York, NY 10014
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Above: Mrs. Jane Jacobs, chairman of the Comm. to save the West Village holds up documentary evidence at press conference at Lions Head Restaurant at Hudson & Charles Sts, 1961; Courtesy of Phil Stanziola/Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division