Our Vanishing Legacy: A Screening
October 21, 2014
The New York Preservation Archive Project teamed up with the Historic Districts Council, the Neighborhood Preservation Center, Preservation Alumni, Pratt Historic Preservation Alumni, and the NYC Landmarks50 Alliance to present “Our Vanishing Legacy: A Screening,” a special viewing of the first prime-time broadcast advocating preservation efforts in New York City. Created and written by award-winning producer Gordon Hyatt, the film has rarely been screened since it originally aired on WCBS-TV on September 21, 1961. Our Vanishing Legacy, made prior to the passage of the New York City Landmarks Law in 1965, looks at threats to the City’s architectural heritage and argues the need to enact a law to protect significant buildings. Narrated by veteran CBS correspondent Ned Calmer—one of noted broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow’s original team of studio reporters—the documentary film explores what were then “unofficial” landmarks. These include Carnegie Hall (which had been recently saved from demolition), the prospects for the adaptive reuse of the Jefferson Market Courthouse, and commercial threats to the architectural integrity of Grand Central Terminal. Along with rare footage of several other buildings, the film includes shots of Pennsylvania Station, which was slated for demolition at the time.
Following the screening, the documentary’s producer Gordon Hyatt was on hand to share his experience making the film and his thoughts on the preservation movement in New York City then and since. Hyatt has a long history of involvement in preservation; along with producing several documentaries on the subject, he served as secretary of the Municipal Art Society of New York from 1973-1982 and traveled on the “Landmarks Express” train to Washington, DC in 1978 with Brendan Gill, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and over 200 protestors to support the Landmarks Law, which was being challenged at the Supreme Court. Hyatt later served on the Art Commission of the City of New York, where he initiated the restoration of the Governor’s Room in City Hall.
This program was part of the NYC Landmarks50 Alliance celebration of the 50th anniversary of the NYC Landmarks Law.
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