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Albert S. Bard

Also known as Albert Bard, Albert Sprague Bard, and A. S. Bard

Albert S. Bard drafted the Bard Act (1956), the enabling legislation for the New York City Landmarks Law.

Organizations: Citizens Union, Fine Arts Federation, Honest Ballot Association, Municipal Art Society, New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, New York Port Authority, New York Regional Chapter of the American Institute of Planners
Above: Albert S. Bard; Courtesy of Chi Psi Fraternity

Albert Sprague Bard was born to Charles and Eliza Bard on December 19, 1866 in Norwich, Connecticut. Growing up, he attended the Norwich Free Academy, St. John’s Military School, and Manlius. Bard attended Amherst College, and graduated in 1888. During college, he was an avid member of the Chi Psi Fraternity, and he remained active in it all of his life. Bard continued his education at Harvard Law School, Class of 1892. In the fall of 1892, Bard began working as a clerk at the law firm of Hornblower and Byrne. In 1901, he launched his own firm with one of his former Harvard classmates, Leighton Calkins.1

Over the course of his lifetime, Bard became involved with many civic organizations. He was drawn to the arts, and concerned with civic beauty. Bard brought his unique energy, quick wit, and lifelong dedication to all of his endeavors.2 He is most noted for the passage of the Bard Act, the piece of legislation that enabled the creation of the New York City Landmarks Law in 1965. He died in East Orange, New Jersey on March 25, 1963, at the age of 96.3

Citizen's Union
Co-founder

Fine Arts Federation
Officer

Honest Ballot Association
Co-founder

Municipal Art Society
President

New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects
Legal Counsel

New York Port Authority
Advisor

New York Regional Chapter of the American Institute of Planners
Legal Counsel

Albert Sprague Bard was a civic figure in New York. Throughout his life, he involved himself in a variety of organizations. His versatility and wide range of contacts greatly facilitated his ability to advance his agendas. His civic interests ranged from voting and political reform to parks and urban planning.4 In 1897, he helped found the Citizen’s Union. Then, in 1909 he co-authored a revised consolidated election law for New York City. In 1912, he helped found the Honest Ballot Association.5 Bard joined the Society Board in 1911, was chairing its committee on charter revisions by 1912, and had taken on the role as president of the organization by 1917. He also became an officer of the Fine Arts Federation and accepted the position as President of the Municipal Art Society in 1917. In 1921 he began serving on the Advisory Council to the New York Port Authority. Then in 1926, Bard became involved with the Central Park Association.6

Bard engaged in several preservation-related campaigns. In 1928, he fought against the New York City Borough President Julius Miller’s proposal to build an elevated express highway to skirt the Hudson Waterfront, north of Canal Street.7 Bard then led a campaign against the increasing proliferation of billboards in New York City. He sat as one of seven members on a commission designated to regulate billboards in New York City. In response to the rising number of billboards, Bard drafted the "Patrimony of the People Clause" (Intro 508, No. 535). In this 1913 amendment, Bard proposed that the state had a right to interfere with private property in incidences that concerned civic beauty. The amendment failed to advance, however Bard had succeeded in effectively vocalizing the conflict between the overemphasis on private rights at the expense of the public good. The proposed amendment spurred the opening of public discourse regarding preservation.8

In the 1950s Bard continued his involvement with the concern of aesthetic regulation. In 1953, he gave volunteer legal counsel to the Joint Committee on Design Control of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the New York Regional Chapter of the American Institute of Planners.9 In 1955, Bard published an article in American City entitled, "Esthetics and the Police Power," in which he conveyed the importance of aesthetic regulation to the public.10 Bard, amongst other preservationists, heeded the implications of the growing popularity of glass, steel and skyscraper structures. He deemed these constructions "the enemies of civic beauty."11

Bard is perhaps most noted for the influential piece of legislation that bears his name. In 1954, Bard drafted an act, which was designed to enable cities in New York State to pass laws to protect their landmarks. The Bard Act was the piece of the legislation puzzle that was missing in order for New York City to pass landmark protection legislation.12 Bard had drafted a version of his act prior to the Supreme Court decision in the case of Berman v. Parker (1954), however, the outcome of this court case resulted in a political environment that was more conducive to the passing of such legislation.13 (The decision upheld the government's right to acquire private property in order to restore a deteriorating neighborhood). On April 2, 1956, the Bard Act was passed into a law. Preservation activists in Greenwich Village and Brooklyn Heights rallied behind the banner of the Bard Act. For the last seven years of his life Albert Bard fought to ensure that the law was put into action.14

  1. 
Anthony C. Wood, Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect A City’s Landmarks (New York: Routledge, 2008), pages 21-22.
  2. 
Ibid.
  3. 
Ibid.
  4. 
Anthony C. Wood, Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect A City’s Landmarks (New York: Routledge, 2008), pages 22-23.
  5. 
Ibid.
  6. In Search of Albert Bard: A slide Lecture by Anthony C. Wood, 8 June 2002.
  7. 
”Miller’s Road Plan Draws Art Protest: Federation will File Objection to Elevated Highway on West Side River Front,” The New York Times, 16 June 1928.
  8. 
Anthony C. Wood, Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect A City’s Landmarks (New York: Routledge, 2008), page 35.
  9. 
Ibid, page 137.
  10. 
Albert S. Bard, “Esthetics and the Police Power,” American City, February 1955.
  11. 
Anthony C. Wood. Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect A City’s Landmarks (New York: Routledge, 2008), page 382.
  12. 
Ibid, page 10.
  13. 
Ibid, page 139.
  14. Ibid, page 134.