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Roger Gerry

Roger Gerry

Roger Gerry was a successful New York oral surgeon and preservationist who, along with his wife Peggy, helped preserve Roslyn, New York, and established the Gerry Charitable Trust, an important source of funding for preservation projects. 

Organizations: Brooklyn Historical Society, Friends of Cast-Iron Architecture, Gerry Charitable Trust, Historic House Trust, Preservation League of New York State, Roslyn Landmark Society, Roslyn Preservation Corporation
Places: Roslyn Village Historic District
Above: Shops along Old Northern Boulevard in Roslyn, 2008; Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Roger Gerry was born in 1916 in Far Rockaway, grew up on Long Island’s South Shore, and, after graduating from dental school in Kentucky, interned at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. Two months before Pearl Harbor in 1941, Gerry entered the Navy and was stationed in California. A year later, he was sent to the Solomon Islands to serve as the dental officer on the U.S.S. Boise, which had just been badly damaged in battle. He remained aboard the ship on its long journey back to Philadelphia for repairs, and in 1944 he was stationed permanently at the naval hospital in that city. Together with his wife, Peggy, an artist whom he had met in California, Gerry began to develop an interest in historic architecture and the decorative arts, which were abundant in Philadelphia.1

Remaining in the navy, Gerry was transferred to Guam in 1949 and then to a naval hospital in Queens in 1951. It was then that couple moved to the historic rural village of Roslyn on Long Island, which was threatened by rapid suburban development and neglect of its heritage. In the 1950s, the Gerrys researched and wrote a guidebook to Roslyn’s historic architecture and organized a community festival with tours of local houses. In 1956 they were transferred again to Japan, but returned to Roslyn for good in 1958, where they plunged into activism.2

Roger Gerry eventually became the chief of dental surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan; at the same time, he and his wife led a decades-long preservation movement in Roslyn that was successful in creating a local historic district, appropriate zoning, a landmark society, and a fund to support the acquisition and restoration of historic buildings.3 Along the way, the Gerrys were directly or indirectly responsible for saving dozens of buildings, many of which they acquired and restored themselves.4 Roger Gerry passed away in 1995, and Peggy died in 2001. Funds from their estate were used to establish the Gerry Charitable Trust.

Roslyn Landmark Society
Founder, 1961

Village Board of Trustees of Roslyn

Preservation League of New York State
Trustee, 1990-1995

Over the decades from the 1950s to the 1990s, Roger and Peggy Gerry were almost single-handedly responsible for shaping the historic preservation of Roslyn, New York. They took on the task of saving the village’s character as a personal crusade and were highly successful in doing so.

They achieved several key accomplishments in Roslyn.5 The researched and published a guidebook to historic architecture and organized a community festival with house tours in the mid-1950s. Later, the Gerrys would repeat this success with a series of detailed annual house-tour guides, which won an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History.

Then they founded the Roslyn Landmark Society in 1961 to sponsor a series of educational programs, acquire art and antiquities, assist property owners, and agitate for preservation. In addition they pushed the Village Board of Trustees to establish a Special Historic District and a Historic District Board to review building permit applications within the district. Created in 1962, this was one of the earliest such districts in New York State, although the Board’s rulings were only advisory until 1979.

Furthermore, they organized the Roslyn Preservation Corporation in the mid-1960s to establish a fund for the acquisition and restoration of houses, which would later be sold to buyers who would live in them. The corporation would help save numerous deteriorating houses and commercial structures over the years, some of which had to be moved to new locations within the village. They also acquired and restored several houses themselves, which they sold to buyers sympathetic to preservation. In so doing, the Gerrys gradually assembled a critical mass of preservation-minded residents who involved themselves in civic affairs.

Another achievement was their successful campaign for the adoption of stricter zoning laws, including an overlay district that prevented building on the hillsides surrounding the village, thereby preserving the character of scenic views. They fought development proposals that were unsympathetic to the character of Roslyn, including widening roads, insensitive commercial development, and a proposal to replace the village’s pond with a parking lot.

Also, as a member of the Village Board of Trustees, Roger Gerry sponsored quality-of-life legislation that restricted commercial activity, lending the village a more subdued and historic atmosphere.

In 1990, Roger Gerry became a member of the Board of Trustees of the Preservation League of New York State.6 He served as a trustee until his death.

The Gerrys won numerous awards for their work. In 1982, Roger Gerry won an Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and in 1985 the Gerrys jointly won the Honor Award of the Victorian Society of America. In 1993, the Gerrys were named Pillars of New York by the Preservation League of New York State. They also won awards from the New York and Long Island chapters of the American Institute of Architects in the early 1990s.7

The Gerrys dedicated funding from their estate to establish the Gerry Charitable Trust, which has funded numerous preservation projects throughout New York City, Long Island, and elsewhere. Projects funded by the trust in New York City include Preservation Vision NYC, which brought together many of the City’s preservation leaders to chart the future of the movement; the Friends of Cast-Iron Architecture’s endangered sites database; the Historic House Trust; the Brooklyn Historical Society; and exhibitions of period décor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of the City of New York.

  • The Roslyn Landmark Society
    P.O. Box 234
    Roslyn, NY 11576
    Tel: (516) 625-4363

  • The Bryant Library
  • 2 Paper Mill Road
    Roslyn, NY 11576
    Tel: (516) 621-2240


Ellen Fletcher Russell, Roslyn Restored: The Legacy of Roger & Peggy Gerry (Albany: Mount Ida Press and Gerry Charitable Trust, 2004).
Robert McG. Thomas, Jr., “Dr. Roger G. Gerry Dies at 79; Oral Surgeon and Preservationist,” The New York Times, 15 May 1995.
Ellen Fletcher Russell, Roslyn Restored: The Legacy of Roger & Peggy Gerry (Albany: Mount Ida Press and Gerry Charitable Trust, 2004).
“Annual Meeting Held in Alexandria Bay,” Preservation League of New York State Newsletter, Spring 1990.
Ellen Fletcher Russell, Roslyn Restored: The Legacy of Roger & Peggy Gerry (Albany: Mount Ida Press and Gerry Charitable Trust, 2004).