Events & News

The Brokaw Mansion: Catalyst for the Landmarks Law

February 18, 2015
6:30-8:30 p.m.
Ukrainian Institute of America

The Archive Project contributed original content to “The Brokaw Mansion: Catalyst for the Landmarks Law,” co-sponsored with FRIENDS of the Upper East Side Historic Districts and the Ukrainian Institute of America. Fifty years ago this year, despite the best efforts of preservationists, the lavish Brokaw Mansion met the wrecking ball. Though a major loss, many believe that the public outcry and scathing press coverage surrounding the fall of this residence were some of the key factors that led Mayor Robert F. Wagner to sign landmarks legislation into law. To honor this momentous occasion in preservation history, the Archive Project brought together rare archival video footage and presented an in-depth exploration of the Brokaw Mansion’s significance by founder and chair Anthony C. Wood. Special guests who were closely associated with the building were also on hand to share their experiences, including Peter Samton, New York City architect and one of the original founders of AGBANY, the Action Group for Better Architecture in New York. Samton and AGBANY became involved with key preservation battles in the 1960s, including those to save Pennsylvania Station and the Brokaw Mansion. Also present to give a first-hand account of the storied residence was Joseph M. Cahalan, PhD, who grew up in the Brokaw Mansion. Cahalan’s father was the live-in caretaker and superintendent for the building from roughly 1940 until its demolition in 1965. Council Member Benjamin Kallos was also present, making an impassioned pro-preservation appeal.

Due to the generosity of the Ukrainian Institute of America, the program and reception took place at their home in the spectacular former Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion, located directly across the street from where the Brokaw Mansion once stood. Designed by C.P.H. Gilbert and completed in 1898, this French Gothic style former private residence is one of the last remaining structures of this type on Fifth Avenue. The building is fortunately protected as part of the Metropolitan Museum Historic District, which was designated in 1977, and starkly shows the power of the Landmarks Law.

This program was part of the NYC Landmarks50 Alliance celebration of the 50th anniversary of the NYC Landmarks Law.

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Above: Brokaw House, 5th Ave.; Courtesy of Bain News Service and the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division