Preserving History, Not Design
On September 26, members of the Forum gathered to tackle the preservation of quotidian places. David Freeland, historian and author of Automats, Taxi Dances & Vaudeville, presented Tin Pan Alley and 135th Street, two sites of musical innovation at the turn of the twentieth century that had not yet been preserved by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission because of inconsequential architecture. Laurie Beckelman, former Chair of the Commission, questioned whether it was even feasible for the commission to regulate culture and history without any design significance.
Preservationists and modernists debated the methods of preserving cultural places. Should the Commission consider swaths of cultural buildings for preservation in areas of the city that are changing most, like West 28th Street? Does the physical environment of the city need to be preserved to exemplify the environment that bred cultural innovation? Or might cultural history be preserved better through signage, sound installations, or even odors?