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Oral History Collection

GVSHP began its Greenwich Village Preservation Archive and Oral History Project in the mid-nineties to help preserve memories of preservation movement in Greenwich Village. The collection currently contains the Preservation Pioneers and Westbeth Collection. There are seventeen published interviews in the collection accessible here. Each entry contains a short interview description, transcript, and several audio clips. An abstract is available at the beginning of each transcript.

In 2014, GVSHP began an ongoing series of interviews with community members of the South and East Village neighborhoods. The project aims to record, preserve, and use the stories of local community members to increase our understanding of the cultural and social history of these historically diverse and currently dynamic neighborhoods and preserve the voices of the community for future researchers. The first of these interviews are scheduled to be made available online in the summer of 2014.

Researchers are encouraged to access the audio files. Questions and research appointments should be directed to Sheryl Woodruff.

Please consult our Terms of Use.

Preservation Pioneers
Westbeth




Preservation Pioneers
The Preservation Pioneers collection was undertaken in the mid-1990s to document the women and men who led the nascent preservation movement for Greenwich Village.

Doris Diether
Edwin Fancher
Margot Gayle
Shirley Hayes
Jane Jacobs
Leticia Kent
Edith Lyons
Norman Redlich
Verna Small
Claire Tankel

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Doris Diether
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Doris Diether is a long-serving member of Manhattan’s Community Board 2 and Greenwich Village preservationist. Diether helped found Save the Village, a campaign which was focused on reforming zoning and rent laws in Greenwich Village. It was while working with Save the Village that Diether was first introduced to New York City’s zoning laws.

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Edwin Fancher
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Edwin Fancher (born 1923) was a co-founder and part-owner of the Village Voice from the 1950s until the 1970s. In this oral history, Fancher describes the origins of the Voice—how he met his business associate Dan Wolf, what the local New York City press scene was like in the 1950s, and why he and Wolf decided to launch the Voice.

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Margot Gayle
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Margot Gayle (1908-2008) led the grassroots effort to save the landmark Jefferson Market Courthouse building in Greenwich Village and transform it into a library. Gayle begins this interview by discussing the origins of that effort—the formation of the Village Neighborhood Committee and its activities in the late 1950s to reactivate the courthouse’s clock.

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Shirley Hayes
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Shirley Hayes (1912-2002) was a community activist who led the successful fight in the 1950s against Robert Moses’ plan to extend a highway through Washington Square Park.

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Jane Jacobs
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Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was an urban planner, author, and activist. Jacobs discusses various preservation battles in which she participated while living in Greenwich Village, including the fight to prevent Robert Moses from expanding a roadway through Washington Square Park, the effort in the early 1960s to challenge the City’s proposed urban renewal plan for the West Village, and her role in the battle against the proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway.

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Leticia Kent
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Leticia Kent (1928-1999) was an esteemed freelance journalist and long-time Villager. This oral history was conducted in anticipation of an interview Kent was scheduled to conduct with Jane Jacobs and also covers the community’s opposition to the proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway, the creation of artists’ housing in the West Village, and her role in the Village Independent Democrats [VID].

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Edith Lyons
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Edith Lyons (1906-2002) was one of the leaders in the seven-year battle with Robert Moses over the use of Washington Square Park as a thoroughfare to Lower Manhattan. Moses' plan to extend Fifth Avenue through the park was defeated in part by a group that Lyons co-founded and co-chaired: the Joint Emergency Committee to Close Washington Square Park to Traffic (JEC).

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Norman Redlich
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Norman Redlich (born 1925) is the former Dean of the NYU School of Law. This oral history interview serves as a follow-up to a lecture Redlich gave to a preservation course taught by former GVSHP Executive Director Vicki Weiner at NYU in November 1996.

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Verna Small
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Verna Small (1916-2008) was one of Greenwich Village’s preservation pioneers and helped lead the successful campaign in the late 1960s to create the Greenwich Village Historic District.

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Claire Tankel
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Claire Tankel (born 1926) is the widow of Stanley Tankel, an architect and city planner who was involved in Greenwich Village’s early preservation efforts. 




Westbeth
The Westbeth oral histories collection, begun in 2007, doucments how the artist housing Westbeth was conceived and implemented. This collection was undertaken as part of a larger project to place Wesbeth on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

Dixon Bain
Ana Steele Clark
Peter Cott
Merce Cunningham
Joan Davidson
Richard Meier
Tod Williams

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Dixon Bain
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Dixon Bain served as the project manager for planning and construction of Westbeth Artist’s Residence in the West Village from 1967-1971.

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Ana Steele Clark
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Ana Steele Clark worked at The National Endowment for the Arts for over thirty years, serving the organization from soon after its 1965 founding. Her oral history focuses on the NEA’s role in the creation of Westbeth.

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Peter Cott
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Peter Cott served as the Executive Director of the artist’s community Westbeth from 1970 to 1973.

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Merce Cunningham
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Merce Cunningham (1919 -2009) was an American dancer, choreographer and leader of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, located since 1971 at Westbeth in the West Village.

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Joan Davidson
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Daughter of J.M. Kaplan and a member of the J.M. Kaplan Fund, Joan Davidson coordinated the founding of the Westbeth Project, an artist’s residence in the West Village. 

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Richard Meier
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Architect Richard Meier was commissioned in 1967 to renovate the former Bell Labortories in Greenwich Village into the affordable artist’s housing Westbeth.   

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Tod Williams
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Architect Tod Williams worked with Richard Meier during the conversion of Westbeth from an industrial building to artist’s housing in the late 1960s and early 70s. He, along with this wife and two children, were also original tenants of the building.   

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Terms of Use:
Please note that you may view and use the transcripts and audio files of our oral histories only for your personal information and for no other purpose, and you shall retain intact all copyright and other proprietary notices. GVSHP does not grant to you or any person any right to use, reproduce, copy, modify, transmit, display, publish, sell, license, create derivative works, publicly perform, or distribute by any means, method, or process whatsoever, now known or hereafter developed, any of the content on or transmitted through the GVSHP Oral History Project, including without limitation by transferring, downloading or otherwise copying any content onto any disk drive or other storage medium. Any use of the content, except as specifically permitted in these Terms or as otherwise expressly permitted in the content or in a writing signed by GVSHP, is strictly prohibited.




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