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Oral History Collection- Preservation Pioneers


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Questions and research appointments should be directed to Sam Moskowitz.

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. Ingrid Bernhard was recently added in 2015.

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



Ingrid Bernhard
Ingrid Bernhard and her husband, Sven, were Swedish nationals who met in New York and lived in a farmhouse on the Upper East Side sometimes known as “Cobble Court” or “the Goodnight Moon” house, as writer Margaret Wise Brown wrote the book while living there. In 1967, the Bernhards moved the house to 121 Charles Street in order to preserve it, creating a local landmark that charms passersby to this day.

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Doris Diether
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Norman Redlich (1925-2011) was 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
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
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. 

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