Annual Meeting & Village Awards On June 17, 2015 GVSHP held its 35th Annual Meeting and 25th Annual Village Awards in the landmarked Auditorium of The New School. We looked back on GVSHP’s past year of work to protect the architectural heritage and cultural history of Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo and celebrated this year’s awardees:
Visiting Barbara Shaum’s sandal shop on East 4th Street is like taking a marvelous journey back in time to the Sixties, when both the East and West Village had countless leather shops where hand-crafted items were made. Barbara is now one of the last of these artisans left.
After apprenticing with a NYC sandal-maker in the 1950s, Barbara opened her first sandal shop in 1962 on East 7th street, moving to her current location on East 4th Street in the early 1980s.
This “near-legendary cobbler” – as Barbara has been described – is an artist as much as an artisan. She has also been an activist -- the first woman to enter McSorley’s when a 1970 ruling legally forced this ale house to admit females.
Step inside her shop and you’ll find everything necessary to create handmade sandals: rows of tools, shelves of glass jars filled with dyes, and patterns of feet on every spare space -- very orderly, very aesthetic. “I am classical and simple when it comes to my sandals,” Barbara notes. “I don’t put a lot of doodads on them.” It takes two to three weeks for a pair of sandals to be made; this begins with the tracing of a person’s foot, from which a pattern is drawn, and includes a fitting part way through the process.
We give her this Village Award as a renowned local artisan, keeping alive a handmade craft which once flourished in our neighborhoods and of which she is one of the very few remaining practitioners.
Bonnie Slotnick began her career as an artist, then worked for a cookbook publisher, and as a book scout for the well-known uptown bookstore Kitchen Arts and Letters. A West 10th street resident since 1976, Bonnie is vocal at community board meetings about the importance of maintaining the Village for residents as well as tourists and business, and the importance of supporting independent businesses of all kinds.
Bonnie Slotnick is devoted to the Villages, East and West. Her bookstore was located on West 10th Street for 15 years, until she lost her lease. Then she was unexpectedly offered a new space on East 2nd Street. When discussing the nomination, Bonnie said that those who really deserve the award are her landlords, siblings Margo and Garth Johnston. The Johnstons learned about Bonnie’s search for a new home from the blog Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. The Johnsons felt they must save this Village treasure, and they offered Bonnie a lease that suited the needs of both landlord and tenant. Her new space is three times larger than the old space.
If the story seems magical, so does the bookstore, which specializes in antiquarian and out-of-print books on food, beverages, etiquette, entertaining, and housekeeping. Vintage kitchenware and antique dining pieces are artfully tucked in among the books. The shelves are wonderfully organized: there are books on various ethnic cuisine such as French, African, Jewish, Latin, Chinese, and Irish; books from different US regions such as New England, the South, and the Midwest; recipe books for breakfast, chocolate, herbs and spices, vegetarian, dairy, food preserving and canning, and appetizers.
Guide books on restaurants and fine dining can also be found. M. F. K. Fisher has a shelf of her own and many other legendary food writers and chefs’ publications are represented, including Craig Claiborne, Julia Child, Marian Cunningham, Edna Lewis, James Beard, and Pierre Franey. The bookstore opens onto a garden, where you can sit and decide which books you want to take home.
Bonnie Slotnick is awarded a Village Award for her dedication to the community as an independent businesswoman and community activist, surviving an eviction and thriving in a new home where she continues to offer an outstanding assortment of cookbooks and other culinary items.
David Rothenberg has lived in the Village since the 1960s, first at Sheridan Square across from the Stonewall Inn where he witnessed the riots, and for the past few decades on West 13th Street. David began his career in the theater as a producer and publicist for many memorable on and off Broadway productions.
In 1966, David was deeply affected after reading a play called "Fortune and Men's Eyes," which revealed the harsh realities of the prison system and was written by a formerly incarcerated playwright named John Herbert. David took a huge risk and put his own savings into producing this controversial play.
It was out of that play, originally performed in the Actors' Playhouse in Greenwich Village in 1967, that David founded The Fortune Society.
The Fortune Society is a hugely successful non-profit organization that has, for almost 50 years, advocated for the rights of prisoners and supported successful re-entry from prison. Initially, David saw The Fortune Society primarily as an advocacy group. Over time, The Fortune Society grew to include a variety of programs for people leaving prison and reentering society. The Fortune News remains one of the most important newsletters for the currently and formerly incarcerated population, and it is still distributed to thousands of people in prisons twice per year.
In 2002, The Fortune Society opened its first housing facility in West Harlem called the Fortune Academy, known as “the Castle” for its Gothic architecture, offering 60 emergency and transitional beds to formerly incarcerated men and women. In 2008, after the building had been providing housing for just over five years, David Rothenberg produced another groundbreaking play, “The Castle” which played Off Broadway for over a year.
David has helped thousands of people rehabilitate their lives and influenced countless more to have more empathy for those in this position. Through his advocacy for prison reform, he gives people hope, support, and the space to turn their lives around when they often do not have someone caring to guide them.
David’s trailblazing activism is not limited to the Fortune Society. In 1985, he became one of the first openly gay people to run for public office in New York City. Although he lost his City Council race, his strong campaign, winning 46% of the vote, became a source of inspiration for many who followed in his path. Five years later Deborah Glick was elected to the State Assembly from Greenwich Village, and since that time more than a dozen openly-gay people have been elected to the City Council, State Assembly, and State Senate from New York City.
David has won dozens of awards and recognitions. Most recently, on April 16, 2015, David and leaders of The Fortune Society accepted the 2015 Morton Deutsch Award for Distinguished Contributions to Social Justice from Columbia University Teachers College.
GVSHP is honored to present David Rothenberg with a Village Award;A Village resident who founded a transformative organization which has improved the lives of countless individuals who might otherwise have been ignored or overlooked, and who blazed a path of activism and political engagement in Greenwich Village.
You may have visited our next awardee on this year’s GVSHP House Tour. If you missed it, don’t worry, because it’s open to the public. We are pleased to recognize what has rightfully been called “one of the little art treasures of New York” by The Wall Street Journal: The Renee & Chaim Gross Foundation.
Sculptor Chaim Gross and his wife Renee purchased 526 LaGuardia Place in 1963. Gross long had his studio in Greenwich Village at 63 East 9th Street, but with the acquisition of the new building, an 1830’s townhouse adapted to industrial loft-style usage, Gross incorporated his living and workspace in one structure. Gross designed the ground floor studio himself, and it now holds a permanent installation of his major wood and marble sculpture created over sixty years.
The second floor houses a temporary exhibition space as well as a library and archive. The third floor remains a living area featuring an installation of Gross's American, European, African, and pre-Columbian art collections.
The public is given access to their incredible collections of close to 10,000 items including Gross’ sculptures and drawings, and objects from his collection of African and Modern American art, featuring works by artists such as DeKooning, Chagall, Picasso, and Raphael and Moses Soyer.
The Foundation’s mission is “to encourage artists and the community to actively engage with the artworks and archive, and to learn about Gross, his contemporaries, and the history of American art.” In addition to permanent collections, the Foundation holds events open to the public such as recent lectures on Direct Carving in American Art and The Word of Modern Art: Artists as Writers.
The Foundation more than merits recognition and support for its contribution to the Greenwich Village community and its artistic heritage, and GVSHP is proud to recognize an inspiring institution which has preserved and made available to the public an unparalleled collection of paintings, sculpture, and photography that speaks to the incredible and inspiring artistic tradition of Greenwich Village.
GVSHP is thrilled to present a 2015 Village Award for the restoration of 201 East 12th Street to the Manocherian Brothers, the owners of the property, and Thomas Fenniman, Christopher Rome, and Karl Vinge of Thomas A. Fenniman, Architect.
The restoration of 201 East 12th Street, on the corner of 3rd Avenue, was a phenomenal restoration of two prominent buildings which had seen better days. The restoration brought the buildings back to an incredible and historically accurate condition. The project started out as routine repair, but the discovery of historic photographs by the project team encouraged the owner to dramatically increase the scope of work. The owners’ commitment to continued stewardship of the property and their desire to contribute to the neighborhood led to a comprehensive restoration to transform the buildings from a shadow of their former selves to a true gem.
The restoration work on 201 East 12th Street was completely voluntary, as these are non-landmarked buildings. While such restorations are commonplace in historic districts, here the project was geared only towards improving the aesthetics as well as the long-term value and durability of the building.
At the Corner Building, terracotta quoins were replicated to match the existing in dimension and color to continue the strong corners up the entire height of the façade. Keystones and voussoirswere fabricated and installed at the windowheads based on the arrangement at the floor below. The project team selected brick and mortar colors through a series of mock-ups. The cornice was replicated through careful examination of historic photographs. The project team determined that the original cornice was intended to mimic limestone in color and, accordingly, the replica was fabricated to match.
In consideration of its time period and character, the older Townhouse Building was given a different treatment. The new brick dentil design at the top floor windowheads was adapted from the lower floors through a series of mock-ups.
The Townhouse Building received a deep brown cornice with an alternating
double-single-bracket rhythm informed by the character of painted wooden cornices, typical of the side streets in the East Village. These strategies helped compliment yet further differentiate the styles of the two buildings.
201 East 12th Street is presented a Village Award for an impeccable and completely voluntary restoration of the cornices and façades of two historic buildings, returning them to their past glory.
The Regina Kellerman Award is presented each year in honor of the Society’s first executive director, who dedicated her inspiring career to the preservation of the architecture and built environment of the Village.
The winners of the 2015 Regina Kellerman Award for Outstanding preservation, and our final awardees for the evening, are James and Karla Murray. The Murrays are extraordinary artists, photographers, historians, small business advocates, and preservationists.
East Village residents for over 20 years, the Murrays started out photographing graffiti, yet the signage on nearby stores caught their eye, so they began taking pictures of those old, classic signs in the Village. They were soon documenting storefronts, befriending the owners and learning about their stories. These storefronts and stories disappear on what seems like a daily basis. What began as a personal interest in documenting disappearing local businesses has turned into two published books and a third "10 years later" book now in the works.
The Murrays have formed lasting personal relationships with business owners and have many fabulous stories to share. Their commitment to preservation extends beyond the Village. They live true to their philosophy of supporting small, local business by shopping locally and sticking mainly to a daily wardrobe plucked from their vast t-shirt collection sporting the logos of area businesses. Much to the chagrin of their book publisher, they turned down a signing at Barnes & Noble in favor of doing book signings at several independent book stores instead.
As photographers who focus on storefronts and architecture, the Murrays have captured hundreds of Village locales. It is startling how many of these small businesses have been erased from our cityscape since the Murrays began documenting them. Each of these lost businesses played a vital role in the lives of their neighborhoods. Thankfully, we have James and Karla's images as a record of special times and places. The locales that have been preserved in their beautiful photographs provide an amazing time capsule of mostly late 20th Century life in and around this City.
James and Karla Murray, a couple whose outstanding efforts in documenting a generation of small businesses and the stories behind them, are presented the Regina Kellerman Award for bringing much needed attention to the plight facing New York City’s small businesses.