Renovation Fact Sheet


Project Description

The New-York Historical Society has undergone renovations and improvements to the entrances and major interior spaces of its landmark building as part of a strategic plan to engage and inspire the public and build a preeminent institution of American history. The renovation is New-York Historical’s most ambitious construction project since the completion of the existing building in 1938. It brings a new level of openness and lightness to the building, while improving the institution’s ability to serve the public and showcase its collections and exhibitions.


170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street)

Renovation Architect 

Platt Byard Dovell White Architects

Original Architect 

York and Sawyer

Scheduled Completion

November 11, 2011

Project Cost 

$70 million

Key Dates 

New-York Historical Society founded, 1804
Current building constructed, 1903-1908 (York & Sawyer)
Expansion of current building completed, 1938 (Walker and Gillette)
Completion of the fourth-floor Luce Center, 2000 (Beyer Blinder Belle)
Adoption of Strategic Plan, including proposed renovation, 2006
Approval of design by Landmarks Preservation Commission, 2007
Start of construction, 2008


Central Park West Entrance

Changes to the entrance on Central Park West substantially improve street presence and sightlines into the building, enhancing New-York Historical’s public role and providing better access to the building. A new, wider staircase leads up to the expanded entrance, in which two new openings have been created on either side of the existing Classical door surround. Bronze doors similar to the existing ones have been installed at the two new openings.

Central Park West Kiosks

Flanking the new staircase, but not attached to the building, are two kiosks made of clear glass panels mounted on bronze bases. Signage on the kiosks is legible to people approaching from the north or south, but the kiosks are transparent when the building façade is viewed from across the street. These devices enable New-York Historical to inform the public of its programs and activities without adding signage to the building.

East Façade Enhancements

Façade lighting has been added on this elevation (and on the north side of the building) to highlight the architectural features and enhance neighborhood safety.

The Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History

The redesigned main entrance leads directly into the new, 3,400 square foot Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History, visible from Central Park West through the expanded entrance. This single large space, combining admissions, orientation and gallery functions, replaces a series of enclosed spaces, and for the first time allows visitors to encounter New-York Historical’s resources immediately upon entering the building.

The welcoming new admissions area showcases the ceiling from Keith Haring’s original Pop Shop, donated to New-York Historical by the Keith Haring Foundation.

The Smith Gallery offers visitors an immediate and palpable sense of American history as it began in New York.

Orientation Experience

New-York Historical selected Donna Lawrence Productions to develop an orientation experience on the theme of viewing the story of America through the lens of New York City. Designed as a destination for tourists as well as an educational resource for schoolchildren and families, New York Story is presented in New-York Historical’s renovated Robert H. Smith Auditorium, which is also used for the popular series of public lectures and musical performances. Generous funding for the film was provided by Bernard and Irene Schwartz

West 77th Street Entrance

As part of the first phase of renovations, completed in September 2009, the West 77th Street entrance has been redesigned to serve school groups and staff; to permit unticketed access to the new Museum Store and planned restaurant; and to provide disabled persons with direct entrance to the first floor for the first time. The existing, non-original stoop and partial ramps were replaced with a new ramp and reconfigured steps. A visual connection between the West 77th Street entrance, the Museum Store, the Rotunda and the new first-floor restaurant has been established by new glass doors.


Caffè Storico, a new destination restaurant operated by Starr Restaurants, occupies a new 1,600 square foot space on the first floor, overlooking West 77th Street. The restaurant is accessible through an independent entrance when New-York Historical’s galleries are closed and offers a menu focused on cicchetti, small plates from the Veneto region. Starr Restaurants is also the exclusive caterer for events at New-York Historical.

Museum Store  

The 1,400 square feet of retail space has been renovated and features new, enlarged windows overlooking West 77th Street.

DiMenna Children’s History Museum

The new DiMenna Children’s History Museum and the Barbara K. Lipman Children’s History Library, combining for a total of 4,000 square feet, occupy a dramatic, vaulted space on the lower level. The permanent exhibition, designed by Lee H Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership, features biography-based pavilions and interactive elements focusing on New York City children from the past and designed to help children to identify with people who changed the course of history.

Building Systems

Mechanical, electrical, safety and security systems have been upgraded to serve the renovated spaces and to provide museum-quality climate control and security for collections, visitors and staff.


Central Park West Entrance

Granite, bronze and clear glass, all derived from the materials palette of the existing building   

West 77th Street Entrance

Granite, bronze and glass

Smith Gallery

White oak flooring and Tennessee pink marble border to match original floors, acoustical ceiling panels, gallery walls


White oak herringbone floors with stone borders, custom millwork and specialty lighting

DESIGN TEAM                     


Platt Byard Dovell White Architects, LLP
Paul S. Byard, Partner-in-Charge (deceased)
Ray H. Dovell, Partner-in-Charge
Scott Duenow, Project Manager
Ben Allen
Erica Gaswirth
Debora Barros


Renfro Design Group (interior), Vortex Lighting (exterior), Available Light (Auditorium)


Lee H Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership

Structural Engineers 

LERA and Robert Silman Associates

MEP Engineers  

Altieri Sebor Wieber

Construction Manager

Cauldwell Wingate

Auditorium Media Production

Donna Lawrence Productions

Exhibition Design 

New-York Historical Society Design Department
Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership


Creative: Tronvig Group