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New-York Historical Society Enters Final Year of Major Renovation of its Landmark Building

Re-Design by Platt Byard Dovell White Architects Is on Schedule for Completion in 2011

NEW YORK, NY (October 12, 2010) – The New-York Historical Society has entered into the final phase of the three-year, $65 million renovation of its landmark building on Central Park West. The Historical Society's most ambitious construction effort since the expansion of its existing building in 1938, the renovation project is designed to bring a new level of openness to the building, improve the Society's ability to engage and inspire the public and showcase its collections and exhibitions.

Scheduled for completion in fall 2011, the final phase of the renovation includes sensitive interventions to the exterior to create a wider staircase, an expanded entrance and better sightlines into the Historical Society along the main Central Park West façade; creation of a new, 3,400 square foot Great Hall combining admissions, orientation and gallery functions; renovation of the auditorium; and development of a history museum for children. In addition, new exterior lighting on the Central Park West façade will highlight the building's architectural features at night.

The first elements of the renovation, which were completed in September 2009, included the re-design of the West 77th Street entrance to provide improved access for school groups and visitors with disabilities, and renovation of the 1,400 square foot Museum Store.

"We are thrilled with the progress of our renovation," stated Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. "The reopening of our improved West 77th Street entrance enabled us to visualize how the remainder of the project will be realized. Platt Byard Dovell White's thoughtful and imaginative design will give us increased accessibility and street presence, while for the first time ever creating new gallery space on our ground floor for a permanent installation drawn from the Society's museum and library collections."

"Our mission is to assist in transforming the New-York Historical Society into a more active and engaging place, while respecting a century-old landmark by one of America's most eminent firms," said Ray H. Dovell, AIA, principal in charge of the project. "When final construction is finished, we believe the strength and beauty of this building's exterior will stand out in a new light, while the flow of space inside will draw visitors directly into the compelling stories the Historical Society has to tell."

The redesigned main entrance will lead directly into the new Great Hall, visible from Central Park West through the expanded entrance. This single large space replaces a series of enclosed spaces and will convey to visitors an immediate and palpable sense of American history as it has been lived out in New York, the nation's first capital. Prominent features of the Great Hall include the new Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History, developed with the guidance of historian Kenneth T. Jackson. The renovated Robert H. Smith Auditorium will feature an innovative new orientation experience on the theme of American history as seen through the lens of New York City. The presentation will be designed by Donna Lawrence Productions, designer of the award-winning orientation experience for the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The Robert H. Smith Auditorium will also continue to house the Historical Society's popular Bernard and Irene Schwartz Distinguished Speakers Series and other public programs and performances.

Additional notable features of the interior redesign include the new DiMenna Children's History Museum and the new Barbara K. Lipman Children's History Library, a combined 2,300 square foot facility designed by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture & Design Partnership in a dramatic, vaulted space on the lower level; and the relocation of the museum café to a light-filled, 1,800 square foot space on the first floor. Installed in the new café will be the ceiling from Keith Haring's original "Pop Shop," a gift from the Keith Haring Foundation.

The renovation project of the New-York Historical Society is made possible by the success of an ongoing $115 million campaign (for both capital projects and endowment), launched in conjunction with the adoption of the Historical Society's 2006 Strategic Plan, including $5.5 million from New York State and $20 million from New York City.

Building History

The New-York Historical Society's building was designed and constructed in 1903-08 by York and Sawyer, a firm established in 1898 by architects who had trained with McKim, Mead and White. In addition to designing the New-York Historical Society, York and Sawyer was responsible for projects including the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Bowery Savings Bank, Brooklyn Trust Company, New York Athletic Club, the Law Quadrangle at the University of Michigan, several buildings on the campus of Vassar College, and the Old Royal Bank Building in Montreal.

In 1938, two new wings were completed at the New-York Historical Society (designed by Walker and Gillette). A renovation program in the 1990s culminated in the creation of the fourth-floor Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture (designed by Beyer Blinder Belle). The current renovation is the most extensive and ambitious building project undertaken by the Historical Society since the 1938 expansion.

About the New-York Historical Society

Established in 1804, the New-York Historical Society (N-YHS) comprises New York's oldest museum and a nationally renowned research library. N-YHS collects, preserves and interprets American history and art; its mission is to make these collections accessible to the broadest public and increase understanding of American history through exhibitions, public programs, and research that reveal the dynamism of history and its impact on the world today. N-YHS holdings cover four centuries of American history and comprise one of the world's greatest collections of historical artifacts, American art, and other materials documenting the history of the United States as seen through the prism of New York City and State.

About Platt Byard Dovell White Architects LLP

Platt Byard Dovell White Architects is a forty-person design firm led by Charles Platt, Ray Dovell, and Sam White. For more than thirty-five years the firm has provided intelligent, critical, creative responses to a wide range of institutional, residential and commercial design challenges. The firm's practice has always been grounded in the innovative design of new buildings such as the New 42 Studios, winner of numerous awards including a 2002 National AIA Honor Award. Additionally, the practice has a special reputation for the design of strikingly new additions to and renovations of historic buildings. The firm is known for the scrupulous restoration of major historic landmarks from the Mayor's house, Gracie Mansion, to the Appellate Division Courthouse. Its commitment to sustainability is reflected in its membership in the United States Green Building Council and its staff of LEED-accredited professionals, and the successful certification of New York City's first LEED school building, for Poly Prep Lower School in Brooklyn.

Contact: New-York Historical Society | Laura Washington | 212-873-3400 x263 | lwashington@nyhistory.org - Ruder Finn Arts & Communications Counselors | Whitney Snow | 212-583-2743 | snoww@ruderfinn.com -

Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Creative: Tronvig Group