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Historic Preservation in Harlem

2014 Fellow Sarah Rowe blogs about historical preservation in Harlem.

2014 Fellow Sarah Rowe submitted this blog post about preserving the historic architecture of Harlem, and what role artists can play in preserving neighborhood culture and history (a topic we’ve covered before on our blog here):


As many landmarks are destroyed or altered in Harlem, I often question whether pieces of history are slowly dwindling away. Some buildings, such as PS 186 have been spared and are slated to be re-purposed with some affordable housing units, but other buildings, such as the Eisenbaum Building and Public National Bank Building, have suffered a different fate and disappeared forever. The future of the storied Lenox Lounge also continues to be in flux.


Historically important buildings serve as a connection to Harlem’s vibrant past and serve as significant elements of the neighborhood’s character. In thinking about the destruction of these structures in Harlem, I have generated some ideas about what artists can do to help save these important pieces of history.


Artists can help by creating or assisting community based organizations that assist in the implementation of preservation projects. The organization Cornerstones Community Partnerships in Santa Fe, NM offers an excellent model for this type of work and utilizes a community based preservation approach. This organization works with communities to involve residents directly in the restoration process. Youth and community members are trained in traditional building and preservation methods and assist with the hands-on repair of structures.


In addition to starting or assisting a community based organization, artists can help organize walking tours in their neighborhood to highlight historically important buildings. If versed in conservation methods, artists can also assist in the restoration process and create programs for residents to be trained and involved in the process as well. Artists can also assist in their own communities by serving on community boards and work to landmark historically important buildings.


Join Sarah and other Create Change Fellows on Field Day this Saturday, September 20th from 12 to 5 PM at the Frank White Memorial Garden (506-508 W. 143rd Street. New York, NY).


Check out Sarah’s website here.

Read The LP Interview with Sarah here.


Interested in this topic? Check out our earlier post on things artists can do, and our Sustaining Neighborhoods reading list).

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