Pratt Historic Preservation Organization
The Pratt Historic Preservation Organization (PHPO) is an educational, inter-departmental organization dedicated to the advancement of the preservation field and related areas of study through activities that include volunteering, advocacy, community outreach, extracurricular scholarship, and interdisciplinary collaboration. The Historic Preservation Department and PHPO share a collective goal to contribute to the School of Architecture and Pratt Institute as a whole, creating partnerships of opportunity, understanding, and advancement across all disciplines. PHPO membership is automatic for all students at Pratt Institute who are enrolled in the Historic Preservation Program.
We have recently started a new venture opening up the doors to some of New York's most interesting heritage resources for our students. The 5-part series introduced Pratt students to our Manhattan neighbors at the Eldridge Street Synagogue and the Merchant's House Museum, as well as sites "overseas" in Queens, Jersey City, and Staten Island.
Our first tour, led by student Chelsea Dowell, was a behind the scenes look at the Eldridge Street Synagogue. A complex story of immigration in an ever-changing neighborhood, the synagogue recently reopened by a decades long renovation project, including a new rose window, designed by artist Kiki Smith. Chelsea is one of several Pratt students volunteering at the Museum at Eldridge Street.
Second year student Lindsay Woodward, a volunteer at the Merchant's House Museum, introduced students to the family home of the Tredwells, prosperous New York City merchants, who relocated their family to East 4th Street in 1835. Descendents remained for nearly 100 years, opening as a museum to the public in 1936. In addition to seeing the restored public rooms of the house, our tour also included at the museum's cellar and foundation, back gardens, and collection storage in the attic (as well as quite a number of coffins). After climbing all those flights of stairs, we were pleased to couple the trip with a bit of the new East Village. Perhaps the Tredwells would have stayed even longer if the new such a fantastic bar would open across the street.
Fellow Merchant's House volunteer Melissa Skolnick coordinated our third stop at the historic Jersey City Loews Theater, an icon of the golden age in Journal Square. At its opening in 1929, the Loews was called the "most lavish temple of entertainment in New Jersey," though it was threatened with demolition in 1987. After an intrepid band of local preservationists took up a crusade to save the building, it was reopened as a non-profit, and has been slowly restored ever since. Currently, the theater hosts a full roster of films year round, as well as concerts on its world famous Wonder Morton Organ.
Wishing to see the work of the artisans and craftspeople who are the foundation of the preservation field, our group traveled to Long Island City, Queens to the studio of Michael Davis Stained Glass, stained glass restorers and artists. Michael has worked on incredible restorative projects for the Cloisters Museum, as well as original works for some of New York's favorite restaurants and stores. There's no greater way to welcome in spring quite like standing in front of a 1,800 degree furnace, but Pratt has never met an adventure it wouldn't take head on. On the way back to campus, we also had a charming trip on the newly re-opened Roosevelt Island tram, a critical stop on every New Yorker's bucket list. A special thanks to first year student Elin Juselius for coordinating this great trip.
Like most New Yorkers, we made it out to New Jersey before we stepped foot on Staten Island, but we sure are glad we finally made the boat. David Goldfarb of the St. George Civic Society took us on a lovely walking tour of the St. George / New Brighton Historic District, comprised of the residential area around the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. An eclectic mix of freestanding, single family homes terraced on a cliff overlooking the harbor, as well as schools, churches, a small municipal center, St. George is like a walk through a quaint Long Island town. After seeing such successful preservation efforts on the homeowner site, we were surprised -- but also challenged -- by the former coast guard landing station, due north of the terminal, currently awaiting some creative minds with a rehabilitation plan. The EDC-controlled site offers unparalleled shoreline serenity nonexistent in Manhattan, with a large public plaza anxiously awaiting some summertime revelers.