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Expanding Our Home on Central Park West

 

Rendering of New-York Historical's new expansion project, to begin in 2022.
View from West 76th Street.

In July 2021, the New-York Historical Society announced a major expansion of our longtime home at 170 Central Park West. The project will add more than 70,000 square feet of space for both ourselves and the American LGBTQ+ Museum, New York’s first museum dedicated to LGBTQ+ history and culture that will have its permanent home within New-York Historical. The design by Robert A.M. Stern Architects works in harmony with the past while looking into the future and will provide New-York Historical with additional classrooms, galleries, collections study areas, and a brand-new compact storage facility for our renowned Patricia D. Klingenstein Library.

Location at 170 Second Avenue with interior gallery image, home to New-York Historical from 1857-1908.

The Past is Prologue

The expansion is just the latest in our 217-year history. The city's first museum, New-York Historical has been housed in multiple spaces since its founding in 1804, including the early, peripatetic decades when it bounced between six locations—Wall Street’s Federal Hall (1804–1809), the Stuyvesant Institute on Broadway (1837–1841), New York University on Washington Square Park (1841–1857), among others. Its first permanent home, 170 Second Avenue, was dedicated in 1857. The new building was a gorgeous showplace—but it was almost immediately overwhelmed by the size of our burgeoning collections. 

Left: View of the building from across Central Park West, ca. 1903. Right: Sept 10, 1902; Plowing the field that will become New-York Historical, facing north viewing the corner of West 77th Street and Central Park West, Natural History can be seen in the background.

Left: Interior view of the Great Hall, ca 1940, before renovating into the more open Smith Gallery.
Right: Dexter Hall, ca 1930s.

Central Park West

In 1891, New-York Historical acquired 10 city lots in the pastoral uptown region later known as the Upper West Side. It was there that construction began on the York and Sawyer-designed, Beaux-Arts building that would become our new permanent home when it was completed in 1908. 

There have been several major improvements over the subsequent century, from a sizable expansion in the late 1930s designed by Walker & Gillette to 2017’s 4th floor renovation that included the creation of our shimmering Gallery of Tiffany Lamps. 

Looking to the Future

Our new expansion is expected to take place in two phases, with the first phase beginning in summer 2022 that will focus on the underground library stacks. 

Images from our 2019 Stonewall 50 exhibition; the expansion will also provide a permanent home to the American LGBTQ+ Museum

The completed addition will serve all aspects of New-York Historical’s ever-expanding mission. The American LGBTQ+ Museum will occupy the entirety of the new 4th floor and encompass two galleries, access to a roof garden, and areas for offices and storage. The new classrooms will allow us to greatly enhance our service to tens of thousands of New York City public school students. These classrooms will serve the Academy for American Democracy program, an educational initiative for New York’s sixth-grade students that is transforming the way history and civics are taught in middle school. And new galleries and collections study areas will host the graduate students from New-York Historical’s Master of Arts in Museum Studies program, in partnership with CUNY.

Students taking part in our Academy of American Democracy programs

Perhaps most core to our mission is the new compact storage for the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library—which holds over 10 million items, including rare copies of our nation’s foundational documents. The building’s two original storage stacks—dating from 1904 and 1937—are outmoded, and the majority of the Library collections have been moved offsite. Construction of state-of-the-art storage will allow for the rehousing of a substantial part of the collections back to Central Park West. It’s a fitting evolution for one of America’s most prestigious research libraries and an excellent step towards bringing history home.

Creative: Tronvig Group