A tribute to New York City legend, Frank Gilbert, who saved history

Over the weekend, we lost a homegrown New York City legend. Frank Gilbert is responsible for saving countless landmarks in our city and across the country. Grand Central Station stands today because of him. Following the tragic demolition of the glorious original Penn Station, Gilbert put his legal mind to work to write what became known as the city’s “barn-door-closing statute”.

In that legislation, he wrote: “the city’s global standing cannot be maintained or enhanced by disregarding the historical and architectural heritage of the city and by countenancing the destruction of such cultural assets.”

This legislation created New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to save historical architectural treasures. The fight for this work went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Gilbert and his collaborators won. He used this success to help cities and town across the country establish and protect historic districts that preserve history, tell the stories of times and people past, generate tourism, and make our built environments more beautiful.

When I pass a historic landmark now, I’ll toss up a grateful thank you to Mr. Gilbert for all he did to make sure we never forget the past that makes our present possible.

You can read Frank Gilbert’s full obituary here.

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