The Making of a Preservationist: Streetscapist Christopher Gray on His Love of Old Buildings

The graybeard of old buildings. (Landmarks! West)

Everyone has their favorite section of The Times. For some, it is Business Day, Dining or the Op-Ed page. Who doesn’t love to hate the Styles section (or is it hate to love?) or gaze longingly at the properties in the “What You Get For…” real estate column, constantly reminding us of the price we foolhardily pay to be New Yorkers.

For a certain subset of readers, nothing delights more than Christopher Gray and his Streetscapes column, a remarkable tour of the city’s ephemeral architectural history. Today, in a very personal column, Mr. Gray describes how he first fell in love with old buildings—four in particular, in fact.

But I know that from my midteens I liked old things, the heft of them, the burnished quality, the evident history of an artifact — perhaps I should have grown up to be Ralph Lauren’s window dresser. I am not sure what really tipped me toward architecture instead of vintage polo mallets, but I do remember a sense of indignation maturing during the demolition of four buildings around 1970.

From high-minded graffiti to a nearly “ganged” wheelchair, one with Bakelite arms, in a grand old old folks home, it is the kind of story that will hopefully give readers new insight into Mr. Gray’s writing and the city.

(For those dying to know, it is probably a combination of LEGO castles and a college course, Architecture and Postmodern Culture, that set this writer on his present course.)

mchaban [at] | @MC_NYC