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Partner Spotlight: The Art Deco Society of New York

The Art Deco Society of New York (ADSNY) is a member-supported non-profit organization that advocates for the celebration, documentation, and preservation of Art Deco in New York City.

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Published on
October 27, 2023

The Art Deco Society of New York (ADSNY) is an organization advocating for the understanding and preservation of Art Deco architecture, design, art, and style. Through events, preservation, tours, and community outreach, ADSNY spotlights important architecture and culture of the 1920s and 30s

Q: Tell us about The Art Deco Society!

The Art Deco Society of New York is a member-supported non-profit organization that advocates for the celebration, documentation, and preservation of Art Deco in New York City. Since our founding in 1980, we have carried out our mission with a wide range of public educational programs, and historic preservation advocacy. We focus on New York’s role as a world capital of Art Deco, including fine and decorative arts, fashion, music, and especially the city’s Deco architecture. Our Board of Directors, Board of Advisors, and growing membership include historians, teachers, collectors, and scholars—and hundreds of New Yorkers passionate about their city’s Art Deco legacy.

Manhattan Art Deco Financial District Tour, 70 Pine Street lobby. Photo: Courtesy of the Art Deco Society of New York.

Q: Could you highlight a recent program, initiative, or exhibition?

Our “Telling the Art Deco Story of Our Neighborhoods” program, made possible with funding from the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, provides a series of free lectures and walking tours for residents in underserved communities who want to learn about their local Art Deco architecture, culture, and history. The initiative, now in its eighth year, most recently brought the program to Sunnyside and Jamaica in Queens, Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, and the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. 

Manhattan Art Deco Midtown tour, Daily News Building lobby. Photo: Courtesy of the Art Deco Society of New York.

Q: What is something about your organization that most people might not know or might be unfamiliar with? 

ADSNY maintains a vibrant and ever-growing website full of Art Deco resources including essays about the style by leading experts, some 80 Deco on Demand video presentations on various Deco topics, descriptions of our educational programs, travel opportunities, past issues of the Art Deco New York journal, a list of book recommendations, and more.

On this site we also curate a growing interactive map and registry of Art Deco buildings throughout the five boroughs, with information on the buildings’ architects and with links to additional research resources, including, where applicable, to the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s official designation reports. The list can be sorted by borough, neighborhood, architect and more. It currently includes more than 800 entries. While we have a group of volunteers constantly scouting the city for new candidates, we welcome suggestions from the public.

Curator-led after-hours tour of Art Deco poster exhibition at Poster House. Photo: Courtesy of the Art Deco Society of New York.

Q: How does your organization’s mission intersect with Archtober’s mission? 

Our longest-running program, begun in 1981, is our series of walking tours. Like Archtober’s, our mission is connecting New Yorkers with the fabulous architecture that is our collective history and heritage. Our tours range from world-famous icons like the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings to the hundreds of lesser-known marvels across the city—everything from apartment buildings to houses of worship to diners to airport terminals to nightclubs to department stores to movie palaces to parking garages to subway stations to public schools to public pools. During COVID, when our in-person events went on hold, we turned to virtual tours—video recordings of some 80 of these are now available on our web site.

Special tour of Art Deco at Manhattan’s Temple Emanu-El. Photo: Courtesy of the Art Deco Society of New York.

Q: How does your organization see the future of architecture and design in NYC?  

The variety and constant growth of New York’s architecture is one of its best known–and certainly most visible–characteristics. We see a future in which that architectural variety continues to evolve, while maintaining the built wonders bequeathed to us by our predecessors. One of the most promising phenomena in recent years is the ongoing conversion of Art Deco skyscrapers for new uses. Examples range from Ralph Walker’s telephone company headquarters, including the Barclay-Vesey Building opposite the World Trade Center, as well as his monolithic former Irving Trust headquarters at One Wall Street, to the hotels carved out of John Mead Howells’s former Panhellenic Tower on East 51st Street and Raymond Hood’s American Radiator Building on West 40th Street.

Manhattan’s Deco skyline. Photo: Courtesy of the Art Deco Society of New York.

Q: What is a design object in your collection that you would like to highlight?  

Our collection–which is everybody’s collection–is simply this city’s vast Deco inventory. What we would like to highlight is that while Art Deco has evolved from a dimly remembered phenomenon of the 1920s and 30s into the city’s most widely recognized architectural style–and while so many of its great icons are now protected by Landmark status–Deco structures are still being lost, most recently the Raymond Hood-designed lobby of midtown’s original McGraw Hill Building. Parkchester, in the Bronx, is currently losing much of its ornamental sculptural decoration to a thoughtless, badly executed maintenance program. Preservation of our Deco inventory–of all our historic architectural legacy–requires constant vigilance.