Manhattan-Ville Heritage Society


Jun 14, 2004

College Soon To Roll Up Lively ?“Window Shade?” Exhibit That Brought Uptown Neighborhood Indoors

NEW YORK, NY. -- June 14, 2004 -- ?“This is a fantastic exhibit,?” Manhattan Borough Historian Cal Jones jotted in the guest book. But while the sentiment was echoed over numerous pages, Manhattanville: Hidden in Plain Sight, the exhibit mounted at the City College of New York?’s Morris R. Cohen Library in collaboration with the City College Architectural Center is soon to close. The popular exhibition opened earlier this year, and was extended past its original closing date in mid-April, but is now scheduled to close on July1, 2004.

?“?‘Manhattanville: Hidden in Plain Sight?’ establishes a new level of excellence for public programs at CCNY,?” said Justin Ferate, a well-known instructor of urban and architectural history at Cooper Union Continuing Education who ventured uptown with his class. ?“This exhibition is a gem!?”

The exhibit is a retrospective look at the once-distinct West Harlem valley neighborhood straddling today?’s Broadway and 125th Street, and whose geographical reference once comprehended the current CCNY site. It traces the old town?’s 19th-century prominence as a residential, manufacturing and transportation hub through its twentieth century obscurity hastened by the opening of the elevated Broadway IRT subway line in 1904.

The exhibit is on view in the Morris R. Cohen Library Atrium and Archives Gallery, located in the school?’s North Academic Center (NAC) building at 138th Street and Convent Avenue, Manhattan. Designed as a panel exhibition, exhibit, its presention on a series of commercial style scrim banners make it ideal for potential traveling and re-configuring in other spaces.

?“The imaginative ?“window shade?” panels do a skillful job of integrating maps, graphics, blow-ups, miniatures & modern photos,?” commented visiter Kathleen Hulser, Public Historian at The New-York Historical Society, about the vinyl banners on which the exhibit interprets old Manhattanville by juxtaposing contemporary photographs with primary historical imagery on the library?’s Atrium level.

The exhibit?’s original material displayed in the library Archives, much of which comes from Mr. Washington?’s own trove, drew added praise from Ms. Hulser. ?“A terrific way to make a historic area speak in the many voices of ephemera,?” she said. ?“Eric K. Washington?’s personal Manhattanville collection manages to make historical infrastructure as scintillating as a best-selling mystery novel.?” Displays also include a map gallery chronicling this section of upper Manhattan?’s growth; manuscripts from St. Mary?’s Episcopal Church, established in 1823; and yearbooks from Manhattanville Junior High School/P.S. 43, the singer Harry Belafonte?’s alma mater.

An overflow crowd attended the exhibit?’s opening reception on February 5th, which featured guest curator Eric K. Washington, whose 2002 book, Manhattanville: Old Heart of West Harlem, in the Arcadia Images of America series, inspired the exhibition. Many attendees were abuzz with speculation?’s about Columbia University?’s imminent plans to expand its nearby campus into the Manhattanville area as they filled the reception and exhibit spaces.

In 1998 Mr. Washington prepared the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission?’s designation report for St. Mary?’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Manhattanville. His unique walking tours of the area are widely known. ?“To fathom this mysterious neighborhood to the north of Columbia and Riverside Park, I needed a guide; someone suggested I contact Eric Washington,?” writes Phillip Lopate in his just published book Waterfront:A Journey Around Manhattan. ?“[He] describes himself modestly as a ?‘neighborhood buff.?’ Where would local history be without such buffs??”

Mr. Washington was also an exhibition scriptwriter for the National Civil Rights Museum. He has published articles in the New Yorker, the New York Daily News, Metropolis, Elle D?©cor and the upcoming Encyclopedia of New York State, and was the first place recipient of a National Association of Black Journalists 1995 magazine journalism award.

This exhibition marks the first collaboration between the City College Library and the City College Architectural Center, founded in 1980 as a community outreach program of the School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture. CCAC?’s work on Manhattanville: Hidden in Plain Sight resulted from the Center?’s Northern Manhattan Heritage Project, funded with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support was provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Surdna Foundation, the J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation and The City College Fund.

The City College Libraries hold collections numbering in excess of 1.4 million volumes, 14,400 periodical subscriptions, and hundreds of thousands of government documents, microforms, slides and other formats. The libraries support a full exhibition program?—see for schedule?—comprehensive Archives & Special Collections, and the Friends of the Library.

* * * *

For more information about the Manhattanville: Hidden in Plain Sight exhibit, please call the Cohen Library at CCNY at (212) 650-7271.

The City College of New York is located at 138th Street and Convent Avenue, Manhattan.

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