Preservation & Design Committee
Co-Chairs: Susan Demmet & Elaine Silber
The Preservation and Design Committee (P&D) is committed to preserving and protecting the historic low-scale residential character of Murray Hill with its contiguous brownstone rows, handsome townhouses and converted carriage houses in a variety of architectural styles. The survival of the residential character of Murray Hill is not an accident. It is an affirmation of the sense of responsibility of those in the community, who, for over one hundred and fifty years have sought to preserve its very special sense of place. That effort began in 1847 with the Murray Hill Restriction – a covenant written into property deeds – requiring owners to build their dwellings of brick or stone – allowing for the construction of carriage houses and churches – but, specifically banning commercial establishments.
Over the years, residents of Murray Hill have fought to preserve the character of the neighborhood, advocating successfully for zoning regulating the height of mid-block buildings, and defeating a city proposal to widen 35th and 36th Streets which would have destroyed the stoops of row houses on those blocks resulting in increased traffic congestion.
After a decades-long campaign – overwhelmingly supported by Murray Hill residents, elected officials, Community Board 6 and noted preservation organizations – the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) designated the Murray Hill Historic District in January, 2002. The boundaries of the district ran in an irregular configuration from East 35th Street to East 38th Street, between Lexington and Park Avenues. There are many individual landmark buildings outside the Historic District.
Following Historic District landmark designation, P&D worked tirelessly on two successful campaigns to extend recognition and protection to sections that were not included in the Historic District. In October, 2003, a larger area, extending to East 39th Street and including the east side of Park Avenue, was listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. In March, 2004, LPC designated the Murray Hill Historic District Extensions, including a portion of the south side of East 36th Street and three properties on the southeast corner of East 37th Street and Lexington Avenue that had been omitted from the original historic district. In February, 2013 one hundred fifty one additional buildings were added to the National Register of Historic Places and the boundaries on the National Register were expanded to include East 34th to East 39th Street from Madison Avenue to just west of Third Avenue. After achieving landmark designation for the historic core of Murray Hill, P&D continues to seek Historic Designation from the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission for the recently expanded area designated by the National Register of Historic Places.
P & D reaches out to the community in a variety of ways - through print, walking tours and fund-raising events. Articles on preservation and the activities of the committee appear frequently in the MHNA Newsletter. Each year at MHNA’s Street Festival, the P & D Committee distributes literature, sells note cards, videos and prints and sponsors popular walking tours led by P & D members Paula Thomson, Barbara Sagan and Sami Steigmann. Over the years, P & D has presented Architectural, Preservation and Design Awards honoring Murray Hill property owners for outstanding exterior restoration, renovation or design of their homes or businesses. P & D has sponsored a Garden Tour, House Tours and Walking Tours, exploring some of the hidden private spaces in the neighborhood. Notices of all P & D events are posted on the MHNA website.
The Murray Hill Restriction, signed in 1847, restricts to this day development in Murray Hill. Click here to read the original Murray Hill Restriction.