In New York City, the meaning of architectural preservation has been the subject of an ongoing debate since the nineteenth century. In the late nineteenth century, leading architects and artists thought that only great buildings should be celebrated and protected, yet minor buildings more notable for their history than their aesthetic merit also had a constituency. Nonetheless, protecting architectural masterpieces became the dominant policy as various players considered which buildings to save. The preservation movement was then in its infancy; few valued such ordinary and ubiquitous New York City structures as the brownstone. Such nuanced ideas as adaptive reuse of buildings or architectural elements were discounted. In fact, The New York Times rejected a scheme to salvage and relocate colossal columns from Colonnade Row on Lafayette Street in 1902 in an editorial edict: “The rule is...


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