Harmon Goldstone: The New York Times, Obituary

Harmon Goldstone fought to get the first Sephardic cemetery in the United States (and North America) its rightful place on the National Register of U.S. Historic Places #80002689

Architect 1911-2001

His career ranged from creating the 1939 World of Tomorrow to preserving broad swaths of the world of yesterday.

Harmon Hendricks Goldstone, who has died at the age of 89, was a guiding force behind the preservation of New York's historic landmarks and buildings and also a renowned architect.

A major figure behind the formation of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and its first full-time chairman, from 1968 to 1973, Goldstone greatly expanded the panel's influence.

On Goldstone's watch, the commission gained the power to regulate landscape architecture and interior spaces such as theatres and lobbies. It designated 60 blocks of Greenwich Village and 26 blocks of SoHo as historic districts. And it twice rejected plans by Marcel Breuer for a tower over Grand Central terminal, setting off a legal battle that ended in vindication for the landmarks law at the Supreme Court in 1978.

Though deeply tied to New York history - his great-great-grandfather Harmon Hendricks was a celebrated copper merchant in lower Manhattan in the early 19th century - Goldstone did not think of himself as an antiquarian but "as one who sees the city's landmarks as a continuity from the past and a commitment to the future".

In fact, as an architect, Goldstone was a modernist.

Born on the West Side of Manhattan in 1911, he received a bachelor's degree from Harvard College in 1932 and an architectural degree from Columbia University in 1936, after which he joined the firm of Harrison and Fouilhoux. There, he worked on developing the spiky Trylon and rotund Perisphere that symbolised the theme "Building the World of Tomorrow" at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

When Harrison was named director of planning for the United Nations project in 1947, Goldstone was put in charge of assessing the organisation's space requirements.

Five years later, Goldstone formed his own firm, which today is known as Goldstone and Hinz. Goldstone retired in the early 1990s and devoted his time to reading.

It was as a city official that he had the highest profile.

In 1961, Goldstone, then president of the Municipal Art Society, was appointed by Mayor Robert Wagner to the Committee for the Preservation of Structures of Historic and Aesthetic Importance, a forerunner of the landmarks commission.

That year, Goldstone also joined the City Planning Commission. He was the first architect to serve on the commission in a long while.

Goldstone moved from the planning commission to the landmarks commission in 1968, becoming its first paid chairman.

During his tenure, 7,271 buildings were designated for preservation, both individually and as part of historic districts, according to a 1987 study by the Society for the Architecture of the City, a private preservation group.

Ada Louise Huxtable, the architecture critic of The New York Times, said in 1974 that the commission had "become an unexpected and decisive force for neighbourhood stabilisation" and found itself "at a new threshold of power and influence." Goldstone was a member of Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue at Central Park West and 70th Street, whose first sanctuary stood where his great-great-grandfather's copper business was later established.

In the early 1960s, before there was a landmarks commission, he championed the designation of the first Shearith Israel cemetery, near Chatham Square in lower Manhattan, as a national historic landmark.

In 1962, Goldstone also restored the 19th-century chapel by Calvert Vaux at the fourth Shearith Israel cemetery on Cypress Hills Street in Queens.

No immediate family survives him.

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