OCTOBER 23, 1945
NEW YORK, Monday—All over our country we destroy old historic buildings when we should preserve them, and here in New York City I understand that the war is on again between our very efficient Park Commissioner, Robert Moses, and such people in the city as really care about preserving old landmarks. The issue this time is Fort Clinton, which was designed by John McComb, the architect of our City Hall.
The fort should be preserved as one of New York City's historic spots. Heaven knows, I am not one of the people who object to change when it is really necessary to bring about improvements. But there are very few of these old landmarks left. The walls of Fort Clinton are nine feet thick, it speaks of years gone by when forts really could defend New York, and it might serve as a landmark to teach many children the history of their city.
* * *
In 1941 the Board of Estimate authorized Mr. Moses to destroy the fort. A short time ago, President Nathan of the Borough of Manhattan moved to rescind that vote. But Mr. Moses is a powerful antagonist, and while under ordinary circumstances the Board of Estimate might be willing to let the old fort stand, and feel rather happy about it, they certainly would not be happy to antagonize Mr. Moses.
I am sure I am not the only older person in New York who has associations with this building. I have been there with my children. I have an affection for the Battery, and I can remember when a very old and charming cousin, who once danced with Lafayette, told me how the high society of her day promenaded on the Battery. I like to see it all in my mind's eye when I go back and walk there.
I don't want to give up my modern comforts and live as my ancestors did. I like central heating and running water—but that doesn't seem to enter into this controversy, since no one is going to have to live in the fort.
* * *
In Washington, I found that all young people who visited the White House seemed to be impressed by the fact that it still had the same walls which were in the original house before it was burned when the City of Washington was captured in the War of 1812. For that reason, I think in a completely reconditioned Battery Park with all of the old landmarks removed there will be nothing to tie the imagination to the history of the past.
Down at Williamsburg, Virginia, much money and research and architectural skill have been put into rebuilding many buildings that had almost disappeared, so that we can see how people once lived and how they carried on their local government in the earliest days of our country. Thousands of people go there to see a reconstructed town. Why, then, do we have to destroy such things as we have still intact from the past?