Landmark the Whitman Ryserson House in Brooklyn!
Here’s my letter to the New York City Landmarks and Preservation Commission, sent at the request of Franklin Furnace and the campaign to landmark the Whitman 99 Ryerson Street House in Brooklyn. The commission turned down the original request because it did not consider this site sufficiently important given that Whitman lived there only a short time (and because of the condition and suitability of the house). It is possible the commission will reverse its decision.
I am writing to support the designation of the Whitman Ryerson House as a New York City landmark, ensuring its preservation. New York City needs to have a building that acknowledges Whitman’s substantial relation to our city. The point is not how long Whitman was in this particular location or even what he did there. The key fact is that it is the only building now standing that can be preserved in his name and honor. And that honor is also for New York City. For New York not to have a dedicated Whitman site would be great loss and also a tremendous failure to acknowledge one of nineteenth-century America’s great writers. Whitman had no palace or mansion that served as his New York home; that is a measure of his class origins, something that itself is valuable to acknowledge. It is the very ordinariness of the house, and Whitman’s transience, that needs to be iconized. Rather than risk destroying yet more of New York’s greatest history, let’s work together to preserve and honor it.