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One-Of-A-Kind New York Times Streetscapes Column Is Over

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It's the end of an era. This weekend, the New York Times published the last Streetscapes column. Penned by endearing architectural historian Christopher Gray, who has been writing the series since 1987, the deep, addicting archive of pieces runs the gamut: from histories of individual buildings (the Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center, to name just one) to the tales behind entire blocks (the 57th Street of yore) to major changes in New York City's built environment (Cleopatra's Needle moved from the West Side to Central Park). In his moving farewell, Gray spells out his unique mandate: to "write about the everyday buildings, to investigate even the most trivial, incidental, oddball structures." Why are we sad? Because there really aren't any mainstream media outlets who maintain a series with the same granularity, carefully researched subject matter, and accessible, lively tone as Streetscapes (and if there are, please accept our apologies and do let us know about them).

Gray, whose bio on the Times' site is descriptive and worth a read, explains that it was rare for an architectural historian to go beyond the major landmarks. "To me, these did not capture the essence of the city," he writes. "It was the little dead ends, the deserted loft districts, the old ethnic clubs—these were what were interesting." He took writing about long-gone buildings, or structures that had been around for decades, even centuries—and made them relevant.

So to riff on Mae West, 'Honey, architecture has nothing to do with it.' Streetscapes are only incidentally neo-this or revival-that. Rather, each falling-apart tenement, each rich man's mansion, is a creation of architects, yes, but also of developers, tenants and servants. Each has a piece of the action, some part of the structure that is theirs. The subheadline of the last article reads: "At its most rewarding, the column, ostensibly about buildings, was about people." Yes, and we appreciate the way you skillfully wove the two together.

In his bio, Gray writes, "The patterns and networks of architecture and real estate in this city are so wide and deep that they seem endless. It's been about a thousand columns since Mike Sterne took a leap of faith and hired me [27] years ago. There are thousands more to write."

Let's hope someone else, somewhere, picks up the torch. It was a good run, Streetscapes. And you will be missed.
· Streetscapes column archive [NYT]
· Christopher Gray's bio [NYT]
· Down the Block, Deep in the Stacks [NYT]
· History Lessons archive [Curbed]