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Guide to the Herman N. Liberman, Jr. Photograph Albums
circa 1938-1973 (bulk 1966-1973)
 PR 36

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on September 26, 2018
English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Liberman, Herman N., Jr., 1910-1973
Title: Herman N. Liberman, Jr. photograph albums
Dates [inclusive]: circa 1938-1973 (bulk 1966-1973)
Abstract: Eight albums of photographs taken by hobbyist Herman N. Liberman, Jr. (1910-1973). Four of the albums hold about 950 color snapshots of churches, synagogues, temples, storefront missions, and other places of religious worship found throughout the length of Manhattan, taken between 1966 and 1973. One album consists of photographs and related material dating from the 1940s to 1970s concerning the upper Manhattan townhouses and mansions of the wealthy elite. Three albums hold a variety of images of buildings and building construction from the 1950s into 1973, especially from the Wall Street/Financial District area, including World Trade Center construction.
Quantity: 7.2 Linear feet in 5 boxes of various sizes
Call Phrase: PR 36

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Biographical / Historical

Herman N. Liberman, Jr. (1910-1973) was born in New York City and lived in Manhattan his entire life. He joined the New York Stock Exchange in 1931 at the age of 21. At his death he still worked there as a member associated with the firm of Kingsley Boye & Southwood. Liberman's hobby was photography, most typically capturing images centered on the exteriors of individual buildings. While it is unknown when he started this hobby, by 1942 Liberman was photographing the mansions and townhouses of Manhattan's elite in anticipation of their eventual disappearance, as documented in his "Private Residences in New York City, 1942-1959," an album of photographs and clippings he compiled, which is in this collection.

Through the 1950s and into the early 1970s, Liberman took various sets of photographs, often connected to Manhattan's built environment, notably its endangered and sometimes demolished past and the construction of its present. Liberman's images from the construction of the Seaman's Bank for Savings at 30 Wall Street (1954-1955) and the World Trade Center (1969-1972) are examples, found in the 3 albums titled "New York City" in the collection. Some of his photographs also have personal connections, such as those of the Grand Street Settlement, for which he had been a trustee and former president of its Board of Directors.

In 1966, Liberman began a major photographic project. Over the next seven years, he walked Manhattan's streets in a serpentine pattern from the southern tip of the island to Marble Hill, Manhattan's northernmost point, across the Harlem River. Along the way, Liberman took 35mm color photographs of the exterior of every house of religious worship he saw, ranging from grand cathedrals to storefront missions. Completed in June 1973, just a few months before his death, Liberman compiled his photographs into four albums titled, "Houses of Worship: Manhattan," which are also in the collection.

(The above note was sourced largely from Liberman's obituary of 27 November 1973 in the New York Times, and from the collection.)

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Scope and Contents

The collection consists of 8 albums compiled by Herman N. Liberman, Jr., centering on three titles: "Houses of Worship: Manhattan," "Private Residences in New York City," and "New York City." The albums predominantly include photographs taken by Liberman, but also include some other documents including Liberman's captions and newspaper clippings and other related material.

There are approximately 3,000 photographs across all the albums. The four albums titled "Houses of Worship" holds about 950 of these, showing the exteriors of about 889 (by Liberman's count) Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim houses of worship, which are identified by name and address. These are generally all 3" x 5" color photographs, taken methodically by Liberman across all Manhattan from 1966 to 1973. Liberman appears to have photographed any building identifying itself as a house of worship and consequently the range of structures is wide and includes storefront missions. The collection also holds the related 2,500 35mm color negatives; there are many more negatives than prints. There are also three portraits of Liberman at the end of these albums.

The "Private Residences" album mixes photographs of uptown mansions and townhouses Liberman took in the 1940s with later photographs into the early 1970s, newspaper clippings, and captions with some commentary to form a rough narrative around the losses and successes of historic preservation of the wealthy elite's former residences in Manhattan. The photographs are generally 3" x 5" or smaller; earlier photos are black & white and later ones are in color.

The three albums titled "New York City" consist of a variety of images, mostly of views of the exteriors of commercial and public buildings, in particular those in the Wall Street area, 1950s-1970s. Most of these images are grouped into small thematic sets, such as those of the World Trade Center construction and the renovation of the front steps and plaza of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1969). The container list provides further detail on the specific content. These photographs are also generally 3" x 5" or smaller with a mix of color and black and white.

Arrangement

The photographs in the "Houses of Worship" albums were originally mounted, 6-8 to a page with individual captions, in four albums in the geographic and chronological sequence that Liberman took them. In August 2018, because the original mounts were deteriorating such that the photographs and captions were becoming disassociated, all content was transferred to archival enclosures. These enclosures are arranged in the same order as the original albums, noting the album volume and page they were taken from. The covers of the original binders were retained in the collection and are boxed separately from the photographs. The corresponding negatives are also boxed separately, with the images for each house of worship held in its own small envelope, captioned and in the proper geographic and chronological sequence.

The photographs in the other albums remain in their original state, grouped by subject or date.

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Access Points

Document Type

  • Color negatives.
  • Photograph albums.
  • Photographic prints.
  • Portraits.

Subject Organizations

  • World Trade Center (New York, N.Y. : 1970-2001) -- Photographs

Subject Topics

  • Architecture -- New York (State) -- New York -- Photographs.
  • Church buildings -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Commercial buildings -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Dwellings -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Historic buildings -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Public buildings -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Religious facilities -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Synagogues -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Temples -- New York (State) -- New York.

Subject Places

  • Manhattan (New York, N.Y.)
  • Wall Street (New York, N.Y.)

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Available by advance appointment only. To schedule an appointment, contact the Print Room Librarian at printroom@nyhistory.org.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. (Researchers may not accrue unused copy amounts from previous days.)

Permission to reproduce any Print Room holdings through publication must be obtained from: Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024. Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 270. Fax: (212) 579-8794.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as Herman N. Liberman, Jr. Photographs, PR 36, Department. of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift from Mrs. Julian (Hope) Bach, 1977, the wife of the late Herman Liberman.

Processing Information

The "Houses of Worship" albums were rehoused in August 2018 by archivists Alexanne Levengood, Larry Weimer, Marybeth Kavanagh, and archival intern Zora Arum. The overall collection was processed and described in a finding aid by Larry Weimer in September 2018.

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Container List

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1-15 "Houses of Worship: Manhattan." Album 1 (15 folders)

Scope and Contents

About 275 photographs. Ranges from Washington Street (Lower Manhattan/Financial District) to East 62nd Street (Midtown). Also includes some clippings dating from late 1960s-1973.

1966-1968
Box: 1 Folder : 16-23 "Houses of Worship: Manhattan." Album 2 (8 folders)

Scope and Contents

About 265 photographs. Ranges from East 62nd Street (Midtown) to East 119th Street (Harlem). Also includes some clippings and other documents from the late 1960s-early 1970s.

1968-1969
Box: 1 Folder : 24-33 "Houses of Worship: Manhattan." Album 3 (10 folders)

Scope and Contents

About 278 photographs. Ranges from West 119th Street (Harlem) to West 142nd Street (Hamilton Heights). Also includes some clippings from circa 1970.

1969-1971
Box: 1 Folder : 34-39 "Houses of Worship: Manhattan." Album 4 (6 folders)

Scope and Contents

About 131 photographs. Ranges from West 142nd Street (Hamilton Heights) to Vermilyea Avenue (Inwood), with one photo farther north at 228th Street at Marble Hill. Also includes three black and white photographs of Liberman with his camera and some 1973 letters to Liberman in response to the New York Times article of 22 June 1973 regarding the completion of Liberman's project.

1971-1973
Box: 2 "Houses of Worship: Manhattan." Original Album Binders (flat box)

Scope and Contents

These are the four original binders that held the photographs and related captions, which were removed to other enclosures for conservation.

1966-1973
Box: 3 Case : 1-3 "Houses of Worship: Manhattan." Negatives

Conditions Governing Access

In order to maintain their sequence, and for conservation of the individual small negatives, patrons will be given only one small bundle at a time from the boxes.

Scope and Contents

3 original containers of 35mm color negatives, arranged in small envelopes in sequence order and captioned. There are more negatives than prints in the albums.

1966-1973
Box: 4 "New York City." Album 1

Scope and Contents

Among other buildings, the photographs include demolition of building next to the New York Stock Exchange and construction of a new building (1955-57); construction of the Seaman's Bank for Savings at 30 Wall Street (1955); Blair Building and Commercial Cable Building, before and during demolition (1954); front of Stock Exchange, J.P Morgan and Company, and Sub-Treasury/Federal Hall (1930s-1940s); Baruch Houses, De Witt Memorial Church, Grand Street Settlement, Hotel Robert at Rivington and Chrystie streets, and related scenes (1940s-1950s); the Cloisters in 1938 and, with family (?), in 1957; Lincoln Center and Hotel Savoy Plaza (1965); apartment building at 549 West 113th Street, where Liberman was born; and Manhattan views from 53rd floor of 40 Wall Street (1952) and the Empire State Building (1965).

circa 1938-1965
Box: 4 "New York City." Album 2

Scope and Contents

Among other subjects, photographs include construction of the World Trade Center (about 65 from 1969-1973); buildings on Avenue of the Americas around 21st Street, such as former Adams Dry Goods, O'Neill's, and B. Altman, and Shearith Israel Third Cemetery (1967?); Jerome Mansion on Madison Square before demolition, with related clippings (1967); Abigail Adams Smith House on East 61st Street (1967); Hapsburg House at East 55th Street; Pomander Walk at West End Avenue at 94th and 95th Streets; various midtown buildings; American Stock Exchange (1969); and series of photographs and clippings of the renovation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's front steps and plaza (1969-1973).

1967-1973
Box: 5 "New York City." Album 3

Scope and Contents

Includes, among other subjects, photographs of the first cemetery of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue/Shearith Israel (1970); exterior of the closed Baroque restaurant (1972), with a letter to Liberman from the restauranteur Peter E. Bugoni discussing the closing; photo of a memorial with graffiti and related letter to Liberman from Mayor John V. Lindsay regarding such "defacement" (1972); and Bronx Zoo, including the World of Birds building (1972).

1970-1972
Box: 5 "Private Residences in New York City, 1942-1959"

Scope and Contents

Among other subjects includes 5th Avenue buildings (Shepard, Vanderbilt, Hartley Dodge, Sherman, White, Ryan, Rice, Whitney, Palmer, Mitchell, Wimpfheimer, Gould, Oelrichs, Feder, Biddle, Pratt, Miller, Hayward, Speyer, Kahn, Warburg, Williams, Bulkley, Porter, Murphy, Pyne, Brokaw); Park Avenue (Curtiss James, Tucker, Wiborg, Stillman, Morgan, De Koven); and many residences along streets numbering in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.

circa 1942-1973

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