Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

An Unhemmed Dress: Popular Preservation and Civic Disobedience on the Manhattan Waterfront

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Fiona Anderson



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


This article examines preservationist attitudes towards the derelict Manhattan waterfront from the early 1960s to the present. It explores the complex relationships between civic disobedience, selective public engagement and ‘proper’ metropolitan citizenship that have characterised the constantly-shifting urban geography and built landscape of Manhattan for over two hundred years and have been complicated at the island’s perimeter. Looking at popular preservationist writing by New Yorker staff writer Joseph Mitchell, the photographer Walker Evans, and the New York Times architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable, among other sources, I argue that Manhattan’s identity as a city of, in novelist Henry James’ words, “restless renewals” (1907: 111), is cast in relief at its watery edges. A study of the waterfront’s particular place in Manhattan’s public imagination and popular culture, provides a unique vantage point from which to consider the city’s complex and exclusive notion of public access and acceptable citizenship, its longstanding disinclination to archive itself in its promotion of urban developments that tend to resist the renewal of existing buildings and landmarks, and the commitment of its citizens to engaging Manhattan’s past in the service of its present and future.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Anderson F

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Shima: The International Journal of Research Into Island Cultures

Year: 2015

Volume: 9

Issue: 1

Pages: 18

Online publication date: 07/04/2015

Acceptance date: 01/01/1900

Date deposited: 26/04/2016

ISSN (electronic): 1834-6057

Publisher: Division of Research, Southern Cross University, Australia