15 years in the making, 34th Street's history signs have set a high standard.
Last October, after the installation of history signs at the James A. Farley Post Office, the Manhattan Center, and the Master Printers Building, 34th Street Partnership put the finishing touches on a project that took 15 years from conception to completion. The story of the Interpretative History Signs project is a case study of how a successful BID can, with talent, determination, and a lot of patience, add to the experience of visitors walking through our thriving District.
The project was conceived by Partnership President Dan Biederman, who had long enjoyed reading the historical plaques affixed to buildings throughout Europe. In 2001, he directed Dan Pisark to explore ways to inform pedestrians about 34th Street’s rich, varied history.
Mr. Pisark worked with the Design team, historians, and our in-house archivist to develop a sign system. Because of the need for approvals from multiple entities - the Public Design Commission and NYC Department of Transportation, among others - the project went through many iterations, including signs mounted on buildings, sidewalks, and lightpoles. Eventually, a system of free-standing signs was approved in 2009. This conception gave the team flexibility and precision in choosing locations for the signs, which were designed to complement the city’s new street furniture.
After the overall structural and graphic designs were approved by the PDC and specific locations were chosen, three prototypes were installed in the summer of 2013 at the Empire State Building, the New Yorker Hotel, and the Webster Apartments. From 2013 through 2016, the team unveiled signs about Herald Square, Macy’s Herald Square, Penn Station, Jerry McAuley’s Mission and Koster & Bial’s Music Hall (article), B. Altman & Company, Greeley Square, and 35th Street and Broadway (article), Macy’s, Sak’s and Gimbel’s, and the Broadway Tabernacle Church (article), 33rd Street and the McAlpin and Martinique Hotels (article), department stores Ohrbach’s and McCreery's, Madison Square Garden, and the New York Institution for the Blind (article).
The completed system includes 21 of the most attractive, informative, and entertaining history signs in the country. The design has been so successful that the city chose to adopt the signs as the standard for history signs throughout the city.
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