Dorothy Parker Fan Attempts to Save the Writer’s Childhood Home


Sad news today for the old(er) New York includes Cooper Union denying St. Mark’s Bookshop a lower rent to help keep them in business. And in other news of historic import, Dorothy Parker’s childhood home, a 1890s limestone row house at 214 West 72nd Street, is slated for possible tear-down, with a 12-story luxury apartment complex to be put in its place. Kevin Fitzpatrick, president of the Dorothy Parker Society, is fighting the demolition with a letter-writing campaign to Community Board 7. He asks all fans of Parker to join him in writing a letter, or an email.

Fitzpatrick’s own letter to Lenore Norman and Gabrielle Palitz, co-chairs of the preservation committee of Community Board 7, includes the following:

I am writing to voice my opposition to demolishing 214 West 72nd Street for the following reasons.

As was noted in the meeting, the building was the turn of the century home of Dorothy Parker, the esteemed writer, critic and social activist. With the Upper West Side’s rich tradition of being the residence for so many authors, I would not like to see the destruction of a former residence of any writer who is so closely tied to our neighborhood. I am the author of A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York and the president of the Dorothy Parker Society. Parker lived in several apartment homes in the neighborhood in her lifetime; I would not want to see this one destroyed.

A point I would like to make to the committee on the former residence of Dorothy Parker. While true this was the childhood home of Parker, and not a building she wrote any of her prize-winning work in, it is still valuable to preserve. It was the girlhood homes of the author’s that helped shape her writing and gave her material for her stories and poems. I do not believe that since it was a childhood residence it is any less important that if it was an adult home; just as I do not believe that since she lived in a handful of buildings on the Upper West Side we can allow this one to be torn down.”

I fully support the preservation of the 19th Century character and charm of the Upper West Side. Already two corners of West 72nd and Broadway have been replaced with modern architecture; let’s not also lose this small place that was the girlhood home to one of the neighborhood’s greatest writers.

Fitzpatrick told us, “Tomorrow, October 27, the November e-newsletter goes out to the more than 3,600 people on the Dorothy Parker Society newsletter list. I’ll be asking them to write letters, or emails. Being Dorothy Parker fans, who knows what they will do? Be lazy? Or jump into action?”

He continued, “I think Dorothy Parker would appreciate her fans trying to save her childhood home. In 2011 there is more of her work in print than when she died in 1967, so she’s even more popular today. I think she’d be happy to know that one of the homes she lived in as a kid growing up on the Upper West Side more than 100 years ago is still standing. That’s why we don’t want to see it knocked down.”

DNA Info reports that Parker scholars are split on whether the building, which its owners say was heavily damaged by the building of The Corner, a luxury high-rise next door, is worth saving. Fitzpatrick, and the 3,000 members of the Dorothy Parker Society, likely feel differently.

Fitzpatrick told us, “Dorothy Parker was one of the biggest procrastinators in American letters. She missed deadlines and ignored editors with abandon. But in this case, we can’t follow her lead, we need to act. We need to write a letter or email to Community Board 7 and voice our concern that Parker’s childhood home should not be demolished. The Preservation Committee next meets on Thursday, Nov. 10 at 7 pm. so we have to get our letters and emails in by then.”

To Fan Fearing Wrecking Ball, the City Is Dorothy Parker’s [NYT]

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