Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society, announced today that construction begins this November on a new 80,000-square-foot expansion to New-York Historical Society’s existing building on the Upper West Side. The five-story addition—dubbed the “Democracy Wing”—is by Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA) and will allow the historic institution to dramatically increase the amount of students it welcomes each year, from 3,000 to 30,000.
“As construction begins on our new wing, we are fulfilling a vision set into motion in 1937 by the Trustees of New-York Historical Society, who had the foresight to purchase the lot adjacent to our building, knowing that our growing collections and evolving programs for scholars, students, educators, and the public would someday need room to expand,” Dr. Mirrer said. “As we look ahead, our new wing will serve as a beacon for democracy education, a powerhouse of inclusive history, and a home for history enthusiasts of all backgrounds and perspectives. We look forward to seeing Robert A. M. Stern Architects’ design, which was crafted with extraordinary skill and sensitivity, come to realization.”
As reported by AN, plans for the Democracy Wing were first made public in 2021. The proposed wing by RAMSA was unanimously approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission “for its respect for the past and solicitation of community input,” a press release stated. Upon completion, it will host a variety of educational programs held by New-York Historical Society, much-needed storage space for archiving materials about American democracy, new exhibition and gallery space, a and a courtyard with a rooftop garden terrace replete with a stunning view of Central Park.
New-York Historical Society’s existing building was completed in 1908 by New York firm York & Sawyer. The Democracy Wing’s facade by RAMSA will be built out of granite from Deer Isle, Maine; the same quarry that yielded the stone for New-York Historical Society’s 114-year-old edifice. RAMSA’s project team is led by partners Graham S. Wyatt and Preston J. Gumberich and Associate Partner Kim S. Yap.
The Tang Academy for American Democracy, home to dedicated space for New-York Historical Society’s education initiatives, will be on the second floor. This is where sixth graders will spend four full days at the museum taking part in a program that addresses critical knowledge gaps in U.S. history. The top floor of the additional will be home to the American LGBTQ+ Museum, a new department within New-York Historical Society. The addition will be replete with a rooftop garden terrace that offers a stunning view of Central Park.
“Over the past four years, our partnership with New-York Historical has grown stronger and as we enter into this next phase of the building project together, we are hopeful and inspired for the years ahead when the American LGBTQ+ Museum will finally have a home,” said Ben Garcia, the American LBGTQ+ Museum’s executive director.
A new space called the Dorothy Tapper Goldman Center for Teaching Democracy will convene scholars and museum professionals to coalesce and discuss history, political theory, and pedagogy. Klingenstein Family Gallery will host monumental art pieces. The Stuart and Jane Weitzman Shoe Museum will host a permanent exhibition called Walk This Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes which tells the story of how women’s footwear evolved the past two centuries in congruence with achieving greater civil liberties.
“It’s a privilege to work with the New-York Historical Society on this expansion of its landmark building, enabling it to extend its broad and vital mission to a growing audience that ranges from local schoolchildren to international visitors,” said Robert A.M. Stern. “With input from engaged and supportive neighbors and in response to the historic neighboring townhouses, the design of the expansion is sympathetic to the palette and rhythm of the 1908 building and its 1938 additions.”
Upon completion in 2026, the Democracy Wing’s opening will coincide with celebrations held by the New-York Historical Society to commemorate the country’s 250th birthday.