Drawing Circles & Hexagons Upon the Square: NY Civic Center & Progressive-Era Reform in the U.S.

Circular design of New York Courthouse that was never built
Circular design of New York Courthouse that was never built.
Photo: 1913 postcard showing original design of the New York County Courthouse by Boston architect Guy Lowell

On February 27, the Society held History of Foley Square: New York Legal Landmarks & Civic Reform at the New York City Bar Association. This public program described the migration of court buildings to Foley Square, architectural concerns surrounding the Square’s creation, and the role of city planner George McAneny in this development. Robert Pigott, Esq., Prof. Jon Ritter, and Prof. Charles Starks. Second Circuit Judge Hon. Dennis Jacobs joined the panel discussion after the presentations, which was moderated by our President Hon. Albert M. Rosenblatt.

If you didn’t have a chance to come to the event, which drew a mix of lawyers, judges, historians, architects, and genealogists, you’re in luck! We filmed the entire program, and in a series of three blog posts, we will post the three presentations along with a little background information. This is the second of three.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUwuz2SAfK4]

After the presentation on the migration of government buildings to Foley Square, Jon Ritter took over to discuss Drawing Circles and Hexagons Upon the Square: The New York Civic Center and Progressive-Era Reform in the United States. Prof. Ritter traced how New York City developed its civic center at Foley Square as a part of a national movement for political and urban reform in the early 20th century. He also examined the architecture and planning of the square within the large context of municipal Progressivism in American cities during the era.

Jon Ritter is Clinical Associate Professor in the NYU Department of Art History, Urban Design, and Architecture Studies. Trained as an architectural historian, his research and teaching focus on the history of cities and the origins of city planning in the United States and Europe during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He also co-directs the NYU M.A. in Historical and Sustainable Architecture, which promotes preservation and adaptive reuse of historic buildings. Professor Ritter earned his B.A. from Yale University in 1988 and his Ph.D. from the NYU Institute of Fine Arts in 2007.

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