Seymour B. Durst loved New York. While dedicating his professional life to commercial and residential real estate development, he had a personal lifelong passion for collecting published and archival materials on New York and its history, discovered through architectural, cultural heritage and urban planning perspectives. By the time of his death in 1995, his “Old York Library” collection had taken over virtually his entire five-story townhouse. The collection is comprised of books, historic photographs and postcards, maps, pamphlets, newspapers, ephemera, and New York City memorabilia.
The collection provides a basis for research in all aspects of urban planning, reflecting Seymour Durst’s interests in transportation systems, waterways, the urban grid, and parklands. He was particularly interested in the city at the human scale—as habitable space. Collection themes such as social history and services, government, theater, arts and architectural development are also apparent in the collection. His founding principles (sustainability, innovation, integrity, and community) continue to guide The Durst Organization leadership in environmentally responsible building practices and inform the company’s long-term approach to development.
The Seymour B. Durst Old York Library is now part of the renowned collections of the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library. With generous support from the Durst Organization, Avery is engaged in a multi-year cataloging and digitization project that will make the Old York Library collection available online. The project honors Seymour Durst’s important tradition of collection-building and when accomplished, will facilitate active use of the collection in curricular and research activities, as well as provide online access for public audiences interested in New York’s history, urban planning, and real estate development.