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Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel (born January 27, 1932) is an American preservationist, historian, author, and democratic fundraiser.[1] Her fields are art, architecture, historic preservation, and public policy in the U.S. She is the author of 23 books, numerous articles and essays, and recipient of many honors and awards. A former White House Assistant, the first Director of Cultural Affairs in New York City, and the longest serving New York City Landmarks Preservation Commissioner.

Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel
Diamonstein-Spielvogel at the Historic Districts Council's Landmarks Lion awards in 2015
Born (1932-01-27) January 27, 1932 (age 87)
Years active1970s - Present
Known forHistoric Preservation, Political Activism
Spouse(s)Carl Spielvogel


Early and personal lifeEdit

Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel was born Barbaralee Dwokin on January 27, 1932 to Rubin Dworkin. She received her doctorate in history with high honors from New York University. In 1981, she married Carl Spielvogel in a Jewish ceremony at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan after divorcing her first husband.[2]

In 1972, Diamonstein-Spielvogel signed her name to the Ms. campaign: “We Have Had Abortions” which called for an end to "archaic laws" limiting reproductive freedom, they encouraged women to share their stories and take action.[3]


In 1966, she became the Director of Cultural Affairs in New York City. As director, she organized the first public art exhibition, which was in Bryant Park with artist Tony Smith, and the first public performance in Central Park by the Metropolitan Opera. In this role, she was Chair/Founder of the Mayor's Awards of Arts and Culture, and was a Commissioner on the NYC Art Commission (now the Public Design Commission).[4][5]

In 1972, Diamonstein-Spielvogel was the Commissioner of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission until 1987. From 1987 to 1995, she was Chair of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Foundation, before moving on to Chair the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center (HLPC).[5] In this role, she created a Cultural Medallion program documenting notable occurrences, distinguished individuals and other important aspects of New York City’s cultural, economic, political and social history.[6] Among other programs, the HLPC initiated the creation of the street signs designating each of New York City's Historic Districts. The signs were designed by Massimo Vignelli and colored terra cotta to blend well with any background.[7][8] Diamonstein-Spielvogel fundraised for the initial installation of 84 signs, the city was to maintain signs and finance additional signs.[8]

In 1987, she was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the Board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,[9][5] where she served as Chair of the subcommittee that commissioned all of the original art created for the museum.[10] In 1992, she was appointed to the United States Commission of Fine Arts by President Bill Clinton, and was the first woman Vice Chair of the CFA.[11][4]

President Barack Obama named her a Commissioner of the American Battle Monuments Commission, which has responsibilities related to the design, construction, and maintenance of military memorials throughout the world.[10] In 2010, Diamonstein-Spielvogel was appointed a director of the Trust for the National Mall in Washington D.C. In July 2013, she was named to lead the American delegation in Busan, Korea and was the keynote speaker[12] at the ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of the armistice of the Korean War, attended by leaders and veterans of 21 participant nations.

In 2012, she was named the Chair of NYC Landmarks50 Alliance, a voluntary group of over 150 member organizations, collaborating to commemorate the 50th anniversary (April 19, 2015) of the NYC landmarks law.[13]

In May 2015, she was appointed to the Advisory Board of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy by Mayor Bill DeBlasio. In June 2015, she was named to the Advisory Committee of the National Eisenhower Memorial; the Memorial will be designed by architect Frank Gehry, and built adjacent to the National Mall in Washington, D.C.[5]

In 2016, Diamonstein-Spielvogel appointed chairwoman of the New York State Council on the Arts, having previously been the council’s vice president.[14]

Honors and awardsEdit

Diamonstein-Spielvogel has been the recipient of many honors and awards including a chair in documentary film making at Duke University.[15] She is the recipient of three honorary doctorates from: the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland, Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia and Pratt Institute,[16] in New York City. She was also elected an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects,[17] and is a frequent contributor to numerous magazines and newspapers.[18] Diamonstein-Spielvogel received the Historic Districts Council's Landmarks Lion award in 2011 and the John Jay Medal for Service for lifetime contribution to the arts, architecture, and public policy from the Jay Heritage Center in 2012.[19][20]


Diamonstein-Spielvogel served as an interviewer/producer for seven television series about the arts, architecture, design, crafts, and public policy for the Arts & Entertainment Network, and other programs for national networks including CBS and NBC. Nearly two hundred of her television interviews are now available on iTunes U and YouTube, digitized by the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Video Archive at Duke University.[21] Diamonstein-Spielvogel has also been a contributing author to publications including The New York Times, Vogue, Ladies Home Journal, Harper's Bazaar, the Partisan Review, Art News, and many others.

She has shared her combined experience and scholarship on art, architecture, photography, crafts, design, and public policy through the authorship of twenty-three books and numerous articles and essays. This included her work as a fellow of the Architectural league, Collaborations: Artists and Architects, subsequently the subject of an important museum exhibit, which resuscitated this significant and long moribund relationship. This also included Open Secrets (1972), Inside New York's Art World: Conversations with Barbaralee Diamonstein (1979), a book of interviews with distinguished artists, museum directors, curators, collectors and dealers. Buildings Reborn, Interior Design (1982); Handmade in America (1983), American Architecture Now (1985); Fashion: The Inside Story (1988); Landmarks: Eighteen Wonders of the New York World (1992); Inside the Art World (1994); Singular Voices (1997). Her most recent book, The Landmarks of New York: An Illustrated Record of the City’s Historic Buildings, was recently reissued in its fifth edition. She is also the author of dozens of magazine and newspaper articles, which have appeared in The New York Times, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Ladies' Home Journal, and many other publications.[22][23]

The Landmarks of New YorkEdit

Her book The Landmarks of New York contains detailed descriptions and photographs of 1,347 individual landmarks and 113 historic districts that have been accorded landmark status by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Diamonstein-Spielvogel is the curator of several international traveling exhibition, including one based on "The Landmarks of New York," which was circulated to 82 countries on 5 continents, in an unprecedented tour sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, traveled to sixteen venues in New York State, and is now traveling within New York City.[23]


  1. ^ Barbanel, Josh (December 31, 2006). "The Condo and Co-op Tax Bargain". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  2. ^ "Barbaralee Diamonstein, a Writer, Wed". The New York Times. October 28, 1981. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  3. ^ "We Have Had Abortions" (PDF).
  4. ^ a b "NYSCA Council Member Bios". Retrieved April 3, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d "Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel - Gracie". Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  6. ^ "Historic Landmarks Preservation Center - Cultural Medallion Program - HLPC". Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  7. ^ "NYC Landmarks 50". NYC Landmarks 50. April 19, 1965. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  8. ^ a b Ember, Sydney (July 25, 2011). "Many Historic Districts Have No Hardware to Show for It". City Room. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  9. ^ University of Texas Archives, President Reagan's Speeches, Appointment of Two Members of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council June 2, 1987, Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  10. ^ a b "American Battle Monuments Commission". Archived from the original on October 15, 2011. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 11, 2013. Retrieved September 9, 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ "Photo Gallery | American Presence Post Busan, Korea". August 4, 2013. Archived from the original on August 24, 2013. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  13. ^ "About - NYC Landmarks 50". Retrieved April 12, 2018.
  14. ^ "Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel to Lead New York State Arts Council". The New York Times. April 26, 2016. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  15. ^ "Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel Visiting Filmmaker Series: A Conversation with Laura Poitras". October 24, 2012. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  16. ^ "Pratt Institute | News | Pratt's Commencement to be Held on May 17 at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan". April 28, 2010. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  17. ^ "Honorary Membership Recipients - The American Institute of Architects". December 13, 2011. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  18. ^ "Council Member Bios | New York State Council on the Arts". Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  19. ^ "Landmarks Lion Award 2015-Pride of Lions". September 1, 2015. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
  20. ^ Staff, Editorial (October 24, 2012). "Jay Heritage Center Awards First John Jay Medals". The New York History Blog. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  21. ^ "About Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel". June 17, 2011. Archived from the original on October 16, 2010. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  22. ^ "Books". Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  23. ^ a b Administrator. "Whoops! - Partners for Livable Communities". Retrieved April 12, 2018.