Faculty member Thomas J. Campanella, MLA ’91, is the new historian-in-residence at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. An associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in Cornell’s Department of City and Regional Planning, he was appointed by Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver.
In this volunteer capacity, Campanella will conduct independent research on the development of the city’s parks and will assist Jonathan Kuhn, the parks department’s director of art and antiquities, with strategic research projects related to parklands history.
A team of graduate and undergraduate students will assist Campanella with a project to research, write and update brief narratives on the design history and cultural significance of several hundred parks, playgrounds and natural areas throughout the city. The narratives will be used for on-site historical markers and the parks department website, and will be compiled in an official publication co-edited by Kuhn and Campanella, “A Field Guide to the Parklands of New York City.”
Campanella is a Brooklyn native who divides his time between Ithaca and Brooklyn’s Marine Park neighborhood, where he grew up. His writings for popular and scholarly publications include essays in The Wall Street Journal on the 1964 World’s Fair Unisphere and how the London plane became Gotham’s iconic tree, and an article on Marine Park’s design history for the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. He is the author of three books including “Republic of Shade: New England and the American Elm” (2003) and has received Guggenheim, Fulbright and Rome Prize fellowships.
He is working on a book about the evolution of his native borough, “Brooklyn: A Secret History,” as well as a study of influential landscape architects Gilmore D. Clarke, Class of 1913, and Michael Rapuano ’27, whose firm, founded in 1934, designed many of New York’s parks and parkways in association with master builder Robert Moses. Clarke (1892-1982) was a Cornell professor of architecture from 1935 to 1950, and dean of the College of Architecture from 1939 to 1950.