Hotels, bars, a lighthouse and a windmill are just some of the sites in New York State that have been declared Literary Landmarks by United for Libraries (formerly known as Friends of Libraries USA). The literary landmark program began in 1986 to encourage the dedication of historic literary sites.
The first literary landmark to be designated in New York was The Algonquin Hotel in 1996, home of the legendary Algonquin Roundtable There are currently 15 landmarks in New York State with two more planned in the near future. The Wilder Homestead in Malone, NY was made famous by Laura Ingalls Wilder in her book Farmer Boy will be dedicated this summer and The Robert Louis Stevenson Cottage in Saranac Lake , NY will receive its designation this fall.
Communities, historical societies, tourism offices and chambers of commerce working with the Empire State Center for the Book may apply to dedicate a Literary Landmark. When an appropriate landmark is identified, the sponsoring group plans a dedication ceremony and the Empire State Center for the Book applies to United for Libraries for official recognition. Full details of planning a Literary Landmark dedication can be found on the PDF Designating a Literary Landmark.
The process for the designation of a literary landmark is straightforward and explained at the United for Libraries website. The two most difficult issues to overcome are having a site accept the designation and finding sponsors to help underwrite the cost of the creation of the plaque.
The program is a way for local groups to promote the literary heritage of your community. Did a famous author live in your community? Was a local site mentioned in a literary classic? Is a famous writer buried in a cemetery in your community? All may qualify for recognition as a literary landmark by United for Libraries.
The Empire State Center for the Book, the New York State affiliate for the Library of congress Center for the Book has been very proactive in declaring Literary Landmarks. In recent years the center has be the lead in the designation of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in honor of Madeleine L’Engle, the author of A Wrinkle in Time, the windmill at the Southampton campus of SUNY Stony Brook where Tennessee Williams resided for a summer and in 2014 a public school on East 88th Street in New York City was landmarked in honor of Bernard Waber the creator of the picture book character Lyle the Crocodile. Lyle first appeared in a book entitled The House on East 88th Street. Most recently, the George Bruce Branch of the New York Public Library was one of the five literary landmarks dedicated nationally to celebrate Children’s Book Week. It was in this library where children’s author Walter Dean Myers developed a love of reading and books. Myers went on to become the Library of Congress’ National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
The Empire State Center for the Book is happy to work with groups in having a site declared a Literary Landmark. Designation is a cause for celebration and an unveiling ceremony is strongly encouraged. At certain designations family members of the author join with scholars and other dignitaries to speak at the event. Literary landmark designation always garners press attention that in turn gives the organizing groups the opportunity to blow your horn about your organization and the work that they do.
Often times local historical associations are more than willing to be part of the event and will offer speakers or financial support. The Center for the Book is looking for opportunities to have literary landmarks designated throughout New York State. Many times we may have an historical site and fail to see its literary significance. Chittenango may have an appropriate site in the L. Frank Baum House while Brooklyn Heights may have a place associated with Henry Ward Beecher, Truman Capote or Walt Whitman and Albany does have a direct link to Herman Melville. All can be Literary Landmarks if some local groups take the initiative to work for its designation.
If you have a site that you think is worthy of Literary Landmark designation and would like the Empire State Center for the Book to assist in designation, please contact Rocco Staino at email@example.com and place Literary Landmark Designation in the subject line.