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Shirley Hayes papers

Call Number

MS 292


1948-2001 (bulk 1952-1979), inclusive


Hayes, Shirley, 1921-2001


16.75 Linear feet in 27 boxes.

Language of Materials

The documents in this collection are in English.


Shirley Hayes was a long-time resident of the Washington Square Park area. While she lived there she was active in many local community groups. This collection contains information on the activities she was involved in, her political involvement, and her job at WNYC.

Biographical Note

Shirley Zak Hayes was born on June 15, 1912 in Chicago. She attended the University of Wisconsin and studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago and studied at the Goodman Theatre of School of Drama. In 1932 she moved to New York to pursue her career as an actress. While in the show "Hamlet", she met her husband James. Together they had four sons. Hayes and James divorced in 1965.

Shirley Hayes was a community activist most of her life. The main focus of this activism was on the Greenwich Village and Washington Square Park areas. The movement she is most known for is the fight to close Washington Square Park to traffic. In 1959, she finally succeeded. Some of the other causes she fought for were contesting large apartment buildings on the square, fighting the New York University Bobst Library, and getting more playgrounds in the area. She was also instrumental in renovating the park after it was closed to traffic. The Washington Square Park Committee was formed to help conserve the park, and Hayes was Chairman of the committee for many years. Other community organizations she was on were the Greenwich Village Association and the Community Planning Board #2.

She was also involved in local politics. She worked on John Lindsay's re-election to Congress in 1964, his mayoral election in 1965 and mayoral re-election in 1969. During this time she also worked at WNYC, the city run radio station. She was the first woman announcer at WNYC. While at WNYC she became active in the American Federation of Television and Film Arts.

In 2001, the Parks Department of New York City honored Hayes with a plaque in Washington Square Park. The plaque tells of her fight to close the park to traffic. Hayes passed away on May 6, 2002.


The collection is arranged in fifteen series:

Series I.
Washington Square Park Battle, 1952-1959
Series II.
Washington Square Park Renovation Effort, 1958-1969
Series III.
Greenwich Village Battles, 1960-1993
Series IV.
Greenwich Village/Washington Square Park Histories, 1988
Series V.
Community Planning Board #2, 1952-1993
Series VI.
City Publications, 1952-1993
Series VII.
Political Campaigns, 1952-1969
Series VIII.
WNYC, American Federation of Television and Radio Arts (AFTRA) and Related Materials, 1960-1978
Series IX.
Other Organizations, Events, Activities and Issues of Interest to Shirley Hayes, 1951-1976
Series X.
Personal Items, 1948-2001
Series XI.
Articles and Clippings, 1952-1980
Series XII.
Visual Materials, 1952-1993
Series XIII.
Recordings, Undated
Series XIV.
Notes, Drafts, and Fragments, 1953-1967
Series XV.
Duplicate and unsorted material, circa 1952-1961

Scope and Content Note

The Shirley Hayes Papers (1948-2001) primarily documents the Greenwich Village activism of Shirley Zak Hayes who successfully led the 1950's battle for a car-free Washington Square Park, defeating Robert Moses' plan to carve a four-lane highway through it linking Fifth Avenue with West Broadway.

Hayes was also active in many other community issues. These include renovating Washington Square Park after it was closed to traffic, getting more playgrounds in the Greenwich Village area, opposing the NYU Bobst Library, and fighting large apartment buildings on Washington Square Park. Hayes was a dedicated record keeper, so the collection contains records of many of the organizations that she was involved with including the Washington Square Park Committee.

Her community involvement also included participating in political campaigns. Hayes was active in several campaigns of John Lindsay, who was a congressman and mayor of New York City. The political records she kept also pertain to other local politicians.

She also kept records pertaining to her time at WNYC and her involvement in the American Federation of Television and Radio Arts. Also included in this collection are some personal materials of Hayes.

The collection contains a wide variety of materials including correspondence, reports, press releases, statements and speeches, petitions, photographs, maps, flyers, posters, receipts and other financial documents, clippings, audio and videotape, political campaign materials, handwritten notes and drafts, publications, and personal ephemera.

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Use Restrictions

Taking images of documents from the library collections for reference purposes by using hand-held cameras and in accordance with the library's photography guidelines is encouraged. As an alternative, patrons may request up to 20 images per day from staff. Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282.

Copyrights and other proprietary rights may subsist in individuals and entities other than the New-York Historical Society, in which case the patron is responsible for securing permission from those parties. For fuller information about rights and reproductions from N-YHS visit:

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as the Shirley Hayes Papers, MS 292, The New-York Historical Society.

Location of Materials

Series XV is stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please contact prior to your research visit to coordinate access. Keep in mind that it will take between two (2) and five (5) business days for collections to arrive, and you should plan your research accordingly.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Chris and Kerry Hayes, 2002 (accession no. MS-2002-09).

Separated Material

Duplicate newspaper clippings have been separated. See Series XV.

Related Material at The New-York Historical Society

Further material on Washington Square Park can be found in the Washington Arch Records, 1872-1925 (MS 443.30) and in the Washington Square Park Redevelopment Collection, 1952-1966 (MS 678). See also the Shirley Hayes collection, 1952-1974 (MS 2958.4434).

Collection processed by

Jan Hilley and Tiffany Schureman (2011); updated by Joseph Ditta (2021)

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-09-11 09:20:24 -0400.
Language: Description is in English.

Processing Information

Processed by Jan Hilley and Tiffany Schureman (2011); updated by Joseph Ditta, who added Series XV and made minor corrections and additions (2021).

Edition of this Guide

This version was derivedfrom hayes.xml


New-York Historical Society
New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024