PHILADELPHIA – Hyman Myers, the passionate preservationist and architect who spearheaded restorations of Philadelphia’s most noteworthy historic buildings—including City Hall, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Academy of Music—died Oct. 17, 2022. He was 81.
A renowned expert on Victorian architect Frank Furness, who designed hundreds of Philadelphia buildings, Myers relished rescuing the city’s historic gems from neglect and returning them to their ornate glory. When the Academy of Music was renovated in the 1990s, a sumptuous a custom-woven curtain of crimson and gold was installed on the stage. Myers’ colleagues at the architecture firm Vitetta, where he was a principal for 35 years, surprised him with a bespoke jacket of the same gleaming fabric. Delighted, he often wore it to galas.
Myers oversaw the 1976 restoration of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, designed a century earlier by Furness. Under Myers’ direction, the ornate brass lights in the Broad Street building gleamed again and its star-studded cobalt ceiling was restored to its Victorian splendor. He advocated for the creative reuse of historical buildings while retaining their integrity and preserving their appearances.
During his 45 years of practice, Myers was involved in more than 350 historic projects around the country, including more than 60 listings on the National Register of Historic Places and more than 70 state and local landmarks, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Cleveland Museum of Art and Pennsylvania’s Capital Building in Harrisburg. He was a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and he and his work received dozens of national, state and local awards for excellence.
Founder and director of Vitetta’s Historic Preservation Program, Myers became familiar to local audiences as co-host of WHYY-TV’s A Walk Up Broad Street, which showcased his wit and encyclopedic knowledge of the city’s architecture. Myers always insisted that his favorite project was whichever he was working on at the time, but he was especially proud of the comprehensive renovation of City Hall he planned and supervised. His work on this colossal long-range project—which included scouring decades of grime from the building’s opulent façade, replacing the main roof and discovering and restoring windows and rooms that had been boarded up decades before—began in 1982 and ended in 2009.
A lifelong Philadelphian, Myers earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania in 1963 and 1965 respectively. He grew up on Mohican Street in Philadelphia and graduated in 1959 from Central High. He enlisted in the Peace Corps after earning his graduate degree and was sent to Thailand, returning home with severe injuries after the Jeep he was riding in overturned.
Myers directed Vitetta’s work in preservation planning, restoration architecture, museum planning and design from 1973 to 2008. He was a board member of the Victorian Society in America, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia and the Society of Architectural Historians and an advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He was inducted into the College of Fellows of the AIA in 2005 and in 2009 received the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia’s lifetime achievement award. He taught architecture at Penn and worked as a preservation consultant after he retired in 2008. A longtime collector of books on Victorian decorative arts and 19th century architecture, he donated his vast holdings to museums and cultural institutions.
Hy was kind, mischievous, loving, always ethical curious creative energetic and adventurous, devoted to family; may his memory be a blessing. He was the son of the late Manuel Myers and Sydney Kushner Myers and is survived by his wife of 55 years, Sandra (Kittner) Myers of Philadelphia; son Benjamin Merson Myers of Lisbon, Portugal; sister Sheila Myers Bell (Robert M. Bell) of Glen Mills; nieces June Bell of Foster City, California; Fern Llewellyn of Blue Bell; and Deena Evancik of Kingsville, Maryland; and other family members.