Walking historical tours of New York are now staples of the city’s cultural menu, but when Mr. Reed first began leading them for the Municipal Art Society in 1956, they were novel enough to be the subject of a news article in The New York Times.
Modernism was in favor at the time, but a reporter accompanying a tour on the East Side of Manhattan, north of Union Square, described how persuasive Mr. Reed’s bias against it was: “The tour ended at Pete’s Tavern,” the reporter, John Sibley, wrote. “Over their drinks, the hikers reviewed the tour. The flamboyant architectural adornments of the last century had impressed them, but they bemoaned the encroachment of bleak and sterile streamlined apartment buildings.”
Mr. Reed could have scripted the line himself. He had just finished his first book, “American Skyline,” written with Christopher Tunnard, a history of city planning that, contrary to contemporary thinking that emphasized traffic flow and functional design, praised urban architecture that drew on the decorative styles of previous eras.