Tuesday, September 17, 2013


How did artists survive in the Great Depression-era? Such iconic artists as Jackson Pollock for one were supported by The Federal Art Project (FAP) the visual arts arm of the Great Depression-era New Deal, Works Progress Administration (WPA),  the Federal One program in the United States. Reputed to have created more than 200,000 separate works FAP artists created a wealth of posters, murals and paintings. Some works like the murals at the High School of Fashion Industries stand among the most-significant pieces of public art in the country. PICTURED ABOVE THE MURAL "VICTORY OF LIGHT OVER DARKNESS."

THE HIGH SCHOOL’S LEGACY A hidden treasure interested individuals can view the murals by appointment only. The school, founded in 1921, was originally known as the Needles and Trade School which served a wide sweep of immigrant children who would later work in New York City’s thriving garment industry. When the building was completed in 1941 it would be known as the Central High School of Needle Trades and today it is called The High School of Fashion Industries. The school is located at 225 West 24th Street, where it still serves to educate and produce creative talent for the fashion and related industries. The school's motto, "We Design the Future."

THE FAMOUS MURALS The FAP’s primary goals were to employ out of work artists and to provide art for non-federal buildings, schools, hospitals, libraries, etc. The murals that sweep around the school’s auditorium were painted between 1939 and 1940 by Ernest Fiene and have historical value of the depression era works of art that glorify an industry and have landmark status. They portray in dramatic and moving fashion the long generation of hope and despair, and the high standard of social and industrial accomplishment in the needle trades.

VICTORY OF LIGHT OVER DARKNESS The first breathtaking panel (PICTURED ABOVE) symbolizes disorganized society being channeled by enlightenment with a background that shows old Castle Garden, and immigrants entering from there into New York City after fleeing the racial and oppressions of Europe. The central background shows the old New York skyline where now the Custom House stands, and in the farther distance appears a rosy light of a future skyline. In the foreground from right to left are seen sweat shops, home work and child labor conditions. Sinisterly hovering over this group is a great green figure symbolizing ‘Greed.’ A large figure to the left, representing enlightenment points with his right hand to a group representing the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, a terrible event which seemed the culmination and summing up of all the injustices and incredibly poor conditions in which workers at that time suffered.

THE FIVE NEEDLE TRADES In the second panel (on the opposite wall) the five needled trades are shown working harmoniously together and a at lower center portrays personalities instrumental in raising the standards of the industry. They represented government, education, management and unions. The figures too many to record here, include President Roosevelt, Mayor LaGuardia, David Dubinsky, president ILGWU, Senator Robert M. Wagner; Max Meyer, chairman, Needlecraft Educational Commission, among many others. The insert at the right of the panel shows workers at play, the scene on the stage “Sunday in the Park” from the ILGWU revue, “Pins and Needles.” The end sections illustrate present and future accomplishment and stretch across the entire panel are words taken from “The Song of the Broad Axe,” by Walt Whitman.

'WE DESIGN THE FUTURE' A fitting tribute to its needle trades history THE HIGH SCHOOL OF FASHION INDUSTRIES continues its commitment to inspire and educate the future leaders in fashion and related industries in New York City.
To view the murals, by appointment, email: graschi@schools.nyc-gov.  Phone: 212.255.1236.

Monday, September 2, 2013

NEW JERSEY EASTERN STAR, A Visit with Dianne Ely Beach (c) By Polly Guerin

I was asked by a friend, “What did you do on your vacation?” And like a schoolgirl I answered, “I visited Dianne, at the New Jersey Eastern Star Home.” My friend looked perplexed, “Eastern Star!” she exclaimed. “Whatever do you mean, the name sounds so exotic?” So what else could I do but explain as follows: “The New Jersey Eastern Star Home was founded in 1958 by the Order of the Eastern Star of New Jersey as a retirement residence for its members.” She was quite insistent on making further inquiry saying, “So how did Dianne become a resident, you know even her husband wasn’t a Mason.” I assured her that it was perfectly fine with Dianne’s residency because the New Jersey Eastern Star has been open to the public, as well as members for quite some time.

SOME HISTORICAL FACTS Being the writer that I am I just love research and let my friend know that the New Jersey Eastern Star home was founded in 1958 by the Order of the Eastern Star of New Jersey. However, it was Dr. Robert Morris, the Poet Laureate of Masonry, who founded the order on October 20, 1870, using beautiful and inspiring biblical examples of heroic conduct and moral values; namely fidelity, constancy, purity, faith and charity. The organization is truly dedicated to charity, truth and loving kindness and the present administration is a testament to that philosophy.

BACK TO DIANNE Dianne was ecstatic about my visit and although she is in her 90s, like a child she was Dee-lighted to see me, and the warm welcome of the administrative staff assured me that Dianne was in a secure and very caring environment. It was said that Dianne was one of their favorite residents and that Dianne on occasion was full of gaiety and repartee. No wonder, Dianne had led quite a charmed life: a debutant hobnobbing in the Hampton's and Newport, supporting actress, political activist and campaigner, social secretary and bon vivant. She was a member of some of the most interesting clubs in New York City, particularly Twelfth Night and the Amateur Comedy Club, both theatrical-specific organizations and I was so pleased to be included in her circle of club activities. In her heyday Dianne was the Belle of New York. One resident stopped me as I passed in the hall and asked, “I saw you speaking to that lady. Is it true that she was an actress on Broadway?” What else could I say but, “If she says so, it is true!”

COMMEMORATIVE GARDEN After the usual hugs and kisses and when the excitement of my arrival calmed down Dianne suggested, “I would like to show you the garden.” Indeed I was duly impressed with the award-winning garden with colorful perennials that attract the birds and butterflies and the  paved walkways, the gorgeous greenery and the soothing sound of the fountains, the shady patio and gazebo that invite contemplative reverie. It was a pleasant place where several other guests had found respite after luncheon, which was served in a dining room with soft, piped in melodies, and I might add a nutritious lunch. Some residents like Dianne had specific dietary meals and she was one of them being urged to eat so that she could enjoy an ice cream sunday, which she loved.

SENTIMENTAL CONVERSATION After lunch we retired to her suite where we sat at her bedside and reviewed people and places we knew and she opened her ancient photo album of vintage family photos. On the wall hangs a photo replica of a painting that once hung in her home in New York City. It shows Dianne as a luscious, beautiful young woman with a halo of fruit in her hair, no doubt painted by some inspired artist who captured Dianne's beauty in her glory days. Alas it was time to leave and so I had fulfilled my promise to visit Dianne and to thank her for being such a wonderful friend and inspiration during the heyday of our friendship.

THE NEW JERSEY EASTERN STAR IS A NON-PROFIT, NON-DENOMINATIONAL RETIREMENT RESIDENCES WITH ROOTS IN THE MASONIC TRADITION AND WELCOMES ALL at 111 Finderne Avenue, Bridgewater, NJ 08807. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION VISIT www.njeasternstarhome.com. For information on tours, sort visits or becoming a resident call 908.722.4140. Expansion plans for 2014 include a long term care nursing wing, a wing for short term stays, a therapy gymnasium, an expanded main dining room, garden, parking and visitor spaces, plus a private dining room for resident and family gatherings.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

GREENWOOD GARDENS, An Oasis of Splendid Tranquility (c) By Polly Guerin

Greenwood Gardens, by any other name would not be as serene a paradise as it is; almost a hidden treasure just 45 minutes from Manhattan in Short Hills, New Jersey. The 28-acre verdant land reopened to the public in April 20, 2013, and the lush garden estate continues to lure visitors. Upon retreating into the flowering oasis, all concerns seemingly melt away and you are re-planted with a euphoric feeling of peace and tranquility.

THE GRAND ALLEES Approaching the gardens giant sycamore and spruces that stand like sentinels of protection for what lies ahead; breathtaking vistas. The lush garden floor is a mélange of pure mossy tints to vibrant greens that transport you into an oasis of calm and serenity. All concerns of the modern world seem to melt away as you meander along the moss-covered paths and suddenly come upon Italianate garden terraces, grottoes, ornamental tree, shrubs, wildflower meadows and reflecting pools. Enter one of the tea houses there you find three-foot-tall limestone chess pieces---knight, pawn, queen, and king—that line the horseshoe steps leading to the upper level tea house, and take a time travel journey into the South Axis Garden. Greenwood Gardens offers ample reason to daydream and there are inspiring vistas for plein air painters as well.

PLEASANT DAYS Two different families have left their mark on Greenwood Gardens. In the early decades of the last century, the Joseph P. Day family cultivated lush annuals and perennials and the tea houses and pergolas designed by William Whetten Renwick, were constructed by hand of rough local stone and colorful Arts & Crafts tiles. Matthew Gundy, Director of Administration adds, “Day lived next door to Renwick, who was the nephew of James Renwick, Jr., the architect of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Day admired the formal gardens as his neighbor’s property and commissioned Renwick to create a similar stately garden for his estate, called at that time “Pleasant Days.”

PETER P. BLANCHARD Day died in 1944 and years of decline on the verdant estate, in the 1950s Peter P. Blanchard Jr. and his wife Adelaide Childs Frick added an overlay of evergreen formality and new ornamentation to the Day landscape renaming the property “The Greenwoods.” At one end of a verdant vista is the majestic wrought iron gate designed by Carrerre and Hastings for the Frick residence in New York. Blanchard’s son Peter P. Blanchard III was a master visionary who saw the potential of Greenwood and took the giant step to restore the gardens. In consortium with his wife Sofia, they honored Peter Blanchard’s Jr.’s wish for the long-term preservation of the property. Greenwood Gardens is a nonprofit organization, and is now one of 16 exceptional gardens in the country endorsed by the Greenwood Conservancy.

RESTORATION Restoring the historic landscape and color palette of the 12 distinct areas of the garden began in 2009, including an agrarian area, home to goats, chickens and ducks, that is the delight to both children and parents alike. Louis Bauer, Director of Horticulture adds, “We use plants as we see them in the historic photos, but these older gardens are more fragile so we have incorporated modern floral versions which are less demanding on the garden staff. “The result is a 21st century-garden thriving in the framework of a very old one, but retaining the flavor of the original.” There you may find old favorites; Snow fairy bluebeard, Peach Drift rose, Black out heuchera, and Silver Carpet lamb’s ears. Garden maintenance is also supported by local volunteers who participate in restoring the sweep of verdant land that only nature could produce.

There is much to see and time to take a tranquil respite at Greenwood Gardens, 274 Old short Hills Road, Short Hills, NJ 07078. www.greenwoodgardens.org . Open Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. To visit the garden call 973.258.4026 to make a reservation . By train take New Jersey Transit to the Millburn station which is closer to the gardens and where a short taxi ride takes you to the gardens, which also offers a full schedule of programs and workshops.

Friday, June 7, 2013

SALMAGUNDI CLUB: An Artistic POTPOURRI (c) By Polly Guerin

The Salmagundi Club Historic Brownstone
Salmagundi, according to Webster's dictionary, is by second definition a heterogeneous mixture: a veritable  POTPOURRI!!! And a pleasant mix of artists and art enthusiasts you will find at The Salmagundi Club. Incidentally, its exhibition gallery is open to the general public as are the club’s art classes. Club membership is quite another thing. There are different levels to join; artist, lay person and scholarship, people who come together as makers of art and friends of art, bound by the mutual pleasure of promoting American painting and sculpture.

SALMAGUNDI’S ORIGIN Originally formed as the New York Sketch Club in 1871 it was the site of sketch classes in Jonathan Scott Hartley’s studio. He purchased the elegant brownstone in 1917 as the club’s first permanent home. It is one of the oldest art organizations in America and is housed in an historic, landmarked brownstone mansion in Greenwich Village, 47 Fifth Avenue at 12th Street. The club houses a collection of over l,500 works of art spanning its 140 year history, and the facility includes three galleries, a library, an elegant parlor, a restaurant and bar.
Salmagundi's Elegant Parlor

THE POTPOURRI GATHERING The focal point of a gracious staircase, lined with paintings of celebrated American artists, is a rare chandelier hanging three stories deep in the stairwell. Through the years, Salmagundi has been the gathering place for such great artists as Childe Hassam, William Merrit Chase, N.C. Wyeth, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Ogden Pleisner. Just recently the club was host in a gala reception for the Coast Guard Art Program (COGAP), which uses fine art as an outreach tool for educating diverse audiences about the scope of the United States Coast Guard and their mission for the United States.

YEAR ROUND PROGRAMS and events keep the galleries, the library, lounge and meeting rooms active for its members and their friends and welcomes visitors. The club also serves as a gallery for contemporary artist to show their work and is also home to exhibits by The American Watercolor Society, The American Artists Professional League and The Audubon Artists Society. Lectures and demonstrations are open to the public and if the creative muse inspires your artistic inclinations, there are walk-in art classes five times weekly. For further information contact 212.255.7740.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

LIBRARY: AKC With a Pedigree (c) By Polly Guerin


Trophy Case at the AKC Library
Do you want to verify the pedigree of your special pet? Where do you go to find out? There is no ancestry.com for dogs, but one of New York’s most historic hidden treasures is the AKC, American Kennel Club’s research library. It is by far one of the largest in the world devoted to man’s best (pedigreed) friend. A rare find for anyone interested in pure breed records or for the curious inquiring public the library is located at 260 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016.
IT'S A DOGGONE GOOD EXPERIENCE  Open to the public and dog aficionados, dog fanciers, dog breeders and Westminster show patrons here you will find a treasure trove archive for all matters relating to purebred dogs and the various roles they play in our lives. Throughout the years the library has been a resource for AKC member clubs but offers considerable reliability for pet owners who want pedigree information relating to their dog.

EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW about purebred dogs the library presently contains approximately 18,000 volumes including foreign and domestic stud books and bound periodicals. There are books on nutrition, training, disease kennel management, breed and behavior, books on police and military dogs, dogs in art and works of fiction include ‘Lassie Come Home,’ and pamphlets on dog show rules and protocol. Plan to spend an afternoon and savor the extensive collections of videos, stamps and bookplates, vertical files of clippings and articles as well as bound volumes of the AKC Gazette, the official publication of the American Kennel Club from 1889 to the present. All the AKC Stud Books are housed here and made easily accessible to researchers, but it might be wise to call and make an appointment

ESTABLISHING the AKC The library dates back to 1934 when the library was ‘officially’ established with the express aim of assembling a trove of reference books. However, if you were planning to bring ‘Rudolph, your treasured poodle for a visit, the golden rule applies here, ‘no books are allowed out and no dogs are allowed in.” Take time to look at the gorgeous oil paintings of dogs and hunters and look at the display case with dog-themed walking sticks and other memorabilia. The American Kennel Club is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its ancestry, promoting the sport of pure-bred dogs and breeding for type and function.

THE AKC’S ADVOCACY The AKC advocates for the purebred dogs as a family companion, advance canine health and well-being, works to protect the right of all dog owners and promotes responsible dog ownership. Plan a visit, take a look at the library’s holdings, you’ll be enlightened and transported in a time frame experience where dog lore and historical references are housed in the most diverse canine library in the world. 212. 696-8234.

Friday, April 19, 2013



A Benny Goodman Clarinet on display at Rose Museum
It is often said that the smaller the museum, then larger are the treasures to be found there. That adage holds true for the rich treasure trove of historical memorabilia at the Rose Museum  at Carnegie Hall, a small but excellent repository of concert hall memories and the artists who performed there and made it famous. The Rose Museum  is located on the First Tier level of Carnegie Hall at 154 W. 57th Street., and admission is FREE.
A RARE EXPERIENCE Visit the Rose Museum and, as if by magic, you will experience a rare and wonderful world where more than a century of musical history connected with the Hall are on display. The permanent collection is rich with archival material; from signed photographs to letters and musical quotes from artists of the day, while unique memorabilia include conductor batons and musical instruments.
WHY “ROSE MUSEUM?” Kudos for their largess and appreciation of the musical arts goes to the Susan and Elihu Rose Foundation, which funded the Rose Museum that tells the story of the building and the events that made it famous. The Museum opened in 1991 as part of Carnegie Hall’s 100th anniversary celebration. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1962. The Museum is open to the public Thursday-Tuesday from 11am-4:30pm and available to concert patrons in the evenings.
MEMORABILIA This treasure trove showcases more than 2,500 feet of archives and more than a century of concert programs that recall the concerts, lectures and other events that have appeared onstage at the Hall, including the history of the building itself up through the 1986 renovations. Stars of yesteryear have their due recognition; materials related to notable tenants of the studios above the stage include Leonard Bernstein and Marlon Brando and the batons of Toscanini and von Karajan.
CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS The Museum also displays a sequined jacket owned and worn by Judy Garland, a ring owned by Beethoven, a pair of Johannes Brahms’s eyeglasses, one of Richard Strauss’ notebooks and one of Benny Goodman’s clarinets. Beatle fans seek out the autographed program of the Beatles’ landmark 1964 concert at the Hall, but there is much, much more to captivate your interest.
STEWARD OF THE ARCHIVES Hired in 1986 to gather memorabilia for Carnegie’s 1991 centennial, the venerable hall’s first and only archivist and director of its Rose Museum, Gino Francesco has remained faithful to his responsibilities at the Museum. Now his new challenge is the preservation and digitization of the 300,000 programs, fliers, ticket stubs, scrapbook, letters, recordings that have been amassed from some 50,000 events in Carnegie’s three concert spaces.
FRANCESCONI’S DESTINY Mr. Francesconi’s love affair with music took the San Francisco native to New York, destination Carnegie Hall, where he began as an usher and progressed to backstage attendant. Although he had set his heart on becoming a conductor and even went to Italy for serious study, the fickle hand of fate drew him back to Carnegie where plans were underway for the centennial celebration. While he had no training as an archivist he took courses at the Library of Congress and elsewhere and made the role of archivist his life ambition.
ARCHIVAL TASK The formidable task ahead of Mr. Francesconi was fueled by the fact that Carnegie Hall did not have an established archive. He honed his skills and acquired a wide variety of memorabilia, through a creative publicity outreach initiative that encouraged people to send in their posters, concert programs and letters recalling the Hall’s historical past. At last count collectibles are still showing up and, under the masterful direction of Mr. Francesconi , they become part of the historical record.

The Rose Museum has video footage and kiosk displays that augment the round-the- room windowed archives. 212.903.9629.

Polly's Book: The Cooper-Hewitt Dynasty of New York, History Press 2012
Essay: http://www.gothamcenter.org/blotter

Friday, April 12, 2013


Walking into Pete’s Tavern recently I wondered if the oldest continuously operating restaurant bar in New York City had a door marked ‘Lady’s Entrance,’ as was the custom in the old days, because a lady worth her reputation would not be seen passing by the ancient wooden bar up front , but discreetly take one of the booths in the rear. Women today need not be concerned and like the gents, they too can just belly up to the bar in this pub restaurant, which is historic but not stodgy at all. Located two blocks away from the Gramercy Park neighborhood, at 129 East 18th Street, on the corner of Irving Place, it is the perfect venue to settle in for lunch or dinner and partake of typical bar food, and not expensive at all.

PETE’S PEDIGREE The building which houses Pete’s was built in 1829 and originally known as the Portman Hotel when it was a ‘grocery and grog” store. During the Civil War it became the first official drinking establishment founded in 1864. Tom and John Healy bought the place in 1899 and it became known as “Healy’s.” The longest operating pub restaurant kept up its pace and when selling alcohol was illegal, during prohibition, the bar continued to operate disguised as a flower shop.

THE LITERARY CONNECTION Celebrities may occasionally frequent the place but past legend prevails. The writer O’Henry lived down the street at 55 Irving Place from 1903-1907, and Healy’s appears in his short story “The Lost Blend” under the name Kenealy’s. Legend has it that he wrote his well-known story, “The Gift of the Magi,” in Healy’s second booth from the front. As a matter of fact I noticed a heavy bearded young man who occupied the same booth, perhaps channeling "O’Henry,” as he was writing in his note pad.

A CONVIVIAL PLACE Pete’s Tavern can get a bit crazy, loud and crowded in the bar area especially on Saint Patrick’s Day when it is decked out for the holidays, but on any average day the mood is casual with a steady stream of customers cramming in for an after-work libations during ‘Happy Hour,’ whilst choosing songs from the jukebox. The seating is quite pleasant, especially in the Skylight Banquet Room, an upstairs private party space, but in warmer weather I prefer the outdoor dining experience.

 FOOD FOR THOUGHT It’s a classic American/American Italian menu, plus great daily specials, a place for the classics like chicken/veal piccata or marsala and my favorite, eggplant parmigiana and delicious calamari. I would highly recommend their burgers; they’re quite substantial and tasty. Best nights are Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 212.473.7676.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


The Cooper-Hewitt Dynasty with some account of COOPER UNION (Essay written by Polly Guerin for the Gotham History Blotter)

Cooper-Hewitt Dynasty is the quintessential story of wealth and philanthropy, family and community, politics and integrity, which could have only unfolded in New York.

Peter Cooper
It is a compact introduction to the patriarch, Peter Cooper, a masterful inventor, industrialist and philanthropist affectionately referred to as “The First Citizen of Old New York,” with biographical sketches of his son-in-law Abram Stevens Hewitt, who served as Mayor of the City of New York. Cooper’s greatest achievement, as the founder of his free college, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science & Art, allowed students from all walks of life to study science and art, where he had always planned to have a museum for the benefit of the students and inquiring public. Peter Cooper was the grandfather of the Hewitt sisters, Amy, Eleanor and Sarah, truly remarkable women, ahead of their time, who were instrumental in creating what became the Smithsonian, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

This is a remarkable story of rags to riches. Peter Cooper, born in 1791 in his father, John Cooper’s combination house and hatter’s shop on Little Dock Street in lower Manhattan, wrote in his memoire, “My father followed the trade of a hatter and I remember being utilized in this business when my head was barely above the table.” Peter Cooper’s childhood was one of toil and disadvantages came early in life. He once remarked, “I have never had any time to get an education and all that I know I had to pick up as I went along.”

Cooper had a natural talent for invention and worked in various trades. After a period of modest prosperity he met a young commonsense woman, Sarah Bedell, of Huguenot ancestry and they were married in 1813. The couple had six children but infant mortality being what it was in those days, only two survived. Edward and Sarah Amelia, who would become the wife of the future mayor of New York, Abram Stevens Hewitt, the second patriarch in this saga.

Peter gained financial success by the manufacturing of glue and his ironworks. His friend John Vreeland said to him one day, “Why don’t you buy that glue factory? It has been mismanaged but you are the man to make it a success.” So he bought the property in the village of Kips Bay in Manhattan. He improved methods of production and bettered foreign imports, and this is how he made his first million. Later he engaged in numerous iron ventures including the purchase of Ringwood, New Jersey, one of the most celebrated iron ore properties in the East, which was sold at a sheriff’s sale in 1854 for $100,000.

Peter Cooper became one of New York’s prominent millionaires, yet he still saw himself as a master craftsman, “A Mechanic of New York.” However, education was paramount on Cooper’s agenda. With the fortune Cooper had amassed from his glue business, ironworks, his patent inventions and his real estate holdings Cooper invested his money in The Cooper Union, commonly called at that time, Cooper Institute. It would be the crowning glory of his life. The cornerstone was laid in 1854.He erected an imposing six-story Italianate building between Third and Fourth Avenue at Astor Place. To support the floors and make the building fireproof the rolled structural iron beams were produced at the Cooper Hewitt & Company ironworks. These iron beams would make possible the building of future skyscrapers.

Cooper Union
Cooper Union was the first free institute to provide adult education in the fields of engineering, architecture and science for young men and women who qualified regardless of race, religion, sex or social status. It is acknowledged that although Cooper Union was Peter Cooper’s vision, it was Abram Hewitt’s brain that made it possible because he oversaw the construction of the building and served as Cooper Union’s president for over forty years.

Cooper was the first rich man to preach year after year that wealth is a trust, carrying paramount duties and obligations. In his lifetime his philosophy influenced other wealthy men to take up the gauntlet of philanthropy to establish libraries, schools and hospitals.

Abram Stevens Hewitt, the second patriarch in this saga, married Peter Cooper’s daughter Amelia and entered the Cooper family circle as his son-in-law. Like Peter Cooper, Hewitt was an astute businessman, politician, ironmaster and philanthropist. In addition, during his career he served as a one- time Mayor of the City of New York from 1887-1888. Abram Stevens Hewitt was born in 1822 in Haverstraw, New York spending summers working on the farm and his winters attending school in New York. The hardships endured in his early life did not deter his determination to succeed and gifted with high intelligence later in life Abram won two scholarships for four year’s tuition to Kings College, now Columbia University.

Abram Stevens Hewitt

To earn his keep and garner spending money Abram began teaching math and a tutoring service and he was hired to tutor Peter Cooper’s son Edward, who had fallen behind in his studies, due to illness. A friendship developed between Edward and Abram and upon graduation the two students decided to travel to Europe. However, upon their return to New York severe gales broke on every side of the ship and it was abandoned leaving the two young men in a broken down boat lingering in the icy waters. However, they were miraculously rescued, and afterwards Abram was warmly welcomed into the Cooper circle and Peter Cooer began to recognize Hewitt as a second son.

With their combined intelligence and business savvy Edward and Abram formed Cooper Hewitt & Company, which forged a strong alliance in the iron business. It would become the fifth largest corporation in the United States.

As for Hewitt’s political career he won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and served in Congress for five years and was elected mayor of New York. As mayor he sought to end the corruption brought about by the Tammany administration. He called in the heads of the police department and demanded, “Gentlemen, we need to clean up New York and I am ordering you to close the houses and places of ill fame.” The Chief of Police assured that this would be done and remarked to the other officers when they left, “Don’t mind him; those orders are just window dressing for the public.”

When nothing had been done, Hewitt ordered the Chief of Police and officers to his home at 9 Lexington Ave. and waved a packet of incriminating documents before the assembled men and demanded, “Why has my order not been followed? I have enough evidence here to send you all to Sing Sing.”

Realizing the gravity of the situation, the Chief of Police said, “We’ll do it Mayor Hewitt, but if we put your orders into effect, your political career would be at an end.” So that is how a great sweep across New York City cleaned up its act but Hewitt only served one term as Mayor.

However, Hewitt concentrated on major Municipal improvements in the city and is recognized as the father of the New York subway system as he is best known for planning and investing his own money to finance its construction.

Hewitt was a frequent visitor at the Cooper household and by this time Cooper’s daughter Amelia had blossomed into a handsome young woman and Abram became the prime suitor. They were married in 1855 in a modest ceremony at the Cooper home at 9 Lexington Ave. Amelia and Abram had six children, three boys Edward Ringwood, Peter Cooper Jr., and Erskine Hewitt who would all be involved in invention and philanthropy. Daughters Amy, Sarah and Eleanor centered their interest in the decorative arts.

In retirement years Hewitt never left public office and was a member of the executive committee of the Carnegie Institution. Carnegie himself claimed that the former mayor was “America’s foremost private citizen,” and remembered his integrity as Hewitt had declined to be a director of the U.S. Steel Corporation unless it made full disclosure of its losses to the public. A year later, at a gathering of distinguished men, Mr. Morgan came over to Abram Hewitt, put his arm around Hewitt’s shoulder and said. “I want all these gentlemen to know that without your advice and insistence on making complete accounts of the Steel Company public, I do not believe that the firm of J.P. Morgan and Company would exist today.”

Long before he died, Hewitt wrote, “I hope to be judged, and that it might be said, that as a statesman I labored. You will find that when you reach my age that if you have lived up to your best judgment that is about all that a man can hope to do.”

The Cooper-Hewitt Dynasty brings us full circle to three Hewitt Sisters: Sarah Cooper Hewitt, Eleanor Garnier Hewitt and Amy Hewitt, founders of the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration which was founded in 1897 on the 4th floor of the Cooper Union, Peter Cooper’s free college.

The trustees of the Cooper Union had at first denied the sisters’ request for museum space, but acquiesced when they remembered that Peter Cooper had intended a museum in Cooper Union, but had died in 1883 before he could realize his museum plan.

Amy, Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt
The sisters’ interest in the decorative arts began at an early age. They were brought up in the Victorian era in a world of privilege and opportunity with the influence of two important men in their lives, Peter Cooper and their father Abram Stevens Hewitt. Both men planted visions of a museum in their fertile imaginations and they understood the growing importance of materials and technology in an increasingly industrial era.

Unlike other young girls, who might spend their pocket money on trinkets and amusements, Sarah and Eleanor, when teenagers, made their first purchase of a rare textile collection. The precocious young girls’ collecting ambition attracted the attention of Cooper and Hewitt’s influential friends and the greatest inspiration for their museum was the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. The directors, perhaps secretly amused at the youth and inexperience of the sisters, were nonetheless generous with their advice and time.

The sisters also stirred up interest in their museum and supporters emerged to endorse the museum’s purpose. Eleanor Garnier Hewitt recalled, “The museum was open at night to accommodate workers who were employed by day and there were to be no tedious restrictions and formalities. Anyone who stopped at the general Office of Cooper Union and asked for a card of admission was welcome.”

The Hewitt family was not exempt from making contributions. Mrs. Hewitt suffered the most, and as she looked around her devastated house, would often say, ‘I wonder where that is?” pointing to an empty space or exclaim when visiting the museum, “Didn’t I once have something like that?

One day at a men’s dinner, J.Pierpont Morgan, aware of the Hewitt sisters’ museum, in his usual abrupt and impulsive way said to their father, “What are your daughters interested in?” Mr. Hewitt spontaneously replied, “They are negotiating for the unique Badia textile collection in Barcelona.”

Morgan, a man of large gestures, was on his way to Europe and later telegraphed the following message, “Have purchased the Badia collection and do this to give your daughters pleasure.” With this purchase the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration jumped to the rank of London’s South Kensington Museum in the quality of its textiles.

The sisters’ life work represents the best in philanthropy and a profound devotion to their museum. When Sarah died, a New York Times editorial reported, “A Lady of the Old School, she belonged to ‘the 400,’ but she was not under the restraint of its social precedents. She and her sister made their own; they had also made a modern museum.”

The legacy of the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration is forever written in the fabric of the history of the Cooper-Hewitt Dynasty. The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution is still imbued with the spirit of the Cooper and Hewitt families, and is the repository of one of the great design collections in the western world.


Guerin, Polly. The Cooper-Hewitt Dynasty of New York. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.
Hewitt, Edward Ringwood. Ringwood Manor: The Home of the Hewitts. Trenton, NJ: Trenton Printing Company, 1946.
—–. Those Were the Days: Tales of a Long Life. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1943.
Lewis, Alfred Allan. Ladies and Not-So-Gentle Women. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 2000.
Nevins, Allan. Abram S. Hewitt with Some Account of Peter Cooper. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1935. Reprint, New York: Octagon Books, 1967.

Polly Guérin is a former adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and the author of four college textbooks and two video productions. Her features on the decorative arts, antiques, collectibles and design have appeared in Art & Antiques magazine. She also writes on fashion and Art Deco and is currently the author of five Blogs including pollytalkfromnewyork. Ms. Guérin counts among her professional memberships—and is a board member of—the Art Deco Society of New York (ADSNY), the American Revolutionary Round Table (ARRT) and the Giulio Gari Foundation. She is also a member of the Victorian Society, Metro Chapter and the Society of the Silurians, Inc., an organization of New York City journalists.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


You’re doing what? Quilting you say! Why my dear, isn’t that one of those fuddy-duddy crafts that your grandmother did in those old fashioned days of yore? On the contrary, there is something quite modern about the resurgence of women, and some men for that matter, taking up quilting in this modern age. Why do they do it? Perhaps it is something crafty that sophisticated New Yorkers find appealing to soothe their frazzled computer nerves, or just to create something beautiful that they can finally hold in their hands and admire their achievement. A wide span of people from all age ranges seem to be attracted to the craft of quilting including young designers to senior citizens, tourists and shoppers who are exploring this all-American craft and calling it their own today.

AND THEN THERE IS THE CITY QUILTER There is another reason the craze for quilting is getting its due recognition and that is The City Quilter, located in Manhattan’s Chelsea district at 133 W. 25th Street, between sixth and seventh avenues, which also has as a neighbor the prestigious fashion college, The Fashion Institute of Technology, where as professor in the Fashion Merchandising Department, I taught for many years. A destination for quilters, students, theater and costume designers and fabric lovers from around the world, the more than 4,000 bolts of cotton fabric it stocks are not just granny prints, but some are even contemporary works of art, sophisticated, contemporary and even exotic. The store also offers hand-dyed cottons, wool, wool felt, flannels and silks.

UNIQUE NEW YORK EDITIONS New York related fabrics, patterns and kits are a special focus and the City Collection includes Olde New York, NYC Subway, Times Square and Susy’s New York to name a few. The place is spilling over with color not only in the racks of textiles but in threads, ribbons and accessories to accommodate the quilter’s craft. In addition there is a large collection of books, sewing notions and gifts and more than 150 different quilting classes offered throughout the year, from one-day seminars on silk ribbon embroidery to multi session instruction on quilting technique. It also helps that the City Quilter sells patterns and supplies for making all kinds of non-quilt items, including handbags and toys.


Thursday, February 28, 2013


Edith Fabbri was an inspired woman with noble purpose to maintain her home from its early days as an elegant private town house residence to become the House of the Redeemer. The name sounds rather ecclesiastical, and indeed it is, as it once was operated by the Sisters of St Mary from 1949 to 1980, but has since become a venue for programs, concerts and retreats but remains faithful as possible to Mrs. Fabbri’s vision.

A RARE RETREAT Strolling in the Carnegie Section of Manhattan you might take a walk past 7 East 95th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenue and quite easily pass one of the very special hidden treasures in New York City, THE HOUSE OF THE REDEEMER. I realize that that is an austere sounding name for the building but it all came about by the largess of Edith Shepard Fabbri, great granddaughter of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, and her husband Ernesto Fabbri. Mrs. Fabbri was indeed a woman of strong religious values and in 1949, inspired by a sermon preached by The Right Reverend Austin Pardue on the necessity of silence and prayer in the spiritual life, Edith Fabbri, founded the House of the Redeemer.

A PLACE APART The House makes one feel like they have stepped into a Renaissance Palace in Italy. Not surprising, as the first time visitor will see that The House of the Redeemer’s interior decoration, executed by Egisto Fabbri, Ernesto Fabbri’s brother, incorporated the Fabbri’s collection of Italian Renaissance and Baroque furnishings and architectural elements into his designs.When a new corporation was formed to receive the gift of Mrs. Fabbri’s house, it was to be used for the use of retreats and to be a “place apart,” which incidentally is an excellent book by the same , written by Percy Preston, Jr., which tells the story of the fabled house.
THE LIBRARY Of special interest for me is the Library, a treasure built in 2400's for the Ducal palace in Urbino, Italy, which houses rare books of ancient origin, plus a monumntal fireplacde, exquisite paneling, a balustrade gallery, and a secret gallery. However, other rooms are magnificent venues of remarkable museum-quality interiors and furnishings. The House of the Redeemer is a rare living testimony to the Fabbri’s historical heritage. It was designated a New York City landmark in 1974.

House events open to the public include concerts, retreats, seminars, book discussions, benefit dinners and parties, Bible study and meditation groups, and rental space is available for a variety of venues including cocktail receptions, meetings and weddings. Tours can be had by appointment. Phone: 212.289.0399

Friday, February 22, 2013

STRAD FOR LUNCH, the W.M.P. CONCERT HALL (c) By Polly Guerin

Strolling by 31 East 28th Street in the heart of the Flatiron district of New York City one could easily mistake the storefront with violin display as merely a merchant shop but this is no ordinary location it is the new home of the Gil Morgenstern “Reflection Series” that combines solo and chamber music with visual art, poetry and prose from around the world. W.M.P., the Workshop for Musical Performances, is a rare opportunity to engage yourself in the cultural aspects of the city and perhaps enlarge your appreciation of the classics.

STRAD FOR LUNCH Every Wednesday at 12:30PM, W.M.P. offers a 45 minute to one hour chamber music concert with a suggested donation of $l0. This concert series invites you to enjoy your lunch break by attending one of these memorable performances, under the artistic director, Annabelle Avenger. Each performance offers a high quality music performed on a violin made by Antonio Stradivari. The chamber music series is committed to fostering creativity and talent with new and exciting works by rekindling and classics and showcasing rising and seasoned music performers. Musicians who have played at W.M.P. are too numerous to list here, but have included Bela Horvath, Anne-Sophie Mutter, André Previn ,The Grand Air Trio and Julia Bruskin.

THE W.M.P. CONCERT HALL You are in for a treat. The W.M.P Concert Hall is a bijou, a jewel of a place that stands out as a luxurious professional music performance venue. You will feel like you are in a private salon of a bygone era. The elegant 19th Century French decorated hall features a brand new Bosendorfer concert grand piano, velvet curtains, and gold framed mirrors and glistening Parisian chandeliers and red silk upholstered chairs. As you settle into the luxurious surroundings you may find yourself being enchanted and delighted by the performers playing on beautiful-sounding instruments in this gorgeous hall, which is also available for rent at a musician friendly fee.


Monday, February 18, 2013

McSorley's Old Ale House,160 years old in 2014

For the record, everyone just calls this historic old ale house, McSorley’s and ladies if you haven’t belled up to the bar that’s because it was one of the last of the “Men Only” pubs, which only admitted women after legally being forced to do so in 1970. Located at 15 East 7th Street in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan this famous iconic saloon is the oldest Irish tavern in New York City. As it inches its way up to 2014 the saloon will celebrate 160 years in business. With that long standing record McSorley’s leaves a trail of memories that are forever etched into the romantic legends of the city.

McSorley's Bar 1912 by John French Sloan
FAMOUS PATRONS Doors opened at this historic saloon in 1854 and men and women have been eager patrons to sit in the lap of historical reverie. There have been regulars, so to speak, who frequented McSorley’s---writers, poets, politicians, actors and hangers on for the ale and the conviviality. Peter Cooper founder of his free college, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, was a patron as Cooper Union was located nearby. Among notable patrons that McSorley’s claims as a visitor, Abraham Lincoln may have also stopped by for a bit of draft, perhaps after his famous speech at the Great Hall of Cooper Union that propelled him from an unknown western lawyer into the leading Republican contender. Even Boss Tweed of the infamous Tammany administration made it his stomping ground. Teddy Roosevelt of Rough Rider fame must have left his mark on the place as it just suited his personality.

THE INTELLIGENTSIA Literary figures like Brendan Behan, LeRoi Jones, Michal Bock, Gilbert Sorrentino and Paul Blackburn have been cited as regulars. In his 1923 poem, “I was sitting in mcsorley’s,” poet E.E. Cummings described McSorley’s as “the ale which never lets you grow old.” He also described the bar as “snug and evil.” The aged artwork and artifacts, newspaper articles covering the walls, sawdust floors and the Irish waiters and bartenders give McSorley’s an atmosphere that would be reminiscent of what “Olde New York,” may have looked like. It appears as if not piece of memorabilia has been removed from the walls and there are many items of historical paraphernalia in the bar including what is alleged to be Houdini’s handcuffs.

McSORLEY’S DAY IN NEW YORK If any place could be significantly associated with St. Patrick’s Day it surely is McSorley’s and that association came to full circle several years ago. In recognition of its 150 anniversary , his Honor, Mayor Bloomberg in a proclamation, which he personally presented to McSorley’s, declared St. Patrick’s Day, February 17th McSorley’s Day in New York. McSorley’s touts itself as presenting fine home cooking and mugs of good ale with luncheon specials daily.

McSorley’s Old Ale House has withstood the changes that define New York City, but it has kept its rich history, mystery and legends intact making it a ‘must visit’ ale house for all lovers of ancient lore and good ale.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


A rare and important New York treasure welcomes the foot traffic at 20 West 44th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. It is The Library at the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, the largest free circulating library in the city open to the public for on-site use and scholarly research. There are no restrictions; everyone is invited to enter the building. Most stand in awe as they view the main reading room that soars to a height of three stories topped by a magnificent skylight. The faux marble pillars, ironwork, and wooden shelving lend the reading room a rare and unique place in the city where it is freeze framed in time awaiting visitors.

THE APPRENTICE LIBRARY Established in 1820 as the Apprentices’ Library, by 1861 the library extended privileges to women and at the turn of the 19th century it had become the largest free circulating library in New York City. It’s an awesome place and I can attest to its rich trove of books as I did research here for my book, The Cooper-Hewitt Dynasty of New York (History Press, 2012). In the 1885 Centennial Celebration, Abram Stevens Hewitt recalled a visit to the society with his father John Hewitt, who had been initiated as a member in 1810. “When I was a boy eleven years of age, my father took me by the hand and led me up to the Apprentice Library. For the first time in my life I saw books beyond the wildest dreams of my fancy.” There Abram indulged his passion for reading in one of the richest collections of books in New York.

LIBRARY SPANS TWO CENTURIES The book and periodical collections of the Library span two centuries, number more than 110,000 volumes, and are suited to both on-site use and scholarly research. The circulating collection includes books on all subjects from the past and the present, while the non-circulating collection includes books and periodicals on the “useful and mechanical arts,” urban trades and crafts, printing and publishing, building and construction, and 19th century Americana. Recent acquisitions focus on the built environment and the occupations and activities of behind-the-scenes New York, including the building and construction industry, architecture, historic preservation, printing and publishing, labor and work history and cultural production.
THE GENERAL SOCIETY OF MECHANICS & TRADESMEN (GSMT) The Library is an educational program of The General Society of Tradesmen, an educational and philanthropic organization founded on November 17, 1785 when thirteen artisans established it as a craftsmen’s mutual aid organization intended to assist brethren, workmen and their families in sickness and distress. Abraham Godwin (1763-1855) the artist and engraver, who devised the membership certificate, incorporated a framework centered on the group’s iconic motto, “By Hammer and Hand All Arts Do Stand,” and symbol, the upraised arm , with hammer. In 1820 GSMT founded the Mechanics and Tradesmen School with its library.

MEMBERHIP IN GSMT Membership expanded rapidly. The General Society’s original membership registration record records the numbered names of every member who joined The General Society since its founding. Peter Cooper, founder of his free institution, Cooper Union is listed in the membership archives on December 6, 1837 , as a ‘Glue Maker,’ a tradesman term that Cooper preferred. GSMT continues to operate today as a society for mechanics and architects with its mission to improve educational and cultural opportunities for working people in New York City. The Artisan Lecture series continues to focus on craftsmanship by presenting lectures by master artisans in their respective crafts and the Mechanic’s Institute offers tuition-free courses, unique in the city, taught by instructors who have hand-on experience, are currently working in their trade and teach the latest techniques. Call 212.840.1840 ext 1 for a school catalog.

THE JOHN M. MOSSMAN LOCK COLLECTION is of interest. It represents one of the most complete anthologies of bank and vault locks in the world, with more than 370 locks, keys and tools dating from 4000 BC to the modern 20-th century. To augment the lock collection, Mr. Mossman donated his notes and scrapbooks, known as the Mossman papers, which have proven to be a valuable resource for study of locks. “The Lure of the Lock,” published in 1928 describes each look in the collection. Other holdings of note in collections of various antebellum curios, rare books, prints, flags, clocks and medals donated by friends and members.

DON’T YOU THINK ITS ABOUT TIME TO VISIT THE LIBRARY OF THE GENERAL SOCIETY OF MECHANICS & TRADESMEN OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK? The Library is open to the public for on-site use and research Monday to Thursday: 11am-7pm and Friday: 10am-5pm. Research collections and archives by appointment. Telephone 212.921-1767 ext. 4. For levels of contribution and membership Email: library@generalsociety.org. Visit www.genralsociety.org.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

LITTLE CHURCH AROUND THE CORNER (c) A Vibrant Refuge Today By Polly Guerin

Nestled in the middle of the block, at 1 East 29th Street in the NoMad neighborhood of Manhattan, New Yorker’s might suddenly stand in awe and admire the site of a quaint Episcopal, Church of the Transfiguration, which became known as the Little Church Around the Corner. Time is freeze framed where the sanctuary is set back from the street behind a garden, which in contrast to the skyscraper giants creates a facsimile of the English countryside. A refuge from modern society, the church has long been an oasis for New Yorkers of all faiths, who relax in the garden, pray in the chapel or come for the free lunchtime concerts.

LEGENDARY EPISODES The church’s storied history always stressed service to the poor and oppressed from its earliest days. The congregation was founded in 1848 by the Rev. Dr. George Hendric Houghton and worshipped in a home at 48 East 29th Street until church was built and consecrated in 1849. Rev. Houghton was a man ahead of his time and was a brave supporter of the oppressed. In 1863, during the Civil War Draft Riots, Houghton gave sanctuary to African Americans who were under attack but when rioters showed up at the church, Houghton turned them away saying “You white devils, you! Do you know nothing of the spirit of Christ?”

Actors were among the social outcasts in the 1870s so it is no wonder that they found refuge at the church. When an actor named George Holland died a rector of Church of Atonement, which is no longer extant, refused to conduct funeral services for the actor, he suggested, “I believe there is a little church around the corner where they do that sort of thing.” Joseph Jefferson, a fellow actor who was trying to arrange Holland’s burial, exclaimed, “If that be so, God bless the Little Church around the Corner!” and that is how the church began a longstanding association with the theater and affectionately acquired the quaint name. In 1923, the Episcopal Actors’ Guild held its first meeting at Transfiguration and celebrated actors Basil Rathbone, Tallulah Bankhead and Rex Harrison have served as officers or council members.

THE LITTLE CHURCH AROUND THE CORNER is also a favorite wedding site. When P.G. Wodehouse, was living in Greenwich Village he married his wife Ethel at the Little Church in 1914. Not surprising, subsequently Wodehouse set most of his fictionalized weddings at the church; and in the hit musical “Sally” that he wrote with Jerome Kern and Guy Bolton, paid tribute to the Bohemian congregation where so many lives began and ended. Notably Sir Rex Harrison was memorialized at the church upon his death in 1990 and Maggie Smith and Brendan Gill were among the celebrated stars who spoke at the service. The Little Church’s association with the theatre continues today with programs and performances by talented actors.

In 1967, the Little Church Around the Corner, was designated a New York landmark and in 1973 it was listed on the national Register of Historic Places. www.littlechurch.org. Historian guides often give tours of the church, contact the church for the schedule.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

CROSSROADS OF A MILLION LIVES, The New York Transit Museum (c) By Polly Guerin

Calling all train enthusiasts, youngest train fans and history buffs--- GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL’S 100th birthday is in February, 2013, and you’re invited to a year-long party with special family tours and scavenger hunts in the place that is known as the “crossroads of a million lives.” Celebrate by visiting the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex at Grand Central Terminal at 42nd Street and Park Avenue, Shuttle Passage adjacent to the Station Master’s Office, where you’ll find popular exhibits to entertain and educate.

THE NEW YORK TRANSIT MUSEUM located on the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street, in Brooklyn Heights, one of the city’s leading cultural institutions, is the largest museum in the United States devoted to urban public transportation history, and one of the premier institutions of its kind in the world. Since its inception, over a quarter century ago, the Museum, housed in a historic 1936 IND subway station in Brooklyn Heights is the custodian and interpreter of the region’s extensive public transportation networks, which has grown in scope and through its public programs. The NYTM’s galleries feature popular exhibits such as steel, Stone and Backbone, which recounts the tale of building New York City’s 100 year old subway system.

THE FATHER OF THE NEW YORK SUBWAY SYSTEM Legend has it that this rich and vibrant history would not be complete without mentioning Abram Stevens Hewitt, one time mayor of the City of New York (1887-88). During his administration he concentrated on major municipal improvements in the city. He was noted for his public spirit and is best known for the planning and financing of the New York subway system. By the 1890s, new elevated lines were being used extensively by the city’s prosperous middle and upper classes on the way to and from their daily activities. Hewitt is recognized as the “Father of the New York Subway system.”

MEET MISS SUBWAYS: New York’s Beauty Queens 1941-1976, in Brooklyn Heights through March 25, 2013. Miss Subways was New York’s most iconic and democratic beauty contest. Young women of mostly middle and working class backgrounds were selected, not just for their looks, but for the aspirations and dreams they had for their futures, and during l942-76 their portraits and biographies were displayed in subway cars throughout the city. You can see their current and former portraits and hear their voices in this poignant exhibit.


Monday, January 7, 2013

POMANDER WALK: An English Country Village (c) By Polly Guerin

New York City is full of surprises! No need to travel to Europe to get a glimpse of an English country village. Just get off the beaten path and go to the upper west side and stroll down from Broadway to West End Avenue and you will literally stumble upon Pomander Walk located between 94th and 95th streets.. This picturesque charming village conceals eight attached Tudor-style houses hidden behind locked wrought iron gates, so entry is very private. One wonders, however,—who lives here?—and how and who was the builder of the Lilliputian town?
POMANDER WALK INSPIRED Once upon a time, after a run in London, the play "Pomander Walk," a romantic comedy came to Broadway in 191l--and there you are-- that’s how this hidden treasure got its name. Thomas Healy, an Irish immigrant who made his fortune as a restaurant owner and ardent theater lover, purchased the land for the walk in 1920. He commissioned the architects Shiras Campbell and Beverly King to build a residential enclave there, and asked them to replicate the country village of the sets from “Pomander Walk.” The sets were used as inspiration but the architects altered the original design to look more Tudoresque.
WHO LIVES THERE? It is legend that Healy built Pomander Walk to attract actors and Pomander did draw the theatre folk. It is said that Lillian Gish, Humphrey Bogart lived there, but it is more than certain that that flamboyant Rosalind Russell and Paulette Goddard did have digs of their own.. At first the houses were built with two bedroom apartments, but later renters combined the two making the house into a family home trimmed with bright reds, greens and blues, some with shutters, some with window boxes and a miniature garden in front. Pomander Walk was landmarked by the city in 1982.

As high-rise buildings hover over Pomander Walk the Lilliputian houses are miniaturized and made even more intriguing by the sheer charm of the place . Even if you fancy having the opportunity to live there, affording it can be a drawback. In today’s market, a single family house can go in the millions and an apartment pricey as well. For now we can only peer through the gates at a living stage inspired by the sets in a play by the same name.


About Me

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Polly Guerin is an author/poet with four textbooks and 2 video productions as credentials as well as 4 books ready to be published. All my blogs are intended to become the basis for books to be published. PollyTalk From New York (c) is a current events blog about happenings in New York City. I have been PollyTalk columnist on the Internet, Big Apple News Network. AmazingArtDecoDivas blog features amazing women of notable character. I am on the board of the Art Deco Society of New York. The Fashion Historian blog gives pertinent insight into Polly's consummate knowledge about fashion history. Former professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Awaken Your Sleeping Beauty blog gives you pertinent information about holistic remedies for health, beauty, mind, body and spirit. I am on the board of the Edgar Cayce New York Center. I sing with the St. George's Choral Society and also serve on their Board. My little dog Colby is a rescue dog and I support animal charities. I hope you enjoy my blogs, please keep in touch.