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: Visit


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.