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

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.


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.