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.


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.