This comes from Sean Damato, an eighth grader from Sacramento, who was on one of my tours last week, and caught one of the many bubbles that now float regularly near the Bethesda Angel in Central Park. Thanks, Sean!
--Three estates combined to form the New York Public Library, founded in 1895. Its main building opened one hundred years ago, on May 23, 1911. SAMUEL TILDEN, lawyer, governor, and almost president (in an election that wasn't decided until three days before the inauguration!), left $2 million and 15,000 books. (It would have been $4 million, but some greedy relatives contested the will.) The original name of the New York Public Library was the "Tilden Trust Library."JOHN JACOB ASTOR had been persuaded earlier in the century by Joseph Cogswell to establish one of New York's first public libraries. Astor donated $400,000 and the plot of land on Lafayette Street for the library that opened in 1853.The estate of scholar and bibliophile, JAMES LENOX, whose own library opened on Fifth Avenue in the 1870's, was responsible for $505,000 and 85,000 books including the first Gutenberg Bible brought to the New World.
--The young firm of Carrere and Hastings won the competition to design what would become one of the city's best loved buildings. Carrere and Hastings also gave New York the magnificent Standard Oil Building at 26 Broadway, the grand entrance to the Manhattan Bridge at the end of Canal, the Lunt-Fontanne theater on 46th Street, and the Frick Mansion on Fifth Avenue (where the Lenox Library once stood).
--The library building (now named the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building thanks to a $100 million gift) was originally built for $9 million ($210 million today).
--The remarkable reading room, one of the largest rooms without supporting beams in the country, is 297' long, 78' wide, and 51' high.
--The two lions, modeled by Edward Clark Potter (who also did the lions at the Morgan Library) and sculpted by the Piccirilli Brothers, were originally named Leo Astor and Leo Lenox but were renamed Patience and Fortitude by Mayor LaGuardia who claimed these were the two characteristics needed for a New Yorker to survive the Great Depression.
--The New York Public Library has been featured in Ghostbusters, The Adjustment Bureau, The Day After Tomorrow, Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Wiz, Network, Regarding Henry, Sex and the City, and Spiderman.
--Besides the Gutenberg Bible mentioned above, other treasures among the Library's holdings include the first full folio of Shakespeare's work (1623), the 1640 Bay Psalm Book (the first book printed in English in America), Malcolm X's briefcase, S.J. Perlman's typewriter, the walking stick Virginia Woolf took to the River Ouse, the only known copy of the original folio edition of Columbus' discoveries, Charlotte Bronte's pencil, Jack Kerouac's reading glasses, a lock of Mary Shelley's hair, the writing desk of Charles Dickens as well as a letter opener he made from his cat's paw, and the original stuffed animals A.A. Milne bought from Harrods in the 1920's that inspired the Winnie the Pooh stories (pictured).
On May 23, 1911, the New York Public Library opened its doors on Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets, providing intellectual nourishment on a site formerly occupied by the city's first fresh water reservoir. Very appropriate.
Peruse some articles celebrating the building's 100th birthday:
--The hotel opened in 1904 for those "who were rich, and who were or wanted to be fasionable, but (who wanted a hotel) which would also be somewhat quieter and more exclusive." Each room/suite had its own personal thermostat, doorbell, telephone and Steinway piano, and the entire hotel was equipped with a centralized vacuum system.
--The St. Regis was one of the hotels--the Astoria (later combined with the Waldorf) and the Knickerbocker were two others--built by John Jacob Astor IV (the richest person to die on the Titanic).
--Television and movies featuring the St. Regis include Mad Men, Taxi Driver, The First Wives Club, The Devil Wears Prada, and Miss Congeniality.
--Famous guests include Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio (there's a legend of a screaming match between the two of them after Marilyn shot her famous skirt scene in front of thousands of spectators), John Lennon and Yoko Ono (pre-Dakota), Salvador Dali (for a decade), Humphrey Bogart, Ernest Hemingway, Alfred Hitchcock, Joseph Pulitzer, Marlene Dietrich, Scarlett Johansson, Sean Penn, Courteney Cox, and Kirk Douglas (I sat next to him in the lobby a few years ago).
--The architects, Trowbridge and Livingston, are best known for two gems downtown--the elegant Bankers Trust Company Building (the northwest corner of Wall and Broad) and the JP Morgan Building (southeast corner of Wall and Broad). They also designed the Knickerbocker Hotel in Times Square, the original Hayden Planetarium, B. Altman, the Gulf Building in Pittsburgh, and the Oregon State Capitol Building.
--The King Cole painting in the bar (now known as the King Cole Bar) was commissioned by Astor in 1906 for $5,000 and painted by Maxfield Parrish for the Knickerbocker Hotel. When that hotel was converted into an office building in the 1930's, the famous mural (8' high by 30' wide) was relocated to the bar at the St. Regis, already famous for introducing New York City to the Bloody Mary. The king's face is reputedly of Astor himself and legend has it that Parrish deliberately painted the king passing gas (he grins with curled toes) to the noticeable chagrin of his courtiers on either side. The painting was restored in 2007 and is currently valued for over $12 million.
--The lobby is one of my favorite interiors in the city. In his biography of Frank Lloyd Wright, Brendan Gill writes that Wright and his generation of Chicago architects were inspired by aesthetic experiments in Vienna and Glasgow that seemed to skip over the East Coast and head straight to the Mississippi Valley. "Scores of Secessionist borrowings are to be found in Chicago and almost none in New York City. A possible exception is the interior of the St. Regis Hotel (1901-1904), designed by Trowbridge and Livingston. Though the exterior of the building is in a neo-classical Parisian vein, one observes hints of racy, decadent Vienna in the voluptuously oleaginous bases of the marble columns in the lobby. They appear to be melting, and the effect is a pleasingly erotic one."
Yesterday, we mentioned one of the city's most famous trees--long gone--in whose shade twenty-four brokers signed the Buttonwood Agreement, the origins of what would become the New York Stock Exchange.
Today we thought we would remember another famous tree, a pear tree from Holland planted by Peter Stuyvesant in 1647. It would survive for two hundred twenty years on the corner of 13th and 3rd before being struck by a runaway (or badly driven) wagon in 1867.
What store, which opened as a homeopathic pharmacy named after its owner (it is now a cosmetics brand retailer owned by the L'Oreal Group), has occupied Pear Tree Corner since 1851?
On May 17, 1792, twenty-four brokers signed the Buttonwood Agreement beneath a buttonwood (or sycamore) tree in front of 68 Wall Street. They agreed to trade with one another and to set a fixed commission for all interactions.
"We the Subscribers, Brokers for the Purchase and Sale of the Public Stock, do hereby solemnly promise and pledge ourselves to each other, that we will not buy or sell from this day for any person whatsoever, any kind of Public Stock, at least than one quarter of one percent Commission on the Specie value and that we will give preference to each other in our Negotiations. In Testimony whereof we have set our hands this 17th day of May at New York, 1792."
The traders first met and drafted their rules in the Merchant Coffee House at Water and Wall before moving across the street to the Tontine Coffee House in 1793. The organization would later move west on Wall, drafting a constitution in 1817, naming itself the New York Stock and Exchange Board. In 1863, the traders would come up with the snappier New York Stock Exchange.
After discussing Civil War monuments in New York City, I recap an article by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker in which he calls the Statue of Liberty the city's best Civil War memorial. A woman in my group speaks up.
WOMAN: I love history.
ROBERT: Me too. (So happy to find a kindred spirit.)
WOMAN: I really like that one when all the British came over here and tried to take over.
ROBERT: Um...the Revolution?
WOMAN: YEAH! THAT'S IT! We saw a video of that with the snow coming down. (Turns to fellow tourist.) Where were we? Where were we where they showed us the video of the war with the snow falling down?
FELLOW TOURIST: Mount Vernon.
WOMAN: YEAH! THAT'S IT! They showed us a video at Mount Vernon of the war with all the snow...
ROBERT: Valley Forge?
WOMAN: YEAH! THAT'S IT!
(Punchline: this woman grew up in Boston!!!!!!!!! where practically every field trip you take...oh, never mind.)
I was sent this link after Wednesday's Apple Store post: NYINC.COM.
Zara will be moving into the 666 Fifth Avenue retail condo formally occupied by the NBA store. The 39,000-square-foot retail space between 52nd and 53rd just sold to the Spanish retailer, Inditex SA (ITX), for $324 million....or $8300/square foot!!!
Retail rents on Fifth are now approaching $2300/square foot.
--Bohlin Cywinski Jackson also designed 18 other Apple stores around the world as well as the Liberty Bell Center in Philadelphia, the Barn at Fallingwater, the Grand Teton National Park Discovery and Visitor Center, the Newport Beach Civic Center and Park, and Seattle City Hall.
--Besides numerous Apple stores, Eckersly O'Callaghan's work can be seen in Boston (the Battery Wharf Stair), Diamond Head (the Waipolo Residence), Zimbabwe (the Gota Dam Residence), and throughout London and the UK.
New York City is different. For one thing, it is older than virtually every other American city. Boston, Philadelphia, Charleston, Savannah, Newport, and Williamsburg come to mind when one thinks of historic places, yet New York City is older than all of them. As for settlements that were already established when Dutch traders first landed at the southern tip of Manhattan--St. Augustine, Fort St. George, Hampton, Plymouth, and Santa Fe--Jamestown, Plymouth, and Fort St. George disappeared, and the other three failed to prosper for the first three centuries of their existence.
1600 Broadway was built in 1902 when Times Square was still called Longacre Square, and its ground floor served as a showroom for the Studebaker Brothers who sold luxurious horse-drawn carriages as well as their new automobiles. In 1923 it became home to the Max Fleischer Studios--the famous animators and Disney rivals--who brought Betty Boop and Popeye to the big screen. 1600 Broadway was also the building where three men founded C.B.C. Film Sales Company, which would become Columbia Pictures, and it was the site of New York’s first Odditorium, the museum and freak show of Robert Ripley who opened the showcase in 1939, after its debut at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933.
1600 Broadway was torn a few years ago and replaced with another bland apartment tower. The base of that tower, however, has become an obligatory stop for many tourists visiting town. What is overpriced and sold here now?