3--Karl Bitter, an Austrian who came to America in 1889, quickly became one of the country's preeminent sculptors. He's the man who gave us the elaborate and intricate bronze doors at Trinity Church as well as one of the city's most popular gathering spaces--the Pulitzer Fountain in front of the Plaza Hotel. Bitter was not yet finished with that fountain in 1915 when he and his wife attended a performance at the Metropolitan Opera. Trying to cross the street afterwards, Bitter was hit by an automobile and dragged thirty feet in front of a horrified crowd. He died at the hospital and work on the Pulitzer Fountain fell to his assistant.
4--George Grey Barnard, described as a "titanic genius" and the "American Michelangelo," realized while living in Paris that he could make more money selling medieval sculptures and fragments he picked up from the French countryside than he could by selling his own work. Accused of "stealing the soul of France" in 1913, Barnard was able to clear French customs with hundreds of items before a new law was passed to stop him. He displayed much of the work in his studio in Upper Manhattan and in 1926 sold it all to Rockefeller for $600,000. The acquisition became part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a permanent facility was built to house the medieval collection a few hundred yards from Barnard's studio. Sadly, Barnard died on April 24th, 1938, 16 days before the Cloisters opened to the public.
As reported yesterday, Green-Wood Cemetery opened in 1838. Inspired by Mt. Auburn in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Green-Wood was landscaped by David Bates Douglass as one the country's first rural cemeteries. Initially, people still preferred to bury their dead in churchyards and on family land, but in 1845 the widow of DeWitt Clinton, one of the most important New Yorkers in our history who died in 1828, had his remains transferred from a graveyard near Albany to Green-Wood. For the rest of the nineteenth century, many of the most famous New Yorkers chose Green-Wood for their final resting place and visitors from across the country made it one of the most visited attractions in the United States.
Green-Wood was also an inspiration for Central Park and it probably wasn't coincidental that the winning proposal put forth by Olmsted and Vaux was called the Greensward Plan, a name that would surely evoke pleasant associations. Green-Wood is 478 acres of rolling hills and valleys, thousands of trees, four lakes, and a myriad of avenues and pathways with names like Glade, Birch, Sassafras, Marigold, Vernal, Jonquil, and Garland.
Besides the landscaping, the cemetery is home to some of the finest sculpture and mausoleums in America. Sometimes called the Pere Lachaise of Brooklyn, there is stunning artistry almost everywhere you turn.
Green-Wood is huge (more than half the size of Central Park) with so many twists and turns and ups and downs, and almost 600,000 buried, you can't expect to see it all. A friend and I were lucky to have had a security guard pick us up while we were walking along Sylvan Lake and took us for a tour in his air-conditioned car, showing us graves and remarkable sculptures we never would have reached on foot.
On Wednesdays, at 1:00, the cemetery offers a tram tour for $15, which can be booked online here. I'm actually planning to take that tour next Wednesday, 09/09/09. Join me!
What family tomb is the largest private mausoleum at Green-Wood? ANSWER AFTER THE JUMP...
During the tour season, one of my favorite places to sit and read near Fifth is in the atrium of the Olympic Tower.
It's a peaceful spot with the hushed sounds of a waterfall and features a coffee bar, accessible bathrooms and one of the city's most powerful hand dryers.
Original plaster castings of marbles from the Parthenon also line the walls, and there's a small gallery for Hellenic art in the basement, a lounge to watch the World Cup every four years, and other temporary art displays.
This installation is entitled Perpetual Transitions and opened in July. It was created by Kalliopi Lemos, a Greek artist living and working in London, who began making these beautiful boats in reed and plaster earlier in the decade.
At the end of this video, you'll see that Cayce, Peter and I kept the camera running and recorded tourists from around the world posing with the bronze testicles of the The Charging Bull.
It's simply what's the tourists do. And as original as people think they are, most take the exact same shot. So imagine my surprise this winter when I saw one of my eighth-grade tourists--a California skater--crawl behind his friends and do something that only those of us across Broadway could see. I didn't take a picture, sorry to say, because I didn't think I would feel comfortable posting it, but if you know your Greek mythology, the image is in the blog's title.
To continue the top dog theme of the week (not including yesterday's Lincoln tribute) here's our Balto blog, originally posted on March 27th:
While giving tours, I sometimes yield the floor to a specialist in the group--an engineer, architect or historian--or to a student who might have just finished a report on the subject for school. On a recent stop at the statue of Balto in Central Park, an eighth-grader volunteered to tell the story. Since she was from Ohio, I thought it possible that she was an authority--the real Balto lived out his life at the Cleveland Zoo and was subsequently stuffed and put on display at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
Judging from her lecture, quoted below, her research was clearly not conducted at a museum but came exclusively from the 1995 animated movie.
"Balto inspired the Iditarod race, because he brought medicine through a snowstorm all the way to a far part of Alaska. They needed it or people would die and nobody thought he could do it. The other dogs made fun of him and there was a rival dog who didn't want him on the team and there was a lot of prejudice because he wasn't a purebred, he was part wolf..."
I cut her off before she got to the love interest or Balto's comic sidekick, Boris the goose. I had to explain that there were some differences between the movie and history and pointed out the well-known fact that, besides humans, only reindeer make fun of each other.
On January 1st, we love to celebrate the new year. So, while we revel in the optimism of a fresh start, let's remember some great people who love or loved New York and who happened to celebrate their birthday on this date.
Finally, we celebrate his birthday January 25th, but we think of him more now because he wrote the lyrics to "Auld Lang Syne"--the lovely Robert Burns. To learn a little more about him, watch this:
Someone in one of my groups recently asked for information on America's most sculpted model, Audrey Munson. This video was part of our walk up Broadway from Bowling Green to Columbus Circle. Further notes and credits can be found at 1 Green, 3 Parks, 6 Squares, and a Circle.
Where are the fireworks? Today is the 225th anniversary of the end of the American War for Independence!
Boston celebrates their Evacuation Day on March 17th. Schools and government offices close down. (Convenient for the St. Patrick's revelers.) At the start of the Revolutionary War, in 1776, after almost a year of occupation, the British withdrew from Boston Harbor to Nova Scotia (thanks to Washington's ability to fortify Dorchester Heights with cannons seized at Fort Ticonderoga) and the city whose interactions with the British led to the Revolution in the first place saw no more of the redcoats for the duration of the war.
New York was not so lucky and was captured within seven months. By November, 1776, the city belonged to the Brits and they did not leave our harbor until 1783, two months after the signing of the Treaty of Paris and two YEARS after the war's final battle at Yorktown.
The holiday was celebrated in New York until World War I by which time Thanksgiving had really taken over as the holiday for late November and our resentment of the British occupation had faded. One of New York's most famous statues, and one of the finest equestrian statues in the United States, commemorates Washington's return to New York. We made a video about it:
Notes and credits for this video can be found on its tour page.
A few more trivia bytes about Evacuation Day (the final act of heroism, the final shot, the final banquets) can be found after the jump.