Monday, April 13, 2015

A lot of activity

Mothers and children in Central Park. 2:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, April 13, 2015. A sunny Sunday with temperatures in the mid-60s by afternoon. A lot of activity on the Promenade by the river – joggers, dog-walkers, bicyclists, children on theirs, kids playing basket ball in the court, dogs in the dog runs (big and small), little ones in the playground.

It was interesting to note how quickly people shred the cold weather garments. There were a number of men – all ages – already in shorts.
Catching up. Last Wednesday JH and I did a Q&A session at a “breakfast” for members of the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy. JH did the Q’s and Yours Truly did the A’s. I’m always nervous about giving a “speech” but I’ve found that if someone has the questions, Guess Who always has an answer? Usually the discussion is some aspect of social history in New York. The morning event was principally about the history of the Park.

Jeff started the ball rolling by reading an excerpt from the Diaries of George Templeton Strong  written in 1859. Mr. Strong was a lawyer here in New York, a member of what was then regarded as “Society”. Strong and another New Yorker (once mayor), Philip Hone are the two great diarists of 19th century New York. The entry Jeff read before the guests was about a carriage ride Strong took on June 11, 1859 from the center of the city – which was downtown, up to 71st and Fifth Avenue to see “the Central Park” which was still in development.
JH and DPC. I can't recall exactly what I was talking about at the moment this photo was taken although the photo on the screen is of the Hat Lunch (as we call it) that Women's Committee hosts every year (and raises millions now). Jeff asked me what I thought made the lunch such a big hit. Answer: "The hats!" It gives everyone a chance to get into the spirit of Springtime in the Park. It's kinda funny, kinda sweet and often highly inventive, and everyone feels a little bit better just looking great. I don't recall what I said in the next photo with the audience laughing. Probably some wisecrack.
Everyone (thankfully) seemed to like what they were hearing.
I’d read that entry many years ago when I was first writing the Social Diary in Quest magazine. I was struck by Strong’s details about the sight of the site –

... long lines of incomplete macadamization, “lakes” without water, mounds of compost, piles of blasted stone, acres of what may be greensward hereafter but is now mere brown earth; groves of slender young transplanted maples and locusts, undecided between life and death, with here and there an arboricultural experiment that has failed utterly and is a mere broomstick with ramifications .... He  wrapped up his earth-y details by describing a “broad avenue, exceptionally straight (at the lower end of the park) with a quadruple row of elms, will look Versailles-y by A.D. 1950.
Bethesda Terrace under construction in 1862.
The "hideous" (so wrote George Templeton Strong) State Arsenal building, also in 1862. It still stands to this day and is currently in use as a gallery and space for public forums related to Parks' mission.
Most impressive to me were not Strong’s details about what it looked like then, but his “vision” of a place existing almost a century into the future, taking into consideration of generations to come. We no longer live in a world given to such long term vision for the good of the community. Although, it should be recognized that the founders et al of the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy, and the Conservancy itself are demonstrating that “vision” of George Templeton Strong in their dedication and alacrity in keeping the Park beautifully cared for.

One area of subject we did not cover at length but nevertheless remains interesting was the Central Park Casino. The Casino was built originally as the “Ladies Refreshment Salon” in the 19th century -- a restaurant in the park. It was meant originally for ladies visiting the park, for ice-skating, for example, who were unaccompanied (unaccompanied women theretofore never dined out or took tea in a public place without a male escort until the 1890s when Caroline Astor, by then The Mrs. Astor, dined out with other women -- and no men -- at Sherry’s). That was ground breaking.
By the late 1920s, the Jazz Age in post-World War I was in full swing and ladies no longer needed a “ladies-only” spot to lunch or sip their tea or champagne. In 1929, Mayor Jimmy Walker allowed his friend Sidney Solomon to turn the Ladies Refreshment Salon into an expensive nightclub. It was Prohibition and there were no nightclubs that weren’t speakeasies and therefore illegal. Nevertheless, the club was refurbished, glitzed and glamoured up, and it became the go-to club for Café Society, including the Mayor who showed up a few times a week in the company of his girlfriend, a chorine named Betty Compton – while his wife remained at home. Gentleman Jimmy as he was called by his legions of fans and voters, also kept a “secret” apartment upstairs over the club where he often conducted “business” privately and quietly. It was the center of his world.
The Central Park Casino, which Robert Moses tore down in 1936.
The Central Park Casino had two dance bands and also served as debut of Eddie Duchin, father of Peter Duchin. Duchin’s piano style and his suave good looks made him the main attraction for the nightclub crowd.

Jimmy Walker served as mayor from 1926 to 1932, leaving office as America was moving into what became known as the Great Depression. In 1936, Walker, now out of power, and the Casino now regarded as an inappropriate venue for the rich and their leisure, Robert Moses, now Parks Commissioner under Fiorello LaGuardia, demolished the Casino and built a children’s playground over it. Many believed it was an act of personal vendetta that Mr. Moses had against the behavior of Gentleman Jimmy, the mayor.
DPC, Aileen Bruner, Susan Calhoun, and JH.
Norma Dana and Doug Blonsky, who is President & CEO Central Park Administrator. Norma is one of the founding women's committee members. She and Jean Clark, Marguerite Purnell and Phyllis Cerf Wagner began this highly successful committee in the early 1980s.
Karen May.
Karla Radke, Jill Ross, Jung Ha, Alison Strong, Aileen Bruner, and Vivian Queen.
Carole McDermott and Paige Betz.
Nancy Missett, Norma Dana, and Clelia Zacharias.
Rochelle Hirsch, Danielle Hirsch, and Karen Glanternik.
Liz Atwood, Norma Dana, DPC, and Florence Kaufman.
Susan Rudin and Liz Peek.
Vivian Queen and Barbara Scott.
This past Thursday night, the Greek Revival townhouse, home of luxury builder, Nicholas S.G. Stern and interior designer Courtney Stern, was the setting for a cocktail event celebrating the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA), its President, Peter Lyden and the newly formed President’s Council.

The Sterns’ house was recently featured in Architectural Digest. It is a landmark townhouse which designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, and renovated by Nick’s firm, Stern Projects, with interiors by Mrs. Stern, and therefore seemed a perfect venue for the Institute to celebrate its mission as the nation’s premier organization dedicated to advancing the practice and appreciation of the classical tradition in architecture and the allied arts.
The Stern living room.
The ICAA’s President’s Council is the driving force to raise funds and direct strategy for the organization’s multi-faceted education programs, which include training the next generation in classical architecture and the allied arts; launching art and architecture programs for public and private high school students nationwide; partnering with colleges and universities nationwide to enhance the classical element of their art and architecture programs; and providing valuable training opportunities for students that are not available elsewhere.
Peter Lyden, Courtney Stern, and Nicholas Stern.
During the evening, guests learned more about the Institute by visiting with Peter Lyden and ICAA Board of Directors, Mark Ferguson (Chairman) and Suzanne Santry. Long-time ICAA stalwarts Elizabeth and Sam White were also in attendance.

Guests included Denise Lefrak Calicchio, Alejandra Cicognari, Judith DiMaio, Christopher Hyland, Christina and Richard Davis, Jayne Harkness, Amin Jaffer, Elizabeth and Jon Kurpis, Vanessa Noel, Julian Peploe, Kathy and Billy Rayner, David Sprouls, Carol and Dan Strone, Felicia Taylor, and Harriet Weintraub.
Sam White, Elizabeth White, and David Sprouls.
Ron Wagner, Timothy Vandam, Brendon Kelly, and Conrad Hanson.
Stephanie Swan, Ann Lydecker Bunge, and Rick Swan.
Sara Khalifa, Aisha Stoey, and Richard Mauro.
Jonathan and Elizabeth Kurpis. Samantha and Harriet Weintraub.
Lisa Nicolini, Mark Ferguson, and Angela Smith Domzal.
Mark Ferguson, Carol Strone, and Dan Strone.
Peter Lyden with Danielle and Jeff Hirsch.
This past weekend Duane Hampton went out to Southampton to check up on her house now that the weather is warming and soon doors and windows will be opened to let in the fresh air. She told me she was going to an exhibition of artist Barbara Thomas at the restaurant “Estia” (“the essence of all good things” in Greek) between Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor. I asked her to take some pictures to show our readers who will be out that way in the next week or two, and she happily complied:
Cozy and rustic Estia.
The outdoor space at Estia.
Barbara Thomas talks to admirers of her works.
Barbara's work is devoted to summer time. Here are BT's flowers.
Kale on the right, cabbage on the left ...
Some of all good things.
More veggies, and more good things ...
Thomas' veggies.
More Thomas flowers.
Another season.
A comfy bus stop on Rte 27.

Contact DPC here.