Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Neighborhood Story

Looking east from the High Line and across Hudson Yards construction site towards the Empire State Building. Photo: JH.
Thursday, May 21, 2015. A  beautiful Spring day in New York, a little on the chilly side with temperatures dropping to the 60s.

This past Tuesday night I went to the official opening of Hayward House, Marin Hopper’s new handbag boutique on the corner of 70th Street and Lexington Avenue – 131 East 70th Street (northwest corner).

Maisie Manwearing Plant Hayward Rovensky.
The Morton F. Plant house on the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street, now universally known as Cartier's flagship store.
This is Maisie Manwearing Plant. The name may mean nothing to you but if I say: “Cartier” would you know what I was talking about? Yes. That neo-Italian Renaissance-style palazzo on the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street that is the American home of Cartier jewelers. The marble and granite mansion, designed by C.H.P. Gilbert, was built 110 years ago for a man named Morton Plant, a railroad man, banker, yachtsman, philanthropist, son also of a rich railroad pioneer. In 1914 at age 62, now a widower – his wife had died a month before – Mr. Plant married a very pretty thirty five year old from women from New London, Connecticut named Mae Cadwell Manwearing.

In 1917, as the neighborhood was becoming more and more commercial, Mr. Plant sold the house to Cartier for $100 and a double strand pearl necklace valued at $1 million for his beautiful young wife, and the Plants moved to a mansion 34 blocks up the avenue on the northeast corner of 86th Street.

The following year Mr. Plant died at age 66, leaving his 40 year old widow $50 million (or fifteen times that in today’s currency). The next year Maisie, as she was known to friends and family, married Col. William Hayward, the US Attorney for the Southern Region of New York. This was a second marriage for Col. Hayward who was a year older than his wife.

Col. Hayward had a son by his first wife, a man named Leland Hayward. Leland Hayward for those who are not old enough to know or remember, was a prominent figure in the entertainment industry which in his day (the 1930s through the 1980s) was known as Broadway and Hollywood. He was a famous talent agent, film and theatre producer as well as famously married, to Margaret Sullavan, a very famous American stage and film actress; Slim Hawks (later Slim Keith), another glamorous Hollywood and New York figure, later known to the public as one of Truman Capote’s “swans,” and the world famous irrepressible, maitresse de maison Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman, who married Averell Harriman after Mr. Hayward died.
Leland Hayward and Margaret Sullavan in Malibu.
Leland Hayward and Slim Keith.
Leland Hayward was the father of three children by Ms. Sullavan (who had previously been married to Henry Fonda). Those children were Brooke, Bridget, and William. Brooke, who happens to be a friend of mine has also, like her father, had three spouses – Michael Thomas, the novelist and social commentator, Dennis Hopper, the actor/photographer and art collector, and Peter Duchin, the society orchestra pianist/leader. Brooke herself is (or was -- in this world of shortened memories) famous for her memoir about the Sullavan-Hayward family that was published in 1977 and later made into a success television mini-series, called “Haywire.” The book is still considered the groundbreaker in celebrity memoirs. Brooke has three children also: two sons by Michael Thomas, and a daughter Marin, by Dennis Hopper.
A Vanity Fair portrait of Marin Hopper, her mother Brooke Hayward, and her daughter Violet.
I’ve told you all this because this past Tuesday night, that daughter Marin Hopper hosted an opening of Hayward House at 131 East 70th Street. The building itself is a historic New York townhouse designed and lived in by early 20th century New York architect Grosvenor Atterbury, but I’ll tell you about that in a minute.

Hayward House at 131 East 70th Street.
A couple of years ago Marin went into handbags and accessories business using icons of grandfather Hayward’s personal style. She launched a line of handbags under that name. I don’t know much about handbags although it fascinates me that women collect them in bulk if they can afford to. I only know that handbags are a de rigueur and necessary accessory in the life of any woman who leaves the house.

Marin’s line looks to this eye to be classic, smart, and practical. I don’t know the price range. The boutique is also a tribute to her father’s artistry, and her mother’s eye. There are Dennis Hopper’s photo portraits of people in his life. For example, I took a shot of two Dennis Hopper photos of Jane Fonda, at the wheel of a convertible. The two bathrooms are wallpapers of family mementos (one of which – Maisie Hayward – inspired this diary). I can’t explain it. You have to see it.

In a way this was intended to be a commercial for Marin Hopper who is the daughter of a friend of mine, and whom I’ve known for sometime. I never saw her shop before Tuesday night’s opening.
Public relations staff outside the entrance to Hayward House on Tuesday night about 7 p.m.
I walked into a very crowded party in two large rooms with beautiful bay windows looking out onto the leafy street and garden below. The interior was clearly the work of artisans and architects at the beginning of the 20th century in New York. Christopher Gray wrote about the building nine years ago in his now much missed CityScapes column in the New York Times.  In description of its inception, Gray wrote:

“(Atterbury) renovated the old brownstone at 131 East 70th Street, built in the 1870's, at the northwest corner of 70th and Lexington. He and his parents moved in around 1911.

“But the building ... at 70th Street and Lexington Avenue, is one of the strangest in Manhattan, an alien spacecraft of bumps, domes and other accretions clapped on to a vernacular brownstone, the surface alive with windows of every shape.”

You can read Christopher Gray’s whole piece on the history of Marin Hopper’s shop Hayward House here.
The entrance gallery and staircase leading to the Hayward House rooms.
Back to Tuesday night’s party. The place was mobbed with a very artsy, sophisticated, laid-back mixed-age crowd. Peter Schlesinger and Eric Boman were among them. As a cocktail party it was very successful. The crowd looked like they were in for the night. One of those parties where everyone is enjoying the mass, and why leave. And the atmosphere which was provided by Grosvenor Atterbury and now Marin Hopper is serene at that hour in those rooms. 
Marin Hopper signing copies of her father's book.
I took some photos of the rooms and of the interior design and interior design of the place including the sensational bathrooms which feature her father’s photographs. Dennis Hopper’s photos in public bathrooms in not a new idea, I should add. Michael’s Restaurant on 24 West 55th Street features Dennis Hopper’s photographs in the Men’s Room and the Ladies’ Room. In the men’s room over the toilet is an intriguing photograph of Brooke who was then his wife, wearing a crown with a tag on it, probably from a Hollywood costume house.

There are also copies of Hopper’s book of photos and copies of his photos, along with the handbags and clutches that are for sale. Everything about the place is worth the visit. The lady has taste. You can see its roots in her genes, or get the general gist of the story.  A good one. Go, visit. Have a look. See for yourself.
One of the reception rooms.
That's me standing in front of the large mirror reflecting the room with the handbags on the shelves behind me.
Another reception room.
Dennis. Portrait of Marin's mother Brooke Hayward in the entrance gallery over a fireplace.
Brooke Hayward Hopper in front of the camera.
Brooke again. I don't know if these pearls are the pearls that Brooke had inherited from her mother and which were kept in Pamela Hayward's vault in her Fifth Avenue apartment which, after the death of Leland Hayward, disappeared. Pamela claimed she knew nothing, but they were gone forever. The second photo I thought was Jane Fonda although in a way she looks like Tuesday Weld. I didn't ask Marin so I don't know.
A sign in the second reception/salesroom.
A portrait over Slim Hayward hanging over a fireplace.
Entrance to the men's room. Note the "H" logo of Hayward House.
Birds of a feather.
Ahh, what they come for.
You can see the Hayward logo on the clip, symbolic of grandfather's style.
Maybe you can describe it better than I can although if you can't it doesn't matter.