A stroll down Park Avenue and what it evoked

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All is quiet on the Avenue. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, June 18, 2024.  Another beautiful day in New York with absolutely gorgeous weather in the 80s with light humidity. Even the Waxing Gibbous moon was rising high in the soft blue early evening sky, and along the long pink clouds (from the sundown) it made for the perfect day.

walking down Park Avenue couldn’t resist catching the freshly planted begonias as well as the current sculpture installation by Betsabeé Romero, Traces in Order to Remember by, which can be seen on Park Avenue now through October 2024.

Romero’s five sculptures are made of recycled industrial tires, each of which is carved and painted with gold and silver. The tractor tires are reminders of the laborers from the south who work the land, serving as a memorial to cultures and migrants who have lost so much during their painful journeys. Pictured above is Romero’s Warriors in Captivity from Traces in Order to Remember, 2024.
Betsabeé Romero, Warriors in Captivity III from Traces in Order to Remember, 2024.
Betsabeé Romero, Rubber and Feathered Snakes from Traces in Order to Remember, 2024.
Betsabeé Romero, On the Other Side of the Track from Traces in Order to Remember, 2024.
Betsabeé Romero, Moon Seal from Traces in Order to Remember, 2024.

A little history. Park Avenue was bare land, uninhabited until the early 19th century. At the time of the invention of the the railroad, Cornelius Vanderbilt, who as a very young man growing up on Staten Island, started out in the delivery-by-boat business around 1810. By the third decade of that century he built his railroad and its station on 30th Street.

As the railroad grew and greatly prospered, he moved his station from 30th to 42nd Street in the 1870s. This land at that time was almost entirely still bare countryside. It was then Vanderbilt decided to fill in the gap that held the tracks south from 30th Street and north from Grand Central, naturally developing it as real estate; and began to cover his rails over with the malls that we are familiar with today.

On either side of the tracks in the 19th century the land it ran through was known as Fourth Avenue. It covered the totally undeveloped residential and business area from what is now Madison Avenue to Lexington Avenue all the way to 96th Street today.

As the railroad became more and more prosperous, the city was then (in the mid- to late 19th century) beginning to move north.

Park Avenue sketch of the general plan of planting, ca 1871.

From its earliest days — in the late 19th to nearly the 20th centuries — the wide center medians that Vanderbilt put in to cover those tracks were quite bare, and open to the sky (the conversion from steam to electric train power made it possible for the tracks to be moved underground).

Mary Lasker was an early advocate of urban beautification.

In the 1950s, Mary Lasker — then widow of Albert Lasker, founder of modern American advertising, and herself a major philanthropist  — decided to do something about those bare avenue-islands which covered the railroad tracks from 42nd Street to 96th Street. And so Mary Lasker began planting begonias, tulips and flowering trees to demonstrate to the City that plants could survive amidst all that traffic and pollution. She later convinced the Parks Department to take responsibility for their on-going planting and maintenance.

Almost 75 years later New Yorkers today enjoy and indeed even take for granted the beauty that Mary Lasker imagined for the street she lived on, in the city she loved.

This all came to mind because a couple of weeks ago Scully & Scully hosted The Fund for Park Avenue’s first (annual) Begonia Bash.

The event was to celebrate the arrival of the Park Avenue Mall’s summer planting, coral Dragon Wing Begonias, which are grown from seed each year for The Fund in a greenhouse on Long Island’s North Fork.

Park Avenue Mall’s summer plantings, Dragon Wing Begonias.

The evening also featured a book signing with Philip Gorrivan and his new book Authentic Interiors: Rooms that Tell Stories as well as a selection of tables using Scully & Scully merchandise including: Natalie Aldridge/The Glampad; Phoebe Beachner/Hart Howerton; Jeffrey Quartius/Jeffrey Quartius Studio; Hannah Rutherfoord/Peter Pennoyer Architects; Christopher Sale/Gramercy Design; Rudy Saunders/Dorothy Draper & Co Inc (he is also the force behind the Young Friends of The Fund); and Jessica Meyers/Lycette Designs.

Philip Gorrivan.

Those attending were a mix of young Friends of The Fund, long-standing Fund supporters and extended Scully extended family members.

Scully & Scully, now in their 90th year, have also just completed the first phase of their Park Avenue store expansion with more to come after Labor Day.

If you haven’t popped into their Park Avenue store lately, it’s worth a look. They’ve got everything to catch your eye and taste: great jewelry, exotic tableware, exclusive furniture, silver, leather goods, handpainted lamps and inspired gifts from around the world. And if you’re not in the nabe, you can always visit their website at www.scullyandscully.com.

The Fund for Park Avenue is one of the city’s first public-private partnerships and has been responsible for planting and maintaining the trees and flowers on the Park Avenue malls since 1980.

Today, all work is made possible by the contributions The Fund receives from the community.


CJS_085 Brian Connors, Kathleen Scully Weinstock, Michael Scully, Noreen Haubert
Brian Connors, Kathleen Scully Weinstock, Michael Scully, and Noreen Haubert.
CJS_112 Nicole Patrick, Helene Remmel, Hannah Rutherfoord, Michael Scully
Nicole Patrick, Helene Remmel, Hannah Rutherfoord, and Michael Scully.
Madeline McLaughlin, Barbara McLaughlin; Blakely Griggs, Michael O'neal
L. to r.: Madeline McLaughlin and Barbara McLaughlin; Blakely Griggs and Michael O’Neal.
JS_001 Andres Perea-Garzon, Blake Funston, Rufus Chen
Andres Perea-Garzon, Blake Funston, and Rufus Chen.
JS_048 Greg Meyers, Jessica Chaney, Katie Kaso, Rachel Katz
Greg Meyers, Jessica Chaney, Katie Kaso, and Rachel Katz.
Bronson Stoltz, Denise Kazmier, Mary Breslin; Victoria Anstead, Anki Leeds
L. to r.: Bronson Stoltz, Denise Kazmier, and Mary Breslin; Victoria Anstead and Anki Leeds.
JS_061 Jan Whitman Ogden, Carol Lyden
Jan Whitman Ogden and Carol Lyden.
JS_070 Michelle Jacobson, Anne Haack
Michelle Jacobson and Anne Haack.
JS_086 Chip Scully, Will Weinstock, Kathleen Scully Weinstock
Chip Scully, Will Weinstock, and Kathleen Scully Weinstock.
Rich Wilkie, Steven Stolman; Brad Cook, Liz Cook, Nancy Scully.
L. to r.: Rich Wilkie and Steven Stolman; Brad Cook, Liz Cook, and Nancy Scully.
JS_093 Annie Watt, Michael Reinert, Angela Giannopoulos
Annie Watt, Michael Reinert, and Angela Giannopoulos.
Doug Burns, Joanne Evan Burns; Pamela Norley, Lucie Wall.
L. to r.: Doug Burns and Joanne Evan Burns; Pamela Norley and Lucie Wall.
JS_094 Liz Oconnor, Lisa Rossi, Jay Jolly
Liz Oconnor, Lisa Rossi, and Jay Jolly.
Louise Masano, Ronda Cole; Maureen Leness, Melissa Cook
L. to r.: Louise Masano and Ronda Cole; Maureen Leness and Melissa Cook.
JS_098 Karen Klopp, Mark Gilbertson, Polly Onet
Karen Klopp, Mark Gilbertson, and Polly Onet.
JS_118 Mariana Olszewski, Ambassador Brenda Johnson, Caroline Alpert
Mariana Olszewski, Ambassador Brenda Johnson, and Caroline Alpert.
Lynn Poekel, Charlie Poekel; Larry Closs, Marianne Larsen
L. to r.: Lynn and Charlie Poekel; Larry Closs and Marianne Larsen.
NJS_012 Christopher Simon, Natalie Aldridge
Christopher Simon and Natalie Aldridge.
Uial Arad, Liliana Cavendish; Melissa Stowell, Isabel Byrnes
L. to r.: Eyal Arad and Liliana Cavendish; Melissa Stowell and Isabel Byrnes.
Phoebe Beachner.
Phoebe Beachner.
Hannah Rutherfoord
Hannah Rutherfoord.
Jeffrey Quaritius.
Jeffrey Quaritius.
Marianne Brumba, Michael Scully, Mariana Olszewski; Andrew Werner, Caroline Schlobohm
L. to r.: Marianne Brumba, Michael Scully, and Mariana Olszewski; Andrew Werner and Caroline Schlobohm.
Rudy Saunders.
Rudy Saunders.
Christopher Sale.
Christopher Sale.
Natalie Aldridge
Natalie Aldridge.
JS_068 Scully Family
The Scully family.

Photographs by John Sanderson/AnnieWatt.com

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