NYC’s Tartan Day Parade

New York City’s Tartan Day Parade doesn’t have the long history of many of the city’s parades, but it has interesting origins. According to the New York City Tartan Week organizers,

In 1998 the U.S. Senate declared April 6 to be National Tartan Day to recognize the contributions made by Scottish-Americans to the United States. In 1999, two pipe bands and a small but enthusiastic group of Scottish Americans marched from the British Consulate to the UN—our first Parade! Since then, we have grown to include hundreds of pipers, thousands of marchers and many more thousands cheering from the sidelines.

The National Tartan Day New York Committee was formed … in 2002 to organize the Parade and co-ordinate all the associated activities which surround the Parade. There are now so many it has become Tartan Week, with a definition of “week” as anything, so far, from 7-21 days.

Now that we know why they’re marching, let’s watch the parade! As you’ll see, there are plenty of tartans, bagpipes, and drums – although not everyone is wearing plaid. One of the fun things about this parade is that some pipe and drum corps will allow unaffiliated bagpipers to march with them, as long as they can play the 4 songs required for the parade: Scotland the Brave, Rowan tree, Blue Bells of Scotland, and Bonnie Prince Charlie. The sun was shining brightly, so please forgive the lighting in some of these shots.

Now for one of my favorite parts of the parade: the Scottie and Westie dogs!

As we were leaving, I spied this creature peeking out above the crowd – could it possibly be Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster?

Albert Capsouto Park

Nestled in the Manhattan neighborhood of Tribeca is a small, triangular green space named Albert Capsouto Park. This park is a recent addition to the NYC park system, having opened in 2009. Despite its short history and limited size, the park has already changed names once and offers several special features.

First, the name change. When the park first opened in 2009, it was known as CaVaLa Park. The unusual name came from the park’s location, as the park’s three sides are bordered by Canal Street, Varick Street, and Laight Street. If you look closely as you explore the park, you will find the dedication plaque with the park’s original name.

In 2010, the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation renamed the park in memory of local restaurant owner Albert Capsouto, who was known for his efforts to obtain financial support for small businesses in the area after the September 11 attacks. (The park is less than a mile from the World Trade Center site, and local businesses experienced significant economic challenges in the aftermath of the tragedy.)

Now for the park’s interesting details. My favorite details are found on the large granite posts next to each of the park’s three entrances. The park’s designers installed a series of etched steel plates highlighting historical images and maps of the neighborhood around the park. (Original images are part of the collections of the New York Historical Society, New York Public Library, and the Library of Congress.)  Here are few examples of those images, which illustrate the evolution of Tribeca.

As you enter the park, you will immediately notice another feature – a long sculpture/fountain (depending on the time of year) that stretches for 114 feet. The sculptural fountain was created by NYC artist Elyn Zimmerman, and draws inspiration from the canal that used to stretch along what is now Canal Street. When I visited, the Parks Department had not yet turned the water on for Spring, but it is even more beautiful when the fountain is running. (Although there was a little standing water because of a recent rainfall, so you get a little sense of what the fountain is like when it’s running.)

And nearby there are benches and these tables, perfect for picnicking or a game of checkers or chess! (In case you can’t tell from the photo, each table has a checkerboard built in.)

Want to visit Albert Capsouto Park yourself? Take the 1, A, C, or E trains to their respective Canal Street stations. The park is just a short distance away.

Subway Station Art: 125th Street Station

One of my favorite subway stations, in terms of art, is the 125th Street Station in Harlem. Artist Faith Ringgold’s mosaic murals, titled Flying Home: Harlem Heroes and Heroines, draws from the neighborhoods rich history and culture of her birthplace. The art is colorful and distinctive – there’s no chance that you will think you are anywhere other than Harlem.

Each section of the murals has an image of an iconic example of Harlem architecture (some no longer in existence), as well as historical figures associated with Harlem’s African-American history. For example, here’s the famous Apollo Theater, with images of Dinah Washington, Florence Mills, Ralph Cooper, Billie Holliday, and the Ink Spots.

Upon closer inspection, the murals details are spectacular.

This next one includes the Cotton Club, a nightclub from the 1920s and 1930s, as well as performers Josephine Baker, Duke Ellington, and Bessie Smith, who performed at the Cotton Club regularly. (I learned in my research that the establishment unfortunately illustrated the highly segregated society of that era – although African-Americans performed at the venue, only whites were allowed in as customers.)

Here’s the Harlem Opera House, with soprano Mariam Anderson and singer and actor Paul Robeson.

And Yankee Stadium, with boxers Joe Lewis and Sugar Ray Leonard overhead.

Here’s Madame Walker’s Beauty Parlor, with Madame C.J. Walker hovering over it herself, next to Olympian Jesse Owens. Notably, Owens appears to be jumping out of Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.

Marcus Garvey and Adam Clay Powell, Jr. float over the Abyssinian Baptist Church.

And Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X rise above the Theresa Hotel, at one time known as the “Waldorf of Harlem.”

Here’s W.E.B. DuBois and Mary McLeod Bethune, associated with organizations they founded –  the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.), and the National Council of Negro Women (N.C.N.W.).

Above the Schomburg Library, a New York Public Library Center devoted to the study of African-American history, literature, and culture, you’ll find writers Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, and Zora Neale Hurston.

And Augusta Savage, Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, and Aaron Douglas keep the Studio Museum of Harlem company.

Finally, you’ll find tile work related to the station itself, including the historic 125th Street terra cotta station signs and trim, as well as a rather out-of-place modern mosaic and tile sign.

If you’d like to see Flying Home in person, take the 2 or 3 train to the 125th Street Station in Manhattan.

A Carnival of Flowers at Macy’s

One of the sure signs of Spring in New York City is the Macy’s Flower Show. The show, which has a different theme each year, first began in 1946. This year’s theme was “Carnival.”

There are two major parts to the Flower Show. First, even before you enter the department store, there are the elaborately decorated windows. (Forgive the reflections on the windows – it’s hard to take good photos in the light!)

Having admired the windows outside, let’s go through the main entrance to see what we find inside. There’s plenty more to see, although we’ll have to navigate the crowds if we want to take any photos. As we come upon the carousel, you can hear the organ playing a tune and the animals rise up and down.

Isn’t this fun? Make sure to look up as well. There are flowers and scenes scattered high and low throughout the first floor, so much that your senses are overloaded.

Want to join in the fun? Put your head in the holes and pose for a photo! Look! We caught someone doing that very thing!

Or maybe posing before a fun house mirror is more your thing.

Unfortunately, the show is already over – so if you want to see it for yourself, you will have to visit next year! In New York City, the Flower Show is at the Macy’s Herald Square location (touted as the largest department store in the world), but it’s held at the Chicago and San Francisco stores as well. Want to see what last year’s show looked like? I wrote about it here.

Hunting Gargoyles at City College

Near Harlem in Manhattan, in a neighborhood called Manhattanville, is the City College of New York. Although City College has roots going back to the 1840s, the college didn’t move to the Manhattanville campus until 1907. You wouldn’t know it from looking at the original campus buildings though – architect George Browne Post designed them in the neo-Gothic or Collegiate Gothic style, making the campus feel much older than it actually is.

What make City College’s architecture fun are the approximately 600 grotesques. (I know – I titled this post “Hunting Gargoyles,” but as I’ve done further research I’ve learned that gargoyles are decorative waterspouts, while grotesques refer to the broader category of gothic creatures and humans.) Yesterday was such a sunny spring day that I thought it was a perfect day to hunt gargoyles – and grotesques!

Let me take you on a tour:

Want to hunt gargoyles and grotesques for yourself? Take the 1 Train uptown to the 137th Street – City College stop. It’s just a short walk from the station to the campus entrance.

A Winter Walk Through Riverside Park

During the winter, we spend so much time inside avoiding the cold weather, but this year New York City’s winter has been relatively mild. (At least until this week – right now it’s bitter cold, and we have a chance of a late blizzard on Tuesday with 12 to 18 inches of snow!) When the weather cooperates, I try to get outside as much as possible. Recently, we’ve had some really nice days, and I decided to head to a park to take a long walk. Although many people think of Central Park in Manhattan – or maybe Prospect Park in Brooklyn – when they consider New York City parks, there are many other beautiful parks. This time, I chose Riverside Park on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Riverside Park is a great choice for a long walk. The park is long and narrow, stretching along the Hudson River from 129th Street to 72 Street. There are paved trails that undulate through the trees, giving visitors multiple options and views. There are also a number of children’s playgrounds and a skate park for skateboarders. You’ll also see public monuments and sculptures  dotting the landscape periodically. (Note: These monuments follow no coherent theme, which somehow makes discovering each one even more interesting!) Because of its location, you won’t see nearly as many tourists as you’ll find in Central Park. Riverside Park is truly a neighborhood park, and you’ll see people walking their dogs, teaching their children to ride bicycles, or jogging.

Today, we are on a hunt for public monuments. Let’s see what we find as we walk almost 60 city blocks from end to end. One of the first things we come across is the General Grant National Memorial, the tomb where Civil War general and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant is buried. (We previously visited the Grant Memorial, and you can find pictures of the interior here.) We’re approaching Grant Memorial from the back side, but we’ll turn around and look at it again from the front once we go by. In the background, there’s the tower of the Riverside Church. We’ll visit it another time.

As we continue to approach Grant Memorial, I realize that the black iron fence above encloses a tree and this plaque. Here’s what the inscription says:

This tree is planted at the side of the tomb of General U.S. Grant, ex-President of the United States of America, for the purpose of commemorating his greatness by Li Hung-Chang, Guardian of the Prince, Grand Secretary of State, Earl of the First Order, Yang Yu, Envoy Extraordinary and Minter Plenipotentiary of China, Vice President of the Board of Censors, Kwang Hsu, 23rd Year, 4th Moon, May 1897.

One last view of Grant’s Memorial before we move on, as well as a photo of one of the eagles guarding the entrance:

As we continue walking, we’ll start seeing more monuments – although none are on the scale of the Grant Memorial. At 116th Street and Riverside Drive, we find this monument erected by the Women’s Health Protective Association, which was celebrating its 25th anniversary in 1909. The monument was sculpted by Bruno Louis Zimm, and it contains a drinking fountain that can be used in warmer months.

At 113th Street we notice this monument to Louis Kossuth, a key figure in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. As I researched more about this monument, I learned that it was financed by Hungarian Americans living in New York City and was originally dedicated in 1928. Unfortunately, the original monument was poorly constructed, and it had to be redone only two years later. It’s a striking monument, with Kossuth looming over a soldier and peasant below.

Next to Kossuth’s monument is this simple, modern monument to the participants in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution against that nation’s Communist government. This monument was erected only last year by the Hungarian American Memorial Committee, in honor of the 60th anniversary of the uprising, and the designer was Hungarian architect Tamás Nagy.

The round concrete platform seen above is really special. The caption reads: “Constellation of stars as symbols of hope, visible in the night sky over Budapest on October 23, 1956, when the first shots of the Revolution were fired.” (Although one news story about the monument stated that the sky was actually overcast on that night in 1956, and therefore the stars would not have actually been visible to the revolutionaries.)

Only a block further, we find this statue of Samuel J. Tilden, a governor of the State of New York during the 19th Century. Tilden’s statue was sculpted by William Ordway Partridge. (Tilden also ran for President in 1876. He won the popular vote but lost the electoral college by one vote!)

We continue walking. At 106th Street and Riverside Drive, we see a statue of General Franz Sigel. The statue’s sculptor was Karl Bitter. In my research, I found that Sigel had an interesting life. Sigel, who was born in Baden in modern Germany, fled his home country after leading an unsuccessful revolution in 1848. Eventually, Sigel came to New York City, where he was a teacher, journalist, and co-founder of the German-American Institute. Later, Sigel moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he served in the Union Army and helped protect Missouri from Confederate attack. By the end of the war, he had been promoted to Major General. After the Civil War ended, Sigel moved back to New York City and lived here until his death in 1904, serving as editor of two periodicals. I liked this photo of Sigel’s statue, but particularly the second view of his horse.

At 100th Street, we stumble upon the Firemen’s Memorial, which was dedicated in 1913. H. Van Buren Magonigle designed the monument, and artist Attilio Piccirilli created the sculptures. (The statues on either end of the monument are named “Duty” and “Sacrifice.” At the base of the monument, there is also a memorial tablet to the horses who pulled the early fire engines.

One of my favorite statues is found at 93rd Street and Riverside Drive: Joan of Arc, dedicated in 1915. Unusual for the time period, the statue is the work of a woman artist, Anna Hyatt Huntington. It’s striking from any angle.

Just four blocks south of Joan of Arc is the second largest monument in the park: the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, designed by sculptor Paul E. Duboy and architects Charles and Arthur Stoughton. Dedicated in 1902, the monument honored soldiers and sailors who fought in the Civil War.

Finally, at 76th Street and Riverside Drive, we discover the Robert Ray Hamilton Fountain. The fountain, which was designed by architectural firm Warren & Wetmore (more famous for Grand Central Terminal), was dedicated in 1906. Two things in particular make the fountain interesting. First, the fountain was intended to be a drinking fountain – for horses. And second, Robert Ray Hamilton was a great-grandson of the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, Alexander Hamilton.

Well, that’s the end of today’s walk. For those who wish to visit Riverside Park in person, the closest subway lines are the 1, 2, and 3 lines. Just get off at stops between 72nd and 125th Streets, and then it’s just a short walk west to the park. (Note: Not all trains stop at every station.) If you want to see the monuments I’ve featured here, stay on the path than runs parallel to Riverside Drive, as most monuments are located along the edge of the park or in park medians that divide the roadway at various points.

Although it’s not Monday yet in the United States, it’s Monday elsewhere at this point – and so I think this is a good walk for Jo’s Monday Walks! Have you checked out Jo’s blog? If you haven’t, I know you will enjoy it.

Historic Citizens Savings Bank Building: NYC Landmark

Visitors to Manhattan’s Chinatown and nearby streets are sure to see some unique and interesting architecture. On the edge of Chinatown, close to the entrance of the Manhattan Bridge, is a New York City Landmark building: the historic Citizens Savings Bank. Later known as the Manhattan Savings Bank, the building is now occupied by HSBC. (HSBC purchased Citizens Savings Bank’s successor in 1999.)

Citizens Savings Bank is an example of Beaux-Arts architecture and was designed by architect Clarence W. Brazer. The building was completed in 1924 and was designated a city landmark in 2011. It’s not a huge building, but it’s solidly built, with a domed roof. Today, it’s surrounded by modern buildings, making its architecture stand out in comparison.

Above the entrance is this sculpture and clock designed by Charles Keck. It portrays a Native American, a sailor, and an eagle. (Additionally, if you look closely at the photo above, you may be able to see the small stone “beehives” on either side of the sculpture – I learned that beehives symbolize thrift.)

There are also these imposing lions stationed near the entrance – I think they are a much more recent addition.

Although the building still operates as a bank, the employees graciously allowed me to enter and take a few interior photos. From my research, I learned that the somber interior was meant to instill confidence in the bank’s ability to protect depositors’ money. Banks in the 1920s generally did not have insurance for deposits, and it was not uncommon for banks to fail. Depositors wanted to place their money in banks that seemed safer, and architecture could be used to create such an image. There are still some original architectural design details in the bank’s interior, such as the dome and the subtle messages painted in each corner near the ceiling. Would these messages give you confidence in the bank?

Want to see this New York City landmark for yourself? The bank is located at the corner of Canal Street and Bowery on the edge of Chinatown. It’s several city blocks’ walk from the subway. Take the B or D train to Grand Street, the F train to East Broadway, or the J, Z, or 6 train to Canal Street.

Want more detail about the building, the bank’s history, and the NYC landmark designation? The entire city landmark commission report is found here.

 

Subway Station Art: East Broadway Station

The subway station at East Broadway on Manhattan’s Lower East Side has a beautiful ceramic tile mural by artist Noel Copeland. Copeland was born in Jamaica, but he immigrated to the United States and received his art education at the Pratt Institute School of Art and Design. He currently lives in New York City, and he has several public art installations across New York City, located in public schools, public housing complexes, community centers, and public transportation stations.

The mural at East Broadway is titled Displacing Details and is 24 feet long. In creating the mural, Copeland drew inspiration from historic buildings on the Lower East Side. In 1991, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority awarded Copeland the Arts for Transit Creative Station Award for Displacing Details.

Here are a few photos of the mural. The first one shows the panel in the middle, which I love. There’s also a great border that surrounds the entire mural and illustrates various architectural details.

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If you are interested in seeing Displacing Details yourself, take the F train to East Broadway. The mural is on the mezzanine level.

NYC’s Historical Firehouses: Little Italy and Vicinity

In the early years of New York City’s history, the fire department was made up of volunteers. Beginning in 1865, however, the city had a professional firefighting force for the first time with the establishment of the Fire Department of New York. Over the next several decades, numerous firehouses were constructed to house neighborhood units. Most have since been torn down to make way for newer construction, but there are still some hidden gems scattered around the city. Each one has its own character and history.

The first firehouse I’m going to feature in this post is no longer an active firehouse, but it was originally home to Engine Company 31. It’s a gorgeous building, both a New York City landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. The architecture draws inspiration from 16th century French chateau. Today, the building is home to the Downtown Community Television Center, which provides workshops and other resources for documentary filmaking in the local community.

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The building has some beautiful, intricate details.

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If you want to see the old Engine 31 firehouse for yourself, it is located at 87 Lafayette Street.

Another historical firehouse is the home to Engine Company 55. It is located at 363 Broome Street in Little Italy. Unlike Engine 31, the Engine 55 firehouse is still an active firehouse.

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The building has some interesting architectural details.

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One interesting note: the character actor Steve Buscemi worked as a FDNY firefighter when he was young, and Engine Company 55 was his unit.

Much more important, this firehouse has bronze memorial plaques on the walls to honor firefighters who died in the line of duty. The oldest one is this one, memorializing men who died in 1903 and 1918:

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Tragically, Engine 55 was one of the first units responding to the World Trade Center Twin Towers on September 11. The unit lost five of its own that day, and each one has his own plaque next to the firehouse’s entrance. Because the unit was one of the first ones on the scene of the terrorist attack, the firetruck itself was buried under the rubble when the towers collapsed. The crushed truck was not found until approximately 6 months later, when the recovery crews discovered it more than 40 feet below ground. Although the plaques look very similar, I thought it was important to honor each firefighter by showing them here. You will see that all of them state that the firefighter was “operating at Manhattan Box 5-5-8087.” From my research, it appears that 8087 was the fire alarm box associated with the World Trade Center.

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Views of New York City on a Foggy Night

My first Finding NYC blog post, more than one and a half years ago, showed some of my favorite photos of the New York City skyline. (You can find that post here.) One of the best views of Manhattan is from Gantry Plaza State Park, along the East River in Long Island City, Queens. The park is a wonderful place to watch the sun set over the city, and the city lights at night can be magical.

Last night we went to a restaurant not far from the waterfront, and afterwards we walked down to the park to view the city. The clouds were coming in, and fog was descending. It certainly was a different view than usual! Still, even without being able to see the skyline, the city was beautiful. Would you have guessed that this is New York City?

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This was definitely not the night to use the viewers – as demonstrated by my wife! Regardless, we had fun. And on a night like this, we had the park to ourselves.

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The fog was not so thick that we didn’t spy the Queensboro Bridge in the distance. This is one bridge that looks better at night, when the bridge’s structure is less visible.

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There are always the views of Long Island City and the gantry cranes – the fog had not obscured them yet.

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Or how about this view of the Hunter’s Point Library construction site, with its unique architectural design by architect Steven Holl? I can’t wait to see the library once it’s finished!

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Here’s another close-up view. Doesn’t it look intriguing?

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Finally, a photo of the vintage Pepsi sign. Even with some of the neon tubes unlit, the sign still glows brightly in the dark.

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(If you want to visit Gantry Plaza State Park yourself, the directions are found here, in my earlier Manhattan skyline post.)