A Jane’s Walk in Douglaston, Queens

It’s May in New York City, which means that the Municipal Art Society has once again offered more than 200 neighborhood walks throughout the city. The walks honor Jane Jacobs, who was a journalist and community activist in New York City for many years. Jane Jacobs believed that urban development should take into account the community, and the annual walks illustrate that community-based theme. Last year I explored East Harlem during two unique Jane’s Walks. (You can read about those walks here and here.) This year I decided to use a Jane’s Walk to explore a neighborhood I had never been to before – Douglaston, in the borough of Queens.

The Jane’s Walk in Douglaston focused on the historic district, which is known as Douglas Manor. Douglas Manor was a planned community constructed in the early 20th century, not long after Queens became a part of New York City. What makes Douglas Manor special is its large collection of historic Arts and Craft style homes. In fact, those homes have resulted in Douglas Manor being named a New York City landmark. The walk was sponsored by the Douglaston Local Development Corporation and the Douglaston and Little Neck Historical Society, and was led by architects Kevin Wolfe, Victor Dadras, and Robert Dadras. Here’s Kevin Wolfe, who has led restoration efforts on a number of the community’s homes, explaining what characterizes the Arts and Craft style.

One of the things we quickly learned is that what makes the Arts and Crafts style special is its focus on handmade, craftsman-created architectural details. That means that Arts and Crafts homes can vary significantly in appearance and materials, often incorporating elements of other architectural styles as well. The diversity of Arts and Crafts design quickly became apparent on our walk, and early May is the perfect time to explore this neighborhood, with its many flowering trees. Here are just a few examples of the homes we discovered.

One of my favorite homes was this one, which was built by Norweigian painter and sculptor Trygve Hammer. I loved its unique character, and the fact that its handcrafted details made it fit the Arts and Crafts theme.

Interested in learning more about Douglas Manor? You can read the New York City Landmark report here, on the Douglaston and Little Neck Historical Society’s Website. To visit Douglas Manor in person, take the Long Island Railroad’s Port Washington line to Douglaston. The historic area is located a short walk north of the train station.

This seems like a good one for Jo’s Monday Walk – and, as always, I never do it on a Monday. If you haven’t checked out Jo’s blog, Restless Jo, I recommend it!

The Magic of New York City: Central Park in the Snow

New York City is a crowded city, with almost 9 million residents and countless tourists. A noisy city, with the roar of jet engines overhead (especially if you live in Queens, home to both LaGuardia and JFK airports), the revving motors and honking horns in constant traffic jams, the clanking and disembodied announcements of the subway trains. A smelly city, particularly on trash collection day – especially in the hot summer months. A gritty city, not always clean despite constant efforts, trash blowing if there’s a strong wind. A busy city, with everyone seeking to get to their destinations, little time to spare to enjoy the unexpected or connect with a stranger on the way.

It’s stimulating, but exhausting as well. That’s why a snow day in the city is so wonderful. The snow blankets the city, softening its harsh edges and creating a new world. And there’s nowhere better to go when the snow is falling than Central Park. The park is magical in the snow, and the cares of the day melt away as I walk for hours along the winding paths.

New York City had this kind of snow last week, resulting in my classes being canceled. We seized the opportunity to explore Central Park in the snow, meandering until we became too cold and wet to continue (and then stopping at a pub for a while to warm up). Here’s a few of my photos from my walk – I hope that you enjoy!

 

It’s been a while since I’ve joined Jo’s Monday Walk – and, as always, I never do it on a Monday. If you haven’t checked out Jo’s blog, Restless Jo, I recommend it!

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.