Rockefeller Center – a City Within a City

Strangely enough, the story of Rockefeller Center starts with that of the Metropolitan Opera. The Met, located at the time on Broadway and 39th, needed a bigger space. The land around 49th Street behind 5th Ave belonged to Columbia University and seemed like an ideal new place for the opera house. As the wheels of…

The Guggenheim – “unlike any other museum in the world”

Solomon R. Guggenheim, a businessman, art collector, and part-heir to a great mining fortune, began collecting abstract art in the 1920s. After retiring from his business endeavors, he became a full-time art collector, focusing specifically on modern and contemporary art. In order to display his collection, he founded the Museum of Non-Objective Painting in 1939. The collection,…

How the Metropolitan Museum was Born

On July 4, 1866, while celebrating America’s Independence Day in Paris, a group of American businessmen, financiers, artists, and thinkers of the day decided that New York City needed its own art museum. Thus, the idea of the Metropolitan Museum of Art was born. After four years of discussions in which American civic leaders, art…

Diego Rivera’s Rockefeller Center Mural

Diego Rivera, a prominent Mexican painter and giant of 20th century art, was commissioned by the Rockefellers to create a monumental fresco for the lobby of the newly-built RCA building, the largest structure of Rockefeller Center. The mural was to be titled, laconically, “Man at the Crossroads Looking with Hope and High Vision to the…

Victory Arch – the Last Temporary Triumphal Arch in Madison Square

The Victory Arch was located at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway between 24th and 25th streets and stood there from 1918 to 1920. Even though World War I did not officially end until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919, the combat had stopped on November 11, 1918, when the…

Lost Triumphal Arches of New York

Several triumphal arches were erected in New York City for public celebrations. It’s hard to imagine that most of them were temporary, standing only for short periods of time. Perhaps it’s symbolic of New York,  the agile and ever-changing metropolis, to build such grandiose structures only to be destroyed. Three temporary arches in New York…

Dewey Arch – a Temporary Triumph in Madison Square

The Dewey Arch was a triumphal arch that stood from 1899 to 1900 on the intersection of Broadway and 5th Avenue at 24th Street. The Arch was erected to celebrate Commodore George Dewey’s stunning naval victory over the Spanish at the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898. This particular military achievement was of great importance…

Washington Square Arch – a Triumphal Arch and a Small Revolution

Triumphal Arch was built to celebrate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration as the first President of the United States. Location: Washington Square South @ 5th Ave Opened: 1892 Architect: Stanford White Sculptors: Hermon Atkins MacNeil, Alexander Stirling Calder Style: Beaux-Arts Built to celebrate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration as the nation’s first President,…

Bergdorf Goodman – the Wealthiest Janitors in History and 5th Ave Haute Couture

The year was 1928 and Edwin Goodman was about to move his widely successful women’s clothing store to 5th Ave and 58th Street – the spot previously occupied by Cornelious Vanderbilt’s mansion, the largest single-family residence in New York. As commerce relentlessly marched up 5th Avenue, the palace-like Vanderbilt mansion was demolished to be replaced…

Pomona of the Pulitzer Fountain

Architect: Thomas Hastings;  Sculpture: Karl Bitter, Isidore Conti Date: 1916 Location: Grand Army Plaza at Fifth Avenue between 58th and 59th Streets. The exquisite female figure atop the fountain in front of the Plaza Hotel is an allegorical depiction of Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruitful abundance. Symbolizing bounty, she holds a basket of fruit as…

The Waldorf-Astoria: hyphenated hotel and a family scandal

Most family scandals don’t result in hotel construction. However, the famed Waldorf-Astoria owes its existence to the Astor family quarrel. The Astor fortune was divided between two branches of the Astor family headed by the two grandsons of the dynasty founder – John Jacob Astor III and William Backhouse Astor, Jr. Each of them had…