The Witch of Wall Street: the Legend of Hetty Green

There are people so odd, and so easy to loath, that their character loses its human form and becomes the stuff of legends. One such individual was a woman who went down in history as the “Witch of Wall Street.” She was awarded the title of the world’s greatest miser by the Guinness Book of…

Ode to a Brownstone

The character of New York’s many residential streets is defined by the perfect rhythm and uniformity of adjacent houses lined up in rows right next to one another and forming a solid street facade. Combining Yankee practicality with the romantic old-world feel, the brownstones are the soul of 19th century New York. Built all over…

Mamie Fish – the “Fun-Maker” of the Gilded Age

    “Can I get something for your throat, dear?” – inquired Mr. Stuyvesant Fish. His wife retorted: “Yes, this diamond and pearl necklace I saw today at Tiffany’s.” The most irreverent broad of the Gilded Age, Marion (“Mamie”) Fish did not shine with beauty. Nore with education. Heavyset, stern, barely literate, and often quite…

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,…

Stuyvesant Fish House @ 19 Gramercy Park South

The house at 19 Gramercy Park South does not look like much from the outside. But do not be fooled by the modesty of the facade – a hold out from the Gilded Age era, it just might be “the Greatest Private House in New York.” By the 1870s, the Gramercy Park neighborhood had become…

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…

Mrs. Astor and “The Four Hundred”

The winter social season in Gilded Age New York, which lasted from October until Easter, was a whirlwind of frantic activity that included dinner parties, luncheons, receptions, opera performances, and, of course, balls. The single most important event of the season was indisputably Mrs. Astor’s annual ball, which always took place on a Monday in…

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…

The Knickerbocker – a Hotel and a Dry Martini

There are West Coast and East Coast versions of the origins of the martini cocktail. The West Coast stories usually feature a rough character challenging a bartender to mix him a drink before venturing into the town of Martinez to search for gold, or an even rougher personage returning from Martinez with a fortune and…

The St. Regis or What do Napoleon, Dalí and Marilyn Monroe have in common?

Architects: Trowbridge and Livingston Built: 1904 Although there is seemingly nothing in common between Napoleon Buonaparte and the 17th-century French monk named Francis Regis, these names strangely come together in the story of the St. Regis Hotel in New York. Built in 1904 by John Jacob Astor IV as the most opulent hotel in the world, it…

The Plaza – Where Nothing Unimportant Ever Happens

It was once said that “Nothing unimportant ever happens in the Plaza.” One of America’s finest and most celebrated luxury hotels, it has the distinction of being the one and only. There is only one Plaza. The Plaza, the most expensive hotel in the city’s history, opened amidst much fanfare on October 1, 1907, being hailed…