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…

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…

MetLife Tower – a Piece of Venice in New York

The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Building Architect: Pierre LeBrun of Napoleon LeBrun & Sons Date: 1909 Height: 700′ Floors: 50 Where in the world does the prosaic practicality of an insurance company come in the shape of a Venetian campanile? In New York City, right around Madison Square Park! The MetLife Building, and subsequently its tower, was…

Mrs. Astor and “The Four Hundred”

  The winter social season in Gilded Age New York, which started in October and lasted until Easter, was a whirlwind of frantic activity that featured dinner parties, luncheons, receptions, opera performances and, of course, balls. The single most important event of the season was undisputably the annual ball thrown by Mrs. Astor, which always…

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 a 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 look for gold, or an even rougher personage coming back from Martinez with a fortune…

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…

St. Patrick’s Cathedral – one spectacular folly!

Architect: James Renwick Jr. Built: 1858-1879 John Hughes, Archbishop of New York, had a vision for a new, grandiose Catholic cathedral that would offset the indignities suffered by the Catholics in 19th century New York. They called it Hughes’ folly. Up until the 19th century, New York was a Protestant stronghold with an insignificant Catholic…