The Villard Mansion-New York Palace Hotel

The Villard Mansion of The New York Palace is one of the most well-preserved mansions in New York City.  It is really not a one house but a complex consisting of 6 houses. On the outside, the home appears as one large mansion,   but on the inside there are 6 separate, comfortable townhouses, all placed around a large court. 
These houses were built for  Henry Villard in 1884 by  architecture firm McKim, Mead & White three years after they started their company. 
Now the Villard Mansion is occupied by  The New York Palace hotel, combining the historic landmark   with a modern 55-story tower.

Henry Villard was born in 1835 in Bavaria, Germany. At the age of 18, he decided to leave his childhood home and venture to America. Villard settled in the German area of Illinois in 1854, where he soon met Abraham Lincoln through a cousin.  Villard   became a writer and editor of numerous publications.    For the next twenty years, Villard entered into numerous railroad ventures with business associates including Cornelius Vanderbilt.  In 1881, he purchased the land across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral for $260,000.

Palazzo  Cancelleria
 The townhouse complex had been modeled after the renaissance palazzo  Cancelleria in Rome.  Palazzo was built between 1489–1513  as a palace for Cardinal Raffaele Riario and is regarded as the earliest Renaissance palace in Rome.  

The rumor was that the funds came in a single night's winnings at gaming. Villard took the largest of the 6 houses , his residence occupying the entire right wing.  But before the home was completed, Villard's railroad empire crashed  and he sold  the house to  the  Republican politician Whitelaw Reid, who finished the home and moved into the wing. The wing remained in the Reid family until 1935, later serving several different uses during World War II.

All six houses  were purchased by Harry Hemsley in 1974.    Helmsley (1909 – 1997) was an American businessman, the one  of the biggest property holders in the United States.
  In the spring of 1974, Harry Helmsley proposed a 55-story hotel for the site of the Villard Houses called The Helmsley Palace Hotel. To construct his hotel tower, Helmsley hired Emery Roth & Sons, who created its design of dark bronze reflective glass and anodized aluminum to blend with the Villard Houses and Manhattan's surrounding skyline. Emery Roth & Sons was a family-run architecture firm that had a major influence on the post-war development of Manhattan.  Helmsley Palace Hotel opened in 1981 and was operated by Helmsley until 1992.

The original building was restored in 2003 and office space was furnished for city preservation group The Municipal Art Society, as part of an agreement to save the building from demolition.  Michael Bloomberg showed up at a hotel grand opening party. The face-lift was done to the tune of $140 million.
Today, the mansion boasts exquisite interiors coated in green marble, bronze décor, coffered ceilings, gold touches, and romantic mosaics.  A dramatic two-story Renaissance-style Gold Room,  entirely covered with gold and built as a music room with a balcony for an ideal performance stage is uses now as a bar room in the "Villard Michel Richard" restaurant.  You can have American breakfast with two eggs, bacon and potatoes for $34 in the room  where high tea was served.  
Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave, the great-granddaughter of  Henry Villard visited the hotel this year. She said:  I was first brought to the house when I was seven years old and told, “Now this is what you can achieve with courage, perseverance, and hard work.” To me, the house has always stood as a symbol of Henry Villard’s greatest dreams."

Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle

Located in the heart of Manhattan at Columbus Circle (59th Street and Broadway), Time Warner Center is a twin-tower building with two 750 ft (229 m) twin towers. Construction began in November 2000 and was finished on February 27, 2003. 

Before Time Warner Center there was a 323,000-square-foot  New York Coliseum, built from 1954 to 1956, with  four exhibition floors, including a -story well for exhibiting such large items as sailboats and airplanes.  In 1959, Coliseum  served as the American end of a American-Russian exhibition arrangement.
Coliseum ( demolished)
The first exhibition pavilion  in
Sokolniki, Moscow
The Russian end  of the Exhibition was held in Sokol'niki Park, Moscow in the summer of 1959. American engineers constructed a futuristic-looking pavilion in a leafy park.

 More than 2 million people visited  the park and stood in line for hours to get into a model single-family house. The "Typical American House", built at the American National Exhibition,  replicated a home previously built at 398 Townline Road  in Commack, Long Island. It is 3 bed, 1 full, 1 partial bath  single-family home with the price tag $295.000 as of March 2014.
398 Townline Road, Long Island

The house floor plan was modified to accommodate a  large numbers of visitors to tour it and the house got the name  "Splitnik". The price for this house was $14,000 in 1959.
The Russian News Agency TASS wrote  in 1959:  "There is no more truth in showing this as the typical home of the American worker than, say, in showing the Taj Mahal as the typical home of a Bombay textile worker."
Russian Exhibition in Coliseum,
New York
The focal point of the Russian exhibition in  New York Coliseum  was Sputnik, the Soviet satellite that had gone into orbit around the earth in 1957. There were also exhibits on Soviet industry and agriculture, as well as musical and theatrical performances.
Mall in Times Warner Center

New York Coliseum was demolished in 2000. Now Times Warner center is the place where people dine, shop, live, work and are entertained.  There are CNN studios, from one of them  Anderson Cooper 360°  is broadcast live.  Jazz at Lincoln Center is housed inside the Time Warner Center on the 5th floor. It is breathtaking venue to watch some Jazz against the backdrop of the city.  
 There are more than 40 specialty shops and a   60,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market. There are nine restaurants and   40,000-square-foot Equinox Fitness Club.  
Two bubble-figured 12-foot-tall Adam and Eve by the Colombian artist Fernando Botero greet visitors and provides perhaps the most memorable Manhattan meeting spot.

On January 16  2014 Time Warner announced  that   1.1 million square feet of office space i Time Warner Center were sold for $1.3 billion to a venture of Related Companies, an entity owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.
And at the very end I'd like to tell y about one very useful secret of  the Time Warner Center: there is a free bathroom on the second floor!

The first decorative fountain in US. Part 2

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In the 17th century City Hall Park  was just a small meadow at the edge of the city, known as the Commons.  In 1871 a large fountain was installed in the park, the Jacob Wrey Mould Fountain. In 1920 fountain was disassembled   and shipped to Crotona Park in the Bronx.  
You can read the beginning of the story in my post here. 
Two years later a  fountain with a sculpture “Civic Virtue “ by expatriate American sculptor Frederick William MacMonnies   was installed. MacMonnies is also the author of  Nathan Hale memorial in City Hall Park, dedicated in 1893. In late 1917 MacMonnies was  commissioned  to work on a sculpture in honor of those that died in the Battle of the Marne as a gift to the French people in exchange for the Statue of Liberty.   

Civic Virtue in City Hall Park. Mahhattan

Civic Virtue depicts a muscular nude Hercules with a sword in his right hand behind his neck, and stands over  two mermaid-like Sirens depicting “Vice” and “Corruption.”
Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia   hated the fountain because its naked backside could be viewed from his office.
In February 1935, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses insisted Civic Virtue should be removed from City Hall Park. He wanted to  reconstruct the original fountain.
In January 1941, Robert Moses announced a contract of $21,720 for the statue's transport, and on May 29, 1941, the 24-ton statue was placed in a wooden container, meticulously packed with sand and attached to a crane. At 2 miles-per-hour, it made its cross-town parade on a 16-wheeled haulage truck with stout timbers to Kew Gardens. 
On May 31, 1941  LaGuardia said   “Oh, it’s gone at last. Now I won’t have to look at that virtuous back anymore.” 

Civic virtue in Queens

 On October 7, 1941, City Council President Newbold Morris presented Civic Virtue to Borough President George Harvey, who advocated for its rescue. He said, “For 12 years, Queens has really had civic virtue, but has never been able to prove it. We can, now!”

City Hall Park was without a fountain for 30 years until 1972 when a new fountain, a gift of philanthropist George T. Delacorte, was installed.  Mr. Delacorte, the  founder of Dell Publishing and a philanthropist, who gave millions to enhance New York City with fountains, statues, theaters and schools that bear his name made. There are Delacorte Clock, Delacorte Fountain and Delacorte Amphitheater in Central Park.

During his second administration in 1999 Mayor Rudolph Guiliani became disappointed with the rag-tag condition of City Hall Park.  He initiated an all-out renovation and restoration. The Delacorte fountain was moved to the Bronx at Borough Hall Park.
 Conservations Solutions, Inc.,  was hired to restore the fountain made by Jacob Mould, sitting for years in Corona Park, Bronx.  All of the bronze elements  from the fountain had been stolen. The vandals sprayed graffiti on the fountain, and it had been covered over by layer after layer of white paint. All missing granite, bronze and ceramic elements were reproduced using Mould’s original sketches and photographs. 

Not only were the fountain operations restored to the 1871 plans; the restored lamps burn gas again as they did during those summer concerts 140 years ago.
In 2000, the fountain restoration received the award of Best Park Restoration from the New York City Department of Parks.

In December 2012 "Triumph of Civic Virtue" sculpture was moved from Queens to  Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. Now only the broken fountain and base of the Triumph of Civic Virtue remain on the   plaza. “This is a sad day for Queens,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., who  led a rally in front of the statue to demand it be kept in the borough. “The people of Queens wanted this statue. They need to replace it with another large piece of Greco-Roman art immediately.”
Read more: Local History: Civic Virtue

The first decorative fountain in US. Part 1

City Hall Fountain, summer 2013
The first decorative fountain in the United States was built in City Hall Park, in New York City, in 1842. Manhattan is the island in the ocean and the supply of the fresh water was very limited.    Before the aqueduct was constructed, residents of New York obtained water from cisterns, wells and natural springs. The  Old Croton Aqueduct was built in 1842. It was able to carry 100 million gallons per day alone 41 miles (66 km) from the Croton River in Westchester County into reservoirs in Manhattan. The Aqueduct served residents until 1965.
In 1842 a fountain with a 100-foot-diameter basin and an impressive center jet capable of shooting water 50 feet into the air was built. It used the water pumped in from the Croton Aqueduct.  American poet and a songwriter George PopeMorris wrote "The Croton Ode" about the fountain:

1842 celebration
Gushing from this living fountain,
 Music pours a falling strain,
 As the goddess of the mountain
 Comes with all her sparkling train.

The  City Hall Park fountain was a  backdrop when  a choir of two hundred members of the New York Sacred Choral Society sang  "The Croton Ode" .
In 1870   an architect Jacob Mould ( from Great Britain)  was commissioned to design a new fountain.  Mould  studied for two years   Islamic palaces in Spain and appreciated  the Moorish style of architecture. He moved to the United States in 1852.
City Hall Park in 19 century
In 1870-1871 he was  architect-in-chief for the Department of Public Works. He also designed the Belvedere Castle   in the Central Park , Manhattan.  Mould  worked  on the design of the original Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History. Jacob Wrey Mould  was also  an avid pianist and organist.   He translated numerous foreign opera librettos into English.   His translations of operas (such as Beethoven: Fidelio, Bellini: Norma  ) were published between 1847 and 1852, before his emigration from London to New York.
Victorian City Hall Park  fountain had a  granite basin with semi-circular pools on each side and a central cascade. Four ornate gas-lit “candelabra” sat on the corners.
The park and Mould’s fountain were an enticement to tourists and New Yorkers. Throughout the 1870s people crowded into the park for free concerts.
In 1920 Jacob Mould’s fountain was disassembled   and shipped to Crotona Park in the Bronx. Another fountain was built on the same place…Read the end of the story in my next post!

O.Henry and H.G.Wells wrote about it:Flatiron

In his short story "Lost on Dress Parade"  American writer O. Henry  wrote: "... He was employed in the  office of an architect. He was twenty-two years old; he considered  architecture to be truly an art; and he honestly believed--though he would not have dared to admit it in New York--that the Flatiron   Building was inferior to design to the great cathedral in Milan. "

I visited  the  great cathedral in Milan and I disagree with  the architect,  but still Flatiron Building,   at 175 Fifth Avenue, is one of the most famous building is New York. It  sits on a triangular block formed by Fifth Avenue, Broadway and East 22nd Street. The building, designed by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham and built in 1902, allowed it to fill the  wedge-shaped property.

Upon completion , it was one of the tallest buildings in the city.  Upon  the completion of the there were a lot of negative reviews in the newspapers:  The New York Tribune called the new building "A stingy piece of pie ... the greatest inanimate troublemaker in New York", The New York Times called it a "monstrosity".
But public was more enthusiastic.    Futurist English writer  H. G. Wells wrote in his 1906 travel  essay "The Future in America: A Search After Realities" :  " I found myself agape, admiring a sky-scraper the prow of the Flat-iron Building, to be particular, ploughing up through the traffic of Broadway and Fifth Avenue in the afternoon light. The New York sundown and twilight seemed to me quite glorious things".

Flatiron  was originally called the Fuller Building, after the Chicago-based George A. Fuller Company, which built and developed the building. The triangular lot bounded by Broadway, Fifth Avenue and 22nd and 23rd Streets had been called the “Flat Iron”' for years prior to the building's construction, and some of the few early drawings of the building that exist already used the name “Flatiron".

 When constructed  the building rose 20 stories. The  21st floor   was added in 1905.  The 21st floor originally housed a restaurant and an observation, but both of these were closed down many years ago. The building’s bathrooms are apportioned such that the men’s rooms on even floors and the women's rooms on odd ones.
The thinness of the building (it was called the most slender building in New York), with all three façades facing streets, enables many employees there to enjoy well-lit office space.
Because of the shape of the building, winds swirl around it. 

During the early 1900s, groups of men would allegedly gather to watch women walking by have their skirts blown up, revealing legs, which were seldom seen publicly at that time.   In 1905 Crescent Films made a  movie  entitled  " The Flatiron Building on a Windy Day", that “gives one a general idea of what women experience on a windy day around this noted corner,” according to a film catalog of the day.
Edward Steichen. 1905.
Photo of Flatiron Building

San Francisko
Flatiron building
The Flatiron   attracted the attention of numerous artists.  A lot of photographers took the Flatiron as the subject of their work.  As an icon of New York City, the Flatiron Building is a popular spot for tourist photographs, making it "possibly one of the most photographed buildings in the world".
San Francisco has its own California's Flatiron Building, constructed in the Financial District in 1913. Atlanta has its own Flatiron building constructed  in 1897, five years earlier that Flatiron in New York.

In December 2013  the Museum of Mathematics (MoMath) and about 500 math enthusiasts of all ages proved that   building is approximately in the shape of a very special type of right triangle. People lined up around the three sides of the building holding  light sticks   end to end. By counting  the sticks MoMath was able to estimate the length of the building's sides in terms of lights ticks. So the results were:   75, 180 and  195  light sticks- Pythagorean triple. I wrote about this event in one of my posts.   

Lake Manahatta in the center of New York

Central Park was the first landscaped public park in the United States. The Reservoir, named the "Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir" in 1994, is a favorite Central Park attraction for joggers, bird watchers, and tourists.  It is located between 86th and 96th and covers one eight of the park's surface.  The reservoir is 40 feet deep and holds a billion gallons of water.   It was built between 1858 and 1862 as a temporary water supply for New York City and  was used to receive water from the Croton Aqueduct  via the northern gatehouse and distribute it to Manhattan via the southern gatehouse. At that time the Reservoir was called Lake Manahatta.  

The Croton Aqueduct was  New York’s first out-of city water supply. It was a  large and complex water distribution system constructed for New York City between 1837 and 1842. It brought water by the force of gravity alone 41 miles (with the drop  13 inches per mile) from the Croton River in Westchester County.  
The reservoir  was  named after   Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir,  the widow of President John F. Kennedy,  in 1994.   Jacqueline   lived at the 1040 Fifth Avenue, across the Reservoir.

The Reservoir loop is a beautiful path in central park with amazing views  of Midtown Manhattan. The best time to go is right as the sun is setting, when the air is slightly cooler and the still reservoir water reflects the changing color of the sky. President Bill Clinton, Madonna and Jackie Kennedy Onassis are among the runners who have taken to this 1.58 mile track.
In 1993, after 131 years of using,  New York administration officials have decided to stop pumping drinking water from the reservoir.
At the very beginning the reservoir had a 4- feet high cast iron fence. But it was not enough and to prevent the large number of suicides and a seven-foot high chain-link  ugly fence with barbed wire at the top  around the lake was built.
When scuba divers discovered a piece of the original fence at the very bottom of the reservoir, the Central Park Conservancy in 2003 built a steel fence with cast-iron ornamentation, closely resembling the original.
The fountain in the center of the reservoir was built in October 2017 to celebrate the completion of the Catskill water supply system’s newly built reservoir. On August 13, 1998, the fountain in the Central Park Reservoir was returned to service for the second time. And in July 18, 2003 the fountain  was activated for the third time to Commemorate 150th Anniversary Of Central Park. Since that time its use has been infrequent.
Starting from the summer 2010, the Reservoir's fountain is back in action thanks to the efforts of the Central Park Conservancy.  Fully restored and modernized to recycle the water already in the Reservoir, the fountain will flow through the entire summer and be turned off on winter months.

Ukrainian Institute of America

The Ukrainian Institute occupies one of the grandest turn-of-the-century structures that remain in New York City: the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion.  Not many people know that the grand French Renaissance-style chateau on the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 79th Street is actually open to the public. 

 The house sits across  the Metropolitan Museum of art in the midst of "Museum Mile", which includes the Guggenheim Museum and the Frick Collection. It   was designed by Charles Pierrepont Henry Gilbert for the New York banker and stockbroker Isaac D. Fletcher in 1897 and completed in 1898.

When Fletcher died in 1917, he left the house and his art collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.. In  1918 the house was bought by made oil millionaire Harry F. Sinclair who lived in the house until 1930. After 1930 the  descendents of Peter Stuyvesant had been living there. In 1955 house was purchased by the Ukrainian Institute of America.

Ukrainian Institute of America  was founded in 1948 by William Dzus (Volodymyr Dzus or Dzhus )  American engineer of Ukrainian descent. 
Since that time the institute has offered concerts, lectures, conferences and exhibits. 
I visited Ukrainian Institute on a warm  night in June. It was a Museum Day in New York  and 5th Ave was close to traffic and overcrowded.   There was a long line to  the    Neue Galerie  - "Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937," was on show. I opened  the door of the beautiful mansion  and was surprised how quite it was inside.  I was the only one visitor at that time...

The first floor was occupied by a photo exhibit from Euromaidan  " For Democracy and Dignity".
 There were a bunch of the pictures done in Socialist realism style, the official style of Soviet art from the mid-1930s until the dissolution of the Soviet Union. One of the most impressive was  monumental 1961 work "Motherland Greets A Hero" (15 feet x 7 feet),  by Mykhailo Khmelko  which depicts Nikita Khrushchev and a crowd of well-wishers greeting cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin after his first flight into space.

The last floor of the house is occupied now by the works of Alexander Archipenko. 

 Archipenko was born in Kyiv, Ukraine in 1887. He  moved to Paris in 1908 and was a resident in the artist’s colony La Ruche, among émigré Russian artists.   Four of Archipenko’s Cubist sculptures, including Family Life and five of his drawings, appeared in the controversial Armory Show in 1913 in New York City.  I wrote about this show in one of my posts. Alexander Archipenko died on February 25, 1964, in New York City. His works are on view till December 2014 and I highly recommend to visit Ukrainian Institute- you will be really pleasantly surprised. 

Time to buy tickets.August 2014

Circus at Lincoln Center,  Oct 17- Jan 11   METAMORPHOSIS
Lincoln Center Damrosch Pk 62nd Street, NY

Fly away to the new  magical All-New Show, METAMORPHOSIS. Be transported to a realm of enchantment and illusion, a dreamscape domain where no one sits more than 50 feet from ringside, and nothing is impossible! You will be thrilled by the Flying Trapeze, the razzle-dazzle of the Rolla-Bolla, the dynamo of the Diablo, the risky rhythms of the Risley team, the cunning conjurors of the Quick-Change, and the incredible flexible limbs of the Contortionists. See and hear the musical merriment of our featured clown and camels, horses, playful pooches and more. Come immerse yourself in the wonder, joy and astounding magic of METAMORPHOSIS! The show runs 2 hours with intermission  or for special offers 75 min without intermission

Special Offer! Buy 1, Get 1 Free:
Wed Oct 22 2014 - 6:30 PM
Wed Nov 5, 2014 - 6:30 PM  ( other dates available)

Disney on Ice at BARCLAYS CENTER Nov 11 - Nov 27
 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217  Tickets are on sale!
Frozen is about family, sticking together through thick and thin and accepting who you are. Join Elsa and Anna, with all your favorites, including the hilarious Olaf, adorable Kristoff and his trusty reindeer Sven, this is to be an astonishing show, from the world-class talent that will be whizzing through the wintry wonderland, to the special effects that will transport you straight to Arendelle and beyond. This fall don't miss your chance to see Disney's breath-taking Frozen brought to life, on ice!
St. Matthew Passion (U.S. premiere)
Berliner Philharmoniker  Wade 
Tuesday, October 7 at 7:00
Wednesday, October 8 at 7:00
Thompson Drill Hall, Park Avenue Armory  

It took a century for Bach’s St. Matthew Passion of 1736 to arrive in the concert hall from its liturgical roots. Almost two centuries later, the work is again transformed in this ritualization by Peter Sellars. Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker are joined by the Rundfunkchor Berlin and a stellar cast of singers, including tenor Mark Padmore and baritone Christian Gerhaher. In a setting that places singers and instrumentalists in powerful vignettes, and the audience in intimate proximity to the storytellers, all are invited to reflect together upon our shared human frailties.
Jack O'Lanterns in Old Westbury Gardens, Long Island
October 16-October 30 every day, except Monday and Tuesday

Come see over 5,000 hand-carved Jack O'Lanterns! RISE of the Jack O'Lanterns is a family-friendly, all ages Halloween extravaganza featuring carvings from dozens of local artists in a unique walk-through experience. Discover celebrities, sports figures and other large scale displays all crafted from jack o'lanterns!  Submit your email address  to receive promo codes and get tickets for the event you choose.
Eifman Ballet Of St. Petersburg
 Tender is the Night at New York City Center 

Only 4 shows in May 2015!
Music by Alban Berg, Franz Schubert, George Gershwin
Choreography by Boris Eifman
Based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Boris Eifman uses the ballets he creates to explore the depths of the human psyche, offering unforgettable portraits of creativity, torment and genius. For his latest creation, Eifman turns to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final novel, Tender is the Night, as his inspiration for a stunning new ballet. The tumultuous story unfolds on the glamorous French Riviera as a young Hollywood starlet finds herself drawn into the world of a wealthy, elegant and magnetic couple and their coterie of followers
Kingsborough College, Brooklyn
Tickets are on sale ($35!) starting from September 8! 

Sunday, October 5, 2014 at 3:00 p.m
Saxophone virtuoso RECUERDO TANGO   and his  18-piece jazz Orchestra from Moscow. Bill Clinton said “Igor Butman may be the greatest living jazz saxophone player.”

The State Ballet Theater of Russia SWAN LAKE  
Friday, February 6, 2015 at 8:00 p.m Full-Length Ballet in Prologue and Three Acts

RECUERDO TANGO  with pre-performance introductory Tango Class for ticketholders!
 (Space is limited and reservations are required.) 

Saturday, May 2, 2015 at 8:00 p.m.