Greek Independence Day Parade

Greek Independence Day, national holiday celebrated annually in Greece on March 25, commemorating the start of the War of Greek Independence in 1821.  Greece had been part of the Ottoman Empire since 1453. On March 25, 1821 the bishop Germanos of Patras raised the Greek flag at the Monastery of Agia Lavra in Peloponnese.  The people of Greece   fought the War of Independence for 9 years (1821-1829) until a small part of modern Greece was finally liberated and it was declared an independent. March 25 is both a national  and religious holiday (Annunciation).  

On March 25  2015  thousands of Greeks have lined a main central Athens avenue despite rain to watch the country’s annual Independence Day military parade.   New York Greek independence Day parade took place yesterday, March 29.    New Yorkers had more luck  with the weather - it was cold yesterday but sunny.  Parade in New York represents the largest gathering of Greek-Americans outside of Greece itself and celebrates Orthodoxy, Hellenism, and Freedom.

About 1.3 million American people have Greek ancestry. The United States is home to the largest overseas Greek community, ahead of Australia, Cyprus, Albania, and the United Kingdom.  Greek immigration to New York City began mainly in the 1890s. The push factors for immigration were the Balkan Wars and World War I. Today residents of Greek descent make up 1.0% of New York City's population. The largest concentration of Greeks can still be found in Astoria.  With the economic crisis deepening, about 5,000 Greeks fled their homeland for Astoria in 2013, compared to about 2,000 a year in the previous half decade.

  The New York Greek Independence Day Parade has been held annually along Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue since 1951. The parade itself first took place in NYC in 1938.  Since 1938, the parade attracts over 100,000 spectators annually with approximately 25,000 participants.  The event celebrates Hellenic culture and marks the anniversary of Greek independence. 
 New York Greek Independence Day Parade is organized by the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York. Founded in 1937, the group claims to be the largest and oldest cultural federation in the U.S.

Beaux-Arts mansion and Sheikh of Qatar

William Stone had been a penniless weaver in Scotland. He emigrated to New York in 1834 and  established with his brother a carpet store.  After William died the business was run by his sons Thomas and Henry.  The store first was located at Broadway and east 18, and later on relocated to the corner of Fifth Avenue and 47 street.  Brothers married  rather well- Douglas married a daughter of Henry Vanderbilt and     Henry married Jessie Robins -the daughter of the founder of a Brooklyn-based pharmaceutical house.  By early 1890s Henry became a director of the company and moved with his family for the house on West 54th street to uptown and to the east side.

Sloans bought an extra-wide lot at 9 East 72 street and hired Carrere and Hastings to build a residence.   Both Carrere and Henry Sloan were trained at the Ecole de Beux-Arts in Paris  and the house was a Beaux-Arts exercise of the Renaissance- Baroque style, their favorite style. Five ionic columns unite two stories and create four intercolumnar  bays that are filled with ornaments. The smaller windows of the third floor were similarly decorative.  

 Immediately after the house was completed  Jessie began entertaining. One night there was a ball with 250 guests.  Little more than a year passed after this grand ball  and the couple divorced. At the same day Jessie got  papers she married  Pierre Belmont. Henry did not want to live in the house anymore after divorce. He sold it.
After 1935 the house was occupied by the The Lycée Français de New York  -a  private school devoted to the study of French Literature. In 2003, the school completed a modern state-of-the-art facility  at 505 East 75th Street and the building was sold again together with the Jennings House next door at 7 East 72nd Street, built in 1898. This classic Beaux Arts style townhouse with an incredible amount of detail was built for Oliver Gould Jennings, a lawyer and corporate director for the National Fuel Gas Company. The 28-foot wide structure has a limestone facade and large slate mansard roof.

Article in Observer
These two houses were bought in 2008 by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. He was the ruling Emir of State of Qatar from 1995 to 2013.  In 2012 Sheikh   has purchased Aby Rosen’s townhouse at 22 East 71st Street.   In June 2013 the  Qatar ruling family  purchased  a 35$  million  house at Beekman Place, and in January 2014 sigh a contract to buy  a 28-foottownhouse at 43 East 70th.
“They are very savvy buyers,” another broker said about the Qatar ruling family. “And yes, they’re still in the market to buy more property. They have a large number of people looking at all times for possible deals. And they have been looking at some huge, huge properties.”

By the way   the entire country of Qatar  have only 250,000 people.

World Tower on West 40

World Tower  is  narrow but very handsome building, nestled on West 40  within the Central Park West historic district.  The building has windows on all four sides   that is very unusual.  Typically the building has highly decorated façade and very plain side walls without windows. World tower has  white terra-cotta ornament and large windows on all four sides. 
 It  was completed at 1913 and at that time  was  considered   as   one of the highest buildings in the world on so small a plot of ground.
Edward W. Browning, the developer of  World Tower , was born 1874.    Edward   wanted to be a builder from childhood, when he made designs for fantasy houses.  He began investing in real estate in the late 1890s. The lot for the World tower was  really narrow - only 50 feet wide, but  Browning bought  air rights on the adjoining parcels.    Browning  had an office on  one of the top floors of the building.   He told to the  reporters that he plan    to come from his apartment on West 81 to the  office by airplane—taking off and landing on the roofs.  
When the WW1 started in Europe in 1914 Edward  proposed to use airplanes  stationed on the roof of the 40th Street building, to drop “dummy bombs” over Midtown to demonstrate the threat of aerial bombardment.   Fortunately the roof was not uses as an airfield. 

 In  the same  year,1914, when Browning was 40  years old he  married a girl of fifteen years old.   Edward built   a luxurious 24 - room residence on the top of a building on 25 West 81 street. There was a garden with  lake large enough  for a boat to be rowed. There were  beds with flowers and fountains in his garden.  But the couple did not enjoy the garden for a long time. They divorced, Edwards's  wife moved to Paris, and   Edward and his young adopted daughter stay in New York.  
In 1916  Edward Browning gave up hands-on control of World’s Tower Building    by leasing the entire property to the newly-formed World Tower Corporation.  The Sun reported that the lease of “the tallest commercial building in the world” would net Browning $105,000 a year for the next 21 years.

Among the offices that rented the space on the building was   the Russian Soviet Government Bureau.  This  Bureau was an   agency of the Soviet government, established in the United States to serve as a procurement agency and clearing house for news and press releases from the Russian Republic after the October revolution.  The bureau was headed by Ludwig   Martens, who entered the United States as German subject before being named Soviet representative in America.

He was a graduate of the Petrograd Technological Institute, a mechanical engineer by training. At the end of 1919 Martens was arrested.

Soon after that Edward Browning , the builder of the building,   was involved in one of the most sensational "scandals" of the Roaring Twenties.
After divorce he married again . He was 51 and his new wife- was 15. Edward called her Peaches  and the girl called him Daddy. Daddy and Peaches    lived together only several months.     The girl run away and refused to return. The story of the  legal battle between a 51-year-old Manhattan millionaire and a 15-year-old girl captured the imagination of the American public and gave birth to tabloid journalism.

Ulysses Grant , the Jews and Columbia student

The final resting place of President Ulysses Simpson Grant and his wife, Julia, is one of the largest mausoleum in North America. Memorial and a  tomb overlooks the Hudson River in Manhattan, New York.
Les Invalides , Paris
Constructed by the Grant Monument Association in the wake of the war from 1892 to 1897, the tomb was designed by New York architect John Duncan, who, inspired by Napoleon's Tomb at Les Invalides in Paris, was chosen through an international design competition.

Napoleons' tomb in Paris
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States (1869–1877). In 1865, as Commanding General, Grant led the Union Army to victory over the Confederacy in the American Civil War.
Grants' tomb in New York

In 1862 as the Civil War entered its second winter, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant issued the most notorious anti-Jewish official order  in American history, known as
General Orders No. 11: “The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the department within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.” The document blamed Jews for the widespread smuggling and cotton speculation that affected the area under Grant’s command.

Following protests from Jewish community leaders the General Order was revoked weeks later . During his campaign for the presidency in 1868, Grant repudiated the order, saying that it had been drafted by a subordinate and that he had signed it without reading it during warfare.
During the eight years of Grant’s presidency, memories of General Orders No. 11 surfaced repeatedly. Eager to prove that he was above prejudice, Grant appointed more Jews to public office than any of his predecessors, and, in the name of human rights, extended unprecedented support to persecuted Jews in Russia and Romania.   Ulysses S. Grant selected, for the first time, a Jewish adviser,   appointed a series of Jews to public   and, as president, attended the dedication of a synagogue further enhanced Jews’ self-confidence.

After Grant's death in 1885, New York City Mayor William Grace convened a group of citizens to raise funds for the erection of a monument in honor of the former president.
The monument was dedicated on April 27, 1897, on the 75th-anniversary ceremony of Grant's birth. Julia Dent Grant, Grant's wife of nearly 40 years, died five years later in 1902 and was placed in a matching sarcophagus and laid to rest in the mausoleum beside her husband.
Thirty-eight years after the tomb opened,  two statues of eagles were added to  decorate the front of the Grant Monument. These eagles adorned the demolished in 1939  the old New York City Post Office that stood is directly across Broadway from the Woolworth Building.
By the 1990s, the site had fallen into a severe state of disrepair. The tomb was scarred by graffiti. The roof leaked, the granite was cracked, and the area was used by the homeless as a latrine and drug haven.
In 1991, Frank Scaturro, a  nineteen years old student at Columbia University, volunteered with the National Park Service and began guiding tours of nearby Grant's Tomb.    In the same year Frank launched an effort to restore the tomb.    After two years of unsuccessful attempts to navigate the bureaucracy of the National Park Service,   Frank  went public with a 325-page whistle blower report which he sent to Congress and the President.
In  1991, For over two years, Scaturro battled the National Park Service, which was charged with maintaining Grant's Tomb. He sent weekly memos, including a 26-page report in the summer of 1992 .
In 1994  New York time published  editorial entitled "Dishonor for a Hero President".  His efforts paid off and restoration was completed by April 27, 1997, the 100th anniversary of the site’s dedication and Grant's 175th birthday.

Rockefeller and cannibals

The Metropolitan Museum’s Oceanic, or Pacific Islands, collection is one of the finest and most comprehensive in the world.   Nearly 1600 objects from the ''primitive'' cultures of Africa, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas are on view in The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Michael C. Rockefeller Wing.

Before 1982, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the nation’s premier encyclopedic museum, had no galleries devoted to the cultural achievements of Africa, Oceania, or pre-Columbian art. Early generations of directors of the Met, which opened in its current location on Fifth Avenue in 1880, didn’t think such objects belonged in an art museum.

Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate. Nelson Rockefellerr lived there.
That was Nelson A. Rockefeller,  who made it his lifetime mission to open the museum to the non-Western cultures whose art he collected and championed.   And he founded  his own museum in 1954  , the Museum of Primitive Art.     Nelson Rockefeller  is the son of D. Rockefeller, Jr. after whom Rockefeller center was named.   He was elected governor of New York in 1959 and was later vice president under Gerald Ford.  As coordinator of the Office of Inter-American Affairs in the early ’40s, he traveled widely in South America.
13-15 West 54

The Museum of Primitive Art opened to the public in 1957 in a townhouse on at 15 West 54th Street, located adjacent to Nelson Rockefeller's boyhood home and directly across from the Museum of Modern Art.  Nelson  donated to the museum his own collection of Tribal art.  Michael, the fifth and last child of Mary Todhunter Rockefeller and Nelson Rockefeller, was 19 when the museum opened.  Michael became one of its board members.

Michael Rockefeller was   born in 1938. He graduated cum laude from Harvard University with a B.A. in history and economics. In 1960, he served for six months as a private in the U.S. Army and then went on an expedition for Harvard's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology to study the Dani tribe of western Netherlands New Guinea.  

Asmats  poles in Met Museum
Michael and a friend left the expedition in June for a trip to the southern coast of New Guinea to explore the possibilities of collecting art from the Asmat tribe, one of the last surviving Stone Age cultures.
The Asmats  lived right next to the coast along a main waterway.  They lived without steel, iron, paper or roads, relying solely on wooden canoes to traverse the Arafura Sea.
In October 1961, Michael with anthropologist Rene Wassing visited 13 villages in three weeks, never spending more than three days in one location.  He gathered hundreds of items, among the most prized possession, four sacred bisj poles, spiritual artifacts that are often dedicated to the deceased. The trip was a full success but one trip was not enough.
After a brief stay at home, Michael went back. For nearly two months, he and a friend visited native villages along the coast of New Guinea and up the rivers. On November 18, 1961, in heavy tides and swift currents at the mouth of the Eilanden River, their catamaran overturned.

Two native assistants swam to shore for help. Michael and his friend clung to the canoes for nearly a day. With no help in sight, Michael decided to swim the 12 miles to shore with the help of a life preserver he fashioned from two gas tins tied together with his belt. He was never seen again. His friend stayed with the overturned canoes and was rescued.
A book entitled "Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primative Art" by Carl Hoffman, published in March 2014 gives significant credence to the idea that Michael was killed and eaten by cannibals.
“Headhunting and cannibalism were as right to them as taking communion or kneeling on the carpet facing Mecca,” Michael writes.   But Rockefellers never believed in it.
Twenty years later in 1982, the Rockefeller wing  in Metropolitan museum  opened sponsored by Governor Nelson Rockefeller as a memorial to his son, Michael Rockefeller.   The Museum of Primitive Art closed in 1976, and its collections were transferred to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

''In opening the installation,'' Philippe de
Montebello, director of the Met, said, ''we are closing the last gap in our encyclopedic coverage of the arts of man, placing works by artists from so-called 'primitive' regions on the level of oriental, classical, medieval and other more recognized arts of the civilized world.''
Some of the most impressive New Guinea pieces include Asmat bis poles that were collected during the Michael Rockefeller expedition of 1961.

Celebrating the Saxes in Metropolitan museum

The exhibition “Celebrating the Saxes” opened at Metropolitan museum   last November.   Though the saxophone is instantly recognizable as a symbol of jazz and swing, its creator Adolphe Sax could not have imagined such 20th-century music when he invented the instrument in the late 1830s. The bicentenary of Sax’s birth on 6 November 1814 at Dinant, Belgium, was   widely celebrated last year.

Sax's father was a    maker of musical instruments in Brussel.   From a young age, Sax learned the craft at his father's side.  He started out on his own instrument, the clarinet, when he was   15 years old. He improved the instrument, changing the bore and exact locations of the holes, to make it sound better.  Later Sax borrowed some money, built his own workshop, and started making a range of what he called "saxhorns."
In 1841, he succeeded, inventing the first saxophone—a C bass sax he called a “bass horn”—which he promptly showed to his friend Hector Berlioz. This instrument   was given its debut at the  Industrial Exhibition in Brussels.  As it was not yet a finished product, Sax insisted on having it played behind a curtain.

As an experiment to prove the tonal importance of the saxophone, Sax pitted the 35 members of the French army band, with only oboes, bassoons, and French horns, against a 28-member band that included saxophones in a “battle of the bands.” Sax’s band was the clear winner, and so in 1845, he was allowed to replace the French army band’s standard instruments with B-flat and E-flat saxophones. Soon, the saxophone  was considered a vital part of all French military bands.
In 1846, Sax unveiled a patent for his  "saxophone"  .  French military music made its way to the United States through New Orleans, where the sax was first introduced into the underground “jazz” sound emerging in nightclubs in the 1910s.
By the 1920s, the saxophone was a hot item, used in big bands playing both Dixieland and swing jazz. Even though jazz (and by extension, saxophones) was becoming more and more socially acceptable in U.S. society, there were still many old-fashioned folks that questioned the sound's respectability. 

In 1903, Pope Pius X wrote the Motu Proprio on Sacred Music, which prohibited certain instruments ( including  the saxophone  ) “that may give reasonable cause for disgust or scandal”   as being “unworthy of the House of Prayer and of the Majesty of God.”
In the 1930s, Ladies Home Journal, a magazine for proper American gentlewomen, spoke out against the questionable morals of jazz.
The Nazis banned it as an instrument of American “jungle music”. Their poster for the 1938 exhibition of “Decadent Music” (Entartete Musik) in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1938  featured a caricature of an African-American man playing the saxophone and wearing a Jewish star. The superintendent of the Weimar National Theatre  explained in an opening speech of the exhibition  that the decay of music was "due to the influence of Judaism and capitalism".

Stalin despised the instrument “of capitalist oppression” so much that he not only banned it but sent its players to Siberia. Many other Eastern European countries felt obliged to copy his stance, the ban on its performance remaining in place in some countries until the 1980s.  By the way, the Papal prohibition has never been revoked.
Adolphe Sax died in 1894, and is buried in the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris. Once the sax took its place in the big bands of Duke Ellington and Count Basie, its rise was unstoppable.

The Saxophone becomes  the head of a new group, that of the brass instruments with reed. Its sound is of such rare quality that  there is not a bass instrument in use nowadays that could be compared to  the Saxophone.
 The exhibition Celebrating Sax: Instruments and Innovation, is on display in gallery 682 of The André Mertens Galleries for Musical Instruments through April 30, 2015. Rare saxophones, brass instruments, and this exquisite ivory clarinet are among the twenty-six instruments selected to showcase the innovative work of the Sax family.

Sephora on 5th Avenue

A little bit more than one  hundred years ago, in 1913, the architect Ernest Flagg designed a beautiful    Beaux-Arts showcase for the retail business of Charles Scribner’s Sons, book publishers.
 In 1893, the firm hired the then-unknown Flagg to design a corporate
headquarters for them on lower Fifth Avenue at 21st Street.   Ernest Flagg was married to    Louise   Charles Scribner Jr. sister.   Brooklyn-born Flagg studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris as almost all architects in New York of that time. His studies were sponsored by his cousin Cornelius Vanderbilt .

 Less than two decades later, the publishers rehired Flagg--now an architectural star--to design a new space   in midtown to house not only the company's headquarters but also their corporate-owned bookstore on the retail level.
New York has long been the center of the U.S. publishing universe and Charles Scribner founded his publishing firm in New York in 1846 with partner Isaac Baker. Charles Scribner publishing house published  the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Edith Wharton, and Thomas Wolfe.

 Scribner’s In 1984 company   was purchased by Macmillan.  The shop on 5th Avenue  closed in 1989 but its interior became an official New York City landmark.  It house today  Sephora,  a French brand and chain of cosmetics.   But you can still see the  Charles Scribner on the top of the side wall of the building.

Sephora is relatively young company- it as found in 1970. Sephora is a combination of “sephos”, which is Greek for “beauty” and the Greek form of Tzipporah (ציפורה), which means “bird” (female) in Hebrew, and was the name of the wife of Moses in the Book of Exodus.
 When Dominique Mandonnaud, the founder of the company, opened his first perfumery in 1969, perfume and cosmetics were hidden behind counters - buy before  you try!  

  Mandonnaud   took beauty products out from behind the counters, put them front and centre. Gave customers the freedom to move around, to try, touch, smell, and freely explore. Products were grouped together by type.

 Sephora opened their first store in the United States in New York city in 1998.  Today, there are more than 250 stand-alone stores in the United States.
Sephora has a very attractive shopping policy. Anything you buy in the store can be returned without a receipt for store credit, as long as you have an ID. Plus, you can get a full refund with a receipt, even if the product is used

Channel Garden, Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center is the symbol of midtown Manhattan.  A complex of 19 buildings and plazas, located between Fifth and Seventh Avenues and 48th and 51st  Streets, Rockefeller Center was built to be a “city within a city.”
 A narrow promenade separates tow building  in Rockefeller center - the British Empire Building and the Maison Française   in the way the English Channel separates the two countries in whose honor the buildings were named.   This promenade is named Channel Garden.

Two hundred years ago this place was the site of the first  botanical garden in New York State.  In 1801 Dr. Hosack,  a noted physician, botanist, and educator purchased just over 19 acres of land in the vicinity of today’s Rockefeller Center for $4,807 in order to create the  Elgin Botanic Gardens-  one of the earliest in the United States.  At that time it was a wooded area about 3.5 miles north of the city’s development.

At his own expense, Hosack landscaped the garden. He planted variety of indigenous and exotic plants.  The garden  opened in 1804. The grounds included a conservatory and two hothouses and were surrounded by a stone wall seven feet high and 2.5 feet thick.
 Six years later the garden was sold to New York State,   later was placed  in the hands of the Regents of the University (now known as SUNY Board of Regents), and was eventually abandoned, fell into decay and was later sold to raise funds for Columbia College.

In modern times, Rockefeller Center retains its own botanical appeal with its beautiful Channel Gardens. The Channel Gardens has six pools  each with a large fountainhead sculpture, designed by Rene Paul Chambellan, at its eastern end. The female figures are Nereids and the male figures are Tritons.
These  granite pools and fountains  are surrounded by seasonal floral displays. 

 By far, the most famous display is the annual Christmas Angels.  
But every season  It's always worth visit to see which plants  have been placed on display or to see the flowers in full bloom.
I had been working near Rockefeller center for last ten years and I made a lot of pictures of this beautiful place.