Monthly Archives: December 2013

Lyndhurst

On Friday, I took a tour of Lyndhurst, a Gothic Revival country house that overlooks the Hudson River in Tarrytown. According to the web site, the house was decorated for “A Very Dutchess Holiday,” so I was curious.

Lyndhurst was owned by three families: the Pauldings, the Merritts, and the Goulds, before it was turned over to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Unlike Philipsburg Manor or the Rockefellers’ Kykuit which are part of the Historic Hudson Valley, a local historic organization, Lyndhurst was turned over to the National Trust upon the death of Anna Gould, the Duchess of Talleyrand-Perigord, in 1961.

The most famous–or notorious, depending on your viewpoint– residents were: William Paulding, the New York City mayor who had the original house built and named it Knoll; George Merritt, who had the original architect A. J. Davis double the size of the house in 1864-1865 before he moved in, renaming the house Lyndenhurst after the linden trees on the property; and Jay Gould, railroad magnet and robber baron, who also expanded and remodeled the house. Gould would use the house as his country retreat until his death in 1892. Helen Gould Shepard, Gould’s daughter, inherited the house and continued to live in it until her death in 1938 when her sister, Anna, inherited the house. She would occasionally visit and maintain the estate. The house was kept as it was when the Dutchess lived.

The attempts to link the United States with the ancient Roman Republic was reflected in the way the busts of Washington and Lafyette were dressed–in togas. This linking with the past was very popular in the early United States, to stress the link with Rome’s greatness as well as the recreation of a better form of government than the monarchies then the norm. Unfortunately, our guide made the mistake of confusing a republic with a democracy, which is done constantly. Rather than go into it here, perhaps I’ll write a short entry on the difference between a republic and a democracy.

Anyway, Lyndhurst was beautiful. We learned from our guide that Gould had the house remodeled. He had the wood and plaster walls painted to look like marble and stone as well as the plaster ceilings resemble wood. This painting cost so much more than Gould just having rebuilt the house in marble and stone, but he did this to show off that he could and how much he was really worth. This is an oxymoron to what the nouveau riche trash today do: look for every way to save pennies then pretend that they are worth more than they really are. At least Gould was honest.

The other rooms on the first floor we visited were the waiting room, the library, the dining room, and Gould’s office. On the second floor, were the bedrooms and what had been the old library but Gould had turned it into the art gallery. This room had a vaulted ceiling and skylights. The walls were covered with paintings as an upside down tree near the windows displayed many of Anna’s hats.

The remaining rooms on the second floor were bedrooms, decorated in different ways. The windows in many of the rooms were either painted or stained glass and were beautiful. It really is more a country house than a mansion, but it was really nice. I could see myself living in such a place–if I was wealthy or married someone über-wealthy. (It’s not going to happen, but one can dream.) It was a tour that I really enjoyed.

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Filed under Holidays, Museums, Tarrytown

Rockefeller Christmas Tree

Last night, I went to dinner with friends and on the way back to Grand Central, I stopped at Rockefeller Center and saw the Christmas tree, which has become an annual event for me. The tree, as always, looks magnificent. The crowds, as usual, were horrible and I could hardly wait to escape eastward.

The ball above Times Square, looking down Seventh Avenue from 48th Street towards 42nd Street

The ball above Times Square, looking down Seventh Avenue from 48th Street towards 42nd Street

On the way over to Rockefeller, I crossed Times Square. Only true New Yorkers detest Times Square and avoid it at all costs. Those new year’s festivities? Tourista. New Yorkers may go ONCE to see the ball drop, but I’ve never met anyone who does it regularly or more than once. Still, crossing Seventh Avenue, I spotted the ball being prepared for the festivities.

I didn’t get home until after midnight. I’ve been seeing the tree outside of the Sleepy Hollow village hall, and though it is much simpler (and smaller), I think that it is nonetheless pretty, so I finally snapped a pic on the way home.

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Books vs. the Rich: the Protest at NYPL on Monday

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The protest on the steps of NYPL’s main branch at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

On Monday at noon, a bunch of people dressed up as books were told by another bunch of people dressed up in fancy clothing to get out of the library. The books fought back and refused to leave the library. A debate ensued between the books and the rich, who were trying to get the books to realize that no one needs libraries because no one reads books, and that the libraries could be sold to developers. This was the entire point of the protest: NYPL had been sold down the river by the rich serving on its Board of Trustees

NYPL is currently relocating a large chunk of it’s main branch research collection to New Jersey, where the library shares a storage facility with NYU and Princeton. The idea is to create a “library of the future” by remodeling areas and folding into the main branch the Mid-Manhattan Library, which is a very popular (and busy) branch library across the street. They also intend to sell that building as well as the part of the old Altman’s department store that currently houses NYPL’s Science, Industry, and Business Library (SIBL), the collection also being folded into the main branch.

The main branch has a major research collection known throughout the world. The relocating of materials to storage to make room for the popular library and SIBL (also used by quite a number of people), which is also a research library, as well as redesign former book shelving areas to create new patron areas, has many people alarmed.

From the beginning, NYPL botched the unveiling of the new plans, which were presented as an accomplished fact without any public input. This went over like a lead balloon and galvanized people to preserve the Mid-Manhattan Library, SIBL and the research collection at the main branch.

Promoted on Facebook, this protest was a success in that it garnered quite a bit of attention from passersby as well as a few media outlets that showed up to get their five second sound bite. Rumors circulate that NYPL is now an organization of fear, where librarians and staff are terrorized by the administration to stay silent on what is going on.

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Holidays at the New York Public Library

Though NYPL is embroiled in a controversy to “remake” the main building at Fifth Avenue  and 42nd Street in Manhattan into a “library of the future,” the building is spruced up (as usual) for the end of the year festivities.

The entrance from Fifth Avenue brings the visitor into Astor Hall, which is made out of marble and truly is a grand entrance. The tree is beautiful. Though Hanukkah is over, the menorah was completely lit when I visited.

Perhaps the most ridiculous thing are the wreaths around the necks of the famous lions outside the library. The wreaths are far too big, and the lions literally get lost in them. A much smaller wreath around the necks of the lions would look so much better. Perhaps the wreaths (and bows) are so big to make it harder for someone to steal. After all, what would one do with such big wreaths?

Then again, just a little bigger and those wreaths could probably fit comfortably around Lady Liberty’s neck.

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Filed under Holidays, Libraries, New York City