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A wonderfully lifelike statue of Eleanor Roosevelt
(work in progress)
I’m no expert on U.S. politics, so I don’t know a huge amount about Eleanor Roosevelt – wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt – but I know enough to realise that she is a very divisive figure that people seem to revere or detest. Of all the First Ladies of the 20th century, she probably would probably have had most in common with Hillary Clinton (an equally polarising figure), and it would be amusing to speculate on the (lack of) common ground that she and Nancy Reagan would have found if they had ever met ...
Eleanor was a highly intelligent and strongminded woman who did her level best to buck the conventions of her time, but was hamstrung by the lack of independent opportunities open to women in the first half of the 20th century. In our day and age, she would have almost certainly pursued an openly lesbian lifestyle, but this was not an option in her era, and so she dutifully married her cousin, bore him children and supported him in his political aspirations. Later on, the domestic arrangement was recalibrated to accommodate his long term mistress and Eleanor’s lesbian partners, but she remained a colossally powerful influence on her husband’s liberal social policy. Eleanor was an immensely character who cared little for conventions and used her position to force through a very strong social agenda that was enlightened beyond its time.
God love her, she was what my mother would describe as being ‘unfortunate looking’, with a pronounced overbite and a chin so receding that did little to interrupt the direct slope between lower lip and neck. Eleanor was clearly a pragmatist who was under no illusions about her attractiveness, and this naturalistic and casually posed statue by Penelope Jencks at the entrance to the Riverside Park on West 72nd Street perfectly captures her lack of pretention. In terms of statues accurately depicting the people they celebrate, they don’t get much better, and I suspect that Eleanor herself would have been pleased with the outcome.
Whereas Strawberry Fields in Central Park is a rememberance garden...The Dakota building is a shrine.
John Winston Lennon was gunned down in this archway on the night of December 8, 1980. Do you remember where you were? I was a young kid in England, a Beatles fan, and I remember crying.
John and Yoko brought the concept of peace into this country...we should honor it.
- Historical Travel
Cathedral of Saint John the Divine
The unfinished Cathedral of Saint John the Divine is the seat of the Episcopal Archdiocese of New York and is one of the most remarkable churches in the city. [Note that Saint Patrick's Cathedral is New York's main Roman Catholic church, while this is the Episcopal Cathedral (i.e. Protestant)]. Construction work began in 1892 and continues to this day, making this structure, in a way, la Sagrada Família of New York City. When finished, St John the Divine will be the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. It was originally designed in a Romanesque-Byzantine style by the architectural firm, Heins & LaFarge, which was dismissed in 1909 in favour of the renowned architect, Ralph Adams Cram. The latter changed the architectural plan to Gothic Revival, his signature style. Although the structure is intended to be entirely Gothic when completed, its centre currently retains the Byzantine style of the original work. The cathedral was built under mediaeval construction methods using stone-on-stone.
- Historical Travel
Cathedral of Saint John the Divine - Interior
With its 187 metres in length and nearly 38 metres in height, the interior of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine is unbelievably large. A long Gothic nave leads to the crossing, the oldest part of the church, which was built using different stones from the rest of the cathedral. Originally, a dome was meant to cover the crossing, but when Ralph Adams Cram took over the project, he replaced the dome with a Gothic tower, which is yet to be built. In the ambulatory behind the choir are seven chapels, each dedicated to a different saint.
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
One of the world's leading performing arts centres, Lincoln Center is a complex of several state-of-the-art theatres. The entire complex was built in the early 1960s and is home to about 12 fine organisations, including the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera, the New York Philharmonic, and the New York City Ballet, to name a few. Each of these organisations conducts performing arts at the theatres within the complex, including the largest and most prestigious three: the Metropolitan Opera House, the Philharmonic Hall (now called Avery Fisher), and the New York State Theater (now called Dave Koch). Countless famous artists, such as Pavarotti and Maria Callas, have performed here. For lovers of opera, classical music and ballet, the Lincoln Center is heaven.
- Theater Travel
- Arts and Culture
This grand Neoclassical structure is the mausoleum of the 18th president of the US, Ulysses Grant, whose presidency was marked by the Civil War. The majestic tomb was designed by John Duncan who modelled the exterior of the structure after the Ancient Greek Tomb of Mausolus at Halicarnassus (near Bodrum, Turkey). The interior was modelled after the tomb of Napoléon at Les Invalides in Paris and contains the tombs of the former president and his wife.
- Historical Travel
A Gothic masterpiece, Riverside Church has the highest tower of any church in the US. Its construction was funded by John Rockefeller who commissioned the architects Henry Pelton and Charles Collens for the work. They were inspired by the Cathedral of Chartres in France and completed the work in 1930. Unlike the old Chartres Cathedral, Riverside Church was built using modern construction techniques. The tower is in fact a steel structure covered in stone! Additionally, there is a subtle hint of Art Déco in the statues and decorations on the exterior of the church, revealing the era in which it was built.
A landmark in the Upper West Side, the Dorilton boasts flamboyant Beaux-Arts style architecture. The residential block was built in 1902, supposedly in competition with the Dakota nearby, but it never quite became as prestigious. Nevertheless, its château look with sculptures, fer forgé balconies, and mansard roof, is architecturally impressive and has earned it landmark status.
Commissioned by William Earl Dodge Stokes, a wealthy businessman known for his property developments, the Ansonia was one of the grandest buildings of its time. It was completed in 1904 as a residential hotel designed by a French architect, Paul Duboy. The exterior is ornately decorated in the Beaux-Arts style with French inspirations, while the interior contained sumptuous apartments/flats with large rooms and decorative details. When it opened, it was the first hotel in New York to offer air-conditioning. The building survived the threat of demolition in the 1960s and in 1992 it was restored as a luxury condominium building with 430 apartments for sale. Over the years, the building has had celebrity residents, been mentioned frequently in literature and was featured in numerous films, among them "Single White Female". It is located in the Upper West Side on Broadway and 73rd Street.
- Arts and Culture
Designed by Emery Roth, this enormous residential building was completed in 1929, and inherited its name from the Beresford Hotel which had previously occupied the site. It is recognisable by the the four octagonal Baroque-style towers at the top. The building is lucky to have views over Central Park on one side and Manhattan Square and the Museum of Natural History on the the other, making it one of the most sought after addresses in Manhattan, along with several other sister buildings on Central Park West. The Beresford has had numerous celebrity residents over the years, among them the late Rock Hudson. It is said that Jerry Seinfeld and Diana Ross continue to own apartments in the building.
- Historical Travel
The San Remo
Yet another landmark residential building on Central Park West, the San Remo is known for its monumental twin towers. The building was designed by the architect, Emery Roth who also designed The Beresford up the street, and was completed in 1929. Unfortunately, the San Remo opened just in time for the Great Depression which led the building to face financial difficulties in the following decade and many of its large opulent apartments/flats were divided to make them more affordable. The building was the first in New York to have twin towers in a single structure. Each tower is topped with a round Neoclassical monument inspired by the Ancient Greek Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens. Over the decades, countless celebrities have made the San Remo their home, including: Steven Spielberg, Demi Moore, Dustin Hoffman, Tiger Woods and the list goes on...
Church of the Blessed Sacrament
Modelled after Eglise Sainte Chapelle in Paris, this grand French Gothic church is tucked away in a quiet street in the Upper West Side. It was built in 1917 following the design by Gustav Steinbach, who was also responsible for designing several churches in New York City. The church has triple naves, with the central one much larger than the sides. Stunning stained glass windows and an oversized rose window are all topped by an extremely high vaulted ceiling, giving the church cathedral-like proportions. Church of the Blessed Sacrement is a Roman Catholic church and the Parish itself was founded in 1887, but it was located around the corner until this current edifice was completed.
Riverside Park/ Boat Basin
The boat basin being only a few blocks from our hotel I walked over there early one morning. It was a beautiful walk through the neighborhood. The site of the Hudson river was really quite beautiful. It is amazing what a river does to your thinking. I was nearly run over by all the people on bikes, running, on skates using the park path along the river as a great place to get some exercise.
General Grant's Memorial
Perhaps General Ulysses S. Grant is best remembered for his leadership in the American Civil War. He was the Republican nomination for President of the United States in 1868 and served two terms (8 years). It is generally accepted that his skills in the battlefield outshone his qualifications as chief executive.
He died on July 23, 1885. The tomb, nearly 150 feet high, is America's largest mausoleum and was completed in 1897. It overlooks the Hudson River. The memorial has a museum and a small gift shop.
Now, who is buried in Grant's Tomb? I'm not telling, but you might be surprised when you visit.
Upper West side, a local's suggestion
My best kept secrets of living in this neighborhood:
1. Grab your bike & head out to Riverside Park. Take the 76th St. entrance that takes you right along the water. Do the loop that circles Manhattan (West to East) or bike up to GW bridge & across to the Palisades, NJ. Its a great day-trip bike ride. This was my all time favorite things to do in the Fall time.
2. If you are into skateboarding, head out to Riverside Park (around 110th St.) and 1 down by Battery Park.
3. Best breakfast places - Skip Sarabeth's kitchen & head out to 1 of these choices:
- Columbus Bakery on Columbus Avenue. Gourmet bread, pastries & breakfast.
- Good Enough to Eat on Amsterdam. Hearty and yummy for the tummy portions
4. Clubs - Go downtown. Sorry, can't recommend any of the ones uptown.
5. Best shopping for women - Sude, a boutique that only NYers know. Club Monaco on Broadway/88th. Tons of shops on Amsterdam Avenue.
6. Best reliable landlord ever!!! - Michael Brusco. He owns all of his properties & are all very well maintained. I rented from him for 12 years. Giamco Realty.
7. Favorite UWS restaurants:
- Saigon Grill - Vietnamese. Don't expect ambiance but guaranteed mouth-savoring food. Amsterdam/89th
- Suki - the best sushi in this neighborhood. Amsterdam/90th.
- Celeste - wonderful family-owned Italian restaurant. Only locals frequent this place because of the smallness of this place; known for their fresh homemade pasta & assortment of cheeses. Amsterdam/84th
- Rosa Mexicano - very creative & gourmet Mexican food. Be sure order the guac & the Pomegranate Margaritas. Near Lincoln Center. Mama Mexico on Broadway is a good choice too
- Aix - french, a bit pricey (what else is new in nYC). Broadway/88th
8. Church - Redeemer meets Sundays at 7pm. Broadway/76th Street
9. Best Theater for Movies - Lincoln Plaza Cinema. 66th/Broadway. Avant-garde & foreign films
10. Best Mexican stand (only for the adventurous kind) - 96th/Broadway.
bonus: for late night blues/jazz - go to Cleopatra's Needle on Broadway/94th.
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