New York City Above Forty Second Street – Part 2

Now let us continue on our way, up Fifth Avenue.

At the northwest corner of 51st Street is the only Vanderbilt residence left on Fifth Avenue, now occupied by Brigadier-General Cornelius Vanderbilt. Its twin structure at 52d Street is gone; likewise the `French Chateau’ of W. K. Vanderbilt on the northwest corner of 52d Street, and the house of W. K. Vanderbilt, Jr., next to it on the north.

St. Thomas’s Church at 53d Street was begun in 1911 to replace the older structure burned in 1905. It is the work of Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson, and considered one of the most beautiful adaptations of French Gothic ever achieved in America. The interior is well worth a visit. There are fine windows, and the reredos is probably the best in America. Many fashion-able weddings occuT there.

The next northwest corner (54th Street) is occupied by the University Club, designed by McKim, Mead and White; this is another architectural gem, with a notably magnificent library.

At 55th Street there is the St. Regis Hotel on the southeast corner, the Gotham Hotel on the southwest, and the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church on the northwest corner.

At 59th Street Central Park begins. In the center of the spacious Plaza south of 59th Street is a fountain erected to the memory of Joseph Pulitzer, famous proprietor of the New York World, whose name is best-known now through the Pulitzer Prizes.

The huge hotel west of the Plaza is the Plaza Hotel; on the Plaza’s east side are the Savoy-Plaza Hotel and Hotel Sherry-Netherland.

West 59th Street, which is Central Park South, has many hotels, all enjoying a superb view north over the Park.

Central Park extends from 59th Street to 110th Street, between Fifth and Eighth Avenues. It is two and a half miles long and a half mile wide, has nine miles of driveways, six miles of bridle paths and thirty miles of walks. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is in the Park, at 82d Street on the Fifth Avenue side. The Museum of Natural History and Hayden Planetarium are opposite the Park on the other side (Eighth Avenue is called Central Park West, north of 59th Street) at 77th Street.

Central Park is said to have cost the city $415,000,000, back in the decade before the Civil War, when 42d Street was `away uptown’ and 59th Street was the fringe of nowhere. What real estate value it now represents I have no idea; but it is evidence of astounding foresight that a metropolis as small as New York then was should have bought nearly 850 acres for a park and laid out upon it such a stupendous sum. All classes of citizens love and appreciate Central Park — and use it! No government has ever been corrupt enough to wheedle away a foot of this prized area.

Many of its statues are atrocious; but at the 59th Street entrance, opposite the Plaza, is Saint-Gaudens’ Sherman which some people consider the finest monument in New York. The landscaping in Central Park is charmingly natural and full of variety. The zoo at 64th Street is notable, with fine new buildings. Cleopatra’s Needle, companion to the one on Victoria Embankment, London, stands south of the Metropolitan Museum. They were originally erected at Heliopolis, about 1500 B.C. Augustus had them moved to Alexandria, whence they were removed, one to London and one to New York, about 1878.

But the great attraction of Central Park is the variety of people who frequent it. And to enjoy them you must saunter and sit, and be leisurely about it. Fine free concerts in summer, on the Mall; and free dancing.

At 814 Fifth Avenue,- between 62d and 63d Streets, is the Jules S. Bache home housing his superb collection of Italian masterpieces, now open to the public. It is not a large collection, but everything in it is one of the finest examples of the master who produced it. Especially rich is this collection in Italian painting of the greatest schools.

Temple Emanu-el, on Fifth Avenue at 65th Street, is one of the largest and most beautiful synagogues in the world; early Romanesque architecture; very fine mosaics.

Five blocks north, at 70th Street, is the mansion of the late Henry C. Frick, one of Andrew Carnegie’s partners in the steel business, bequeathed with all its treasures to the city for a museum. Mr. Frick favored no one period or nation; he collected the best, from early Italian primitives, to Turner and Whistler. Few private collections in the world equal this, and not to see it is to miss one of the most notable things in New York, or in America. In addition to paintings it is rich in bronzes, enamels, and other treasures. Closed on Mondays.

Miss Helen C. Frick, daughter of the remarkable man who amassed the fortune and developed the taste to bring together this superb collection, is engaged on a task which may be even more of a benefaction, since it will serve multitudes who cannot get to New York to see her father’s gift. She is compiling data about every notable painting in the world and preparing a gigantic catalogue wherein each painting will be represented by a folder containing a large photograph of the picture, together with a history of its creation, a list of its owners, of dealers who have handled it, and a resume of what has been written about it. Imagine, if you can, what this will mean to students of art! It may cover half a million paintings.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the great museums of the world, is in Central Park, on the Fifth Avenue side, at 82d Street. What can I say of this vast treasure-house? A catalogue of its various departments is a volume in itself. And to select for mention a few of the `double-starred’ objects seems an impossible undertaking.

The marvel of the Metropolitan is that all it contains has been assembled in sixty-odd years. It began when the great museums of Europe were practically complete. For a time there were still rich possibilities in the breaking-up of famous private collections abroad, due to shrinking fortunes and swelling death duties. Then came stringent laws enacted against the exportation of art treasures from many foreign countries.

In spite of this, the Metropolitan has become one of the really great art museums of the world. Free lectures, and sometimes very fine free concerts.

Besides its very remarkable collection of paintings, it has a fine lot of Greek and Roman antiques, the nucleus of which was bought from Luigi Cesnola in 1872, seven years before he be-came director of the Museum. Cesnola, Italian soldier, after serving with distinction in the Crimean War, went to New York in 1860 to found a training-school for army officers. He fought in our Civil War as colonel of a New York regiment, and after the war was brevetted brigadier-general and appointed United States consul to Cyprus where he made extensive excavations and uncovered many treasures of ancient art.

The Egyptian department is very fine, including the Earl of Carnarvon’s collection. The collection of ancient glass is reckoned the finest in the world. Splendid Asiatic art. The superb Morgan collections of decorative arts are specially rich in ivories and enamels. The DeForest Wing of American Art. Great collections of armor, of majolica, faience, of laces, of miniatures, of Renaissance sculpture, furniture, textiles, metal-work. And so on and on and on.

The tendency in the Old World is for great private collections to remain, generation after generation, in the family, unless financial stress necessitates parting with one or more items for immediate relief.

The tendency in this country is for great collections to be donated to the public on the death (sometimes before the death) of the collectors. Throughout America we find notable museums made up by oDe man’s collecting, usually in the last two or three decades of a busy industrial life; and other museums greatly enriched by bequests which were not quite sufficient to be made a museum of themselves alone. They furnish a most interesting commentary on American wealth — and a most creditable one.

Whatever your special interest in the beautiful, you will find it satisfied in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One visit will give you little more than a general glimpse or a fairly good inspection of one or two sections. Go often, if you can, for an hour at a time. Free except Mondays and Fridays, when admission is 25 cents.

Between 90th and 91st Streets is the residence of Mrs. An-drew Carnegie.

Between 100th and 101st Streets is the Mt. Sinai Hospital, with more than 500 beds.

At Fifth Avenue and 104th Street is the charming new building of the Museum of the City of New York (closed Tuesdays, free except Mondays), founded only in 1923 and located in this building only since 1932. Its collections are not yet notable, though they doubtless will soon become so, and even now are very interesting. But everyone interested in the history of the City of New York should see its forty or more dioramas of events like Peter Minuit buying Manhattan from the Indians, Peter Stuyvesant defying the Duke of York’s officers, Nathan Hale’s trial, etc.

The building to the north is the Hecksher Foundation for Children, an outgrowth of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, with a larger scope than the parent organization with which it co-operates. Mr. and Mrs. August Hecksher endowed it with $4,000,000. Next on the north is the Fifth Avenue Hospital.

At 110th Street Central Park ends. In the park, near the Fifth Avenue side, at 107th Street is McGown’s Pass, where there was, for nearly 175 years, a tavern. The Pass was a gap in the hills through which ran the main road to Harlem.

`The American troops,’ Eva McAdoo tells us, ‘straggled through here late in the afternoon of September 15, 1776, the day when the British actually landed in Manhattan, and barely had the last ones gone through when British horsemen dashed up and inquired of a lad, who was loitering near, which way the rebels had gone. Little Andrew McGown, whose father owned a farm hereabouts, led the redcoats a wildgoose chase through devious bypaths while the Americans put a safe distance between themselves and their followers.’

The British dug entrenchments at the Pass; and on November 16, 1776, the large number of American soldiers captured at Fort Washington (183d Street and Broadway) were marched through the Pass on their way to prisons. The British did not evacuate the Pass till November 21, 1783.