New York City Above Forty Second Street – Part 4
On another day turn west from Fifth Avenue on 57th Street, and pass at first many interesting luxury shops; then Steinway Hall on the north side of the street; and, at the corner of Seventh Avenue, Carnegie Hall, where many, many world-famous artists have been heard since its dedication in 1891, with a gift of $2,000,000 from Andrew Carnegie. It is there that the New York Philharmonic Orchestra plays; and in the large auditorium, seating 3000, are given concerts and lectures which draw great audiences, while three smaller halls serve for recitals with a smaller attendance.
Just west of Seventh Avenue is the National Academy of De-sign where the exhibitions aTe held, spring and autumn, of work of the Academicians.
Farther west, on the north side of the street, is the big building of the American Woman’s Association, which provides living quarters and social rooms for the varied activities of a very fine organization of which Miss Anne Morgan is president and Mrs. W. K. Vanderbilt her principal aide. It brings together in many ways some of the business and professional women of New York and some of those usually designated as `society’ women; and gives them unity for a time in the pursuit of a common cause.
Now north, on Broadway, to 59th Street; there you’ll find Columbus Circle, where Broadway crosses Eighth Avenue. North of Columbus Circle (at which is the southwest entrance to Central Park) Eighth Avenue becomes Central Park West.
At 62d Street was once the Century Theater built at enormous cost, when this century was young, to give the finest possible setting for drama, opera, dancing; but never a success, and now Temoved to make way for apartments.
Between 76th and 77th Streets is the New York Historical Society, founded in 1804 for the purpose of collecting and pre-serving material relating to the history of New York; but in the course of time there have been bequeathed to it many paintings besides portraits of New Yorkers, and collections of Egyptian antiquities and Assyrian sculptures the latter including thirteen marble slabs excavated from the ruins of Nineveh. The collection of paintings is numerically second only to that of the Metropolitan, and probably ranks third in merit after the Metropolitan and the Frick.
Among the historical objects (in the room to the right of the entrance) is the table used by the Federal Congress in 1789; a section of the trunk of that pear tree which Peter Stuyvesant planted in 1644 and which stood for two hundred years at the northeast corner of Third Avenue and 13th Street; the iron railing from the balcony of Federal Hall; pieces of that leaden statue of George III which patriots tore from its pedestal in Bowling Green, on July 9, 1776, and melted into bullets to shoot at King George’s soldiers; the family coach of James Beekman, built in 1770; and the mantel from Beekman’s house beside which Major Andre stood to receive sentence of death. As this book goes to press two new wings are about to be opened.
Immediately north of the Historical Society is the magnificent American Museum of Natural History, standing in Manhattan Square between 77th and 81st Streets, with the fine Hayden Planetarium at 81st Street.
Many millions have been given to this museum, and it is probably the finest of its kind in the world, though close-pressed by the Field Museum in Chicago. The floor area is enormous, and few persons would care to cover it in a single day; even if one did, he would have little time to do more than glance to right and left as he passed along. The only rational thing to do is to select some few departments which specially interest you, and concentrate on those. YouT choice may be for invertebrates or for Esquimaux, for birds or for Indians, for archaeology or for mammoths and mastodons. You may content your-self with just a glimpse of Akeley African Hall, or of Roy Chapman Andrews’s dinosaur eggs. But don’t fail to see something, however little, of this great institution. And as you look about you there, be as mindful as you can of the tremendous romance and adventure which has gone into the assembling of those great collections.
The Planetarium is one of the most popular exhibitions in New York and doing a very fine educational work, giving multitudes of people an interest in that greatest of all natural marvels, ‘the firmament on high,’ which spreads its glory above us all, night after night, and requires no ‘expeditions.’ Even a little curiosity about it is richly rewarded.
Upper New York has other museums of note: at Broadway between 155th and 156th Streets, in Audubon Park, are the American Geographical Society, the Museum of the American Indian, the American Numismatic Society, and the Hispanic Society of America. Most popular of all ‘outlying’ New York museums now, and not to be missed, is The Cloisters, in Tryon Park, at 190th Street and Fort Washington Avenue. The Cloisters is the only branch of the Metropolitan Museum. Fort Tryon Park, of 56 acres, between Broadway and the Hudson, was presented to the City of New York by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in 1930. It is he highest ground in Manhattan, and is worthy to confront the magnificent Palisades on the New Jersey shore, opposite. During the Revolution, Fort Tryon occupied the spot where The Cloisters now stand; and it was there that Margaret Corbin, who had gone into battle with her husband, took his place at his gun, when he was killed, and served it till her arm was nearly torn off by grapeshot.
George Grey Barnard, eminent American sculptor, during his long residence in France made systematic explorations of vicinities where ancient abbeys had been pillaged and destroyed during the French Revolution, and piece by piece acquired for nearly nothing most of the pillars from four different cloisters and a great many other carved treasures which the neighboring peasants were using for base purposes. These he shipped back to New York and, as he could, assembled on this commanding eminence where he built his studio. When the cost of what he was doing became too great for a sculptor to bear, the Metropolitan Museum, through the munificence of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., took it over; and at the same time Mr. Rockefeller gave it his own collection of fifty mediaeval sculptures and primitive paintings. No one who loves such things should fail to visit The Cloisters. It is one of the choicest beauty spots of Manhattan Island. The `unicorn’ tapestries, unrivaled by any in the United States, if not in the world, hang here, another Rockefeller gift valued at over a million dollars; and there are other treasures of mediaeval art which the French Government so deeply indebted to Mr. Rockefeller for his great gifts to-ward the restoration of many of its precious monuments gave special permission for him to export.
Brooklyn also has a notably fine museum of Arts and Sciences, which students will not miss, though most visitors will probably find Manhattan supplied with more than enough museums for the time they have to spend, and for their inclinations in that direction.
One more museum in New York I mention because there will surely be among my readers some who would not like to miss it: The Master Institute of United Arts at Riverside Drive and 103d Street, founded by Nicholas Constantinovich Roerich, Russian painter of Scandinavian, or Slavic, origin who did important work in Russia in murals, and for the theater. In 1917 he came to this country, and in 1924 he went on a long journey to the Orient from which he brought back many treasures. If you are interested in the landscape, the folklore, of India, Chinese Turkestan, Mongolia, Tibet, you will want to see this collection.