Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Grand Central Terminal Tour Recap

Last Saturday, January 26th, LANDMARK WEST! and friends joined noted guide Justin Ferate for an engaging tour of one of New York's most majestic and welcoming buildings, Grand Central Terminal.

Beginning the tour across Park Avenue and gradually making our way inside, Justin highlighted small yet significant aspects of the building that create a sense of grandeur for visitors. Sets of doors in the entryway, which no longer exist, used to hide the view of the main hall so visitors would be held in suspense about the interior until experiencing it for themselves.

One of the especially delightful aspects of Grand Central is its monumental scale, with classically-inspired ornamentation, that exists alongside many features designed at a human scale. Justin explained this in his engaging and enthusiastic style by demonstrating that the length of each floor tile is the same as a human leg, with the width equal to one step.

The tour featured additional treasures of Grand Central, including a remnant of the old yellow bricks that used to pave Park Avenue leading up to Grand Central, which still exists in the parking garage of the old Biltmore Hotel, and of course the whispering gallery beneath an impressive Guastavino tiled ceiling.

LW! thanks Justin Ferate for leading a fascinating tour in anticipation of Grand Central's centennial celebrations later this week.

Friday, January 25, 2013

LW! on the Cutting Edge...of WUNDERKAMMERS

Guests attend LANDMARK WEST!'s "A Wunderkammer Evening" at a private residence in the West 67th Street Artist's Colony Historic District on December 4, 2012.

During the European Renaissance, objects reflecting the genius of man as well as the caprice of nature were assembled into collections; they could be remains of huge, monstrous beasts or the sculpted virtuosity of an artistic master. These marvels and oddities were secured in what were referred to as a Wunderkammer, or "cabinet of wonder" or curiosity.

On December 4, 2012, LANDMARK WEST! had the rare opportunity to venture into a private collection of art featuring a period Renaissance artist studio filled with bronze sculptures, antique musical instruments, zoological and anatomical curiosities, or in more or less words, Wunderkammers. LW! shared cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and merriment with our most devoted of friends.

Speaking of Wunderkammers...seems like LW! is on the cutting edge. Last week, the New York Times reported the opening of a Wunderkammer exhibit which will run until Saturday, February 2nd at the Grolier Club at 47 East 60th Street. If you didn't get your fill of these treasures, you have another chance to see these more of these marvels on public display. It was a lovely evening. 

The Times reports more on the Grolier Club exhibit...
Top left: A crocodile image from an early Wunderkammer. Collection of the George Peabody Library of the Sheridan Library Special Collections, Johns Hopkins University.
Bottom left: Domenico Remps, A Cabinet of Curiosity (1690s), Museo dell'Opificio delle Pietre Dure. 
Right: Guests attend LANDMARK WEST!'s "A Wunderkammer Evening." 

"Many exhibitions convey the propulsive force of human curiosity, but few manage to do so as engrossingly and with as much immediacy as “Rooms of Wonder: From Wunderkammer to Museum, 1599-1899,” a lavish repast of illustrated rare books and ephemera at the Grolier Club. The appetite for knowledge about foreign lands, unfamiliar animals and all the workings of the world — both natural and man-made — permeates this show, which delves into the origins of the modern museum.

Its story starts in 16th-century Europe, where intensely curious apothecaries, scholars and the odd nobleman or king began to amass hodgepodge collections of strange and beautiful objects that piqued their interest, inspired awe and demanded further study. These included shells and corals; animal horns and skeletons; natural specimens dried, stuffed or bottled; prints and paintings; antique sculptures and medals; ancient tools; new scientific instruments; and exotic plants and weaponry (and other accouterments) brought back from foreign climes by explorers and tradesmen. All these finds came to be displayed, along with much else, in crowded, claustrophobic rooms lined with shelves and drawers that were known as Wunderkammers, or cabinets of curiosities, and that eventually exerted an immense influence on Western culture and thought.

The show opens with the first illustration of a Wunderkammer, the woodcut frontispiece in a book about natural history that Ferrante Imperato (1550-1625), an Italian apothecary, published in Naples in 1599, illustrating it with birds, sea creatures, fossils and minerals from his own collection. The Imperato Wunderkammer included a stuffed crocodile hanging from the ceiling — an item that became a fashionable feature of the cabinets, as did the black-and-white checkered floors visible in subsequent frontispiece images." (Imperato’s own Wunderkammer seems to have lacked such a floor, but one was added to a nearly identical image for the book’s second edition in 1672.)

“Rooms of Wonder: From Wunderkammer to Museum, 1599-1899” runs through Feb. 2 at the Grolier Club, 47 East 60th Street, Manhattan; (212) 838-6690, grolierclub.org.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Next Stop: Grand Central Terminal!

Next Stop: Grand Central Terminal!
Saturday, January 26th 2013
1:00 PM

On August 2, 1967, New York City's recently established Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Grand Central Terminal as an official New York City landmark.  Join LANDMARK WEST! and noted Tour Leader Justin Ferate as we discover just why this impressive structure is so very worthy of that designation. A Landmark designation is not to be taken for granted: if it was not for fierce and unwavering preservation advocacy, NYers and citizens of the world would be deprived of this building's splendor today.

During the course of the tour, we'll examine what defines Grand Central as "architecture" and how its majestic 100-year-old design still functions impressively in the 21st Century--processing upwards of 1.2 million people a day with elegance, grace and magnanimity. In recent years, Grand Central has undergone a tremendous $300 million dollar restoration and renovation. Learn the history and lore and rediscover parts of Grand Central that have been lost for decades. Discover for yourself the legendary mysteries of the newly restored Whispering Gallery! 

Date: Saturday, January 26, 2013

Meet: Inside the Atrium of 120 Park Avenue (the former Altria Building): SW corner of Park Avenue and 42nd Street. This building is OPPOSITE Grand Central Terminal on the south side of the street. There are benches, tables, and chairs in the Atrium for those who arrive early.

Time: 1:00 PM -- appoximately 3:00 PM

Leader: Justin Ferate*


*Tour leader and New York Urban Historian, Justin Ferate, was honored by New York's Governor George Pataki and the New York State Tourism Council as "New York's Most Engaging Tour Guide." The AAA Guide to New York City honored Justin Ferate's tour of Grand Central Terminal as "New York's Best Walking Tour!"