Wednesday, October 19, 2016


I have long wanted to visit the two Guggenheim art museums, one in New York City designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and opened in 1959 and one in Bilbao, Spain, designed by Frank Gehry and opened in 1997. I can now check the NYC Guggenheim of my list. When are we going back to Spain, Bob?

I don't have any really good pictures of the exterior of New York's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, but this one more or less shows the building's circular shape that increases at the top rather than decreases, part of the unique design:

Warning to future visitors: Quite a few food carts were lined up outside the main entrance. It's hard (okay, impossible) to resist a New York hot dog:

Because of the two famous art museums financed by and named after him, most people have heard of Solomon R. Guggenheim, but, like me, you probably don't know anything about his story.

Photo from here
He was born in 1861 in Philadelphia to a wealthy mining family. After being educated in Switzerland, he returned to the United States and founded the Yukon Mining Company in 1891. In 1895 he married Irene Rothschild, a regular gal who was not related to the very wealthy banking dynasty. Guggenheim began collecting art--primarily works by the old masters--in the 1890s, and he retired in 1919 so he could focus on this growing obsession. In 1930 he met German artist Wassily Kandinsky and began collecting his art, then expanded to collecting other early modernist artists. Before long, Guggenheim became a force in the modern and advant-garde art world. He began showing his substantial collection in his apartment in the Plaza Hotel, and when his art outgrew his space, he created the Museum of Non-Objective Painting at 24 East 54th Street in New York City in 1939. In 1943 he commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design a new building (the only museum Wright designed), but Guggenheim died in 1949, ten years before it was completed. Frank Lloyd Wright died six months before the opening.

I think they both would like how it all ended up.

Saturday, October 8, 2016


"It is imperative that this population have open space and trees."
(William Cullen Bryant, editor of The Evening Post,
arguing for the creation of Central Park)

"On July 21, 1853, the New York State Legislature enacted into law the setting aside of more than 750 acres of land central to Manhattan Island to create America's first major landscaped public park; they would soon refer to it as 'the Central Park.' Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the winners of the 1858 design competition for Central Park, along with other socially conscious reformers understood that the creation of a great public park would improve public health and contribute greatly to the formation of a civil society. Immediately, the success of Central Park fostered the urban park movement, one of the great hallmarks of democracy of nineteenth century."
(From the website Central Park Conservancy)

Map from here
Some interesting facts about Central Park:
  • Construction started in 1858 and continued through the Civil War.
  • The original 778 acres were expanded to 843 acres in 1873.
  • There are 36 bridges.
  • It covers 1.317 square miles or 843 acres.
  • The park is about 2.5 miles long and .5 miles wide.
  • The perimeter is 6.1 miles. 
  • With 40 million visitors annually, it is the most visited urban park in the United States.
  • Many books have scenes set in Central Park, including Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence and J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.
  • LOTS of movies have been shot in Central Park (one estimate is 140), including:
  • Mr. Popper's Penguins
    Spiderman 3
    Home Alone

    Wall Street
    August Rush
    When Harry Met Sally
    Kramer vs. Kramer
    Breakfast at Tiffany's
    The Avengers
One of the most interesting things about the park's history to me is that the landscape architect was Frederick Law Olmsted.
Frederick Law Olmsted (1895)
by my favorite portraitist, John Singer Sargent

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


We had a spate of gloomy weather while in New York City, but that didn't stop us from doing a lot of walking. NYC is surprisingly walkable. There are many clusters of things to see and great public transportation between clusters.

On a walk around the upper West Side we started out at the northern edge of Columbia University where some of studios for art students are located in an old building that reminded me of a late-19th century department store:

Across the street, a new art building is going up which will provide much better natural lighting for studios:

It would be a shame to lose the old building with its Art Deco touches. I hope it gets remodeled and repurposed:

We made our way towards the Hudson River and the Manhattanville Viaduct via 125th Street:

 I love the landscaping that can be found in random spots throughout this massive, crowded city:

These little flower gardens are growing in some of the most expensive dirt in the world:

Saturday, October 1, 2016


On our April trip to New York City, we wanted to be close to Columbia University, where our son is going to school, and the best accommodations we found based on price and location was the Double Tree by Hilton on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. To get to New York we had to cross the Fort Lee Bridge, the same bridge the was part of the 2013 "Bridgegate" scandal involving New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Lucky for us, the bridge was open and traffic was flowing nicely, at least as nicely as it flows in that area.                                                                                                                        
 We decided to leave our car at the hotel and try out Lyft for the first time. As new users, we got $20 of credit towards our first rides, and our son got some credit for referring us. It's a great system--we ordered a ride through an app on my phone, and we could see where the driver was as represented by a moving dot on a map on the screen. The app gave us a picture of both the car and the driver, along with the make and model of the vehicle. The price is established by Lyft, so there was no worry that we were being cheated, and tipping is not expected.  The map continued to show our progress once we got in the car, so we could see that we were going directly to our destination. Our driver was polite and efficient, and our ride was pleasant.

Later on we saw this billboard:
We ended up using Lyft several more times during our time in the city.

Our first destination was in Harlem, and we enjoyed the wide variety of sights along the way, from interesting street art:

. . . to an LDS chapel suddenly appearing out of nowhere on Malcolm X Boulevard:

Our destination was Harlem"s Red Rooster, the #1 item on my list for this trip to New York City (aside from spending time with our son). I know, I know--it's usually my husband who focuses on food destinations. What's so special about Red Rooster?

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Princeton University, founded in 1746, was the fourth college in the colonies. First was Harvard, then the College of William and Mary, then Yale, and then Princeton.   What's so cool about Princeton? Its alumni include:
41 Nobel laureates
21 National Medal of Science winners
14 Fields Medalists
10 Turing Award laureates
5 National Humanities Medal winners
209 Rhodes Scholars
126 Marshall Scholars
2 U.S. Presidents (James Madison, Woodrow Wilson)
1 U.S. Vice President (Aaron Burr)
1 First Lady (Michelle Obama)
12 U.S. Supreme Court Justices
Bunches of members of Congress and Cabinet members
Lots of other famous people (e.g., Jeff Bezos, Jimmy Stewart, 
Brooke Shields, Lee Iacocca, Alan Turing)

Just walking around campus made us feel smart (at least as smart as this little boy trying to get the last drop out of the barrel):

On the Princeton University Campus itself, we admired the tower of the John D. Rockefeller College (named after JDR III, brother of Nelson Rockefeller, and yes, he was an alumnus, class of 1929):

Monday, September 26, 2016


After our sightseeing trip around Wilmington, Delaware, we moved on to Princeton, New Jersey. We had driven through New Jersey on a prior trip, but he hadn't stopped anywhere. New Jersey is only 170 miles long and 70 miles wide, the 4th smallest state in the Union behind Rhode Island, Delaware, and Connecticut. However, with 8.8 million people, it is 11th for population, making it the MOST DENSELY POPULATED STATE in the United States! I wouldn't have guessed that.
Before going to Princeton University, the purpose of our New Jersey detour, we took in the city of Princeton itself, population 30,000 (8,000 of which are students at Princeton University). I recently learned that one of Princeton's sister cities is Colmar, France.

One of the dominant buildings in town (not ON the campus, but nearby) is Trinity Episcopal Church:
The first part of the church was built in the Gothic Revival style in 1870, and a few additions and changes were made in the early 20th century.

Friday, September 23, 2016


When we finished our tour of Old Swedes we moved on to another remarkable but very different building: St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church. This Romanesque Revival church, patterned after the Basilica di San Zeno in Verona, Italy, took seven years to build and was finished in 1926. Much of the work on the building was done by artistically skilled parishioners. It is located in an Italian neighborhood of Wilmington and is famous for the Italian festival held here every spring. 

St. Anthony stands outside as sentinel. As you might be able to tell by his haircut and clothing, he was a Franciscan. 
He lived only 35 years, from 1195 to 1231, and is noted for his brilliant speaking and knowledge of the scriptures, for his dedication to the poor, and as the patron saint of finding both things and lost people--a nice guy to have around. Here he is again in the tympanum, holding what I assume is the Christ child:

One of my favorite things about the church was the Italian cathedral-style doors. The front door has ten panels, each with a caption from the Beatitudes:

 While not as ornate as Ghiberti's famous baptistery doors in Florence, I couldn't help but make the connection:
Ghiberti's baptistery doors, Florence, Italy