Saturday, October 29, 2016

NEW JERSEY: STATE HIGH POINT

My husband's fetishes include visiting state high points.  In 2005 (prior to this blog) we climbed 14,498-foot-tall Mt. Whitney, the highest high point in the continental U.S., and in 2014 we drove to the lowest high point in the U.S.,  a 345 feet "summit" in Florida that was essentially a bump in the road. Altogether, we've been to the top of more than a dozen state high points.

The New Jersey state high point sits at 1,803 feet and ranks #40 in the State High Point List. We made a little detour on our way out of New York City and on our way to upstate New York so we could see it. Marked by a 220-foot-tall obelisk rising behind Lake Marcia, it is hard to miss:

In 1922 a wealthy man named Anthony R. Kuser donated 10,500 acres to New Jersey. It was and still is the largest land donation in the history of the state. The acreage included the high point and led to the creation of the High Point State Park. I had never heard of the Kuser family, but I've learned that they were incredibly well-connected. Anthony Kuser was the president of a gas and electric company, sat on almost a dozen corporate boards, served on the staffs of three New Jersey governors, and provided the seed money for a movie company that eventually became 20th Century Fox. He married the daughter a senator who was also the founder of Prudential Life. Kuser's son was a state senator and the first husband of a woman who later married an Astor. Just a little bit of money was bouncing around in this family.

Kuser hired an architect in 1928 to design a monument as a tribute to "Glory and Honor and Eternal Memory of New Jersey's Heroes by land, sea, and air in all wars of our country." Modeled on the Bunker Hill Monument, it was constructed between 1928 and 1930. Unfortunately, Kuser died in 1929 and didn't get to attend the dedication.

To our dismay, the obelisk was all locked up the day we were there, and so we were spared prevented from climbing the 291 steps to the top.

From the top there are supposed to be spectacular views of the Pocono Mountains in the west, the Catskill Mountains to the north, and the Wallkill River valley to the southeast:


The Appalachian Trail passes not too far from this summit. Someday I'd like to walk parts of that trail, so maybe I'll be back to climb the obelisk stairs.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

NEW YORK CITY MISCELLANY: STREET ART, THE HUNGARIAN PASTRY SHOP, ST. JOHN THE DIVINE DOORS, THE SUBWAY, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

If you've been to New York City, you know that there is no shortage of things to see. Once you get past the major tourist sites--the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial, Central Park, the art museums, and so forth--you might think you've seen it all, but you've NEVER seen it all in NYC.

NEW YORK CITY STREET ART
I am always on the lookout for interesting graffiti and all kinds of public art, especially in large cities. New York City has something to look at on almost every corner.

For example, in one nook a bronze statue stands out rather conspicuously against a tower of letters:

Lady Liberty has had a new facial and make-up job since the last time I'd seen her:

This black and white panel has a Halloween-y feel . . .

. . . and is topped by an enormous, creepy, eerie green child that appears to be 3-D and straight out of a low-budget horror movie:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

NEW YORK CITY: THE GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM AND A FISCHLI AND WEISS ART SHOW

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

NEW YORK CITY; CENTRAL PARK

"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
    Elf

    Enchanted
    Wall Street
    August Rush
    When Harry Met Sally
    Kramer vs. Kramer
    Breakfast at Tiffany's
    Ghostbusters
    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

NEW YORK CITY'S UPPER WEST SIDE: SAKURA PARK, GRANT'S TOMB, RIVERSIDE PARK, AND RIVERSIDE CHURCH

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

NEW YORK CITY: EATING AT RED ROOSTER IN HARLEM


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?

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