Thursday, August 31, 2017


In the 1930s New York City city planners designed an innovative elevated railroad called the "High Line" for shipping freight throughout the city. It eliminated 105 street-level railroad crossings that had caused many accidents and deaths. Thirteen miles of track were laid  at about third-story level, allowing trains to connect with warehouses and factories and virtually eliminating the impact of industry on city traffic.

As interstate trucking grew in the 1950s, the use of the High Line began to decline, and over the next 30 years, use of the elevated trains gradually diminished before finally grinding to a halt in the 1980s. While still structurally sound, the tracks fell into disrepair and became an eyesore, and so they were slated for demolition. In the late 1990s, however, a nonprofit organization called for repurposing the tracks as an elevated park or greenway, following the model of the Promenade Plantée in Paris.

Construction began in 2006, and the first section opened in 2009. Two more sections have since been completed and opened, with a fourth section to open in 2018. Almost all of the High Line's substantial annual operating expenses come from private donations.

The southernmost entry to the High Line can be accessed from the Whitney Museum, which makes the pathway almost feel like an extension of the museum. Strolling along the 1.45 miles of redesigned railroad track seemed like the perfect way to cap off our visit to the Whitney.

We couldn't have made a better choice for our Thursday evening (in spite of the +90° temperatures). The High Line is one of my new favorite things in New York City. I think I could spend a whole day walking its planks, sitting on its benches to do some serious people watching, exploring its vegetation, checking out its plethora of unique art and architecture, and admiring its creative landscaping.

In order to best capture our experience in New York City's most unique park, the pictures in this post are presented in the exact order that I took them rather than grouped by topic.

The High Line is far from being a straight walking track lined with plants. It has some of the most interesting landscaping I've ever seen. For example, strips of greenery poking up between long slashes in the concrete give the feeling of grass growing between tracks:

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


For years I have been hearing about "The Whitney," a Manhattan museum built in 1931 by American socialite, patron, and collector Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney to house 20th century American art (and now 21st century American art as well).  

It is known both for its permanent collection and for a curated international art show held every two years called the Whitney Biennial. According to Wikipedia, the Biennial "is generally regarded as one of the leading shows in the art world, often setting or leading trends in contemporary art. It helped bring artists like Georgia O'Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, and Jeff Koons to prominence."

Lucky for us, we just happened to be visiting during the 2017 Whitney Biennial. I was so excited!

The original Whitney museum was located on Madison Avenue on NYC's Upper East Side. In 2015 it moved into this building in Lower Manhattan designed by Renzo Piano, the Italian architect and engineer who also designed the Pompidou Center in Paris:

The upper floors of the building present some unique views of the surrounding environs. NYC from above seems somehow more approachable than NYC from ground level:

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


While we were in New York City for our son's graduation, we planned a morning trip to Oyster Bay on Long Island, site of Sagamore Hill, Theodore Roosevelt's home from 1885 until his death in 1919. Oyster Bay is about 35 miles northeast of Upper Manhattan. In spite of what the map below says, it took us a good hour and a half to get there from our hotel in Fort Lee, New Jersey:

Long Island is 118 miles long and 23 miles wide at its widest point. The largest island in the contiguous United States, Long Island has a population of almost 8 million people, or about 5,600 people per square mile. Once you get past Brooklyn and Queens, however, it maintains a chic, rural atmosphere. I'd love to go back and explore its small towns, like Hicksville, Hauppauge, and Stony Brook, or even go as far east as possible in Long Island's south fork to visit the famed (and very wealthy) Hamptons, also known as the East End and site of Southhampton, Sag Harbor, and Montauk:

But our trip to Sagamore Hill was more than enough for the morning we had free:

Friday, August 18, 2017


When I hear "St. Patrick's Cathedral," this is what I think of:
Photo from the New York Daily News
. . . the huge, neo-Gothic church in Midtown Manhattan.  I didn't know there was another St. Patrick's, distinguished from its more famous cousin by a few name changes: The BASILICA of St. Patrick's OLD Cathedral.

This much humbler church is located in the NoLIta ("North of Little Italy") area of NYC. The second Catholic church to be built in NYC (but apparently the first cathedral), it was named after Ireland's patron saint and was the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York City until its more famous cousin opened in 1879. 
 (Note: Is it "Old St. Patrick's Cathedral," or "St. Patrick's Old Cathedral"? They can't seem to decide.)

Here is the 4th Archbishop of NYC, John J. Hughes, "Immigrant" (from Ireland, of course) and "Shepherd":
Hughes served as Archbishop from 1842 to 1864. During that time, there was an explosion of Irish immigration. Half of the immigrants to the United States in the 1840s were from Ireland, and between 1820 and 1860, the Irish constituted over a third of all U.S. immigrants. Between 1820 and 1920, as many as 4.5 million Irish arrived in America. They were a force to be reckoned with--and not always very well liked. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Newark is New Jersey's most populous city (approximately 282,000 residents), is one of the oldest European-settled cities in the United States, and has one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the United States. The Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart is 365 feet long and 165 feet wide (about five feet longer and five feet wider than a football field) and took 95 years to design and build. Planning for a cathedral began in 1859, the groundbreaking occurred in 1898, the first mass was held in it in 1928, and the finished cathedral was finally dedicated in 1954.

Sometimes I feel like the remodeling of our house has been about that slow.

One of the most distinct features of the exterior is the two front bell towers, which are rotated 45 degrees so that the corners point out, creating a three-dimensional rather than a flat front. It makes the building feel a little bit like a fairy castle rather than a church.

A series of complicated turrets and steeples can be seen from the back:

A side view:

There were two enormous azalea bushes in full bloom on the grounds:

Note to kids--I love this tribute: