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Rockefeller

2017-09-07 Westbound; Stranded, but escaped from, Thunder Bay, Day 7…

We relaxed a bit this morning… We ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant, the Break of Day.  We readied ourselves for a day of the ridiculous and the sublime: we will see House on the Rock and Taliesin.  The House on the Rock is an absurd tourist attraction; Taliesin is the home and studio and school of Frank Lloyd Wright.

The House on the Rock’s “Infinity Room”, as seen from the road:

2017-09-07 House on the Rock 05

The House on the Rock was the first on our schedule.  It was started in 1945 as a house built atop a 70′ x 200′ rock that was 60′ tall, set in the Wisconsin countryside.  The house was the idea of one man, Alex Jordan, who clearly had a mind of his own.  The house contains many extremely awkward spaces, with bad lighting, too low ceilings, and uneven floors and steps.  It is not so much a house as it is a series of spaces left over after he built stone walls, windows, and doors.  Later, Jordan added a Gate House and a Mill House.  Then he added a giant cantilevered “Infinity Room” for no apparent reason.  The Infinity Room spans about 60′ to the adjacent rock, then cantilevers another 140′, all about 250 feet above the forest floor below…   After that things got weird.  Today there is a HUGE metal box of a warehouse that contains acres and acres of crap, plus a few interesting antiques and music machines.  It is an absurd collection of collections that serve no purpose whatsoever.  Spending three hours here was a giant waste of time.

The Infinity Room:

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The “Glass Coffee table” at the end of the Infinity Room:

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The Infinity Room creaks and groans when two – three people walk out there; I would not want to be there with 200 people…

There were a few things that were of moderate interest…

A beautiful pipe organ console:

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A music machine:

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There are several (many?) music machines, some large, like this one, and some smaller. These are mechanical devises that play musical instruments much like a player piano. This one is a complete orchestra.  It is amazing to watch and listen to, but I have to ask, “Why?”

There was even a Rockefeller moment:  In one of the maritime displays there is a note about this whaling ship, the Charles W. Morgan.  As you can see by reading the notes, the whaling industry was put out of business by John D. Rockefeller and the petroleum industry…

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By the time we left the House on the Rock my eyes hurt.  The green countryside of Wisconsin was very soothing.  We found the Wyoming Valley Cultural Center, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as a memorial to his mother:

2017-09-07 FLW Wyoming Valley Cultural Center 02

2017-09-07 FLW Wyoming Valley Cultural Center 01

We eventually found “downtown” Spring Green and we found a lovely bookstore with its own cafe.  After lunch we walked through the town; note that I am standing in the middle of the street at about 1:00 pm:

2017-09-07 Spring Green

We walked around and found several buildings that had been designed by William Wesley Peters, a Taliesin associate and past student of FLW.  They were very interesting:

St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church:

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2017-09-07 Cathlic Church 02

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Originally a drive-through bank, this is now a private residence:

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2017-09-07 Bank-turned Residence 101

BMO Bank Building:

2017-09-07 BMO

Originally a medical office, this is now a private residence:

2017-09-07 Medical Office-turned Residence 01

Another Taliesin Associate, James Charles Montooth, designed the Spring Green Community Library:

2017-09-07 Library

After this fun walk it was time for the main event; we drove to the Taliesin Visitors Center:

2017-09-07 FLW Taliesin Visitors Center 02

2017-09-07 FLW Taliesin Visitors Center 03

2017-09-07 FLW Taliesin Visitors Center 01

This building was originally designed by FLW as a restaurant and conference center. Today it is the visitor’s center, but it still includes the restaurant, plus the offices of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which owns the building and Taliesin itself.

Taliesin has quite a storied past.  FLW’s maternal grandparents and many aunts and uncles farmed in this valley near Spring Green; FLW spent most of the summers of his youth here, working along side his cousins on the various farms.  So it was only natural that he kept returning to this area throughout his life.

FLW had a successful and thriving practice in Oak Park, IL, having built over 50 buildings there.  But in 1909 he abandoned his wife and six children and fled with his mistress to Germany.  When he returned two years later he found he was not welcomed back to Oak Park, so he retreated to the family property near Spring Green.  Here FLW designed and built Taliesin I.  The design of the original building was consistent with the design principles of the Prairie School, emulating the flatness of the plains and the natural limestone outcroppings of Wisconsin’s Driftless Area.  The structure included his home, an agricultural wing containing stables, chicken coops, and a pig shelter, plus his architectural studio.

In 1914, while FLW was away, a disgruntled employee set fire to the living quarters and murdered FLW’s mistress, her two children, and three others.  FLW rebuilt the residential wing  and remodeled the other areas.

Taliesin II was used only sparingly by FLW as he worked on projects abroad.  He returned to the house in 1922 following completion of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.  A fire caused by electrical problems destroyed the living quarters again in April, 1925. Taliesin III was constructed by Wright by late 1925.  During the late 1920s and the 1930s FLW turned the agricultural wing into studios, a large drafting room, and dormitories, as he began the Taliesin School of Architecture.

Taliesin III was FLW’s home for the rest of his life, although he began to winter at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona, upon its completion in 1937. Many of Wright’s acclaimed buildings were designed here, including Fallingwater“Jacobs I”  the Johnson Wax Headquarters, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.  Wright was also an avid collector of Asian art and used Taliesin as a storehouse and private museum.

So it is Taliesin III that we tour today.  A shuttle bus takes us from the visitor’s center. We follow roughly the path taken by horse-drawn carriages when the house was first built. We walk through the meadow, past the orchard and the vineyards and arrive at the courtyard surrounded by the residence, the studio, and the former agricultural wing.

As seen from the highway below:

2017-09-07 FLW Taliesin 34

From the top of the hill, into which the house is nestled:

2017-09-07 FLW Taliesin 02

The prominent hip-roofed wing seen above was originally the porte cochere in the days of horses and carriages… In Taliesin III the entry was moved to the opposite side of the house to accommodate automobiles, and the porte cochere was enclosed:

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The carports – formerly horse stalls:

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Courtyard and path to the agricultural wings, now used by the school:

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Part of the agricultural wing:

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Conference Room in the Studio:

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Architectural Studio:

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My favorite floor lamp:

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Automobile approach to the house today:

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Approach to the hidden front door:

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Dining Room, with the famous barrel chairs:

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Informal Living Room:

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X-back chair FLW designed for his son, David:

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The “Bird Walk”, added for FLW’s 3rd wife:

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2017-09-07 FLW Taliesin 17

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Master Bedroom Suite:

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FLW’s study:

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FLW’s bed, in his study; like many creative geniuses, FLK only slept about 4 hours per night and often worked late and arose early and went back to work again:

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The waterfall at the approach to the house, below the hill; I was here in March about 10 years ago.  Of course, Taliesin was closed for the winter – everyone goes to Scottsdale to Taliesin West in the winter.  It was about 15 degrees, everything was covered with snow, and the lake and the waterfall were frozen solid.  But, back about 15′ from the edge of the waterfall, there was a guy sitting on a chair, on the ice, fishing…

2017-09-07 FLW Taliesin 01

The property today appears to be in need of major repairs.  However, the design and detailing and thought that FLW put into these rooms and spaces is awe inspiring.  FLW never thought of Taliesin as a permanent structure, but a “sketch” for his ideas.  Keeping the house “pristine” is a monumental task, because it wasn’t built perfectly in the first place.  FLW would get an idea, say, to enclose a covered porch into a sun room, and he would call his students, tell them what he wanted, send a few sketches, and they would build it.  It was not built to museum standards, and will probably always suffer for it.

After the tour we drove to the nearby Lloyd-Jones family chapel and cemetery. The chapel was not designed by FLW, but by his early employer,  Joseph Lyman Silsbee.  FLW was assigned to “supervise” the construction as part of his duties for Silsbee.

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There is a gravestone for FLW and his six children from his first marriage, although none of them is buried here…

2017-09-07 FLW Cemetary 02

2017-09-07 FLW Cemetary 01

Lloyd Wright, actually Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr. became an architect and was a fine architect in his own “Wright”… (A little architectural humor…)  I met him at his house in 1972 in West Hollywood.  His son, Eric Wright, is also an architect in SoCal; he tends to specialize in historic structures and environmental issues…

John Wright invented Lincoln Logs.  ‘Nuff said…

David was the recipient of FLW’s design of the X-back chair, seen above…

Catherine was the mother of the actress Anne Baxter…

So after a long day we headed back to the Red Barn Lodge for a short rest, then we went into Spring Green again for dinner at Freddy Valentines.

It’s a good thing we opted NOT to go to The Shed: They have live music in their courtyard on Thursdays… but tonight it rained…

2017-09-07 Spring Green The Shed 01

We love to try local foods and wines; we’ve had Maine wine, Nova Scotia wine, Prince Edward Island wine, Niagara Falls wine, and Ontario wine.  But tonight we spotted a California Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley on the menu.  We were in heaven!

And an enjoyable time was had by all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017-07-25 Nor by Nor’east Caravan – Maine – Scoodic Peninsula and Seal Cove Auto Museum;

Our adventure at Acadia continued for another day. This time we headed out to the Scoodic Peninsula.

2017-07-25 Acadia Scoodic 13

This place is on the mainland, across the bay from Mt. Desert Island, to the east.  It is about a one hour drive, because you have to drive way north and east before you can begin the drive down the peninsula.  Much of the peninsula is also part of Acadia NP, but there are other towns – many are working lobster towns.  But it was another beautiful drive, very remote and quiet.  We found many great views and quiet towns and harbors.

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2017-07-25 Acadia Scoodic 10

In Winter Harbor we stopped in at their Farmers’ Market and bought blueberry scones for a special breakfast treat (tomorrow):

2017-07-25 Scoodic - Winter Harbor Farmers Market 02

2017-07-25 Scoodic - Winter Harbor Farmers Market 01

 

There is a sculpture in the bay at Winter Harbor of a stylized whale tail; we saw it at low tide, and later as the tide was coming in:2017-07-25 Scoodic - Winter Harbor Whale Tail Sculpture 01

2017-07-25 Scoodic - Winter Harbor Whale Tail Sculpture 02

We saw Winter Harbor, Prospect Harbor, and Gouldsboro…  And plenty of rocky shoreline:

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2017-07-25 Acadia Scoodic 07

 

When it was time for lunch, we stopped it at Smokey’s BBQ and Lobster. Texas BBQ here in Maine!  But, we are in Maine, so we had fish and chips instead…

2017-07-25 Smokeys BBQ and Lobster

Our afternoon destination was Seal Cove Automobile Museum, back on Mt. Desert Island.  The museum’s collection is the legacy of Richard Paine, a local resident whose passion for cars and their related history led to his buying and selling many collectible cars throughout his life. Upon his death the collection was culled by selling off duplicate cars to create an endowment to keep the cars that tell the story of the beginning of the automobile age.

The collection features some of the earliest automobiles and motorcycles, as well as clothing and accessories, from 1895 through the early 1920s. The cars represent the stories about invention and innovation, art, design, women’s rights, and social and economic changes that came about through the automobile.  Inventors were experimenting with steam, electricity, and gas-powered engines.  There were no standards – anything that might work was tried.

The current exhibit, Auto Wars: Then & Now, explores the debate a century ago over whether or not to allow cars on Mount Desert Island.  The exhibit is presented in a “choose your own adventure” style, allowing YOU to decide whether you would have been for or against cars on the island.  In a nutshell, the wealthy summer residents, who considered their lifestyle to be “rustic”, were opposed to cars on MDI. The locals, who needed the convenience of easy transportation, were in favor. For many years those opposing cars won out, but finally, in 1916, cars were allowed, and this decision forever changed the nature of MDI.

Two cars were of particular interest to me:  A 1934 Ford, with a body custom made in Germany, and custom fitted to a 1934 Ford chassis. It was the design of Edsel Ford, and it was his personal car at his summer cottage on the island.  It became a prototype for the Continental which was released shortly thereafter.

2017-07-25 Seal Cove Auto Museum 22

2017-07-25 Seal Cove Auto Museum 21

Also, while not an old or rare car, I liked seeing the 1991 Mercedes SEL; it belonged to Laurance Rockefeller, and it was the car that he kept at his summer cottage year ‘round.

2017-07-25 Seal Cove Auto Museum 11

2017-07-25 Seal Cove Auto Museum 12

If you recall from an earlier blog post, David Rockefeller also had his favorite summer cottage car, a 1956 Continental, which we saw at Kykuit in Pocantico Hill, New York:

2017-07-01 Kykuit 65

After enjoying the exhibits in the museum we headed back to the Villa. Tonight the caravanners enjoy a BBQ – hamburgers and all the usual sides; we began by finishing off the leftover cheese and wine from Monday’s party… And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2017-07-25 Trenton - BBQ

 

 

2017-07-24 Nor by Nor’east Caravan – Maine – Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park, Seal Harbor, Northeast Harbor, and Lobster!

Mt. Desert Island is quite a beautiful place, with rocky shores and quiet harbors.

2017-07-24 Acadia NP 01

Like Newport, RI, Mt. Desert Island was a favorite place for the very wealthy to have summer cottages.  However, rather than being sophisticated and elegant, filled with grand, showy homes, like Newport, MDI was known for its quiet, rustic ways.  Homes, while huge, and filled with servants, were simple, wood houses, with fireplaces and always set back into the wilderness.  Some of the houses from the late 19th century survive, but many were torn down by the 1950s because they were obsolete and too rustic for modern living.  The descendants of the original families who had homes here (Fords, Rockefellers, Astors, Vanderbilts) still have homes here, and many come for the summer season; but the houses are not as visible – they are mostly hidden in the woods…

The heart of social life, for those who participated, was (and is) the town of Bar Harbor. Many elegant hotels line the waterfront. Many of the families, though, stayed away from the town – they preferred to be in the woods, and along the sea, living the simple life – swimming, sailing, and taking long carriage rides along the carriage roads (mostly built by John D. Rockefeller). In fact, most of the land making up Acadia National Park was donated by the Rockefeller family.

We had been warned about the terrible traffic both in Bar Harbor, and in Acadia; we also were warned about road construction in the area.  So, armed with good maps we set off at 7:00 am (along with Larry and Kathy Warrren) to get an early start on the day.  We easily found the “good” road, and we easily found parking in Bar Harbor.  We strolled down empty streets; the only people out this early are folks heading for the whale watching boats. We were soon at our destination – Sunrise Café.  We enjoyed a nice quiet breakfast in this tiny place, then we walked along the Shore Path. The path runs right along the water’s edge, and it extends from the edge of town for about 1 ½ miles. We then could walk back along quiet residential streets. It was a great way to start the day.

2017-07-24 Bar Harbor 11

2017-07-24 Bar Harbor 12

Once back to the car we headed up Cadillac Mountain, the tallest “mountain” along the Atlantic coast – about 1,500 feet elevation. (In California we call these “hills”…)  From here you can see all the islands surrounding the main island of Mt. Desert Island.  The views are stunning!

 

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As the park began getting busy we headed to the quieter side of the island, where many of the original wealthy families had their summer cottages.  We stopped in Seal Harbor, a beautiful place, and amazingly quiet.  The town of Seal Harbor consists of a church, an empty store building, a coffee house, and a bookstore.  And, of course, a real estate office.  There are three or four houses along the water’s edge, and many more in the hills.  All the houses are simple, neat, and unassuming.  There is a tiny Yacht Club perched on the side of the hill overlooking the harbor.

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2017-07-24 Seal Harbor 01

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Someone even built a very nice new vacation house right at the harbor’s edge:

2017-07-24 Seal Harbor 03

The next town is Northeast Harbor, a bustling place, filled with many art galleries. The harbor is much larger, and ferries run regularly between the harbor and two of the larger islands just off shore: Great Cranberry Island and Little Cranberry Island.  Many houses dot the streets of the town and the surrounding hills. People who live in Seal Harbor must come here to shop and eat.

2017-07-24 Bar Harbor 13

 

By now we were ready for lunch. We had been tipped off to another fabulous lobster pound, Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound. Only it was much more of a restaurant than a lobster shack. They served wine and offered napkins, eating utensils, and tools for eating the lobster.  Lobsters were great, but it was not as much fun as a real lobster pound…

We decided to call it a day and head back to the Villa. Tonight we had GAM #5, and we are hosting.  As we arrived at the RV Park it started to rain.  And it continued to rain.  Cold rain.  Maine rain.  We decided to have our GAM inside The Villa – all 10 of us.  It was cozy. But it was much nicer than sitting in the pavilion out in the cold.  We had great snacks and there was free flowing wine as we got to know another set of new friends. An enjoyable time was had by all…

 

2017-07-12 Nor by Nor’east Caravan – Provincetown

Today is wasn’t raining – yet.  It is a free day, so we can do whatever we want to enjoy Cape Cod. We had seen the normal sights when we were here in 2004 – Martha’s Vineyard, Hyannis, light houses, beaches and sand dunes… We also didn’t want to fight the summertime traffic, so instead, we headed back to Plymouth and caught a fast boat to Provincetown.

2017-07-12 Cape Cod

You can see that it is a quick boat ride, about 1 1/2 hours. To drive, in no traffic (and there is ALWAYS traffic…) is 1 1/2 hours. It was an easy call…

The weather in Plymouth was a little foggy, but nothing to obstruct the views.  The little temple on the shore is the “canopy” over Plymouth Rock:

2017-07-12 Plymouth Rock Temple

 

In the outer harbor are houses and a lighthouse along a tiny sand spit:

2017-07-12 Plymouth Harbor

 

The entrance to Provincetown Harbor:

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2017-07-12 Provincetown 01

 

Looming over the town is this giant tower:

2017-07-12 Provincetown 03

 

It is the Pilgrim Monument:

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The Pilgrim Monument was built between 1907 and 1910 to commemorate the first landing of the Mayflower Pilgrims in Provincetown on November 21, 1620. It was dedicated by President Taft.

Yes! The Pilgrims in the Mayflower landed at Provincetown, not Plymouth! It is where the Mayflower Compact was written and signed.  We’ve been lied to all these years! After they landed at Provincetown, and saw that there was no fresh water, and that the sand was no good for farming, they set out in a small boat to explore Cape Cod Bay.  They found Plymouth, with a natural harbor, fresh water in a flowing creek, and land good for farming, at least once you clear away the rocks. Lots of rocks!

It claims to be the tallest all-granite structure in the United States.  The tower is 252 feet, 7.5 inches (77 meters) tall and rises 350 feet above sea level. So, of course, we had to climb the tower. It was raining at the top:

2017-07-12 Provincetown 05

2017-07-12 Provincetown 06

Provincetown prospered as a fishing village and as a whaling center.  Whale oil had always been the principal light source in the United States.  Kerosene was cheaper, but it was smelly and smokey.  John D. Rockefeller (see my earlier posts) hired research chemists from Yale to develop a cleaner burning kerosene. They succeeded.  In the late nineteenth century the whaling industry died as kerosene replaced whale oil as a lighting  source. Another New England industry bites the dust, and John D. Rockefeller gets rich.

(As electric lights became available, kerosene became another dead industry.  Luckily, by that time JDR was refining gasoline for the new-fangled automobiles…)

We spent the day wandering the delightfully crowded and narrow streets, peeking into shops, and enjoying the day. We had a late lunch and followed up with an ice cream cone… The boat ride back to Plymouth was uneventful. I may have dosed off a bit. An enjoyable time was had by all…

 

 

 

 

2017-07-02 New York, NY; Frank Lloyd Wright, Vincent Van Gogh, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, The High Line, and John Williams Campbell

Before I start today’s post I would remiss if I didn’t wish you all a belated Happy Canada Day with a photo of my favorite Canadamericans:

2017-07-01 McAnoy

 

Sunday dawned quite nicely, and we drove the 1.9 miles through the park to the local train station. We bought our tickets for a round trip to New York City; it is about a 55 minute ride.  I find it quite amazing that we are less than 1 hour from NYC, yet we are far out into the country. This is the same timing as the train from Irvine to downtown Los Angeles, yet Irvine is not even close to being “in the country”…

The train trip was uneventful. We did notice a lot of barbed wire fences when passing through the city of Ossining. A quick Google search found this:

“Sing Sing Correctional Facility is a maximum security prison operated by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision in the village of Ossining, in the U.S. state of New York. It is located about 30 miles (50 km) north of New York City on the east bank of the Hudson River…

The prison property is bisected by the Metro-North Railroad’s four-track Hudson Line.”

2017-07-02 NYC Train 01

After arriving at Grand Central Terminal, and exiting onto the street, we gawked at the beautiful buildings:

 

Then we walked to Un Deux Trois Cafe for breakfast. It is a big place, not exactly a mom-and-pop operation, but it is very French, the food was good, and it was a fun time.

2017-07-02 NYC 123 01

 

As we walked towards MOMA, our main reason for this trip, we passed through Rockefeller Center. I had learned from my reading that it was developed during the Great Depression by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. on land owned by and leased from Columbia University. It was a major effort of “Urban Renewal” in the 1930s; however, Jr. never made any money from the development due to onerous terms imposed by Columbia. Finally, after Jr.’s death in 1960, when the center was falling into disrepair due to lack of capital for improvements, Jr.’s sons were able to renegotiate the deal and gain financial backing for improvements. It is a marvelous complex, the grounds teaming with people on this sunny Sunday morning.  It is no longer owned by the Rockefellers…

Across the street we found St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Being Sunday morning, we stopped in for the 10:15 am services.  In celebration of Independence Day the great organ played “Stars and Stripes Forever”, and our final hymn was “America the Beautiful”…

2017-07-02 NYC St Patrick Cathedral 08

2017-07-02 NYC St Patrick Cathedral 062017-07-02 NYC St Patrick Cathedral 01

2017-07-02 NYC St Patrick Cathedral 04

 

Then  we were off to MOMA.  The Museum of Modern Art was a true grassroots effort, started by three ladies on their kitchen table, with nothing except a few hundred million dollars of Rockefeller money.  The main driver was Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, wife of Jr. (Jr. himself hated modern art…)  If fact, when MOMA needed land for a sculpture garden, Abby and Jr. donated their 9 story house next door, which was promptly demolished.

We were there for an exhibit of Frank Lloyd Wright drawings and models, in celebration of FLW’s 150th birthday:  Unpacking the Archive

It was a delightful exhibit. FLW used his drawings as working papers, to be scribbled on, torn in half, and reassembled; they were teaching tools, not precious objects d’art. There were models, too: The Price Tower in Bartlesville, OK. (See my blog post onJune 14, 2017), as well as the previously designed skyscraper that FLW designed for NYC, but which was never built.

After the FLW exhibit we took a quick detour upstairs to see Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. Wonderful…

So, with the afternoon still free, we headed downtown on the subway to see the 911 Memorial. It was mobbed with tourists, and it was quite hot.

2017-07-02 NYC World Trade Center 02

2017-07-02 NYC 911 Memorial 02

We saw one of the beautiful fountains, then headed back north to experience the High Line.  The High line is a linear park located on an abandoned railroad viaduct, about 1 1/2 miles long, on NYC’s west side. It is a delightful walk, and it was crowded with locals and tourists, alike.  We had lunch in its shadow, which was also nice…

2017-07-02 NYC Lunch 03

2017-07-02 NYC High Line

2017-07-02 NYC Lunch 01

2017-07-02 NYC High Line 01

 

Then we walked back to Grand Central Terminal and had afternoon drinks in the Campbell Apartment.  For 30 years this space was the private office and apartment of John Campbell, one of the Directors of the Grand Central Railway. After Campbell’s death in 1957 the space was underused, and its glory faded. It was reopened as a bar recently and it was a lot of fun. Drinks and food were good, and it was fun being in this “secret” space.

We caught a return train back to Croton Point, had a short drive back to the Villa; this is what camping is all about for us: cities and country, highways, subways, and railways, beaches, waterfalls, houses, museums, and cathedrals; an enjoyable time was had by all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017-07-01 Hudson Valley, NY; the Rockefellers and Kykuit, the Union Church, Marc Chagall, and Henri Matisse;

Before our trip I had read a biography by Ron Chernow: “Titan – The Life of John D. Rockefeller.”  Shortly after, about two months ago, I read “Memoirs“, by David Rockefeller, JDR’s youngest grandson.  The first told the story of how JDR made his money (your opinion may vary…) and built his estate here in the Hudson Valley, and the second told of growing up in his grandfather’s house and eventually turning it into a museum and art gallery for all to enjoy.  Both also contained much information about the life of John D. Rockefeller, Jr (whom I refer to here as Jr.), David’s father. (David died in March, 2017 at the age of 101…)

We set out today to visit Kykuit, home to 4 generations of the Rockefeller family.  It is located a few miles from the Hudson River, east of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, about 25 miles north of New York City.

Kykuit sits amid the vast family estate, known as Pocantico or Pocantico Hills; it occupies an area of  over 3,400 acres. During much of the 20th century, the estate featured a resident workforce of security guards, gardeners and laborers, and had its own farming, cattle and food supplies. It has a nine-hole, reversible golf course, and at one time had seventy-five houses and seventy private roads, most designed by JDR and Jr. A longstanding witticism about the estate quips: ‘It’s what God would have built, if only He had the money’.

(In 1946, the family considered donating a portion of the estate as a home for the newly formed United Nations.  Instead, they bought the 17 acre site in New York City and donated it to the UN…)

When JDR originally bought the estate in the late 1890s, he moved the family into an existing farm house.  He had no need for an elaborate mansion, unlike his wealthy contemporaries like the Vanderbilts, the Astors, or J. P. Morgan.  What he did want, and soon built, was a carriage house and stables for his prized horses, and a golf course for his personal use.

After the original house burned down, JDR wanted to move into another existing modest dwelling on the estate.  Instead, Jr. convinced him that he needed a grand house more befitting his status as the wealthiest man in America.  JDR finally agreed.  A new house was promptly built; it was found to be inadequate and faulty in both design and construction, and a new house was rebuilt in its place.  It was completed in 1913. It has four stories and two basements; however…

Unlike the monumental size and the display of vast wealth seen in other museum-like Gilded Age mansions, Kykuit’s cozy rooms are a reflection of the conservative and family-oriented lifestyle of the Rockefeller family.  The devout John D. Rockefeller’s puritan values dictated that there be no ballroom, no card room, no billiard room, and no place for drinking or other activities deemed to be inappropriate.  The house had only 40 rooms – very modest by the gilded age standards of the day… There are 11 family and guest bedrooms.

In fact, JDR and Jr. spent more money on the grounds then they did on the house; the last resident, Nelson, used the estate as a giant art gallery, displaying his huge collection of modern art.  To preserve the view, JDR moved an entire village, including the train station and miles of tracks, a few thousand yards further away. To keep down the noise of constant service deliveries he built tunnels so that all deliveries and service access to the house were underground.  Jr. and his wife built a “Playhouse” to keep their 6 children occupied.  It is larger than the main house, and includes indoor and outdoor tennis courts, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a bowling alley, billiards, a soda fountain, a theater, and assorted other amenities.  About 86 acres were enclosed into the “Park”, which contained the main house, the Playhouse, a reversible 9 hole golf course, plus many other houses for various other family members over the years. All the rest of the land has always been left open for the public to use. It was all donated to the National Trust in the 1980s, and the house and some of the “Park” is now also open to the public.  (Some portions of the estate are still private, because family members still live in some of the houses…) The majority of the original 3,400 acres are now a New York State Park.

At the time of the donation, except for family events, the 11-bedroom house had been unoccupied since Nelson Rockefeller, a grandson of JDR, died in 1979. The National Trust acquired a quarter interest in the 600-acre Rockefeller property in Pocantico Hills in 1979 under his will. In 1983, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the National Trust determined the boundaries of the new 86-acre Pocantico Historic Area, which includes the property and Nelson Rockefeller’s art collections at Kykuit.

Throughout the house, priceless East Asian pottery that the family avidly collected and cherished anchors each room. The main floors and basement (the latter was turned into a vast art gallery) boast modern art by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol and Henry Moore collected by modern art enthusiast Abby A. Rockefeller Jr.’s wife) and Nelson Rockefeller

Again, interior photographs are not allowed on the tour. The house has only two rooms that visitors would ever see – the office and a small parlor. There is no grand staircase, no Ballroom, no Grand Hall. This house was not designed for ostentation and the display of wealth.  Most of the house was reserved for the family.  Life for the family revolved around a “family” room in the center of the house, which contained a massive pipe organ (removed by Nelson). There is a large dining room for family meals, and a quieter sitting room. The terrace to the west boasts a view over the treetops to the Hudson River. No other buildings are visible between the house and the river.

On the second floor are two complete 3 room master suites; one or the other was occupied by JDR and his wife Cetti, then Jr. and his wife Abby, and finally Nelson and his wife Happy. The other Master suite was used for honored guests.  More family bedrooms are on the third floor and servant bedrooms are on the fourth floor.

Our tour started in the town of Sleepy Hollow at the Visitor Center. We took a shuttle up to the Park, where we drove along the original carriage roads, then up to the entrance court of Kykuit.  The front of the house is relatively narrow, but the view to the East is fabulous.

 

Entrance – East Facade:

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Side facing the lawns and gardens:

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West views towards the Hudson:

 

The original family swimming pool:

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The Teahouse; Nelson had swimming pools built where the sunken lawns were (and are), and he converted the Teahouse into a soda fountain…

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While there are obviously many differences between Kykuit and other neo-classic great houses of this era, there is one striking thing that we noted:  These houses were all built about the same time as the Martin House, which we saw in Buffalo. (See my June 28 2017 blog post…)  As these piles of excess were being assembled, Frank Lloyd Wright was rethinking the whole idea of what a house is, and what 20th century architecture is.

Compare:

Kykuit…

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Martin…

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As I said above, JDR loved horses and carriage racing. His first act upon buying the estate property was to build a Carriage House.  Today it contains historic carriages and cars owned by the family.  The basement and upper stories have been converted to a conference center for the use of the family’s business and charitable interests.

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This is David Rockefeller’s Continental.  The joke here is that, as any Continental lover knows, this car is NOT a Lincoln; Continental was a separate division of Ford when this car was built…

 

After the tour we were shuttled back to Sleepy Hollow; we grabbed a quick lunch in a local pub, then drove to The Union Church of Pocantico Hills.  This tiny country church has a stained glass rose window by Henri Matisse, and 9 stained glass windows by Marc Chagall… After all, when some of your parishioners are the Rockefeller family, things get done.

The church was built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in 1921, as part of his plans to develop the town of Pocantico Hills, which was below his estate Kykuit.   It is a one story neo-Gothic style building with fieldstone foundation and walls and a slate covered, highly pitched gable roof. In 1930-1931, a parish hall was added to the east end of the church.

Upon the death of Jr.’s wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, in 1948, their son Nelson Rockefeller had Henri Matisse design the church’s rose window in honor of her memory shortly before the artist’s own death in 1954.  When Jr. died in 1960, his children, led by their son, David Rockefeller,  had artist Marc Chagall design a Good Samaritan window in his honor.   This commission later expanded to include all eight windows in the nave of the church. They memorialize, among others, Michael Clark Rockefeller, Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, Peggy Rockefeller (Mrs. David Rockefeller), and Mary Rockefeller (Mrs. Laurance Rockefeller). Chagall and members of the Rockefeller family carefully selected the subject matter for the windows from Biblical texts.

David Rockefeller, members of the Rockefeller family, and members of the church commissioned organ-builder Sebastian M. Glück to design and build the Laurance Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Pipe Organ in 2006.  It is used for public recitals as well as for church services.

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We returned to the Villa and had a quiet evening in the Villa.  At least we were quiet. The weather was not.  We were treated to a huge thunderstorm that raged for what seemed like hours.  Thunder and lightning and heavy rain, things all so unfamiliar to us…  We were parked under a large tree, and, being unaccustomed to lightning, we were not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing… However, all ended well and we survived…

 

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