Infinity of Nations

Going back to the roots and learning a bit more about Native Americans; peoples, traditions and art that were thriving here before America’s discovery by the Old World.

A sad necessity perhaps but such dedicated museums are the most effective means in rendering these cultures and their history more widely accessible to visitors.

In New York, the  museum is housed in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, one of the most splendid Beaux Arts buildings in the City with a magnificent rotunda dome.

The rotunda skylight
Inuit Woman’s Inner Parka (amauti) also known as a tuilli. It was made from caribu skin for a mother to carry her infant. It incorporates almost 140.000 beads. It was made between 1890 and 1925 when whaling flourished on the west coast of Hudson Bay and the Inuit obtained glass beads from whalers through trade.

Mississippian effigy jar. 1350-1550 AD, Clay
Mississippian long-nosed god maskettes. 1100-1500 AD, marine shell
Sisitonwan Dakota (Sisseton Sioux) gauntlet gloves. South Dakota, ca. 1880. Deer hide, cotton cloth, glass beads, ribbon. Moccasins associated with Peo Peo T’olikt (Bird Alighting, Nimi’ipuu, 1857-1935). Idaho, ca. 1880. Deer hide, glass beads, cotton thread.

”Shortly after the outbreak of the 1877 war with the United States, Chief Looking Glass declared that he wanted peace and moved his camp to Clear Creek on the 1863 reservation. Peo Peo T’olikt, who was in his twenties, was instructed by the chief to parley with militiamen and soldiers who came to the camp on July 1. The Indian camp raised a white flag, but was attacked and destroyed.

Peo Peo T’olikt was wounded in the leg, but escaped and was involved in all the subsequent battles of 1877. He lost a wife and young son in the war, but his exploits were many. Capturing the cannon at Big Hole, stealing General Howard’s mules and horses at Camas Meadows, and protecting the camp at Bear Paw are just a few.”

Allen Pinkham, Sr. (Ni Mii Puu)
Tribal historian and former National Museum of the American Indian trustee

Chilkat Tlingit canoe prow effigy, Alaska ca. 1825-1875. Cedar wood, human hair, paint, abalone shell, opercula. The Haida decorated their boats with clan designs and insignia. A Tlingit might add a canoe prow figure carved in the form of a shaman who would guide the way and warn of the approach of enemies.
Wedding dress worn by Inshata-Theumba (Susette La Flesche or Bright Eyes, Omaha, 1854-1903). Nebraska, ca. 1881. Wool

”Susette La Flesche descended from Omaha tribal leaders on both sides of her family. As a child she lived in an earth lodge, though she also attended a mission school. La Flesche witnessed the expulsion of the Ponca tribe from their homeland to Indian Territory in 1877, and the subsequent imprisonment of Standing Bear and other Poncas who had attempted to return to Nebraska. These events launched La Flesche’s career as a nationally known activist who argued against the involuntary removal of indigenous people from their homelands and for Indian citizenship rights.

La Flesche found a soulmate in Thomas Tibbles, a newspaper reporter for the Omaha Herald who followed the Ponca case. Schooled in Western and Omaha culture and bilingual, La Flesche chose an elegant cream-colored wool skirt and jacket when she married Tibbles in 1881.”

Brenda J. Child (Red Lake Ojibwe)
Historian, University of Minnesota

Mebêngôkre krokrokti (feather headdress or cape). Brazil, ca. 1990. Macaw feathers, heron feathers, cotton cordage.

Mebêngôkre men and women wear feather headdresses or capes during children’s naming ceremonies and boy’s initiation ceremonies.

National Museum of the American Indian

November 7th, 2016

 

Haunted

The New York Cancer Hospital founded in 1884, was designed by architect Charles Coolidge Haight to resemble a French chateau. When I first saw it, unaware of its function or background, I thought of an academic institution or a public administration building – certainly not a hospital!

But a hospital it was and the very first one to treat cancer in the United States, at that. Although treatment is rather a euphemism since there was no cure for cancer at the time. In reality, patients came here to ease the pain, seeking comfort in morphine and champagne. Reportedly the hospital spent more on alcoholic beverages than medical supplies.

Because of the high mortality rate among patients, its reputation was gradually tarnished to the point that it became known as ”the Bastille”, a place to be feared and avoided. Along came financial troubles, followed by a change of name (under which it thrived) and a relocation to the East Side in 1995.

With the cancer hospital relocated, the ”Bastille” became a nursing home, mistreated and abused its elderly patients, got involved in fraud cases, and was finally closed down in a state of neglect and disrepair, in 1974. That’s probably when the ghosts took over; for it goes without saying that the ”Bastille” a.k.a the ”Castle” is reputedly haunted. With so much suffering and darkness, how could it not be?

Unbelievably, it survived demolition. After decades of neglect it was redeveloped in the noughties and, by 2005, turned into – take a guess – luxury condominiums. In case you’re curious, take a look inside one of the apartments here.

I wonder what the ghosts have to say about this.

455 Central Park West

Octobrrrrr 16th, 2016

Squeezed

~ tightly. Riding the New York City subway during rush hour feels like…

Back on the surface, this bulbous structure attracted much criticism when it was erected in 1902. Built by Philip Braender, a German-born developer-cum-automobile tyre manufacturer, and designed by architect Frederick C. Browne in a mix style with French Renaissance, Spanish and Baroque influences, the Braender should have really stood out. Instead, it was criticised for being one of the same, similar to a dozen other buildings in the area.

”One of these things makes you yawn. A mile of them gets on your nerves”, wrote the critic Montgomery Shuyler in The Architectural Record, in January 1902.

The difference a century and a major renovation makes! Who’s yawning now Mr. Shuyler?

There is an interesting article from 2006, by Christopher Gray in The New York Times about the Braender and one of its famous residents, Mrs. Winifred Sackville Stoner, which you can read here.

418, Central Park West

October 16th, 2016

279 Central Park West

The one on the right. Designed by Costas Kondylis, one of the most prolific architects in New York. Over the years, Mr Kondylis has helped shape the cityscape by designing numerous well-known buildings. He has worked closely (moral sensitivity alert!) with the Trump Organization – Trump World Tower in the UN Plaza is his design (end alert). He became known for his preference in no-frill ”boring” structures earning the trust of the city’s developers for getting the job done i.e. delivering on time and within budget.

There is nothing boring about 279 CPW. Looking at the tiered upper floors with penthouse apartments and large wrap terraces, I wouldn’t mind calling one of them home. 

W88th St.

Central Park West

October 16th, 2016

Of Music and Glorious Kings

October had arrived cool bringing a hint of autumn, fiery colours, pumpkins – and Sigur Ros to Brooklyn. Tickets booked many months in advance, long before the flight tickets that would bring us to New York. This performance was added ”due to popular demand”, after their first night at Radio City was sold out in a matter of minutes. My initial frustration in missing a performance at the legendary venue quickly evaporated, replaced by awe the moment I stepped in the exquisite, historic landmark that is the Kings Theatre.

Unused since 1977, damaged by time and pilferage, painstakingly restored from scratch to its former glory, its interior inspired by the French Renaissance Revival style of the Palace of Versailles and the Paris Opera House, with brand new state-of-the-are staging facilities Kings Theatre is a prime example of what determination, good planning, respect to the original architecture and an investment of $95 million can do to the benefit of the community.

And I have Sigur Ros to thank for my initiation into the world of New York’s historic theatres, in such grand style.

wp20161006_191654wp20161006_192532wp20161006_192511 wp20161006_192616 wp20161006_192640 wp20161006_192952wp0161006_192834wp20161006_193022 wp20161006_193042 wp20161006_193236 wp20161006_193627 wp20161006_193706wp20161006_193542wp20161006_194605 wp20161006_194636 wp20161006_200617 wp20161006_200713 wp20161006_200734 wp20161006_200801 wp20161006_200853 wp20161006_200943-pano wp20161006_201022 wp20161006_214956 wp20161006_230450

Takk Sigur Ros, see you again soon!

Kings Theatre
1027 Flatbush Avenue
Brooklyn

More reading here and here.

October 6th, 2016

Sears Roebuck & Co.

With rows of red brick family houses and small apartment buildings, modest and slightly rundown, this part of Beverly Road is not particularly pretty.

But, then, one comes across this marvelous Artdeco tower on the edge of a seemingly triangular structure. Later, I found out that it is a department store, opened in 1932 with Eleanor Roosevelt being the guest of honour, keynote speaker and first customer in what was to be Ms. Roosevelt’s last public appearance before her husband became President.

wp20161006_190528 wp20161006_190629

Beverly Road, Flatbush, Brooklyn

More reading about Sears here.

October 6th, 2016

Overlooking Columbus

The Time Warner Center overlooking Columbus overlooking the traffic circling around Central Park. Headquarters of Time Warner and the studios of CNN. A world of its own with luxury condos, a five-star hotel, a concert hall, a shopping mall, a fitness center, I don’t know how many restaurants and a Whole Foods supermarket.

Some residents don’t ever have to leave the premises, I would imagine.

wp20161004_165040

Columbus Circle in Blue

October 4th, 2016