Tag Archives: McKim Mead & White

Members only: Private clubs in New York City

Clubs have been a part of New York City for centuries. How else are you expected to find like-minded people in such a bustling metropolis? In the early 19th century, the Hone Club was the preeminent dinner-giving club for upper class merchants (the eponymous member was Mayor Philip Hone); James Fenimore Cooper founded the deliciously-named Bread and Cheese Club (which was sadly not devoted to food, but rather literary pursuits); The City Club was  described as an “anti-bad-city government club”; and who could forget the Thirteen Club, whose stated purpose was “to combat superstitious beliefs” by hosting dinner parties with 13 guests on the 13th of the month? My favorite is the anti-club Club. Who said Gilded Age New Yorkers didn’t have a sense of humor? For the most thorough and exhaustive list, please see the King’s Handbook of 1892: pages upon pages of descriptions of every kind of club imaginable await you  here.

Some clubs were more exclusive than others. The private gentleman’s club, based on the English model, has had a long history in the five boroughs. Men socialized, dined, and drank with other men of their social class in beautiful surroundings. Membership to these clubs was (and still is) difficult to obtain: money, power, and the right connections are all must-haves. But thanks to the City Museum’s fabulous photo collections, we can pretend that we are members of some of the most exclusive clubs in town.

On June 30th, 1836, invitations were sent to various gentlemen of good social standing – Astors, Van Cortlandts, Stuyvesants, van Rensselaers, basically a roll call of every influential Dutch New York family – to join the newly founded Union Club, the first club devoted to wealth and social standing in New York. For decades it set the tone for every other club. As you can probably guess, the Union Club became very popular, very quickly and there was soon a waitlist to join.

The two images below are of the club’s clubhouse on 51st and Fifth Avenue, which it occupied from 1903-1933. Designed by Cass Gilbert, its facade is a sober statement of the conservatism and wealth of the club.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 51st Street and Fifth Avenue. The Union Club. 1928. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.3127

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 51st Street and Fifth Avenue. The Union Club. 1928. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.3127.

Unknown photographer. Main Stairway [Union Club, 1 East 51st Street.] 1930. Museum of the City of New York. F2013.123.9

Unknown photographer. Main Stairway [Union Club, 1 East 51st Street.] 1930. Museum of the City of New York. F2013.123.9.

Their current clubhouse on Park and 69th, designed by William Adams Delano and Chester Holmes Aldrich and pictured below, was described by Christopher Gray as, “chunky with rusticated limestone and a huge angled mansard roof so big it looks like a Fifth Avenue mansion gone wild.” With five dining rooms and humidors stocked with cigars, it’s clear that the Union Club is still catering to the wealthy and connected of New York.

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Samuel H. (Samuel Herman) Gottscho (1875-1971). The Union Club, 701 Park Avenue. General exterior. 1935. Museum of the City of New York. 88.1.1.3769

 

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Samuel H. (Samuel Herman) Gottscho (1875-1971). The Union Club, 701 Park Avenue. Foyer to entrance. 1935. Museum of the City of New York. 88.1.1.3756

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Samuel H. (Samuel Herman) Gottscho (1875-1971). The Union Club, 701 Park Avenue. Dining room, general view to portraits. 1935.Museum of the City of New York. 88.1.1.3760

New York society, however, is nothing if not fluid. After the Civil War, there was a huge influx of newly wealthy men who wanted access to the prestige of the Union Club. The older members of the Union Club were not impressed. They blocked the membership application of two men: John King and Dr. W. Seward Webb. Bad move. It turned out that John King was connected with J. P. Morgan and Dr. Webb was married to Eliza Vanderbilt (William Kissam’s Vanderbilt’s little sister). Morgan and Vanderbilt were so angered, they did the only sensible thing: they founded their own private club.

Dubbed the Millionaire’s Club by the press, the Metropolitan Club was singly focused on money. By 1892, 700 invitations were sent out and that alone was enough to ensure the club’s financial success. The next step was a clubhouse that alerted passers-by to the wealth of those inside. Morgan enlisted Stanford White, who told the New York Times: “The club house will stand unrivaled in its size, and although the style will be in the severest and simplest character of Italian Renaissance and the feeling of severity and solidity will be carried through the interior, the scale of the building and the nature of its materials will give it an appearance unlike that of any building in New York.”. Well, let it never be said that Stanford White didn’t have confidence in his abilities. The clubhouse was completed in 1893, on what was once the 8th Duke of Marlborough’s land. (As a interesting historical sidenote: William K. Vanderbilt’s daughter, Consuelo, would marry the 9th Duke of Marlborough, for more information read Lindsay’s fabulous blog post about dollar princesses here.)

Metropolitan Club, 5th Ave. & 60th St.

Irving Underhill (d. 1960). Metropolitan Club, 5th Ave. & 60th St. 1929. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.29.221

 

[Metropolitan Club, 1-11 East 60th Street.]

Edmund V. Gillon. [Metropolitan Club, 1-11 East 60th Street.]. ca. 1975. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.3.2.2006.

Another way that the Metropolitan Club was progressive was that they had an annex where wives and daughters of the members held events. You can almost feel the collective shudder of the Union Club.

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James L. Breese and Carbon Studio. Interior Views of the Metropolitan Club House [Grand staircase.]. 1895. Museum of the City of New York. 90.44.4.3

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James L. Breese and Carbon Studio, Interior Views of the Metropolitan Club House [Possibly the West Room.] 1895. Museum of the City of New York. 90.44.4.4

Not all clubs were based entirely on money and family lines. Here are glimpses of other privates clubs.

The University Club was began by Ivy League graduates whose goals included, “promotion of Literature and Art by establishing and maintaining a Library, Reading Room and Gallery of Art, and by such other means as shall be expedient and proper for such purposes.” Thanks to a beautiful clubhouse designed by McKim, Mead & White, you can see just how well they accomplished those goals.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). 1 West 54th Street. University Club. Interior, game room. ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.7948

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). 1 West 54th Street. University Club. Interior, game room. ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.7948

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Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). 1 West 54th Street. University Club. Interior, library. ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.7938

The Players Club is a different kind of club than the ones mentioned previously. Founded by Edwin Booth and located in a Gramercy Park South townhome remodeled by Stanford White, the private club was home to, as one contemporary quipped, “… gentlemen trying to be actors,” and its members come from the highest social groups of both the theater and business worlds. Here you can see the two most important parts of a gentleman’s club: the billiards table and  the bar (with the very attentive Connelly awaiting your order).

Josephine Barry. Player's Club, founded by Edwin Booth - 16 Gramercy Park Southern. 1947. 1947. Museum of the City of New York. 75.43.85

Josephine Barry. Player’s Club, founded by Edwin Booth – 16 Gramercy Park Southern. 1947. 1947. Museum of the City of New York. 75.43.85

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). [Players Club. Billiard room.] ca. 1939, Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.17081

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). [Players Club. Billiard room.] ca. 1939, Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.17081

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). 16 Gramercy Park South. Interior, The Player's Club with Connelly, barkeeper. 1935, Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.6542

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). 16 Gramercy Park South. Interior, The Player’s Club with Connelly, barkeeper. 1935, Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.6542

And finally, we have this perfect picture of members of the Yale Club, obviously having a fabulous time at a 1904 Bachelor’s Dinner.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Dinner - Bachelor 1904 Yale Club 30 West 44th St.  1904. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.3979.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Dinner – Bachelor 1904 Yale Club 30 West 44th St. 1904. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.3979.

For more images of club life in Gilded Age New York, please visit out Collection Portal here.

 

 

Penn Station and the Rise of Historic Preservation

After reading Lauren Robinson’s fantastic blog post about the return of Mad Men, I found myself haunted by the destruction of the original Penn Station. And as I dug deeper, I discovered that this was a drama of almost mythic proportions; a classic tale of David and Goliath; big corporations against a rag-tag group of underdogs; and art versus profit.

But first, the backstory: the original Pennsylvania Station was designed by Charles F. McKim, of McKim, Mead & White fame, the preeminent East Coast architectural firm of the Gilded Age. McKim’s designs drew heavily on classical architecture like the Roman Baths of Caracalla and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin that elevated the mere activity of entering and leaving the city into a  momentous occasion.

McKim, Mead & White. Pennsylvania Station. 1905. Museum of the City of New York. 90.44.1.593.

Penn Station was opened on September 8th, 1910, and its sheer scale immediately evoked a sense of awe. At the time it was completed, it was the largest building ever built (with the qualifier of “at one time”), and boasted the biggest waiting room in history. With 150-foot ceilings and natural light streaming through an iron and glass roof — how could one not think that they were somewhere magical?

George P. Hall and Son. Interior of Pennsylvania Station. 1911. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.11.5113.

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991). Pennsylvania Station. 1936. Museum of the City of New York. 43.131.1.216.

Wide World Photos, Inc. Crowds in Pennsylvania Station. ca. 1920. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.11.5088.

Yet only 50 years after it was opened, Penn Station was in trouble. The owners of the station, Pennsylvania Railroad, were broke. The station was falling into disrepair. Airplanes and automobiles had begun to eclipse rail travel. With all this, the nine-acre lot between 7th and 8th Avenues from 31st to 33rd Street was just far too valuable not to sell.  Even the architecture had gone out of style. The opulence and grandeur that were so popular in the Gilded Age were seen as an ungainly relic compared to the modern architecture of the 1960s.

At the same time, Madison Square Garden was outgrowing its location on 8th Avenue and 50th Street and its owners were eying possible building sites for a new, completely modernized sports arena. Suddenly there appeared an answer for both Pennsylvania Railroad’s financial problems and the continuation of Madison Square Garden. On July 25, 1961, the New York Times published the first mention of the relocation of Madison Square Garden to the site of Penn Station. What’s intriguing about this article is that the developers meant to keep the original station waiting room as part of the new facility. Two days later it became apparent that this was not going to happen, and on July 27, 1961 the front page of the New York Times ran the headline “’62 Start is Set for New Garden — Penn Station to Be Razed to Street Level in Project.” The planned $75 million complex included a hotel and a 34-story office building, along with a 25,000 seat arena and a smaller 4,000 seat arena, which the article described as “a huge, sagging pancake.” But, Irving Felt, the president of the company that owned Madison Square Garden, believed “that the gain from the new buildings and sports center would more than offset any aesthetic loss.”

This galvanized a group of five twenty-something architects calling themselves the Action Group for Better Architecture in New York, shortened to AGBANY, to organize a public protest against the demolition on August 21, 1962.  From 5 to 7 P.M, they picketed in front of Penn Station carrying signs reading “Shame” and “Don’t Amputate — Renovate.”  Reports vary that at least 150 people participated and soon organizations like the Municipal Arts Council joined the fight to save Penn Station. For the next year, the battle continued. Larger protests from city residents, however, didn’t come until it was too late.

On October 28, 1963 at 9 A.M., as a light rain fell and picketers wearing black armbands watched silently, electric jackhammers began to destroy Penn Station. For the next three years, Penn Station was slowly demolished.  The destruction was brutal and total; the station’s monumental ornamentation – 16-ton decorative eagles and the 84 Doric columns that made up the Seventh Avenue facade – were dumped unceremoniously into the marshlands of Secaucus, New Jersey.

Aaron Rose. The demolition of Pennsylvania Station, 1964-1965. Museum of the City of New York. 01.30.82

Aaron Rose. The demolition of Pennsylvania Station, 1964-1965. Museum of the City of New York. 01.30.2

Aaron Rose. The demolition of Pennsylvania Station, 1964-1965. Museum of the City of New York. 01.30.79.

Aaron Rose. The demolition of Pennsylvania Station, 1964-1965. Museum of the City of New York. 01.30.95.

Aaron Rose. The demolition of Pennsylvania Station, 1964-1965. Museum of the City of New York. 01.30.117.

As a direct result, on April 15, 1965, Mayor Robert Wagner signed the Landmark Law, which created the Landmarks Preservation Commission. For the first time there was an agency with government power to designate and even save historical buildings and neighborhoods. The legal ramification didn’t end there though. A year later, after growing countrywide preservation efforts, the National Historic Preservation Act was enacted, ensuring that other cities wouldn’t also have to lose a landmark to realize the importance of its preservation.

Below are some of the strikingly emotional reactions to the destruction of Penn Station from the New York Times:

“Farewell to Penn Station” on October 30, 1963 “Until the first blow fell, no one was convinced that Penn Station really would be demolished, or that New York would permit this monumental act of vandalism against one of the largest and finest landmarks of its age of Roman elegance. Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves. Even when we had Penn Station, we couldn’t afford to keep it clean. We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed”

Ada Louise Huxtable wrote the following on July 16, 1966:  “Pennsylvania Station succumbed to progress this week at the age of 56, after a lingering decline.  The building’s one remaining facade was shorn of eagles and ornament yesterday, preparatory to leveling the last wall.  It went not with a bang, or a whimper, but to the rustle of real estate stock shares.  The passing of Penn Station is more than the end of a landmark.  It makes the priority of real estate values over preservation conclusively clear.  It confirms the demise of an age of opulent elegance, of conspicuous, magnificent spaces, rich and enduring materials, the monumental civic gesture, and extravagant expenditure for esthetic ends.”

Vincent Scully, Jr., as quoted in the New York Times on February 12, 2012 about the differences in the Penn Station:  “One entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat.”

For a detailed  study of the demolition of Penn Station,  check out The Fall and Rise of Pennsylvania Station. Changing Attitudes Toward Historic Preservation in New York City by Eric J. Plosky, found here.

During the month of May, we’ll be posting more entries on historic preservation in the city. The Museum of the City of New York is competing for a $250,000 grant from Partners in Preservation, a joint program sponsored by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The winner is determined by popular vote, and individuals may vote once a day through May 21st. Please help us by going to http://www.helpmcny.com/ and voting today.

It’s Toasted: Mad Men and New York City

The digital team is eagerly awaiting the return of Mad Men to television on Sunday, March 25, after a 17-month hiatus. In anticipation of this, we have  pulled together an assortment of Mad Men-related images to share with you.

While imaging the Anthony F. Dumas theater drawings, our photographer Mia Moffett noticed the Lucky Strike advertisement bearing the famous “It’s Toasted” slogan on the theater’s signboard. In Mad Men’s pilot episode, Don Draper of Sterling Cooper successfully saves the firm’s Lucky Strike account by envisioning a new campaign for the beleaguered tobacco company: “Everyone else’s tobacco is poisonous, but Lucky Strike’s is toasted.”

Anthony F. Dumas. Rialto Theatre. Museum of the City of New York. 75.200.52

Near the end of the first season, Sterling Cooper employees have an all-night, booze-fueled party to watch the presidential election of 1960 live on television. Here is a photo of John F. Kennedy with Jackie on October 19, 1960, less than a month away from his election to the office of President.

Burton Berinsky. John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy in a ticker-tape parade. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.11.10964

Angelo Lomeo. After Nixon Lost Election, 1960. Museum of the City of New York. 97.99.3

In season 3, representatives of Madison Square Garden hire Sterling Cooper for a public relations campaign, hoping to diminish negative publicity surrounding the proposed demolition of Pennsylvania Station. The station was designed by renowned Beaux-Arts architecture firm McKim, Mead & White. The New York Times glowingly reported on the opening of Penn Station in an article from August 29, 1910: “This Seventh Avenue facade was conceived especially to symbolize in most imposing fashion a monumental gateway. It may be compared, with due allowance for its more massive proportions, to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, through which passes so much of the traffic of that city.”

Construction of Pennsylvania Station. Museum of the City of New York Photo Archive.X2010.11.5087

Irving Underhill. Penn R. R. Depot, 7th Avenue & 33rd St. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.28.720

Berenice Abbott. Federal Art Project. Pennsylvania Station. Museum of the City of New York. 43.131.2.100

In 1961, owners of Madison Square Garden announced that the entertainment arena would be moving from its  location on Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets to the site of Penn Station.  The relocation would require the demolition of the Penn Station structure, billed by Garden officials as necessary for modernization and progress. But the decision to demolish Penn Station was a controversial one. A New York Times article from October 29, 1963 bemoaned the change: “A building that sometimes made a ceremony out of a journey, the station reached the end of the line, architecturally, at 9 A.M. Electric jackhammers tore at the granite slabs of the side of the terminal near the 33rd Street entrance, crushing the hopes of a band of architects who had rallied to save what the Municipal Art Society called ‘one of the great monuments of classical America.'”  Partly in response to Penn Station’s demolition, NYC’s Landmarks Preservation Commission was established in 1965.

Aaron Rose. The demolition of Pennsylvania Station, 1964-1965. Museum of the City of New York. 01.30.43

Aaron Rose. The demolition of Pennsylvania Station, 1964-1965. Museum of the City of New York. 01.30.78

Aaron Rose. The demolition of Pennsylvania Station, 1964-1965. Museum of the City of New York. 01.30.33

The specter of the Vietnam War appears in season 4, with a character preparing to be shipped off to Vietnam.

Line in an Army reception station. Museum of the City of New York Photo Archive. X2010.11.13987

Benedict J. Fernandez. Burning of Draftcards. 1963. Museum of the City of New York. 99.150.17

As these photos illustrate, attitudes about the war were divergent and often politically divisive. Below is Martin Luther King, Jr., marching with pediatrician Dr. Spock and labor activist Monsignor Rice in the Spring Mobilization for Peace in 1967.

Benedict J. Fernandez. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Benjamin Spock and Monsignor Rice. Museum of the City of New York. 99.150.9

Benedict J. Fernandez. Pro-Vietnam War Demonstration, New York, 1970. Museum of the City of New York. 99.150.15

We look forward to seeing more of New York City’s history replayed in season 5 of Mad Men.

A Trip Up Broadway

From 1916 to 1921, Arthur Hosking photographed Broadway, from its southernmost leg at Bowling Green all the way north to Yonkers. Here are some highlights, all taken in 1920 unless otherwise noted.

Arthur Hosking. Broadway Series. Bowling Green looking north from Custom House steps. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.18.4

At the far right of this photo is the Produce Exchange, which was demolished in 1957. This photo was taken in 1921, when both street trolleys and horse-drawn carriages competed as viable means of transportation.

Arthur Hosking. Broadway Series. Broadway looking north from Rector Street. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.18.18

A photo taken a few blocks north at Broadway and Rector Street shows pedestrians, automobiles, and street trolleys competing with each other for space. Trinity Church is on the left.

Arthur Hosking. Broadway Series. Looking north from 2nd floor window at corner of Fulton Street. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.18.30

Broadway is bustling at the intersection of Fulton Street. St. Paul’s Chapel, seen on the left, was built from 1764 to 1766 and is Manhattan’s oldest continuously-used public building. In 1966, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The City Hall Post Office on the right did not fare so well. Built in 1878, it was immediately despised by city officials and the public alike. It was razed in 1938 in anticipation of the 1939 World Fair. (See http://www.nyc-architecture.com/GON/GON022.htmfor more details.)

Arthur Hosking. Broadway Series. View of east side of Bway, looking north from Lispenard and Canal Street, where the two streets converge. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.18.58

Taken in TriBeCa, this photo shows an advertisement for Nehemiah Gitelson & Sons. Nehemiah Gitelson immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1880. In addition to running the family company, he supported Jewish scholarship. In honor of his patronage, the Jewish Theological Seminary named his donation of over 1,100 volumes the Nehemiah Gitelson Talmudic Library.

Arthur Hosking. Broadway Series. View looking south from 18th Street taken from 3rd floor fire escape. 17th Street foreground, and Union Square in center. 1920. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.18.85

In 1815, the intersection of Broadway and the Bowery (now 4thAvenue) was designated a public meeting space and named Union Place for the convergence of the city’s main thoroughfares. The city gradually began to acquire surrounding land, and in 1832 Union Place was renamed Union Square.

Arthur Hosking. Broadway Series. View looking north from “El” station at 33rd Street and 6th Ave, showing Herald Square. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.18.108

This photo shows Saks & Co. on the left, then Macy’s. To the right is the New York Herald building. Only the Macy’s building survives today. Saks & Co. merged with Gimbels  to form Saks 5th Avenue in 1932. However, the original Saks building in this photo operated under the name Saks 34thStreet until its closure in 1965. The New York Herald building was designed by Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White in 1894 and demolished in 1921.

Arthur Hosking. Broadway Series. View looking north from 44th Street (Times Square), where Broadway crosses 7th Avenue. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.18.117

This photo shows the heart of Times Square. To the left is Hotel Astor, built in 1904. Before 1904, the area was known as Longacre Square, but Adolph Ochs, owner and publisher of the New York Times, convinced the city to officially rename the space Times Square. Hotel Astor remained until its demolition in 1967.

Arthur Hosking. View of the southeast corner of Broadway and 155th Street. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.18.158

Here is the Church of the Intercession in Hamilton Heights. It was only 8 years old when this photo was taken.

The photo below shows Broadway at a much slower pace in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The Broadway Inn is to the left.

Arthur Hosking. Broadway Series. View looking north from Mosholu Ave with Broadway Inn at left. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.18.190