Friday, November 30, 2012

Madison Avenue And East 67th Street


Madison Avenue and East 67th Street was one of New York City's oldest streets, it was also one of it's longest lasting. Though mostly filled with identical brownstones, overtime, like most of New York's fashionable streets, it began to fill with elegant and grand mansions. The grandest mansion on the street was The Cutting Mansion (left). Although a large office building was built in the middle of the mansions, that was basically the only major commercial development the street saw. It wasn't until after The Cutting Mansion was demolished that 67th Street began to be invaded, the entire block sinking rather quickly. The last private residence on the block was a large double mansion (right), which was occupied by an elderly dowager, old enough to have seen the Cutting Mansion being built. 

The Large Double Mansion Occupied By An Elderly Dowager, It Was The Last To Go 

To Read about The Cutting Mansion, Click HEREHERE and HERE. To 67th street as it is today, Click HERE .

Photos courtesy of The Museum of The City of New York

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is America's largest Art Museum, with a massive collection of paintings, sculptures, drawings, books, furniture and costumes. The large museum is governed by 41 elected trustees and a total of 960 fellows and benefactors. The original building was built by Calvert Vaux. Later on society architect Richard Morris Hunt was brought in the building an expansion wing. Eventually 8 wings were added, built by Stanford White, Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo. The wings completely engulfed the original museum, so that now you can only see the front of original building in the Lehman Wing. 

Metropolitan museums of art
An Aerial View Of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Click The Following For More:

*Photos Courtesy of NYC Architecture 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Boysie and Girlsie

Brooke Russell Astor always loved dogs, they were only source of company during her early years. Her favorite were, perhaps, her two beloved dachshunds, Boysie and Girlsie, which she had during the last years of her life. The twos dogs were her constant companions for years and were great sources of joy in her life.

Brooke Astor During Her Marriage To Vincent, Seated Next To Her Were Boysie And Girlsie

Brooke, who had gotten the dogs because she was lonely, adored them. They lived with her and Vincent until his death. At her Park Avenue duplex they slept at her feet. She never needed an alarm clock because Boysie woke her when it was time to get up. If she didn't get up, He would sit and bark at her.  

Brooke's Son, Tony Marshall, Visiting Her And Girlsie At Ferncliff, The Astor Estate On The Hudson River (courtesy of Tony Marshall Collection) 

When Brooke travelled to her other two homes, Holly Hill in Briarcliff Manor, NY and Cove End in Maine, the two dogs accompanied her, riding alongside her in limousine. She made it a point to walk her dogs herself at least once a day, when in New York around Central Park, when at Holly Hill around town, when at Cove End around the grounds. 

Brooke Astor Hiking With Her Dogs At Her Camp In Upper Maine, August Moon (courtesy of Alec Marshall Collection) 

At Holly Hill, Brooke's love of her dogs was evident. Her famous spiral staircase was adorned with several paintings of various types of dogs. When her estate was auctioned, every single one of the paintings was sold. Boysie and Girlsie both had portraits hanging up on the spiral wall, along with all of Brooke's other dogs. 

Brooke's Famous Spiral Staircase, Adorned With Several Paintings Of Dogs (courtesy of Tyler Hughes collection)

The dogs were with Mrs Astor up until her death. During the famous trial which accused Tony Marshall of Elder Abuse to his poor mother, it was found out that Tony had the two dogs locked up in the pantry so Mrs Astor could not see them until she gave him more money and refused to let her see them. He even threatened to have them put down. As you know, Annette de la Renta, David Rockefeller and Philip Marshall took action and eventually got Mrs Astor out of her Park Avenue duplex (which Tony had not let her leave) and back to Holly Hill, where she spent her remaining months alive. 

The Last Photograph of Brooke Russell Astor, Being Pushed Around The Grounds Of Holly Hill, Girlsie Joins Them (courtesy of Philip Marshall) 

Boysie and Girlsie were adopted by a friend of Mrs Astor, Iris Love, a Vermont breeder, where they live in the lap of luxury. "Girlsie is a total princess" says the breeder, who hung a picture of Mrs Astor up on the fireplace, where Girlsie naps in front of her former Mistress "while all the other dogs go in and out of the doggie door, she just stands their staring at you, waiting for you to open the door for her" she says. "Boysie is a complete busybody" she said "he wants to be in all the other dogs business". The two dogs, though they love their new life, "have missed Mrs Astor dearly" says Love. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Remembering Noreen

Noreen Stonor Drexel (left) At The Breakers Ball In Newport

On November 6, 2012, Newport philanthropist and socialite Noreen Drexel had a massive stroke and unexpectedly died that very day. She was 90 years old. 

Courtesy of FindAGrave

She was born to Lord and Lady Camoys of Stonor Park. She grew up at regal Stonor Park, visited by her aunt, uncle and cousins, her favorite being Eileen Gillespie, later Eileen Slocum.

As war loomed in England, Lady Camoys took her daughter, still a teenager, to Newport to stay with her grandparents, the William Watts Shermans, where she became active in the war effort. She was head of the Newport War Bond Drive and served as chairwoman of Bundles for Britain.

In Newport, she met and married millionaire John R. Drexel III, whose family had been summering in Newport for generations. They lived, for a time, at the Drexel's Newport estate Cliff Walk, until she and John commissioned their own Newport cottage, Stonor Lodge, named after Stonor Park in England. 

She volunteered at the Newport Naval Hospital where she had many jobs and worked in the Motor Pool as an ambulance driver. She was often on the scene of fires, hurricanes, and other disasters. Her tenure at the Naval Hospital continued through the Second World War, the Korean War, and the war in Vietnam.

Mr. and Mrs. Drexel wintered in Palm Beach, Florida, where she ran the American Red Cross office. She was an early advocate of substance abuse prevention and launched a program with the local police geared to teaching youngsters about the dangers of substance and drug abuse. Students were taken to local jails to witness the havoc that such abuse could cause in life.

She founded the Childbirth Education Association of the Palm Beaches and helped produce a movie, First Breath, which promoted the Lamaze method and gave mothers- and fathers-to-be information on what to expect during the birthing process. She would smile when recalling how on opening night, several fathers-to-be fainted when they saw what was coming.

The Drexels were active in Newport society and they regularly attended Newport Balls and Parties. She attended The Tiffany Ball at Marble House in Newport, where she chatted with John and Jackie Kennedy and swirled under the great ballroom chandelier in the arms of John Nicholas Brown. 

In New York, where she and John had a large, entire-floor apartment overlooking Central Park, she was involved in the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Beekman Downtown Hospital, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and the New York Hospital—Cornell Medical Center. She was Chair of the Woman's Division of the Lying-In Hospital of the City of New York.

In recognition of her energy and hard work, she became a member of the Foundation for International Child Health and The White House Conference on Children and Youth.

In the 1970s, she was appointed by the President of the American Red Cross to be the Representative of the League of Red Cross Societies at the United Nations. She was selected for this post because of her "broad outlook on humanitarian matters." She worked at the United Nations for several years.

She and John were guests at a fabulous ball held by the Preservation Society in Newport at The Breakers Mansion in Newport. At her table were Mrs. Louis Van Alen, Edith Wetmore, Katherine Warren (The Preservation Society's founder), Eileen Slocum, The Browns, Slocums, Auchinclosses, Carys and the Wideners.

In Newport, Mrs. Drexel has been a Trustee and Chair of the Alletta Morris McBean Charitable Trust. Under her leadership, the Trust has supported the Newport Hospital, Salve Regina University, churches, the Touro Synagogue, schools, libraries, social service organizations, the City of Newport, and many other charitable organizations.

In recognition of her service to the City-by-the-Sea and so many others, she was awarded the degree Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Salve Regina in 1999. She served for many years on the University's board of trustees.

In 2007, John died, leaving her a large fortune. This fortune, added to William Watts Sherman's fortune, which she also inherited, made her one of the wealthiest ladies in all of Newport.  

She was a guest at a massive Centennial Gala at The Elms in Newport. The fundraiser ball for the Preservation Society charged $1,000 per person. At this ball was Eileen Slocum (her dear cousin), Edward and Ruth Wheeler, Ruth's son Wylie Buchanan III, Candy Van Alen, Captain Nicholas Brown and Annie Brown, Nicole duPont Limbocker, Jacqueline Astor Drexel and Nelson Aldrich.

That year she gave Stonor Park to her son John R Drexel IV, as a residence. She moved to a smaller, one-story, cottage on the property.

On November 6 2012, she was having breakfast in the dining room of her Newport cottage when she had a massive stroke. She died while in the hospital. The death was unexpected. 

Noreen was a wonderful woman, Newport took a deep loss in losing her.

Friday, November 23, 2012

At The Met, Part 4, The Closing Gala

On April 16 1966, all of society turned out to wish their beloved Met goodbye. Socialites, debutantes, celebrities, millionaires and anyone who loved the Met showed up to attend it for one last time. Soon after that night, The Metropolitan Opera House would be demolished and replaced with an office building that would produce triple the income for The Metropolitan Opera House Company. The night was said to be The Met's finest.

The Met's Auditorium Was Filled To The Brink, The Last Audience Having Paid $200 A Ticket ($2000 Today) To Hear 57 Of The Company's Stars. 

The attendees donned their finest that night. It was said that the estimated value of the jewelry worn that night was said to be worth around $650 million. The Diamond Horseshoe was alive that night, with familiar faces having showed up in their boxes or previous boxes, along with many of the Met's Old Stalwarts. Miss Edith Wetmore of Newport (who at age 70 had sold her box at The Met 17 years ago) showed up to say goodbye, sharing her old box with it's present owner. Mrs August Belmont and Giovanni Martinelli also showed up, along with Mrs John Nicholas Brown. 

Giovanni Martinelli And Mrs August Belmont Together At The Sherry's At The Met, Along With Rise Stevens (middle).

"I am taking nothing with me but years of wonderful memories from the old house"  said Mrs August Belmont

General David Sarnoff, Enjoying A Puff At Sherry's, Recalled Standing In The Gallery To Hear Caruso Sing.

Lotte Lehmann Wore Her Medals, Including The French Legion Of Honor. Her Debut Was In 1931, In Walkure. 

"It was difficult" she said "To control myself when Jon Vickers sang Winterstrume from Walkiure. The moment he stopped was where I had come in as Sieglinde." 

In Sherry's, At The Pre-Gala Dinner, Former Heavyweight Champion Gene Tunney Table-Hopped With Other Attendees.

Rudolf Bing Beckons For Parade Of Ex-Stars To Begin. 

"This is goodbye to bricks and mortar only" he said "building is replaceable; friends are not."

Marjorie Lawrence Is Wheeled To Her Position On Stage, Where She Will Sing From A Couch, Since She Was Paralyzed In 1943.

Lily Pons Bows Graciously Onstage, Though Annoyed She Was Not Asked To Sing. 

"The Voice Is Still Here!!" she said.

Elizabeth Rethberg Walks Out An Ovation. Though She Retired In 1942, Her Husband, George, Sang At The Gala.

Anselmo Colzani And James McCracken Join In A Duet. 

Cesare Siepi An Aria From Don Carlo. 

Singer Licia Albanese Performed Her Last "Madame Butterfly" At The Met, Which She Had Done 136 Times There. When It Came For Her Curtain Call, She Bowed Down And Kissed The Stage Goodbye.

Leontyne Price Beamed At Her Ovation.

Although Offstage She Broke Down In Sobs. 

"I am sorry" she wept "The new house will be wonderful, but it will never be the same." 

After Her Brilliant Performance "Immolation", Brigit Nilsson Blows Farewell Kisses To The Audience.

 Mrs Vincent Astor, Brooke, Greets Friends In The Diamond Horseshoe During Intermission. Her Box Had Been Used By Vincent's Previous Wives And Was Originally The Box Of Caroline Astor.

"I am sad" she said "But how often does an evening like this happen?" 

Mr and Mrs Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney At Sherry's During Intermission. Mrs Whitney's Tiara Was Once Owned By Anastasia Empress Elizabeth.

Giovanni Martinelli Looks Out From His Private Box At The Stage Where He Sang Tenor Roles For 32 Years. 

For 56 Years, Since She Was 16, Marguerite Belleri Has Been A Member Of The Met's Chorus Group. 

"Memories rush at me from all sides tonight" she said. 

At The End, The Audience Rose To Join Those Onstage -- Stars, Carpenters, Wardrobe Ladies-- In Auld Lang Syne. 

Mrs Louis Bruguiere (middle right box, far right) Joins Other Patrons In Linking Hands Like The Stars Onstage. Ever Since She Was The Young Miss Daisy Post Back In 1890, Mrs Bruguiere Had Attended The Met, She Had Flown Up From Newport Just For The Gala. 

The Stars, Choking Up As They Sing, Linked Hands In Their Final Performance, Knowing This Is Their Last Moment At The Met.

Transport Tycoon O. Roy Clark In Sherry's With Mrs Harvey M. Spencer, Wife of A New York City Lawyer.

"The Gala was long" she said "But not long enough."

Photos Courtesy of LIFE Magazine, April 29 1966. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

At The Met, Part 3

News Photo: The audience applauding the Moiseyev dancers


The opening of the Metropolitan Opera House in 1949 would be the last opening Grace Vanderbilt would attend, arriving in a wheelchair. Although she didn't die in 1949, she was no longer physically able to leave her bedroom. That night, she would give her last ball, still in a wheelchair.

News Photo: Rudolf Bing attending opening of the 65th season…
Rudolf Bing And Others Arriving For The Opening Of The Met, Weighed Dow By Heavy Fur Coats And Jewels
News Photo: Two women in fur coats attending opening night…
Two Ladies In White Fur Coats Attending The Opening Of The Opera 

News Photo: Mrs Cornelius Vanderbilt is pushed in a wheelchair…
Grace Vanderbilt Arriving For The Opening, Pushed Around By Two Men In A Wheelchair, That Would Be Grace's Last Night At The Opera

News Photo: Mrs Cornelius V Whitney wearing a black velvet…
Mrs Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Arriving For The Opening, Her Husband Did Not Attend Because Of An Illness 
News Photo: American opera singer Dorothy Kirsten and Russell Dill…
American Opera Singer Dorothy Kirsten And Russell Dill Pose Together At The Opening Of The Met 

News Photo: Press photographers covering the opening of the Metropolitan…
The Press, As Usual, Arrived To Cover The Night 


6 years after Grace Vanderbilt's death, socialites and debutantes were at the opening of The Met again. By this time, The Met had been surrounded by skyscrapers and it was becoming increasingly expensive to run the place. Because of tight funds, The Met had become, a bit stained. Nevertheless, it was still the opening of the social season. 

News Photo: At the Met Opera House waiting for the…
Attendees In Their Boxes, Waiting For The Opening Act To Start 

News Photo: Metropolitan Opera company manager Rudolf Bing English Actor…
Rudolf Bing (seated) And Actress Marlene Dietrich, Followed By Another Man, In The Bar, Waiting For The Opening To Start
News Photo: During the Metropolitan Opera
The First Act 

News Photo: The Metropolitan Opera NatL Council Pres Mrs Frederick…
Mrs Frederick Weyerhaeuser Giving A Wonderful Speech

News Photo: Impresario Sol Hurok holding champagne glass in lobby…
Impresario Sol Hurok Enjoying A Drink In The Lobby

News Photo: Movie actress Marlene Dietrich w playwright actor Noel…
Marlene And Actor Noel Coward Enjoying A Laugh

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