Last Saturday, November 2, was a glorious day in Manhattan….warm and sunny, no wind…..the perfect fall day! We filled it with visits to several places we had never been as well as spending some relaxing time in, once again, Central Park.
We took a Joyce Gold tour of the upper east side along Fifth Avenue and Central Park entitled “Crimes of the Fifth Avenue Gold Coast.” This was a two hour walking tour of the mansions and luxurious apartment buildings of this area and focused on the crimes and criminals living here both then and more recently.
We met my college friend, Jeanne Tucker, at the Frick Museum, a neoclassical mansion, and learned of the feud between Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Carnegie, the two richest men in America at the turn of the century. This hatred provoked an assassination attempt on Frick. We walked up and down 5th Avenue learning more about familiar crime and scandal figures such as Arnie Rothman (Al Capone enemy, Black Sox scandal), Klaus and Sunny von Bulow (likely murder attempt via overdose of insulin), Martha Stewart, and Bernie Madoff. We saw the home of Eliot Spitzer which is an entire building left to him by his father (we had just seen him in line at FAO Schwartz a week before buying a chess set!). The guide pointed out the home of current mayor Michael Bloomberg, also an entire townhouse, as well as those of Bill Cosby and Tom Hanks. It was great to learn the secrets of many of these historic buildings. After the tour we continued on up Fifth Avenue to 1040, the former home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis from 1964-1994 and the site where her children were raised.
We visited a few other sites this day that had been on our lists and had not gotten to yet:
Grolier Club. This is a six story Georgian clubhouse not far from our neighborhood that we had walked by several times. It is a distinguished book club for bibliophiles who feel that books are worthy of display just as are paintings and sculpture. It has two current exhibits, “Extraordinary Women in Science” and “William Everson: Poet, Printer, and Monk” (a member of the “Beat generation.”).
Berlin Wall. In Paley Plaza, a nearby public plaza, are displayed pieces from the Berlin Wall. They are arranged next to a fountain with only a small sign to indicate their origin. It is said that the officeworkers who frequent this plaza for coffee and lunch probably are unaware of the origin or significance of these works of art. We had certainly walked this way several times and never knew that they were of significance or value.
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. This is a very sleek grey building located next door to our usual subway stop…..and we had never paid much attention to it. It includes a sanctuary that is minimalist in content with pew benches covered in bright geometric prints.
The church is known for its use of jazz in its services and programs.
There was also information about where to park for church……it costs $8. This was a reminder of the real world that exists the minute one opens the doors onto the busy streets of Manhattan.
We spent a few glorious afternoon hours in our favorite spot once again, Central Park. The trees are peaking in color and we enjoyed a walk along the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis reservoir plus a stroll down the poets’ lane.
Once again, Central Park provided a respite from the intensity of the real world, and it was a pleasure to just enjoy this special place. We are indeed fortunate!