Archive | photography RSS for this section

Destinated (Thursday Doors)

The threshold is uncontainable, peripheral–
it is not the same thing as its door.
It’s in-between, transient, invisible.

What is inside or outside is conditional–
are you coming or going?  here or there?
The threshold is uncontainable, peripheral.

An opening to movement, pivotal
to an after that is also a before–
it’s in-between, transient, invisible,

a pause within a timeless interval–
it starts at zero, neither less nor more.
The threshold is uncontainable, peripheral.

It wanders on the contour of the mythical,
reflecting like Janus, a two-way mirror.
It’s in-between, transient, invisible.

It takes no sides, yet holds the oppositional–
it intersects with each and every sphere.
The threshold is uncontainable, peripheral–
it’s in-between, transient, invisible.

These three brownstones, on West 75th Street, were designed in 1890 by architect Gilbert A Schellenger. I could find no other information about them, although some of his other buildings have stories online. The center building had the steps and original door removed, replaced with a plain garden entrance, and a new window where the original door was, below.

The details on the two original entrances attracted my attention–the ornamentation is both varied and intricate. The upper details on the buildings are also quite lovely.

I’ve written a villanelle for the W3 prompt from Braden, who asked for either a sonnet or villanelle describing an animal, plant, or object. I’m always happy to write a poem on the subject of doors.

The threshold, whether associated with a door, or any other between place, is a symbol of transition.

And look for more doors, or add your own, here, at Thursday Doors, hosted by Dan Antion.

Following Up at the Met (Thursday Doors)

point of view
changes dimensions–
the picture
beyond the edges, around,
on the other side

I promised some follow up photos in my previous posts about the Metropolitan Museum. Here’s the front façade, looking north, above, and south, at the top. The building is basically a mirror image around the front entrance–impossible for me to get the whole thing in one photo. It’s huge, both inside and out.

And here are the fountains located on either side of the entrance, also promised months ago.

They cycle on and off.

These were taken awhile ago, but on my most recent visit I suddenly realized what was on the other side of those doors that are all windows, the ones that reflect Cleopatra’s Needle, on the back side of the museum.

This is the back of the Petrie Sculpture Court. You can reserve the space for events, hence the doors for the caterers I would guess. Well that’s a general you–I think it might be out of the price range for most of us. It would be a great space for a party though.

And this is the Charles Engelhard court next to the American Wing. There’s a food court by the windows and doors. The building façade on the right belonged to the Second Branch Bank of the United States, originally located on Wall Street, built in 1822 and demolished in 1915. Efforts were made at the time to preserve the building, designed by Martin Euclid Thompson, and when those failed, the president of the Met had the façade preserved and installed as the entrance to the American Wing.

I also took photos of and from the balcony of Velez Blanco, which was closed when I took my original photos. But those are for a future post.

Remember to visit Thursday Doors for more doors, hosted by Dan Antion, here.

Interpolated (Thursday Doors)

photo by wheat salt wine oil

The day is empty
like this house—tentative, flat,
merged with the landscape.

Each layer resides
inside its own dimension–
unfinished, ajar.

Spinning in circles,
a surface with no inside–
an imprint of thought.

A moment’s whimsy–
not really a door at all–
more like a portal—

A passageway to somewhere
in the middle of between

My final entry to the Thursday Doors May Writing Challenge, a haiku sonnet, uses a photo from Wheat Salt Wine Oil as inspiration. The collage is another one of mine from my youth.

Next week, back to my own doors.

West Side Community Garden (Thursday Doors)

hope is sun-
kissed, nurtured by rain–
the journey
of the moon
and stars across the night sky–
light in reflection

hope grows where
ever mother earth
city, country, in-between–
seeds will germinate

hope gathers
people together
to work for
spaces, shared freely by all–
alive, flourishing

I’ve featured this community garden before on Thursday Doors, but I wanted to revisit and see how spring was coming along. I also wanted to research the history. As you can see, the green and color is beginning to return.

This parcel of land has been a mansion, a dance hall, a church, and was a vacant drug-infested junk-filled lot by the time the 1970s rolled around, as was so much of the Upper West Side at that time. Members of the community cleaned it up and reclaimed it as a garden in the mid 70s. The city owned the land, and awarded a contract to develop it in the 1980s. But the garden and the community were not willing to depart quietly

They incorporated as a non-profit and negotiated with the developers and the city, with the help of the Trust for Public Land, for part of the space to remain a community garden. Sixteen thousand square feet, 1/3 the size of the original garden, was deeded to them officially in 1989. Two thirds of the remaining space is given to flowers, trees, benches and a sunken amphitheater which hosts theatrical and musical performances. The remaining one third is a vegetable and herb garden, with composting drop-off open once a week.

The garden is fully funded by grants and donations, and run entirely by volunteers, and free and open to any and all.

The garden uses the greenhouse at the Cathedral of St John the Divine (a building I’ll have to photograph one of these days…) and donates plants both back to the Cathedral and to other neighborhood gardens.

I was so impressed that they managed to navigate both the city bureaucracy and the power of real estate developers to save this wonderful meditative space. When I lived near 106th Street in the 1970s and 80s there was a community garden on a similarly vagrant lot where the buildings had been demolished at 96th and Broadway, and though the community fought the development, a really awful high rise was built on the entire lot. Interestingly, when I was looking for information about that garden, the only thing I could find was in an article saying what a wonderful building it was. “It was a measure of local stasis that the blockfront at Ninety-sixth Street stood largely vacant, except for a community garden, for fifteen years after the Riveria and Riverside theaters were razed in 1976.”. The garden was wonderful! The building–not. And in the spirit of true 1980s construction, it’s already falling apart.

But West Side Community Garden is still alive and well, thank goodness. You can read a detailed history and see some of the original buildings on the garden’s website, here.

The poem is from my own prompt for W3, to start a poem with the words “hope is…” I’ve written a shadorma chain.

And visit Dan Antion, the host of Thursday Doors, here, to see more doors and add some of your own.

Hotel Belleclaire (Thursday Doors)

down deep on its luck
a building rescued, restored–
remembering its bones

The Hotel Belleclaire was one of the first buildings designed by architect Emory Roth. Constructed in the Art Nouveau style, it opened in 1903 as a luxury residence hotel intended for the city’s upper class families. Amenities included long-distance telephone service in every room, private dining rooms, a library, and a roof garden.

It’s history in this iteration included the usual scandals and domestic dramas that seem to follow all New York City buildings around. The Daytonian has a detailed history.

In 1925 architect Louis Allen Abramson replaced the windows and railing on the ground floor with storefronts, and the entrance was moved around the corner to 77th Street. This began the building’s decline. By the latter half of the 1900s the hotel, like many old Upper West Side buildings, had become an SRO full of transients and rampant crime.

After the building was designated a Landmark in the 1990s, it was bought by Triumph Hotels, who began to gradually renovate the interior and return the exterior to some semblance of its original state. Now considered an “affordable” neighborhood hotel, it contains 250 guest rooms and 15 apartments whose tenants were grandfathered in because of local rent laws that prevented their eviction. You can read an interview with one of them here.

I don’t remember the building ever feeling particularly run-down; in fact I always imagined that it would be wonderful to live in one of the corner apartments. But the entire city was kind of down-and-out in the 1970s and 1980s. On the other hand, it was an affordable place to live then.

Now there are tourists going in and out the front door, and a doorman to attend to them. Upscale shops and a café occupy the bottom floor.

Door guardians are still in residence, and lovely details remain all over the façade. This website has some good photos of the ones on the upper floor which I could not capture with my camera–the photo at the top scrolls through them.

And you can visit the hotel’s website, and make a reservation if you like, here.

And don’t forget to visit Dan Antion, the host of Thursday Doors here, where you’ll find more doors, and a place to add your own.

355 Riverside Drive (Thursday Doors)

In youth, a burgeoning
investor, he savored
property that favored
elegant style.

Older, family absent,
weary of empty rooms,
his fine jewel was doomed
to destruction.

A tower was summoned–
an inelegant box–
he resided on top
with river views.

It isn’t illegal
to transform artistry
into utility–
but it should be.

Above is the building that sits at 355 Riverside Drive today. The top photo is the house it replaced. Built by banker Samuel Gamble Bayne to replace a slightly more modest residence across the street, Bayne at one time owned the entire block between 107th and 108th street from Riverside Drive to Broadway. Both original residences were designed by architect Frank Freeman in the Romanesque style.

I don’t know if the actual door in the new building is what was there when it was built–it’s pretty but plain– but the door surround and the space between the first and second floor windows do have some interesting ornamentation, and I also like the raised brickwork on the bottom floors.

The window guardians (I think Green Man) are a nice touch.

One of Bayne’s daughters had married an architect, Alfred C. Bossom, and that is who the developer Bayne sold his house to, Harris H. Uris, used to design the new building. Bayne, whose wife had died after his four children moved out, no doubt found the house too large, but it’s a shame he couldn’t have found a buyer to preserve the house. He must have liked the location, as he moved into the new apartment building, occupying the entire 14th floor.

The two mansions to the right of the original house in the very top picture still exist, as do the brownstones on 108th street. When I get back uptown, I’ll photo them as well–I think I have photos of some of the doors from when I was just taking pictures of every door I saw, but none that have the details or entire building.

There’s a nice little courtyard garden in the back of the building. You can read more details, and see more photos of 355 Riverside Drive, here.

And here’s an apartment that was recently for sale in the building–you can get an idea of the views Bayne must have had from his windows.

I’ve written an abhanga poem, with synonyms for spring and green, for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday prompt. And I’ve also used some words from this week’s Random Word List.

And visit Dan Antion, who has lots of doors every week, here, at Thursday Doors.

Butcher Brownstones (Thursday Doors)

we know our
progenitor, our
date of birth–
our thresholds
have been traversed too many
times to remember—

but no one
has bothered to write
about our
inner lives–
multitudinous stories
behind every door

These three brownstones, designed by architect Frederick G Butcher in 1889-91, are the only three references to his architecture I could find in my research. I really like the decorative stonework above the doors and windows on the right two houses, which are twins. Why Butcher chose a completely different design for the third one is a mystery.

That house was recently sold for almost six million dollars and converted back to a single family house, so the facade may have been slightly altered–but I imagine not too much, as it’s inside the Landmark District. I looked at the interior online and there don’t seem to be that many original details left on the inside. I’m glad at least the decorative ornamentation above the door remains.

The two arched doors are much more appealing to me. Both of these houses are rentals; one has two duplex apartments and one has six apartments. From the rental listings I found, it looks like they both still retain some of their original interior woodwork, even though they’ve been divided up.

There’s a stained glass insert in the arch of the window on #175.

The ornamentation between the sets of upper windows appears to contain dragons or perhaps sea serpents. Each one is slightly different.

I could find no juicy details on past residents for these two houses–hence my poem, which answers David’s W3 prompt for “a poem from the perspective of an inanimate household object, using personification.” I’m sure he knew I would be using a door.

And visit Dan Antion, the host of Thursday Doors, here, to see more doors and add some of your own.

Queen Anne Style (Thursday Doors)

but mirrored—until altered
by human hands, time

These two buildings caught my attention, due to the painted trim. I couldn’t decide if I liked it or not. But I took photos. A little research showed that they had been altered (a repeating story), each in its own slightly different way, since they were designed by Edward Angell in the late 1900s. You may remember Angell as the architect of two other buildings I’ve photographed for Thursday Doors–the brownstones with the Juliet balconies, and the building with Six Happiness door.

Originally private homes, but now apartments, the steps were removed, as so often happens, and the door placed on the garden level, with the original doorway becoming a window. In the case of #46, this was done quite tastefully.

Number 44 is a totally different story–I know Queen Anne style, the dominant architectural style Angell used for these houses, features asymmetry, but this takes it a bit too far. This door is under the original doorway, though, while #46 also changed the location of the door.

As you can see above, the upper floor of #46 has been raised, and one window made larger, but they kept the window surround. I think they should have enlarged the other window as well.

The houses were designed to be asymmetrical mirror images, and they mostly still are. Asymmetry is one of the main components of Queen Anne Style, along with cantilevered windows and decorative trim, often multicolored. The white window frames work better than the black ones I think. Notice that Angell once again provided Juliet balconies.

For some strange reason, not all the decorative trim is painted..

The Daytonian has another detailed history of both these houses. Number 44 was the headquarters of the Nippon Club in New York from 1905-1912, and then a music school for a few years. The residents of both houses had the usual complicated lives. Read all about it, and see a photo of how the houses originally looked, here.

And visit Dan Antion, the host of Thursday Doors, here, to see more doors and add some of your own.

Velez Blanco (Thursday Doors)

The patio is hushed, other-worldly, the door to an office space a jarring contrast to the feeling of suspended time.  Only one other person is present, a woman quietly sitting on a bench nursing her baby.  I walk around and around, taking photos and pausing in wonder at the artistry, the attention to detail, in the construction of the room.

I try to imagine the lives of the inhabitants of a castle in 1500s Spain.  Was this a place for conversation, entertainment, dancing?  or just a passageway to other, more practical, rooms?

My mind fast forwards to New York in the early 1900s—how did George Blumenthal fit this into his townhouse?  and to what use did he put it?  I see finely dressed men and women, members of high society, gossiping and showing off their latest Paris fashions.  Servants discreetly move among them with trays of food and drink.

The arrival of two other people returns me to myself, surrounded by the stillness of the museum’s whispered air.  If only the creatures carved into the walls and doorways would speak…

between then and now
I walk imagined pathways–
roots, branches, and trees

This room in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the actual patio from the Castle of Velez Blanco in Andalusia, Spain. Built with the façade of a fortress in the early 1500s on the foundation of a Moorish castle, it fell into ruins in the late 1700s, and its valuables, including the entire patio, were sold off in the early 20th Century. The patio was installed in the townhouse of George Blumenthal in New York, the one where he displayed his art.

The doors and balcony contain many beautiful marble carvings by Italian sculptors working in Spain.

One of the doors serves as an entrance to office space, which is a bit disconcerting.

There are also sculptures scattered throughout the space, including Bernini’s Bacchanal

and this Siren which I found quite appealing.

You can read more about the Castle of Velez Blanco here, and see pictures of the exterior.

And see George Blumenthal’s art mansion and read about it here.

My haibun is for my own W3 prompt–Compose a haibun that contrasts past and present.

And Doors! you can always find more of them, hosted by Dan Antion, at Thursday Doors, here.

Changes  (Thursday Doors)

On an empty block west of Central Park
rose twelve houses–not a dead end street,
not wild, but quiet–perfect for the well-to-do.
They proceeded to fill the line of brownstones
with their unquiet and disorderly lives.

~Time changes the faces and the facades~

Homes are bought and sold and sold again.
Doors are replaced, stoops deleted, details erased.
A school opens, caters to the well-to-do.
Only the guardians remain to trace the years–
older now, but still fascinated by human folly.

In fact there was one particular house on this block which made me cross the street, Number 38–perhaps it was the multi-paned windows, or the arched door, but I was pleased to find a guardian over the door as well.

As I walked further along the block I saw more and more similar guardians. Some were over doors, but some had become window guardians when the stoops were removed and the doors placed on the garden floor. This is often done when houses are divided into apartments.

At least one had its guardian removed altogether, but I didn’t take a photo of that one. Had I known that this row of brownstones was all designed and built at the same time, 1886-1888, but the same architect, Increase M Grenell, I would have taken photos of all twelve doors.

The guardians are all slightly different.

Number 28 has lost its stoop, so the guardian is over the window above. The transition is a bit clumsy.

Number 26 now houses Columbia Grammar School, a private school which charges $56,000/year tuition. Yikes! I also really dislike that awning, or whatever it is, over the doors.

I’m not sure that doors are an appropriate subject for a puente poem, but I wrote one anyway for Tanmay’s W3 prompt; the middle stanza was to contain the title of a song. I chose David Bowie’s “Changes” and included some of the lyric words in the rest of my poem as well.

As to changes in these houses, you can read a detailed history of the early residents of number 38, coincidentally the house that first caught my eye, and their chaotic lives, here

 And you can always find more doors here at Thursday Doors, hosted by Dan Antion.

Bowie knew all about changing his facade as well…