Saturday, April 17, 2010

‘A walk in the park’

Thanks to limited internet access (long story), The Magpie Mason has been mostly offline for about four weeks, so let me try to catch up. There is a lot of good news to report, from the March 29 meeting of The American Lodge of Research to a recent Rose Croix event, to the first symposium hosted by the AASR-NMJ, and more.

But first, a walk in the park.

Unseasonably warm and glorious weather embraced the New York City area at the start of the month, and so on Sunday the fourth I budgeted some time to enjoy a leisurely stroll around the campus of my alma mater, an area I frequented before and well after matriculation. Truthfully there is no campus (or at least that is how it’s explained in the annual crime statistics report), it’s called Greenwich Village.

I brought the camera, looking for sights and sites discernible to the initiated eye.

Washington Square Park now is in Phase II of a total reconstruction project that will erase the intent of its original landscape architect, and leave the Village with something that, frankly, no one asked for.

But there is still its world famous Arch. The Washington Square Arch. It has George Washington. It marks the square. It is an arch. Pretty Masonic, eh?

Dual likenesses of George Washington face the oncoming traffic headed down Fifth Avenue. At left, Washington the warrior. Right, Washington the statesman. And Washington is not the only Freemason in the park. Toward the east side, but facing the interior of the park is Giuseppe Garibaldi.


Grand Master Garibaldi, of course, is remembered as the George Washington of Italy. You can read a little more about him here.

Not far from that statue is a bust of Alexander Lyman Holley, an artificer in steel and other metals. Don't know if he was a Mason, and it's hard to figure out why he was honored with a statue here, but here he has stood since 1890. Some info about him and his statue can be read here. I'm including him in The Magpie mostly because this is a good shot of the bust's head:

Nearby, appropriately enough in La Guardia Gardens, is the landmark statue of Bro. Fiorello La Guardia erected in 1994 after the city decided against ruining the neighborhood by building an expressway that in effect would have extended Fifth Avenue to TriBeCa. There is irony in that, because it was Mayor La Guardia who appointed Robert Moses. Anyway, Bro. La Guardia was mayor of New York City from 1934 to 1945. There is a lodge in Staten Island named for him.

Statues are not the only representations of peoples' faces in the neighborhood. A number of buildings are adorned with various Green Men, gargoyles, and assorted physiognomonic renderings in stone, wood, and even terra cotta. To wit:

As above: The Muse of Art.
So below: The Muse of Music.

Both date to approximately 1880, but were added to the frontage of one of the university's buildings on Washington Square East decades later, after being rescued by the Anonymous Arts Recovery Society from their original home before it was demolished.

Above: Around the corner, a little closer to Broadway, is this terra cotta Green Man.

Below: On Broadway, towering over Shakespeare & Co. Book Sellers, is this friendly fellow. (The bookstore had no Masonic titles on its shelves.) Sorry for the blur. I had to zoom in from the sidewalk across the street, and he is more than five stories up.

Coincidentally, the university's main bookstore displayed this book in its window. Note the Beehive. In the words of Bro. John Priede: "I will add this to my bookshelf."

A few doors to the north on Broadway is this structure, dating to 1860. Plenty of eyes staring down at you.

A close-up of the fellow near the top floor.
Note his neighbors, especially at lower right.

Columns, and arches, and keystones!

Left: The Fleur de Lis is a familiar symbol. Right: Note the Cornucopia. Both are found on university buildings on Washington Place.

Copper or bronze menorah on the front of Hebrew Union College.

The Torch of Liberty, or the Light of Knowledge? The NYU emblem's origins are somewhat obscure, but what I like is the choice of gold inlaid into granite or... New York neon!

Judson Church is fancifully adorned with complicated stonework.

Headed west, there are residential and commercial sites worth a look.

What a shade of green! 121 MacDougal Street.
Note the face in the keystone.

And across the street is perhaps the only jewelry store you could ever find me in. C'est Magnifique makes and sells all manner of silver rings and other pieces, most are highly unusual and many are symbolic. I rarely wear my Masonic rings, but when I do, it is the simple silver one I bought here in 1999. They also have antique pieces, and what I love most about the place is its dusty, pawn shop-like atmosphere. Unfortunately the place was closed today. Note the All Seeing Eye in the triangle.

Land of Buddha, at 128 MacDougal, specializes in the arts and crafts of Tibet: silver, gemstones, rugs, prayer wheels, clothing, silks, antiques, books, and more. Note the hexagram at bottom.

And now we're getting somewhere. Exiting the Washington Square Park area from the west, and headed south, we find one of my Manhattan hideouts. A favorite place to sit down with a book and a cigar on a sunny day: Sir Winston Churchill Square.

So small and cleverly situated you would never know it was there, this tiny (0.5-acre) neighborhood park  is missed by everyone except for those who live in the area. There is only one statue (or sculpture), and it is an interesting one.

An armillary is an astronomical device comprised of many moving rings and pieces that recreate the changes of the heavens. No moving parts on this sculpture, but note the astrological signs on the interior ring.

The view through its center.

A big part of the Giuliani Revolution in the 1990s was the largely successful elimination of the seedy businesses in the city, including the retailers of drug paraphernalia. The mayor didn't get them all, and needless to say nine years after he left office these stores are reappearing in numbers. There are about half a dozen of them practically next to each other on Sixth Avenue near Bleecker Street. Walking past one of them, my eye was caught by the unmistakable Square and Compasses. Halted by surprise and dread, I stopped in my tracks and took a look.

Belt buckles. Two at top left and another, upside down, at bottom right. All mixed together with glass bongs and that gas mask smoking device. Great, huh? (And no, the proprietors were not interested in removing the belt buckles.)


Mark Koltko-Rivera said...

I greatly appreciated your fine photography here. You have a sharp and discerning eye indeed. Thank you for the photo feature of my favorite neighborhood.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. In my case, it was Greenwich Village, which explains a lot, I know. (Apologies to the cartoonist at The New Yorker from whom I borrowed that line.)

Jim Dillman said...

Jay, I logged onto the comments section to commend you for the all of the great photography on your blog and, lo and behold, Mark has beaten me to the punch. It's a real treat to see your photographs.

By the way, I'm glad to see things have dried out at least somewhat in your part of the world and that you're back in business.