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UPDATE: I’ve been called out — and rightly so — by a Massachusetts reader for making light of the “anti-climactic” “non-hurricane” in yesterday’s post below. I think we in NYC were so relieved when skyscrapers didn’t topple in heavy winds and the city didn’t become Atlantis, as one commentator warned, that “the day after” was spent in a state of altered consciousness, just trying to regain emotional balance. Only Monday evening did I hear a report on NPR about the extensive devastation in New England and the Catskills, and the damage and losses suffered there in many historic towns and villages. It is nothing short of tragic; apologies for my NYC-centric insensitivity.
I COULD HAVE DONE a post-Irene entry today, but I’m afraid I didn’t get good enough shots of the Jetskis in New York Harbor this afternoon, or the guy loading a surfboard into his car in the aftermath of the non-hurricane.
It was all a bit anti-climactic, after the three-day media storm that preceded it, so a friend and I wandered down to Brooklyn Bridge Park and then through Brooklyn Heights just to dispel the cabin fever of the previous 24 hours. I stopped to take a picture of the terra cotta peacock plaque, top, and in so doing, noticed anew a classic Art Deco building at the corner of Henry and Cranberry Streets. It’s been around for 80 years, and recently underwent a cleaning and partial renovation.
The 12-story building is called The Cranlyn, as I learned from the bas relief plaque, above. That’s Brooklyn’s Borough Hall in the foreground and a seemingly generic skyscraper (none that I recognize, anyway) against a characteristically Art Deco sunburst.
The architect was the Yale-educated H.I. Feldman, who designed many apartment buildings on and around the Bronx’s Grand Concourse in the 1930s and ’40s. It couldn’t be more emblematic of its era, with vari-colored brick, terra cotta trim, and setbacks at the top to reduce the building’s visual bulk and allow a few apartments to have terraces.
Even utilitarian vents, below, were made attractive in the best Jazz Age tradition, with zig zags and sunbursts galore.
The original marble storefronts on the ground floor, below, have been sadly vacant for some time. Other restaurants have come and gone; none has lasted as long as Su-Su’s Yum Yum, a Chinese restaurant where, if I remember correctly, I saw George Nelson bubble fixtures for the first time.
The ceiling fixtures in the renovated lobby, below, are a let-down. But the elevator doors, front desk, and other original details remain.
Of course, Montrose Morris, Brownstoner’s “Building of the Day” columnist, beat me to it. Go there to learn more about the Cranlyn, including comments about the rent-stabilized apartments within from someone who actually lived there.
WHAT’S A DESIGN PEDIGREE WORTH? Quite a bit, in the case of this 500-square-foot bungalow just sent to market by fashion designer Cynthia Rowley (who bought another mid-century Montauk house recently for 820K and probably doesn’t need two of them).
The pedigree is not Rowley’s, A-list celeb though she is. It’s that the house was designed in the late 1930s by architect Donald Deskey, best known for his elegant Art Deco contributions to Radio City Music Hall, for the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair. He called it the “Sportshack,” declaring his intention to “overcome the public’s aversion to factory-built homes by using open spaces, new materials, and practical decor.”
Kitchen cabinets look original
In 1940, a Sportshack was exhibited as part of an industrial design show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, kitted out as a hunting cabin with rifles and duck decoys. This particular one was erected in the Ditch Plains area of Montauk in the ’40s. As it stands, the house has just one bedroom and one bath, but it sits on a lot of nearly an acre and could be expanded.
For the official listing and many more pictures, click here.
I’M STILL HAPPILY DISCOVERING my new neighborhood of Prospect Heights, and haven’t even scratched the surface. It’s been too cold to walk around just for fun. I’ve seen only the blocks immediately adjacent to mine, and the main avenues, where I shop, eat, and do my errands.
I’m starting to appreciate Flatbush Avenue. Along this stretch of it, leading up to Prospect Park, there are large brick apartment buildings that must have been quite elegant in their late 19th century day. Today’s tacky stores detract from the street level, but if you look up, you see a bit of history. The date, the building’s name, and the cornice detail, top, suggest the Prospect View must have been a very desirable address.
The square turret on the late Victorian building, above, is like something out of Peter Pan, which is not atypical of the area.
The former carriage house, above, however bastardized, is a reminder that Flatbush Avenue was once the main route for horse-drawn vehicles, first carriages called omnibuses, then horsecars, which ran on tracks. They carried the residents of the developing areas around Prospect Park, which opened in 1873, down to Fulton Ferry landing where they could catch one of 1,200 boats a day to Manhattan.
Plaza Street rims Grand Army Plaza, a majestic traffic circle with an unoriginal triumphal arch and an extraordinary 1932 fountain with figures of Neptune and the Tritons (best photographed in spring, when the water’s on). On Plaza Street, pre- and post-war apartment buildings, above, alternate.
The controversy has died down over Richard Meier’s 1 Grand Army Plaza, above, a glazed behemoth that is a century newer than any other building in the area. When modern architcture is good, and this assured, subtly complex building is very good, it’s welcome in my book.
The main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, above, is apparently considered one of the most important Art Deco buildings in America. It has a concave facade designed to fit around Grand Army Plaza’s oval contours. Ground was broken in 1912 for a Beaux Arts building similar in style to the nearby Brooklyn Museum, but costs and city politics slowed construction (so what else is new?) By the time construction recommenced in 1938, styles had changed and new architects were commissioned. It opened to acclaim in 1941.
Between the grand portals, below, with gilded figures from history and myth, and the inscription
Here are enshrined the longing of great hearts and noble things that tower above the tide, the magic word that winged wonder starts, the garnered wisdom that has never died
the library is an inspiring destination on a bitter cold day.
After a day of local errands, I like to stop into Pequena, below, a colorful and high-spirited Mexican restaurant on Vanderbilt Avenue. I assume the festive lights are seasonal, but maybe they’re a year-round fixture. How should I know? I’m new in town.
A WEEK IN MAUI exhausted my supply of superlatives: spectacular, magnificent, stunning, incredible…not to mention oohhh and aaahhh. Maui is all that, as was confirmed again by a 20-mile drive (at 10-15mph) on Tuesday along the island’s northeastern tip — a drive often likened for scenic beauty to the more famous Road to Hana at Maui’s other end.
This northern road, below (Rt. 340; officially, Kahekili Highway, though no one seems to call it that), weaves along an ancient coastal footpath, providing awe-inspiring views of the ocean, verdant hills dotted with the occasional cattle ranch, and dramatic rock formations.
I had been wussy about this drive at first. It sounded treacherous. The breakfast conversation at our B&B in Wailuku was all about the road: how it was vertigo-inducing and only wide enough for a single car. Many maps indicate a dotted line, with the words “4-wheel-drive vehicles only,” which my rented Ford Focus was not.
Eventually I agreed to give it a go, with my daughter Zoë at the wheel (she’d driven it before). It was thrilling, and felt perfectly safe. There’s enough land between the edge of the road and the drop-off to the water that I didn’t ever feel we were about to go over a cliff. There are railings or fences along most of it, and it’s decently paved, if narrow (we did have to back up, carefully, in several places to give those coming in the opposite direction the right of way).
Part of the fun was stopping in the remote and enterprising town of Kahakuloa, above, deep in a valley, where local residents have set up colorful stands selling dried mango slices, fresh cut pineapple in Ziploc bags, and home-baked banana bread to sustain hungry travelers.
Having survived the drive, we explored a couple of the rugged, windswept beaches on the north shore of Maui, uncrowded except for a few snorkelers and surfers, then made our way back to Wailuku via the regular highway — roundabout but relatively quick. We had a delicious, inexpensive Vietnamese dinner in Wailuku at A Saigon Cafe.
The Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono, above, home base for my last three nights in Maui, is a rambling 1920s house inside a leafy gated courtyard. The inn’s ten large rooms and public spaces, decorated with bamboo furniture and flower prints, have an Old Hawaii feel.
The inn is quiet and comfortable, and they think of everything: roll-up mats and towels for the beach, healthy snacks available at any hour of day or night, guidebooks to Maui’s history, flowers, fish, and birds in every room. Janice Fairbanks, who runs the inn with her husband Tom, whips up banana/macadamia nut pancakes, fresh fruit salads in scalloped-edge papaya cups, and other scrumptious breakfast treats every morning. Below, our Lokelani room.
The centrally located town of Wailuku had a bustling commercial center before the advent of nearby shopping malls. Now it has a sleepy little historic district with a 1928 Art Deco movie house, below, now used for community theater productions, as its centerpiece.
Wailuku’s main claim to tourist fame is the jungle-like Iao Valley, with its 1,200-foot-tall ‘needle’ of basalt, below.
This area was the scene of a bloody battle between Maui warriors and forces led by King Kamehameha, who sought to unify the Hawaiian islands (under his own rule, of course) in the 1790s. We found the state park at Iao Valley thronged with families trekking through rainforest glades, and exploring the bite-size native botanical garden, below.
Below, how bananas begin.
A visit to Wailuku’s 1833 Bailey House, below, now a museum of Hawaiian ethnographic and missionary history, with its lovely collection of local landscape paintings done in the late 19th century by Massachusetts-born missionary Edward Bailey, was a fine top-off to my Maui experience.
Of course, I couldn’t resist snapping a few examples of Wailuku’s older bungalow-style houses, below, on our way out of town.
All good vacations must end, sadly. This is my last Maui post; I wrote most of it on the plane en route to JFK and am now back in the land of the brownstones. But my head is still in Hawaii. If anyone has Hawaii tips, please share them in the comments. I know I’ll be back.