Sunday, March 27, 2011

NY Philharmonic: Lincoln Center

Last night I went to Lincoln Center (see above photo of The Metropolitan Opera House and below photo of the Revson Fountain and David H. Koch Theater) to enjoy a concert by the New York Philharmonic at Alice Tully Hall.

The concert was entitled "Hungarian Echoes IV" and included Haydn's Symphony No. 8, Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 1, Ligeti's Clocks and Clouds, and Bartok's Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin.  I was looking forward to the more traditional Haydn piece that was scheduled to open the concert.  It was melodic and beautiful to listen to, and the 21 minutes of the piece flew by.

The two Bartok pieces were a little more difficult to listen to, but they were dramatic and powerful.  The program explanations of the composer's life and the pieces themselves made the music more meaningful and appreciable as well.  The harmonic and alien sounds of the Ligeti piece made that piece interesting for me, but my brother had a laugh attack and had to apologize to his neighbors for his hysterical laughter.  I would have to agree that the Ligeti piece was foreign-sounding and a bit ridiculous (12 women singing unrecognizable sounds were the focus), but the program's background on Ligeti, including that Stanley Kubrick had used his music in his 1968 film "2001: Space Odyssey," had prepared me to be open minded to what was coming.

In any event, if you are not into avant garde music and are not certain of the music by their titles (like me), I would recommend that rather than purchasing tickets online, you may want to check with the sales person and call for tickets to make sure the performance you are considering is to your taste.  If you are frank with them, they can really be helpful in steering you to the right concert.  A good live orchestra concert can really move you; I've been brought to tears, overwhelmed by the beauty of certain orchestral pieces.

This past winter, I also attended "The Magic Flute" opera at the Metropolitan Opera House and a few years ago I attended a ballet at the Koch Theater.  Lincoln Center also has outdoor dance classes and dances in the summer and hosts the Big Apple Circus as well.  Right around the holidays, they also host the West Point or Canadian Brass Bands and have a fabulous holiday concert (although last year I preferred the holiday brass concert at the theater at The Metropolitan Museum).  There is something for everyone here, so if you are of the mind to "get a little culture" I would highly recommend checking out

I plan to take an art and architecture tour of Lincoln Center in the coming weeks. Stay tuned, and I'll report back on what I find.  I have high hopes!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

MoMA: 53rd Street btwn 5th and 6th Avenues

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is a "staple" of New York City culture.  If you are a fan of contemporary or modern art, this is your mecca.  The MoMA has a fantastic collection of modern art in a manageable space, a good cafeteria, and an upscale restaurant (The Modern; (212) 333-1220).  Admission fees are pretty steep (adults: $20; seniors: $16; and students: $12) so if you don't mind crowds--which is almost always the case anyway--you may want to visit on Target Free Friday Nights every Friday 4-8 pm.

Currently, there are some notable exhibits that may be of interest.  The "Abstract Expressionist New York" is on view through April 25, 2011; "Counter Space," an exhibit about modern kitchen design is up through May 2, 2011 (see right); and "Picasso Guitars 1912-1914" (see left) is available through June 6, 2011.

Perhaps because recently I have failed miserably at keeping my own air plants alive, I thought the displays of Paula Hayes' terrariums in the main MoMA lobby of "Slug" and "Egg" (see right) was both beautiful and fascinating.  I hope visitors take the time to reflect on this little bit of peace, which is a "meditation on the fertility" of the Leopard Slug, in the hustle and bustle of the lobby.

Other "gifts" of the MoMA are the educational events that they host.  There are often kid-friendly films (free), brown bag lunches on various artistic topics ($5), and even lecture and studio courses (a couple hundred dollars for a series).  Check out the variety of learning opportunities at 

Finally, I feel the need to discuss the MoMA bookstore and gift shop.  This is not your ordinary shopping experience.  The items for sale fit the MoMA ideals of good design and are well curated.  It is not to say that all of these items are unique to the MoMA Store, but rather, that they have gathered fabulous inventory for sale.  I have successfully purchased gifts for the most difficult to please here.  Items are novel, interesting, and reasonably priced.  They range from books, housewares, clothing, furniture, toys, jewelry, and, of course, the requisite post cards, posters, and t-shirts.  This is a great resource for gift giving.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

US Customs House: One Bowling Green

The Alexander Hamilton U.S. Customs House is now the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.  I'll first describe the history of the U.S. Customs House and then the Native American exhibits.  You can find out more information about the U.S. Customs House at and information about the museum at  I enjoyed my visit to this site for both the history and features of the building as well as the learning and meaning one can get from the collection exhibited inside.

The building is a great example of Beaux Arts architecture, designed by Cass Gilbert, and completed in 1907.  The building is so grand that it has had numerous cameos in movies, including "Ghost Busters II," "Working Girl," "Batman Forever," and "Analyze This." 

The seven story building (only the first 2 are open to the public) is adorned with stately columns and four large sculptures by Daniel Chester French (better known for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.) representing America, Asia, Europe and Africa.  The sculptures reflect the then-accepted stereotypes of each continent: America and Europe are shown as active, intelligent, capable and ruled by law (see America, above left).  Asia is passive, withdrawn and exotic, while Africa (see above right), leaning on a weathered sphinx, is actually asleep!

The building's interior is beautiful, with its curved stairwells, marble inlays, elliptical rotunda with 140 ton skylight, and murals by Reginald Marsh (whose work can also be seen in the Whitney Museum, the MOMA, and the Post Office Administration Building in Washington D.C.), depicting the "life of a ship entering NYC" (these murals were done as a commission, but with all the work that went into the difficult project, it is said that Marsh was paid a mere $0.90/hour).  The central desks from the time when this building functioned as a customs house remain, and there are numerous placards describing the history and restoration of the building that line the desks--definitely take the time to read these if you can.

The National Museum of the American Indian is very kid-friendly.  There are classes, story-telling, interactive displays (see right), and more (check out their website for events).  I was taken by the wonderful story of the raven who stole the stars, moon, and sun and the stunning glass work by the artist Preston Singletary currently exhibited through September 5, 2011. 

Also, the current exhibit featuring the Horse Nation is incredibly educational while being beautiful.  I learned that in the 1800s native trade routes were established and rates for horses (who were considered to be essential for life and like family pets--like dogs) were steep; for example, a race horse was worth 10 guns and a riding horse could be worth a gun and 100 rounds of ammunition.  The Apsaalooke (Crow) Nation from the Northern Plains of Montana (who rode in the inaugural parade for President Barack Obama) dressed their horses and used highly decorated equestrian equipment as they might adorn themselves (see horse installation above with items circa 1880-1890).   

The detailed bead work of the Inuit parka (c. 1890-1925) from Chesterfield Inlet in Canada (see right) and the Ktunaxa gauntlets from British Columbia, Canada made in 1890 out of deer hide, silk thread and cotton cloth (see below) are made to be not only be used but admired.  There was so much in the normal collection on view that I cannot possibly do it justice here, so I encourage anyone with an interest in beautiful, detailed handiwork to make there way to this museum.  Like the best things in life, visiting this museum is free!

Lastly, I want to make a pitch for the gift shop.  They have a good selection of Native American made jewelry and pottery that is both ethnic and modern.  I particularly liked the Acoma pottery--really beautiful and not too expensive given the quality and authenticity.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fraunces Tavern Museum: Pearl and Broad Street

Long Room, where General George Washington Bid Farewell to his Officers at War's End
Back in the late 90s I worked just across the street from Fraunces Tavern.  I ordered dinner late at night from there often, but I am embarrassed to say that I never knew there was such a remarkable museum there.  I braved sleeting rain today to visit the museum, and was rewarded with an amazing step back in time on a self-guided tour.

The museum admission is $10 for adults $5 for seniors and students (for more detailed information on New York colonial history, current events, museum hours of operation, etcetera, please see  While the museum doesn't have all the bells and whistles of larger museums like the Natural History Museum or guided tours of federally funded historic sites like the Teddy Roosevelt birthplace (please see my prior post), the not for profit Sons of the Revolution have done an amazing job restoring this historic site and amassing a very respectable sizable collection of period furnishings, paintings, and artifacts.  See photos at left and below right of an early 1800s pistol and revolutionary period rifle, bullets, and trumpet.  

There is a very informative 15 minute video that tells the history of the site, first as the stately home of Oliver de Lancey, then as a tavern owned and operated by Samuel Fraunces (who also served George Washington as a spy and later as a member of Washington's house staff) -- when the site attracted all manner of business and revolutionary activity, and later as the site where the first Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Secretary of Treasury and Secretary of War operated.  It also relates the history and development of colonial New York and how Fraunces Tavern served a critical role at so many significant times.

It was at Fraunces Tavern that the Sons of Liberty met to plan before the American Revolution, where New York's first Governor George Clinton celebrated the British evacuation of New York, and where on December 4, 1783 in the Long Room (see first photo and photo at left) General George Washington met with all of his officers to say farewell after winning the war.

Thanks to the incredible foresight of the Sons of the Revolution, who in the late 1800s purchased the building and restored it to the way it was when George Washington often met at Fraunces Tavern, and the continuing work of the organization to collect period artifacts, this little museum is a real gem and definitely worth a visit for those interested in American history.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Federal Hall: Wall Street & Nassau Street

Federal Hall Entrance with Statue of George Washington
Located just across the street from the New York Stock Exchange, Federal Hall is a historic site that should not be missed by history buffs.  While the original building was demolished and the building that currently stands there (built in 1842) is not filled with as many artifacts from the early years of this nation's history as one would hope, the free 30 minute tour is definitely worth a look (tours are offered on the hour by national park rangers; see for details on times).  The grand Greek revival architecture of the building was intentionally designed to suggest the great power of the new nation, with its Greek columns from single slabs of all domestic marble (excluding the capitals which are from Carrera Italy) (see left) and its 55' in diameter rotunda (see right).  The wrought iron balcony and the well-worn marble floors are also quite luxurious.

This was the site where (1) George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States (see photo of original wrought iron balcony where George Washington took his oath at left and photo of George Washington's shoe buckle at right -- unfortunately the original bible on which he took is oath is currently out on loan), (2) where the Bill of Rights was drafted (originally 12, 10 were initially adopted), (3) where Congress passed the Judiciary Act that established the coexistence of state and federal courts and laws, and (4) later where the purchase of what later became the state of Alaska was executed. 

Between these historic moments, this was the site where over time: New York City Hall operated, the U.S. Customs House brought in moneys from trade to fund the operations of the young nation, and one of the U.S. Sub-Treasuries protected the wealth of the nation in gold and silver (vaults remain on the main level and the basement level, see right) -- gun turrets once lined the roof to protect the funds kept here!

There is also a room dedicated to the life story of Alexander Hamilton (first Secretary of Treasury of the United States), from birth to an unwed mother who died when he was 11, a father who abandoned them in the Caribbean island of Nevis when he was 10, to the death of his oldest son Philip in a duel defending his father's honor, and finally to the death of Alexander Hamilton himself in a duel with Aaron Burr, who was attempting to pull apart the nascent nation into independent states.  This small glimpse certainly made me more keen about the re-opening of the Hamilton Grange (Alexander Hamilton's home) later this summer at 414 W. 141st Street.  

As I mentioned above, there aren't a lot of artifacts here, but there is a lot of history to appreciate.  If you are in the area, I would recommend a visit in conjunction with any visit to St. Paul's Chapel and Trinity Church (both of which are just a few blocks away, please see my prior blog post on both sites).

Saturday, March 19, 2011

NY Botanical Garden: Metro North to Botanical Garden (Bronx)

Yesterday reached an amazing 71 degrees in NYC, and it was the perfect day to take advantage and go to the New York Botanical Garden.  The trip is and easy 20 minutes from Grand Central via the Harlem Line on Metro North (offpeak fares are currently $5.75 each way).  The Botanical Garden Station is just across the street.  It could not be more simple.

As you enter the Mosholu Gate and look to the left, there are lines of tulip trees leading up to the Mertz Library and Ross Gallery (see top photo).  Twice a year they have special exhibits and currently they have Hirschfeld's Broadway Scrapbook, which includes original caricatures of Broadway characters.  Throughout the garden in this area, park benches line walkways, and one can spend a pleasant hour or two just roaming the over 250 acres of the gardens (but please note: strollers, bicycles, and dogs are not permitted).

I went to the NY Botanical Garden especially for the annual Orchid Show (March 5-April 24), which is exhibited in the beautiful Victorian-style Enid A. Haupt Conservatory (see above right).  Here you show your admission ticket ($20 for adults; but currently there are $13.50 tickets available on to gain entry to an amazing array of flowers, cacti, and plants of all types.  This year, the orchids are amassed to form extravagant displays reminiscent of great Broadway theaters (see the Walter Kerr Theater-inspired proscenium arch at left) with music from various Broadway shows playing in the background.  Words will not do the exhibit justice, so I have just included photos of some of the spectacular displays to hopefully inspire you to visit the gardens too.

I would also recommend taking the narrated tram tour of the gardens; you cover a lot of ground and get a great overview of the physical gardens, their future plans and their history.  You can get on and off the tram at various stops, but the tour starts every 15 minutes by the reflecting pool just beyond the lines of cherry trees and the gift shop at the main entrance.  The ride covers the main highlights of the gardens beyond the conservatory and points out a good sampling of the over 1 million species (see the Jade Vine from the Philippines below) at the gardens.  It was great to see and hear about the 200 year old trees and original first cut forests from when the early settlers came to the New Amsterdam (now NY) area.  The history of the gardens (originally conceived as a copy of London's Kew Gardens) is really interesting, and I was heartened by all of the study, preservation and research that goes on at the gardens.

If you want a respite from the hustle and bustle of the City, the New York Botanical Garden is a great choice (and perhaps more educational -- most of the plant life is labeled -- than Central Park).  If you like orchids, please make an effort to go (although I would recommend waiting until just before the show ends so that you could see the cherry and magnolia trees in bloom).  Enjoy!

New Museum: Bowery and Prince Street

I went to the New Museum on Thursday night (admission is free from 7-9 pm weekly) with a friend, and we had a fun and enjoyable time.  It is a small museum with multiple floors (but almost all of it is elevator accessible) and is dedicated to modern art.

As you may know by now, while I can appreciate modern art, it is not my favorite.  The paintings and bronze sculptures of the current George Condo exhibit were fascinating.  He mixes cubist, mannerist, and cartoon-like styles in political and general life commentary.  Check out the exhibit at to get a sense of the work.  I especially liked his take on real life people in his caricatures of Elliott Spitzer in the "Return of Client No. 9" and Queen Elizabeth in the "Insane Queen," and I could gaze forever at the painting that is somehow frenetic yet zen called "Internal Space."

There was also an exhibit of work by Lynda Benglis, who creates large scale foam, latex, found-object, and chicken-wire-based sculptures. I don't really get it, but perhaps if I had taken a guided tour it would have been better?  I doubt it.

If you have a fondness for modern art and have 30-45 minutes to spend in the lower east side, the New Museum could be just the ticket.  The gift shop also had a good collection of art books and some very witty t-shirts for sale.

Friday, March 18, 2011

French Institute Alliance Francaise: 59th St and Park Ave

Fashion talks at the French Institute Alliance Francaise was a wonderful surprise.  I attended the first evening in the series during which Tory Burch spoke about her secrets for success: the people who work on her team and her passion for fashion.

Tory Burch has only been in business for 7 years and has no fashion education (other than her admiration for her parents' style when they got dressed up for evenings out; she graduated Penn with a degree in art history).  However, her American sportswear style (with the iconic logo that she had designed by an outside firm) has been what seems like an unstoppable force.  Currently she has 45 retail stores, which is expected to be 60 by the end of the year (is there a recession?) and she went from having one employee working alongside her at her kitchen table to over 800.

She explained that this business road was very bumpy (her first collection at Bergdorf's sold only 2 pieces), strained (early years were very cash constrained), and not glamorous (visiting sewing factories in China and pleading with them for a partnership). However, she put her all into her business and surrounded herself with people who believed and worked hard with her.

It was clear that the evolution of the business was continuing and it was inspirational to hear about how this young woman did so much with so little, all while keeping straight her priorities about her children (3 sons and 3 step daughters)--no blackberry or phones on when she gets home to have dinner with her family.

This is the first event I have attended at the French Institute Alliance Francaise, but if this talk is any indication of the caliber of events, this will certainly not be my last.  I would highly recommend checking out their website:  Jewelry designer Lorenz Baumer is scheduled for March 30th and Oscar de la Renta is scheduled for April 4th.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum: 91st St & 5th Ave

If you like diamonds or jewelry in general the current exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum is the place for you.  This museum, which was once the Georgian-style Andrew Carnegie mansion (which was the first residence in the country with steel frame and an Otis elevator), is located along "Museum Mile" just a block north of the Guggenheim Museum and is dedicated to historical and modern design.  For hours, admission information and times of free guided tours, check out the museum website at

The amazing and luxurious jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels is showcased beautifully; there is a free audio/visual tour that you can get on a borrowed iPAD (just bring your drivers license as collateral) that provides great insight into the exhibit.  The exhibit takes into account the architecture of the mansion's long halls, sun room, and various room sizes to feature the jewelry to their best advantage.  For example, the sun room has a giant cloche filled with enameled and diamond encrusted butterflies and the collections from famous personalities like Marlene Dietrich, the Duchess of Marlborough (nee Consuelo Vanderbilt), Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Elizabeth Taylor are displayed together down one hall.

As a person who doesn't put too much stock in expensive jewelry (my tastes lean more toward the outrageous costume with a hint of goth or whimsy), I wasn't expecting too much from this visit, as other exhibits are not currently open (although the fashion of Sonia Delaunay is starting to be shown beginning this Friday, March 18th through June 5th) and the garden (which is supposed to be lush and restful) is currently closed to visitors due to renovation work.  However, I was pleasantly surprised at the detail, creativity, and ingenuity involved in fine jewelry design.  In particular, the transformation pieces were really amazing.  Necklaces could be lengthened with bracelet additions, simple necklaces could be embellished with coordinating brooches, and single brooches could be doubled in size and complexity by locking single pieces together.  The piece that spoke most to me is the peacock brooch/pendant (see above right) that can be transformed as follows:  the wings come off to form earrings, the tail comes off to form a brooch and the pendant can be detached and worn separately on a necklace--fantastic!

The other part of the museum that is definitely worth visiting is the gift shop.  It has the requisite museum shop books and t-shirts, but it is also filled with original pieces of pottery, jewelry, housewares, bags, and sculpture.  All the items for sale seem to be "curated" and include both modern and vintage styles; many of them would make extraordinary gifts.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bryant Park: Avenue of the Americas (6th) and 42nd St

My travels today took me by one of the numerous public parks in NYC, Bryant Park.  Before the year 2000 in the recent past, Bryant Park at night was a place one would not go unless it was to get drugs or unless one was homeless.  However, as part of the amazing clean up of NYC that was a hallmark of Mayor Rudy Giuliani's term, Bryant Park was transformed into a family friendly, welcoming park.

It's location is fantastic for easy access to much of Manhattan and abuts the NY Public Library (see my prior post on that tour).  At any given time, one can go to Bryant Park to get a little breathing room from the hustle and bustle of midtown Manhattan.  They have sandwiches for sale at Witchcraft (which are a bit overpriced for what they are), but I prefer to go to Crumb across the street on 42nd for fabulous, huge cupcakes--my favorite is apple caramel flavored.

In the winter, they clear out the center area of the park and build an ice rink for public skating that is much more roomy than the rink at Rockefeller Center--I saw them in the process of dismantling the rink today (see foreground of photo above right).  In the summer, they have a nicely kept lawn open for folks to picnic and lay out blankets for outdoor classic movies--you can order a pizza and have it delivered to your blanket if you remember to take a helium balloon to help mark your spot.  At other times throughout the year, they also host shopping fairs where vendors set up temporary kiosks to sell their wares--there is a great regular kettle corn vendor.

At most times, the park is set up for chess games, bocce, and plain lounging around at bistro tables for people watching.  The park is also very kid friendly, with a carousel (see left) as well as a little collection of children's books for perusing.

While this park may not be unique to NYC, such parks play an important role in making NYC a more pleasant place to live and be.  If you are interested, there is also a free audio tour narrated by Matthew Broderick available at

Friday, March 11, 2011

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace: 20th St & Broadway

I'm sure I've walked past this unassuming brownstone (see left) innumerable times without ever realizing that this was the birthplace of Teddy Roosevelt, our 26th President.  The house was given as a gift from his grandfather Cornelius (who made a fortune importing plate and stained glass and was ranked among the top 5 wealthiest men in New York in his day) to his parents upon their marriage.  Teddy and his three siblings: Elliott (father of Eleanore Roosevelt who married her father's 5th cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR)), Anna, and Corinne were born in this house, and the family lived here until 1873 when they moved to West 57th Street, which was considered a more residential "country" home. 

Where visitors enter the house now for tours (which are free and given on the hour) is the lower level that was once reserved for servants with the kitchen and other working rooms.  The first floor up was where family visitors would have entered.  On this level, there is a formal parlor that was Teddy's favorite room; it had the most natural light and the furnishings were very fine.  The national park ranger who gave us our tour told us a quaint anecdote about how Teddy loved the chandelier in this room (see right) and when one day he found that a crystal had fallen from the chandelier he pocketed it and played with it for over a week until guilt overcame him and he confessed to his mother. 

Throughout this floor, which has the parlor the dining room and the library, and the 3rd floor, which has the master bedroom and the nursery, you can see furniture and decorative objects from the original home.  In fact about 75% of the furnishings are original, and the remainder are period pieces (like the piano which is the same type owned by the Roosevelts, although not the original from the home and the china donated to the Theodore Roosevelt Association by Eleanore Roosevelt--although there is one piece of the family's original rose china on display (see left)). 

It was like walking back in time to see Teddy's infant crib, his childhood chair, the family dining room set (another gift from his grandfather to his parents), and his parents' original bed in their master bedroom (see right).  The park ranger tour guide also had great stories about Teddy's hobby of taxidermy and his father's attempts to cure Teddy of his asthma by blowing cigar smoke into his face and giving him black coffee as a child. 

If you are interested in American history, this tour is right up your alley.  It is just hard to believe that this exists just a few blocks north of Union Square.  Later this year the next door neighbor's house (which belonged to Teddy's uncle--yes, another gift from Grandfather Cornelius) is scheduled to re-open later this year as a museum after the electrical is upgraded and the exhibits are re-installed.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sick in NYC

I'm sorry I've not been out touring and writing for the last several days.  I have come down with a terrible case of the flu and have been spending most of my waking hours in bed.  For the first few days I was a bit delirious, but after a lot of medicated sleep I'm hoping I'm on the back side of this one.

I will say that NYC is not a horrible place to be ill.  The conveniences and accessibility to help are quite remarkable.  If one lives in a doorman building, there is someone to ask for help in a pinch.  Pharmacies tend to be open late if not 24 hours (although a pharmacy department's hours may be shorter/more normal).  Also, there is little need to leave your home if you have a phone--most things can be delivered to you (including groceries and even library books) and you can get a service to walk your dog.

Yes, all of these things come at a premium, but the convenience cannot be matched.  While the climate is not my favorite, I will have to give this City its due.  For the home bound, NYC living is a good thing.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Armory: Park Avenue btwn 66th and 67th

"Part palace and part industrial shed" is how the Park Avenue Armory not-for-profit describes this unique site in NYC.  It was built in the Gilded Age by the elite of NYC between 1877 and 1881, the only armory in the U.S. that has ever been built using only private funds.  It was set up as a place for the most affluent of NYC as a base from which they could participate in the militia (remember folks back then were very much against a "standing army" having fought off British rule), but really it also functioned as a private social club. 

Its interiors were designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany (see original in situ stained glass at left and right), Stanford White, the Herter Brothers (designers of the now demolished William H. Vanderbilt 5th Avenue mansion), Albert Wagner (who designed the Puck Building at 295-309 Lafayette St.) and other leading artists and decorators of the American Aesthetic Movement (a hodge podge of what people of that time thought was grand and exotic from Greek, Egyptian Asian, Celtic, and Moresque styles) (see ceiling below in the Veterans Room).

While armories built later would follow this 7th Regiment Park Avenue Armory in structure and exterior style (castle like--see top photo), none would ever achieve the beauty and artistic richness of this one.  Many of the gas light fixtures built in ornate wrought iron were later electrified (some were combinations of both gas and electricity, called gasolieres) and were designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and built by Mitchell Vance & Co. (see left)  The hearths in the Mary Divver Room (the ladies reception room) and the Field and Staff Room (the one with a bar) have original Minton art tiles. 

Each Company within the Armory also had their own lounges (and own decorators) on the 2nd floor. These rooms all had built in or movable pianos, most have intricately carved lockers, some have highly stylized balconies (see above right), most had detailed wall stencils, and all had artwork of all types (from armor and spears (see left) to mounted animal heads).  If you get the chance, try to get a peak at the Company C room (whose by invitation only membership consisted of the millionaires of the millionaires like the Astors and the Vanderbilts) with its original painted ceilings, woodwork and mace-shaped lighting fixtures. 

Beyond all of the retained architecture and design (that is obviously pretty impressive), what really makes this a "must see" is that the not-for-profit is currently working on a restoration of the Armory wherein they are trying to "excavate" and reveal (not replicate) the various layers of architecture and decor in the building (see exposure work at right).  After militias were incorporated into the federally-run military in WWI, during which over half of the 7th Regiment were killed, the Armory fell into disrepair.  The U.S. military was underfunded and did not have the resources to maintain this building, so besides the "redecorating" that happened in the Armory during its heyday, much of the Armory's architectural details and decoration were lost from neglect.  If you can, it is really a once in a lifetime chance to see the in-progress (it is expected to take another 10 years and about $200 million) restoration of a unique historical building in NYC.  I felt like I was on a special architectural archeology tour (email or call 212-616-3937 to request a tour).

Oh by the way, you should also visit the Armory if you can attend one of their numerous art shows, musical or theatrical performances, or private "salon-style" shows (held in the 2nd floor Company Rooms) by one of their resident artists or performers.  Check their website ( for specifics that may be of interest to you.  I personally am planning to attend one of the Shakespearean plays for which the Armory is going to build a theater in the round in the 55,000 sq. ft. column-free space of The Wade Thompson Drill Hall and have the Royal Shakespeare Company for 6 weeks to perform 5 plays.  I can't wait!