From The New York Times:


The railroad station at Westchester Avenue was designed by Cass Gilbert and is considered endangered. Credit Left, Library of Congress; Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Built in 1908 and designed by Cass Gilbert, those that have not been demolished are near collapse, like the Westchester Avenue station. It is a sublime glazed terra-cotta temple, its little tragedy now exposed on all four sides with the opening of the new Concrete Plant Park.

A dozen stations were projected in 1904, when the railroad began upgrading the Harlem River Branch from the southern Bronx up to New Rochelle. But not all were built and, in addition to Westchester Avenue, three survive today: Morris Park, Hunts Point Avenue and City Island, which is a ruined shell. (The historian Joseph Brennan has closely investigated the stations and has posted his research at columbia.edu/~brennan.)

Gilbert, newly minted as a starchitect with the 1899 commission for the United States Custom House at Bowling Green, got the job of designing the stations, and gave them widely different styles.

The Morris Park station was chunky and low, with arched windows framed by brightly colored terra-cotta bands that also ran under the eaves. Oddly shaped iron torchiers gave it something of the feel of the Secession style as practiced contemporaneously in Austria, although Gilbert was anything but adventurous.


The Morris Park station as it appeared in 1915 and today. Credit Top, Library of Congress; Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

That said, his Westchester Avenue and Hunts Point Avenue stations are particularly striking. At Westchester Avenue the station projects out over the tracks, and so floats on a frame of steel. At street level, high above the rails, the main tower is a little display case of glazed terra cotta, cream-colored panels set off by colored floral medallions, lozenges and crisscross bands in gold, azure and dark red.

It is hard to decipher from old photographs and present conditions, but the portion over the tracks looks as if the terra-cotta panels were framed in iron straps. These must have been painted, but are now pure rust, giving the building a strange, skeletal aspect.

The Hunts Point Avenue station, just visible from the northbound Bruckner Expressway, bridges the tracks from one side to the other, along the avenue. French Renaissance in style, it might have been the royal stable of a French king. The delicate copper roof cresting had spikes big enough to impale an ox, and below run lines of little scalloped dormers.

In 1909, The Real Estate Record and Guide noted the “marked architectural beauty” of the new stations. John A. Droege, in his 1916 book “Passenger Terminals and Trains” (McGraw-Hill) noted that “the ordinary wayside passenger station is not the proper field for the architect who wishes to rival the designer of the Paris opera house.” But he reviewed Gilbert’s stations in depth, apparently with approval.…

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The history of the Giglio festival in New York City’s East Harlem, from the “our history” page of the official East Harlem Giglio Society website:

“The first Giglio Feast on 106th street in East Harlem started approximately 1908. Gioacchino Vivolo is credited for being the first Capo Paranza on 106th Street. He along with his brother Rocco Vivolo were members of the Bruscianese Society and were influential in bringing this tradition to East Harlem from Brusciano, Italy. The Festival on 106th Street grew for many years becoming one of the largest street fairs in America and remained that way until 1955. Then in 1957, the festival moved a few blocks uptown to 108th Street where the Dance of the Giglio continued until 1971.

After a 29 year hiatus, the Dance of the Giglio returned to East Harlem in 2000 as a Cooperative Feast with the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mt Carmel that resides on 115th Street between 1st Avenue and Pleasant Avenue. The Festival enjoyed several great years dancing the Giglio during the Annual Feast of the Our Lady of Mt Carmel festival that takes place each year on July 16th, the feast date of the Madonna.

For the 2006 feast, it was decided to hold the Dance of the Giglio Festival separate from the Annual Our Lady of Mt Carmel feast. The Giglio is now danced in East Harlem on the second Sunday in August.”

– See more at: http://www.eastharlemgiglio.org/about-us/our-history/#sthash.ffWpKx8d.dpuf


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Saturday, February 21st

Explore classic New York with the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art in a tour of the landmarked Harkness House. Discover the design of an Italian Renaissance Palazzo without leaving New York City, and marvel in the interiors which have remained virtually unchanged since its completion in 1908. Two tours at 10:30 and 1:30pm.…

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