Monday, August 17, 2009

CNY Endangered Buildings: Plan for Reuse of Former Temple Adath / Salt City Theater Advance...

CNY Endangered Buildings: Plan for Reuse of Former Temple Adath / Salt City Theater Advance...

I've written on my Jewish Monuments blog about the development plans for the former Temple Adath Yeshurun in Syracuse. Click here to read about the building and plans for its adaptive reuse as a hotel:

Syracuse: Former Temple Adath Yeshurun to be Developed as a Hotel

Thursday, July 2, 2009

My CNY Public Art: Dedication of Restored Kirkpatrick Monument (Lemoyne Fountain) at Washington Square

Dedication of Restored Kirkpatrick Monument (Lemoyne Fountain) at Washington Square
by Samuel D. Gruber

(all photos by Samuel D. Gruber)

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of attending a ceremony to re-dedicate the Kirkpatrick Monument in Washington Square, on Syracuse's Northside. The monument is also known as the LeMoyne Fountain, but the original water element, which was divided to serve people and horses, has not been replaced in the restoration.

Scenes from the Re-dedication of the Kirkpatrick Monument, July 2, 2009. All photos: Samuel D. Gruber

The monument, designed by husband and wife team of Harvey Wiley Corbett (1871-1954) and Gail Sherman Corbett (1872-1951), was first installed 101 years ago. It was cast by the Gorham Foundry of Providence, Rhode Island. The restoration has been carried out by Sharon BuMann, herself a local sculptor of note, the creator of the Jerry Rescue Monument at Clinton Square.

The monument speaks as a work of art, but it also remains - and has been re-empowered - as a "talking statue," in the tradition of Rome's Pasquino. But the characters on the Kirkpatrick Monument say different things - depending on who is interpreting their story.

Gail Sherman Corbett, the sculptor of the monument, was a native of Syracuse, who grew up (according to columnist Dick Case) at 1312 Park St. Her parents were Frederick Coe and Emma Jane (Ostrander) Sherman. She studied sculpture with Augustus Saint-Gaudens at the Art Students League in New York later studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris (1898-99), where her painting was influenced by the Impressionists. She married Harvey Wiley Corbett in 1905 and the two lived in New York, where they were well known and highly successful in the arts world.

Gail was also a painter and ceramicist, and exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Academy of Design, the National Association Women Artists-Exhibit, the National Sculpture Society, the Panama Pacific Exhibition of 1915 (where she exhibited a model of the Kirkpatrick monument as well as a sundial), and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

The Corbetts had previously designed the Hamilton White Memorial in Fayette Park (now Firefighters Park), dedicated in 1905. That monument, also restored by Sharon BuMann, is one of Syracuse's finest pieces of public art. At the time of their work in Syracuse they were still young artists in their 30s, just getting established and building reputations.

The Corbetts were active in the artistic education of women, and in 1908 - the same year as the creation of the Kirkpatrick Monument, Harvey Corbett designed the for Ellen Dunlap Hopkins New York School of Applied Arts for Women a remarkable building (at 30th and Lexington in New York), where he taught. The striking building which recalls classical structures but is imbued with a strong modernist aesthetic, was one of Corbett's first independent commissions, and it brought him criticism from traditionalists, but praise from some quarters. Significantly, he designed a new studio for his wife in their Chelsea house about the same time. In both school and studio he inserted casts of the Parthenon frieze. Perhaps he thought that Athena, the wise virgin goddess to whom the frieze is dedicated was a good inspiration for women in the arts. Harvey Corbett went on to be one of the world's leading designers of skyscrapers and helped define the setback skyscraper style of the 1920s. He worked with Raymond Hood on Rockefeller Center, and Wallace Harrison was his student and got his start in Corbett's firm.

Much less is known of Gail Sherman Corbett's career. Like many women of her generation, her professional opportunities were limited. She is known to have contributed sculpture to some of her husband's other projects, such as the City Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts (for which she sculpted the main door). But the entire arc of her career needs to be researched.

The restored Kirkpatrick monument will now be among her best known works - until more are identified. The monument consists of a tall bronze drum set upon a granite base. The entire surface of the drum is sculpted in high relief. There a lengthy inscription, and then as series of interacting figures representing the purported events of August 16, 1654, when the local Onondaga people introduced Jesuit Missionary Pere Simon LeMoyne to the local salt spring. The relief depicts LeMoyne, his companion Jean Baptiste, the Iroquois leader Garakontie, and an unnamed Onondaga man and woman.

The salt industry later became a major cause of the establishment and expansion of the the village of Salina, and later the city of Syracuse. This scene was chosen for the monument as a fitting memorial to Dr. William Kirkpatrick, who had been superintendent fo the Syracuse Salt Works, by his son, also William Kirkpatrick. At the time of its erection, representatives of the Onondaga Nation were not invited to participate in the ceremony. The monument and its scene was largely understood as a lesson of the successful replacement of Indian culture with American Christianity. Still, Kirkpatrick left funds in his will for two other monuments in tribute to the Onondaga, neither extant. So apparently Kirkpatrick did see the connection between the Onondaga of the past of the city's (then) prosperity.

In a brochure produced by the Onondaga Nation "to truly honor the Onondaga Nation by grounding the history depicted on the Washington Square Park Monument in the broader history of the time" it is written that "If it is accepted that Father LeMoyne discovered the salt springs, one might say that he is, in an historical sense, responsible as the initiator of the whole chain of events for the future exploitation and usurpation of the Onondaga land." The brochure's authors also write that "The mansions of the salt barons around the park, The City of Syracuse and the Erie Canal were all built from the profits from Onondaga Lake's salt. In the 1890s, the availability of salt attracted Solvay Process. Its industrial plants along Onondaga lake are responsible for the toxic pollution of the Lake that still exists today."

At yesterday's celebration, however, the talk was more about cultural cooperation and environmentalism, and Oren Lyons, the Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation, was a featured speaker.

Syracuse, NY. Monument to Hamilton White in Fayette Park (now Firefighters Park).
Gail Sherman Corbett, sculptor and Harvey Wiley Corbett, architect, 1905.
Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2008.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Edmund Mills Rose Garden (Thornden Park) in June Bloom

MY CNY Parks: The Edmund Mills Rose Garden (Thornden Park) in June Bloom

A favorite spot on Syracuse's East Side, and from the University is the Edmund Mills Rose Garden created in 1923 at the corner of Ostrom Avenue and University Place, just on the edge of Thornden Park by the
Syracuse Rose Society, which still maintains it. This formal garden, with its central pavilion surrounded by radiating trellised paths adorned with approximately 400 types of Roses (10,000 plants in all) is a favorite spot for wedding and graduation photos, and just for casual visitors.
The roses are in bloom in June, and I visited the other day.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

MY CNY Parks: Thornden Park

Thornden Park, Syracuse. The Rose Garden

MY CNY Parks: Thornden Park

all photos copyright Samuel D. Gruber 2009

On my bike on the Thornden Park brick paths - many of which need to cleared of encroaching turf

Summer is here and since I’m not planning too much travel this year, I thought I’d make of point of revisiting all the city parks, and others in our region. What better way to start then with those wonderful green spaces within walking distance of my house. I am fortunate to live a neighborhood - the Westcott Neighborhood - where much that I need is in easy walking and biking distance. This includes two large urban parks - Thornden and Barry. I live between the two, and can be in the heart of each within fifteen minutes on foot, and just a few minutes by bike. Both of these parks are heavily used, but given the wear and tear of that use both parks look good and are well maintained. The other day I biked around Thornden and took these pictures…If you haven’t used Thornden Park yourself, its worth a visit.

The Rose Garden is in full bloom, and the public swimming poll is one of the best in the city.

Entrance to the Park at Ostrom Avenue and Madison Street

Thornden is a scenic park - developed out of a 19th-century English landscape style private estate developed by Alexander H. Davis after he purchased the property from James Haskins in 1875. Haskins had bought what had been farmland from the Ostroms (after whom Ostrom Avenue is named), twenty years earlier. Thornden listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places as an historic designed landscape.

Davis named his new estate Thornden and rebuilt Haskins house as an enlarged Tudor retreat, and he developed the grounds partly as an arboretum, partly as a hunting park, and he even included a small golf course. Only parts of Davis’s built vision are preserved at Thornden, but the picturesque quality of the landscape, the variety of plantings and mixed use character of the tract remain.

The City of Syracuse bought the seventy-five acre parcel in 1921 and began its transformation into a public park. Unlike New York City which has to create its great urban parks out of wasteland, Syracuse was able to create a public recreation area in the style and spirit of a Frederick Law Olmstead Park almost ready made.

The carriage house, which, is thought to be part of the original greenhouse complex of the Davis estate, was restored by the Thornden Park Association which was founded in 1983 (at a time when the park was suffering deterioration and neglect) and since that time has spearheaded the successful effort to restore beauty, utility and regular use to the park.

The restored Carriage House, a left-over from the David estate.

A notable formal exception to seeming informality of the rest of the park is the Edmund Mills Rose Garden created in 1923 at the corner of Ostrom Avenue and University Place. by the Syracuse Rose Society, which still maintains it. This formal garden, with its central pavilion surrounded by radiating trellised paths adorned with approximately 400 types of Roses (10,000 plants in all) is a favorite spot for wedding and graduation photos, and just for casual visitors.

During the 1920s and 1930s the City added more and more public amenities including a swimming pool in 1927 and the WPA-created amphitheater (on the site of the Haskins trout pond) in 1930. The amphitheater consists of six rock faced terraces which once supported rows of wooden benches. The amphitheater was restored in 1989 and is now frequently used for concerts and other events, but spectators bring their own chairs and blankets. Just above the amphitheater is a stone field house, which in winter is the site of the Thornden Park Association’s popular chili fest.

The Poolhouse with community mural about Thorden Park history

The amphitheater, a WPA park improvement project of the 1920s, restored in 1989

Later, a large playing field was created, basketball courts were installed, and just a few years ago a new play ground was inaugurated. Still, the overall appearance and feel of Thornden Park is of open rolling country, with new visual stimuli openings up at almost every turn and rise.

Part of the new playground for small children

For more history click here

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ten Commandments in Central New York

Temple Society of Concord, Syracuse, NY. top: Decalogue over front porch.
Bottom: Decalogues set in the sanctuary flanking the bimah (platform) and Holy Ark. Photos: Samuel D. Gruber

Temple Adath Yeshuran, Syracuse, NY. Top: Decalogue in stained glass window moved from previous syangogue (commonly known as Salt City Playhouse). Bottom: Sculpted Decalogue over modern Ark.
Photos: Samuel D. Gruber

Ten Commandments in Central New York
by Samuel D. Gruber

This week Jews all over the world celebrate the festival of Shavuot, translated into English as "The Festival of Weeks" (so-named because its date is calculated as 7 weeks after Passover). The holiday commemorates God's giving the Torah to Moses (and thus to the Jewish people)on Mt. Sinai, as described in the Biblical Book of Exodus. The revaluation is summarized as the giving of the Ten Commandments. Visually,the common Judeo-Christian image of the Ten Commandments inscribed on the Tablets of the Law (Decalogue)is a symbolic abbreviation of the narrative of this event.

Representation of the Tablets of the law was developed as symbol of Judaism probably by Christian artist in the Middle Ages. The two tablets (a diptych with rounded tops) were frequently represented held by the defeated figure of synagoga / synagogue represented on church facades and elsewhere in contradistinction to the triumphant figure of ecclesia /church with a cross. The same image was sued as a badge that Jews were requited to wear in medieval England. But the tablets appeared in Jewish sources, too, usually in manuscript illuminations of Moses receiving the Law included in Hebrew bibles and other books. Sometimes the tablets are show as rectangular in shape (Regensburg Pentateuch), sometimes they are rounded (Sarajevo Haggadah). These images are presumed to have been made by Christian artists.

By the late 17th-century, however, the image of the Tablets became more established within the Jewish world. Starting in Amsterdam after 1675, we see the Decalogue included in synagogues decoration. First the Decalogue, usually with the first Hebrew words of each of the Ten Commandments, was included on or near the Holy Ark (where the Torah scroll itself was kept). By the 18th-century, however the Decalogue moves to the exterior of the synagogue, too, where it is included on facades as a symbol of the Jewish identity of the site, much as across is affixed in front of a church. This tradition became even stronger in 19th century Europe, following Jewish Emancipation in many countries., and it was adopted (with slight variation) by Jews of all persuasions. In America, this became a sort of branding - identifying a synagogue often when there was little else on the building that did so.

The Decalogue was seen as a positive statement of the fundamental basis of Judaism. It also was a symbol to which Christians, especially Protestant, could relate.

Images of the Tablets also became common in other contexts, decorating the Ark, sanctuary windows, and all sorts of ceremonial objects. The Decalogue eventually became a more common Jewish symbol that the Menorah, which had represented Judaism for nearly 2,000 years. In the 20th century use of the Decalogue has waned as the Jewish Star (Magen David) has become the universally accepted Jewish sign, and one more associated with Jewish nationahood. Jews, too, have more frequently represented the idea of Torah and Torah Law with images of scrolls - the way the Torah is actually preserved, read and studied today - rather than stone tablets. This may be in part due to the rise in popularity of the Ten Commandment tablets (usually with Roman numerals, or the Commandants written out in English) in American Protestant (especially Evangelical) Christian venues.

In Syracuse and Central New York there are several examples of the Decalogue used in Jewish contexts. These can be seen inside and out on Temple Society of Concord, the 1911 building at Madison and University just recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places. More artistic renderings of the Decalogue can be seen inside of Temple Adath Yeshurun on Kimber Raod (Syracuse), where stained glass windows from the earlier building, and a modern more expressionist sculptural rendering of the Decalogue is on the Ark of the Sanctuary. In Cortland, the Ten Commandments appear on the outer doors of the synagogue Ark in the spare modern sanctuary of Temple Brith Shalom (1969) designed by former SU Architecture Dean Werner Seligman.

Cortland, NY. Temple Brith Sholom. Ten Commandments represented on the doors of the Holy Ark.
Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

To the west, in Rochester, Syracuse University alumna (and sculptor of the Saltine Warrior) Luise Kaish created in bronze a dramatic representation of Moses receiving and revealing the law, and placed this on the massive bronze Ark of congregation Temple B'rith Kodesh (1962). Kaish was a student of Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic who made several images of Moses during his career. There is also a relief sculpture of Moses holding the Ten Commandments attached to west facing wall of Syracuse University's aw School. But the big striding Moses by Mestrovic set between Shaffer and Bowne Halls has no tablets.

Rochester, NY. Brith Kodesh. Moses receiving the Law, detail of Ark by Luise Kaish. Photo: Paul Rocheleau

Have more local instances of the Ten Commandments? Let me know. Are they in our courtrooms? I'll have to go and check.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Excavations Continue at Harriet Tubman Home

Excavations Continue at Harriet Tubman Home
by Samuel D. Gruber

Last Friday I took time to stop in Auburn, NY to check out the newest archaeological excavations at the Harriet Tubman Home, a large tract of land on the south side of town that had been owned by Tubman (from 1859), and where she spent almost a half century of her life, from the end of the Civil War until her death in 1913. The Tubman Home has been a National Historic Landmark since 2000 (part of the site has been designated as early as 1975). You can read the entire nomination here.

My friend Prof. Doug Armstrong of the Anthropology Department at Syracuse University
has been running field sessions with his students at the Tubman site for several years. Doug is a past president of the Preservation Association of Central New York (PACNY). This was the first time I'd managed to get there when the dig was running.

This year the excavation is focused in two spots. The first dig is in the vicinity of the brick house where, according to Beth Crawford, a project manager for the house restoration (and Beth just happens to be Vice-President of PACNY), Tubman lived from 1882 or '83 until 1892, and then again from 1896 until 1911. An earlier wooden house of Tubman's on the site burned down, making way for the new brick building (restoration of which is just beginning).

At the brick house the students were uncovering an old walkway which led from the street to the formal entrance, though the common entrance was through a side door on the north. It was beneath a porch located here that the archaeologists discovered a rich deposit of artifacts including dinner dishes and other items destoryed in the fire, that had all been dumped in this deposit when the new house was erected on the older foundations. The addition of a porch (now removed) sealed access to the deposit until the archaeologists started digging. Who ate on those plates? Frederick Douglas? Secretary of State Seward? Or Harriet's many friends and admirers - including children - who used to flock to her house for her company and her stories.

A second site is on the east side of the wood frame house further north - that's the one that has the plaque and that served as the Tubman Home for the Aged, but where Harriet lived only for a few years from about 1892 to 1896, when she moved back to the brick house.
The house was extensively remade in 1953, and has served since as the most visible part of the Tubman legacy. The students have uncovered a crude brick foundation which probably supported a wooden addition, possibly a lean-to kitchen area that adjoined the main house. This may have burned down (as many kitchens did), since there is a large adjacent ash deposit, or it may have leveled sometime in the past.

Due to declining health Harriet Tubman moved in 1911 to the John Brown Home for the Aged which she had long maintained on the property. That building was almost entirely demolished, but Armstrong and his students were able to locate it and excavate its footprint a few years ago.

Tubman is buried in Auburn's Fort Hill Cemetery. Both her home and the grave remain popular tourist sites for history buffs and for an annual Pilgrimage sponsored by the AME Zion Church of which she was a stalwart member, and to which she gave the property in 1903. The Church still owns the Home and the Pilgrimage takes place in early June.

Work is also ongoing for the restoration of the Tubman family barn just behind the brick house. This wood structure is partially preserved - though it served for many years as a bus station. It is presently jacked off the ground, and a new foundation have been set. Much of the wood siding has to be replaced, but it seems that about 30 to 40 percent of the original wood can be saved.