Tucked just above Albany, New York, small-town Saratoga Springs’ fortunes have been tied to tourism since forever. Its mineral springs has been drawing visitors since the 14th century, when Native Americans first discovered the healing properties of the springs, and were the first lure to America’s earliest tourists. But along the way, the village also developed organized horseracing, which brought the elites, and later on, a rich cultural menu. And all of these come together during the six weeks of summer when racing is underway at the historic track, though Saratoga Springs is very much a four-season destination.
Saratoga Springs seems to have grown up around the Inn at Saratoga, which dates from 1843 and staying here gives you a sense of place. (The Inn at Saratoga, 231 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, 518-583-1890, 800-274-3573, theinnatsaratoga.com.)
It’s just a very short walk from the inn down Broadway to the heart of the culturally vibrant community decorated with painted horses (evoking its historic racing tradition) and ballet shoes (a tip of the hat to its cultural heritage) and banners – a stunning streetscape lined with Victorian buildings, where I go the night I arrive. It is late but there are still some live music venues, pubs, pizza places (open til 3 am), and plenty of people out and about.
A marker in front of the historic Adelphi Hotel, which dates from 1877, makes you appreciate all the more the work underway ($30 million worth) to reopen the hotel , which has been closed for five years. It is where the colorful Irish-born prize-fighter, gambling entrepreneur credited with establishing the Saratoga Race Course , New York State Senator and Tammany Hall enforcer John Morrissey, a regular of the hotel, died in 1878.
Indeed, the immediate impression is that Saratoga Springs is a combination of Louisville, Kentucky with its strong racing tradition, and Lenox, Massachusetts, with its superlative cultural offerings, with mineral springs and health spa thrown in for good measure.
The next morning, after a delectable breakfast at the inn, I walk through Congress Park, passed the Morrissey Fountain and the Casino, the gaming house for men which Morrissey built (now home to the Saratoga Springs History Museum) to Union Street, where Skidmore College was once located (today there is the Empire College and absolutely stunning Victorian houses, several of which are bed-and-breakfast inns), to Saratoga’s historic racetrack. Passing by for the moment the National Museum of Racing, I stroll over to the track where riders are finishing up their morning workouts. The six-week racing season will begin in just a couple of weeks (July 21 this year), but there is already harness racing and polo underway.
Thoroughbred racing did not actually begin in Saratoga Springs – the legacy heralds back to colonial days, 1665, with the establishment of the Newmarket course in Salisbury, New York, a section of what is now known as the Hempstead Plains of Long Island (attractive because it was flat), in the Westbury/East Garden City section of Nassau County. (Today, Belmont Park, the third leg of the prestigious Triple Crown races, is close to where the original track would have been. As I subsequently learn at the National Museum of Racing, August Belmont originally owned, Man o’War, one of the most famous horses in all of racing, who is heralded at the museum.
The Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, one of the most famous horseracing tracks in the world, boasts being America’s oldest sporting venue of any kind. In 1863, the former undefeated bare-knuckle boxing champion John Morrissey staged the first organized thoroughbred meeting here at an old trotting course. In 1864, the racetrack hosted the Travers Stakes, named for William Travers, making it the oldest major thoroughbred horse race in America.
The racetrack grew to prominence for hosting The Travers, nicknamed the Midsummer Derby, which brings together the greatest three-year-old horses to the race course to compete for the $1.25 million purse, and the track enjoyed prosperity, expanding in 1891-92. Millionaires moved in, including the DuPonts and the Whitneys.
By 1890, there were 314 tracks operating in the United States. And in 1893, there was the Great Panic that led to an economic depression on the scale of the 1930s. The Saratoga race course was forced to close in 1896 because of financial hardship.
But the track regained renown with the dramatic match-up between Man o’ War and appropriately named Upset in the 1919 Sanford Stakes, in which Man o’ War suffered his only career defeat (Man o’ War won the 1920 Travers). .
When Triple Crown victor Gallant Fox was defeated by a horse (Jim Dandy) with 100-1 odds in 1930, Saratoga became known by an ominous nickname “The Graveyard of Champions.”
Saratoga has drawn the top names in thoroughbred racing – Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Rachel Alexandra, Curlin, Gallant Fox, the mighty Man o’ War, and American Pharoah.
One of the delightful aspects of the Saratoga race course is that horses walk right through the crowd, on a white-fenced path, to get to the paddock for their races so you get to see them up close. (I also find that you can come out around 5:30 am, and watch the horses being exercised from outside the fence.)
The course is stunning – with architectural majesty on par with Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky – and it is interesting that it is here, rather than at one of the Triple Crown venues, that the Hall of Fame for thoroughbred horsing racing is located, honoring the most notable horses, jockeys, owners and trainers.
(Saratoga Race Course, 267 Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866; info about upcoming races at nyra.com.)
National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame
Even if you are not particularly engaged in horse racing (and especially so), you will be fascinated to tour the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, which opened in 1950 (located directly across the boulevard from the Saratoga Race Course) and has been expanded and improved since. You see in paintings, documents, artifacts, that show how engrained horse racing is in American culture, America’s first major organized sport going back to colonial times. Early presidents including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison up through Ulysses S. Grant were avid race-goers. Andrew Jackson’s passion for horse racing and gambling was well known and he reputedly once fought a duel over a wager; Jackson also bred racehorses at the Hermitage and operated a racing stable from the White House during his presidency.
You get to see the lineage of the hall of fame horses (they all trace back to just a couple of horses). You can even try your hand on a racing simulator – a mechanical horse synchronized to move with jockey cam videos, so you experience a race from the jockey’s point of view, racing for the finish (this is actually much harder than you would think, and some riding experience is necessary). Horse racing is visually stunning, as much as it is dramatic, and this comes through in the exhibits.
The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame’s honorees include horses such as Man o’ War (1957), Seabiscuit (1958) and jockeys like Willie Shoemaker (1958), and you can also watch videos of the Hall of Famers. On view this year is a special exhibit for Man o’ War at 100 (through 2018). The museum also hosts Oklahoma training track tours from June-October; reservations required. (191 Union Avenue, 518-584-0400, www.racingmuseum.org)
While thoroughbred racing had not yet started this season, harness racing and polo matches were already underway.
Saratoga Polo Matches are held every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday night starting at 5:30 pm during the Saratoga Polo season, which runs from July 10 to Labor Day. Tickets may be purchased at the gate beginning at 4 pm the day of the match. Casual chic is the recommended attire at the highly social polo match gatherings. (Saratoga Polo Association, 2 Bloomfield Road, Greenfield Center, NY 12833, saratogapolo.com)
For more information or to help plan your visit, Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau, 60 Railroad Place, 855-424-6073, 518-584-1531, https://discoversaratoga.org/.
Taking the Sheepskin Trail off the Great Allegheny Trail – a fantastic railtrail that extends 140 miles across Western Pennsylvania, which is the focus of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Sojourn biketour – you bike through woods, over the railroad tracks, over a stream, and suddenly, the forest opens up and suddenly, Dunbar appears, like Brigadoon.
It is as if time stopped still. There are no people on the street. Nothing is moving.
Dunbar once bustled as a manufacturing center for wire corrugated glass – the kind of glass you likely grew up with in schools and government buildings; as a transit center and coke ovens. The buildings, from 1904 and 1906 (a common date we find as we go through these small towns), look vacant now. It reminds me, again, of a movie set. We are greeted here at Dunbar’s Historical Society, housed in what used to be the US Post Office building (constructed 1903-1907), which harbors a really wonderful collection of artifacts. But in just the past two years, Dunbar has acquired a world-class piece of art that has put this tiny town back on the map – and not just for the internationally renowned artist, but for how the piece, “Seated Torso” – the largest glass sculpture in the world – came to Dunbar: Donald Trump.
Pat Trimbath a member of the Historical Society’s board, tells us the wonderful story of a 60-year odyssey of this piece of glass, which began here as an abandoned two-ton chunk.
Dunbar used to be a center for glassmaking, and specifically, the manufacture of shatterproof glass reinforced with corrugated wire but when the Pennsylvania Wire Glass Company shut down in 1955, it was full of large chunks of glass, including a two-ton piece of green/blue glass in its furnace.
Artist Suzanne Regan Pascal learned of the treasure trove of glass in Dunbar in 1960 and stayed in Dunbar for an entire year, working on sculpting glass. She bought all the glass and had it moved to her Beverly Hills studio. (There is a marvelous display with photos of Pascal chiseling the “Seated Torso”.)
She produced many sculptures from the Dunbar glass between 1961-67, had various gallery shows, and ultimately sold many of them to patrons including President and Nancy Reagan, Frank and Barbara Sinatra, Henry Mancini, and Armand Hammer who presented a sculpted glass necklace to Princess Diana for her wedding.
In 1994, Pascal sold the Seated Torso to billionaire John Kluge for $3 million. He moved it to Charlottesville, Virginia, where it was placed in the center of a fountain in his Morven Carriage House.
After Kluge died in 2010, Donald Trump purchased his estate including the carriage house. About this time, Donna Myers, Dunbar Historical Society secretary, put a question on Askart.com seeking information of the Seated Torso.
In 2013, the head winemaker at what became the Trump Vineyard Winery found the two-year old question and contacted Myers, offering the Seated Torso to the Dunbar Historical Society if the society could raise the funds to move it back to Dunbar – $11,000.
Trimbath tells us that once the association with Trump was known, “donations poured in.”
The Dunbar Historical Society built an annex to its building, and the sculpture was officially opened to the public in May 2016 (coinciding with our Sojourn). We noticed a change from last year: the letter and photo from Donald J. Trump was moved to a slightly less prominent corner.
Even if you were unable to get to the once-a-year Museum Mile Festival along Fifth Avenue on June 13, when six museums (some of them with pricey admissions) throw their doors open to one and all for free, it provided a marvelous preview of some spectacular exhibits that are on through the summer or fall.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at the southern “border” of Museum Mile, I visited the Irving Penn Centennial, a marvelous survey of this brilliant photographer’s career and an opportunity to see the museum quality prints that would have been seen in the pages of important magazines like Vogue; the exhibit is on through July 30, 2017.
I went from Irving Penn Centennial to the “Age of Empires” exhibit of breathtaking sculpture and artifacts from the Qin and Han dynasties, spanning 221 BC to 220 AD, including near life-size but extraordinarily realistic statues of terracotta warriors from Xian (so life-like they appear to breathe) that I had seen for the first time when I visited what was at the time newly uncovered site in 1978 in China. This important exhibit is on view through July 16, 2017.
Then, I couldn’t resist, I luxuriated in the galleries devoted to Impressionists and Post-Impressionists.
Outside, the Met Museum hosted performance art – a troupe of dancers whose movements formed artistic poses. (My favorite time to visit is on a Friday or Saturday evening when the Met is open late, has music on the mezzanine; favorite place to eat is in the American Café in the sculpture garden; also, take a docent-led “Highlights” tour, which brings you all around the museum.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street), New York, NY 10028, (212) 535-7710 http://www.metmuseum.org/.
(My clever strategy was to start at the Met at 5 pm, giving me an extra hour of the Museum Mile Festival in order to cover more territory.)
I next visit the Neue Galerie New York and get my annual “fix” of the breathtaking “Woman in Gold” and other Gustav Klint paintings (Klint has become one of my favorite artists). The Austrian Masterworks exhibit is a celebration of the 15th anniversary of the museum’s founding, highlighting Gustav Klint, Oskar Kokoschka, Alfred Kubin and Egon Schiele.
The Solomon R.Guggenheim Museum, which always gets an enormous crowd for the Museum Mile festival, is featuring “Visionaries: Creating a Modern Guggenheim,” “Hugo Boss Prize 2016: Anicka Yi, Life is Cheap” Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue (at 88th Street) New York, NY 10128, (212) 423-3500, https://www.guggenheim.org/
Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, which is part of the Smithsonian Institutions, a collection established by Sarah and Eleanor Hewitt as the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration in 1897, housed in an exquisite mansion, is presenting a marvelous exhibit, “The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s” – bringing together the design elements of the era through a range of furnishings, architecture, clothing, paintings and music, and what made the designs so distinctive and reflective of cultural trends of the time. For example, “Bending the Rules,” the cross-pollination of American and European artists (“A Smaller World”), the infatuation with technology and machines. One of the special delights of the Cooper Hewitt is their interactive opportunities to create designs.
Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian National Design Museum, 2 East 91st Street (off Fifth Avenue) New York, NY 10128, 212-849-8400, http://www.cooperhewitt.org/
The Jewish Museum’s special exhibit this season also focuses on the 1920s, featuring the painter and poet and exemplar of the avant-garde, Florine Stettheimer. This was all new to me – I had never heard of her, or her incredible sisters, before (their independence, feminism and stunning range of creativity reminded me of the Bronte sisters, except these ladies did not keep their creative output a secret).
The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue, (between 92nd & 93rd Streets), New York, NY 10128, (212) 423-3200, www.thejewishmuseum.org.
The two exhibits – at the Cooper Hewitt and the Jewish Museum – are that much more inspiring to see contiguously, to have this extraordinary in-depth insight into the Jazz Age, a time of tumultuous change in culture, social mores and political currents on a scale that only recurred 40 years later, in the 1960s, and now. I became intrigued when I heard of the Jewish Museum’s exhibit at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island in June (you have another opportunity to enjoy this fantastic festival August 26 & 27, jazzagelawnparty.com; see story)
From there I walked further north, to just about the top of the Museum Mile with only about an hour to go of the festival.
The Museum of the City of New York always has smart, clever exhibits. The not-to-be missed exhibit, “New York at its Core,” that is on now is in three parts, in three different galleries. It explores the essential question, “What makes New York New York?” (Answer: Money, Diversity, Density, Creativity) and takes the city from its very beginnings (room-sized images of neighborhoods morph from centuries ago into today), to its development as a melting pot for cultures, and then lets viewers imagine what the city of the future should look like (“Future City Lab”) and how it should solve the challenges of affordable housing, greenspace, environment, transit, and so forth. One of the most interesting parts is a computer-generated animation that puts you into the scene.
Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue (at 104th Street), New York, NY 10029 (212) 534-1672, http://www.mcny.org/
Then, at the end of the Museum Mile, El Museo Del Barrio is featuring “Belkis Ayon: Nkame” and “A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayon” El Museo del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Avenue (at 104th Street), New York, NY 10029, (212) 831-7272 (http://www.elmuseo.org/)
The weather is overcast on the day I have set to do that iconic bike ride along San Francisco’s waterfront, over the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito and on to Tiburon. But that doesn’t stop me or several thousand other visitors to this engaging city. I just throw in some rain gear along with water and snacks.
I set out for Blazing Saddles, which has the largest bike fleet in California and some nine locations throughout San Francisco.
The company’s main location is at 2715 Hyde Street, ideally located in Fisherman’s Wharf, and just a block and a half from the start of the National Park Bike Path. This path takes riders on a beautiful, car-free bike ride along the bay, passed the Marina, through historic Fort Mason, and over to the Golden Gate Bridge, which is where most of the riders go.
Blazing Saddles has been in business over 30 years – it is the original “Bike the Bridge” company – but now has some new offerings, including a new electric bike model that was custom-made for the company, the Electric Blazer, and a free mobile app.
The new “e-Blazer” was customized for Blazing Saddles and they say is the lightest electric bike. The bike looks like regular bike (the battery is on the luggage rack on the back rather than where your legs are). It would be exceptional if you were riding San Francisco’s hills.
But a consideration for me, as the Blazing Saddles person explains, is that e-bikes, can only take the Blue & Gold ferry line from Sausalito or Tiburon to Pier 41, which has somewhat more limited service than the Golden Gate Ferry (which goes into the Ferry Building at Embarcadero – so I see that my last time back from Tiburon (where I am trying to get to) would be 4:15 pm and it is already noon.
I decide not to take the e-bike but to take a regular bike, which is lighter and easier for me to get on/off, and soldier through the hills, starting with Fort Mason (made it!), then the ramp up to Golden Gate Bridge (made it!).
The weather may be overcast, but I get to see that wonderful scene of the Golden Gate Bridge half-shrouded in San Francisco’s famous fog, a scene that changes moment to moment, it seems.
It is 8 miles to Sausalito – that takes about 1 ½ hours (you won’t just be riding over the Golden Gate Bridge, you will want to sightsee, stop for photos, and also have to keep stopping for pedestrians). Plan to spend time – at least an hour – in Sausalito which has really wonderful shops, galleries, eateries and scenic views, even if you are planning to continue the ride to Tiburon. (I have spent time in Sausalito a few days before on my way back from Muir Woods with Extranomical Tours.)
It is 10 more miles between Sausalito and Tiburon, which should take another 1 ½ to 2 hrs.
Blazing Saddles does an excellent job of preparing you – showing a 2-minute video of the route along the waterfront through the Marina district, up over Fort Mason (a strenuous hill) to the ramp up to Golden Gate Bridge (also strenuous hill), then down, down, down, into Sausalito.
They also give you a ticket for the ferry which you don’t actually pay for unless you use it (saves time and anxiety to buy the ticket at the ferry but I notice that the Blue & Gold lets you buy the ticket on the ferry, also). When I get back, I pay Blazing Saddles $11.50 for the ferry (the same amount as you would pay directly to the ferry). Their map/brochure even gives the time schedule for the ferries.
They tell us we should return the bikes by 7:30 pm or else call. They supply quality helmets, a lock, a pouch and luggage rack, and an excellent map (which also shows points of interest along the routes) and take care to properly fit the bike. (Blazing Saddles offers an all-day guided tour out of the 2715 Hyde Street location, departing 10 am and 1 pm, that includes the all-day Deluxe Comfort bike rental for $55/adult, $35/child).
I had really wanted to see the ride to Tiburon which is mostly on a bike trail but partly sharing the road. But once you get under the highway and go along the highway on the service road, the sign to the bike route (for Bike Route 8) to Tiburon is confusing (everyone else I met on the line to the ferry made the same mistake) – when actually, all you have to do is follow the service road maybe ¼ mile more and turn up on Belvedere Road, for a much more pleasant ride (just a few hills) which soon connects to a very nice bike trail (Bike Route 10).
I made the mistake of not biking out to Mill Valley’s Old Mill Park, where you get to see the Coastal Redwoods, and then connecting to the Bike Route #8 – which is the way Blazing Saddles recommends to go (I was in a hurry to get to Tiburon).
The weather does not cooperate, but fortunately I have prepared for rain.
Eventually you connect with Route 10 which is a dedicated bike trail along the water into Tiburon.
Even with getting lost (involving riding up three major hills in the residential area and stumbling upon the beautiful Audubon sanctuary (until a very nice man stopped his car and pointed out the route to me), I still get to Tiburon at 3:55 pm. There is not nearly as much to visit as in Sausalito, so I basically walked up and down the street in the “historic” district where the shops are and still made it to the 4:15 pm ferry for the fun 35-minute scenic “cruise” back to San Francisco’s Pier 41 at Fisherman’s Wharf, stopping at Angel Island and passing very close to Alcatraz on the way. There were a gazillion other bikes – a huge slew with the Blazing Saddles emblem – and the ferry people are extremely efficient in loading and unloading the bikers.
Besides this most popular Bike the Bridge ride (average 3 hours for the full 22 miles into Tiburon), other recommended routes include Bike the Parks (San Francisco’s bike route system connects Union Square and the “Wiggle” to the famous Golden Gate Park and the Presidio, 15 miles averaging 2-3 hours; the Marin Headlands Loop (from the north side of the Bridge, follow the coast west on Conzelman Road, out towards Point Bonita and Rodeo Beach, 10 miles, 2-3 hours; and “Conquer Mount Tamalpais, which would take you to Muir Woods National Monument, 15 miles beyond Sausalito, for a 5-6 hour trip – the elevations to Mount Tamalpais at 2,574 feet, make this especially challenging.
Indeed, San Francisco, despite its hills, is one of the most bike-friendly, welcoming cities anywhere (and if you get tired, public buses and the BART subway system accommodate bikes).
Blazing Saddles has a score of different road, hybrid and mountain bikes and types, starting at $8/hour or $32 for a 24-hour day; the best bike for biking the Bridge is a deluxe comfort hybrid, $9/hr, $36/for a 24-hour day; the e-Blazer ranges from $48-88.
Blazing Saddles Bike Rentals and Tours, 2715 Hyde Street, San Francisco, CA 94109, 415-202-8888, www.blazingsaddles.com
Maritime National Historical Park
Besides all the marvelous tourist places – souvenir shops, eateries of every stripe – there are some excellent attractions at Fisherman’s Wharf, such as the Exploratorium and the Aquarium and most especially the famous and fabulous Cable Car (expect long lines of about 30 minutes but totally worth it; along the cable car route, there is the Cable Car Museum which is free and SO fantastic).
The end of Fisherman’s Wharf is the start of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and the Visitor Center which is free and fantastic (located in the Argonaut Hotel building). Here you experience the sights, sounds and textures of the city’s seafaring past, beginning with the Native Americans who lived here before the Spanish arrived. There are hands-on activities and exhibits that describe the Gold Rush, shipwrecks, and development of San Francisco. On view is the lens from the Farallon Lighthouse. There are many historic vessels along the Hyde Street Pier, where park staff volunteers lead programs where you get to participate (school children can even overnight on historic vessels). The Maritime Museum is in the Aquatic Park Boathouse building (also free). (San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, 94123, 415-447-5000, www.nps.gov/safr).
I stop in on my way to picking up the bike from Blazing Saddles, and the exhibit gives me an excellent foundation for appreciating what I will see during the ride.
It’s also where a few of the marvelous San Francisco cable cars begin and end – be prepared for a 20-30 minute wait on a line but it is so worth it and is an excellent way to either arrive at Fisherman’s Wharf or finish off the day. The one-way fare is $7. (Locals can’t get on so it is almost exclusively tourists who ride the cable car.)
Pier 39, which is celebrating its 39th anniversary in 2017, is a tourist mecca with scores of fun shops and restaurants such as the Hard Rock Café (especially fun during this Summer of Love celebration, we noticed live music going on; also, check out the autographed Grateful Dead guitar, a painting of Jerry Garcia by Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane, Jerry Garcia’s bomber jacket, Jimi Hendrix’ jacket and one of the last photos of Janice Joplin, www.hardrock.com/cafes/san-francisco/).
This trip we enjoyed dinner at the Pier Market Seafood Restaurant, heralded for its New England clam chowder, Mesquite-grilled seafood, and lovely setting with views of the Bay, waterfront and resident sea lions.
Pier Market Seafood is one of the Simmons family’s restaurants in San Francisco (Fog Harbor Fish House, and Wipeout Bar & Grill are the others), offering menus that showcase all sustainable seafood offerings aligned with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Seafood Watch” guidelines.
“We undertook this transition based on a commitment to best practices, even in the absence of any specific demand from our customers,” Scooter Simmons commented. “It was important to our family and everyone in our company to do the right thing and lead by example. There are surprisingly few area restaurants that have made this choice.”
Three generations of Simmons’ are a part of the history of San Francisco’s hospitality industry. Warren Simmons was the creator and developer of PIER 39, which opened in 1978, and his son, Scooter, daughter-in-law, Nancy, and his grandchildren, Nicki and Ryan, now work running the four Pier 39 businesses still owned by the family.
Menu highlights include garlic roasted whole crab, fresh seafood cioppino, mesquite grilled lobster tail, red curry steamed mussels, and Anchor Steam battered fish and chips and Pier Market’s award winning clam chowder.
In addition to the sourcing of sustainable ingredients for all seafood dishes the menu reflects seasonality, the use of local purveyors, generous portions, and moderate (“non-tourist”) pricing (mains are priced from around $11 to $30). Pier Market Seafood offers a diverse selection of libations including a wine list that emphasizes California vintages and handcrafted classic, contemporary and signature cocktails, plus intriguing non-alcoholic beverages including a strawberry basil nojito.
The selections are wonderful for sharing, especially the starters like sourdough garlic bread, garlic fries (crispy fries tossed with fresh garlic, herbs and topped with parmesan cheese); Crispy Scallops (house-breaded and served with roasted jalapeño aioli); fried calamari coated with sweet & sour sauce; crab cakes, a house specialty, served with a Cajun rémoulade; clams steamed in garlic, butter and white wine; steamed mussels prepared with onions and peppers in a red curry coconut broth.
The restaurant is also very proud of its Cioppino, a classic San Francisco dish, a tomato based seafood stew with fresh fish, mussels, clams, shrimp and crab served over pasta ( for a few dollars more, they remove the crab from the shell).
The menu offers tremendous variety and selections – meats to salads, sandwiches, pastas – and the ambiance is casual, pubbish, perfect after a day of sightseeing. The restaurant serves until 10 pm.
One hour free validated parking in an easily accessed and conveniently located garage adds to the allure of the dining experience.
(Pier Market Seafood, Pier 39. San Francisco, CA 94133, 415-989-7437, piermarket.com/).
For more help planning a visit to San Francisco, contact San Francisco Travel. 415-391‑2000, www.sftravel.com.
Wes Leslie’s Wild San Francisco Summer of Love Musical Walking Tour finishes only a couple of blocks down from the entrance to Golden Gate Park (see story), which played such a role in the Hippie Movement, and where the De Young Museum is holding the Summer of Love Experience, one of the more than 60 events, exhibitions, concerts, tours and attractions taking place during this 50th Anniversary of the cosmic 1967 event when some 100,000 young people descended on the city. So, after walking around the famous Haight-Ashbury district – epicenter of the Hippie Movement – taking in the shops and scenes that slingshot you back to the 1960s, I stroll into Golden Gate Park to the museum.
The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll, on view at the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park through August 20, 2017, is an exhilarating exhibition of iconic rock posters, photographs, interactive music and light shows, costumes and textiles, ephemera, and avant-garde films. Part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the adventurous and colorful counterculture that blossomed in the years surrounding the legendary San Francisco summer of 1967, the exhibition presents more than 300 significant cultural artifacts of the time, including almost 150 objects from the Fine Arts Museums’ extensive permanent holdings, supplemented by key, iconic loans.
As you walk in, you are immediately set on the crossroads of Haight and Ashbury streets and the pins with the iconic phrases and issues that were top-of-mind of the time.
You literally step into the whirling dervish that was the times – psychedelic colored lights and brash, electrified music of Janis Joplin and others provide the beat and backdrop for the exhibit that includes a two-story square darkened room with colored projections of what appear to be the shapes inside a lava lamp and bean-bags to sit on.
In the mid-1960s, artists, activists, writers, and musicians converged on Haight-Ashbury with hopes of creating a new social paradigm. By 1967, the neighborhood drew as many as 100,000 young people from all over the country to this tiny neighborhood, which became the epicenter for their activities, and nearby Golden Gate Park their playground.
The period was marked by groundbreaking developments in art, fashion, music, and politics (captured in the images of photojournalists and street photographers), which is what is so eloquently showcased in this exhibit.
Local bands such as Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead were the progenitors of what would become known as the “San Francisco Sound,” music that found its visual counterpart in creative industries that sprang up throughout the region. Rock-poster artists such as Rick Griffin, Alton Kelley, Victor Moscoso, Stanley Mouse, and Wes Wilson generated an exciting array of distinctive works featuring distorted hand-lettering and vibrating colors, while wildly creative light shows, such as those by Bill Ham and Ben Van Meter, served as expressions of the new psychedelic impulse.
Distinctive codes of dress also set members of the Bay Area counterculture apart from mainstream America. Local designers began to create fantastic looks using a range of techniques and materials, including leatherwork, hand-painting, knitting and crotchet, embroidery, repurposed denim, and tie-dye. These innovators included Birgitta Bjerke, aka 100% Birgitta; Mickey McGowan, aka the Apple Cobbler; Burray Olson; and Jeanne Rose – whose creations are also on view.
The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll commemorates an “only in San Francisco” social and aesthetic movement, and will remind museum visitors that in a time of international upheaval, the city played a vital role in changing society and amplifying the pulse of the nation.
de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118, 415-750-3600, ttps://deyoung.famsf.org/summer-love-art-fashion-and-rock-roll.
San Francisco Goes All-Out for Summer of Love Celebration
San Francisco Travel, the city’s visitors bureau, and the California Historical Society have joined forces on the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, offering more than 60 exhibitions and events, plus special tours like Wild SF’s Summer of Love walking tour.
At www.summerof.love, the California Historical Society provides the detailed factual and cultural context for this seminal summer through its own exhibition and work with cultural partners such as the de Young Museum.
Here are more:
“The Hippies” at West County Museum in Sebastopol(Thru-Dec. 2017): The West County Museum in Sebastopol presents “The Hippies”. The curators have collected memorabilia from the Hippie elders to recreate the environment that these rebels against consumerism and conformity built in the forests of Graton and Occidental 1966-1973. Morning Star Ranch in Graton was owned by Lou Gottlieb, the bassist of The Limeliters, a hit folk group of the 60’s. He opened his property to all and refugees from the Haight quickly settled in. They built their own shacks, lived without electricity and often clothes and exchanged the work ethic for the ethics of living in nature in a state of “voluntary primitivism.” Sex and drugs, pot and LSD, guitars and any handy noise makers were freely enjoyed by the denizens but not by all of their neighbors. The County Sheriff and Health Department became involved after vociferous complaints and after many fines and much legal maneuvering by Gottlieb to keep his commune open, the County bulldozers destroyed the huts, and the suddenly homeless hippies were forced to relocate. Some moved to Morning Star East in New Mexico, but others went a few miles away in Occidental where Bill Wheeler felt that he had enough land to share and the hippies moved in. The land was free to all but the living was too free for a neighbor who felt that the lifestyle was a threat to his children. Again, after legal action, the bulldozers moved in and the hippie commune era in Sonoma County came to an end. The West County Museum, 261 S. Main Street, Sebastopol, is open Thursday to Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Monterey Regional Airport: “Feeling Groovy,” Art at the Airport(Thru Fall 2017): The exhibit showcases collections that reflect music, entertainment and home life in 1960s Monterey County. Artifacts featured in the exhibit are diverse, ranging from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Visitors can view everyday objects from a 1960s kitchen, iconic fashions ranging from pill box hats to Beatle boots, and beloved games, toys and comic books. See Nancy Carlen’s collection from the Big Sur Folk Festival, the first time these rare photographs and objects have been exhibited. Go back to June 1967 when the Monterey Pop Festival welcomed Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Otis Redding – and ushered in The Summer of Love. Each object – from transistor radios to martini glasses – will transport you back to this transformative decade.
2017 Summer of Love Street Celebrations with It’s Your District and Sunday Streets (Thru Oct. 1, 2017): In conjunction with Sunday Streets, the non-profit It’s Your District (IYD) is hosting the 2017 Summer of Love Street Celebrations. Block parties will be held at the eight Sunday Street locations, and will include Summer of Love exhibitions, art projects, live performances and family-friendly activities. In keeping with IYD’s mission, these celebrations will bring in and promote Bay Area non-profits, businesses, arts, cultural and community organizations, socially conscious enterprises and individuals who are committed to bringing forth the unheard voices of residents and in sustaining the vitality of our community district by district. Sunday Streets engages some 120,000 people annually and this number continues to grow.
One highlight of the celebration is the Public Mural Art Project which creates murals designed to educate members of the community about the history of their respective neighborhoods. The art will focus on prominent heroes and the events that have contributed to the development of San Francisco districts from the 1960s to present day.
“Lavender-Tinted Glasses: A Groovy Gay Look at the Summer of Love” at the GLBT History Museum (April 7-Sept. 27, 2017): An exhibition highlighting the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender participants in the 1967 Summer of Love in San Francisco. The show also will explore the LGBTQ community’s own simultaneous cultural revolution in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood. The stories of queer poets, philosophers, filmmakers and musicians integral to the era will be celebrated through historic photographs, artwork, film and documents from the archives of the GLBT Historical Society and private collections.
de Young Museum; “The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion and Rock & Roll” (April 8-Aug. 20, 2017): Through a wide array of iconic rock posters, interactive music and light shows, “out-of-this-world” clothing and photographs, “Summer of Love” celebrates the city’s rebellious and colorful counterculture and explores the visual and material cultures of a generation searching for personal fulfillment through social change. The exhibition includes rock posters by artists including Victor Moscoso, Stanley Mouse and Wes Wilson along with examples of the handcrafted, one-of-a-kind garments created by such designers as Brigitta Bjerke, K. Lee Manuel and Jeanne Rose.
“Love or Confusion: Jimi Hendrix in 1967” at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) (April 26-Aug. 27, 2017): As Jimi Hendrix walked out onto the stage at Monterey Pop, he was also stepping out for his American rock and roll debut. Playing as “The Jimi Hendrix Experience,” Hendrix was introduced to California at the festival before the U.S. release of his first album. A performance enlivened with rock theatrics, sexual flamboyance and magnetic guitar riffs, this moment solidified Hendrix as a rock idol. An integrated band with a black front man, “The Jimi Hendrix Experience” represented racial and sexual freedom and the goals of the 1906s counterculture. Composed of photographs taken of Jimi Hendrix in 1967, this exhibition celebrates the 50th anniversary of the famous Summer of Love and the introduction of Jimi Hendrix as one the greatest instrumentalists of all time.
“Elaine Mayes: It Happened in Monterey” at SFO Museum(May 4-Aug. 10, 2017): SFO Museum will present an exhibition of photographs by Elaine Mayes (whose work is also included in the de Young Museum exhibit) taken at the Summer of Love’s legendary rock concert, the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. The exhibition is located post-security in Terminal 3.
“California Historical Society; “On the Road to the Summer of Love” (May 12-Sept. 10, 2017): Guest-curated by Grateful Dead historian Dennis McNally, this photographic exhibition will start in the 1950’s with “HOWL” and the Beat Generation and move through the free speech movement to LSD, rock and roll and the Haight in the 60’s.
The Cartoon Art Museum; “Comix from the Summer of Love” (June-Sept., 2017): The Cartoon Art Museum celebrates the Summer of Love with a selection of underground comix from Bay Area creators Lee Marrs (Pudge, Girl Blimp), Trina Robbins (Wimmen¹s Comix) and highlights from the collection of Ron Turner, founder of famed San Francisco publisher Last Gasp.
“A Night with Janis Joplin” at American Conservatory Theater (June 7-July 2, 2017): Like a comet that burns far too brightly to last, Janis Joplin exploded onto the music scene in 1967 and, almost overnight, became the queen of rock ’n’ roll. The unmistakable voice, laced with raw emotion and Southern Comfort, made her a must-see headliner from Monterey to Woodstock. A.C.T. presents an evening with the woman and her influences in the Bay Area premiere of the hit Broadway musical “A Night with Janis Joplin” at the Geary Theater. Fueled by such unforgettable songs as “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Piece of My Heart,” “Mercedes Benz,” “Cry Baby,” and “Summertime,” a remarkable cast and breakout performances.
San Francisco Public Library: 50th Anniversary of Love and Haight (July 15-Oct. 29, 2017): In this exhibit, historical photographs, grass roots newspapers, posters and flyers, record albums and manuscript materials from community groups and City of San Francisco collections will document the social and political upheaval of the summer of 1967 and how the city responded.
The legendary Fillmore Auditorium offers performances throughout the year and launched the careers of greats including James Brown, Ike and Tina Turner, the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, Santana and more. Famous for printing posters for every single show played at the venue, the poster room is just shy of 1,000 posters since officially opening its doors in the mid-60s. Celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bill Graham’s first show at the Fillmore, which was December 10, 1965. (http://thefillmore.com/about/)
Harkening back to The Psychedelic Shop, which opened on January 3, 1966, as the first head shop in America, Love on Haight is a boutique dedicated to keeping the memory of the Summer of Love alive (www.loveonhaightsf.com).
Check out the autographed Grateful Dead guitar, a painting of Jerry Garcia by Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane, Jerry Garcia’s bomber jacket, Jimi Hendrix’ jacket and one of the last photos of Janice Joplin. at the Hard Rock Café at PIER 39. www.hardrock.com/cafes/san-francisco/
At Madame Tussauds, rub shoulders with iconic stars and free thinkers of the Summer of Love such as Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin, Carlos Santana and Steve Jobs. (www.madametussauds.com)
Founded in 1959 with avant-garde performance events, today The San Francisco Mime Troupe (SFMT) produces social and politically relevant theater performances full of dance, song, satire and comedy all year long. In 1965 future rock impresario Bill Graham, then the company’s business manager, organized his first rock dance/light show at the Fillmore Auditorium as a bail benefit for the SFMT and in 1967 The Troupe clinched its radical reputation with a comedy updated to satirize the Vietnam War (www.sfmt.org/company).
Viceroy Hotel Group’s brand new Hotel Zeppelin has been reinvented as a modern take on the countercultural rebellion of the 1960s. Its historic architecture dating back to 1918 is highlighted with Instagram worthy design elements that truly exude the Summer of Love vibe. From the Giant 12 foot (and climbable) Peace Sign constructed of repurposed license plates from roadtrips long forgotten, to blacklight graffiti murals fading in and out of view at their Fireside neighborhood bar – even the guest rooms feature vintage Bill Graham posters and rockband clad wallpaper that will transport you straight to the 1960s Fillmore. Grab a drink at their signature bar and restaurant Rambler and meander your way down to their massive “Den” arcade featuring vintage games like shuffleboard, skeeball, quick shot basketball, bingo and more (www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/zeppelin).
S.O.U.L. (Summer of Unconditional LOVE), a new, non-profit, online media organization, chronicles the happenings of the 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love, with a focus on broadcasting stories of individuals and organizations implementing solutions inspired by the ideals and wisdom of the 60’s cultural movements. The information shared is intended to help people manifest a more loving and less fearful world by giving them hope and inspiring new action to be taken. “Come join us, and discover what you can do to participate in accelerating humanity’s shift into the Love Paradigm,” say Founders Evan Hirsch and Kip Baldwin www.nowsharelove.org).
To help visitors plan their “trip,” the San Francisco Travel Association has launched a special website, www.summeroflove2017.com, which provides an ever-expanding guide to the whole groovy scene, including events and itinerary ideas. (San Francisco Travel. 415-391‑2000, www.sftravel.com)
The Gilded Lady seems to be resting peacefully, her painted visage staring up to the sky. But inside this container are the remains of a real woman who lived nearly 2000 years ago, and for the first time, the ancient coalesces with 21st century scientific techniques: we actually get to peer inside, probing down layer by layer to her mortal remains, and then, at a digitally reconstructed, 3-D image of her as she lived: this middle-aged woman was beautiful.
She has already traveled from Chicago where she lives at the Field Museum, to Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Denver and now she is reposing here in New York as part of Mummies, an extraordinary exhibit featuring one of the largest collections of mummies housed in North America that just opened at the American Museum of Natural History through January 7, 2018.
The exhibit provides an unparalleled glimpse into the lives and traditions of people from ancient cultures. It puts us face to face, head to head with people who lived their lives thousands of years ago, in Egypt and in Peru – two of the many cultures that practiced mummification. The contrasts and the similarities are striking, and just as their similarities speak to a unity of humanity, this extraordinary way of connecting past to present connects us as human beings. (And to bring about an even broader connection, increasing the span from thousands to 100s of thousands of years ago, be sure to visit the AMNH’s Human Evolution wing.)
“Mummies have long been fascinating, and now the intersection of these ancient relics and cutting-edge technology is revealing new and intriguing secrets,” said Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. “For generations, the Museum has studied and presented the diverse cultures of humanity, past and present, to help us better understand one another and ourselves. Today, when such understanding is more important than ever, Mummies invites us all to consider both what may be distinct among cultures and what is universal in the human condition.”
On a special, limited tour from the collections of The Field Museum in Chicago — and presented for the first time on the East Coast (the traveling exhibition has already been on view in Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Denver), Mummies showcases the ritually preserved remains of 18 individuals from ancient Egypt and pre-Columbian Peru. The Peruvian mummies that are on display have not been seen since they were exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Significantly, you get to discover how modern imaging techniques have transformed the study of mummification by letting researchers peer inside centuries-old mummies without disturbing or damaging them. Digital touchscreens let you “virtually” peer into Peruvian mummy bundles, layer by layer from the skin to the bones, as well as animal mummies buried as offerings to Egyptian gods. You also get to handle 3D-printed figurines of burial goods that were encased within mummy wrappings for millennia and only recently revealed.
“You may think you know mummies,” Futter said at a press preview, pointing to the most popular representations in horror movies. “That’s not what this show is about. This is serious business that simultaneously offers a window to the past – two different ancient worlds – and into the latest technology and study. You get a glimpse of actual people entombed – who they were, what their lives were like, what they looked like.”
“They are like messages from a different time – they are our sisters and brothers in a shared humanity. It may not be as sensational as a [horror] movie, but more amazing than you would have imagined.”
Indeed, most people – especially young people – have never actually seen a dead body before. The most profound experience in the exhibit is seeing the remains of a woman who lived 5500 years ago, whose bundled body was left in the Egyptian desert where it naturally mummified.
Indeed, it wasn’t just pharaohs and their spouses and other royal figures who were mummified, though their tombs and the possessions that were left with them reflected their station. This was the common practice – as people were lower and lower down the economic totem pole, the possessions that they would have been buried with were more and more modest.
In Egyptian society, it was also common for animals to be mummified and buried – there is a baboon and a crocodile in the exhibit. Cats were actually popular and David Hurst Thomas, the co-curator of the exhibit, said that archaeologists found cemeteries of a million mummified cats, manufactured for sale to be entombed with the loved one.
It is fascinating to have this view to contrast the Peruvian mummies (I’m betting few people have even realized that pre-Colombian Peruvian peoples practiced mummification), with the Egyptian burial practices. The two civilizations never interacted – mummification developed independently, indeed, on every continent but Antarctica, Dr. David Hurst Thomas, curator of North American archaeology, division of Anthropology and co-Curator of the Mummies exhibit, said at a press preview of the exhibit.
In Peru, mummification was intended to enable the living to stay connected with their loved ones. The body was carefully prepared and wrapped and then a mask was placed on top the canvas.
One of the scans of a bundle reveals that it is a woman with two children. The scans also show artifacts that have been buried with the individual.
The ancient Egyptians, in contrast, mummified their dead so that they could live on – their limbs intact – in the next world. The earliest mummies, like the 5500-year old woman, were not buried in elaborate pyramids or tombs, but were put into a pit grave. Over the centuries, the mummification process became more and more elaborate – organs were preserved in canopic jars and bodies placed in magnificently painted coffins with gilded masks.
By using these new technologies – most that have come from medicine – the scientists have been able to see artifacts that were buried with them, how a mother is buried with her two children (how did they die?).
“They have so much to teach us – medical infirmities, migration, interaction of societies,”
The Gilded Lady, for example, is utterly fascinating – you see her in her magnificently decorated coffin, and on the wall are the slides that show how her hair was curled, had a damaged spine, possibly as a result of tuberculosis. Based on the scan of her skull, they made a 3-D reconstruction using a 3-D printer, and from that, like a forensic scientist, re-created what she likely looked like in life – all of this in one view.
The gilded mask that we see was not meant to illustrate how the woman looked in life, but was an idealized portrait that had a purpose: the Ancient Egyptians believed that in the afterlife, the dead would need their faculties – eyesight, hearing, taste and smell. The masks allowed them to maintain these senses. The golden skin was used to show divinity: after death, the dead would be transformed into the god Osiris, who, like most gods, had skin of gold.
The Gilded Lady lays across the room from another mummy, named Minirdis according to the hieroglyphs on the coffin. The coffin was opened for the first time in a century for this exhibition. In examining the remains, researchers discovered the teenaged boy inside was mummified around 250 BC, or 200 years after the coffin was made, construction of the coffin, indicating that the mummified individual wasn’t Minirdis after all, and confirming that coffins were occasionally recycled (though might not the inscription have been added when the boy was buried?)
The hieroglyphs on the coffin say the name of the mummy who is supposed to go inside it – Minirdis, son of a priest. Preserving the person’s name was essential for their soul to reach the afterlife. Minirdis means “Min is the one who gave him,” and Min was a god of fertility. The inscription also says that Minirdis’ father, Inaros was a priest, in charge of purifying and clothing the god’s statue. The only problem was that the boy inside was mummified around 250 BC, or 200 years after the coffin was made, indicating that the mummified individual wasn’t Minirdis after all, but also confirming that coffins were occasionally recycled.
The scans of the body show that the coffin was too large for the body inside and the bones hadn’t fused, indicating that the body was a teenage boy.
The CT scans enabled scientists to generate 3D-printed skull reconstructions of both the “Gilded Lady” and Minirdis. Then, artist Elisabeth Daynès studied the replicas and built facial muscles and skin layer by layer. The hyper-realistic portraits in 3D. we meet at the end of the exhibit let us come face-to-face with these ancient people, seeing them as they may have looked in life —while their mummified remains sleep peacefully.
Peruvian Mummies On View for the First Time in a Century
We are much more familiar with Egyptian mummies, particularly with the sensational exhibits of King Tut and the artifacts uncovered from his tomb in the Valley of Kings, as well as the scientific analysis of his mummified remains. But this exhibit goes much further in its exploration of the cultural significance of the burial practice.
The first part of the exhibit focuses on the collection of Peruvian Mummies, which had not been seen in public since they were on display in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
People living along the Pacific coast of South America in what is now Peru began to mummify their dead more than 5,000 years ago. Scholars think that the Chinchorro culture (5,000–2,000 BC)—the world’s first practitioners of mummification—prepared the bodies of their loved ones personally, removing the deceased’s skin, de-fleshing the bones, and removing the organs before reinforcing the skeleton with reeds and clay and reattaching the skin. The mummy was then painted black or red and given a wig and an individualized clay portrait of the deceased.
In addition to the Chinchorro, dozens of societies in the region mummified their dead to remember and remain connected with the departed.
As we walk through the Mummies exhibit, we encounter a number of Peruvian mummy bundles, including the mummified remains of three children from the Chancay culture (AD 1000–1400), which placed their dead into a sitting position and wrapped them in layers of cloth.
The exhibit is very much hands-on, interactive, if you can believe it, because you get to do what scientists do, in penetrating the layers of scans to reveal the body contained in the wrappings, through the skin layer, to the bones.
There are digital touchscreens, where you can examine composite CT scans of these mummies and virtually “unwrap” them to reveal figurines and other burial offerings that are contained within, becoming surprised as surely the scientists were, when a scan reveals a mother with two children bundled together, or seeing the objects that were personal or prized which reveal so much about who they were in life.
A life-sized diorama of a Chancay pit burial demonstrates the common practice of interring members of an extended family together. These burial pits were accessible to living family members, allowing relatives to bring food or drink to their loved ones’ graves, or even to remove mummies to take them to festivals or other special events. We see examples of real burial offerings such as chicha (corn beer) pots.
Jim Phillips, curator of The Field Museum, tells me that the Peruvian mummies were uncovered on expeditions in the 1880s and 1890. This means they would have been recent finds – the most modern discoveries – when they were displayed at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Egyptian Mummies of the Nile Valley
Unlike people in Peru, ancient Egyptians believed the dead could live on in the next world if provided with a physical home, preferably within the body itself. This belief made it essential to preserve the corpse, and Egyptians used an elaborate process of mummification to halt the natural process of decay. Scholars posit that natural mummification—an example of which can be seen in the remains of a woman whose preservation occurred naturally in the hot, dry sand about 5,500 years ago—gave Egyptians the idea for artificial mummification.
Within centuries, ritual burial in Egypt evolved into a complex practice that included elaborate embalming, brilliantly decorated sarcophagi, and grandiose tombs designed to deter grave-robbers (we see magnificent limestone busts from sarcophagi that were an added layer of security to those who could afford this extra protection and would have weighed thousands of pounds). Organs that would hasten decay—the liver, lungs, intestines, and stomach—were removed, preserved, wrapped, and housed in separate containers. The heart—thought to be the source of emotion and intellect—often stayed in place, since it would be necessary in the afterlife, while the brain, thought to have no use, was removed through the nose. Forty days in salt desiccated the body, and embalmers then used resins, oils, and padding to restore its appearance before wrapping it in linen. Artifacts on view include a Ptolemaic Period mummy (332-30 BC) along with canopic jars containing the person’s organs. Here, there are stations where you can handle 3D-printed burial figurines that depict ancient Egyptian gods provide visitors with an opportunity to explore the hidden artifacts within its wrappings.
The objects found in Egyptian tombs were meant to provide for the deceased in the afterlife. Burials of wealthy Egyptians include their servants, represented by figurines called shawabti; ideally there would be 365 of these, one for each day of the year, with 36 overseers, one for each week in the Egyptian calendar. Even mummified animals were included in tombs, and archaeologists have uncovered cemeteries containing millions of animal mummies, including cats, baboons, gazelles, birds and even crocodiles, some of which are on view. Grave-robbing was rampant in ancient Egypt, and an Egyptian tomb diorama represents a type of crypt that Egyptians with rank or wealth constructed to guard against such thefts. Within the tomb, a plain stone sarcophagus contains a smaller stone sarcophagus and a wooden coffin from the Late Period (525-343 BC) covered in hieroglyphs. Most of the imagery on the coffin was inspired by scenes in The Book of the Dead, a collection of funerary texts believed to assist a person’s journey into the afterlife.
Dr. Thomas says the Gilded Lady steals the show, and indeed she does. She was mummified during the Roman Period (30 BC-AD 395), a period when we see in the exhibit the most magnificently painted coffins. There is one of a woman whose coffin is a stunning piece of artwork – it has a magnificent gilded mask and the body had pronounced breasts. Why? The anthropologists could not say, showing that there is still so much more to be learned.
Mummies is on view in New York through January 7, 2018. The exhibition is co-curated at the American Museum of Natural History by David Hurst Thomas, Curator of North American Archaeology in the Division of Anthropology, and John J. Flynn, Frick Curator of Fossil Mammals in the Division of Paleontology.
Mummies was developed by The Field Museum, Chicago, and will go back there for an exhibition after its New York showing.
Mummies is featured in the Museum’s recently re-launched Explorer app, developed with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, which lets visitors think like an explorer by personalizing their onsite experience using cutting-edge location-aware technology that provides unique journeys through the Museum’s 45 permanent halls.
When we see these fantastic exhibits, we don’t necessarily see behind them, to the fact that the American Museum of Natural History, founded in 1869, is one of the world’s preeminent scientific, educational, and cultural institutions, whose research has contributed not only to their discovery, but to the understanding of what is displayed.
Indeed, the press tour takes us behind the scenes to the institution’s Microscopy and Imaging Facility – the technology that would have been used to scan the mummies. The equipment is shared by all five departments of the institution, whether AMNH scientists are studying fossils, cultural artifacts, planets or solar systems, the cutting-edge imaging technologies in the facility make it possible to examine details that were previously unobservable. While earlier studies often required unwrapping mummies – which could have damaged them – tools like high-resolution computerized tomography (CT) scanner provide scientists with non-invasive methods to examine them. MIF technician Morgan Hill walked us through the process, along with Zachary Calamari, a Ph.D. student in comparative biology program at the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School, who showed us how the scans help in research of two naturally-mummified newborn wooly mammoths – one who was mummified by being frozen and the other who was “pickled.”
During our visit, the CT scanner is doing an image of a rabbit. It is this ability to understand the internal aspects of dinosaurs and fossils that have led scientists to rejigger Evolution’s schema, to redefine who is related to who and what is connected to what.
The Museum’s five active research divisions and three cross-disciplinary centers support approximately 200 scientists, whose work draws on a world-class permanent collection of more than 33 million specimens and artifacts, as well as specialized collections for frozen tissue and genomic and astrophysical data, and one of the largest natural history libraries in the world. Through its Richard Gilder Graduate School, it is the only American museum authorized to grant the Ph.D. degree and the Master of Arts in Teaching degree.
The Museum encompasses 45 permanent exhibition halls, including the Rose Center for Earth and Space and the Hayden Planetarium, as well as galleries for temporary exhibitions. It is home to the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, New York State’s official memorial to its 33rd governor and the nation’s 26th president, and a tribute to Roosevelt’s enduring legacy of conservation.
The museum gets 5 million visitors a year and the Museum’s exhibitions and Space Shows can be seen in venues on five continents. The Museum’s website and apps for mobile devices extend its collections, exhibitions, and educational programs to millions more beyond its walls.
American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024-5192, 212-769-5100. Open daily from 10 am-5:45 pm except on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Visit amnh.org for more information.
The 43rd Annual Village Halloween Parade, the largest Halloween event in the world, got underway with extraordinary precision, as all the skeletons, ghouls and monsters – some 50,000 in all – got into order for the march up New York’s 6th Avenue to the rhythm of a host of bands.
The theme this year invited participants to “Sink into Reverie —that liminal space in which one creates.”
“One thinks of Halloween as a chance to fantasize, but more than anything Halloween lets us realize, allowing us to play ourselves, leaving the remainder of the year for sleepwalking…. In these moments of reverie, our eyes are fresh, a child’s eyes. Our thoughts unfettered by habit, ideas and inspirations swirl in. So this year we celebrate Reverie, inviting one and all to recreate their waking dreams.”
Indeed, this is one day a year when New Yorkers, en masse, release their inner exhibitionist, their inner Action Hero. It’s Body English, when your entire being is a placard to transmit your message. For some, it is a way of releasing inner rage, anxiety, and confront demons. For others, it is a way to convey spiritual blessings, cheer.
This year had its Willy Wonkas, the Egyptian Pharoahs (one carried a “10 Commandments for the 21st Century that included “gender equality” and “no more wars”), Action Heroes and Cartoon characters, spirits from myth and folklore, and a good smattering of political characters and commentary, with candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (more mocking him than her), Anonymous, and against the NRA.
Tens of thousands of people lined the route, which extended a mile from Spring Street up to 16th Street, delighting all as the bigger-than-life skeleton puppets poked into the crowd and stilt walkers and costumed characters engaged.
Creativity is on full view, a mischievous spirit in the air – this is New York City’s Carnival and Mummers wrapped into one.
It is amazingly artful, marvelous to behold – indeed, producer Jeanne Fleming, who took over the planning for the parade after its 8th year when the crowd reached 100,000, saw the Village Halloween Parade as an art installation.
And the scenics! with the lights of the Freedom Tower downtown, the church at Greenwich with its giant spider crawling down the side and the tower lighted, and the Empire State, lit in crackling light show for the occasion uptown, and the buildings lining 6th Avenue like canyon walls – creating a fantastical atmosphere in which the walking creatures and monsters feel most at home.
“New York’s Village Halloween Parade is committed to the cultural and imaginative life of New York City and to the advancement of large-scale participatory events in the belief that such events, when artistically inspired, can play a major role in the resurrection and rejuvenation of the City’s spirit, economy and the life of its people,” is the mission statement. “Fleeting as it may seem, the Annual Village Halloween Parade provides a subconsciously experienced time structure that lends a sense of durability, continuity and community to New York City life.”
Indeed, it is a collective giggle, a communal hug against the forces beyond control, and while you are in the spirit of it, you forget everything beyond.
Walking around Manhattan, with the oddest sights (half the time, you don’t know if people are wearing costumes), just adds to the special thrill of Halloween in New York City.
From humble beginnings in 1974 when Greenwich Village mask maker and puppeteer Ralph Lee started a walk from house to house for his children and friends, the Village Halloween Parade, now headed by Artist and Producer Jeanne Fleming, has become an iconic event of New York City, with some 60,000 participants and tens of thousands of onlookers.
The Village Halloween Parade, the only major night parade in the country, is the largest public Halloween celebration in the world. It has been named as “The Greatest Event on Earth” for October 31 by Festivals International, and has been listed as one of the “100 Things to Do Before You Die.”
The ghouls and ghosts in the parade certainly would agree.
I have come to Pittsburgh for the three-day, 120-mile Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Spring Sojourn on the Great Allegheny Passage, and used it as an opportunity to explore Pittsburgh, a city that once was known for steel mills, but which now has won accolades as “America’s most livable city.”
I am fascinated to see how it made such a transition from grey to green.
With only one full day to explore, I specifically seek out attractions that define Pittsburgh, all walkable within the downtown, getting advice from the Omni William Penn Hotel concierge.
I continue my walk from the Fort Pitt Museum, over the Fort Duquesne Bridge toward the National Aviary (it was the “national” that got my attention), fascinated how city planners managed to turn a city designed for industry and machines into one that can be so walkable and bikeable.
The National Aviary, America’s only independent indoor nonprofit zoo dedicated to birds, offers a lovely exhibit of birds, including being able to walk through massive habitat-style exhibits, where the birds – like the Victoria Crowned Pigeon (amazing headdress), Golden Breasted Starling (nesting) fly freely about you, often landing very close by.
There is also a bat exhibit (you can watch bat feeding), poke your head up into the penguin pen, As I walk about, I am surprised to read a marker that states this was the site of the Western Penitentiary (1826-1880) and held confederate prisoners here 1863-64.
The National Aviary (www.aviary.org), which was designated “national” by President Clinton, would certainly be a highlight for family travelers and am having such an amazing time taking pictures, seeing some birds that I had never seen before in such close proximity without cages, I lose all sense of time (which is why I didn’t have enough time to visit the Heinz History Center).
The Warhol Museum
The National Aviary is also just a short walk to my next stop: the Warhol Museum. I had not realized that Andy Warhol was a native son of Pittsburgh (born to a Slovakian family of modest means, he attended Carnegie Mellon which was Carnegie Technical at the time) – this museum is in the tradition of the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, totally extolling the life of one artist. It basically continues what Andy Warhol did most successfully his whole life: market his art to inflate prices. The best part, for me, was learning more about his biography – what made him “tick”, his creative process and about his techniques.
My own belief is that Warhol was more of a marketing genius than an artistic one (at least Salvador Dali was both a marketing genius and an artistic one), but I am willing to be convinced otherwise as I roam the museum.
Indeed, as a placard notes, since the seven-story museum opened in 1994, there has been a steady increasing level of recognition of Warhol’s “singular contribution to 20th century art and his extraordinary influence on contemporary art internationally. The museum is on the forefront of research into Warhol’s work.”
There is a timeline along the massive walls that document in excruciating detail Warhol’s life and learn such tidbits as: Andrew Warhola was born in 1928 to immigrants from Mikona in Slovakia; he graduated Carnegie Tech (which became Carnegie Mellon); in 1956 he met Edmond Walloaitch who used photography in his own works; most of Warhol’s early endeavors were self-published; he was inspired by popular culture and enlarged images from magazines and photographs with a projector, then painted the projection on canvas; he used a rubber stamp, then the silk screen process; the first silkscreen painting based on a photograph was a baseball, in 1962; he “replicated the look of commercial advertising, giving Warhol faithful duplication of his appropriated source image, while also allowing him to experiment with over-painting, off-register and endless chance combinations”.
After graduating Carnegie Tech, he took a “risk” and came to New York City where he got his big break, illustrating a story “What is Success” for Glamour Magazine. “He became one of the most successful commercial illustrators.” A particularly noteworthy item on the timeline: 1972- after publication of his “Vote McGovern,” the IRS audited Warhol annually until his death.” Warhol died in 1987, at the age of 58.
He created the “blotted line technique” – where he could trace or copy and an image “appropriating images from popular culture” – and reproduce any number of them, factory-style.
Warhol, we learn, made a fortune from portraits, once again, getting a giant commercial boost after an exhibit at the Whitney in 1979, curated by his close friend David Whitney consisting of 56 double portraits of artists, fashion designers, collectors, art dealers, which showcased an aspect of his painting “that he characterized as ‘business art’.”
After the 1979 show, his private portraits business hit heights- early 80s – he produced did 50 a year at $40K for 2-panel, or $2 million in annual profits.
“He was unapologetic in his imposition of lucrative business model as part of his art practice.”
I notice a prominently displayed portrait of Prince from 1984, which is up just after the musician’s death.
Andy Warhol was known for his passion as a collector – very possibly an outgrowth of his impoverished childhood and his expropriation of others’ art and design. Over his lifetime, he collected some 500,000 artifacts. There is an immense room, called the “Vault” that is filled with “time capsules” – 610 flimsy cartons, each with 500 objects.
I found it totally ironic, though, that you are not allowed to take any photos since Warhol’s art was based on expropriating the images and designs created by others (ie. Campbell Soup Can, Marilyn Monroe photo). You can take part in workshops to learn the silkscreening techniques he used. The museum is a must-see for anyone who is a fan.
The Andy Warhol Museum was created by the Andy Warhol Foundation, Dia Center for the Arts, and the Carnegie Foundation which operates the museum. It is one of four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh (Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of National History and Carnegie Science Center are the others, www.carnegiemuseums.org).
The Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212, 412-237-8300, www.warhol.org ($20/adults, $10/students and children 3-18, half price on Fridays, 5-10 pm; closed Mondays).
(I have come to Pittsburgh to join the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Sojourn three-day, 120-mile bike tour on the Great Allegheny Passage. I only have one full day in the city, so I set out on a walking tour aimed at focusing on what is uniquely Pittsburgh’s heritage. In the first part of the series, I experienced the Monongahela Incline, Mount Washington, Grandview Avenue, and the Duquesne Incline. I continue my walking tour at Point State Park.)
What a jewel Pittsburgh’s Point State Park is, literally at the confluence of three rivers: the Monongahela River at one side and where the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers meet on the other. Its location made it critical to control over this territory and later, the industrial and economic development of the nation.
The Point offers beautiful park land as well as some of Pittsburgh’s most significant heritage sites.
You first come upon the Fort Pitt Blockhouse, built in 1764, the oldest building in Pittsburgh and the only remaining structure from colonial times. Inside this small, dark space, it gives you a glimpse of western Pennsylvania’s role during the French & Indian War and the American Revolution (admission is free).
What proves to be the highlight of my visit to Pittsburgh is the Fort Pitt Museum (the newest member of the Senator John Heinz History Center, in association with the Smithsonian Institution), a modern, two-story, 12,000 square foot museum built on the site of Fort Pitt.
“From 1754 to today, Fort Pitt has shaped the course of American and world history as the birthplace of Pittsburgh.
The presentations are absolutely thrilling in conveying how at a critical point in the settlement of the New World, this point was the epicenter of world-changing events.
The museum tells the story of Western Pennsylvania’s pivotal role during the French & Indian War, the American Revolution, and as the birthplace of Pittsburgh (William Pitt never actually visited). It offers extremely well crafted interactive exhibits, life-like historical figures, rare artifacts that let you come away with a new appreciation for the strategic role the region played.
Known as The Point, this was once one of the most strategic areas in North America, controlling access to Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and much of interior of North America; it was the intersection of cultural exchange with native people, and a departure point for settlers moving west.
I appreciated the balance in the presentations between points of view – the colonists (actually split between the British and the French) and the Indian tribes. There is a sensational video that presents the different perspectives (the Indians still come up short) – the different perspectives that the British and French brought, and the Indians whose culture did not acknowledge that a person could own land, but by this point, the Indian tribes had already had already become dependent economically on imported European goods.
British and French clashed for control of the New World colonies constantly from 1689-1748: The French, most interested in trade, saw the Ohio River as a way to connect Canada and Louisiana and leverage their relations with Indians. The British, determined to control territory, also realized the strategic importance of this artery, “the Keystone of the Frontier.”
This becomes clear in a superbly produced video, “Whose Land?”: “The French couldn’t stand the British and the British wouldn’t rest until they owned [the territory].” Native Americans, were fully aware that they could not allow the Europeans to control the land, but they were caught in the middle – by this point, Indians were dependent upon trading for manufactured goods.
“The Indians negotiated with weight and authority. They had a powerful confederacy
Iroquois – Seneca, Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida. They had sophisticated government, freedom, a rich culture, complex trading relations. Agriculture was central but they did not have private ownership. They took a cue from nature. They enjoyed trade – and were heavily dependent on some European goods, and even took up the European religion, but kept their own ways.”
“God created all people but different,” an Indian chief said in 1742.
With French dominion on one side of the river and English on the other, where does the Indian claim lie?
George Washington, a 21-year old major in 1753 with experience as a surveyor, was given a mission to explore to Fort LeBoeuf and recommended the site for Fort Prince George.
Washington “had no diplomatic experience, and couldn’t speak French yet he was selected to bring message to French. He was selected because of his close connection with Ohio corporations and other Virginian land speculators in land. He knew ‘the West’.”
In 1754, Fort Duquesne (which was renamed Fort Pitt when the British took over), was the largest French military installation in Ohio, and evicted the Virginians.
William Pitt, for which the fort is named, never came to the colonies. The city originally was called “Pittsboro”. The Fort – perhaps because it was so foreboding, was attacked only once, during Pontiac’s War of 1763.
Its location made Pittsburgh a boom town. The Ohio River carried 18,000 settlers through in 1788. The population of Pittsburgh, just 150 in 1780, grew to 4,800 by 1810, making it the third largest in Pennsylvania after Philadelphia and Lancaster.
Its economy developed from coal mining, glass making, and boat building, fueling the nation’s industrial and physical expansion. The city was incorporated in 1816.
When I visit the museum, there are a number of school groups coming through. The school kids are sent out in teams on a scavenger hunt by a docent in period dress. What surprises the kids the most? That the Indians were not as primitive as they expected, she tells me. Indeed, many are pictured wearing European-style clothes and served in the military. By this point, the Indians were part of the world economy – the Indians traded their furs for items from as far away as China; the European traders were like Walmart to them. For the first time, I understand why the Indians did not kick the Europeans out when it was clear they were setting up outposts.
As I explore the exhibits, I learn of what may have been the first incidence of germ warfare: in 1763, an Indian trader, on orders from Ft. Pitt, is alleged to have given Indians two blankets and a handkerchief from the fort’s smallpox hospital.
I am most excited when I am introduced to an idea or a topic that I knew nothing about before, , that makes you really think.
‘Captured by Indians’
That experience happened at the Fort Pitt Museum, which happened to be presenting a fascinating exhibit, “Captured by Indians,” about European (white) colonists who were kidnapped by Indian tribes. The exhibit did not disguise the brutality, but most fascinating is that the individuals (who often were young when they were taken captive), particularly women, once they survived the arduous journey and a literal gauntlet (to weed out the weak), were adopted into the tribe, treated as equals, and generally had a better life than the colonial settlements they came from, especially if they were indentured servants or slaves or women, to the extent that when they had the chance to be “freed” and be returned to their community – such as in a hostage exchange – they would refuse and even escape back to the tribe.
The presentation, the artifacts and the connection to people living today, descendants of those people, was utterly fascinating.
“During the turbulent decades of the mid-18th century, thousands of European and African settlers were captured by American Indians whose dwindling numbers forced them to adopt non-Indians in an effort to survive. The subsequent experience of captivity and adoption forever altered both the captives and their captors as identities shifted, allegiances were tested, and once-rigid lines between cultures became forever blurred.”
The exhibit draws upon documentary evidence gleaned from 18th and early 19th century primary sources, dozens of rare artifacts, and a wide array of imagery, to examine the practice of captivity from its prehistoric roots to its impact on modern American Indians and other ethnicities.
The exhibit notes that the many of the wave of European settlers who came in the 18th century sold their freedom to come as indentured servants. Most who came were poor. The borderlands were already bitterly contested by rival Europeans and native tribes. These settlers were viewed by colonial legislators as buffers against the Indians.
The captives taken in brutal raids, massacres and abductions were mainly of young who were physically fit and could assimilate and women who would be married off and bear children. They would size people up in a raid, and decide who to take.
The exhibit tells the story through the experiences of real-life captives, and in stunning displays including three life-like vignettes that portray John Brickell, a local boy captured just a few miles from Fort Pitt at age 10; Massy Harbison, who heroically saved the life of her child after escaping from her captors; and the Kincade family, who were reunited on the Bouquet Expedition in 1764.
The exhibit, which does an outstanding view of making this rarely discussed history, makes it personal, presenting biographies and stories, draws upon artifacts borrowed from descendants of the captives, which make it all the more real and present:
There are personal artifacts on display that make this rarely discussed history all the more real:
A bullet-ridden 18th century door from a cabin near Ligonier, Pa., that was attacked by Indians during the American Revolution;
A Logan war club which was left at the site of a brutal Indian raid in southwest Virginia in 1774 which belonged to John Smith
A rare prisoner cord, used to bind captives taken during raids on frontier settlements;
An American Indian horn spoon given to Catharine Bard by her Delaware captors in 1758 (the owner who provided it to the exhibit is in her 90s)
An original pencil sketch of Mary Jemison, who was captured during the French & Indian War and lived out the rest of her days among her adoptive people; and
The hat and waistcoat of Jacob Miller, a frontier settler who was killed during a raid on Miller’s Blockhouse in Washington County in 1782.
I am amazed to learn that many of the captives preferred Indian society: Colonial society could be brutal, especially for those at the bottom (like slaves and indentured servants and poor), women were property of husband. But in native society, they had equality. “Many adopted captives lived and died among chosen people.”
At the end is a large wall of photos of people today who trace their origins to these captives.
“While many captives were returned to the society of their birth after months or years among the Indians, many others lived out the remainder of their lives with their adoptive people. Today, the descendants of captives represent a wonderfully diverse cross section of American society. In many cases they are alive today because of crucial decisions made in an instant, two centuries ago. They represent the living legacy of captivity, reminding us not only of our connection to the past, but also to the future.”
The exhibit engendered controversy when it first opened, but was so well appreciated, they extended viewing to October 2016.
The school children now are gathered around a massive, detailed model of early Pittsburgh and the docent urges them to spot the tiny, anachronistic motorcycle (to make you more observant).
In summer, the museum offers living history programs and reenactments –with staff dressed in period costumes, firing off cannons, playing fife and drum, doing carpentry.
Fort Pitt Museum (open daily, 10 am – 5 pm, $5/adults, $4/seniors/ $3 students and children 4-17), 101 Commonwealth Place, Pittsburgh, PA, 15222, 412-281-9285, www.heinzhistorycenter.org/fort-pitt/
Washington Irving’s macabre tale, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” is the inspiration for Horseman’s Hollow, a spectacularly produced interactive Halloween haunted attraction at the colonial-era Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.
It is one of a series of Historic Hudson Valley’s Halloween season spectacular events taking place over an unprecedented 32 nights. They are the largest Halloween events in the tri-state area and are expected to draw more than 150,000 visitors to Sleepy Hollow Country. They take place in several Historic Hudson Valley venues, each one an important attraction.
Washington Irving’s macabre tale The Legend of Sleepy Hollow inspires Horseman’s Hollow, an interactive haunted attraction taking place over 14 nights at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, an estate that dates back to colonial times. But for Halloween, it is stocked with professional actors and state-of-the-art special effects and lighting. Take note: Horseman’s Hollow has a high fear factor, which is why it is so popular with teenagers. (Recommended for ages 10 and up.)
Irving’s ‘Legend,’ recommended for ages 10 and up, brings the master storyteller Jonathan Kruk into the historic, candlelit interior of Sleepy Hollow’s circa-1685 Old Dutch Church, where for 14 afternoons and evenings he offers a dramatic re-telling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow accompanied by live organ music.
The Legend Behind the ‘Legend’ is a daytime experience at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside homestead in Tarrytown, N.Y., that highlights the author of the famous story.
And continuing for a record 32 selected evenings through Nov. 13, The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze® is the Hudson Valley’s biggest all-ages Halloween extravaganza. A small team of artists comes together to carve more than 7,000 jacks, many fused together in elaborate constructions such as life-size dinosaurs and eight-foot-tall working jack-o’lanterns-in-the-box, all lit up throughout the wooded walkways, orchards, and gardens of historic Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.
Headless Horseman Rides Again
Philipsburg Manor, is but a few miles up the road from Washington Irving’s homestead at Sunnyside and, legend has it, is the setting for his classic story. The village, which was once known as North Tarrytown, actually changed its name to Sleepy Hollow in 1996.
But here at the 350-year old Philipsburg Manor, one of the Historic Hudson Valley historic sites, you can easily imagine the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” as Irving saw it in his mind.
Now in its 7th year, Horseman’s Hollow, which welcomed more than 30,000 visitors last year, is a haunted experience in the heart of Sleepy Hollow that takes the tale of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to its darkest extremes. Historic Philipsburg Manor transforms into a terrifying landscape ruled by the undead, the evil, and the insane, all serving the Headless Horseman himself.
For 14 nights, historic Philipsburg Manor transforms into a terrifying landscape ruled by the undead, the evil, and the insane, all serving the Headless Horseman himself.
The 300-year old manor house, barn and gristmill of the Philipses, a family of Anglo-Dutch merchants who owned the 50,000 acre- estate, become the sets and the backdrop for the really, really ghoulish hauntings by colonial spirits.
Haunted house professional Lance Hallowell is back this year to lead a crew of award-winning makeup and costume designers and a 45-member-strong cast of experienced actors to create an immersive, interactive, pleasantly terrifying experience, with state-of-the-spooky-art special effects.
Custom built set pieces and period-correct costumes help orient the experience in Philipsburg Manor’s traditional time period of the mid-1700s.
What is best about Horseman’s Hollow is the sheer number (and talent) of the live spirits – they are very considerate, too – they seem to know just how much to terrify you (though really squeamish and young children should not come). I have found that if the ghouls sense you are easily frightened (like me), they tend to take down a notch their scare factor (I basically announce that I am easily frightened as I enter one of the venues).
But the professional actors and state-of-the-art special effects, contributes to a high fear factor (it’s recommended for ages 10 and up and is not for the squeamish and you need to take heed of the warning: This event is NOT suitable for adults who are claustrophobic, have heart or respiratory conditions, are prone to seizures, or have other chronic health conditions.)
As we start our experience, walking up a dirt path that rings the pond, a faceless colonial escorts us for a time, then goes into the trees to surprise a group of teenagers who are following behind. With each step through the woods, you leave the modern world behind and suspend disbelief.
Timed tickets mean that it isn’t overcrowded (safety in numbers?) – but as we walk through (guided by helpful spirits with lanterns who lead us to the next haunted house), we hear the screams of a pack of teenage girls in the distant dark. It adds to the atmosphere.
Look carefully in the deepest, darkest shadow, and there is the Headless Horseman himself, astride his steed, standing quietly as if taking in the scene or simply delighting in the terror of recognition as the clueless passerby realizes who is lurking in the dark.
Horseman’s Hollow dates are Oct. 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 27-31. Online tickets are $20 ($25 on Saturdays). Fast Track, for a $15 per ticket upgrade, lets visitors skip the line in their timeslot. Historic Hudson Valley members receive a$5 per ticket discount.
Philipsburg Manor is at 381 North Broadway (Route 9) in Sleepy Hollow. (There is a parking field.)
Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze
The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze, which drew more than 130,000 visitors last year, features more than 7,000 illuminated, individually hand-carved jack o’ lanterns. Elaborate single-pumpkin carvings and huge multi-jack o’lantern constructions are professionally lit throughout the landscape of Van Cortlandt Manor in various themed areas.
Favorite installations such as Jurassic Park and the giant spider web are joined this year by new creations including a plus-sized Pumpkin Planetarium, a Pumpkin Zee Bridge, and a brand-new herd of pint-sized dinosaursall made of jack o’lanterns.
Creative Director Michael Natiello leads a small team of Historic Hudson Valley staff and local artists who carve. In addition, more than 2,000 volunteers help scoop and light the pumpkins. You can watch Blaze artists carving on site during the event.
Café Blazé, by Geordane’s of Irvington, offers culinary treats including soup, veggie chili, muffins, pumpkin cookies, and cider. The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze Shop has a full bounty of Blaze-specific merchandise including hats, notepads, games, T-shirts, magnets, caps, mugs, and jewelry.
New music this year created by professional musician, radio personality, and Halloween fanatic Richard Christy will augment the visitor experience. The new tracks as well as music from Christy’s Blaze: The Soundtrack Volume I & II play throughout the event.(Soundtrack Volume II is available as a CD at the event and both volumes are available as digital downloads and streams from iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.)
Blaze dates are Sept. 30, Oct. 1-2, 7-10, 13-16, 19-31, Nov. 3-6, 10-13. Online tickets are $20 for adults ($25 on Saturdays), $16 for children 3-17 ($20 on Saturdays), and free for children under 3 and Historic Hudson Valley members.
Van Cortlandt Manor is at 525South Riverside Avenue, just off Route 9 in Croton-on-Hudson (A parking field is on site).
Master storyteller Jonathan Krukoffers a dramatic re-telling of Washington Irving’s classic tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, featuring the Headless Horseman, Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones, and Katrina Van Tassel. Flavored with live spooky organ music by Jim Keyes, Kruk’s storytelling takes place in the historic, candlelit setting of the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow. The circa-1685 stone church is across the street from Philipsburg Manor, where visitors will park. Performances last about 45 minutes.
Irving’s ‘Legend’ dates are Oct. 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 27-31. Seating is very limited and there are three performances each evening. Online tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for children under 18. Historic Hudson Valley members receive a $5 per ticket discount.
Legend Behind the ‘Legend’
Sunnyside, the home of Washington Irving, celebrates its connection to Irving’s classic tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, at this family friendly daytime event. The Legend Behind the ‘Legend includes tours of Irving’s home – a colorful blend of architectural styles – which showcase numerous objects from HHV’s collection related to Irving’s famous story. Visitors can also enjoy a shadow puppet performance of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and experience one of Irving’s spooky tales on a walk through the woods. Sunnyside is on West Sunnyside Lane, off Route 9 in Tarrytown.
Legend Behind the ‘Legend’ dates areOct. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29-30. Online tickets are $16for adults, $12 for seniors, $8 for children 3-17, and free for those under 3 and Historic Hudson Valley members.
All events are held rain or shine. Proceeds support Historic Hudson Valley, the Tarrytown-based private, non-profit educational organization that owns and operates the historic sitesthat host these events.
Because of the popularity of these events, it is essential to purchase tickets in advance.
Buy tickets online at www.hudsonvalley.org or by calling 914-366-6900 ($2 per ticket surcharge for phone orders and for tickets purchased onsite, if available).