Dreams, Stories and Things from the Vanderbilt Museum

a spring day on the former gold coast of Long Island

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The Dreams

For 32 years of work dreams about work visited occasionally, then when retirement approached and overtook me these became an almost nightly visitation.

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Northport Harbor from the Vanderbilt Museum

Last week, a few months into retirement, the haunting stopped, replaced by adventures by and on the ocean.  

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It brings to mind, a few years ago Pam and I took lessons at Cornell’s Merrill Family Sailing Center followed by several seasons of memberships.  We’d take out sailboats the size on the one enjoyed by the fellow above in Northport Harbor.

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Fountain and Pool
Fountain and Pool of the Mansion Garden

We’d spend entire days on the water, looking up at the people driving the hill up and down route 13.  “How lucky we are here and not there”, I’d say.

The Stories

Willy Vanderbilt named his Centerport estate “Eagle’s Nest” after his first yacht, “Eagle” that was anchored in Northport harbor along the estate shoreline.  In 1932 the German Krupp Germaniawerft company build a new yacht named Alva, after his mother.

Fountain and Pool
The mansion garden features several fountains and pools. Northport harbor and Long Island Sound are the view.

Willy had a “thing” about the infant Baccus.  My first Vanderbilt Museum posting “A Taste of Gatsby: details from the Vanderbilt Museum”included the following depictions of the infant Baccus.  the name preferred by the Romans.

Museum Garden Statue
Statue of a young Bacchus in the Mansion Garden with Northport Harbor and the Long Island Sound reflection

To the Greeks he was Dionysus.  Also known as the “twice born” from the myth of his being carried in his father Zeus’ thigh after Hera, the jealous wife, plotted the death of his mother, the mortal Semele.  

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Fountain Figure

The infancy of Dionysus was perilous, with Hera plotting revenge Zeus found safe haven for the child at a place of earth called Mount Nysa, with beings named Rain Nymphs.  The fascination of Vanderbilt with the story continued with the acquisition and display of a statue of the infant Dionysus with a protective nymph.

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Dionysus and protector, a Rain-nymph of Nysa

The Things

The statue and plinth are at the stairs into the garden.

Mansion Garden and Fountain from archway.

 

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Mansion Garden with Red Maple

 

Window and Red Maple
Garden of the mansion with window, red maple and early growth of tiger lilies

 

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Ornate Grating and Flowers
The mansion garden with an ornate grated window, azelia and bleeding hearts.

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

References
Wikipedia “Dionysus” and “Willy Vanderbilt”

More Details from the Vanderbilt Museum

a spring day on the former gold coast of Long Island

The Planetarium

Thirty five years after completing his Eagles Nest estate and twenty seven after his death, this planeterium became an addition to the museums left by William K. Vanderbilt II (“Willie K”).
Located next to the Rose Garden, where my last blog “A Taste of Gatsby – details from the Vanderbilt Museum” left off, this planetarium is on the site for the estate tennis courts. The Planeterium reopened March 2013 with a complete equipment upgrade.

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Planetarium Dome
The star of the planetarium is a Konica Minolta GeminiStar III projector; a machine that will put this museum on the map for having one of the finer planetarium projectors in the United States.

There are several museums on the grounds, joined by graciously appointed walkways.
This is a corner urn along the walk to the mansion.

Wall Planter
This planter graces a wall corner along the path from the Planetarium to the Corinthian Colonnade

 

Courtyard Entrance

The Spanish Revival style mansion gathers around a central, cobblestone courtyard entered through this elaborate sandstone gate flanked by two carved sandstone urns, each at least six feet tall with pedestal.

Archway Courtyard Entrance
A gated arch serves as the mansion courtyard entrance.

The gated entrance is the base of a bell tower. Willie brought from Russia a church bell that is older than the Liberty bell. He used to have great fun ringing the bell on Sunday mornings to disturb the sleep of his partying son and friends. That stopped when the neighbors arrived as an angry, spontaneous group to complain.

Urn at Mansion Courtyard Arch
The mansion courtyard is entered through a gated archway. This cast urn graces the right side.

The cobblestone road leads up to the mansion, over a bridge and into the courtyard.
Here is a detail of the walk way, formed from glacially rounded pebbles very common on beaches of Long Island’s North Shore.

Pebble Designs in Walkway
A walkway decorated with black and white pebbles leads into the mansion courtyard. This is a portion just inside the arch.

 

A Ghost in the Garden

Across the courtyard from the bell tower is this arched entrance to the gardens along the east mansion walls. As we approached the figure to the right seemed to be a ghost, she was so still, enthralled by the view of Northport Harbor.

Archway from Courtyard
Archway with view toward Northport Bay and Asharoken

There were many cast stone planters in an Aztec motif such as that to the left of the archway and, in a detail shot, below.

Wall Urn and Northport Harbor
A cast wall urn from the Mansion Garden of the Vanderbilt Museum.

We continued through the archway into the gardens. With plenty of time before the Mansion tour (highly recommended) we wandered at length and had an interesting conversation with the figure of the archway, a retired lady from Smithtown (and not a ghost).

Pam in Mansion Garden
Pam struck up a conversation with another visitor who was very knowledgeable about the museum history and grounds.

Click link to read more in “Dreams, Stories and Things from the Vanderbilt Museum.”

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

A Taste of Gatsby: details from the Vanderbilt Museum

a spring day on the former gold coast of Long Island

 

Fountain FigureA Taste of Gatsby

The first weekend of May 2013 my wife, Pam, and I attended a New York City Ballet performance on Saturday. Sunday we visited the Vanderbilt Museum of Centerport, Long Island.

This is the former “Eagles Nest” estate of William (“Willie”) Kissam Vanderbilt II.

Museum visitors are first drawn to a grand Corinthian colonnade and view of this boathouse on Northport Harbor.

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Boat House

Vanderbilt and Gatsby

Willie K chose Centerport in 1910 for an anchorage on the well protected Northport Harbor, deep enough to his yacht the size of a destroyer class ship named for his mother, Alva.
The estate grounds are high above the harbor, the mansion and gardens designed to enhance the view.

There are superficial parallels between Willie K’s life and “The Great Gatsby.” The first suburban commuter, Willie K was an auto enthusiast. A theme of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby” is travel back and forth from New York City to the great estates on Long Island’s North Shore. In Gatsby, while the vehicles are grand, the travel is pointless or worse. In comparison, Willie K as a pioneering automobile racer, achieved a land speed record and founded a major race, “The Vanderbilt Cup.” Gatsby, above and beyond his fictional status, is a tenuous, transient figure. Vanderbilt established this estate, grounds and museums we still enjoy today.

Rose Garden

A short walk from the colonnade is a rose garden surrounding a pool and fountain. These Corinthian columns sized to a human scale flank a dedication bench on the northern side overlooking the boathouse through a hillside forest.

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Rose Garden Bench

Spirit of the Mediterranean

This figure of a flourishing infant is atop the rose garden fountain. Pam and I first noticed this character of the Eagles Nest estate here, with his abundant grape cluster, and came to know him as an expression of Willie’s outlook.

To the northeast / east is a dramatic view of Northport harbor and the Long Island Sound.

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Rose Garden Fountain

The mansion and surrounding grounds were imagined by Willie and implemented by the architects Warren, Wetmore and Pearce, over a twenty five year building campaign, from his feeling for the Mediterranean.

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Museum Garden Statue

We were gifted with weather that evoked the full expression of the Mediterranean spirit.

Click Link to read more in, “More Details from the Vanderbilt Museum.”

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Long Island Sakura (Cherry Blossoms)

Clouds of Blossoms

We have a selection of teas at home for brewing afternoons as a pick-me-up. Some brought back from travels, most from a local supermarket. This Japanese green tea brings to mind my childhood and our trips to Long Island to visit my Mom until she passed away June 2013.

As you can see from this photograph of the tea in a white lotus bowl, there are pieces of pink and white stuff mixed in. These are called by the Japanese “sakura”, cherry blossoms.

Click any photograph for my Getty portfolio.Japanese Sakura Sencha Green Tea – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

In Japan, since the 8th century, “Hanami” is the centuries-old practice of picnicking under a blooming sakura or ume tree. Here in the United States, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is celebrated commemorating the 1912 gift of Prunus serrulata Japanese cherry trees from Tokyo to the city of Washington.

Traditionally cherry blossoms remind the Japanese of clouds, the blooms come out en mass, the tree changes shape with the breeze.  Viewing sakura brings to mind thoughts of the transience of existence, the fragility and transience of the exquisite blooms leads one to appreciate the moment.  The following photograph of Pam was taken a month before my Mother’s sudden decline and passing in 2013.  We’d travel to Long Island several times a year to visit her, then take in familiar sights.

The tree over Pam is called a Shirofugen (Scientific name: Prunus serrulata, of the Rosaceae family) and is one species planted around National Tidal Basin, Washington D.C. Shirofugen blossoms are described “Flowers double, deep pink at first, fading to pale pink.”

 

Click any photograph for my Getty portfolio.Pam with a Shirofugen Flowering Cherry in bloom – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

Growing up, our family visited the Planting Fields, a state park, several times in the spring and summer. As an adult with a growing family in Glen Cove, right around the corner, the Planting Fields were a welcome outing and visited several time times a year. The following photograph, taken that same May 2013 day, was a favorite park scene.

The two flowering cherry trees in the foreground are a type of Japanese sakura called Yoshino, one the most popular flowering cherries in temperate climates worldwide. All Yoshinos are clones from a single grafting and propagated throughout the world. The scientific name outlines the cross breeding of this variety, Prunus X Yeaoensis. Behind the cherries is an Oak tree, new leaves a bright green, and a pink child’s playhouse cottage.

A changing scene of the park is the now frequent visits by wedding parties and photographers, groups of Asian people, the bride and groom posing under the clouds of blossoms. By frequent I mean a steady stream, one after the other, when the blossoms are full.

Click any photograph for my Getty portfolio.Playhouse with Flowering Cherry and Oak trees – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

In 2007 I spent hours framing and capturing the following photograph on a Saturday, the day before Mother’s Day, during a visit to my Mother, who was widowed December, 1995. I used an inexpensive tripod, a Kodak DCS Pro slr/c camera body with the Canon 50mm f 1.4 USM lens, a UV filter and lots of time. There were no interruptions that day, at 5:30 pm I had the area to myself.

This child’s garden playhouse, framed by an ancient oak, pink Japanese cherry blossoms and gracious lawn was awarded a Photographic Society of American, Pictorial Print Division, Print of the Month award, published in the society magazine for that month.

My online gallery (see link below) “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”, has this print available for sale on high quality photographic stock with optional framing.

This week, I submitted the photograph for my Getty portfolio.  As of today, I have not received their decision.

Click any photograph for my Getty portfolio.Playhouse – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

Please browse my reasonably priced stock photography.  License a photograph, download and use it for your website or blog.  Click this link to browse all my Getty IStock Photography offerings.

Or click this link to purchase a print of “Playhouse” with optional custom framing from my Fine Art Gallery.