The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘North Shore

Vanderbilt Mansion 5

with 3 comments

check out the prior Vanderbilt Mansion posts: 1, 2, 3, and 4

I’m in a bit of a conversational mood tonight, lords and ladies… forgive the indulgence of a personally opinionated voice in this posting-

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The rest of the Eagle’s Nest Estate are landscaped grounds, whose manicuring has certainly seen better days. No sleight is meant toward the current custodians, of course, but one must assume that the status minded Vanderbilts undoubtedly spent a great deal more on gardening than a museum can. Observation revealed many places where the unlimited budgets of earlier times would be helpful in shoring up the estate.

note: I’ve been to the Hellenic Republic, commonly called Greece, a few times. Those people have the good taste to just accept ruination of aging structures.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Built fancifully, to satisfy the whimsy and taste of landed gentry, the buildings that dot the Eagle’s Nest are all in differing stages of dissolution. Researching the Vanderbilt Mansion, here at Northport, repeatedly turned up tales of financial strife. The property was willed, ultimately, to the State of New York which has inconsistently funded it. Forced to accede to popular culture by financial reality, the planetarium presents Laser Rock shows- a vestige of Long Island’s 1970′s and 80′s “head culture”.

note: despite the reputation of the five boroughs of New York City as the center of mortal sin and drug culture in the tri-state area held by suburban residents, the psychedelic culture calls Long Island, New Jersey, Upstate New York, and Connecticut home. How many Fish bumper stickers do you see in Brooklyn?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The actual mansion is a hodge podge of architectural themes and styles. Bas reliefs, which repeat and amplify the hideous battrachian implications found on the Hall of Fishes, seem to be randomly placed throughout the main building. On the lowest level of the place is a room of taxidermy, whose prize possession is a whale shark. An accidental byproduct of the stuffed skins is produced by the searching horror of their glass eyes. I chose not to showcase this section of the trip, as blood sport is not something which Newtown Pentacle editorial policy is very fond of, and because of some misguided sympathy for the long dead animals which line this rich man’s walls.

note: Your humble narrator is a carnivore, and is more aware than most of how an animal’s flesh hits his plate. The companionship of many a Vegan has been enjoyed at Newtown Pentacle HQ, and that group of folks aren’t exactly shy about sharing their viewpoints with me.  Hypocritical, I nevertheless don’t see the value of publishing a photo of a stuffed Tiger skin which is caked with dust.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As is the case with many quasi public-private institutions, signs adjuring the practice of photography abound. I can understand a regulation saying “Not Tripod, No Lights”, but am flabbergasted by the notion that a public building or Non-Profit corporation which welcomes visitors forbids the collection of photons. As mentioned in the past, your humble narrator is employed sometimes as a photo retoucher and all around desktop publishing guy at major metropolitan advertising agencies, and has developed a rather sophisticated knowledge of intellectual property law and custom. Did you know that the Empire State building itself, I mean the actual building, is a zealously protected and trademarked intellectual property? If you want to use an image of New York and the Empire State appears in it as a main element (over 30% of the shot), you need to seek permission from some landlord.

note: Yes, I claim copyright on the photos and text that appear in this blog. Yes, I want to use a “creative commons” approach, but counsel has informed me that while it sounds great, there is no significant legal precedent or body of case law covering such status- especially in international agreements. Yes, the Empire State people need to protect their “brand” and try to make a few bucks at the same time. Should the Catholics claim copyright on the cross, by this logic?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Remnants of the Eagle’s Nest’s role as a port can be observed just at the water’s edge, beyond fences of brush and bush. Shame, the beach was unreachable along any path I attempted. Signage forbade the use of stairs as unsafe, but I felt that the area was closed merely in the name of not having to maintain it in the expensive manner required for disabled access which would be demanded under state law. The entire estate, incidentally, was not geared well for wheelchairs or other ambulatory contrivances. It is constructed on a steep and sloping shoreline which is subsected by a series of smaller yet remarkable hills and the connective tissue of the place are stairs.

note: Northport hosts many impressive and attractive homes, and is obviously a moneyed community even today. My family has one of its branches here, in nearby Melville, which established itself in the 1960′s as part of the enormous eastward migration from Brooklyn and Queens of the same ethnic urban hordes which the Vanderbilts and other “bosses” had established these country home communities to escape from in the early 20th century. I would mention that my Uncle’s down payment for his house near “Old Country Road” was accomplished via the GI Bill and the sweat of his brow, not by inheritance. He’s a depression era Jewish kid from Brooklyn.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s no possibility, you see, that I cannot react to this vulgar display of financial power without comment. Another one of the little things about history that emerged when researching this series of posts is this- the Vanderbilt family won the battle. So did Carnegie, and Rockefeller. Their wealth, won by the literal slaughter of their workers, built a series of these monumental structures across the Americas and endowed University, Library, and Charitable Organ. Within a mere three generations, who they were and what they did- these Robber Barons- is forgotten by the population at large. The names of these men and women are carved in modern stone as benificent, yet their business practices and corrupting influence over government and finance are overlooked. Philanthropy, as a strategic tool of historical reputation, works.

note: I ain’t no commie, don’t get a humble narrator wrong- however- the obscene splendor enjoyed by these few at the expense of the many resulted in a lot of death and trauma in the 19th century. Conveniently, the working class then as now were willing to focus in on comical personnages of the “dirty politician” like Boss Tweed- who had risen from their own social group- rather than focus on the real bosses in the overclass. The banks, the trusts, the corporations- Andrew Jackson and Dwight Eisenhower warned us a long time ago. Tea Party? I drink coffee. Black.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Eagle’s Nest was built in 1910, same year that Henri Rousseau died and the Earth passed through the tail of Halley’s Comet. In Tibet, the 13th Dalai Lama was forced to flee to India, and Typhoid Mary won release from Blackwell’s Island, while over in Manhattan, and Brooklyn, and Queens- the immigrant working class found themselves fighting over crusts of bread. There was real fear of a communist revolution in the United States in this period, and the Robber Barons built concentric rings of security into their houses. William K. Vanderbilt II felt the need for a porticullis, for instance.

note: Our society’s lack of what I’ve termed “institutional memory” is what is going to destroy us in the end.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Your humble narrator started working at 7 years old, shining shoes in a mafioso barber shop in Canarsie. It’s been a series of humiliations since, once I enjoyed a job whose task list included- literally- shoveling shit. For a while, I was an Aquarium Service Technician and found myself in Gypsy Rose Lee’s former mansion, down the block from the Vanderbilt Library in midtown Manhattan (which was owned at the time by the painter Jasper Johns- nice guy). Another professional incarnation found me laboring as a Fine Art Mover, installing Giacometti sculptures in a private gallery in Croton on Hudson. Corporate jobs have included work at a midtown investment bank, on the night shift, which had the portrait of George Washington that is found on the Dollar Bill prominently displayed in its executive wing- literal corridors of power. I can tell you this- the bosses don’t care about you, and view everyone outside of their social class as either inferior and lacking in ambition or worthy of pity.

note: OK, that sounds pretty “commie”, but the inequitable split of capitalist reward is a trend which had abated somewhat between the Great Depression and the 1980′s and has been operating in a retrograde fashion since the Reagan years. The death of organized labor and collective bargaining, as well as the cult of Ayn Rand and the smaller government mantra is a disturbing trend and an example of “the rubber band stretching back to its original shape”.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Inside the mansion, the offices and drawing room of William K. Vanderbilt the 2nd. From here, expeditions were launched across the seven seas which plumbed the benthic depths, searching for some elusive prize. Organic specimens and detailed charts were compiled, hidden knowledge organized, and ancient mariner’s secrets revealed in the pages of worm eaten books. What secrets were uncovered, and hidden from coarse eyes?

note: you don’t really believe that what the Vanderbilts made public was all they found, do you?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Go take a look for yourselves:

from vanderbiltmuseum.org

Vanderbilt Museum April Hours
March 27 – April 5, 2010 (Closed Easter)

Mansion, Marine Museum, Natural History Exhibits and Grounds Open Tuesdays and Fridays 12-5. Saturdays 11-5 and Sundays 12-5. Closed to general public Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays except by appointment. For more information please call 631.854-5579. Please check back for May and June Hours.

Observing Friday Nights (weather permitting)

[The closing times listed above is for the closing of the Buildings/Grounds and Exhibit Areas. The ticket booth will close one hour earlier. The last mansion tour is one hour before closing.]

Directions:

Vanderbilt Museum
180 Little Neck Road
Centerport, New York 11721-0605

From the LIE Exit 51, The Northern State Parkway Exit 42N, and The Southern State Parkway Exit 39N:
Drive North on Deer Park Avenue, bear left at the fork (at traffic light), onto Park Avenue. At 3rd light, make a right turn onto Broadway, continue for 4-5 miles until you reach Route 25A. Cross 25A (to left of Centerport Automotive), and you are on Little Neck Road. The Vanderbilt Museum is 1.5 miles on the right.

From the South Shore:
Take the Sagtikos Pakway North to the Sunken Meadow Parkway north. Take the last exit, 25A West. Travel about 8 miles and make a right at the Centerport Automotive in Centerport, onto Little Neck Road. We are 1.5 miles on the right.

From Route 110 or 25A West:
Travel north on 110 to Huntington Village. Make a right turn onto 25A/Main Street. Travel about 4 miles to Centerport, at the flashing yellow light, bear left onto Park Circle, then turn left onto Little Neck Road. We are 1.5 miles on the right.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 17, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Vanderbilt Mansion 4

with one comment

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The upper crust in New York City, like rich people everywhere, have always held a certain fascination with the esoteric arts. Modernity registers adherents to a bastardized form of the Hebrew Kabbalah, the dietary rituals of Sufism have been commoditized into “cleansing diets”, and the Yoga favored by the ladies of the Upper East Side was popularized in the United States by Aleister Crowley. The Vanderbilts, all the way back to the Commodore, are no strangers to the occult.

from library.vanderbilt.edu

Like millions of Americans of his time, the Commodore was a believer in occult practices and enlisted the help of mediums to contact departed family members. Following his wife Sophia’s death in 1868, according to Stasz, Cornelius became involved with the Chaflin sisters, two mediums who claimed to be able to materialize ectoplasm. Victoria was said to have been clairvoyant from the age of three; Tennessee, the younger, had once been billed as “the Wonder Child” in a traveling medicine show.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Fortune tellers, spiritualists, theosophists- all eked out an existence at the edges of high society. The parlor culture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries encouraged a diverse range of visitors to find themselves presenting philosophical or religious theories to the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age. Occultists of all stripes were favored guests, who would thrill the children and delight the ladies. Often, social issues such as abolition of slavery or the adoption of the so called “english week” for laborers would be discussed. Such presentations, when delivered by reputable speakers, would often result in philanthropic gestures toward this university or that orphanage. The spiritualists, however, had to become theatrical.

Parlor tricks, as they became known, were designed to excite the fancy of an audience. Psychics, wizards, and healers minister to and suck upon the teat of wealth- the best the poor can hope for is a prophet.

from dowling.edu

Dowling College originated in 1955 when Adelphi College offered extension classes in Port Jefferson, Riverhead, and Sayville. In 1959, at the urging of community leaders, Adelphi Suffolk College became the first four year, degree granting liberal arts institution in Suffolk County, housed in an old public school building in Sayville. In January 1963, Adelphi Suffolk College purchased the former W.K. Vanderbilt estate in Oakdale and began developing as an important educational force on Long Island.

The Vanderbilt Era. In 1876, William K. Vanderbilt, grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, the railroad magnate, purchased 900 acres, from Montauk Highway to the Great South Bay, on the east bank of the Connetquot River, on which to build his summer and holiday residence. The original mansion burned to the ground and was rebuilt in 1901 with the 110 room, graystone and red brick structure, designed by Richard Howland Hunt. In 1920, after the death of W.K. Vanderbilt, the estate was put up for sale by his son Harold K. Vanderbilt. After seven years, the mansion and its surrounding lands were sold to developers. The farm area became an artists’ colony while the large parcel of wooded land with its extensive canals became the residential community known as Idle Hour.

Pre-College Years. The mansion remained relatively untouched through a succession of owners. These included flamboyant characters of the Prohibition Era and a short term stay of a spiritual cult, the Royal Fraternity of Master Metaphysicians. In 1947, when the National Dairy Research Council purchased the mansion and the remaining 23 acres of the original tract, extensive changes were made to accommodate laboratories in the Carriage House (now Curtin Student Center) and indoor tennis courts (now part of the Kramer Science Center).

- photo by Mitch Waxman

William K. Vanderbilt II was born in 1878- 13 years after the civil war, and died in 1944- one year and eight months before Hiroshima. The first half of his lifetime took place during a time known as the Gilded Age (which his family personally gilded, mind you) but more importantly- it was also the time of the Third Great Awakening and the Second Industrial Revolution. An era of wild experimentation with religious and spiritual stylings, the period between the Civil War and the Atomic Bomb spawned radical political movements as well. Suffragettes (one of whom was Willie K.’s own mother- Alva Vanderbilt), socialists, theosophists- all were extant. “The pendulum swings both ways” as I always say, and our modern world’s fascination with religious and political fundamentalism is the inverse of this deeply emotional era with its wide open horizons.

I would point out incidentally, that when visiting the wikipedia page for “The Gilded Age”, the house shown is the Vanderbilt’s own “Breakers” in Newport, Rhode Island.

from hubpages.com

All of those things are almost as impressive as the events that seem to have taken place there. Rumors of haunting’s and paranormal activities have occurred on the grounds ever since its owner, George Washington Vanderbilt passed on to the other side in 1914 due to complications from surgery.

It’s been recorded that his widow, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser Vanderbilt, carried many conversations with her deceased husband over the years. Edith passed away in 1958. It is said that’s when a lot of the strange events began to happen. Employees began to hear laughing, talking, footsteps, and would see George Vanderbilt in the library, as well as Edith.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The neat cases of taxidermy lining the walls here at the Hall of Fishes hold rare and esoteric specimens of the deep, collected and categorized by WKV2 (William K. Vanderbilt II from this point on) and returned to Long Island’s North Port where this estate- his Eagle’s Nest- is found. Curators gently asked me not to focus in too deeply on the specimens, and implied that a criminal trade exists for biological artifacts such as these as an explanation for a ban on photography normally enforced within the building. Irony, for the Vanderbilts were seldom camera shy, when presenting themselves in public that is.

from paranormalknowledge.com

Cornelius and seven other Vanderbilts are buried at Moravian Cemetery in Staten Island, New York. It is the largest cemetery in Staten Island. In the 19th century, the Vanderbilts gifted this famous cemetery over twelve acres of land. Today, Moravian Cemetery has 113 acres of land.

The Vanderbilts are buried in the Vanderbilt tomb in Moravian Cemetery. It is the largest private tomb in the United States. As you approach the back of the cemetery, you will come across the Vanderbilt tomb gate, which had to of been locked and stood-upright due to the death of a woman. The gate had fallen on her, causing her death. The path to the tomb is a 1/5-mile drive after passing the gate.

The Vanderbilt tomb’s gate is said to be haunted. Besides the death of the woman, whenever someone takes a picture in front of it, it is said that people in the picture disappear or unknown people appear. There have been a number of freak accident deaths that have occurred at the Vanderbilt tomb. It has also been said that if you bring flowers to the tomb, you will be chased and even grabbed at by a ghost in a gray suit.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A horrible cacophony of those things which the sea hides were arranged and posed as if they were participating in some hideous bacchanal. Something about their arrangement awakened in me some forgotten ideation about some relict town in New England, and a sea captain… who came to Calvary Cemetery from Massachusetts to collect the corpse of a the enigmatic “turn of the last century merchant trader” named Gilman. (for more on “searching for Gilman” click here)

Their odd aspect and staring eyes drove me into one of “my states”, and the room began to swirl around your humble narrator. The benthic composition suggested to my fevered thoughts.. how can I explain the seeming eidelon of “a very bad idea” which hatched in my rapidly numbing mind?

I nearly collapsed to the marbled floor, but luckily- Our Lady of the Pentacle anticipated me and moved her frail husband subtly toward the door.

from wikipedia

In those days, there were many weddings of European aristocrats with American heiresses. For the nobles of the Old World, such unions were shameful, but useful in financial terms; the nobility looked upon the Americans who married into their caste as intruders, unworthy of their new position.

In her biography, Consuelo Vanderbilt later described how she was required to wear a steel rod, which ran down her spine and fastened around her waist and over her shoulders, to improve her posture. She was educated entirely at home by governesses and tutors and learned foreign languages at an early age. Her mother was a strict disciplinarian and whipped her with a riding crop for minor infractions. When, as a teenager, Consuelo objected to the clothing her mother had selected for her, Alva Vanderbilt told her that “I do the thinking, you do as you are told.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Half leaning on her alabaster form, half walking, I stole one last shot from inside this place… this Dutchman’s idea of a scientific paradise.

from wikipedia

Alva and William K. Vanderbilt would have three children. Consuelo was born on 2 March 1877, followed by William Kissam II on 2 March 1878, and Harold Stirling on 6 July 1884. Alva would maneuver Consuelo into marrying Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough on 6 November 1895. The marriage would be annulled much later, at the duke’s request and Consuelo’s assent, on 19 August 1926. The annulment was fully supported by Alva, who testified that she had forced Consuelo into the marriage.[7] By this time Consuelo and her mother enjoyed a closer, easier relationship. Consuelo went on to marry Jacques Balsan, a French aeronautics pioneer. William Kissam II would become president of the New York Central Railroad Company on his father’s death in 1920. Harold Stirling graduated from Harvard Law School in 1910, then joined his father at the New York Central Railroad Company. He remained the only active representative of the Vanderbilt family in the New York Central Railroad after his brother’s death, serving as a director and member of the executive committee until 1954.

- photo by Our Lady of the Pentacle

While I recovered from my near faint, Our Lady of the Pentacle went to work, citing some Britishism about grumbling. Heroically, she snatched the trusty G10 camera from my pack and procured the shots above and below, detailing the fantastic patinas of the stout iron wrought door that seals the museum off from the outside world. I wondered aloud… why would such a barrier be required in a gated estate surrounded by high masonry walls with a manned guardhouse at the front gate?

from wikipedia

In 1936 and 1937 George Vanderbilt sponsored a renewal of auto races for the Vanderbilt Cup but most important to him was a scholarly interest in the study of marine life. He owned several yachts and used them to conduct scientific expeditions all over the globe. His voyages conducted important research in expeditions to Africa in 1934 and aboard the schooner Cressida, he made an ocean journey in 1937 to the South Pacific notably in Sumatra that carried out a systematic study of more than 10,000 fish specimens (434 species in 210 genera).

His fifth major expedition was on the schooner Pioneer in 1941 to the Bahamas, Caribbean Sea, Panama, Galapagos Archipelago and Mexican Pacific Islands.

He established the George Vanderbilt Foundation for scientific research but outside academic circles, his important work has mostly been overshadowed by the lavish lifestyles and the Vanderbilt mansions of some of the other members of the Vanderbilt family.

- photo by Our Lady of the Pentacle

Outside, beneath the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself, I began to feel more like myself. Our Lady adjured me to rest while she grabbed her shots.

from nytimes.com

Swift changes of temperature and a wide variation in scenery are all part of the day’s run if one happens to motor in portions of North Africa as did William K. Vanderbilt, Jr., in some journeyings which he describes in The Journal of the Automobile Club of America.

- photo by Our Lady of the Pentacle

The forbidding door, we were told by museum staff, once had needle like spikes protruding from it. The door faces the seaward side of the hill, where the Alva once docked in Northport, and delivered those things it had dredged up out of the dark and cold sea to the clean sands of the Long Island. Who can guess what sort of creatures Vanderbilt and his crew made congress with as they travelled around the globe?

from nytimes.com

William K. Vanderbilt, Jr., was arrested in Long Island City on a charge of speeding his automobile through the streets of that city last evening. He was only overtaken and arrested after a lively chase, which extended from Jackson Avenue and Beach Street to the viaduct of the Newtown Creek Bridge which crosses Jackson and Borden Avenues, where he was compelled to slow up in order to pass under the viaduct.

- photo by Our Lady of the Pentacle

Recovering, I managed to resume my activities, and Our Lady of the Pentacle insisted I step away from the Hall of the Fishes and walk with her in light- for a time.

check out this pdf of the “Bulletin of Vanderbilt Marine Museum, Volume 3, Scientific Results of the Cruises of the Yacths “Eagle” and “Ara”, 1921-1928, William K. Vanderbilt, commanding” at decapoda.nhm.org

Final Vanderbilt Museum post tomorrow…

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 14, 2010 at 2:24 am

Vanderbilt Mansion 3

with 2 comments

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Hall of Fishes, nestled squamously against a steep hill, displays certain motifs and thematic elements that are mockeries of Roman proportion and restraint. The individual who commissioned this structure was a railroad tycoon and adventurer whom men called William K. Vanderbilt II (or Jr. depending on time period).

William K. Vanderbilt II (WKV2 from this point on) commanded a fleet of what he called “steam yachts” but were actually maritime research vessels that also happened to carry the amenities and luxuries that a scion of the Vanderbilt clan had come to expect.

Death of the Alva- from mwdc.org

“The Alva, named for William K. Vanderbilt I’s wife, was designed by St. Clare J. Byrne as a three-masted bark-rigged screw steamer with a steel hull. The Harlan & Hollingsworth Company built the Alva at Wilmington, Delaware, and launched her October 15, 1886. The Alva had an overall length of 285′, and a length on the waterline of 252′. Her measurements were as follows, extreme beam 32.25′, depth 21.5′, and draft 17′. Her tonnage was 1,151.27 gross and 600.55 net.

“Late Saturday afternoon, the Alva departed Bar Harbor bound for Newport. Captain Henry Morrison, a sturdy Englishman, was in command of the Alva. The Alva’s crew totaled 52 men, including officers. Proceeding South, Sunday morning, the Alva encountered a dense fog off Monomoy Point. Immediately, the Alva’s crew sounded her steam whistle. The Alva anchored at precisely 6:30 am to wait for a clearing. Although he did not know it at that time, Captain Morrison had anchored the Alva in Pollock Rip Channel, about 4.1 miles East of Monomoy Point Lighthouse.

“At 8:20 am, a tremendous crash followed by the sound of flying timbers and deck fittings instantly brought everyone to the Alva’s deck with little more than the clothes on their backs. Captain Morrison went forward to examine the damage and found a mortal wound in the Alva’s port side. He gave the order to abandon ship. Eventually, everyone made it from the Alva to the Dimock, which had anchored about 500 yards from the Alva.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Gently raised, grandson of the richest man in America, WKV2 had a taste for dangerous fun. An enthusiast for the razor’s edge of technological advancement, his youth was spent racing about in that most modern of conveyances- the Automobile- or on the water. The apogee of the european colonial and mercantilist system witnessed a golden age of ship building in the late 19th and early 20th century, with ever larger and faster steel hulled ships challenging the seas. Steam driven, these ships carried cargo to and from the great ports, and the Vanderbilt family had dominated the shipping industry in the Americas since the time of the Commodore.

Here’s part one of “Over the Seven Seas with Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt” via youtube.com

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Baroque and florid, this is the capitol that sits over the main entrance to the structure. By the time of WKV2, the great fortune of the Commodore had been divided many times over, and the Vanderbilt family had become part of the “establishment”. Extravagant whimsy expressed in architecture became one of their trademarks, and the landscape of the United States is dotted with their palaces. None, though, are quite like WKV2′s “Eagle’s Nest”.

Here’s part two of “Over the Seven Seas with Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt” via youtube.com

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Samuel Yellin iron work, in some detail, which writhes about the Hall of Fishes.

from nytimes.com

The Harlan Hollingsworth Company has just finished for Mr. William K. Vanderbilt the steel yacht Alva, the finest pleasure ship afloat, at a cost of $650,000, and she will be launched at Wilmington next Saturday if conditions and circumstances are propitious.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A tenebrous attraction layers the wrought metal, some terrible magnetism evocative of the cubists- or the degenerate graffiti one finds scrawled on the steel of those bridges which span an assassin of joy called the Newtown Creek.

It’s organic shape and lack of convention suggests a radical soul, rebelling against social class and high society which has both nurtured and confined its powerful intellect. When researching WKV2, again and again one word kept popping into the search engine narrative – Illuminati.

from nytimes.com

During the 1920′s, Mr. Vanderbilt set out on a series of scientific expeditions around the world. He collected thousands of sea specimens and brought them back for display in his marine museum. There are 4,000 specimens on display, from the manatee, a 10-foot-long aquatic mammal from the tropics currently on the endangered species list, to the blue, yellow and striped unicorn surgeon fish from the waters of New Caledonia. They represent collecting efforts made over many years and many oceans.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

WKV2, like the entire Vanderbilt clan, are meant to be part of some overarching global conspiracy which stretches out from the ivory towers in which they hide. The story goes that there are 11 families in the United States, oligarchs all, who secretly control and manipulate both the government and economy to guarantee their favor. Getty’s, Rockefeller’s, Dodge’s, Vanderbilts etc. these families- or houses- vie with each other for secret control over mankind and are all working toward some elusive and secret agenda. Just like the same stories about the Freemasons, your humble narrator puts little stock in such tales.

from galapagos2000.org

1928

William  K.  Vanderbilt’s  “Ara”  collected  a  new  shark  species:  band-tailed  cat  shark (Pristurus arae). They took 5 tortoises from Duncan Island for the New York Zoo.  In 1931 he returns in the “Alva”.

November. The “Svaap” with William Albert Robinson and Bill Wright. They found one person on Floreana, the Norwegian fisherman, Urholt.

There were 136 inhabitants on Isabela Island. The total in Galapagos: 507. Tuna boats from San Diego, California began to arrive.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Walker’s, a clan of Texas slave owners who contributed the W. to George W. Bush, are meant to be a part of these illuminati, as are the Bush’s themselves. Just as I answer the controversy about 9/11, when the inevitable “Bush did it” line comes up- What exactly, on the resume of these people, suggests to you that they had the acumen to pull a job of such scale, based on their performance in other areas? The Vanderbilts, in their first three or four generations, were capable of enormous things- but do you really believe that CNN’s Anderson Cooper (son of Gloria Vanderbilt) is one of the secret rulers of the world?

from time.com

…Off the equatorial west coast of South America lie the Galapagos Islands, longtime home of quaint fowl and ancient reptiles, onetime base of buccaneer expeditions. Now Ecuador owns and the U. S. explores them. Most recent pryers about the islands have been William K. Vanderbilt II and his wife, trapping sapphire-eyed cormorants, penguins pompous as bartenders, Galapagos tortoises with leathery shells, fish whose pied throats pulsate languidly. Such catch Mr. Vanderbilt carried on his yacht Ara to Miami, Fla., where on an off-shore island he maintains his private aquarium and tropical bird reservation and where, insouciantly clad in bathing suit, slippers and tennis hat he directed the unloading of his craft.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

WKV2 spent years at sea, visiting Pacific Atolls and European Courts. Rumors suggest that he was, covertly, conducting back room diplomatic work for the United States government- but I haven’t been able to find anything conclusive to prove this.

Travel broadens one’s mind, or so the saying goes, but perhaps there are things that are better left forgotten. Dark ancestral things whose secrets are handed down from father to son in sweaty jungle lodges which smell of blood and smoke, or in tapestry clad castle towers. Everywhere he went, his men dredged the waters… searching…

from northshoreoflongisland.com

After spending years hanging in a rotting and decrepit state, a 32-foot whale shark, believed to the largest real mounted fish in the world, has been restored and is ready for viewers of the Vanderbilt Museum’s Habitat collection.

Caught in 1935 off Fire Island by Arie and Nicholas Schaper, the 16,000-pound shark was the northernmost catch on record at the time. William K. Vanderbilt II bought it from the Schaper brothers and housed it in his Habitat room at his Eagle’s Nest mansion amid his collection of specimens gathered on his many worldly jaunts.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Across the world’s oceans, the American Playboy and his bride drove their crew to exertion and discovery, creating a thorough and scientific recording of the life form’s collected. One can only guess what Vanderbilt decided the world had no need for knowledge of, and omitted from his logs. Or, perhaps he kept another set of books, a practice he’d have been familiar with from his years as a New York business man.

from wikipedia

Some of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s offspring gained fame as successful entrepreneurs while several achieved prominence in other fields such as Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt (1877-1915), who went down on the RMS Lusitania. His son Alfred Jr. became a noted horse breeder and racing elder. Harold Stirling Vanderbilt (1884-1970) gained fame as a sportsman, winning the most coveted prize in yacht racing, the America’s Cup, on three occasions. His brother “Willie K” launched the Vanderbilt Cup for auto racing. Cornelius Vanderbilt IV (1898-1974) became an accomplished writer, newspaper publisher, and film producer. However, others made headlines as a result of drug and alcohol abuse and multiple marriages.

More tomorrow…

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 13, 2010 at 10:23 am

Vanderbilt Mansion 2

with 2 comments

- photo by Mitch Waxman

William Kissam Vanderbilt II’s great grandfather was the richest man in the world, worth some $105 million in 1877. The upper estimate of what this would be worth in today’s currency would equate to roughly $180 billion dollars. Compare this with the estimate of John D. Rockefeller’s worth at the time of his death in modern terms- the equivalent of $663 billion, or the last Tsar of Russia who was worth approx. $300 billion.

from stfrancis.edu

Cornelius Vanderbilt (May 27, 1794-January 4, 1877) was an American steamship and railroad builder, executive, financier, and promoter. He was a man of boundless energy, and his acute business sense enabled him to outmaneuver his rivals. He left an estate of almost $100 million.

Vanderbilt was born to a poor family and quit school at the age of 11 to work for his father who was engaged in boating. When he turned 16 he persuaded his mother to give him $100 loan for a boat to start his first business. He opened a transport and freight service between New York City and Staten Island for eighteen cents a trip. He repaid the loan after the first year with an additional $1,000. He was rough in manners and developed a reputation for honesty. He charged reasonable prices and worked prodigiously.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

William Kissam Vanderbilt II’s grandfather inherited $100 million from his father- the Commodore. A railroad tycoon, he doubled his inheritance and also died as “the richest man in the world”.

William Kissam Vanderbilt II’s father inherited $55 million from his father and retired from the family business in 1903. After a nasty split with his wife (and mother of his two sons- Henry and Willie K.- her name was Alva Smith), the father retired to France to breed race horses and died in 1920.

from wikipedia

Vanderbilt’s first wife was Alva Erskine Smith (1853–1933), whom he married on April 20, 1875. Born in 1853 to a slave-owning Alabama family, she was the mother of his children and was instrumental in forcing their daughter Consuelo (1877–1964) to marry the 9th Duke of Marlborough in 1895. Not long after this, the Vanderbilts divorced and Alva married Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

William Kissam Vanderbilt II had the well bred Vanderbilt instinct for spending the limitless fortune on houses of splendor and whimsical inspirations. He built a race track on Long Island, the first high speed road other than the Long Island Railroad. Fishermen and farmers, native to the area, commented that it was just so Willie K. could get back to the Eagle’s Nest from Manhattan quicker.

from wikipedia

The Long Island Motor Parkway (LIMP), also known as the Vanderbilt Parkway and Motor Parkway, was the first roadway designed for automobile use only.[2] It was privately built by William Kissam Vanderbilt with overpasses and bridges to remove intersections. It opened in 1908 as a toll road and closed in 1938 when it was taken over by the State of New York in lieu of back taxes. Parts of the parkway survive today in sections of other roadways and as a bicycle trail in Queens, New York.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

All around the property, a strange collection of buildings can be found. A planetarium with a Terra Cotta dome (which was actually an add on by the State of the New York in 1971, Vanderbilt needed no help imagining the heavens)

from vanderbiltmuseum.org

The Vanderbilt Planetarium opened in 1971 on the grounds of the Vanderbilt estate, and it is the largest facility of its kind on Long Island. The Planetarium’s purpose is to provide visitors with information about the nighttime sky. The Planetarium’s main feature is the domed, 60-foot Sky Theater. The theater’s GOTO star projector can display the sun, moon, stars and planets. It also recreates celestial events during our various Sky Shows. The projector can simulate the heavens at any moment in time, from the distant past to the future, as it appeared from any place on Earth. The projector can show 11,369 stars, the Milky Way and several deep sky objects. This allows Planetarium staff to recreate the visible night sky, as seen under perfect conditions.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

And the Hall of Fishes.

also from vanderbiltmuseum.org

The 43-acre museum complex counts among its collections not only the Gold Coast-era mansion [1910-1936], a marine museum, natural history habitats, curator’s cottage, seaplane hangar, boathouse and numerous other estate features [gardens, fountains, balustrades and pools], but also marine and natural history specimens, house furnishings and fine arts, photographs and archives, and an extensive collection of ethnographic objects that make up the former William K. Vanderbilt II estate. A portion of today’s museum – the Hall of Fish – was actually opened to the public during Vanderbilt’s lifetime. Then, as now, the museum seeks to preserve and interpret artifacts that represent his life, collecting interests and intellectual legacy.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Moorish rather than Spanish revival, the small museum forbids visitors to its second floor. Attendants and Curator alike claim that the structure is damaged by weather and the upper level is quite inhospitable to specimen and visitor alike.

from examiner.com

The first floor of the Hall of Fishes displays a large collection of mounted animals and marine specimens. The second floor contains hundreds of marine vertebrates and invertebrates. Many of the displayed marine forms are the only such specimens in existence, collected, identified, and named by Vanderbilt and his staff.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Striking violations of architectural norms are witnessed here. Metalwork not dreamt of in the fevered mind of the hashish addict is observed. When queried, the posted guard described the madly fanciful use of iron as functional instead. Its fabricator and designer shows the skill of a Vesuvian cyclops.

from wikipedia

Samuel Yellin (1885–1940), American master blacksmith, was born in Galicia Poland where at the age of eleven he was apprenticed to an iron master. By the age of sixteen had had completed his apprenticeship. During that period he gained the nickname of “Devil”, both for his work habits and his sense of humor. Shortly after this he left Poland, traveling through Europe to England, where, in 1906, he departed for America.By 1907 he was taking classes at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art and within a year was teaching classes there, a position that he maintained until 1919.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

William Kissam Vanderbilt II- it is said- on one of his expeditions, was inspired by a church he had witnessed in coastal Guatemala which influenced the whimsical design of the Hall of Fishes.

A hybrid of wholesome Catholic iconography which had become fused with the atavist worship of some lost tribal sea god, its affect is disturbing. Decadent admixtures such as this speak to declining faith in one’s own culture, and seek legitimacy in a postmodern cocktail of Barbarian and Civilized themes.

from archive.org

The Vanderbilt Marine Museum is the privately owned depository of the marine collections of William K. Vanderbilt, Esquire, and is located on his country estate, “Eagle’s Nest,” Huntington, Long Island, New York. It contains extensive collections of natural history and ethnological specimens, all of which were personally collected by Mr. Vanderbilt, in various parts of the world, during the past thirty- odd years.

The scientific publications of the museum consist of a series of Bulletins, designed to disseminate results of research based on the marine zoological collections, every specimen of which was personally collected by Mr. Vanderbilt, during a series of cruises in his yachts, “Eagle,” “Ara” and “Alva.” Volume I of the Bulletin series consists of reports on the fishes collected during these cruises, by Dr. N. A. Borodin.

Volume II consists of a report on the Stomatopod and Brachyuran Crustacea of the cruises of the yachts “Eagle” and ” Ara,” 1921- 1928, by Lee Boone. Volume III consists of a report of the Crustacea : Anomura, Macrura, Schizopoda, Isopoda, Amphipoda, Mysidacea, Cirripedia and Copepoda of the “Eagle” and ” Ara” cruises, also by Lee Boone. Volume IV consists of a report of the Echinodermata, Coelenterata and Mollusca of the cruises of the yachts “Eagle” and “Ara,” 1921-1928, by Lee Boone. Volume V, the present report, consists of a report of the Crustacea : Stomatopoda and Brachyura of the World Cruise of the yacht “Alva,” 1931, by Lee Boone.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Evocative statuary, owing much to pre columbian native influences, adorns the Vanderbilt collection’s housing. Hybridized and anthromorphized, the relief is icthyan, alien, and ripe with disturbing implications of some forgotten and ancestral memory.

from atlasobscura.com

The Vanderbilt Museum on Long Island, New York is housed in the mansion once owned by William K. Venderbilt II (the great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, founder of the New York Central Railroad and the Staten Island Ferry). “Willie K.” was an avid sailor and collector. He traveled around the globe, collecting artifacts and natural history specimens, some from the ocean floor by Willie K. himself, as he loved to dive.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The entrance to the Hall of the fishes, guarded by a medieval vintage fortress door of sturdy arab or north african design, which is studded with iron spikes (that have had their points ground off, for safety reasons).

More tomorrow…

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 12, 2010 at 1:00 am

Vanderbilt Mansion 1

with one comment

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There are unbearable realities hidden all around the Great City. Not so far from the center, geographically at least, is the North Shore of Long Island- the so called Gold Coast. Saturnian splendors adorn the palaces of these 19th century oligarchs, grand decoration and philosophical landscaping owe much to Versailles in these places, and many grand estates dot the coastline. For Pratt, and Whitney, and Dodge- who made their fortunes along the Newtown Creek- sylvan bliss was available on Long Island.

One of these country houses, The Eagle’s Nest, belonged to William Kissam Vanderbilt II- Willie K. to his friends and the press.

Yes, those Vanderbilts.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Great-Grandson of the Commodore, Vanderbilt was an advocate and early promoter for the sport of automobile racing and was reported on by contemporaneous members of the nautical community as being quite an able mariner.

Born to unnatural splendor, the fortunate son nevertheless launched expeditions to previously unexplored oceanic destinations, creating in the process a splendid catalog of flora and fauna. What else he may have been searching for, and what trophies he held for his private amusement, is the subject of whispered innuendo. His personal navy included the purpose built steamships Tarantula, the Eagle, and especially the Alva and the Ara.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A hired crew of artisans, engineers, and archaeologists accompanied Vanderbilt on his missions. They captured and preserved hundreds of specimens from the benthic depths, and experienced adventure best described as pulp fiction as they moved amongst the colonial holdings of Europe in the Pacific and along the savage coastlines of the equator. If this sounds like Indiana Jones, it should, just replace Indy with Bruce Wayne or Doc Savage and you’ve got the picture. One of the young Vanderbilt’s buddies was a guy named Howard Hughes.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Vanderbilt collected, in addition to everything that flops and flaps in the cold darkness of the sea, what he termed “ethnographic” objects. There’s an actual Egyptian mummy in the house, as well as catalogs of other preserved animals. A disturbing heterogeneousness marks the collection, a connection between items and subjects seems missing. Across the inlet from his mansion- which was deep enough to accommodate ocean going ships at his private dock (there is also a sea plane dock down at the water’s edge), is the Northport Power Station. Its towers oddly mimic those found at the balustrade at the house’s entrance.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The house itself, there are several buildings scattered around the property, is meant to evoke a spaniard’s taste. Such longing for their ancient masters ill befits a Dutch line such as the Vanderbilts, even as it plunged into 20th century degeneracy. Guides at the mansion explained that Vanderbilt was inspired by a church he had seen in Guatemala, which had influenced the design and motif of the entire complex. Vanderbilt was overcome by icthyan motif, one pregnant with hideous implications.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

His city address was 666 fifth avenue, part of the Vanderbilt continuum of mansions present along that stretch of the great thoroughfare, and he took up his ancestral responsibility and assumed a leadership role at the New York Central Railroad.

After the death of his father, Willie K. became known as William K. Vanderbilt II, one of America’s richest and most powerful men. His son, an adventurer in his own right- William K. Vanderbilt III- died in a mysterious auto accident returning from the family estate in Florida- where another fleet of research vessels and another unique collection was maintained.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

When I heard that the first annual Obscura Day tours were going on, and that the New York leg would be visiting the Eagle’s Nest, our Lady of the Pentacle and I jumped at the chance. We travelled via the LIRR, to meet Willie K.

More tomorrow.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 11, 2010 at 1:00 am

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