For its 125th anniversary, Pepsi will open up a pop-up diner somewhere in midtown Manhattan that “will artfully mirror the sets of some of the most memorable Pepsi commercials and feature real, one-of-a-kind memorabilia from the Pepsi archives”
Recently we visited Manitoga, a National Historic Landmark that is the studio and home of industrial designer Russel Wright. A prime advocate of what has been called “Livable Modernism,” Wright, with the aid of his wife, Mary, became one of the most influential and well-known designers of the 1930s to 1950s. His pottery, tableware, and furniture brought Modernism to the American masses (quite literally: his most popular line of pottery and one of his furniture lines were both named American Modern).
Together, they wrote the 1950 manifesto Guide to Easier Living which promoted radical ideas like “buffet suppers, one-pot meals, portable seating and lots of double-duty storage…They may be the inventors of modern grad student storage: wooden shelves on cinder blocks hidden behind a curtain” (Alexandra Lange, “Easier Living, By Design”, The New York Times July 23, 2010).
Manitoga came later in his career. He and Mary purchased the land in the Hudson Highlands north of New York City around 1942 and spent many years modifying the landscape, including turning an abandoned quarry pit into a swimming pond complete with a waterfall.
They lived in a cottage (still standing, but not part of the Landmark) next to the quarry. It was not until several years after Mary’s death in 1952 that Russel began building the house and studio (designed with architect David Leavitt). It was completed in 1960 and Russel lived there with his daughter Annie and her governess/housekeeper until his death in 1976.
Dragon Rock is a rare instance of Mr. Wright contradicting his theory of “easier living,” — his daughter, Anne, recalls arduous hours spent vacuuming the rocks and keeping all 11 levels in some semblance of order.
Richard Horn, “Collecting Russel Wright” The New York Times August 23, 1979.
If this 54 room home looks a little bit small for something with both “Vanderbilt” and “Mansion” in its name, maybe it’s because Hyde Park was just one of several houses Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt owned. They also had a New York City townhouse, of course, and at various times, a Newport, Rhode Island mansion (Rough Point, later owned by Doris Duke), an Adirondack camp (Pine Tree Point), and a Bar Harbor, Maine mansion (Sogonee, later owned by radio tycoon A. Atwater Kent).
Construction began in 1895, the same year that Frederick’s kid brother, George Washington Vanderbilt II, completed his modest 250-room summer house, the Biltmore Estate.
It’s cool to see the original paintings for some of their now classic advertising posters. There’s also a lot of items from industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss’s work on the 20th Century Limited, “The Most Famous Train in the World.” Dreyfuss designed everything from the streamlined locomotives to the dinner plates.
Romancing the Rails is on display through February 2022.
Featured image: Observation Car design for the 20th Century Limited by Henry Dreyfuss, gouache on paper, 1938.
Here’s a brief history of the New York brickmaking industry from the New York Times. New York did not have a monopoly on bricks; excellent clay deposits run through New Jersey and into Pennsylvania as well. The Sayre & Fisher Brick Company, in the town now known as Sayreville, New Jersey, was for a time the largest brickmaker in the world and in 1903, Pennsylvania was the largest brick producer in the nation.
But the Hudson Valley was also lined with dozens of brickyards, and since it’s the Hudson Valley, it should be no surprise that now one of them, the Hutton Brickyards, has been turned into a boutique hotel that preserves some of its history. Their “Genuine Experiences” do sound genuinely fun:
Our sprawling campus features whimsical invitations to fun: an archery range, croquet lawn, firepits and bicycles. Experience hikes, guided kayak experiences, paddle-boarding, running, outdoor yoga, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, bee-keeping and more!
Featured image: Hutton Brickworks in 2016, by Corey Seamer via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0.
Pictures from a visit last autumn to Franny Reese State Park in New York. The sun-dappled ruins are the former estate of wealthy dentist Charles H. Roberts. A graduate of Albany Medical College, Roberts’ dental innovations made him rich and allowed him to branch out into other lucrative business ventures. In the 1860s, he began building his home, Cedar Glen, on the west bank of the Hudson River overlooking Poughkeepsie. After Roberts died in 1909, protracted squabbling over his will by his children resulted in the decline of Cedar Glen. Read more of the story at About Town.