Feb 152018

  • Albrecht Dürer
  • Together they have been viewed as representing the three spheres of activity recognized in medieval times: Knight, Death, and the Devil belongs to the moral sphere and the “active life”; Melencolia I represents the intellectual; and St. Jerome in His Study the theological and contemplative life.
Apr 182017


Jan 272017

Kailasanatha temple

The Kailash or Kailasanatha temple is one of the largest rock-cut ancient Hindu temples located in Ellora, Maharashtra, India.

Nov 142016

Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), American scientist, diplomat, and one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence, identified himself as a printer. He wrote his own epitaph long before he died: “The Body of BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, Printer. Like the Covering of an old Book, Its contents torn out and stript of its Lettering and Gilding, Lies here, Food for Worms. But the Work shall not be lost, It will (as he believ’d) appear once more In a new and more beautiful Edition Corrected and amended By the Author.”

Franklin apprenticed in the Boston printing shop of his brother James from the age of twelve, but ran away at seventeen to Philadelphia. In 1724 he was sent to London where he worked as a printer in the firm of John Watts (where this press is said to have been used) before returning to Philadelphia in 1726. By 1730 he had set up his own printing business and published a newspaper, which gave him a forum for political expression. His political activities led to his involvement in the movement to free the Colonies from British rule. He spent the years 1757–1762 and 1764–1775 in England, returning to Philadelphia to participate in the First Continental Congress. From 1776–1785 he served in France, securing vital French assistance for the American revolutionary effort.
The Franklin press in the Museum’s collection is an English common press made early in the eighteenth century. It was on exhibition in the U.S. National Museum beginning in the 1880s, and it was shown in the Hall of Printing and Graphic Arts in this museum from 1964 to 2003. It is missing some of its parts, such as its gallows, tympan, and frisket, so it cannot be operated. A full-sized working replica of the press was made in 1984 for the Museum’s exhibition, Life in America–After the Revolution.
The story of how this press came to be associated with Franklin is rather complicated. While in England in 1768, Franklin is said to have visited the Watts firm and saluted the press in the shop where he had worked some 25 years before. A plaque added to the press in 1833 reads:
“Dr. Franklin’s Remarks relative to this Press, made when he came to England as agent of Massachusetts, in the year 1768. The Doctor at this time visited the printing office of Mr. Watts, of Wild Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and going up to this particular press (afterwards in the possession of Messrs. Cox & Son, of Great Queen Street, of whom it was purchased) thus addressed the men who were working at it. ‘Come my friends, we will drink together. It is now forty years since I worked like you, at this press, as a journeyman printer.’ The Doctor then sent out for a gallon of porter, and he drank with them- “Success to Printing”
Franklin’s visit was recalled by elderly printers who testified to the identity of the press three-quarters of a century later. In 1841 the press was presented as “the Franklin press” to American banker John B. Murray, who received it for the express purpose of exhibiting it to attract contributions for the London Printers’ Pension Society. He shipped it to the United States to be displayed as a relic associated with Franklin. It was shown at the Patent Office, the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, and the Smithsonian’s U.S. National Museum before being sold to the Smithsonian by Murray’s widow in 1901.
Currently not on view
press, printing
ca 1720
Franklin, Benjamin
Franklin, James
Watts, John
Murray, John M.
wood (overall material)
iron (overall material)
steel (overall material)
brass (overall material)
overall: 78 in x 30 1/2 in x 57 in; 198.12 cm x 77.47 cm x 144.78 cm
United Kingdom: England
Culture and the Arts: Graphic Arts
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Harris, Elizabeth M.. Printing Presses in the Graphic Arts Collection

Attribution\Photo Description

  • National Museum of American History
Aug 012016

Our Old Sony FD-91


  • Can you believe I found the camera, I still have it WOW, and it has a flip up screen and shoots mpeg video from a camera made 16 years ago. It gets better, I charged the battery and it works, the only problem is I don’t have anything with a floppy drive.


Nov 152013

A Neighborhood of Castles in the Sky:
November 15, 2013  |

The Cloisters museum and gardens, 1938

Washington Heights—the neighborhood in northern Manhattan that houses The Cloisters museum and gardens—is built upon a series of bluffs and cliffs. Concrete staircases and creaky subway elevators connect different sections of the neighborhood, and buildings stand tall on stilts driven deep into Manhattan schist. From a distance, blocks of apartment buildings appear like castellated European villages. However, despite its once-impenetrable terrain, or maybe because of it, Washington Heights is a place where some of the wildest and most romantic medieval-architecture fantasies in New York City have been realized for over 150 years.

Riverside Drive above 181st Street

Postcard of Paterno Castle, as seen from Riverside Drive and West 181st Street, undated

The Cloisters, of course, is not a castle, though parents may at times describe it as such to their young children who are excited about visiting with dragons and unicorns. Initial designs for The Cloisters were, in fact, inspired by benefactor John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s boyhood fascination with the ruins of Kenilworth Castle in England, but it was ultimately decided that a monastic plan would better suit The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s newly acquired collection of medieval art and architecture. Rockefeller had felt since childhood that the rough and scrubby “North Hill” would make an ideal park, and decades later, when he acquired the property and helped to create Fort Tryon Park (where The Cloisters is located), he favored elements reminiscent of when the property housed a military fort during the Revolutionary War; the stonework on the Park walls and Museum ramparts reflects this rougher evocation. Today, visitors can observe the difference in stone color and texture on the lower sections of The Cloisters, contrasted against the tower and main structure that serve as evidence of the two distinct aspects of its design: the fortress and the European monastery.

Billings Estate

Libbey Castle, undated photo

Washington Heights had already been attracting ambitious and evocative architecture since the mid-nineteenth century, when wealthy New Yorkers began to see the rocky hills and high river views as an enticing location for their “country” estates. Woodcliff Castle, later and better known as Libbey Castle, was the crown jewel of northern Manhattan’s landscape. It was built in the 1850s near what is today the cul-de-sac at Margaret Corbin Drive, and according to an 1895 “Gossip of Gotham” piece in the New York Times, it was “the only dwelling of its kind ever built in America. It was known as ‘The Castle’ and was built by its owner to imitate a castle he had seen in Austria.” Owned by a succession of prominent figures that included William “Boss” Tweed, the famous residence was eventually razed for the initial development of Fort Tryon Park.

Libbey Castle during Demolition

Libbey Castle during demolition, March 1931

Further south near West 185th Street and Riverside Drive—once called Boulevard Lafayette—was the neo-Gothic behemoth known as Paterno Castle. Built of white marble, the structure was designed using an eccentric architectural vocabulary that drew influence from both Norman castles and the Rhineland. Attended by elegant Italian gardens and pergolas that peered out onto the Hudson, it also featured a cellar solely devoted to growing mushrooms and a swimming pool that filtered water directly from the adjacent Hudson River. It cost $500,000 to build (about $7 million when adjusted for inflation) and was destroyed by its owner, Dr. Charles Paterno, in 1938 so he could subsequently build the appropriately titled “Castle Village” complex of co-operative apartments. (Interestingly enough, Dr. Paterno emigrated from a Southern Italian village named Castelmezzano, which translates to “middle castle.”)

Paterno Castle

Postcard of Paterno Castle, early 1930s

Two pillars from Paterno Castle remain near the intersection of West 181st Street and Cabrini Boulevard, as well as part of the massive retaining wall that resembles a dismembered piece of the Castle Nuovo in Naples. Part of the wall was destroyed in 2005 when it collapsed and slid onto the Henry Hudson Parkway, but a large section of Paterno’s original wall remains intact, with the restored portion recreating the tone and texture of the facade’s original grandeur.

Left: Remaining Paterno Castle pillar, near West 181st Street and Cabrini Avenue, 2013

The impracticable bluff of Fort Washington Avenue at today’s West 190th Street, leading down to Overlook Terrace and Bennett Avenue, was the setting of George Grey Barnard’s grand fantasy of medieval cloisters. In the early 1900s, he scouted and collected the remains of five French cloisters, shipped them to New York, and built his very own museum of medieval art and architecture—a collection that would later form the core of The Cloisters museum.
He lit his museum with candles, had staff dress as monks, and conjured the atmosphere of a deliciously gloomy medieval monastery. His sense of drama did not go unappreciated: A “Dante pageant” was staged on Fort Washington Avenue in 1921, accompanied by a dramatic reading that the New York Times praised for eschewing “the use of a stage, the natural recesses of the Cloisters serving as a natural setting.”

Built across the street from Barnard’s cloisters was the Hospital of St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary. Architects O’Connor, Delany & Schulz incorporated elements of Romanesque architecture into the structure that may have been inspired by the rounded arches of the neighboring Cuxa Cloister. Today, the hospital has been converted into luxury apartments, serving as an elegant remnant among the less inspiring buildings that replaced Barnard’s property throughout the 1940s and ’50s.

Left: Hospital of St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary, 2013

From the edge of the hill where Barnard’s museum once stood, one can also see the glistening dome of Yeshiva University standing out among the largely Art Deco apartment buildings and the Cross Bronx Expressway. Before the Great Depression crippled the country’s economy, plans for extensive Moorish revival buildings and gardens were planned across the university’s property—another medieval fantasy conceived in Washington Heights—though financial limitations only saw one of the elaborate structures of the Yeshiva campus realized.
Other relics still abound in northern Manhattan. The elegant driveway of the C.K.G. Billings estate, closely situated to the present site of The Cloisters, is prominently viewed from the Henry Hudson Parkway and serves as an elegant terrace overlooking the river from Fort Tryon Park. The caretaker’s cottage from the estate also remains, now used by the New York City Parks Department as a shed.

Billings Estate

Former estate of C.K.G. Billings, 1913–14

Further north in Inwood, there is a graffiti-laced marble arch that originally formed the entrance to the Seaman-Drake estate. Also originally outfitted with a mushroom cellar, the grounds were full of gardens and laced with marble sculptures. Sadly, the aforementioned arch, modeled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and at one time used as an office by a descendant of the Seaman family, is all that remains of the once grand property.

Elsewhere around the Heights, echoes of castle-inspired architecture remain, whether they be the studious gargoyles on the southeast corner of West 181st Street and Fort Washington Avenue, or the quiet lanes woven among the Tudor-style buildings of the Hudson View Gardens apartment complex. Although the spring that once flowed near Bennett Avenue and the precipitous cliffs of the Fort Washington and Fort George hills have been conquered by Manhattan’s efficient grid, there is still something about the air and light of Washington Heights, perched atop the city, that whispers about the creative possibilities that have been felt here for nearly two centuries.

Hudson View Gardens

Gargoyles on building facade, southeast corner of West 181st Street and Fort Washington Avenue, 2013

Sep 222013

Located in Greenport, NY