Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hotel Magnate Julius Manger

 This spectacular Renaissance Revival domed structure, was designed, in 1927, by architect Franklin Naylor. Built at a cost of more than $260,000, it boasts an authentic Tiffany stained glass window in a religious theme. Naylor considered this one of his most intricate works, as well as the largest private mausoleum in America. For these reasons, he published a pamphlet about the mausoleum’s construction. Originally built for Dominico Dumbra -- the proprietor of a winery during prohibition -- the building was sold to hotel magnate, Julius Manger, in 1935.

Manger, who graduated from Tulane University Law School, practiced law for a time before partnering with his brother, William, in real estate. Beginning their new venture in Galveston, the pair later relocated to New York City, where 500 homes were built under their watch in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Soon after, the brothers began their successful acquisition of hotels. Their holdings eventually included luxury hotels in Chicago, Boston, Washington, DC and New York. At one time, the Mangers owned 18 hotels in NY alone.

In 1937, Julius Manger died of a heart attack at the Hay-Adams House --an Italian Renaissance-style apartment-hotel in Washington DC--which he owned.   Situated prominently near the Jerome Avenue entrance of Woodlawn Cemetery, the Manger mausoleum is a most fitting tribute to a man who created grand structures for so many others.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Marc Antony Zambetti - A Life Cut Short


 This open –air mausoleum --resembling a gazebo – was built for Marc Antony Zambetti, grandson of the Stella D’Oro Biscuit Company’s founder and son of its CEO. The granite and marble structure, faces away from a verdant road in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, opposite a stone bench. Embedded in the ground, in front of the bench, is a large granite plaque, symbolically bisected to signify a life cut short. Etched upon this plaque are the words: If He Who Has The Most Fun Wins The Game Of Life Marc Was Triumphant

Zambetti was one of the more than 60 casualties of a magnitude 7.1 earthquake which struck the San Francisco Bay Area on Oct 17, 1989, before the 3rd game of the World series at Candlestick Park. A sales director for his family’s business, he was killed when the Nimitz Freeway, on which he was driving home from work, collapsed.

Scholarships were created in Zambetti’s name at George Washington University, his alma mater, and the Riverdale Country School, from which he graduated high school in 1980.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Belmont Mausoleum


 The mausoleum of Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont and his wife, Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont, is situated in a prominent spot in the Whitewood section of Woodlawn Cemetery. Designed by preeminent architect Richard Morris Hunt -- Metropolitan Museum of Art, Statue of Liberty pedestal, Biltmore Estate, Ashville NC, The Breakers, Newport RI --the mausoleum is a replica of St. Hubert’s Chapel at Chateau Amboise in France, in which Leonardo DaVinci’s remains are interred. Oliver Belmont's lineage was an illustrious one: The son of August Belmont Sr., whose money helped fund Belmont Park, and Caroline Perry, the daughter of Commodore Perry. He was married to the former Alva Smith Vanderbilt, a prominent figure in the women’s suffrage movement.

 Oliver Belmont, a financier and thoroughbred enthusiast, died on June 10, 1908 from peritonitis, after surgery for a ruptured appendix. Only ten days prior to his bout with appendicitis, Belmont was healthy and hale, spending time with his wife at Belmont Park. Belmont’s funeral service took place at Garden City’s Cathedral of the Incarnation. A special train met mourners in Queens, transporting them to the Long Island church. Alva Belmont died in 1933 and a suffragette banner hangs inside the mausoleum in her honor.

Monday, May 9, 2011

William "Bill the Butcher" Poole

Continuing the subject of bad boys...In the 19th Century William “Bill The Butcher” Poole was said to be the toughest gang leader in New York.  A butcher by occupation, Poole led a gang of street toughs on the lower East Side. A dirty fighter, Poole would gouge his opponents in the eye. Having been a member of the Bowery Boys, Poole later formed his own gang. His arch opponent was another gang leader, John Morrisey, who was badly beaten by Poole the night of February 24, 1855. Three of Morrisey’s cohorts retaliated and shot Poole in the heart. Poole, 33, lingered for two weeks before he died. His last words were purported to be: “Good-Bye Boys, I die a true American.”  Poole’s funeral was a huge one with reports of 6,000 mourners in attendance. After a procession through lower Manhattan the cortege was ferried to Brooklyn and then made their way to Green-Wood Cemetery. In 2003, Green-Wood unveiled the new granite monument (seen above) in a ceremony at Poole’s grave after Martin Scorcese’s movie Gangs of New York renewed interest in the Poole. On the monument, Poole’s last words are inscribed.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Baseball's "Bad Boy" Billy Martin

Alfred "Billy" Martin was only 17 years old when he was first signed to a baseball contract. When his manager and mentor, Casey Stengel, became the Yankee’s manager, in 1950, he signed Martin to the team. Martin proved to be a valuable asset, being named 1953’s MVP, the year the Yankees won the World Series. In 1975, after his playing days were behind him, Martin was hired by Yankee’s owner George Steinbrenner, to manage the team. Under his leadership, the Yankee’s won the 1976 Pennant and the 1977 World Series. Yet, despite Martin’s successes with the team, his relationship with Steinbrenner was tumultuous and tales of his firings and subsequent rehirings filled newspaper pages. A 1985 NY Times article characterized their relationship as “sport's longest-running soap opera.”

Martin died on Christmas day in 1987, at the age of 61, when his pickup truck --driven by a friend--skidded off an icy road in upstate NY. His Funeral Mass, which took place four days later, was held at New York City’s venerable St. Patrick’s Cathedral. More than 6,500 hundred people packed the church --former president Richard M. Nixon, and sports greats Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Phil Rizzuto, among them—while another 3,500 hundred people stood outside in the cold. From the altar, Bishop Edwin Broderick quipped to the crowd, ”The cathedral was the last place you would expect to find Billy. But it so happens this is the last place we find him.” Martin’s pride in being a Yankee is evidenced by the inscription on his monument in Gate of Heaven Cemetery: I may not have been the greatest Yankee to put on the uniform, but I was the proudest.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Babe Ruth - The "Bambino"


George Herman Ruth Jr. --known to the world as Babe Ruth--was one of the most iconic figures in the world of sports. From 1920-1935, Ruth was a major figure in baseball, leading the NY Yankees to 7 American League championships and 4 World Series titles. When Ruth died at the age of 53 on August 16th (my birthday) in 1948, his casket was placed in the rotunda of Yankee Stadium as befitting his stature. So beloved was he that over 100,000 people came to pay their respects. His grave at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, NY is a treasure trove of Yankee memorabilia. It is also “the most recognized and visited [site] on the grounds,” I was told by the cemetery’s former superintendent, Jim Ford, who gave me a glorious tour of the cemetery for an article I was working on (and for which I was given special permission). In 2002, my profile of Gate of Heaven appeared in American Cemetery Magazine. It remains one of the few articles written about the cemetery’s noted denizens and I am grateful for the opportunity.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Little Drummer Boy

During the Civil War, twelve year old Clarence Mackenzie signed on with the Thirteenth Regiment of the New York State Militia as a drummer boy, whose duty it was to beat out march cadence. In 1861, MacKenzie accompanied the unit to a camp in Annapolis. Tragically, he was killed on June 11, 1861 by the accidental discharge of a musket during a training exercise, becoming --at age 13 -– Brooklyn’s first war casualty.  Three thousand people attended his funeral at Green-Wood Cemetery.  MacKenzie’s grave was marked only by a wooden sign until his story became part of a book about the cemetery. After which, a campaign ensued resulting in MacKenzie’s grave being moved to a different spot and marked by this zinc statute.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Clarence Day --Life With Father

Clarence Day authored a number of books in his time, but it was the 1935 publication of Life With Father that was his most significant and enduring. A staple in English Lit classes, the book is an autobiographical account of Day’s young life with his family, peppered with humorous anecdotes about his Wall Street broker father. Published in 1935, the book was later-- in 1939-- adapted as a Broadway play. On the heels of its closing, in 1947, Life With Father was released as a movie, co-starring a teenage Elizabeth Taylor. From 1953-1955, Life With Father was given new life, this time as a television show. Clarence Day did not live to see the influence his work would have on popular culture as he died the same year as the book’s publication. Yet, his earlier words seem prophetic now:  "The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men's hearts of the hearts, of men centuries dead."