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Showing posts from May, 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, …

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 s…

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…

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-WoodCemetery. In 2003, Green-Wood unveiled the new granite monument (seen above) in a ceremony at Poole’s grave after Martin Scorcese’s …

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 he…

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 grat…

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-WoodCemetery. 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.

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, ne…