Celebrating New York City Image 1

As we come to another anniversary of 9/11, I want to take time to celebrate New York City through its rich architectural history. As Winston Churchill once said, "We shape our buildings and thereafter they shape us." Each building has contributed to our culture through its purpose and use, whether as a home, a business or to commemorate a specific contribution to society.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's earliest roots date back to 1866 in Paris, France, when a group of Americans agreed to create a "national institution and gallery of art" to bring art and art education to the American people. On April 13, 1870, The Metropolitan Museum of Art was incorporated, opening to the public in the Dodworth Building at 681 Fifth Avenue.

On March 30, 1880, after a brief move to the Douglas Mansion at 128 West 14th Street, the Museum opened to the public at its current site on Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street. The architects Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould designed the initial Ruskinian Gothic structure, the west facade of which is still visible in the Robert Lehman Wing. The building has since expanded greatly, and the various additions—built as early as 1888—now completely surround the original structure.

The Museum's Beaux-Arts Fifth Avenue facade and Great Hall, designed by the architect and founding Museum Trustee Richard Morris Hunt, opened to the public in December 1902. The Evening Post reported that at last New York had a neoclassical palace of art, "one of the finest in the world, and the only public building in recent years which approaches in dignity and grandeur the museums of the old world."

Today, the Museum's two-million-square-foot building houses over two million objects, tens of thousands of which are on view at any given time. 

My pen-and-ink drawing, "Day at the Met," shows its beautiful ornamentation with the strong diagonal shadows emphasizing its rich detail. The decorative heads above the roof line of the building are reflected in the window as well as in the silhouette of the shadow on the north facade. The shadows cast on the keystone head at the top of the window reinforce the strength of its features. All of which convey a stately, magnificent presence on Fifth Avenue.

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