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Quote 18 Feb

“The artist’s home and studio were stacked with his artworks, cast-off items, including three broken refrigerators with the doors still attached. A separate storage room was piled to the ceiling with jumbled junk, more artworks, damaged electrical cords and worn-out clothing.” More

Field trip (chapter 3)

2 May

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Pocket parks

28 Apr

Pocket parks are frequently created on a single vacant building lot or on small, irregular pieces of land. They also may be created as a component of the public space requirement of large building projects.

 Pocket parks can be urban, suburban or rural, and can be on public or private land. Although they are too small for physical activities, pocket parks provide greenery, a place to sit outdoors, and sometimes a children’s playground. They may be created around a monument, historic marker or art project.

 In highly urbanized areas, particularly downtowns where land is very expensive, pocket parks are the only option for creating new public spaces without large-scale redevelopment. In inner-city areas, pocket parks are often part of urban regeneration plans and provide areas where wildlife such as birds can establish a foothold. Unlike larger parks, pocket parks are sometimes designed to be fenced and locked when not in use.

Collyer Brothers Park

Paley Park

What did the Collyer brothers ever do for Harlem?

21 Apr

Streetscapes/128th St. and Fifth Ave., Former Site of the Harlem House Where the Collyer Brothers Kept All That Stuff; Wondering Whether a Park Should Keep Its Name

Published: June 23, 2002

WHAT did the Collyer brothers ever do for Harlem? That’s the question asked by the Harlem Fifth Avenue Block Association, which seeks to rename the tiny park at the northwest corner of 128th and Fifth Avenue. The group would like to see plaques go up with the legend Reading Tree Park, but, for the near term at least, the park will continue to memorialize Homer and Langley Collyer, two of New York’s most reclusive hermits.

Harlem began as a small village in the 1840’s but by 1879 — when the developer George J. Hamilton built his row of five row houses at the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 128th Street — it was almost fully built up. Hamilton’s architect was George B. Pelham, who had been born in England but came to New York in 1871. Pelham’s houses, built for $12,000 each, were typical neo-Grec-style buildings of the period, with the customary high stoop. Hamilton occupied the corner house, 2078 Fifth Avenue.

In 1909, the Hamilton family sold the house to Susie G. Collyer. The 1912 city directory lists her in the house with her husband, Herman L. Collyer, and their sons, Homer, born in 1881, a lawyer, and Langley, born in 1883, a musician.

In 1923, Dr. Collyer died, followed by his wife in 1929. Later press accounts indicate that the gas and electricity were cut off around that time, apparently with the sons’ consent.

In 1938, Helen Worden, a reporter for The New York World-Telegram, interviewed Langley Collyer, who told her: ”We’ve no telephone, and we’ve stopped opening our mail. You can’t imagine how free we feel.” Worden, who subsequently wrote about the Collyer brothers (using the name Helen Worden Erskine) in her 1954 book ”Out of This World,” became interested in the Collyers because they had become known as hermits.

Langley would not let her into the house but told her that, yes, there was a canoe in the basement — his father used to paddle down to the hospital where he worked every morning and back in the evening, he said. Langley also explained his shabby dress: ”I have to dress this way. They would rob me if I didn’t.” Her book also says that he said he had stopped playing after a concert at Carnegie Hall: ”Paderewski followed me. He got better notices than I. What was the use of going on?” She said Langley had a ”low, cultivated voice.”

Press review

20 Apr

                                                                                                                                                     The New York Times, August 16, 1923, page 15, “Obituary Herman L. Collyer”
The New York Times, April 5, 1939, page 26, “Gas company seizes meters of ‘hermits'”
The New York Times, August 5, 1942, page 21, “Mortgage on recluses’ home is foreclosed, but legendary brothers still hide within “
The New York Times, August 8, 1942, page 13, “Bank and Collyers declare a truce”
The New York Times, September 30, 1942, page 24, “Collyer mansion keeps its secrets”
The New York Times, October 2, 1942, page 27, “Order ejects Collyers”
The New York Times, November 19, 1942, page 27, “Collyers pay off $6,700 mortgage as evictors smash way into home”
The New York Times, November 21, 1942, page 24, “Collyers get deed to home”
The New York Times, February 3, 1943, page 21, “Collyers may lose house”
The New York Times, February 4, 1943, page 24, “Government gets Collyer property”
The New York Times, July 27, 1946, page 16, “Subpoena flushes Harlem recluse”
The New York Times, January 28, 1947, page 25, “Hermit brothers get $7,500 award”
The New York Times, March 22, 1947, page 01, “Homer Collyer, Harlem recluse, found dead at 70. Police require two hours to break into 5th Avenue home, booby-trapped with junk brother fails to appear investigators think, however, he may be ‘Charles Smith’ who summoned them. Homer Collyer found dead at 70 as police forced entrance into home of recluses. Homer Collyer was found dead yesterday in his decaying brownstone house at 2078 Fifth Avenue, but the legend of the two recluse Collyer brothers still lives on.”
The New York Times, March 26, 1947, page C24, “The Collyer mystery. To patrolmen on the midnight-to-eight tour, who sometimes chatted with Langley Collyer on his nocturnal strolls, he seemed, for all his shabbiness, a well-mannered and cultured old gentleman. They probably never thought that some day the entire Police Department would be on the lookout for him.”
The New York Times, March 27, 1947, page 56, “Langley Collyer is dead”
The New York Times, April 2, 1947, page 38, “53 attend burial of Homer Collyer; 2 Harlem Neighbors Present, but Langley Does Not Appear — Police Press Search. Homer Collyer was buried yesterday in the family plot in Cypress Hills Cemetery, Queens.”
The New York Times, April 9, 1947, page 1, “Body of Collyer Is Found Near Where Brother Died. Langley Collyer was found dead yesterday in his old brownstone home at 2078 Fifth Avenue. His body, wedged in a booby trap set to keep out intruders, was lying in the same room on the second floor where his blind brother, Homer, had been found dead on March 21.
The New York Times, April 12, 1947, page 15, “Langley Collyer buried”
Time; April 7, 1947; page 27, “The Shy Men”

Field trip (chapter 2)

19 Feb

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Field trip to Harlem with David Maroto and Juanli Carrion, 17th Feb 2011

Collyer Brothers / from The Library of Congress / Washington

10 Feb

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Collyer Maison

28 Jan

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Collyer Mansion Exhibit

21 Jan

Some of the more unusual items from Collyers’ maison were exhibited at Hubert’s Dime Museum, where they were featured alongside Human Marvels and sideshow performers. The morbid centerpiece of this display was the chair in which Homer Collyer had died. The Collyer chair passed into the hands of private collectors upon being removed from public exhibit in 1956. As time went by it acquired a reputation of being cursed, due to the misfortunes of its owners.

Hubert’s Museum

Collyer Brothers Park (Field trip / chapter 1)

21 Jan

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Since the 1960s, the site of the former Collyer house has been a vest-pocket park, named for the brothers.

Map it