IWALKED NEW YORK CITY’S GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL (HELLEU CONSTELLATION CEILING)
If you glance up one hundred and twenty feet at the domed ceiling within the Main Concourse of Grand Central Terminal you will be admiring the golden constellation painting of French artist Paul Cesar Helleu. Helleu, who was best noted as a portrait artist, painted two thousand fifty hundred stars in a constellation pattern said to reflect the skies as they appear during the months of October to March. Upon its completion purists noted that Helleu had mistakenly painted the sky’s image reversed from reality. Upon discovery of this fact, the Vanderbilt family (likely in protection of the commission which they had paid for) kindly pointed out that the sky appeared accurate in the eyes of God above, which was the most important thing.
The painting was restored in recent years to ensure that future generations may continue to enjoy it. As part of the restoration effort, however, a small section was left as a gentle reminder of the pollution which threatens all of our public arts if we don’t take care of them. This unsanitized area may be viewed in the northwest corner of the concourse near the entry to track 30.
Address: 89 East 42nd Street, New York City, NY
Cost: Free for self-guided tour. MP3 tours are available for download (www.myopheo.com) or rent at the “GCT Tour” window in the Main Concourse for $4.99.
IWalked Audio Tours To See This Site: New York City’s Lower Midtown. (Purchase the MP3 tour here. iPhone application tour is available here. Please note, all NYC tours are now available as in-app purchases upon download of our FREE NYC Lite application, which includes a free 1.5 hour tour of a portion of the Upper West Side.)
IWALKED WASHINGTON D.C.’S CUTTS-MADISON HOUSE
The yellow Colonial-style home on the intersection of H Street, NW and Madison Place, NW is named for two of its former owners and recognized as the Cutts-Madison House. The building was constructed in 1820 for the Comptroller of the Treasury named Richard Cutts. He actually built the house himself for which he and his wife, Anna Payne Cutts (the younger sister of Dolley Madison). The building was the first to be constructed along the eastern edge of Lafayette Square and originally featured two stories covered in grey stucco. The building’s original entrance also formerly faced Lafayette Square, although it has since been replaced by a bay window.
The Cutts family ran into financial hardship in 1828 and the building’s mortgage was acquired by former President James Madison for the sum of $5,750. James lived here with his wife Dolley until his death in 1836. James’ death, along with supporting a son with extravagant habits from a former marriage (John Payne Todd), left Dolley in a financially unstable position. She moved out of the family’s mansion at Montpelier and moved into this residence to attempt to reduce her expenses. She made one final valiant attempt to save her beloved Montpelier when she returned for a brief period during 1839 to 1843 and rented out her Madison Place residence. Unfortunately the additional income was insufficient to save Montpelier and she was forced to sell the property and return to the Cutts-Madison House in 1843. She would live the remainder of her days here until her death in July 1849. A historical plaque recognizing the famous former tenants of this building resides along it’s H Street, NW side. One interesting fact of note regarding the plaque is that Mrs. Madison’s name is misspelled as she actually spelled her name Dolley—not Dolly.
Upon Dolley’s passing the residence passed to her sole surviving child, John, although it appears someone forgot to inform Dolley that the property had passed onto new owners. For a number of years after her death many passersby of this home would claim to see her ghostly image sitting on the porch as she loved to do in her later years.
Officially the property would pass into the ownership of Rear Admiral Charles Wilkes who purchased the home from John in April 1851. Wilkes is best recognized as having led an exploring expedition within the South Seas from 1838-1842. He would reside here with his family from a period dating 1851 to 1886. During this time Wilkes did make one significant change to the structure when he had the original gable roof removed and replaced it with the current flat roof which you see today.
The next official tenant to move into the famed Cutts-Madison House would be the Cosmos Club which acquired the building from Wilkes in 1886 for $40,000. The Cosmos Club is a private social club that was founded in 1878 by John Wesley Powell with the stated objective of, “The advancement of its members in science, literature and art.” The Cosmos Club, during its tenancy which lasted until 1952, made a number of additional alternations to the building including raising the roof for the addition of a full third story. The Cosmos Club would vacate the property in 1952 when it moved to its current home and headquarters within the Townsend Mansion(located at 2121 Massachusetts Avenue, NW).
In the ensuing years a handful of government agencies would call the Cutts-Madison House home. The National Science Foundation operated out of here for a handful of years during 1952 to 1958. After this, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) actually held offices here until 1964. Today, the Cutts-Madison is part of a complex of buildings that are a part of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. In addition to the Cutts-Madison House this complex includes the neighboring Cosmos Club Building, the Benjamin Ogle Tayloe House and the Howard T. Markey National Courts Building.
Address: 721 Madison Place, NW, Washington, DC
IWalked Audio Tours To See This Site: Washington D.C’s White House and Foggy Bottom. (Download the MP3 tour here. iPhone application tour is available here. Please note, all WashingtonD.C. tours are now available as in-app purchases upon download of ourFREEWashingtonD.C.Tours application, which includes a nearly 4-hour tour of the National Mall.)
IWALKED BOSTON’S PUBLIC GARDEN – THOMAS CASS STATUE
Along the Boston Public Garden’s promenade of statues (parallel to Boylston Street) is one dedicated to Civil War Colonel, Thomas Cass. This statue is actually the second incarnation of Mr. Cass here in the Garden. The original statue of Mr. Cass was deemed so artistically unsatisfactory that then Boston Mayor, Josiah Quincy commissioned a second statue to be built in its replacement. This current statue of Mr. Cass in his full war attire was done by Richard Edwin Brooks in 1899.
In reference to Thomas Cass, he is best known for commanding the voluntary “Fighting Ninth” Regiment for the Union during the Civil War.
Address: Boston Public Gardens, Boston, MA. Along the boulevard within the park that is parallel to Boylston Street.
IWalked Audio Tours To See This Site: Boston’s Common and Public Gardens. (Purchase the MP3 tour here. iPhone application tour is available here. Please note, all Boston tours are now available as in-app purchases upon download of our FREEBoston Lite application, which includes a free 1 hour tour of a portion of Downtown.)