Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Grolier Club - Dedicated to book lovers everywhere


Grolier Club Library

New York City is filled with places that celebrate lesser known or thought about aspects of history and industry. There are museums for almost everything. One of those places is the Grolier Club, which celebrates all things about books.

The Grolier Club is a private club, dedicated to bibliophiles and lovers of graphic arts. It was founded in 1884 by Robert Hoe, a printing press manufacturer and book collector, along with eight other book lovers. Its mission is to foster the study, collecting, and appreciation of books and works on paper. The club maintains a a library dedicated to all aspects of books and graphic arts, with over 100,000 books about books; bibliographies; histories of printing, publishing and collecting; and catalogs of exhibitions and sales. The Grolier club promotes and encourages knowledge of books, making their library available for research, and maintaining galleries with where they hold exhibitions and events open to the public.

When I visited in early December, the main gallery was hosting an exhibit titled “Further Impressions,” which was comprised of books and artifacts from the club’s collection chosen to show the importance of books and printing throughout history. 

The Life of Charles Henry Count Hoym (1899)

Lauderdale set of English Auction Catalogs (17th-18th Centuries)

Records of the Imperial Libraries under Napoleon

Type samples by ATFAlphabets

Printers International Specimen Subscription - a catalog of samples submitted by printing companies from around the world (late 19th century)

Polycronicon (1493)

Handmade graphic novels (20th Century)

Electroplated Book Cover (1895)

Book Plates

Illustrated books (21st Century)

While exhibit closed on January 2, there will be a new show opening on January 20th - “Magazines and the American Experience.” This will be an exploration of “how magazines have both driven and reflected the American experience.”

So, if you love books, printing or the history of either, come visit the Grolier Club. It is worth the trip.

Nuts and Bolts:

  • The Grolier Club offers free admission to its gallery, although advanced tickets are required due to COVID.
  • It is open Monday - Saturday from 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • It is located at 47 East 60th Street, between Madison Ave and Park Ave in New York City.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Ellis Island

Entrance to the Main Building

The story of my family’s journey to the United States is fairly representative of those who came from Europe in the early 20th Century. All four of my grandparents made their way from eastern Europe to one of several ports. They boarded a ship and sailed to New York. On arrival, they passed through Ellis island’s processing center. That history has drawn me back to to visit the center several times.

What is today called Ellis Island started off as a much smaller outcropping in New York’s Upper Bay. It was one of three islands that were used by the local Lenape people as a place to harvest oysters, and so was given the name Little Oyster Island. From 1674 through 1790, the island passed through several owners, ending up in the hands of Samuel Ellis. After his death, New York State took control of the island to build part of its fortification system to protect the harbor from the English and French navies.

Ellis Islands Main Building

In 1892, the immigration processing center was moved from Castle Clinton, in lower Manhattan, to a wood framed building on Ellis Island.  During its first year, 400,000 immigrants passed through the center. By 1897 the total have grown to 1.5 million. The island was increased to twice its size using land fill from the digging the first of New York City’s subways. However, in that year the center burned down, in fire whose cause is still not known.

A new center was built, and opened on January 1, 1900. During the next twenty years, the size of Ellis Island was again doubled, to its current 28 acres. The station grew to include barracks and a hospital. In 1924, the immigration center’s mission changed. New laws limited immigration, and the facilities were primarily used as a detention center of those awaiting deportation and for those who needed medical or legal clearance to enter the country.

Much has been written about the experiences of those who arrived at and processed through Ellis Island. I refer you to this page at for an in-depth read.

When you visit today, Ellis Island has several exhibits set up to help you explore the experience that many immigrants had. While First Class and Second Class passengers were allowed to disembark on the piers in Manhattan, those in Third Class, or Steerage, were brought to Ellis Island. Ferries would bring them to the front of the main building, just as visitors are brought today. When you enter the main building, you are in the Luggage hall, where travelers were reunited with their bags, and passed through customs. Today this large hall is home to a small store, and information desks. You can also pick up an audio guide, which I highly recommend.Behind the lobby is an exhibit, with the unfortunate title “The Peopling the America” which explores European immigration to the British colonies and the United States, prior to 1900. 

Museum Floor Plan

Luggage Room

Luggage as it would have been brought in

Sailing Adverstisement

When you have finished on the first floor, head up the main stairway to the Registry Room, on the 2nd floor. This climb was the first chance for doctors to evaluate newcomers. If a person got to the top of the steps and showed signs of physical distress, they could be pulled aside for further examination.

The Registry Room

The Registry Room, or Great Hall, is a large open space that was basically a waiting room. Fresh off the boat, people literally stood in line, or sat on rows and rows of benches, waiting to be interviewed. It was here that government officials decided if travelers could enter the country, or if they needed further examination. Most people were allowed in within several hours, especially if they had family waiting for them, or could show that they had money. However, there were several reasons for hold people at the station. Doctors might suspect illness. Also, while no visas or passports were required, an inspector might decide to hold someone on political grounds. Or, if someone claimed that a family member was waiting for them, but they could not be contacted, a person might have to wait.

The Money Exchanger

Immigrants could see the Statue of Liberty while waiting

If approved for entry, new immigrants might be met by family members on the first floor. There was also a railway ticket office right there, so when a person arrived with plans to travel on from New York, they could buy their ticket and head straight to the train station.

The Ferry still waits

For those not approved for entry, there was more waiting. Barracks were available, and a hospital for those who might be ill. After 1925, when Ellis Island was primarily a detention facility, these were in constant use, and the Registry Room actually became a place for families to spend their days. If entry was fully denied, travelers were placed back on a ferry, and taken directly to a ship for the return to Europe.

Gallery of immigrants

Family Supper by Ralph Fascinella

Hearing Room

Today, the ferry ride to Ellis Island includes a stop at Liberty Island. You can disembark, and explore the island, although the Statue of Liberty and its museum are currently closed due to COVID.

In addition to its exhibits, Ellis Island also is home to the American Family Immigration Center, which includes a searchable data-base of immigration records.

Nuts and Bolts:
Tickets for Ellis Island must be bought in advance, and are timed to specific ferries. The fee is: $19 Adults/ $14 Seniors/ $9 children aged 4-12

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Palisades Interstate Park. Beautiful Hikes and Views near New York City


Standing on my balcony, a the northern end of The Bronx, I have a great view of the Hudson River. On the eastern shore is Westchester County, starting with the city of Yonkers. On the western shore are the Palisades, the 500+ foot tall volcanic cliffs that tower over the river. It is here that I headed on a fall morning to visit the unique Palisades Interstate Park, formed by two governors with who had an eye for the future.

Palisades Interstate Park was formed in 1900 by Gov. Teddy Roosevelt of New York and Gov. Foster Voorhees of New Jersey. It was formed in an effort to preserve the beauty of the Palisades at a time it was being quarried mercilessly. The park is twelve miles long, but only half a mile wide, and it follows the river along both the top and bottom of the cliffs. It runs basically from the Ft. Lee and the George Washington Bridge, north to just past the state line with New York.

Along the water, the park offers access to the Hudson River. There are parking and picnic areas, boat launches, a marina and even some beaches. Ferries brought New Yorkers across to enjoy a day along the river, from Dyckman Street in Manhattan to Englewood Landing, and from Yonkers to Alpine Landing. In 1912, Hudson River Drive was built, giving access to automobiles. As you drive north form the Edgewater Entrance you pass under the George Washington Bridge, and arrive at the Ross Dock Picnic Area. This large space includes grills and picnic spaces, a children’s playground, and a boat launch. It offers parking (for a fee during the summer season) and access to the park’s trails. But most of all, it offers a wonderful view of the George Washington Bridge. Movie fans might recognize it as the setting to carnival at the start of “Big.”


Continue north and you arrive at the Englewood Picnic area and Boat Basin. The is another beautiful place to stop, eat and hike. During the summer the Snack Shack is open, serving food, and there are picnic and gill sites available. 

Continuing north along the beautiful Henry Hudson Drive and you will encounter the Undercliff Picnic Area. This is a very rustic area, with sites lined along the parking area. They are all shaded and separated by trees. However there are no facilities at this site. Nearby is the Undercliff Beach. You can’t drive north from this points as they are still rebuilding from the damage of Hurricane Sandy.

The top of the Palisades is dominated by Palisades Interstate Parkway, which carries cars from the bridge north, to the NYS Thruway and on to Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks in New York. While it seems harder to access, there are several ‘Lookouts’ where you can drive in and park. They offer wonderful views of the river and east to the New York communities. They also allow access to the trails along the cliff-top and to trails that go down to the water.

State Line Lookout

Yonkers Waterfront


If you are looking for a place where you can picnic or hike and also be near the water of the Hudson River, come to the Palisades Interstate Park. It is beautiful and convenient.

Nuts and Bolts:
You can enter the park at several points. The Edgewater Entrance off of River Road in Ft. Lee, along with exits 1 and 2 from the Palisades Interstate Parkway all offer car access to Hudson River Drive.