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A blog from CityRealty (Links below will take you to the 6sqft site)

Carter's View

The Trustees of Gramercy Park have mounted an "emergency effort" to save a rare 19th-century statue of a nymph that graced the park for nearly 120 years before being entrusted to the National Arts Club for safekeeping, according to an article in today's edition of DNAinfo.com by Amy Zimmer.

"After hearing the club was cleaning out rooms that former president O. Aldon James used to hoard papers, art and debris, the park's trustees sent a letter to acting president Diane Bernhard asking that the statue, which was taken out of the park by the National Arts Club in 1983, ostensibly for repairs, be returned," the article said.

"'We understand it may have been damaged and in need of repair when it was removed from the park,' Rev. Tom Pike, a former Landmarks Preservation Commission official and current Gramercy Park trustee, wrote in the letter dated April 14....The statue is an important part of the park's history, Pike said," the article said, adding that "the 18-foot-tall zinc water nymph, built for the park in 1866, once gazed down at a young Theodore Roosevelt playing in that park as a child, Pike said. But years after she was removed from the park, she was photographed in shoddy condition - missing both hands and her scepter - hidden inside the basement the club's landmarked building at 15 Gramercy Park South, according to published reports. Now park trustees are pushing to get the statue back from the club, calling it 'an emergency' in light of the current dumpsters full of junk being cleared out of the club."

"Property owners around Gramercy Park paid $5,300, or the equivalent of approximately $1 million in today's dollars, to build the naiad to stand over the park's fountain," the article said, adding that "the fountain was removed from the park's center in 1909 to make way for a statue of the famed actor Edwin Booth as Hamlet, which remains there to this day. The nymph was later moved eastward and put on a stone base next to a reflecting pool, where she was 'cherished' until being removed in 1983, Pike explained," the article said.

The nymph left the park just in time for the National Arts Club's 85th anniversary celebration, which included a dedication ceremony for another statue, Greg Wyatt's "Fantasy Fountain," a sculpture of giraffes frolicking around a moon was rumored to have been rejected by Central Park's children's zoo before it was gifted to the National Arts Club. The article said that "some members blamed club president Aldon James for ousting the nymph statue to make way for the new sculpture."

National Arts Club board members told DNAinfo that everyone was on the lookout for the statue, explaining there is a lot of space to cover in the building, including sub-basements that workers...are just uncovering.

Club president O. Aldon James is currently being investigated by the state Attorney General and Manhattan District Attorney for alleged financial misdeeds in running the club, and he stepped down temporarily last month for a "vacation" of unspecified length.

An article by Jennifer Wright today at observer.com said that "on March 6, dozens of zebra finches were found dead outside the National Arts Club, at 15 Gramercy Park South. They belonged to the club president, O. Aldon James. The ASPCA is investigating the situation, though it's been suggested that Mr. James was likely responsible for their demise."

The article said that Mr. James "has occupied a duplex apartment with his twin brother, John James, overlooking Gramercy Park," the article said, adding that "while Mr. James cultivated a glamorous public persona, he indulged his private eccentricities. Club regulars say that the James brothers engage in frequent fistfights, and the president was frequently seen to be injured. Another former member, who also preferred not to be named, confirmed," adding that "Aldon's father once said, 'It could have been worse. They could have been triplets.'"
Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.
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