Petitioning Smithsonain Institute and 2 others

Olmsted and Vaux - National Art Treasure Threatened - Save the View

This master work of two of our greatest artists is undocumented and threatened.

It is beautiful and it focuses on a new perpective to our history.

Letter to
Smithsonain Institute
Brooklyn Museum
New York City Landmarks Commission
I just signed the following petition addressed to: The Brooklyn Museum and the Smithsonian Institute.
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A Petition to Designate and Protect
the ‘Far View’ as a ‘National Art Treasure.’

This beautiful view from Prospect Park of the Tower of the Empire State Building precisely bisecting the interior of Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch in Brooklyn’s Civil War Memorial Plaza is framed upon the plans of Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted. The Tower is more than 5 miles from, and was built 40 years after the Arch. The single vantage point to this alignment of three landmarks (Arch, Plaza, Tower) is from the base of an unassuming lampost on the median of the parks principal entrance.

Before the Civil War ended, they designed an elliptical plaza, its axis running north and south. In 1869, the first statue dedicated to Abraham Lincoln was presented at the north end of this axis. For 26 years the statue stood facing north along the axis, overlooking a large open-air public gathering area. But Lincoln’s gaze extended far beyond Brooklyn, more than five miles to a Fifth Avenue Manhattan mansion, built in 1862, which, in 1897 would become the original Waldorf-Astoria, and then, in 1931, the Empire State Building.

In an 1866 proposal, Olmsted wrote the entrance to a planned ‘public pleasure ground’ in San Francisco “should extend in the direction in which the city is likely to advance.”

“It is a common error to regard a park as something to be produced complete in itself, as a picture to be painted on a canvas. It should rather be planned as one to be done in fresco, with constant consideration of exterior objects, some of them quite at a distance and even existing as yet only in the imagination of the painter.” – Olmsted, Feb. 1870
This quote occured months after the Lincoln statue was dedicated. The alignment of the Lincoln statue with the Manhattan mansion was intentional. And this alignment is the framework of today's view of the Arch and Tower which we should consider protecting.

The 1892 Arch, dedicated at the south end of the axis,
framed Lincoln facing the mansion.

One year before the 1896 Supreme Court ruled racial segregation Constitutional, Olmsted retired. The Lincoln statue was turned around and moved to Prospect Park’s Concert Grove, facing Gravesend Bay, where Vaux would drown that November.

In 1897, the Arch would frame the Waldorf-Asoria,
perhaps visible from the busy park roadway.

In 1931, the Arch would frame the Empire State Building, easily visible from the busy park roadway.

Since 1970, a concrete base of a lamppost on the roadway median has provided this perfect vantage point, a ‘far view.’

The lamppost, the Arch, and the Tower are aligned. This line splits Wisdom and Felicity, the parental figures on top of the Plaza’s Bailey Fountain who face the Tower. Bailey Fountain, built at the same time as the Empire State Building, was dedicated in 1932.

This view of three 'harmoniously related' landmarks (the Plaza, Arch and Tower) is the Civil War legacy of Olmsted and Vaux, and an artistic work-in-progress which has been evolving for many generations.

The framework was laid by our most civilizing forces.
It should be recognized and protected as an
'historic visual corridor' or a 'National Public Art Treasure.'

“What artist, so noble…directs the shadows of a picture so great that Nature shall be
employed upon it for generations, before the work he has arranged for her shall realize
his intentions.” Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England - Olmsted 1852