Home at the Frick

There’s no place like home. It may be 85 years since the last time a member of the Frick family slept over at their mansion on East 70th, but the house still feels as much like a home as it ever did. Servants, all 27 of them, have been replaced by staff, the cedar room is no longer full of furs, and computers have replaced cots in the upstairs bedrooms. But the paintings – the Vermeers, the Whistlers and the Rembrandts – are still exactly where Mr Frick placed them more than one hundred years ago. And then there are the secret gardens, the heirloom tomatoes and the trees that were thought to be extinct.

From the rooftop looking to the west side the view over Central Park is spectacular. It is the fifth avenue view, the upper east side advantage. But on the other side of the building there is a little alcove above the famous Russell Page garden – the garden that survived the architect’s proposal of being built upon, simply by being so beautiful that people rallied from around the world to protect it. The alcove, a perfect sun trapped ledge accessible only through small forgotten french windows, is the private space of the Frick gardener. Here he grows heirloom tomatoes and herbs and occasionally permits a grateful green-thumb visitor. The tomatoes love the space and thrive, generously contributing to the salads of the staff. Well, mainly the director’s salads. But they do share the view.

On the east side of the garden is a massive Metasequoia, a red wood that was believed to have been extinct for thousands of years. Then during the American occupation of Japan after the second world war, soldiers recognized the conifer and brought seeds back to America in their pockets. One found it’s way to the Frick where it grows with a small abatement. Steel cables connect from the garden to the tree, preventing it from thwacking the building next door when the wind blows. It’s a neighborly courtesy to musical agent Mr Barbis, who not only overlooks the garden but who represents Elton John amongst others. Which goes to show you can always pick your home, but you never know who is going to live next door….

view from roofIMG_8664overviewthwack

This entry was posted in art & inspiration, gardens, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Home at the Frick

  1. Thanks Gabrielle, I’ll put this on my list next time I come to NYC. Might be again this fall.

  2. Paula says:

    Love reading and listening to your reports

  3. Will says:

    Woe is me…. all those years I carefully scraped together my Yankee $$ to find me a bed around the theatre district for my New York stays…. to think I may have been able to enjoy p’raps an outhouse up on E70th (dream on William). What a super story on how some of the others live. And to think that such residences still survive in Manhattan

    • Absolutely Will – we are lucky to have the Frick – although I do sometimes imagine that the family are still pottering around upstairs and that any moment we will be called to join them for a drink at the snooker table. Or better still, in front of Rembrandt’s self portrait in the west gallery….
      You know the person who ran the house kept every receipt and recorded all day to day activities. So if you were a chef and wanted to go in and duplicate a meal from, say, July 20th 1916, you could do it. Amazing!

  4. Lorraine Booth says:

    Thank you for your enthralling writings of life in NY – appreciate.
    Lorraine in almost sunny Coffs Harbour Jetty, Australia

  5. I love this garden thank you for sharing it .

    • Isn’t it a beauty Valerie? The water lilies come back every year and even the fish are long term residents. The story goes that goldfish were put into the pond in the late 70’s and none have been added since. They are huge now – or at least the progeny are – so they obviously enjoy the garden as well…!

  6. Karl Taylor says:

    Met you at Frick a few weeks ago when visiting NY. It the best place for a peaceful NY “art fix”,just fabulous, love your reports and late evening call to Rod on ABC

    • Thanks Karl – I was encouraged by your previous comments to talk more about the Frick – and as you say, if you only go to one museum while you’re in NYC, then the Frick is definitely the place to go…

  7. Lynne Harris says:

    I’m another of your grateful listeners, love NY so I soak up all the fabulously presented info that you impart. Thanks Gabrielle.

  8. Susan Davis says:

    What a interesting place , I’m heading to NY in 3 weeks will definitely have to find this gem . Thankyou for your reports late at night with Rod on ABCvvery informative .

  9. Mandy from Melbourne says:

    I had to take my husband to hospital on Thursday night, so at 3am we each had an earphone to listen to you talking to Rod. I’ve been telling him about you and your reports for ages, but now he has actually heard you for himself. We went to NY Oct 2012 and absolutely loved it. Two weeks after we returned home, Hurricane Sandy arrived!! We tend to leave mayhem and destruction after most of our holidays – oops! I just love your photographs and tales of places you’ve found. WE SHALL RETURN, as someone once said šŸ˜‰

    • Thanks Mandy – I am very complimented by the visual of you two sitting there sharing the earphones and listening to Rod & I – but I hope the hospital visit turned out OK. And also that you will let me know the next time you are coming to town so I can batten down the hatches. But yes, you will, nay must, return!

  10. kbrown1944 says:

    The Frick was one of our favourite places to visit this trip. Highly recommended.
    Keith& Lil.

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