Category Archive 'Central Park'

21 Oct 2014

Hopper’s “Bridle Path” (1939)

, , , ,

HopperBridlePath
Edward Hopper, Bridle Path, 1939, formerly San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, now privately owned. Sold for $10,386,500 at a Sotheby’s auction in 2012 to allow the SFMOMA to purchase a different Hopper.

SFMOMA evidently preferred a more characteristic Hopper painting, presenting a gritty image of Mid-20th Century Everyman’s loneliness and alienation to this glimpse of Pre-WWII, American Upper-Crust ecstasy.

The New York Times in 1994 described the rise and decline of riding in Central Park.

The 1856 plan for Central Park by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux did not provide for horseback riding, although the planners did not expressly oppose it. William Alex, president of the Frederick Law Olmsted Association, said the bridle paths were among 17 suggested changes in the Central Park plan made by Robert J. Dillon, one of the original Central Park Commissioners, a Democratic politician and two-term Corporation Counsel.

Dillon’s proposals included waiting to lay out pathways until pedestrians established them by habit, and extending the Mall over the lake and up to Belvedere Castle with a large suspension bridge.

Olmsted & Vaux were able to fend off most meddling, but Dillon’s suggestion for bridle paths survived. By 1863 six miles of gravel- and sand-surfaced paths extended from 59th Street and Fifth Avenue to the west side of the park and around the reservoir. The rules of the park for 1873 specifically allowed horseback riding “with a free hand and a rapid rate of speed,” something not allowed anywhere else in the city.

The 1886 Appletons’ Dictionary of New York City said that renting a horse cost $3 for an afternoon. The Sun’s Guide to New York of 1892 noted that the stables’ business fell off markedly in the summer, when their patrons “go to the seashore or to the mountains.”

The soft surfaces of the bridle paths required intensive maintenance; the 1908 report notes that they were harrowed and leveled every evening and watered in the summer.

A 1929 editorial in The New York Times recalled the days when there were several hundred horses available from stables and riders frequently rode to the north end of the park, then up Seventh Avenue and along the Harlem River, and back down a bridle trail in Riverside Park.

In 1964, Hart’s Guide to New York City reported that there were only 50 horses for rent, out of Claremont Stables at 175 West 89th.

By the 1970’s the bridle paths were a shambles.

Claremont Riding Academy (where I used to rent horses to ride in early mornings in the Park) was located on West 89th Street. It closed forever in 2007. Wikipedia:

The location of the stable made for an unusual experience in the equestrian world: riding in heavy traffic. The stable was not in Central Park itself, but a block and a half away. Getting to the park required riding a horse on Manhattan streets, mixed in with the regular traffic, and crossing Central Park West.

The Academy was dependent on the structural condition of the bridle paths in nearby Central Park, as this was the primary designated area for horseback riding in Manhattan. At some point, the city allowed the bridle paths to be used by pedestrians, joggers, bicyclists and others, and discontinued structural maintenance of the paths. With the overuse of the paths in combination with the city’s discontinuance of maintenance, riders were no longer able to canter on the pathways, ending one of the pleasures of horseback riding which deterred new ridership. Due to declining patronage and increasing cost from renovations and taxes, Claremont closed forever at 5 p.m. April 29, 2007.

When I rented my first horse from Claremont, I was surprised to find that I’d been presented with a double bridle. (I was accustomed to riding only with a snaffle.) But, when the time came to ride through city traffic and the need to stop at a traffic light before crossing Central Park West arose, I was very happy indeed that I also had a curb bit at my disposal.

Some rather preposterous and pretentious interpretations of the painting, in French, (by a non-rider) are here.

John R. Shipp interprets the painting (in English). I’m afraid that I do not agree with his supposed connections myself. I think Hopper just chose to paint an image of three people riding at a gallop at a particular piece of Central Park architecture.

From Ratak Monodosico.

10 May 2011

Horses Coming Back to Central Park

, , ,


Riding to the Park from the old Claremont Stables

Before the Claremont Riding Academy closed in 2007, you mounted your horse at the stables located between Amsterdam & Columbus on West 89th Street, then rode on city streets, crossing major traffic on both Columbus Avenue and Central Park West in order to arrive at the trails in Central Park.

The rental horses were typically plugs, and left the stable reluctant to move faster than a slow walk, but coming back they would often (in the manner of horses) completely change character, and the rider would be glad that Claremont always supplied them with a double-bit.

Horseback riding in Central Park diminished over the final decades of the last century. The city cut back on maintaining the riding trails, and opened the equestrian trails (sigh!) to pedestrians, joggers, and bicyclists, leading to a ban on cantering.

What do you know? Civilization actually survives in New York City. Some of the people in authority recognized that a major city park lacking horseback riding was missing something important, and they remembered that the Park had been originally designed to incorporate riding trails.

The New York Post reports that the city fathers will be making an effort to restore the availability of horse rentals in Central Park.

Since the closure of Manhattan’s last stable, Claremont Riding Academy, in 2007, it’s been next to impossible to ride off into the sunset without riding the subway to another borough first.

The 4.2 miles of bucolic bridle paths winding through Central Park, around the reservoir and under bridges, are now mostly used by joggers and dog walkers, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe told The Post.

“People will keep walking and running there, but we also want riding — which has been done in the park for most of the past 150 years — to be restored,” he said. “The bridle paths are an essential part of the park’s design and riding is one of its oldest forms of recreation.”

After Claremont closed, the city did sign a deal with the Riverdale Equestrian Centre, to offer trail rides by appointment, but those were infrequent and only done on weekends, Benepe said.

The city now wants a more permanent riding concession.

Each day, horses will be brought to the North Meadow Recreation Center, located in the center of the park near 97th Street, from one of the outer-borough stables.

Prices and hours will be determined by a bidding process and regulated by the city, Benepe said. Proposals are due next month.

City stable owners say it’s a shame the bridle paths have gone to waste.

“These parks were designed to be seen from horseback,” said Walker Blankinship, 40, president of Kensington Stables in Brooklyn.

I used to work in the city, years ago, and some week days I would rise very early, put on my boots and breeches, and ride the subway up to Claremont on the Upper West Side.

The first time I did it, I did not bother bringing a riding crop, and I found my rental horse, appropriately named “Drifter,” unwilling to to do anything. He also (very impolitely) kept trying to run me into low overhanging branches and to scrape me off on the trees. So I finally took advantage of the proximity of those branches. I broke one off, and began employing it as a crop. Drifter bounced around a bit and tried sunfishing, but when he found that didn’t work for him, he settled down to doing his job, and actually began changing gaits. I even managed to get one nice jump out of him.

Hat tip to Bird Dog.


Your are browsing
the Archives of Never Yet Melted in the 'Central Park' Category.

















Feeds
Entries (RSS)
Comments (RSS)
Feed Shark