Newport on Memorial Day Weekend 5-30-11

On Friday, I had picked up Linda at the White Plains Harlem Division RR Station, at around 12:30pm and we made terrific time going northeast on the Merritt Parkway. At Exit 54 (Milford) we headed due east to I-95, which I attempt to avoid like “death of a thousand cuts.” But to get to Newport all roads lead to that overused and impossible road. Once we were safely on the NE Turnpike, we hit some early afternoon head winds as traffic surrounding New Haven was heavy and slow. Any slight incline on, I-95, or the Mass Pike, causes incredible slowdowns and backups. There seems to be no other explanation for the stop and go patterns that plague these heavily trafficked arteries.

Meanwhile, Newport on the Memorial Day weekend was hopping and the roads, restaurants, restorations and “cottages” were jammed with humanity. It was like the winter ended this weekend. As we descended from Pell-Newport Bridge (now $4 each way) and swung around the ramp to terra firma, Linda noticed the Long Wharf Seafood emporium which advertized live lobsters to be steamed to order. So even before entering Newport, we bought a very nice 1.5 lb lobster, coleslaw and clam chowda’. Therefore, dinner was now guaranteed. We also were able to fill up the tank at $3.99 per gallon, which was a lot cheaper then the current $4.15-25 for 87 octane, in Westchester.

The Northeast, like the rest of the country has had a rotten winter, and it seemed like springtime had never really arrived. The last number of weeks has been cold and wet and other then a few isolated days, here and there, nothing has been too terribly pleasant.

During our last trip to Newport, which was last Christmas, we were inundated by a major snowstorm which paralyzed all but a few lunatics who were surfing in the ocean off the Cliff Walk. After entering Newport on Farewell Street, past the old cemetery, we headed to the Brickyard Market. Meanwhile, once on Thames Street, which parallels America’s Cup Way, one could not get a space for love or money. I doubled park in front of the NY Historical Society, while Linda stretched her appendages. Seeing that parking in downtown Newport was beyond impossible, we headed toward Memorial Drive and Bellevue Boulevard. We inched our way passed the ancient Casino and the Tennis Hall of Fame. But since we were unhappy bucking bumper to bumper traffic, we decided to avoid the long looping way around past Doris Duke’s old stomping grounds, Rough Point, to Ocean Drive, by cutting though to Wellington and across to Harrison. This was the short cut we continued to use to get to and fro to the Ocean Cliff which is a beautiful resort and time-sharing overlooking the often fog-shrouded Narragansett Bay. It was there we unloaded, unpacked and planned our next move!

After our lobster dinner, and a small carafe of wine, we watched a little television and fell quickly into the arms of Morpheus.The next morning we were up early, had breakfast in our small kitchen area, and we were off to the Thames Street stores for post cards and the Antique Armory. The only way to find parking downtown was to get there before anyone else. After strolling around the an hour or so we made our way to the American Museum of Illustration, which is located in a marvelous 113 year old mansion located on Bellevue Avenue. Vernon Court, which was built in 1898, was designed, conceived and completed in the heart of the Gilded Age. This Beaux Arts adaptation of a 17th Century French chateau has been described as one of the greatest mansions in America. It was designed by Carrere & Hastings, the architects for the New York City Public Library. The interiors were designed to replicate the Marie Antoinette suites at the Versailles Palace. Not to be outshined by the French influence, the elegant gardens were inspired by the Pont Garden, which Henry VIII built for the ill-fated Anne Boleyn at her Hampton Court Palace.

Meanwhile, the property remained in the hands of the Richard Gambrill family heirs until 1956, when it was auctioned. From 1963 until its closing in 1972, it served as the administration building for Vernon Court Junior College, an all-girls school. Over the next two and a half decades it passed through several different owners. In 1998, it was acquired by Laurence and Judy Cutler, founders of the National Museum of American Illustration..

Since we were the earliest visitors on Saturday morning, we serendipitously met both Mr. and Mrs. Cutler and complemented them on their remarkable restoration of this national treasure. But, what was even more remarkable was their fantastic collection of American illustrative art, which focused on works by JC Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and NC Wyeth. The collection alone was breath-taking, and their arrangement was done with exquisite taste. We left with an enhanced feeling for this now lost American art form, which dominated advertising and magazine covers like; The Saturday Evening Post, Look, the first Life Magazine and The Ladies Home Journal for almost a century. The current exhibition focused on the remarkable connection and influence JC Leyendecker had on the young Norman Rockwell.

At the end of our most engaging time, we drove back to Memorial Drive, turned right and headed down past Easton’s Beach and into Middletown. We found our way to Wave Avenue and Flo’s Clam House for lunch. After a Greek salad and some clams on the half-shell, we worked our way to Portsmouth looking for a wine-tasting and antiques. Missing the wine-tasting tour, we found our way to the Eagles Nest Antique Center and Linda got the steal of the week, five yellow Limoges plates for $6.00 (cheap as Mad Magazine often noted!)

After returning from Portsmouth we headed toward Rosecliff, one of the few mansions we had never visited. In 1891 two sisters, Theresa Fair Oelrichs and Her sister Virginia Fair bought an old wooden cottage and eleven acres that located on Bellevue Avenue. It was owned at one time by George Bancroft, a noted statesman and a prominent amateur horticulturist, who had a passion for roses. The celebrated, “American Beauty” rose, America’s national flower, was developed by Bancroft.

As to the house that stands there today, it came from the purchasing power of Theresa Fair Oelrichs, a silver heiress from Nevada, whose father James Graham Fair was one of the four partners in the Comstock Lode and her husband Hermann Oelrichs, American agent for Norddeutscher Lloyd steamship Line Mrs. Oelrichs, her sister and her husband, commissioned the architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White to design a summer home suitable for entertaining on a grand scale.

The principal architect, Stanford White, modeled the “cottage” after the Grand Trianon of Versailles, but smaller and reduced to a basic “H” shape, while keeping Mansart’s scheme of a glazed arcade of arched windows and paired Ionic pilasters, which increase to columns across the central loggia. White’s Rosecliff adds to the Grand Trianon a second storey with a balustraded roofline that conceals the set-back third storey, containing twenty small servants’ rooms and the pressing room for the laundry.
After our self-guided, audio tour we ventured outside to the great lawn at the rear of the building that overlooks Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. They were setting up white chairs and a chupa for a wedding, we learned, which would host approximately 175 guests. What an effort, and we could only imagine the cost.

We headed back into town and drove to Bowen’s Wharf which is right off America’s Cup Way. After finding a rare metered space with two hours already paid we headed for the Aquidneck Pier, where they sell wholesale lobsters, clams and shrimp. We ordered a lively 1.75 crustacean to be boiled along with ½ pound of shrimp. While waiting for our dinner we spent some time on the pier speaking to one of the vendors and looking at her beautiful inventory of jewelry, handbags and scarves. Besides all of that, she’s a good Democrat. We headed back to Ocean Cliff. The afternoon fog had burned off and we walked out to the back lawn which adjoins the main hotel where there was not only a wedding to be celebrated, but Adirondack chairs to be used. We were able to finish our respective books, and as it approached 6 pm we headed back to our rooms for dinner. Linda boiled and pealed the shrimps, we enjoyed a great Stilton cheese, Linda had bought in a wonderful market located in NYC at 110th Street and Broadway, and then we had the shrimp and cracked the lobster. Meanwhile, the lobster was great!

Sunday morning brought more fog, and after our showers and breakfast we headed into Newport, parked at Washington Square, right next “Yesterdays” that features a statue of Oliver Hazard Perry. We walked along Spring and Touro Streets, found Spring Street Books, a corner store, which had a nice selection of excellent quality used books at terrific prices and we gobbled up six of them. From there it was off to Patriot’s Park and the venerable Touro Synagogue, which dates back to 1763.

This Orthodox Temple was built from 1759 to 1763 for the Jeshuat Israel congregation in Newport under the leadership of Cantor (Chazzan) Isaac Touro. The cornerstone was laid by Aaron Lopez, a prominent merchant in Newport involved in the spermaceti candle making business and other commercial ventures. The Jeshuat Israel congregation itself dates back to 1658 when fifteen Spanish and Portuguese Jewish families arrived, probably from the West Indies, and many settled near Easton’s Point. The synagogue was formally dedicated in December of 1763. Many years earlier we had attended a Friday night service, which was crowded with US Naval personnel who were based in Newport. In fact, the US Naval Academy was re-located to Newport during the Civil War to protect it from southern sympathizers and possible sabotage. It was located on the corner of Pelham and Bellevue, but that location was razed long ago. Newport presently is the home of the US Naval War College which was founded in 1884. It is an education and research institution of the United States Navy that specializes in developing ideas for naval warfare and passing them along to officers of the Navy. The docent at Touro gave a great talk about the history of the congregation, where the first members came from and the history of their 500 year old Portuguese Torah which was made from the skins of deer.

On this weekend, one could not give up one’s parking space, so rather then trying to drive somewhere else we fed the meter, and walked to Thames Street, the Brick Market and found a place two blocks up called Lucia’s. It was just what we wanted; pizza and salad. We ordered a small Margherita pie with mushrooms and for $19 we were quite satiated. We finally had enough and after returning to the car we decided to work our way around the massive traffic delays. We circled around to Touro Street, then Bellevue, but we were again stymied by the traffic heading towards Ocean Drive. We made another course correction and found our way to Wellington, Harrison and eventually to Ocean Cliff. We changed for a swim in their pool, soaked in the hot tub and all was well with the world. We had dinner again in our rooms, watched a little television, read some, packed, and turned in for the evening. The next morning we were up early, we loaded the car and by 8 am we on our way. It was a smooth trip home, because we left early, and at 11 am in Tarrytown we unloading the car and catching up on mail, emails and the news of the day.

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A lifelong New Yorker, who now lives full-time in Palm Beach County, Richard was raised in Mount Vernon, New York and he was educated in the Mount Vernon public schools He graduated from Boston University with a BA in American History. After spending a year on Wall Street as a research analyst with Bache & Co., he joined a manufacturing and importing firm, where over the next twenty-five years he rose to the position of chief operating officer. After the sale of that business, Richard entered into the financial services field with Metropolitan Life and is a Registered Representative, who has been associated with Acorn Financial Services which is affiliated with John Hancock Life Insurance Company of Boston, Ma. Today, he is a retired broker who had specialized in long-term care insurance and financial planning. One of Richard’s recent activities was to advise and encourage communities to seek ways to incorporate “sustainability and resiliency” into their future infrastructure planning. After a lifetime in politics, with many years working as a district leader, which involved party organizational work, campaign chair activity and numerous other political tasks, Richard has been involved with numerous civic and social causes. In recent years, Richard served in 2005 as the campaign coordinator of the Re-Elect Paul Feiner Campaign in Greenburgh, NY and he again chaired Supervisor Feiner’s successful landslide victory in 2007. Over the next few years, he advised a number of political candidates. He has served as an appointed Deputy Supervisor of the Town of Greenburgh, with responsibilities regarding the town’s “liaison program.” He was a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board of the Town of Greenburgh, NY. Richard has lectured on FDR, The New Deal and 20th century American history in the Mount Vernon schools, at the Westchester Council of Social Studies annual conference in White Plains, and at many senior citizen groups, which include appearances at the Old Guard of White Plains, the Rotary Clubs of Elmsford and White Plains, and various synagogue groups around Westchester. In the winter of 2006 Richard was the leader of the VOCAL forum, sponsored by the Westchester County Office of Aging, which addresses the concerns of Westchester County’s Intergenerational Advocacy Educational Speak-out forums for senior citizens. Richard has given lectures for the Active Retirement Project, which is co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Center on the Hudson, the Greenburgh Hebrew Center, and other groups around Westchester County. Richard also is the founder and Chairperson of the Jon Breen Memorial Fund, that judges and grants annual prizes to students at Mount Vernon High School who submit essays on public policy themes. He also sponsors the Henry M. Littlefield History Prize for the leading MVHS history student. Richard serves on the Student College Scholarship Committee of Mount Vernon High School. In past years Richard chaired and moderated the Jon Breen Fund Award’s cablecast program with the Mayor and local and school officials. Richard has been a member of Blythedale Children’s Hospital’s Planned Giving Professional Advisory Board, and was a founding member of the committee to re-new the FDR Birthday Balls of the 1930’s and 1940’s with the March of Dimes’ effort to eliminate birth defects. Their renewal dinner was held at Hyde Park on January 30, 2003. Richard is currently an active contributor to the Roosevelt Institute, which is involved in many pursuits which included the opening of the Henry A. Wallace Center at Hyde Park, and the Eleanor Roosevelt – Val-Kill Foundation. In 2007, he proposed to the City of Mount Vernon an effort to develop an arts, educational, and cultural center as part of a downtown re-development effort. Richard was a team partner with the Infrastructure & Energy Solutions Group. IEFG which has developed innovative strategies for the 21st Century. Richard hosted a weekly program on WVOX-1460 AM radio, called “The Advocates,” which was concerned with “public policy” issues. The show, which was aired from 2007 until May 15, 2013, has had amongst its guests; Representative Charles Rangel, Chairperson of the House Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, along with hundreds of others. All the 300 shows are archived at Richard currently gives lectures on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR and the Jewish Community, The New Deal, FDR and Douglas MacArthur, 20th Century American Foreign Policy Resulting in Conflict, and Israel’s Right to Exist. Richard lives in Boynton Beach, Fl, with his wife Linda of 44 years. They have two married children. Their daughter Dana is a Rutgers College graduate, with a MS from Boston University, and is the Assistant Director of Recruitment at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Their son Jon is an electrical engineering graduate of Princeton University and a senior software architect at NY/Mellon Bank in NYC. Richard J. Garfunkel Recent Appearances: KTI Synagogue, Rye Brook, NY- Long Term Care & Estate Conservation- Anshe Shalom Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY- Long Term Care- American Legion Post, Valhalla, NY- Long Term Care and Asset Protection- Doyle Senior Ctr, New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care and Asset Protection- AME Methodist Ministers, New Rochelle, NY, LTC and Charitable Giving- Profession Women in Construction, Elmsford, NY, LTC and Business Benefits- Kol Ami Synagogue- White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Disability - Beth El Men's Club-New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care-Is it Necessary- Greater NY Dental Meeting Javits Ctr, NY, NY- LTC and Disability- IBEW Local #3 , White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Asset Protection, Health Fair -Bethel Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY-LTC and Disability, Heath Fair- Riverdale Mens Club CSAIR- Riverdale, NY- LTC- Life Weight Watchers of Westchester and the Bronx-LTC and Tax Implications Sunrise Assisted Living of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, NY-LTC Sprain Brook Manor of Scarsdale-LTC- November 15, 2001 Sunrise Assisted Living of Stamford, Connecticut, February 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, February, 2002 The Old Guard Society of White Plains, NY, April, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY August, 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, October, 2002 JCC of Scarsdale, Scarsdale, NY, November, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY, January, 2003 The Rotary Club of White Plains, NY January, 2003 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY April, 2003 Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, NY January, 2004 Mount Vernon High School, Mount Vernon, NY March 2004 Kol Ami/JCC of White Plains, NY November, 2004 The Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, January 2005 The Sunrise of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, April, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, November, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, December, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, January, 2005 Rotary Club of Elmsford, April, 2006 Kiwanis Club of Yonkers, June, 2006 Greenburgh Jewish Center, November, 2006 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, February, 2007 Hebrew Institute, White Plains, March, 2007 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, NY, April, 2007 Westchester Meadows. Valhalla, November, 2007 Hebrew Institute. White Plains, November, 2007 Art Zuckerman Radio Show- January, 2008 JCC of the Hudson, Tarrytown, February, 2008 Matt O’Shaughnessy Radio Show, March, 2008 WVOX –Election Night Coverage, November, 2008 WVOX – Inaugural Coverage, January 20, 2009 The Advocates-host of the WVOX Radio Show, 2007- 2010 Rotary Club of Pleasantville, February, 2009 Hebrew Institute of White Plains, May, 2009 JCC Hudson, Tarrytown, December, 2009-10-11-12 Brandeis Club, Yonkers, March 25, 2010

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