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A doughnut and art to start the day

My weekday breakfasts here in New York are very public, taken on the way to work on Fifth Avenue at East 70th Street at the Richard Morris Hunt Monument fronting Central Park.

In all seasons, I arrive about 8:15 a.m., plunk myself down on a stone bench forming part of the monument, and read the newspaper while eating a doughnut shared with sparrows.

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Who is this Richard Morris Hunt in whose company I breakfast five times weekly? Research on my part seems in order.

His dates, 1827-1895. He was an architect, today best known for designing the Fifth Avenue entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He designed mansions for the city's wealthiest families – none of his mansions survive – and the Lenox Library, also gone, one of three libraries later to form the founding collection of the New York Public Library.

The monument has a bust of Hunt sculpted by Daniel Chester French of Lincoln Memorial fame.

A pleasure of my breakfast "room" is gazing across Fifth Avenue at the former Lenox Library site, now occupied by the Frick Collection. (Note the use of the word "collection." The Frick is no mere museum with art objects gathered over the years by scores of curators. Rather, it is the vision of one collector, Henry Clay Frick.) In spring, the blooming magnolia and cherry trees in the Frick garden are a glorious sight.

Tourists arrive as I breakfast. Few know anything about Hunt. I share my newfound knowledge with them.

By the monument, passersby stumble over a bulge in the sidewalk caused by the wandering roots of an elm tree. I should warn them of the peril.

Only on the coldest and wettest days of the year do I breakfast elsewhere, retreating to the protected steps of the Frick Art Reference Library.

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I have chosen an excellent way to begin the workday – not by milling about crowded rush-hour platforms of the Lexington Avenue subway, but with an outdoor breakfast in the company of elm trees and an architectural masterpiece.

Invigorated by nature and art, I set out for my office.


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