A Train Ride through Miniature New York

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”
—Oscar Wilde (1856–1900)

Sensational describes the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden; truly most of our senses are engaged. These photos were taken in December 2011, when the focus was on models of buildings from New York’s past. Each year is different. This year’s exhibition has been expanded by 3,000 square feet of additional space. The show is on view through January 18, 2016.

The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden is the setting for a wonderland of more than 150 scaled-down versions of well-known buildings and structures. Familiar favorites such as the Brooklyn Bridge, New York City Hall, and Rockefeller Center are on view along nearly a half-mile of track. With G-scale locomotives and their trains whizzing through the landscape, and architectural gems of New York’s past and present, from within the city and its surroundings constructed from bark, leaves, and other botanicals, the Holiday Train Show is an amusing treat for one and all.

The artist responsible for these fanciful creations is Paul Busse. He and his wife Margaret operate their design company, Applied Imagination, from Alexandria, Kentucky. Their wooded property supplies all the raw materials needed to show visitors and locals what New York looks like in miniature. The creative team uses fallen berries, bark, leaves, twigs, seeds and other botanicals to craft these magical displays. Applied Imagination created the first Holiday Train Show for the New York Botanical Garden in 1992.

New York Botanical Garden, the Bronx, Model Trains, Trains, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Applied Imagination, Paul Busse, New York, Alexandria, Kentucky

The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory is a stunning Victorian-era glasshouse, and a NYC landmark.

The venue for the show, the 1902 Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, gets its moment in the spotlight. Named for Enid Annenberg Haupt (1906–2005), who saved it from destruction. In 1978, she donated $5 million to renovate the building, and another $5 million for an endowment dedicated to its maintenance.

New York Botanical Garden, the Bronx, Model Trains, Trains, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Applied Imagination, Paul Busse, New York, Alexandria, Kentucky

The Frick Mansion opened to the public as a museum in 1935.

One of New York’s hidden gems, the Frick Collection is housed in the former home of industrialist and art collector, Henry Clay Frick (1849–1919). The architectural firm Carrère and Hastings, designers of the New York Public LIbrary, created a Beaux-Arts beauty, using Indiana limestone to clad the exterior and parts of the mansion’s interior. Completed in 1914, the Frick mansion sits at the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 70th Street, opposite Central Park.

New York Botanical Garden, the Bronx, Model Trains, Trains, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Applied Imagination, Paul Busse, New York, Alexandria, Kentucky

Grant’s Tomb was dedicated on April 27, 1897, the 75th anniversary of the general’s birth.

Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb? Ulysses Simpson Grant (1822–1885), 18th president of the United States and his wife Julia (1826–1902) are entombed, not buried there. It is a trick question. Completed in 1897, the mausoleum’s construction was funded by individual citizens. A part of the National Park Service, it is located in Riverside Park at West 120th Street and Riverside Drive.

New York Botanical Garden, the Bronx, Model Trains, Trains, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Applied Imagination, Paul Busse, New York, Alexandria, Kentucky

The real Little Red Lighthouse stands 40 feet tall, and is made of cast iron.

The Little Red Lighthouse has been standing under the George Washington Bridge on the New York side of the Hudson River since 1921. It was brought there from Sandy Hood, NJ where it had guided ships since 1889. Accessible as part of the New York City park system, it gained national attention in 1942 when a children’s book, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde Swift, with illustrations by Lynd Ward was published.

New York Botanical Garden, the Bronx, Model Trains, Trains, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Applied Imagination, Paul Busse, New York, Alexandria, Kentucky

Since November 13, 1966 the Lyndhurst Castle has been a National Historic Landmark.

The NeoGothic-styled Lyndhurst Castle sits in an 67-acre park facing the Hudson River in Tarrytown, New York. Designed in 1838 by Alexander Jackson Davis (1803–1892), it had first been home to former New York City mayor William Paulding (1770–1854), then to merchant George Merritt. In the 1880s railroad tycoon and Wall Street speculator, Jay Gould (1836–1892) bought the estate. Upon her death, his daughter Anna, Duchess of Talleyrand-Perigord (1865–1961), donated the house, its contents, and the grounds to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The public is welcome for house tours, and walking and picnicking in the park.

New York Botanical Garden, the Bronx, Model Trains, Trains, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Applied Imagination, Paul Busse, New York, Alexandria, Kentucky

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded in 1870 by businessmen and leading artists.

The Beaux-Arts façade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA) was completed in 1910; it is a strong contrast to its original NeoGothic style. It has been expanded over the years; today it covers over two million square feet of exhibit and supporting space. MMA is one of the world’s finest art museums. The building sits on the edge of Central Park at 1000 Fifth Avenue. I love this place!

New York Botanical Garden, the Bronx, Model Trains, Trains, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Applied Imagination, Paul Busse, New York, Alexandria, Kentucky

Olana was designated a National Historic Landmark on June 22, 1965.

The Hudson River School painter Frederic Church (1826–1900) worked closely with architect Calvert Vaux (1824–1895), part of the team creating Central Park, in the 1870s to realize Church’s dream, Olana. Located in the Hudson Valley, near the town of Hudson, its Middle-Eastern inspired architecture, combined with Victorian excess, it is fittingly exotic. The name is believed to come from a town in ancient Persia. Olana is Church’s greatest art work!

BotanGardTrain25

Kykuit sits in the center of a 250-acre park.

Kykuit, meaning “lookout” in Dutch, was John D. Rockefeller, Sr.’s house near Pocantico Hills, New York. Completed in 1913, since 1976 it has been a National Historic Landmark. Former New York governor and U.S. vice president Nelson A. Rockefeller (1908–1979) willed his one-third interest in his family’s estate to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which has opened the house and its grounds, dotted with Nelson’s modern sculpture collection, for tours.

BotanGardTrainBB2

In 1964 the Brooklyn Bridge was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Opened on May 24, 1883, construction began on the 5,989-foot long, 277-foot tall, NeoGothic styled Brooklyn Bridge on January 3, 1870. Spanning the East River it connects Manhattan and Brooklyn. The first of the three East River bridges to be built, it was not formally named until 1915; until that year it had been known as the East River Bridge or the New York and Brooklyn Bridge.

BotanGardTrainGWB2

The George Washington Bridge is called the GW Bridge, the GWB, the GW, and the George.

Linking the former Fort Washington in New York and the former Fort Lee in New Jersey, fortified positions used by General George Washington and the Continental Army, the George Washington Bridge’s upper traffic lanes were opened in 1931. More than 30 years later the lower level was opened. Cass Gilbert, who designed Lower Manhattan’s Woolworth Building, was the bridge’s architect.

BotanGardTrainMontgomery

Montgomery Place was first called Chateau de Montgomery by its owner.

Completed in 1805, Montgomery Place was the home of Janet Livingston Montgomery (1742–1827). Her husband, General Richard Montgomery (1738–1775), lost his life at the Battle of Quebec during the American War for Independence. The Livingstons and the Montgomerys were wealthy, prominent New York families. In 1802 Mrs. Montgomery bought 432 acres along the Hudson River. She hired Alexander Jackson Davis to design the house; he combined the Federal and Italianate styles. Montgomery Place has been a National Historic Landmark since 1992.

BotanGardTrainPenn

Old Pennsylvania Station was modeled on Ancient Rome’s Baths of Caracalla.

Completed in 1910, Pennsylvania Station was built for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Occupying two city blocks from Seventh Avenue to Eighth Avenue and from 31st to 33rd Streets, it remained operational until 1963, when it was demolished and replaced by an office complex and the Madison Square Garden sports arena. Designed by McKim, Mead and White, its loss is a tragedy! However, the sacrifice of the Old Penn Station spurred the landmarks preservation movement in New York City. That is a good thing!

BotanGardTrainRock1

30 Rockefeller Center, known popularly as 30 Rock, is home to “The Tonight Show.”

Developed in the early 1930s, Rockefeller Center is the focal point for Midtown Manhattan. The Channel Gardens are so named because what separates England and France is the English Channel; on one side of the garden is the France Building, on the other is the England Building. In the photo, to the left is Saks Fifth Avenue, across the street from 30 Rock in reality; and to the right is Radio City Musical Hall, down the street from 30 Rock in reality.

BotanGardTrainSunnyside

Washington Irving designed cute little Sunnyside and its grounds himself!

Located facing the Hudson River in Tarrytown, New York, Sunnyside was once the home of America’s first major literary star, Washington Irving (1783–1859). The 1835 house and its 10 acres have been a National Historic Landmark since 1962. The house was widely known, listed in guided books and as the subject for a Currier and Ives print. The Irving family continued to live there until 1945.

BotanGardTrainSwede

The Swedish Cottage sits next to the Shakespeare Garden in Central Park.

A stop on our Central Park Walking Tour, the Swedish Cottage was built as part of the Swedish Pavilion at the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia. It is what a Swedish schoolhouse would have looked like at the time. Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903), designer of Central Park, bought it for $1,500; and had it rebuilt in the Park. It serves as a children’s marionette theater today.

BotanGardTrainVanderbilt

The William K. Vanderbilt house was based on the late-Gothic Hôtel de Cluny in Paris.

Known as Petit Chateau, the New York townhouse of William Kissam Vanderbilt (1849–1920) and his wife Alva (1853–1933) was located at 660 Fifth Avenue, on the corner of West 52nd Street. Built in 1882, it was one of the most prominent Gilded Age mansions to line the avenue. In March of 1883, as a “housewarming” Alva threw one of the most elaborate fancy-dress balls in the city’s history. Designed by Richard Morris Hunt, it was demolished in 1926.

Experience the Holiday Train Show for yourself during one of our Specialty Tours, designed with your individual touring interests.

ALL PHOTOS AND TEXT © THE AUTHOR 2015

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