Mrs Bear and I have history with New York City. We met at Columbia University. I had been hired by the Athletic Department and left home in California to begin my adult life. Miss Lela grew up on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, and was attending graduate engineering classes while waiting for admission to medical school. We met, married, and resided in the City for another year before beginning our grad student years in New Jersey and Texas. We now live four hours west of NYC and occasionally drive into the city for a few days of art, theater, food, and walking its streets. And occasionally we find something to do that neither of us had done before. On this visit, this new discovery was the Cloisters.
I had heard of the Cloisters, and knew that it was located way uptown, not far from crossing the river into the Bronx. I had seen a couple movies that had scenes filmed in beautiful outdoor settings. So I made the assumption that the Cloisters was New York’s Botanical Garden. i couldn’t have been more wrong.
Being wrong about botanical gardens is a standing joke in our family. The first time was when I mistook the Trivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. I was quite embarrassed to find out that it was actually a famous European amusement park!!! So Mrs Bear laughed at me again today about my assumption.
It turns out that the Cloisters is actually an extension of NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. An artist and collector put together an extensive collection of European Medieval Art in the early 1900s. He was, however, a terrible businessman and wound up selling his entire collection to John D Rockefeller in 1930. Which leads me to my second incorrect assumption … While finally realizing that it was in an art museum, I was then impressed that the Met found this beautiful old building to house the collection. Walking through it, I assumed we were in an old monastery or convent. But NO … Mr Rockefeller actually had the this set of Cloisters built in 1931 specifically to house this collection. While marveling at the dedication and thoroughness of matching this exterior to the art it was to hold, I also concluded that some fortunate people have too much money and time on their hands. Another reason for my assumption that this was a monastery had to do with the interred remains in the photo above. I wonder if John D brought them over for effect as well???
Too soon it was time to reboard the Subway for our ride back downtown. But on the way, I snapped a final photo from the grounds overlooking the Hudson River. Fort Tryon was the site of a battle during the Revolutionary War, and later several large estates in the 1800s. The 40+ acres was purchased by, you-know-who, to build the Cloisters and donate the entire project to the MET.