Dogs, hiking, History, NY, Public Art, Sculpture, statue, Upstate New York

Learning All About History By Looking At Statues. Chapter IV. “P. Eckel & the Perils of the Pavement”


The next statue in our history tour, is of the indomitable P. Eckel.

Now largely forgotten — but in the final decades of the 19th century, he was known to every resident of this city.

A quintessential Victorian reformer, and, I am obliged to point out, a figure attracting considerable controversy.



Had he remained satisfied with his campaign to create a dog park in every neighborhood, he would, to a certainty, be better represented in the annals of American history.



His inaugural Canine Green (1876) was opened with considerable fanfare, and proved an instant success.  As reported in the Post:

   “Dog fanciers, sportsmen, and courting couples have flocked to the park.  The upper crust rubs elbows with the humbler sort, those who must toil to earn their daily crust,  and the Social Register’s pureblood hounds mix in perfect cordiality and democracy with their less-distinguished mongrel cousins…”



Based on its popularity, Eckel was appointed the city’s first Dog Warden — considered a rising political star, being groomed to run for mayor.



Eckel believed there were no bad dogs, only dogs hadn’t been properly instructed on the proper locations to relieve themselves.  His philosophy was embraced by adherents of the Aesthetic Movement, the Domestic Animal Welfare Reform societies, and all those grounded in the essential Victorian faith in Doing Your Business.



But his single-minded resolve to place his Patented Canine Sanitary Stanchions, on every street corner, without the blessing of the city council, cost him his job, and extinguished his dog park crusade.


The Eckel Monument today. The stanchions on the corners proved a bone of contention


Careful study of the Sanitary Stanchions (seen surrounding his statue in the picture above) reveals to the observant, one of the issues with his invention.

Because they so closely resembled hydrants, the fire brigades were constantly attempting to hook hoses to them.



When, as the result of this confusion, the city morgue burned to the ground, with tremendous loss of bodies, if not lives, the city fathers had had enough, and his political opponents unleashed their resentment.

Eckel, who only wanted to provide hygienic relief, was relieved of his position.  Hounded from office,  and every one of his stanchions was dismantled and destroyed.



But P. Eckel was not someone to roll over for a pack of ward heelers,  or sit idle, or take this lying down.

In his self-designed uniform, he continued to stride along the thoroughfares, up the town and down, six days a week, shouting through his speaking trumpet at miscreant curs befouling the footpath, and sometimes their dogs, too, but sadly, without the authority to collar wrong-doers.



Reading through his voluminous papers, laid down in the archives of the Eastminster Kennel Club, he comes across as well-meaning, but somewhat monomaniacal.



It’s sad to see this forgotten figure, in a park that no longer allows dog-walking.

Carved in stone, his features weathered by a century of rain, he stands forgotten, passed like water through our collective memory.



One supposes, that when this says “as supplied to Her Majesty the Queen,” they mean, for the use of her pets.




Teddy Roosevelt, sculpted in butter for the St. Louis World’s Fair, 1904. LOC. Personally, I thought, ghee, a pretty good likeness.


[Second in my Monumental Series “Learning All About History by Looking at Statues”]

As you will recall, however regretfully, we began the series with the Father of Our Country, George Washington.

George was made for statues.

Statuesque since he was a lad.

Strikingly tall, striking a pose in almost countless statues, struck onto coins and then stuck into vending machines, stuck on letters as a stamp, stuck onto dollar bills, and also sometimes stuck on stumps, possibly of cherry trees.


Reenactor visiting Waterloo, NY for the Memorial Day commemoration.



Moving on, here we have a New Yorker, reproduced in numerous statues, and stuffed animals.

Governor, Soldier, President.

In the pictures above and below, “Theodore Roosevelt, Modeled in Butter”.

This was an exhibit at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904, commonly called the St. Louis World’s Fair.







As I pondered this monument, done in a style called  baroque arteriosclerotic, a thought suddenly occurred to me.

And, man, that’s annoying.  How many times, have I told my brain, “Don’t do that!

A historian’s thinking process should be like a bank robbery – – “Don’t nobody make no sudden moves!

I hate it when random ideas pop up, like a deranged Whac-A-Mole game, and you just cannot pound them back in their hole with the hammer.  So I was dismayed to realize that Teddy’s  1904 butter sculpture for the St. Louis World’s Fair, had somehow brought up a new and timely topic – the removal of statues.

Well, my brain can go off wherever it wants — so long, good riddance, write if you get work — and I’ll go my own way.

But here’s a concept that could help with that debate over taking down monuments.

My plan, the Statue Statute, combines the oleaginous evasiveness of a politician, with the icy reasoning of a historian.


“He who cannot put his thoughts on ice should not enter into the heat of dispute.” Nietzsche


Chill out, dude.  It’s simple.  In future, we’ll make all our statues out of butter or ice. 

Stick ‘em in a refrigerated case —  and here’s a key concept – – fans of the statue have to pay the electric bill to keep things cool.

You can donate online, or by feeding change into a meter.

Way more hygienic than having the actual person there, like Disney’s longest-running show,

“What a Sleeping Beauty!  Lenin on Ice!” in Red Square.



If we have a burning desire to see Jubilation T. Cornpone memorialized in the park, we have to pay to keep him

— in sparkling ice, granita, or well-marbled butterfat.

The Popsicle Pantheon, The Immortal Icebox of Heroes, La Crème Glacée de la Crème.

Ice, pure and transparent, is obviously the wrong medium for politicians, so we can “laud him, all ye people, in lard.”

If we don’t keep the power on, if we waffle, our hero turns into a pool of melted butter.



When memories and passions cool,

and their snow jobs come to light,

and there’s no frozen slush fund to pay the electric bill,

the Sub-Zero Politicians will just melt away

… dissolve like such stuff as bad dreams are made on.

And most likely, the world will just carry on

…spinning in greased grooves.

And in the end, even when all the lights go off,

and the stuff in our refrigerators has gone very bad, become sentient, and taken over the planet,

the people we actually want to remember, will remain

…frozen in our memories, in the times and forms we most love to recall.



We’ll get back to Teddy, another time, don’t worry, I won’t forget.



Art, Frostbite, History, Pantheon, Public Art, Removing Statues, Sculpture, statue, Things to Do When Your Water Crystallizes on You

Giving History an Icy Reception. (Learning All About History By Looking at Statues. Chapter II)

Colonial History, Dental, George Washington, Public Art, Sculpture, statue, United States

Stumping for President (Learning All About History By Looking at Statues. Chapter I )


I want to achieve two goals with this post.


Inaugurate a new series “Learning History By Looking At Statues, Before They’re All Taken Down”.


I don’t want my kid sister to feel badly about not having a driver’s license.


Geo. Washington, in the park. Sometimes stumped, often defeated, but never beaten. Carried through the Revolution by his single-minded drive, and a horse.


Dear Sis –

George Washington was a great man.

He fought the French, he fought the English, he fought the Hessians, and he fought the Whiskey Rebellion.

And despite all that, he isn’t seen as a hostile guy, everybody thinks he’s a great guy.


Like many otherwise nice, intelligent people…

He.  Could.  Not.  Parallel.  Park.

Look at this statue.  This happened all the time.

Stuck  on  a  stump.

Because he just couldn’t parallel park.

“Martha?  Can you give me a lift?  There’s something the matter with this horse again.”

And did he give up?  I do not think so.



What is carved on the base of this statue?  A quotation from the Marquis de Lafayette:

Il est un conducteur terrible.     Mais il est toujours un grand homme”

“He is a terrible driver, but still, a great man.”

Washington was a lesson in perseverance, and overcoming all obstacles in your path.  Except granite curbs.  And light poles.  Stray shopping carts, too.




Now, here he’s crossing the Delaware.

Why would you do that in a little boat, standing up, when the river’s full of ice?

Because you cannot get your horse to go around the safety cones, on the bridge to New Jersey.

So you don’t give up, you take the ferry.

You just have to keep trying.  And re-taking the driving test.  I will give you driving lessons over the holidays.

But not with my car.














Yesterday we walked by plantations of white pines and spruce,  remnants of old apple orchards, lovely red sugar maples, beeches, hornbeams, and hophornbeams.

Those last two trees are pictured above.

Of the two, I prefer the hophornbeam.

I mean, who wants a hornbeam that just sits there?

I find it’s true that Nature abhors a vacuum – –

ambling along,  pretty much totally vacant of thought,


so Nature provided a little wake-up call – –

two ruffed grouse, alway wiseguys, suddenly shot up,

like whirring rockets.

I’ve never gotten a picture of a grouse,

just a few minor heart attacks,

when they suddenly blast off,

three feet in front of my face.







We’d gone into a stretch of hemlocks, where it’s always a bit darker,

and getting along toward sundown,

so we’d decided to head back, while we could still see the trail.







But first we walked just a bit down the hill,

to listen to the creek,

and look at the tiny waterfalls.











And found a shrine-like assemblage of pebbles on the bank.







Little heart-shaped stones were tucked every which way into crevices.















I know, damn hippies.

This won’t gladden the hearts of most hikers I know,

who are fundamentally opposed to leaving any alteration or trace of human activity in the woods.

And humans being humans, they kinda overdid things,

maybe just a tad,

so it ended up looking like a Neolithic dump,

just after Valentine’s Day in the Stone Age.







But there were no beer cans, cigarette butts, or shell casings,

and to be honest,

I kind of got a kick out of this particular little display of weirdness.








Why am I always thinking about food? I saw these lovely ferns, and all I could think was, how come there’s never a good salad bar in the woods, when you need one.  With those little croutons.


Autumn, Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Ithaca, NY, photography, Public Art, Uncategorized, United States, Upstate New York, Valentine's Day

Pictures of Upstate New York. October. Corazón de piedra



Like so many sophisticated adventure-seekers before us, we were driving around Cattaraugus County, admiring the cows.

There’s a whole lot of ’em.

Restaurants, movie theaters, gas stations, people…not so much.

Eventually, a small sign told us we’d arrived in East Otto.

Apparently, we’d passed through West Otto, and Central Otto, without noticing.

Soon after, my cellphone found a signal again, and could pull up a map.

We discovered that we were southeast of Bagdad, Gowanda, and the Zoar Valley.

And due east of Persia.

Strangers in a strange land.

I hadn’t known our state had these outlandish places, in such a pastoral setting, but I liked the idea of eating cheese from such exotic locales.

Bagdad Brie, Persian Pecorino, Gowanda Gorgonzola.

And yes, as you may have guessed, we’d gotten off the interstate, decided to go home cross-country, no GPS, and were a bit lost.

The endless herds of Holsteins were the only familiar faces we’d seen.  It’s possible we’d seen some of them more than once, as we zigzagged around.

The roads wandered through pastures, woodlots, little hills. We passed an old guy cutting hay, wearing a wool plaid jacket in August, and as we went around the bend, and up a little hill, we realized there was something strange about our surroundings.

There were no cows to be seen.

No cows whatsoever.

Finding ourselves in a landscape totally vacant of cows made us uneasy.



And then, as we came over the rise, suddenly there were strange metal objects — tall, mysterious, like alien totems, as if we’d entered the territory of some weird cult.














There didn’t seem to be any roadblocks manned by the Children of the Corn, so we kept driving, and found we’d driven into the Griffis Sculpture Park.

A rusted but fantabulous remnant of an ancient but very groovy time, called “The Sixties”.




The wonderful man who created this place was named Larry Griffis, Jr.

He came back to Buffalo after serving in WWII, and started a business making nylon stockings.

During a visit to Italy, he fell in love with sculpture.

I saw a picture of him on the internet, and he reminded me a bit of Van Morrison.  His son, and now granddaughter, have kept his workshop in Buffalo going, and the park in East Otto is now hundreds of acres of fields, ponds, and woods, full of sculptures, by Griffis and other artists.




Some are pretty literal creations, like this giraffe, peering into the woods.











Or this giant mosquito.












The woods are full of meandering paths, with abstract creations scattered about.





A pond is surrounded by flying metal geese, and rusted obelisks, which resemble small cellphone towers, as woven from rebar by a cargo cult — some overgrown, some toppled over, and merging into the undergrowth.

A shrine-like creation, marked “Santana,” held an offering of a dozen half-eaten acorns.





What the world needs now…Peace, Love, Rust-Oleum.





Statues and shapes are cast in bronze and aluminum, but most seem to be weathered and rusted iron.

One group resembles chess pieces, another, industrial elements.










We’d arrived quite a distance from the main entrance, where a series of fields and woods harbors some hands-on creations, that you can climb on, and in.
















My favorite resembles the conning tower of a submarine, surfacing in a meadow.












My snapshots only show a fraction of the collection.  You could easily spend the better part of a day, hiking around and discovering things.
















Some of these creations, as the day got close to sundown, seemed a bit spooky, even foreboding.


















But the overwhelming vibe of the place is of whimsical creativity and happiness.






So long for now, from atop the conning tower, surfacing somewhere in the Summer of Love.











Pictures were taken with an iPhone 5s.  The Griffis Park really isn’t that remote, it’s less than an hour south of Buffalo, and half that driving north from Salamanca.  Take a GPS with you. Hugs to the cows.
















1960's, 1970's, Art, NY, Public Art, Sculpture, Upstate New York

Pictures of Upstate New York. August. A marvelous place for a moondance.