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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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