Standing atop the ruins

The southern end of Fort Tryon Park, where this overlook is located, was once the estate of Cornelius Kingsley Garrison Billings, a wealthy industrialist who moved to New York from Chicago in 1901 after retiring as head of the Peoples Gas Light and Coke Company at the age of 40. Never one to suffer the restraints of modesty, Billings once famously threw a lavish party at the 44th-floor ballroom of Louis Sherry's restaurant wherein 36 formally attired guests dined on horseback, sipping chilled champagne from their saddlebags while being served by personal attendants dressed as grooms.


I didn't realize it at the time, but I when I took this photo (looking out over the Henry Hudson Parkway, the Hudson River, the George Washington Bridge, and the New Jersey Palisades), I was perched on top of a massive vaulted stone gallery through which, and over which, a 1600-foot winding driveway (which still exists as a pedestrian path) once passed on its way up the ridge to Billings's opulent mansion. The mansion burned down in 1926, but the gallery remains, one of a few vestiges of the luxurious lifestyle that once flourished on these grounds. (This bird's-eye view shows where the gallery is situated in the park today.)

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Taken on April 19, 2012