On the devastating shock of being fired as Vogue’s editor-in-chief in 1971, Diana Vreeland mused “I was only 70. What was I supposed to do, retire?” Instead, she embarked on a final act career as Special Consultant to the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Fitting her last great hurrah, Vreeland leaned in with conviction. She drew on her 40 years of experience as a fashion editor, knowledge of fashion history dating back to her childhood, and personal friendships with the most gifted designers of the mid-twentieth century. Now, instead of being confined to a magazine format, her talents were unleashed on a dramatic stage appropriate for her imagination and vision. Vreeland’s glamour, passion, and genius for style revitalized the established institution and the blockbuster exhibits drew unprecedented surges in attendance. Today, at any given moment, there are at least a dozen museums around the world offering major fashion displays and the Costume Institute’s gala preview balls are still the Party of the Year. Vreeland loved to quote someone who said: “I shall die very young. Whether I am 70 or 80 or 90, I shall die very young.” Diana Vreeland died August 22, 1989 at the age of 86
The Dana McGarry Series by Lynn Steward
In 1753, Robert Murray, who owned an importing business and Murray’s Wharf on lower Wall Street, and his wife, Mary Lindley Murray, purchased a tract of land for a country estate from what is now Madison Avenue east to Lexington Avenue and from 33rd to 39th Streets. After their deaths, the land was purchased by Robert’s younger brother, John, who divided the lots equally among his children. In 1847, the eleven descendants of John Murray registered with the City Surveyor what became known as the Murray Hill Restriction, banning the use of land for commercial real estate development, with the exception of churches and the private stables and carriage houses located between Lexington and Third Avenues.
This restriction assured a private and exclusive neighborhood and appealed to some of the city’s wealthiest families, including Mrs. Astor whose mansion was on the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street. The Murray Hill Restriction, however, did not apply to the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, offering Benjamin Altman in the opportunity to build his dream of the finest and largest New York department store. In deference to the exclusive enclave, Mr. Altman had the building designed to replicate a Florentine palace and when it opened in 1906, his business name did not appear on the outside of the building, and it remained that way until the 1950s.