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Art & Architecture

The Bronze Door

   In 1927, Mr. Worcester Warner and his wife Cornelia Blakeman Warner made a substantial gift to the community to fund what was to become the Warner Library. During a trip to Italy that same year, the couple learned from an antique dealer in Florence about several items from the estate of a wealthy Florentine whose mansion was being dismantled.

 

   The Warners were particularly interested in an unusual late 19th Century bronze sculptured panel. After inspecting the panel, Mr. Warner concluded that “its artistic merit” was “of the highest order” and that it would make a fitting ornament for the front door of the new library in Tarrytown.

 

   The panel’s intricate sculpture depicts in deep relief the legend of “The Coronation of Venice” (for whom the city is named) as Queen of the Adriatic. The female figure, seated on a canopied throne, is being approached by Poseidon carrying his trident and attended by sea nymphs bearing the proffered crown.

 

   Mr. Warner bought the bronze panel for $30,000 and had it shipped to New York. But because of its immense size (8 by 4 feet) and weigh (1,000 pounds), the mounting presented a difficult challenge. Mr. Warner undertook the task himself, drawing on the engineering skills that had made him a renowned builder of astronomical telescopes.

 

   Mr. Warner’s design was so successful that when the new library opened on February 22, 1929, he proudly showed visitors that the massive door could be pushed open with the strength of one finger. It still can.

 

The Detmer Panel

Warner Library Detmer Panel

 

   Currently located at the top of the stairs that lead to the Children's Room, this hand carved oak panel comes from the living room of the Tarrytwon home of the late Julian F. Detmer. His home was known as Edgemont, and was located on 40 acres of land along Benedict Avenue between Prospect and Martling Avenues. The residence was modeled after a Normandy Chateau and contained 22 rooms.

 

   Mr. Detmer came to Tarrytown in 1900 from Chicago where he was known as "the woolen king". He had an intense interest in horticulture which led him to establish a nursery around his Tarrytown home. It was noted for its remarkable collection of trees and plants from many parts of the world. Detmer died in November 1958, and the house was vacant for some years thereafter. Early in the morning of September 17, 1971, the home was partially destroyed by fire.  Later, when it was razed to make way for the Edgemont condominiums, this section of the panelled living room was removed. Through the efforts of James Beach, then president of the Warner Library Board of Trustees, the library obtained the panel. It has been in its current location at the top of the stairs since the completion of a new wing in the library in 1979.

 

   Detmer's panelled living room was a copy of the "State Room" in the "Old Palace" located at Bromley-By-Brow. This building, erected in 1606, probably served as a hunting lodge for King James I of England who reigned from 1603 to 1625. When the "Old Palace" was demolished in 1894, the "State Room" panelling along with the plaster ceiling was moved to its present location in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

 

   The overmantel panel has in its center the royal arms of King James I. The central shield is divided into quarters, representing the four countries ruled by him. The left upper and right lower quadrants are further quartered and contain two sections each of three lions couchant and three fleur-de-lis representing the arms of England and France. The right upper quadrant contains the arms of Scotland  a lion rampant gardant. The left lower quadrant contains the arms of Ireland a harp. The shield in encircled by a garter inscribed Honi Soit qui Mal y Pense  Evil to Him Who Evil Thinks, the motto of the Royal Order of the Garter. The shield and garter are "supported" on the one side by a crowned lion and on the other by a collared and chained unicorn representing respectively England and Scotland.  Below the shield is the motto Dieu et Mon Driot – God and My Right, referring to the king's supposed God-given power to reign.

 

   Above the shield and garter is a helmet to which is fastened by a wreath of stylized ribbons, the royal crown.  Mounted on the crown is the crest of the royal family, a lion passant guardant.

 

   The entire Detmer panel matches the description of the original handbook of the Victoria & Albert Museum except for one curious difference.  It has as its crest a sheep instead of the royal lion. Is it possible that, being known as the "woolen king", Detmer chose to place his personal crest, a sheep, on this coat of arms?

 

Rockwell Kent's America

America, 1930 an oil on canvas painting displayed in the Audubon Room was a gift to Warner Library in honor of Sara Holgate Kent, the mother of Rockwell Kent, noted twentieth century American artist born in Tarrytown in 1882. The painting features a scene in the Adirondacks.  The grandeur of the mountainous landscape is a symbol of American freedom, abundance and spiritual renewal.  Catherine Welsh wrote in the Fall/Winter 2001 Kent Collector about the painting.  "In the foreground, the man, woman, log cabin, clothesline, and severed stumps symbolize the taming of the wilderness by American Pioneer families. The partially domesticated middle landscape recedes into waves of mountains pulling the eye ever westward to real and imagined frontiers and ultimately the divine in a wash of ethereal light.  The landscape in actuality is the view near his Adirondack home, Asgaard Farm.

 

 The Story Behind the Warner Library Logo

   The imagery for the Warner Library Logo has been taken from the center of the uncovered oculus that hovers high above the Circulation desk. An Oculus, a Latin term meaning “eye”, in architecture, is a structural window element designed to be decorative, but also serve a functional purpose of letting in natural light. Often, the small window is circular or oval in shape and is positioned at the center of a dome or cupola. One of the finest examples of this kind is found in the Pantheon, in Rome.

 

   Our oculus is original to the 1929 design of Warner Library and is a beautiful example of Beaux Art architecture. For many years the oculus was covered by a layer of wood and a fluorescent light fixture, but during our 2007-8 restoration of the front vestibule, circulation area and Audubon Room, the 1970’s addition was removed and the original oculus window was removed, repaired and returned to its original function.

 

   The very center of the oculus window is a simple flower perfectly fit into two concentric circles. This detail was adapted into a logo by local graphic artist Tom Schumacher who, using the architect’s rendering, designed a graphic element that could represent both the historic past and the bright future of Warner Library.