“Digital Disappearance”: Russell Page garden still absent from Frick website

In December 2014, we noted that the exquisite Russell Page garden on East 70th Street — once prominently featured across the Frick’s digital footprint — had gone missing. Following the abandonment of the ill-conceived expansion proposal, in June 2015, the garden has yet to be restored to the Frick’s site. Time to revisit our December post …

Thanks to social media, communities can actively and successfully champion the resources that matter to them. On Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, everyone can have a voice and amplify it to reach an audience of incredible size.

Alexandra Lange recently wrote about this for The New Yorker, in her article”Saving Buildings with Social Media.” She writes:

There are other kinds of digital disappearance. The Frick, for example, wants to build an addition that would eliminate its Seventieth Street Garden, designed by Russell Page. It has already cut any mention of the space from the virtual tour on its Web site, practicing demolition by code. Where it once said, “Page’s garden is designed to slow, or stop, a busy New Yorker, to pause for a moment — a respite from the city,” there’s nothing.

This “demolition by code,” as Lange categorizes the Frick’s actions, is easily confirmed.


70th Street Garden, Summer 1981

“70th Street Garden, Summer 1981.” Photo recovered from Frick archived website.
Source: The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.


An online tour of the Frick museum (still live — check out the Reception Hall Pavilion!) once featured a thorough explanation of the Russell Page garden, complete with laudatory quotes from key Frick leadership (Galen Lee, Horticulturist and Special Events Designer). The site has since been “archived” – while it is not immediately retrievable from the Frick’s main public site, industrious internet searching can turn it up.

Quoting the archived site:

Whereas the Fifth Avenue garden, with its neoclassical urns and grand façade, is grand and imposing, the Seventieth Street Garden, designed by Russell Page in 1977, is soft and intimate. In the words of its designer this garden is to be viewed — from the street or through the arched windows of the Reception Hall — like an Impressionist painting. Despite its formal structure of pea gravel paths and boxwood, what Mr. Page called the “bones” of a garden, it is a flowering garden nearly year round. The salient feature of Page’s garden is the rectangular pool in the center lawn crowned in summer with blue and white tropical lilies and lotus. Vines of clematis and climbing hydrangea cover the trellis, and wisteria vines soften the hard limestone walls. Page’s garden is designed to slow, or stop, a busy New Yorker, to pause for a moment — a respite from the city.
—Galen Lee, Horticulturist and Special Events Designer

The Page garden once featured its own dedicated section on the Virtual Tour, as of the website’s February 5, 2014 archiving. Of particular interest are the photographs of the garden during the Summers of 1977, 1979, 1981, 1984. At these times, it is lush with life and color.


_70th-street-Garden_7-2009_bClose-up of water feature in East 70th Street garden. Photo recovered from Frick archived website.
Source: The Frick Collection.


Previous iterations of the Frick’s website (as available publicly on the archived platform Archive-It) have featured photographs of the garden as the splash-page banner, implying a desire to align the garden with the institution’s public image. From July 5, 2011, through January 31, 2012 , the Page garden remained as the lead-image for the Frick’s website.

As of the January 29, 2014, website archiving, the Gardens (both on 70th Street and Fifth Avenue) are listed not only as individual items on the Virtual Tour, but also under the “Collections,” section, implying that the Frick also viewed them as valuable resources for stewardship and oversight.

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