Step west off Broadway at 155th Street, climb the short flight of steps, walk through the tall iron gates, and you’ll be transported to one of the most elegant yet little-known corners of New York, Audubon Terrace. The assemblage of colonnaded Beaux-Arts limestone facades rising above a handsome brick walk was erected in the early 20th century by railroad heir Archer Milton Huntington on the former estate of John James Audubon, the famous American wildlife artist.
The Terrace is home to the Hispanic Society of America. Beyond the proud portals of this august institution you will be transported even further, into a dark Spanish palace hung with works by El Greco, Velázquez, and a Goya masterpiece, the portrait of his mistress, the Duchess of Alba. The high-ceilinged galleries surround an inner court modeled after the courtyard of a castle in Spain. Audubon Terrace exudes an air of faded glory and forgotten grandeur, making the place all the more charming, and one of the city’s most welcome retreats.
A Sculpture Garden
Another peace-inducing New York oasis is the Noguchi Museum (32–37 Vernon Blvd, Long Island City, tel: 718-204-7088, www.noguchi.org, Wed–Fri 10am–5pm, Sat–Sun 11am–6pm) in Queens. A former gas station and photogravure plant have been fashioned into a museum-garden to house the stone, steel, wood, and paper works of Japanese-American sculptor and designer Isamu Noguchi (1904–88). The serene surroundings are an island of calm in the industrial neighborhood, all the better to show off the beautiful mastery of Noguchi, whose works grace urban spaces around the world. His Red Cube is a colorful landmark in the Financial District, at 140 Broadway.