March 21, 1944. "Newark Athletic Club, Broad Street, Newark, New Jersey. Long shot of lobby. Morris Lapidus, architect." With a nice selection of 25-cent Pocket Books. Large-format acetate negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size. via www.shorpy.com
This historical photo from the Shorpy.com blog this morning triggered some significant memories related to both my interior plantscaping and IBM careers.
To begin, the lobby has some tried and true interior plants of the last hundred years or so. The Sansevieria trifasciata plants in the planter I can live without but they are still around. Their common crowd-pleasing names are "snake plant" and "mother-in-law's tongue". Horticulturists are such marketers. Back in the day, most bars came equipped with spittoons and snake plants. Women need not enter.
The palm in the background tells a very different story about the history of indoor plants. It is a Howea forsteriana known as a Kentia palm. I view it as the Mercedes of interior plants, Mother Nature's finest work. If there was just one indoor plant, this is it in my opinion. Kentia palms represent timeless beauty, the epitome of gracefulness. The delicate arch of a Kentia palm frond is embedded in my vision of plants inside buildings.
Unfortunately, money hungry growers flooded the market with cheap Ravenea palms known in the mass market as "Majesty Palms". They are anything but majestic. To the untrained eye, they look like Kentia Palms but behave like your drunken brother-in-law.
They are cheap in every sense of the word. My advice is to please not buy them but it is probably too late.
The video below is about the demise of the venerable Keeline-Wilcox nursery that was once the world's largest Kentia palm grower. I have known Richard Wilcox for many years and was saddened when I heard the news. It was an awesome business as the video shows.
The "Newark Athletic Club" lobby was the design of Morris Lapidus, a famous hotel and retail store designer. I had the great pleasure of listening to him reminisce about his long career at the New School of Architecture in San Diego.
Morris has passed on but much of his work still stands. His hallmark project is the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. It was there that I attended my first IBM 100% Club. It was a memorable experience to stay in this fabulous hotel of the time. Miami Beach was then still in its heyday before affordable jet travel changed the vacation world. Now there are mostly condos. Comedian Buddy Hackett characterized the post-glitzy Miami Beach" condos as being God's waiting rooms.
Edit 09-20-14 - Curbed posted some great photos of the Fonainebleau Hotel from back in the day.
There is more to say about Morris Lapidus and the "Newark Athletic Club." The club eventually became the Military Park Hotel (gone now) where I attended my first IBM training.
We came back to our classroom from lunch on Friday, November 22, 1963. After a wait, our instructor finally walked in. He told us that President Kennedy had been shot. Our class was ended for the day. That memory will never fade. The era of 1950's post-war euphoria was over.