I recently got some hi-res pictures of each panel of the wooden desk that used to be in the townhouse. Is there a good place to post them? Do the art pieces mentioned in this article deserve articles of their own? — Joe (talk) 20:52, August 1, 2010 (UTC)
- I dunno if they would get an article per say, but I'd include them in the gallery on the article. -- Nate (talk) 14:11, August 2, 2010 (UTC)
I've copied a transcription of the fact sheet for the Townhouse below. It's my hope to decompartmentalize each section on this page so that it flows as an article and less as a summarized fact sheet (which is why it's grouped the way it is now). I might get to it myself, but I just spent some time rewriting the opening paragraphs and working on some images, so I'm kinda done for now. If anyone else wants to tackle it, be my guest. — Scott (talk) 01:01, 6 February 2007 (UTC)
- Okay, I made a first pass at clean-up so there are fewer sub-sections. Might need some more work. To be honest, I haven't even read the whole fact sheet (it's too long and I'm lazy right now -- yes, I said lazy), so there may be other good (read: interesting, relevant) info in there. — Scott (talk) 01:22, 6 February 2007 (UTC)
I'm parking these here as I assume someone meant to eventually write something about these particular parts of the building: Terrace Level, Second Floor, Third Floor, Fourth Floor, Penthouse. — Scott (talk) 01:03, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
Dean changed the date on the Coulter Watt mural from 1984 to 1986. I did a quick sweep in The Works, but I haven't been able to find a source. Unless one can be provided, I recommend we say mid-1980s. -- Scott (talk) 04:15, 8 July 2006 (UTC)
Here's the full text of the fact sheet that was given out on tours of the building. Transcribed by a visitor .
|(as of 2/24/98)
The Jim Henson Company Tour
Jim Henson purchased 117 East 69th street in 1977 and moved the company into the building in 1978.
The house was built between October, 1928 and October, 1929 for Beekman Winthrop (1874 – 1940), a wealthy, recently widowed banker who was a direct descendant of the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The architect was Julius Gaylor (pronounced Guy-ler), a family architect for the Winthrops and a graduate of M.I.T. A contemporary write describes 117 as “a fine example of neo-federal style although it more closely resembles the great Georgian homes of the 18th century London.” This house was appropriate for a single, wealthy banker – even in Depression era America.
In 1929, the house contained: The Cellar: Vast kitchen, servants’ dining room, delivery bays and work rooms. Ground Floor: Dining-room, drawing room and vestibule. Second Floor: Library, office master bedroom with large dressing room Third Floor: Three guest bedrooms (with fireplaces) Fourth Floor: Eight servants’ rooms. Roof: Drying yard and laundry room.
The house was used as a residence (Mr. Winthrop and eight servants) for only a decade. After Winthrop died, the house went to his sister, Mrs. Hamilton Fish Kean. Mrs. Kean died in 1943 and the house remained empty for several years, possibly because there were no sufficiently respectable offers. The New York Pharmaceutical Society purchased it in 1951 and remodeled for offices and lecture rooms.
Immediately after Jim purchased the house in 1977 he began plans for extensive renovations with interior designer Warren Hansen and architect Peter Strauss of the firm, Maitland/Strauss/Behr Associates. The only alterations visible from the street are the stained glass windows in the door sidelights and fanlight.
The display in this foyer display case changes several times a year and usually reflects various past, present and future projects of The Jim Henson Company. The sign in the entrance hall is from a 1986 PBS documentary entitled, Henson’s Place.
The lobby mural was painted by Coulter Watt (oil on canvas) and features the entire Muppet cast as of 1984, the year it was installed. A single row of authentic theater chairs (most probably from the Helen Hayes Tappanzee Playhouse) lines the front of the painting and helps blur the line between fantasy and reality. Not included in this mural are characters from more recent shows, such as The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss, currently being shown on Nickelodeon, Muppets Tonight and Bear in the Big Blue House, both currently being shown on the Disney Channel and Buddy, Jim Henson Pictures’ first film. Jim Henson Productions’ 1996 feature film, Muppet Treasure Island, and Jim Henson Productions’ 1992 feature film, The Muppet Christmas Carol, include many of your favorite Muppet characters who are pictured here, and some brand new characters who have become a part of the growing Muppet family. The Jim Henson Company also built the characters and cast the performers for the film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We also built the characters for the hit show Dinosaurs, which was produced with Michael Jacobs Productions and Walt Disney Television. Also not included in the mural are the characters from Dog City, formerly on FOX, and the Muppet characters from CITYKIDS, Jim Henson Productions’ former Saturday morning show on ABC.
The front desk was built by Frank Pollaro, designed by Warren Hansen and the art work was done by Michael Frith. There are 120different types of veneers in the desk. It took three years to complete.
In February, 1980, Interior Design featured the house on its cover. In the accompanying article Jim said “I didn’t want a pretentious space or one with a feeling of opulence. Instead, I wanted a happy, functioning space with character and warmth.” Toward this end, he chose several hand=crafted furnishings for the building. The lobby contains a “hand-and-foot” table crafted by Andrew J. Willner (American, born 1944)
The central stairwell was decisive element in Jim’s purchase of the house. Not only did he love the unique quality of the staircase, but he felt that it would provide easy communication among employees. He compared it to a “huge vertical telephone” which would break down the stratification system that comes from separating employees by floors. This is the original staircase.
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce honored Jim Henson with a star on the “Hollywood Walk of Fame” in 1991, for his contributions in the television medium. On the wall is the commemorative plaque.
Jim commissioned his younger son, John, and Balloon Artist John Kahn to make the balloon specifically for this space. A complex sculpture of wire, wood and metal, The Great Hot Air Balloon Circus is suspended from the building’s fourth floor. Its tiny Muppet characters and intricately balanced balloons weave a circus environment through all four floors. This sculpture gets cleaned once a year.
The pediment over the double doors is a replica of the pediment over the entrance to Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3D at Walt Disney World. It was designed by Michael Frith.
The company’s original logo, ha! (standing for Henson Associates) is inlaid in brass in the lobby’s marble floor. The marble spiral, designed by Warren Hansen, starts at this point, continues in the carpet up three floors and leads straight to the President’s office. On September 30, 1988, the company’s name was changed to Jim Henson Productions and on July 10, 1997, the name was officially changed once again to The Jim Henson Company.
The awards displayed in the showcase on the first floor are just a sampling of the many awards and honors that Jim Henson and the Muppets have won over the years. Awards are also exhibited in the President’s office and our Los Angeles and London offices.
The Jim Henson Company has won a total of more then 40 Emmy awards for outstanding work in the television medium. These awards include an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy/Variety Series for The Muppet Show, four consecutive Outstanding Animated Program Emmys for Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies, and an individual Emmy for Jim Henson for outstanding Directing on The Jim Henson Hour.
Children’s Television Workshop’s Sesame Street, featuring Jim Henson’s Muppets, has been recognized with more then 50 Emmy awards. In 1998, Sesame Street will celebrate its 30th anniversary.
The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has honored the Muppets with 8 Grammy Awards in recognition of their outstanding work in the recording medium.
The University of Georgia has bestowed the George Foster Peabody Award, one of broadcasting’s most prestigious awards, to the Muppets on two occasions. Sesame Street has also been honored with two Peabody Awards.
The Muppets have received 6 Awards for Cable Excellence from the National Cable Television Association (Ace Awards).
Writer’s Guild of America has presented the Muppets with three WGA awards for outstanding achievement in writing.
Jim Henson’s Time Piece was nominated for an Academy Award in 1964 for outstanding live action short subject.
The Jim Henson Company won a Class II technical and scientific achievement award from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1991 for the development of the Henson Performance Control System.
In 1996, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop received an Oscar for Best Visual Effects from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for their work with the movie Babe.
Also in 1996, Kermit was the official mascot of the 82nd Annual Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California.
Jim Henson and the Muppets have received more then a hundred international honors, including four British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards, Germany’s Die Geldenen Kamera (Golden Camera) Award and the Golden Rose of Montreux.
The single largest structural change to the building was the construction of a bi-level work areas in the rear of the building. Topped by two newly installed skylights, the area was originally used as a puppet workshop and now houses Henson’s Design Services Department. The ground floor roof of the area serves as the base for a patio and garden.
A second structural change was the conversion of the fourth floor, formerly the servant’s quarters and storage, into a viable office space. The “opening up” of this floor included the construction of a rooftop skylight which filters sunlight through a stained glass piece, View From a Lily Pad. The stained glass skylight is the work of Ken Phillips, who also crafted the stained glass work in the entrance foyer.
The Jim Henson Company leases three floors of the building next door, 115 East 69th Street, and we have broken through into this building on the first and second floors. Off the lobby on the first floor of 115 is our Publishing Department. Some of their more recent works include No Strings Attached: The Inside Story of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, Miss Piggy’s Rules and In The Kitchen with Miss Piggy. The basement of 115 houses both the Archives and the Photo Library. These departments document and preserve Jim Henson’s work and the company history. In addition to 117 and 115, the Jim Henson Company has a puppet design and construction workshop at 201 East 67th Street and a Studio at 225 East 67th Street. We have an office in London which is also the base for Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. The Jim Henson Company’s headquarters are located in Los Angeles.
The terrace level houses The Jim Henson Legacy, which continues to preserve and promote the history and creativity of Jim’s work, and The Jim Henson Foundation, which was founded by Jim in 1982 to promote and develop the art of puppetry in the U.S. The Foundation also produces the biennial International Festival of Puppet Theater, which brings puppet artists to New York. The pictures on the right wall are of Jim while performing Sam and Friends and The Rainbow Connection scene from The Muppet Movie.
Also on this level is The Shrine to the Almighty Dollar that was designed and built by Jim in the 1960’s. The sculpture is made of hundreds of pennies, frame pieces, paper, glass, and pieces of mirror. The dollar bill in the background is made of stock numbers from the newspaper.
The second floor mural is from the 1975 Sesame Street season at Reeves Teletape Studio. (Sesame Street is now filmed at Kaufman-Astoria Studios in Queens.) From right to left: Jon Stone, (Director); Michael Frith; Richard Hunt and Sully; Frank Oz and Bert’ Jim Henson and Ernie; Caroly Wilcox; and Jerry Nelson and Count; with various cameramen and shop people.
The third floor houses the Production and Executive departments. From the third floor near the central stairwell is a better view of the stained glass window View From a Lily Pad, as if Kermit is sitting on a lily pad looking up through the trees of the swamp at the sky above. (Note the four Kermits sitting on four lily pads in the center of all four side panels.)
The large picture of Jim and Kermit which hangs in the hall on the third floor was taken at Walt Disney World in 1990 by Steve Whitmire. If you look closely you can see Steve’s reflection in the lenses of Jim’s sunglasses. The double wood chair under this picture is crafted of cherry wood by master woodworker Wendell Castle. The armadillo was purchased by Jim and Cheryl at a Washington, DC craft gallery in the late 1970’s.
In the 3rd floor conference room, one wall features the magazine covers where the Muppets have appeared. The Time magazine cover featuring Jim and the Muppets was ready to run when they were bumped off at the last minute for a Camp David story (President Carter). The story ran, but they were not featured on the cover. The editors then sent Jim this cover proof as a gift. The other two walls commemorate Henson albums that went platinum, gold and silver.
In Cheryl Henson’s office, the cut-out picture hanging over the fireplace was made by Cheryl in 1988 as a concept drawing for Song of the Cloud Forest. The picture displayed on the mantle is of the five Henson children. Clockwise from the top are: Brian, Heather, Cheryl, Lisa and John. The other picture on the mantle is from Hilary Clinton’s visit to the Sesame Street set. The photo on the bookshelf of Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, and the frame with inscription, were given to Jim by the Bergen family. The bottles on the bookshelf are from The Dark Crystal. The yellow wooden bird on the right of the fireplace was a prototype whirligig designed by Michael Frith for Sesame Place, the Sesame Street theme park in Langhorne, PA. Cheryl bought the shadow puppets on the wall from a benefit auction. The Tiffany style lamp on Cheryl’s desk is a recent product of The Jim Henson Company’s licensing department.
The desk in Jim Henson’s office was purchased at a garage sale. The top half of the Ernie and Bert stained glass window, a Christmas gift to Jim from Jerry Juhl (A long-time Muppet Writer), was made by a friend of Jerry’s in California. The bottom half of the window showing Jim and Frank watching the monitor, was made in London and given to Jim by Jerry a short time later. The red framed poem to the right of the window is by Jerry Nelson, written for Jim Henson and read by Jerry at Jim’s memorial service. Frank Oz had the desk plaque made for Jim as a joke. People Magazine had just reviewed The Jim Henson Hour and the reviewer referred to Jim’s imagination as”…Lava From A Psychedelic Volcano”. Jim saw the papier-mâché moose, fell in love with it and bought it for his friend and agent Bernie Brillstein. Bernie decided that is was “more Jim then Bernie” and asked if he could hang it in Jim’s office. It is by J. D. Richard’s, and it lights up. The picture on the mantle was taken in 1990 on the staircase in the lobby of this building. Clockwise from the top are: Richard Hunt, Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and Dave Goelz. The needle work of Kermit as Robin Hood was made by Jim’s Stepmother, Bobby Henson. The needle work of Bert, Ernie and Cookie Monster in the Executive department was also made by Bobby. The Labyrinth poster is the original art work by Ted Coconis.
Above the fourth floor, which houses our Public Relations department among others, is a penthouse which is reserved for use by the Henson family.