Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Waitresses at the Central Park casino

This is a wonderful photograph.....
Just love all those frilly hats.  You can click on it to see it full size and enjoy the ladies.
Found this last night on a Victorian blog...

The ‘Central Park Casino’ was, in the late 19th c., the place to eat in Central Park. It was a restaurant, not a ‘casino’ as we think of casinos. The name ‘Casino’ comes from Italian – it means ‘little house’.
In 1858, when the design of Central Park was being decided, the original plan called for the site where this restaurant stood to be a music and exhibition hall. By 1862, there was a bandstand on the spot. Then, when the Casino was originally built, it was envisioned as a ‘Ladies Dining Saloon’ where ladies who had come to the park without male escort could dine respectably.

This never developed as planned, and the Casino became, instead, the main restaurant in the park that served both men and women. The New York Parks and Recreation website page about the Casino says:

The building resembled upstate country houses that Vaux [one of the architects who designed Central Park - B.] had previously designed in his private architectural practice. At night, the building was described in Baldwin’s Guide to the Central Park as “brilliantly illuminated with gas from handsome pendants.” During the day patrons would drive up in their carriages to visit the Casino, sit under the Wisteria Pergola at the western edge of the site, and listen to the strains of music from the Wednesday and Saturday afternoon concerts on the Mall below. In the summer seasons refreshments from the Casino were served at tables placed under the archway leading to Bethesda Terrace. [Accessed 4 June 2010]

In the 1920s, the building was extended to include a ballroom, which in turn became a popular nightclub. Among the performers it hosted was Ethel Merman. In 1935, in the midst of the depression, the old Casino building was torn down and the site turned into a playground for children. In 1986, it became a playfield, a clay surfaced sports area for school teams, and finally, it came back to its original ‘bandstand’ roots by the erection of the Summerstage.

When these waitresses worked at the Casino is unknown – the picture is not dated. I’m guessing the late 1890s or early 1900s by their dress. What the ‘Fete Chatele’ was, I have no idea. Perhaps these were temporary waitresses – working for whatever company catered what was certainly some kind of party. ['Fête Chantele' may be a mispelling of 'Fête Chantee', or Festival of Song in French].

They look tired,  not to mention they seem to have had to work  in full skirts and hats!

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