5. Gertrude Whitney

Whitney Museum
Image via Whitney Museum by Ed Lederman ©2016

The Whitney Museum bears the name of its founder, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Born to Cornelius Vanderbilt II and Alice Claypoole Gwynne, she was the great-granddaughter of railroad baron “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt and a member of one of America’s wealthiest Gilded Age families. Despite a lack of support from her family for her artistic endeavors, Whitney pursued the study of sculpture at the Art Students League of New York and in Paris, where she used a pseudonym in order to be taken seriously.

Her first art studio was a former hayloft in MacDougal Alley in Greenwich Village, a space that would expand into the Whitney Studio club, a place where fellow artists could gather and exhibit their work. She often bought pieces from emerging artists and in doing so, amassed a large collection which she tried to donate to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When they rejected her donation, she created her own museum. Upon her death, she left the museum $2.5 million.

Author Rebecca Bratspies recently joined Untapped New York Insiders for a virtual talk where revealed the hidden history behind even more NYC place names. A recording of the event can be seen in the Insiders Video archive which hosts over 150 recordings of past events! Unlock the archive by becoming a member today.

Naming Gotham Virtual Talk

Naming Gotham book cover

Next, check out The Origins of 10 Famous NYC Buildings and The Origins of the Names of the Five Boroughs