When I first opened my shop on Bleecker Street in 1995, I carried a line of British men's shaving products made by George F. Trumper. Trumper opened his Mayfair barber shop in 1875. He was a talented perfumer, as well, and he produced a line of men's grooming products which quickly became fashionable with London's wealthy gentlemen. His little shop—still fitted with original Turn-of-the-Twentieth-Century mahogany cabinetry—is on Curzon Street.
From the 1680's through the 1760's, Mayfair was the pastoral site of the annual May Fair, held the first two weeks of May (except when the Plague was raging). In time, however, the attractions—and the crowds—began to upset the delicate sensibilities of the gentility prompting the Grosvenor family (the Dukes of Westminster) to develop the area into expensive, upper class residences. Even to this day, Mayfair is amongst the most expensive residential areas in the world.
Mayfair is quiet, smart and very charming. This Tudor Revival house, called Farm House (22 Farm Street) was rebuilt circa 1900 on the site of an earlier, much older farm house. In the 1930's, the future King Edward VIII (while he was still Prince of Wales) had an affair with the homeowner, Viscountess Thelma Furness. She introduced the Prince to her friend, Wallis Simpson, and we know the rest of that story.
American actress Gloria Swanson lived here and President John F. Kennedy visited the home in 1961.
The Church of the Immaculate Conception—commonly known as The Farm Street Church—was built by the Jesuits in the 1840's, after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829. Architect Joseph John Scoles modeled the façade after the Beauvais Cathedral in Northern France.
Scoles selected Augustus Pugin—sometimes called "God's Architect"—to design the church's high altar.
Pugin is best known for decorating the interiors of the Palace of Westminster and the iconic bell tower which holds Big Ben.
Amongst the church's beautiful artwork is this marble sculpture of Saint Thomas More, lawyer, writer, Lord High Chancellor of England, and close confidant of King Henry VIII. More's fortunes changed when he refused to support Henry's divorce—at which point the king declared him a traitor and had him executed. The figure, made in 1905 by sculptor Charles Edward Whiffen (1867-1929), holds the instrument of his execution in his left hand.
In another side chapel is this bronze sculpture entitled Homeless Jesus. It was created by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz (b. 1969). Other castings of the same sculpture can be found at the Vatican and in Capernaum, Israel. The huddled, shivering figure is completely wrapped—except for his feet, upon which one can see the nail marks of his crucifixion.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248