Central Park Conservancy’s 28th Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon

One of Manhattan’s most spectacular Spring traditions is the annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon, held each year under a stunning tent in the Conservatory Garden in Central Park and hosted by the Women’s Committee.  For those of you not familiar with Central Park, the Conservatory Garden is located up at 105th Street and Fifth Avenue and it is breathtaking.

To visit the Conservatory Garden, you enter through the Vanderbilt Gate, which is considered one of the finest examples of wrought iron work in New York City.  A little bit of history, from the Central Park website, is that the gate was made in France and adorned the mansion of Cornelius Vanderbilt II at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street and later Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (who founded the Whitney Museum) donated the gates to the city:

According to the Conservancy, the Conservatory Garden, “began as a large, E-shaped greenhouse, or conservatory in 1898.  It featured an indoor water garden of exotic tropical plants and outdoor decorative Victorian flowerbeds.  In 1937, the deteriorating structure was demolished and this six-acre formal garden was designed in its place.  The Central Park Conservancy began its restoration of the area in 1981, starting with the gardens fountains.  The Conservatory Garden is divided into three distinct styles – French, Italian and English.  The northern French-style garden features an ellipse of meandering boxwood and pansies and showcases spectacular seasonal displays of tulips in spring and chrysanthemums in autumn.  In the center is the charming Three Dancing Maidens fountain by German sculptor Walter Schott.  The central Italian garden features a wisteria pergola, a large lawn surrounded by clipped hedges of yews, a 12-foot-high jet fountain and two exquisite allees of pink and white crabapple trees.  On the walkway under the wisteria pergola are medallions inscribed with the names of the original thirteen states. The Italian garden serves as a backdrop for hundreds of wedding photography sessions” (as you can imagine!).
This year will mark my fifth year attending the luncheon and third year participating on the committee.  I invited a friend to attend and she said that she had this luncheon as an item on her “bucket list” and I realized what a truly special event it is.  I was fortunate enough to have been introduced to what I call the “hat party” in 2005, when I was pregnant with my first daughter, and I realized yesterday when I was thinking about what to wear this year that all three of my children have technically attended the event as well (in ’05, ’06 and ’08 during those pregnancies!)  I am excited to be attending this year after finally having shed the “baby weight”!
This year’s event is being held on May 5th and I am looking forward to reporting on the stunning fashions and of course headwear that I am sure to see.  This year’s luncheon will honor Betsy Messerchmitt and Patsy and Jeff Tar.  It is being hosted by luncheon co-chairs Noreen Buckfire, Anne Harrison, Marcia Mishaan and Sarah Robertson.  Over 1,200 guests are expected this year and funds raised go to support the park. Believe it or not, (believe it!)…the luncheon raises over $2 million for the park in a mere three hours!
Here are some pics from last year’s event from Harper’s Bazaar (photo credit: Joe Schildorn/PatrickMcMullan):

Evelyn Lauder and Glenda Bailey

Bette Midler

Debbie Bancroft, Somers Farkas, Cynthia Lufkin and Wendy Carduner

Gillian Miniter, Fay Fendi and Lucia Hwong-Gordon

Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos

Martha Stewart with Douglas Blonsky, President of the Central Park Conservancy

Princess Firyal of Jordan
As a consummate collector and lover of tabletop items and decor as a whole, I get excited year after year to see the tables as I walk into the tent.  I can’t help but focus on the details.  Here are photos of the tables at the luncheon from past years.  It truly is the ultimate luncheon for “ladies who lunch”, though I am always pleased to see some powerful women from the business world in attendance:

Photo: Melissa Hawks

Photo: Melissa Hawks

Umbrellas ready for all ladies should it start to rain.  Photo: Melissa Hawks

Music playing during the garden tour.  Photo: Melissa Hawks
If you are interested in seeing pictures of past years, visit New York Social Diary to see the 2005 luncheon;  New York Social Diary for the 2007 luncheonvisit Panache to see photos of the 26th Annual Luncheon ; photos of the 2008 luncheon can be viewed at ManhattanSociety.com and New York Social Diary (complete with videos); photos of the 2009 luncheon can be viewed at ManhattanSociety.com (You’ll see a picture of me in there as well); 
If you are planning to attend the luncheon and are in need of a hat, I have decided that after years of fretting over a hat, that I would share some great places to go in New York City:
Patricia Underwood (hat designer), came in February to meet with Committee members with an offer to design custom hats and Joe Lupo of Visual Therapy was on hand to give style advice, should anyone be interested. 
This year, I decided to head downtown on my search for a hat.  First on my list, was Barbara Feinman Millinery.  If I recall, her shop opened that day at 12:30 – and I was a bit early…I had arrived about 12:10.  I was in the market for a hat, the woman inside (Barbara?) had her door wide open but the protective gate was still locked down and so we made eye contact, she saw me standing there (and I was ready to buy) and instead of opening the shop a few minutes early, she came to the door and closed it on me!   So, with that said, I am unable to give you any feedback on her store.  What a shame!
Next I ventured over to Lisa Shaub Fine Millinery.  I had never before been to her store and I ended up buying two hats.  She was actually quite nice and she sent me photos of some hats that she has available now for any ladies in the market for a hat for the Derby or Central Park Conservancy Luncheon.  Here were two that I thought were pretty and a bit understated that I wanted to share, but she has many others available:

I look forward to sharing with you how fabulous the event is this year and I’ll close with a favorite picture of last year’s luncheon.  This is me with a friend when we met Martha Stewart.  That was a treat!

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About the author

Melissa is the owner and founder of The Well Appointed House, a company that sells luxuries for the home, furniture, gifts, decorative accessories and is based in Greenwich, CT

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