On one of the last remaining blocks, in what still feels like Little Italy, up all the stairs to the top floor, through another door, sits a painter’s studio, frozen in amber, a bygone Manhattan. Portal.
Starting in 1958, for half a century, painter frank herbert mason used the fifth floor of 385 Broome St. as his atelier, filling the cavernous, insulated floor-filled loft with mementos of his life, work, and star-studded celebrations.
When Frank – a renowned teacher, respected painter and ardent opponent of overly clean art – died in 2009, his widow Anne preserved the place as she left it – just in case Frank could reappear And can take brush to canvas. one more time.
But this portal to bygone New York will soon be closed, as the landlord recently raised the rent by nearly 25%, far beyond Anne’s means, and now she and Frank’s beautiful remains must find a new home. Will be
“There’s no reason to change anything,” 88-year-old Anne Mason recently explained from under the skylight her late husband soldered into the ceiling during two evenings in the 1960s, once on Chinese New Year, Once upon a time at San Gennaro.
“There’s no way to recreate it.”
Anne met Frank in Italy in 1964, after she had fled a job in the Midwest that she hated and found work as a switchboard operator in Rome, where Frank met her.
When she followed him back to New York, he had been in the Broome St. area for eight years, but was not yet using it as a home, only as a studio.
“I used to go to the second floor to shower,” Anne smiled. At the time, the building was full of friendly artists, but lacked plumbing, a kitchen, or walls.
Members of the artistic elite frequented his 2,500-square-foot penthouse, had their portraits painted by Frank, played the grand piano before performances at Carnegie, and frequented Mason’s salons as networking and fundraising opportunities. Used to use
,[Salvador] Dali sat in front of a statue and [his wife] The gala hits everyone for money, Anne recalls a banquet at which the surrealist Spaniard’s wife was impressively skilled at canvassing the crowd for wealthy benefactors.
Starry-eyed apprentices were also a constant presence in the loft, as well as on the building’s fourth floor, which Frank used over the years for storage and expansion of his upper studio.
“Hundreds, maybe thousands, of students came here,” estimated one of those students, painter John Veriano, who began visiting the apartments in 1989.
She remembers the wild parties and long drawing sessions of winter, everyone gathered around the pot-bellied stove for warmth.
“You felt you were really connected to a lineage in this area,” Veriano told The Post on a recent afternoon, as one of Frank’s giant paintings held an angel behind him announcing the birth of Jesus. .
“Plunging into it, you felt like you were a part of it.”
Another student and Frank’s grandson, video producer Scott Mason, studied under his uncle at the Art Students League before moving to the second floor of the building in 2004, initially helping to fix leaks and clean the stairs. Then, after the death of his uncle, helped Anne. place up.
Scott’s rent had also recently been raised sharply, so he bought a house in Pittsburgh, where most of Frank’s artworks would soon be moved.
Scott, who co-wrote it, said, “It was heartbreaking to leave.” a documentary about his grandfather’s life,
Even after the apartment was soon modernized, a bit of Frank’s legacy will live on in New York City’s oldest Italian bakery on the floor below, where three of his landscape paintings still hang on permanent loan.
“Frank was a wonderful character, larger than life,” recalled Vince Zeccardi, the youngest generation of his family, who has run Caffè Roma since they first started slinging cannoli in 1891.
Vince’s father, Buddy Zecardi, 87, said, “I still miss him, Frank often spent hours talking over coffee and upstairs in the studio, where he loved watching Frank mix paint by hand.”
“I am so sorry to see him go.”
As the unit’s lease on life expires, Anne is unsure where she will go next – possibly Pittsburgh – but she is remarkably at peace with the separation from the apartment.
“It’s not a practical place to live at my age,” he said, referring to the many stairs.
And furthermore, although their nearly six-decade-old home has managed to withstand the ravages of time, it is “a magical place”, a “place taken from another era” and is only human.
He told The Post, “We change, we get older and I think we’re happy if we can keep pace with it.”
“You can’t be like that.”