This summer, Red Tricycle offered step-by step guidelines for how your daughter or son could follow in the pampered footsteps of Eloise, and live like a city child in at the Plaza Hotel. But, what if tea-parties and luxury suites aren’t your family’s thing? What if you are the more adventurous types? Who really enjoy cheese? In that case, the titular literary hero you’d probably prefer to emulate is Stuart Little.
Written in 1945 by E.B. White (also the author of Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swans), the book came about as the result of a dream White had, wherein a little boy acted a great deal like a mouse. So, presumably in response, he crafted the tale of a mouse who acts very much like a little boy. (The fact that his family reacts rather calmly upon the birth of a son who is, in fact, a rodent, is a slightly disturbing detail that never gets thoroughly addressed. At least, in the 1999 movie, the parents head to an orphanage to adopt a child but instead come home with a mouse. This is a bit more logical, though still somewhat disturbing. Hopefully the passed over orphans didn’t feel too slighted.)
Fortunately, aside from his size-based and dietary special needs, Stuart proceeds to live the life of a rather ordinary Upper East Side lad in the 1940s.
Let’s Start at the Very Beginning….
Those who would like to experience the New York City of Stuart Little should begin their adventure at the bus-stop along East 72nd Street and 5th Avenue. There, in Chapter Six, Stuart, dressed in a (presumably custom-made) sailor-suit and carrying a spyglass (that one would think weighs more than he does), is not granted admission onto public transportation (this is pre the Rodents With Disabilities Act) and is forced to walk uptown into Central Park and the Kerbs Boathouse between East 74th and 75th Streets.
The slope-roofed structure that you will find there these days is not the original. The old, wooden structure of Stuart’s day was replaced in 1954. However, the Conservatory Water, also known as the Model Boat Pond, was part of the 1857 design competition that gave birth to Central Park. It was based on similar model boating sites in Paris.
Currently, it is the home base of the Central Park Model Yacht Club. Founded on December 17, 1916, the Yacht Club instantly became the center of America’s model yachting scene. Through the 1930s, an average of 1000 vessels competed in a single model sailboat and motor-boat regatta, with over 5000 spectators crowding to watch. The 2013 racing season begins in April, with regular events every Saturday at 10:00am through November. The course is the modified Olympic, which consist of a triangle followed by a windward and leeward leg. Racing right of way rules that apply to full size sailboat races also apply for model sailboat racing. Most of the schooners you’ll see out there are privately owned, but there is a small number available for rental, too.
East Side Story
Next, skip two chapters ahead and start heading east, following the route poor Stuart was inadvertently taken on after he was swept up by a garbage truck (again, assume this was before the ones with the big chompers were placed on the job). As many of the Upper East Side’s palatial estates and luxury apartment buildings were constructed prior to 1915, the majority of the architecture you will see on your walk will be the same as what Stuart looked at as he rode along, covered with garbage, in 1945.
Back to Nature
Keep walking until you reach the East River, where Stuart is ultimately dumped onto a garbage scow. You, on the other hand, have the option of taking a bus, subway, or walking uptown to East 97th Street and First Avenue, where you can sign up to be a part of the East River C.R.E.W., a non-profit organization that offers both rowing and learning opportunities about the East River to New Yorkers of all ages. Weekly rowing classes are available May through October at no cost, as is coxswain training (those are the guys who keep count and yell), and Catch & Release Fishing Festivals for kids between the ages of 5 and 10.
Later on in the book, Stuart hops into a gasoline-powered model car and heads to Connecticut. Considering all there is to do in New York City, even for a two inch tall mouse, you have to wonder – why?
— Alina Adams (she also took the first photo–thanks!)