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For decades, the Andrew Freedman Home, described by the New York Times in 1999 as, “… the Grand Concourse’s grandest building, a broad limestone palazzo…”, sat in relative obscurity between 166th and McClellan Streets – local residents and passerby alike wondering what the history of this seemingly out of place mansion was. The home, was built in 1924 as a retirement home for the formerly wealthy who had fallen on hard times. Talk about an “only in New York moment”.

Now the non-profit group, No Longer Empty (NLE) , has turned 30 rooms of the old mansion into a new and exciting exhibit called “This Side of Paradise“. NLE describes the presentation on their site as:

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“On April 4, 2012, the gates of the Andrew Freedman Home will open to the public. The Home was once built to be a haven, a paradise, for the rich elderly who had lost their fortunes. Bequeathed by millionaire Andrew Freedman, the Home provided not only food and shelter but all the accoutrements of a rich and civilized life style – white glove dinner service, a grand ball room, a wood-paneled library, billiard room and a social committee who organized concerts, opera performances and the like.

Referencing this quixotic history, This Side of Paradise will reference the past and reconnect the vision of Andrew Freedman to today’s Bronx and its realities. The exhibition and its extensive public programming onsite and offsite will draw together the economic and social history of the Home with the present day realities of the Bronx and its residents.

The selected artists’ will work in a site-specific manner and will respond to such issues as memory, immigration, storytelling, aging and the creation of fantasy that the original concept of the Home “being poor in style” suggests. This Side of Paradise will celebrate human ingenuity, the strength of the human spirit and the resilience needed to fashion beauty, hope and rejoicing.”

Tomorrow’s opening reception is not to be missed as it will be an important moment in Bronx history. Check out NY1’s video of the exhibit.

Opening reception is on Wednesday, April 4th at 6pm to 8pm followed by a speakeasy fundraiser beginning at 8:30pm and the exhibit runs through June 5th, 2012. Throughout the two months of the exhibit there will be over a dozen programs related to “This Side of Paradise” including Easter related events for children on April 7th. The Andrew Freedman Home is located at 1125 Grand Concourse at the corner of 166th Street and is easily accessible via the B, D and 4 trains to 167th Streets and bicycle valet will be available.

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