I started walking the streets of the Upper East Side on the gloomiest misty day. After a long day at the Soup Kitchen taking tickets, I wanted to break out and do some walking. This was not the day to do it. I only got through three blocks. I was able to get through East 72nd Street after lunch, then East 73rd, 74th and 75th Streets before I called it quits. It just got so misty and then really rained. Nothing is worse than New York City in the rain when you need to be outside.
I started my after another day at Holy Apostle’s Soup Kitchen working taking tickets from the guests. I swear I think that sometimes they think it is a restaurant. Some of them get a little entitled but I understand. When you have nothing you want to have some say in something you are involved with on a daily basis. Being near the end of the month, many of them were running out of money and it got very busy. What I really like about being a part of the Soup Kitchen is not only am I giving back to the city but that in some small way I am helping deal with the homeless problem in NYC. It may not be the solution but it gives the homeless and working poor help through the process.
I started my walk with lunch at La Crosta Restaurant & Pizzeria at 436 East 72nd Street (See review on TripAdvisor & DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). They have wonderful lunch specials and for $7.00, I ordered Spaghetti and Meatballs. It was enough to feed two people. I got what looked like almost a pound of pasta and three large meatballs and a side of bread. More than enough food for the rest of the day. Add in a meat pinwheel (made with sausage, ground meat and pepperoni $2.50), it was some meal. I have to admit though they do throw in the spices. I highly recommend the restaurant.
In the gloom of the walk, I have to admit that the side streets of the Upper East Side are far different of the Avenues. Most of the streets have not been plowed over for new office and apartment buildings although on some blocks it is slowly happening. The real character of the neighbors of the Upper East Side is in the side streets. Here there is still a combination of brownstones, small stone apartment buildings and on some streets wooden homes and stone carriage houses, reminiscent of and ‘Old New York’, when the wealthy used this a summer retreat and later the outer blocks from their Fifth Avenue homes to house their horses and carriages. Its ironic today how valuable and desirable these buildings are now.
Walking along East 73rd Street between Madison and Lexington Avenues you can see the carriage houses of the wealthy that have now been converted into homes. These beautiful stone structures sit gracefully, still awaiting the carriages return. I was surprised to see so many left noting most of these structures from the old Fifth Avenue mansions have been torn down.
Rounding Fifth Avenue going on to East 74th Street and Fifth Avenue, I needed to make a bathroom pit stop and walked into Central Park to the Kerbs Boathouse. This is located by the entrance near East 72nd Street and when the bathrooms are open, it has a clean, well-maintained place to do your business. The Kerbs Boathouse was built in 1954 on the site of a former wooden structure and during the summer months the pond in front of it is loaded with kids sailing motorized boats.
Some of the statues that surround the Conservatory pond are the famous ‘Alice in Wonderland’ located in the Margaret Delacourt Memorial that was built in 1959 by Spanish born American artist Jose de Craft. It was commissioned by George Delacorte for his wife, Margarita, who loved to read the book to her children. It is one of the most popular statues in Central Park (Central Park Conservatory).
‘Hans Christian Anderson’ statue that faces the other side of the pond. This statute was created in 1958 by artist Georg John Lober for the 150th Anniversary of the author’s birth. It had been commissioned by the Danish American Women’s Association in his honor. You should take some time to walk around the pond and see both statues especially the detail work of the ‘Alice in Wonderland’. These are the favorite of many adults and children alike (Central Park Conservatory).
Before you exit the park at East 72nd Street, take a moment to look at the Waldo Hutchins Memorial as you are exiting the path up the hill. Here in certain times of the year, you can follow the shadows of the Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter Equinox and follow the shadow to the exact line that follows when the Equinox hits New York City. I am sure this is something most people miss.
By the time I rounded East 74th Street, I had had enough. The rain and mist was getting to me and I was getting tired. I doubled back to the subway and headed home. I would start the walk again later in the week.
My second day in the Upper East Side was much nicer on a sunny day and the weather was about 51 degrees F. It was perfect to walk around. I had spent the morning in Newark, NJ at the Newark Museum for the reopening of the entrance of the museum on Washington Street. It had not been opened since the early 90’s (At least as long as I have been a member and I just celebrated by 25th year . I was honored as a Museum Fellow the night before at the Annual Meeting of the Newark Museum).
It was a big to-do with high school marching bands, politicians including the Mayor of Newark and many council people and all sorts of city and museum officials. The museum put its best foot forward with reopening the museum to the city. After a few speeches, there was an official ribbon cutting ceremony and then everyone entered the museum. Since I had been here the night before for the Annual Museum Membership meeting, I had toured the whole museum including the new Mediterranean and African exhibition’s (which you should not miss). After the museum opening, I just hopped the train over to Manhattan.
I took the Q train back up to the Upper East Side and walked to Fifth Avenue and continued the walk starting at the top of East 74th Street and Fifth Avenue. I wanted to see the street again without all the gloom and rain. The park still does not have that touch of Spring yet but you can see by the buds on the trees that its coming.
I passed the old carriage houses again to get a better look at the doors they use as an entrance and think what a creative layout for a house now. I bet those owners didn’t realize how trendy they would be eighty years later or that some family would be living where their horse and carriage had once been.
As I crossed onto East 75th Street, I noticed there were more carriage houses between Lexington and Madison Avenues. These must have been back to back stables for the wealthy. Outside these two rows of carriage houses and the one closer to the East River, all the rest must have been knocked down over the years.
I stopped again as I rounded East 76th Street as it was getting dark and threatening rain again. The weather has been such a mixed bag in the month of March and I didn’t want to risk it.
I doubled back up Lexington Avenue to the Burger One Coffee Shop at 1150 Lexington Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). I had passed the restaurant as I criss-crossed the neighborhood and watched how the cook was making everything through the window. I had a cheeseburger with fries ($8.00) that was one of the best burgers I had had in a long time. Freshly scooped from fresh ground meat and cooked on the grill right in front of me. The right amount of carmelization and perfectly cooked. Everything on the menu is below $10.00.
The next day I spent the morning in Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen again working in the prep kitchen. There was a lot of bonding while I cut up eight boxes of chicken breasts and helped prepare some frozen vegetables. I swear we are always busy there but the numbers never seem to reflex it. We only did 875 lunches for guests.
I headed uptown on the Q subway and made from the 72nd Street stop and walked up to East 76th Street. This area of the neighborhood is dominated by the hospitals. Lenox Hill Hospital sits at the head of the neighborhood starting at Park Avenue and I swear it is always busy here. As you head further down East 76th Street, it is a sea of graceful brownstones and marble homes. Take time to look at the detail work on the buildings and you will see the craftsmanship of a different era when time was spent making these masterpieces.
One of the more interesting buildings on 77th Street is at 459 East 77th Street. It is a home with the accents of a former church. You can see how they redesigned it keeping the detail work as part of the home. As you head toward John Jay Park at the end of the block note that the bathrooms are open until 5:00pm. By the early afternoon, school let out and the park was dominated by kids, nannies and parents just trying to relax. On a clear day, the view to Roosevelt Island is dominate and take time to really see what the island has to offer.
When rounding the block onto East 78th Street, you get to see the beauty of the Gilded Age’ mansions starting with the old James Duke mansion on the corner of the block off Fifth Avenue. The home had built in 1912 by architect Horance Trumbauer and had been copied from a French Hotel. It has replaced another mansion on the same site.
I had read online after the death of James B. Duke, both Doris Duke and her mother decided to donate the mansion to New York University in 1954. It now houses the NYU Institute of Arts.
The old Payne Whitney Mansion also on Fifth Avenue serves as the French Consulate. It was built by Stamford White in 1906 for Payne Whitney and his wife, Helen. After their deaths, the home became the consulate.
These mansions are part of the line of ‘Gilded Age’ mansions that line East 79th Street between Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue. Homes like this have disappeared off Fifth Avenue, being knocked down for apartment buildings or have been converted into stores, museums or consulates. Still the workmanship and the stone work on these buildings are impressive and you really need to notice the detail work.
Some other beautiful homes to look over are the brownstones that line 210-216 East 78th Street. There is such magnificent detail work to these brick row houses that all sit in a line on the south side of the street between Park and Lexington Avenues. They have a New England feel to them. Most of East 78th Street is line with a juxtapose of different style homes and really shows its uniqueness from block to block on the way to East End Avenue.
There are some interesting stores along East 78th Street, one of them being the Tiny Doll House at 314 East 78th Street. This unique store is the last of its kind in New York City according to the owner. The store is filled to the brim with dollhouses and furniture and accessories for them. There is even handmade items locked behind cases in the store for the collector who knows quality. Even the food for the tables looks real.
Turning the corner at East 80th Street, you really see some impressive old mansions. First there is the Vincent Astor mansion at 130 East 80th Street. The house was built by architect Mott B. Schmidt for Mr. Astor in the early 1900’s and upon his death traded hands until the New York Junior League bought the house in 1947 who owns it now. The house has a graceful elegance to it.
A few doors down is the George and Martha Whitney home at 120 East 80th Street. Built by the firm of Cross & Cross this elegant was built in 1930 but harks back to a time of a more Federalist look with the brick face and portical in the front.
Towards the end of the block, you are treated to Lester’s Department Store. I walked the whole store and was impressed by their assortment of children’s and teen wear. It reminded me of a ‘preppie’ clothing store of the 70’s and 80’s. They even have a camp registry. I thought about the lucky kids who got to buy their clothes here before spending their summer away from their parents. Who really lucks out in that situation?
I finally had to stop at Lexington and East 81st Street as it was getting dark. I never can believe how long it takes to walk these streets especially on this side of time. I took a second trip to Burger One on Lexington Avenue and had dinner this time trying their turkey club sandwich with fries ($9.50). It was excellent.
The sandwich was made with fresh turkey and the tomatoes were ripe. I could barely finish it. This is when I added to my blog, ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com. This is a place everyone should know about. I just thought it was funny the way they looked at me when I walked in. With all the hundreds of customers they must have one of the owners gave me a happy but suspicious look when I walked in for a second time. I thought how could she remember me.
My last day of walking the neighborhood, I had taken a walking tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue and 79th Street of one of the galleries. I love the Met. You can get lost in it for the entire day and never see everything. We were doing a tour of the American Galleries and looking over some of the famous paintings. After the tour, I just wanted to get some air and finished this part of the neighborhood.
I started by double backing on East 84th Street and remembered that I had done most of this area in the Fall. It is amazing how fast time goes. I turned the corner onto East 83rd Street and walked towards Madison Avenue and stopped in Sugarfina at 1100 Madison Avenue. This is a whirlwind of sweets with a creative twist to the packaging and a price to match. Everything here is very expensive for a piece of candy. They let me have a sample of the sample of the candy, this is more of a business account store. Still the packaging is great.
As you walk down East 83rd Street, take a look up and admire 222 East 83rd Street. The brick work and landscaping makes this home really stand out among the bigger apartment buildings on this part of the block.
There are two places you should not miss when walking East 82nd Street. One is the Hungarian House at 213 East 82nd Street. The beauty of this brick building is matched by its mission of being the center point of Hungarian-American culture and relations. It really does offer a lot of programming while being a center point of Hungarian culture in New York City.
Around the corner from the Hungarian House is the original Ottomanelli Brothers Butcher Shop at 1549 York Avenue. The store has been a neighborhood staple since 1900 and has all sorts of wonderful meats, pastas and groceries that you might need as well as a hot food section that many patrons were taking advantage of when I visiting that afternoon.
Another gem of a store I discovered when I was finishing East 81st Street was Art for Eternity at 303 East 81st Street. This unique art gallery offers a selection of Pre-Colombian Art of museum quality. I saw many interesting bowls and vases. When talking with gallery Director Howard Nowes, he gave me a detailed tour of the works, showing me the detail work of many pieces and explaining their purpose. It was like being back at the Met.
I ended my last day in the neighborhood at another early morning tour at the Met, seeing the new Pre-Columbian exhibition, “The Art of Luxury”, which showcases the treasures of early American art. My last lunch on the Upper East Side was at Harbs at 1374 3rd Avenue near 78th Street. It is a cross between an English and Japanese bakery shoppe. They have a wonderful lunch special for $20.00 (See my review on TripAdvisor). The meal consisted a large cup of English tea, for lunch two Croque-Monsieur (a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with mustard butter) with a side salad with buttermilk dressing and for dessert, a small slice of Mocha cake which was layered with a rich mocha creme. It was a great meal with excellent service.
Not such a bad way to end my walk on the Upper East Side.
How to get there:
The Subways The 6 & Q trains
Where to shop:
The Tiny Doll House
314 East 78th Street
New York, NY 10075
Art for Eternity
303 East 81st Street
New York, NY 10028
1100 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10028
Lester’s Department Store
1534 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10021
Where to eat:
1374 3rd Avenue
New York, NY 10075
Burger One Coffee Shop
1150 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10075
What to see:
The Alice in Wonderland Statue
The Hans Christian Anderson Statue
Central Park at 72nd Street
Gilded Age Mansions
East 79th Street from Fifth Avenue to Madison Avenue
John Jay Park
FDR Drive between East 78th and 76th Streets