Monthly Archives: May 2019

Day One Hundred and Twenty Eight-The Victorian Christmas Walking Tour of the Ladies Shopping Mile with the Cornell Club December 15th, 2018

On Saturday, December 15th, I met with other members of the Cornell Club to travel back to the Victorian Era and learn about the traditions of the Christmas past. We explored the Gramercy Park, Union Square and lower Sixth Avenue sections of the City to visit where a New York Victorian Christmas would be celebrated and honored.

We would be walking the old “Ladies Shopping Mile” that had been built up right after the Civil War when the disposable income  for Middle and Upper Middle Class residents had increased after the Civil War and people wanted to spend their money at the newly built department stores, shops and restaurants.  The Industrial Revolution was in full swing and shopping had changed with the development of the department store.

The tour took us past brownstones, parks, restaurants and old department stores that line the streets of Manhattan between East and West 21st Street to 23rd Street and along that stretch of Sixth Avenue which is lined with the old buildings that once housed some of New York City’s great department stores.

The tour started on a sunny morning in Gramercy Park just off East 21st Street right near the Gramercy Park Hotel at the Cyrus Field House at One Lexington Avenue. The plaque was laid on the side of the old home dedicated to the man who laid out the first Atlantic cable in 1858.  Cyrus West Field was a self-made man who founded his own business and retired at 33 with a fortune of $250,000 (about 6 million today). He and his brother, David, an attorney had built twin mansions side by side facing Gramercy Park which was then being developed into a private park for the neighborhood in 1844 by Samuel Ruggles.

 

Cyrus West Field along with Fredrick Newton Gisborne, a Canadian inventor and electrician had laid out the first undersea cables. Partnering up, they laid the first successful cable line to Europe in 1866 after two other failed tries. Even with his successes, when his wife, Mary died in 1891 and his son’s banking business failed and his partner’s daughter in law was his sister, Grace who took ill and died later that year. Cyrus Field was vacationing in his summer home when he died as well (Wiki & the tour guide).

Field Mansion

The Field Mansion before it was torn down

Both his and his brother’s house were purchased by another banker who renovated them into one mansion. His business would later fail and he also was forced into bankruptcy. The houses were part of an ever changing New York neighborhood and were demolished and replaced by the Italian Renaissance apartment building that sits there today with the plaque neatly presented on the side of the building. A very interesting place for a colorful family history.

After we left the site of the Field Mansion, we toured the sides of Gramercy Park, which was created in 1844 by Samuel Ruggles, who developed the area as an exclusive enclave. The 22 acre site was once a swamp and the farm of James Duane, the son of the Mayor of New York and a direct descendant of Peter Stuyvesant, called ‘Gramercy Farm’.  The park was enclosed by a fence in 1833 and the parcels surrounding it were developed in 1840. The park’s landscaping was done by James Virtue and the park was surrounded by 39 lots whose owners had access to the private park. Today only those people residing in the 39 lots surrounding the park can have a key to it and help in the maintenance of the park (Wiki).

As we passed the park which looked a little sparse due to the time of the year with the exception of the pines and the Christmas Tree in the center of the park. Still you can see the elegance of the park and the constant upkeep of the landscaping. Behind the locked doors, it is almost a secret garden almost waiting to be discovered. Even today, you still need that key to open the door to the park and you have to live in the area to get in.

Christmas in Gramercy Park

Christmas Tree in Gramercy Park today

While we were at the park, the tour guide gave us a little history of a Victorian Christmas and the rules and etiquette of the holidays under the rule of Queen Victoria and her marriage to Prince Albert who was from Germany.

When the marriage took place, Prince Albert had brought many of his traditions with him and introduced the Pagan tradition of bringing evergreen trees into the house. Since it was the only tree that was green during the long winter months, the Pagans brought it into the warmth as a sign of life. It was later decorated with sweets and small gifts then got more elaborate with candles and ornaments. Ornaments started to appear in 1853.

The idea of the Christmas card came in 1843 when Henry Cole created the first card with a simple message. By the 1880’s, the Victorians were sending out the cards in great numbers due to the advancement of the postal services, many of them handmade by the children of the house. Decorating the house got more and more elaborate. What had started with a simple tree and garland to decorate the doors and windows became more detailed with decorations.

Gift giving was once relegated to New Year’s Day but as Christmas became the more predominate holiday, gifts were given either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Initial gifts were things like small handmade trinkets and sweets and then moved to store bought gifts from the developing department stores that could be placed under the tree.

The Christmas Dinner had its roots in Medieval times but became more elaborate after the Civil War. During the Revolutionary War, Christmas Day meal was a family affair after church services but by the 1880’s as the Industrial Revolution started to change the way we lived, it became the feast we celebrate today.

Roasted meats like goose and duck were some of the things served but later turkey became a favorite for dinner. It became predominate on a middle class family table because the average turkey could feed a family nicely for dinner. Even Christmas crackers, which were invented by Thomas Smith in 1848 on an idea he saw in Paris on the way bon-bons were wrapped. He perfected them to ‘pop’ when they opened and were then filled with candies and small toys. This became part of the place setting.

Since the holiday was now being based around the family, things like parlor games and Christmas carols became family favorites.  Carols had started during Medieval times and had been brought back by the Victorians. The family was the center of the holiday and a family was only restricted by their budget.

There were also strict rules on visits during the preparation for the holiday. Our guide pointed out that when you visited a home leading up to the holidays, etiquette stated you stayed for about ten minutes and you only partook in the food that was laid out, such as a plate of Christmas cookies and you did not linger. The host had lots to do to prepare for the holiday and she did not want you stay and take up her time.

As we rounded the corner and the tour guide discussed the attributes of the park, he also talked about the history of the architecture that surrounds it. Many structures have a long and very interesting history.

James Harper House

4 Gramercy Park West

At 4 Gramercy Park West is the James Harper House, which almost resembles something you would see in New Orleans with its decorative iron work and graceful porches. The homes were built in 1846 for the James Harper, the Mayor of New York and one of the founders of Harper-Collins Publishing. The house was a Greek Revival design with an iron lace terrace with a mirror image of the home next to it with the exception of the lamps outside the house.

History has said that the lanterns in front of the home are a throw back to the Dutch era when lantern bearers accustomed to escort the Burgomaster home with the proper dignity from the city tavern or another place of entertainment. The Dutch custom of placing special lamps at the mayor’s door was an aid to finding his house at night but by Harper’s day, it was just ceremonial. The customer ended with the establishment of Gracie Mansion as the Mayor’s residence(Ephemeral New York).

 

James Harper House II

3 & 4 Gramercy Park

Harper died in 1869 and the house stayed in the family until 1923. It was known also for being the rumored home townhouse for the book “Stuart Little” and again achieved fame for being on the cover of Bob Dylan’s 1965 album cover for ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ (Ephemeral New York & the tour guide).

From the Harper House , we visited the Samuel Tildon House at 15& 16 Gramercy Park South around the corner from the Harper House.  This historic townhouse was built in 1845 and the home of former New York Governor Samuel J. Tilden who was a fierce opponent of the Tweed Ring and the losing Presidential candidate in the 1876 election. He lived in the house until his death in 1886 (Wiki & tour guide).

Samuel Tilden House

The Samuel Tilden House

The house was combined and redesigned by Calvert Vaux with the row house next door to make the building it is today. The brownstone was considered the height of Victorian Gothic in residential architecture with Italian Renaissance style elements. Since 1906,  it now serves at the National Arts Club (Wiki & tour guide).

Samuel Tilden House II

The home at 16 Gramercy Park South, now the home of the Players Club has an interesting past as well. The home was bought by Edwin Booth, one of the great Shakespearean actors of the 19th Century and one of the founders of The Players Club. He was the brother of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln. He turned over the deed to the house in 1888 to the club (Wiki & tour guide).

The Players Club.jpg

The Players Club which was owned by Edwin Booth

From the square of scandals and shame we moved to look inside the park where a statue of Edwin Booth stands. It was an interesting twist of events that he landed in New York City. The whole area was designated as the Gramercy Park Historical District in 1966 (Wiki & the tour guide).

Our next place to visit was the famous Pete’s Tavern at Irving Place at 129 East 18th Street. This famous bar/restaurant has been around since 1864 and has been a major watering hall for the neighborhood.  The building was originally known as the Portman Hotel and was built in 1829. It was known as a ‘grocery & grog” store and may have been serving alcohol since 1852 (Wiki).

Pete's Tavern

Pete’s Tavern is now an Italian restaurant

The writer O. Henry lived down the block at 55 Irving Place from 1903 to 1907 when the place was called Healy’s after Tom and John Healy,  who bought the restaurant in 1899. The famous writer included the name of the bar in a short story entitled “The Lost Blend” under the name “Kenealy’s”. It has been rumored that he wrote the well-known story “The Gift of the Magi” in the second booth from the front but it can not be proved (Wiki & the tour guide).

 

Washington Irving House III

The Irving House

Around the corner from Pete’s Tavern is 11 Commerce Street, the Irving House, the former home of Washington Irving’s sister. The Federalist style home was built in 1826 and was rumored to be where he wrote part of the book “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. No one was too sure where Washington Irving Jr. came from because Washington Irving did not have any children.

Washington Irving House.jpg

The Irving House at 11 Commerce Street

We left the Gramercy Park District which is slowly changing on the fringes of the Historic District from residential to modern hotels and apartments refigured into the older buildings of the neighborhood to the very modern and updated and hip Union Square Park.

Union Square Park was once the cross-roads from the old commercial part of Manhattan to the residential part of the island. When Manhattan was surveyed by John Randel for the Commissioner’ Plan of 1811 to create the grid of the island, Broadway angled away from the Bowery that would have been awkward to build on and it was decided to create a square at the union of the two streets. Samuel Ruggles, who had created Gramercy Park renamed the are ‘Union Square’ from its former name, ‘Union Place’. It was Ruggles who developed the area with streets and plantings at the park (Wiki & the tour guide).

At first the area was a fashionable residential area surrounded by brownstones and mansions but after the Civil War, the area gave way to a commercial shopping district that included Tiffany & Company and FAO Schwarz Toy Store. The area is now home to many upscale merchants and restaurants once again. It also has one of the biggest Farmer’s Markets in the City.

Union Square.jpg

Union Square today facing the once fashionable shopping district

From Union Square, our group walked to Sixth Avenue down West 17th Street to the start of the Ladies Mile Historic Shopping District. Today the area is still going through changes from discount superstores to advertising and communications companies but between the Civil War and World War I, the district was home to some of the most famous department and specialty stores of the time, places of worship and performance venues like the Academy of Music and Steinway Hall (Wiki & the tour guide). It is here where Victorian Christmas roots began.

We started the tour on West 17th Street and walked our way up Sixth Avenue while admiring the old department store buildings. One point that the tour guide wanted us to all note was the big windows on the second and sometimes third floor of the buildings. This was done when the old ‘Sixth Avenue El’ subway line used to travel down the avenue before the war so that people could see the clothes and fashions from the elevated subway cars. We walked up Sixth Avenue and we noted all the stores we passed and a little on the history of each store.

The old B. Altman & Company building located at 625 Sixth Avenue between West 18th and 19th Streets was once a luxury department store that catered to the strictly ‘carriage trade’ clientele of the time. It had been founded in 1865 by the Altman family on the lower East Side and progressed uptown to this location in 1877. It was originally designed by David and John Jardine, a New York architectural firm.

The store had been known for couture merchandise and fine furniture. As the clientele changed and moved uptown after World War I, the company moved the new store to Fifth Avenue and East 34th Street in 1906. The company went bankrupt in 1990 (Wiki, History of Department Stores & the tour guide).

B. Altman & Co.

B. Altman & Company store at 625 Sixth Avenue & West 18th Street

Our next stop was at the old Siegel-Cooper Company Department store at 620 Sixth Avenue at 18th Street. The company was founded in 1887 by Henry Siegel, Frank Cooper and Isaac Keim in Chicago and opened their store on State Street.

Their second store opened in New York City in 1896 at 620 Sixth Avenue between West 18th and West 19th Streets. The store used innovative steel-framing, the first department store in New York to use this construction, to create the world’s largest store at the time (to be surpassed by Macy’s Herald Square). The offered a wide variety of dry-goods and shops including a art gallery, conservatory selling plants, a photo studio and a 350 seat restaurant . The store was designed by the firm of DeLemos & Cordes in the Beaux-Arts style (Wiki & the tour guide).

 

Seigal-Cooper Department Store

The Siegel-Cooper Company store at 620 Sixth Avenue

The main floor featured a copy of David Chester French’s statue, The Republic inside a marble enclosed fountain on the first floor which the phase “Meet me at the Fountain” became the store slogan (Wiki & the tour guide).

Siegel-Cooper Department Store.jpg

The fountain that was at Siegel-Cooper

Yet by 1902, Henry Siegel sold the store and the company went bankrupt in 1915 and the store closed in 1917 and became a military hospital during World War I. Today the store is home to Marshall’s and TJ Maxx. It’s ornate outside is really hidden now.

We next moved on to the Simpson-Crawford Department Store at 641 Sixth Avenue between West 19th and 20th Streets, which once catered to the wealthy elite of Manhattan and beyond. The store was established in 1878 by Richard Meares and William Crawford as Richard Meares & Company. Meares left the firm a year later and William Crawford then partnered with Thomas and James Simpson to create Simpson, Crawford and Simpson. When Thomas Simpson died in 1885, the store became known as Simpson-Crawford (Daytonian in Manhattan).

Simpson-Crawford Department Store.jpg

Simpson-Crawford Store today at Sixth Avenue between West 19th and 20th Streets

When James Simpson died in 1894, William Crawford became the sole owner and in 1899 with the rise of the great stores on Sixth Avenue, Crawford designed a new store of marble designed by William H. Hume & Son. The exterior of the store shined with polished marble and granite (Daytonian in Manhattan & the tour guide).

The store had many innovations at the time. It had the first escalator in the city, the first display windows with mannequins and large display windows that had to be created for the store. The store was stocked with the finest imported clothes, furs and laces and on the top floor was a restaurant that catered to 1200 guests (Daytonian in Manhattan & the tour guide).

Before the store opened, William Simpson retired and sold the store to Henry Siegel across the street who kept the tradition of the store going. When Siegel-Cooper Company collapsed in 1914, Simpson-Crawford was kept closed for three weeks and then reopened. Both stores closed one year later and the store was converted to mail order warehouse. Today it holds various stores (Daytonian in Manhattan).

Our next stop was in front of Hugh O’Neill’s Dry Goods Store at 655 Sixth Avenue between West 20th and 21st Streets. It was built by the firm of Mortimer C. Merritt in the neo-Grec style who built the four stages of the building between 1887-1890 (Wiki & the tour guide).

Hugh O'Neill II.jpg

The Hugh O’Neill Store when it opened in 1890

Hugh O’Neill had started a small dry goods business right after the Civil War in 1865 with a small store around Union Square. In 1870, he decided to build a trade on the middle market customer and offered discounts on goods. The four floors of merchandise contained laces, ribbons, clocks and on the upper floors women’s and children’s clothing (Wiki).

When O’Neill died in 1902, the shopping area had just began its decline and in 1906 it merged with Adams Dry Goods up the block.  A year later they both went out of business as the area gave way to manufacturing. The building today has been converted into condos.

Hugh O'Neill.jpg

The Hugh O’Neill store today

Our last store that we looked at and discussed was the former Adams Dry Goods Store at 675 Sixth Avenue between West 21st and 22nd Street.

Samuel Adams, a merchant who had been selling upscale clothing and furnishing to customers in the area decided to open a store on Sixth Avenue. He used the architectural firm of DeLemos & Cordes, who had designed the Seigel-Cooper Department Store and the six story building opened in 1902. The store was the first in New York City to use the new Pneumatic tubes to transport money and messages throughout the store (Wiki).

Adams Dry Goods Store II.jpg

Adam’s Dry Goods Store when it opened in 1902

The problem with the store was its location. He built the store at the very edge of the neighborhood as the business changed. As the shopping area started to decline in the early 1900’s, Adams sold the store to Hugh O’Neill Dry Goods Store and they merged the two companies together, converting three floors of the Adams Dry Goods store to furniture. This concept was not popular as well and the businesses failed and the store closed in 1913 (Wiki & the tour guide).

Adams Dry Goods Store.jpg

Adams Dry Goods Store today at Sixth Avenue between West 21st and 22nd Streets

The store has gone through a manufacturing stage and in the 80’s became part of the change to large box retailing. The building now houses eBay and several stores including Trader Joe’s and Michael’s. As we could see on the tour, the old department stores are finding new life in retailing.

The last part of our tour discussed one of the most famous Christmas poems, “A Visit from St. Nicolas” or known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas” , which was one of the first mentionings of Santa Claus in a modern form,  written in 1822 and published in 1823 anonymously. Some saw the poem as a social satire on the ‘Victorianization’ of Christmas (Wiki & the tour guide). Our tour guide said you really have to read into the poem to see what it is really saying about the times that it was written in. He noted really read the line “Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap” as the stress of the holidays and child rearing was even back then.

Twas the night before christmas.jpg

“A visit from St. Nicholas”

It was in 1837 that poet Clement Clark Moore claimed to be the author. Even today there is a controversy of who really wrote the poem, Clement Clark Moore or Major Henry James Livingston Jr. This discussion is still being debated today (Wiki).

Clement Clarke Moore.jpg

Clement Clarke Moore poet

How the poem mixed well into the tour is that Clement Moore’s family owned an estate here on the area on West 23rd Street between Hudson River and Eighth Avenue from West 24th Street to West 19th Street. His home was at 348 West 23rd Street. He developed the area after donating a large portion of the estate to his church and created a residential neighborhood that still stands today.

 

Clement Moore Estate.jpg

The Clement Clarke Moore estate when he sold it into real estate parcels

I walked the entire neighborhood after we said our goodbyes on Ninth Avenue by the subway and discovered an ever gentrifying neighborhood of brownstones and small mansions. The one home that stood out amongst the brownstones was the James Wells Mansion at 400-412 West 27th Street.

James Wells Mansion III

 

The James Wells Mansion in Chelsea one of the most beautiful homes on the block

James N. Wells was a real estate broker and built the house in 1835 when Clement Clarke Moore developed this part of his estate. He built the grand house for his family. Sometime in 1866 after the Civil War, the house was renovated and a mansard roof was added to the house. It must have not stayed in the family too long after this as it was turned into a home for the aged in 1867 (Wiki). Today it has been restored by its owners to its grand glory.

The last part of the tour I visited the only spot that still carries the name of the family to know that the estate was located here and it was the Clement Moore Park at West 23rd to 22nd Streets on Tenth Avenue. The park was initiated by the West 400 Block Association to turn a neglected lot into a park and in 1965 it was opened to the public. When I visited the park that afternoon and others to complete the walk of the neighborhood, the park was closed for renovations.

Clement Moore Park.jpg

Clement Moore Park before the renovation

This is where I ended the tour that day. I walked this part of West 23rd Street from Sixth Avenue to Tenth Avenue on my own to see the development of the estate and how the gentrification of Chelsea was progressing. Let me put it this way, the Clement Clarke Moore brownstone was on the market in 2016 for 8.7 million dollars. I wonder how he would feel about that today?

Check out my Christmas blogs this year (2018) and my busy holiday season that stretched from the Hudson River Valley in New York State to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. I swear my feet never touched the ground the whole holiday season.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!

I want to add these two new Christmas songs by the late Jazz artist Al Jarreau and current up and coming artist Lindsey Webster for you all to enjoy. They got me through my Christmas Holiday season.

Christmas Morning by Al Jarreau:

 

It’s Gonna Snow on Christmas by Lindsey Webster:

 

 

Again everyone have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

 

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Day One Hundred and Thirty-Five: “The Shops at Paramus Gardens Mall”-Introduction of Orion Malls Inc. newly created shopping concepts by my Introduction to Business 101 Class April 22, 2019

The reason why I have not been posting so much on “MywalkinManhattan.com” over the last few months has been tenfold. Work around the house, work at the fire department, concentration on building my caregiver blog, “BergenCountyCaregiver.com”, which is taking off all over the world (now in 45 countries) and work. At the last minute in the beginning of the semester, my boss offered for me to teach “Introduction to Business 101” at Bergen Community College. I jumped at the chance to teach a new class.

As with my Communications classes the last two semesters, I ended the class with a big group project that included the whole class. To match what we were learning in class, which was the whole gamut of the Business world, I decided that this semester we would renovate and remarket a Mall. Since Paramus, New Jersey is the Center of Mall construction in the country and one of the busiest shopping areas in the United States of America, I decided that we should locate the mall here.

Patterned after the Paramus Park Mall on Route 17 North in Paramus, NJ, we created a similar Mall named the “Paramus Garden Mall” (combination of names of Paramus Park Mall and Garden State Plaza Mall) and renovate and update it with the new name, “The Shops at Paramus Gardens Mall”.

I broke the class up in teams and as usual made the students work with total strangers. To top that each team had to work with the other teams to achieve their grade. This way the whole class gets to know one another and learn to communicate with the rest of the class. Projects like these are interesting not just for the research that the students come up with but how the students react to one another. I am never disappointed when I read the emails that are CCed to me as the CEO of the project.

I made myself as the Professor, the CEO of Orion Malls Inc., a large chain of Middle Class and Luxury Malls throughout the Northeastern part of the United States. Orion Malls Inc. had just bought the dowdy “Paramus Garden Mall”, a middle class mall in suburban Paramus, NJ. The mall, while successful and a money maker, was due for a huge makeover. With Malls surrounding it renovating and updating and just getting bigger, the Mall was falling behind its counterparts in the town by way of traffic and the diversity of stores.

Orion Malls Inc. Logo

Orion Malls Inc. logo

So I challenged the management team of the Mall with ideas for the new concept, “The Shops at Paramus Gardens”. This required a new logo, new signage, ways of reaching out to the community, new uses for the now closed “Bon-Ton Department” space for entertainment, a new restaurant concept in the food court area, outreach to Community organizations, a new marketing concept, making the mall more eco-friendly and greener and the updates in concepts and merchandising in the Sears and Lord & Taylor stores that still anchored the mall. We needed to update the Juniors, Children’s and Gift Departments. As usual the students did not disappoint me.

Mall Design

The former “Paramus Garden Mall”

I started with my design team and wanted them to come up with a concept of adding more green landscaping to the mall with trees, gardens, fountains and paths. I wanted them to convert the ‘open court’ in the middle of the mall that currently has four trees and a fountain and turn it into a village square with gardens, trees and tables. I also wanted them to figure out a way to make the mall more ‘eco-friendly’.

Greenery in Malls.jpg

Greenery in Malls

With my Food Court team, I wanted them to add new restaurants to the food court that reflected the changing demographics of Bergen County and New Jersey in general. Also I wanted them to find a way to make the food court more family friendly and ways of getting people from the surrounding office buildings to get out of the office and dine with us.

Jollie Bee

Adding Jollibee to the Food Court

The Community Service and Outreach Team was in charge of engaging in the surrounding communities and reaching out to local organizations about using the Mall for functions and charity events. I also wanted to see how we could utilize the Mall for functions for businesses within the Mall.

The Marketing & Advertising Team was in charge of reworking the old Mall logo from the 80’s and coming up with a whole new concept of shopping. We wanted to reach new markets with advertising campaigns and working with our Community Service team to present the Mall in a more ‘downtown’ aspect.

Our Entertainment Team was in charge of redesigning the former “Bon-Ton Department Store” space into a family friendly entertainment complex. I told them since they were presenting ideas to fill the space not to look at budgeting but look at what might attract families and business people coming off work. They had two floors of space and almost 180,00 square feet of space to fill.

Lastly, the last two anchor stores of the Mall needed an updating of merchandise and a refreshing of the stores so I challenged the Lord & Taylor and Sears stores to revamp their merchandise in the Juniors, Children’s and Gifts Departments to make the store more ‘family friendly’ and make it a shopping destination not just a place to shop. I also wanted them to work with the Community Outreach team to look at charity and special events that the stores could sponsor to promote the store and the Mall as well.

Attached below is the project and the ideas set forth by the teams. We also added the Power Point Presentation as well.

Links to the student’s project:

 

https://pgmcp.wordpress.com/about/

https://wordpress.com/post/wwwbergencountycaregiver.com/10403

Welcome to a new concept in shopping! Welcome to The Shops at Paramus Gardens Mall!

 

The Shops at Paramus Gardens Mall

The Shops at Paramus Gardens Mall 2019 Logo

Day One Hundred and Thirty-Two: Walking the Philadelphia Flower Show-‘Flower Power’ The Anniversary of Woodstock March 2019

I took some time out of ‘MywalkinManhattan” and decided to head down to Philadelphia to see the annual Philadelphia Flower Show. The gloom and cold of the winter was driving me crazy and I needed a change of scene. The trip was a spur of the moment decision with an excellent package deal with the tickets and hotel. I had not made my usual trip at Christmas and having a cheesesteak fix, off I went. The theme of the show this year was “Flower Power” for the anniversary of Woodstock. It was everything 60’s man.

Just packing for the overnight, I worked in the Soup Kitchen that morning. We had a busy day on the Bread station as usual and I was exhausted when I got to Penn Station. I could not check into the hotel until four that afternoon so I was in no rush. That is what I love about taking the Acela to Philly, you get there in record time and it is a smooth ride down with not many stops.

It was a little gloomy when I got down to Philly that afternoon but still I enjoy the walk from the train station to Center City. Penn Station is always cheerful though and it is nice to walk around the station and look at the architecture of the building and the ongoing renovations that preserve the structure. I walked around a little to see if any new restaurants had opened and then the long walk to Center City Philadelphia, which takes me a whopping twenty minutes to walk. It is a straight line right to the hotel.

When I visit Philly I like to stay in the downtown area to be close to the museums and Chinatown and this time I stayed at the Courtyard Hotel (See review on TripAdvisor) right across the street from City Hall and around the corner from Macy’s Center City (the old Wanamaker’s Department Store). What I like about the Courtyard is not just its location but the rooms are large and they have the best mattresses that are firm yet soft and you get the best night’s sleep on.

Dropping off my luggage, I made a bline to the Reading Market. The one thing I love about the Market is the wonderful food that you can get that you can’t find in New York City or in Northern New Jersey. What I mean by that is you can a cheesesteak in New Jersey but not the way you get one in Philly with the thin little steaks and Cheese Wiz at Carmine’s and you can get a good doughnut but not a Beiler’s Apple filled with cinnamon icing the way they make it. They are prepared for people from Philly not from New York. Every time I want a Cheesesteak in New York, they want to make some upscale Steak sandwich. I like the real thing.

Carmen's Cheesesteaks II.jpg

A real Philly cheesesteak

So off I went to start my lunch feast at the Reading Terminal Market (See review on TripAdvisor) at Carmine’s Famous Italian Hoagie’s and Cheesesteaks at 51 North 12th Street (See review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for my favorite sandwich, a cheesesteak loaded with Cheese Wiz ($8.00). I swear when you bite into that soft roll and keep going there is nothing like it. It is the combination of the caramelized meat and the sharp cheese is delicious and washed down with a Coke, it is the best.

Carmen's Cheesesteaks IV

Carmine’s

For dessert, I had two things. I went to Beiler’s Bakery and Bassett’s Ice Cream, both in the Reading Market around the corner from Carmine’s.  I had one of  Beiler’s apple filled jelly doughnuts with a thick cinnamon icing on it ($1.25) and it is delicious. Beiler’s fries all their doughnuts and then hand fill them with homemade fillings. The sweetness of the fresh apples and the thick glaze give it a fantastic taste.

Beilers Doughnuts II

Beiler’s Doughnuts

At Bassett’s Ice Cream, I had a craving for their homemade Cookies & Cream Ice Cream on a cone ($6.75) and even though it was my second dessert it was well worth it. The ice cream has a high count of butterfat which makes it creamer and they load it up with pieces of cookie in it. Everyone just looked at me with the big smile on my face walking out of Reading Market eating that cone. It was so rich and good!

Now that my cravings were fulfilled and I had walked all over the Market checking out the other foods, I decided it was time to walk off the lunch and I headed to the Philadelphia Art Museum (See review on TripAdvisor). Since I am a member of the Newark Museum (See my review on VisitingaMuseum.com and TripAdvisor), we have a reciprocal  program with the museum and I can get in for free.

I had not been to the museum since the previous Christmas I had wanted to see how the renovations were coming along and see two of the exhibitions at would be closing the next week, “Fabulous Fashions: From Dior’s New Look to Now” and “Little Ladies: Victorian Fashion Dolls and the the Feminine Ideal”. Both of which were excellent. The one thing I like about the Philadelphia Museum as opposed to the Met is that they don’t over-whelm you with the exhibition. The show is long enough to enjoy but not long enough where it over-loads you with information.

The “Fabulous Fashions” exhibition was really interesting in that it showed how fashion changed since the end of World War II. The exhibit covered fashions from the “A” look to more modern garments that show the comfort a woman expected from designers then and now. It was a series of dresses on mannequins that showed the progress of this over the years.

Philadelphia Art Museum Dior.jpg

Dior Show at the Philadelphia Art Museum

“Little Ladies: Victorian Fashion Dolls” exhibition was centered around the ideal of the Victorian woman that girls would see in their mothers and the women that surrounded them. The dolls represented the fashions and mood of the time and preparing young girls for marriage and motherhood and the ideal values of life. It is amazing to see the change of attitude in just a hundred years. It was not just what the dolls were it was what they represented in way of fashion and accessories but in the attitude of the times. Everyone knew their place and played the role as best they could in the values of the times.

Philadelphia Art Museum Victorian Ladies

Victorian Wedding Doll

Both were interesting to walk around and explore what the curators were trying to convey. The Philadelphia Art Museum does a nice job mounting their exhibitions and since they were not the huge over-whelming exhibitions of other museums, it gave me the rest of the evening to explore the museum.

On Friday nights, the museum has live entertainment and I sat on the stairs inside the courtyard of the museum and listened to the jazz combo while I watched everyone eating at the museum’s restaurant that surrounded the stairs. It was an evening of cocktails and music for most of the patrons. I was still stuffed from lunch so I just sat back and relaxed and listened to the music. I highly recommend Friday nights (they are open until 8:45pm) at the Philadelphia Art Museum with their late night music concerts. It is a relaxing way to spend the evening.

On the way back to the museum, I all of a sudden got hungry. It was getting colder out and I did not want to explore all around Chinatown at 8:30pm at night. I remembered this tiny noodle and dumpling restaurant by the bus terminal near the convention center and decided to stop there. It had been four years since I ate there so I was not sure if it was even there any more. Not only was it there but it had doubled in size over the years.

Tom’s Dim Sum at 59 North 11th Street (See review on TripAdvisor) in downtown Philly used to be this tiny hole in the wall restaurant but popularity of the place made it expand. Even this late at night the place was mobbed with people slurping noodle soups and soup dumplings. The TV crowd was going strong with the games.

I was still a little stuffed because of the cheesesteak so I ordered soup dumplings, roast pork buns and Wonton soup to warm it up. The food is just a good as I remembered. The soup dumplings ($5.95) were juicy filled with nicely spiced ground pork and it was fun slurping them down. The Roast Pork buns ($4.95) were filled with a sweet pork mixture and steamed perfectly. The Wonton Soup ($2.95)  finished off the meal nicely with the rich broth that was warming me up after the long walk.

What I liked best about the restaurant was the excitement of the games even though they were not my teams. The whole restaurant had a lot of energy and it does not come off as your average Chinese restaurant just off Chinatown.

By the time I got back to the room at 10:00pm, I was exhausted. Between both jobs, the Soup Kitchen, my writing and running around with the Fire Department, I was pooped. Thank God that the restaurant was so close to the hotel. Still it gave me a chance to admire the windows at Macy’s before heading back to the hotel room. This part of downtown Philadelphia rolls up its sleeves right after 5:00pm.

I did not get much done at the hotel even though I brought all my work. The moment that I took a shower and got changed and sat down to read a book, I decided to just shut the light off for a bit and relax. I woke up at eight in the morning the next day getting almost nine hours of sleep in. That’s how comfortable the bed was in the room.

The next morning, after I got ready, I packed up and checked my luggage and headed off to Reading Terminal Market again before I left for the Flower Show. I had breakfast at the Dutch Eating Place (See reviews on both TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com), where I love to go for breakfast and lunch when I visit Philadelphia. The place was mobbed and it seems that everyone wanted to eat there because the place was about ten deep. Everyone wanted to have breakfast before the show started.

Dutch Eating Place II

The Dutch Eating Place in the Reading Terminal Market

I was able to snag a seat immediately being one person and dove into breakfast, my favorite meal of the day. I had the Apple Cinnamon French Toast ($4.75) and a side of sausage ($2.75) and scrambled eggs ($1.25). It was one of those meals that transcend eating to a new place because it was so good I wanted to lick the plate.

The French Toast was made with freshly baked bread and freshly churned butter and the sausage was made from their own butchers and been spiced and smoked perfectly. It was one of the best breakfasts I had in a long time. The best part was that everyone who works there is so nice. It is so much fun to eat there that I highly recommend it when in Philly.

Dutch Eating Place Breakfast

Don’t miss the Apple Cinnamon French Toast

I got to the Flower Show just as it opened which was nice and the crowds moved quickly through security. It was the first day so people were very excited about it. Once inside, everyone headed left to see all the floral displays while I headed right and walked through the vendor booths. I swear there must have been a record number of people selling everything from  gardening supplies to maple syrup. There were even wine merchants sampling local wines. It thought it was a little much for the Flower Show.

Just as the crowds started to shift to the vendors, I made my way through the show and went through the Philadelphia Horticultural Plant Competition where an array of flowers were being displayed, from tulips and orchids bloomed and roses were on parade. They even had a Children’s section where the kids could compete and this was some contest. These gardeners took this very seriously and the blue ribbon meant something.

I finally made my way over to the flower displays which never stopped being crowded. I swear the crowds kept pouring in all day. I was most impressed by the 60’s commune display by Mark Cook Landscape & Nursery and Hunter Hayes Landscape and Design. They must have teamed up to put this display together because it was pretty detailed.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2019 III.jpg

The jeep in the display

Also on display in a spray of flowers and design was elegant bridge by Burke Brothers Landscape Design/Build that was multi layered with flowers and colors. It made quite the statement.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2019 V

The colorful bridge of flowers

Around the corner from the displays, there were many competitors who were working in teams creating flower design displays and you got to see first hand their creations. People had come from all over the world to compete in this contest so you got to see how the country culture shaped the design with more elaborate displays from the Americans to the simplistic elegance of the Japanese. Many different designs with a multitude of flowers.

Yet it was all about ‘Flower Power’ and I had to take several laps around the displays before the crowds got to me. I swear I spent so much time looking over the merchant vendors that I felt like the displays were being crowded out. There did not seem like as many of the big displays as before. Still I walked this section more slowly getting bumped around by the crowds of people entering the Convention Center that were getting larger.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2019 VI.jpg

Still it is about ‘Flower Power’

Tiring of the crowds and having a long trip home, I left the show after about four hours of touring the displays and contests. I went through the travel and tourist areas where a lot of Jersey shore towns were displaying their tour guides. I got some ideas for small trips down the shore before Memorial Day Weekend.

After touring the whole show, I left the convention center before I headed home. I really wanted some lunch. I had had Chinese food the night before and was not much interested about eating it again. There is one annoying fact about Philadelphia’s Chinatown, most restaurants don’t take credit cards and I hate using cash. So it was back to the Dutch Eating Place for lunch and a Hot Turkey Sandwich ($8.25).

That was delicious! It was layers of freshly cooked turkey on fresh white bread with a side of real mashed potatoes topped with a thick turkey gravy with a side of cranberry sauce and Cole slaw. The waiter and everyone around me could see the joy in my face and the ‘mmms’ I let out with each bite. Lunch there is a pleasure.

Dutch Eating Place Lunch

The hot turkey sandwich at the Dutch Eating Place

After a short walk around Chinatown again to work off lunch, it was time to go home. I had to stop back at the hotel and pick up my luggage. I made one last trip around the Reading Market and stopped at Miller’s Twist (51 North Street) for a fresh pretzel ($1.25). They are so soft and buttery and chewy with each bite. I don’t know where my appetite came from but in the end I think I was more excited about the food at Reading Terminal Market than I was about the Flower Show.

It was a nice overnight trip with great food, wonderful hospitality in the restaurants and lots of beautiful flowers showing their “Flower Power”. Philadelphia is a great walking city and there is lots to do and see in a small space of a few blocks. I will be back in a few months for the Cornell-Penn football game and then, oh darn, I will have to make my way over the Reading Terminal Market for breakfast again.

Sometimes the pleasure of life comes in the small things.

 

 

 

Places to Visit:

The Reading Terminal Market

51 North 12th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 922-2317

Home

Hours: Sunday-Saturday 8:00am-6:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60795-d104158-Reviews-Reading_Terminal_Market-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60795-d484853-Reviews-Reading_Terminal_Market-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

 

The Philadelphia Art Museum

2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Philadelphia, PA 19130

(215) 763-8100

https://philamuseum.org/

Hours: Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm/Wednesday & Friday 10:00am-8:45pm/closed Mondays

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60795-d10800264-Reviews-Philadelphia_Museum_of_Art-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

 

Places to Stay:

The Philadelphia Courtyard Hotel

21 North Juniper Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 496-3200

https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/phldc-courtyard-philadelphia-downtown/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g60795-d102463-Reviews-Courtyard_by_Marriott_Philadelphia_Downtown-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

 

Places to Eat:

At the Reading Terminal Market:

Beiler’s Bakery

51 North Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107

(267) 318-7480

Home

Hours: Sunday Closed/Monday-Saturday 8:00am-6:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60795-d3964520-Reviews-Beiler_s_Bakery-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/1033

 

Bassett’s Ice Cream

51 North Street

Philadelphia. PA 19107

(215) 925-4315

https://www.bassettsicecream.com/

Hours: Sunday 9:00am-5:00pm/Monday-Friday 9:00am-6:00pm/Saturday 8:00am-6:00pm

My review on Tripadvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60795-d2321510-Reviews-Bassetts_Ice_Cream-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

 

Carmine’s Famous Italian Hoagies & Cheesesteaks

51 North Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 592-7799

https://readingterminalmarket.org/merchant/carmens-famous-italian-hoagies-cheesesteaks/

Hours: Sunday-Saturday 8:00am-6:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60795-d3606272-Reviews-Carmen_s_Famous_Italian_Hoagies_Cheesesteaks-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/1042

 

Dutch Eating Place

1136 Arch Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 922-0425

Dutch Eating Place

Hours: Sunday-Monday Closed/Tuesday-Wednesday 8:00am-3:00pm/Thursday-Saturday 8:00am-5:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60795-d463036-Reviews-Dutch_Eating_Place-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/1015

 

Miller’s Twist

51 North 12th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 923-1723

http://www.millerstwist.com/

Hours: Sunday Closed/Monday-Wednesday 8:00am-3:30pm/Thursday-Saturday 8:00am-5:00pm

My review on Tripadvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60795-d4317975-Reviews-Miller_s_Twist-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

 

Outside Reading Terminal:

Tom’s Dim Sum

59 North 11th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 923-8880

http://tomsdimsum.com/

Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11:00am-10:30pm/Friday-Saturday 11:00am-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60795-d7993412-Reviews-Tom_s_Dim_Sum-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905