I have been running in and out of the City since I started teaching classes again at the college and had a ‘bucket list’ of small museums that I wanted to visit for my blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com” and restaurants I wanted to try before the Summer was over. So there was a lot of running around the last several weeks. That’s why the blogs come out a little later than usual.
I got back to finishing my walk around ‘Midtown East’ by walking the only two Avenues inside the neighborhoods borders, Madison and Park Avenues from East 43rd Street (which hugs the Turtle Bay neighborhood) and East 59th Street (which hugs the Upper East Side & Sutton Place). On the Avenues in this part of the neighborhood is mostly residential and commercial spaces with rows glass boxes on some streets and limestone and marble residential buildings one the others. There is a lot of sameness in the architecture here but don’t let that fool you. There are a lot of interesting things to see and places to visit in this very much working modern neighborhood.
My walk started on Madison Avenue’s commercial district at the start of East 43rd Street where a giant new glass box is being created right next to Grand Central Station. Probably not Mr. Vanderbilt’s vision for the area but I think he would have been impressed by the progress the area has experienced in the last 100 years.
My first stop is admiring and walking into the headquarters of Brooks Brothers Clothing store at 346 Madison Avenue, one of the most American and famous clothing stores in the United States. Stepping into Brooks Brothers is like a step back into time when shopping was still experience and customer service actually meant something. Their displays are elegant without being stuffy.
The elegant displays at Brooks Brothers main floor (now closed)
The store was designed by architects La Farge & Morris in 1915 the Italian Renaissance design with prominent arched entrances, wrought iron arches and carved limestone details around the building. You can see the detail work in the cornices that line the top of the building.
The Brooks Brothers headquarters at 346 Madison Avenue (the now closed headquarters)
Another great clothing store is Paul Stuart at Madison Avenue and East 45th Street. The store has been in business since 1938 and carries some of the most impressive clothing and accessories for Men and Women.
Paul Stuart Specialty Store at Madison & East 45th Street
The store was a privately held family business until December of 2012 and then it was sold it’s long time partner, Mitsui. The store has changed a lot since the sale. It once had some of the best customer service in all the specialty stores in Manhattan but when I went to visit on this trip in my shorts and polo, the three sales people on the floor at the time ignored me. It’s not the same store with the orange carpet and older, more mature salespeople.
The Men’s Department after the renovation
When you get to Madison and 55th Street, watch for the security as this is the back section of Trump Tower and East 55th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues is blocked off by barriers and armed NYPD detectives and police. Only one side of the street is open here so it is best to keep walking.
Another impressive building on Madison Avenue is at 550 Madison Avenue, the old AT&T Building with its signature ‘Chippendale’ roof. This building was considered radical and innovative at the same time when AT&T built it to house their world headquarters. The 37 story building was designed by famed architect Philip Johnson in 1984 in the postmodern design. Critics called it ‘Chippendale’ after the famed furniture due to the ‘open pediment’ look of the top of the building based on English furniture design (Wiki). The building is currently have some lobby renovations that I passed.
550 Madison Avenue
Next to the AT&T Building is the IBM Building at 590 Madison Avenue. This 41 story building was built in 1983 by architect Edward Larrabee Barnes & Associates and developed by IBM and designed in the post-modern design (Wiki).
The IBM Building at 590 Madison Avenue & East 57th Street
Because of the zoning laws established in 1916, there is a beautiful and relaxing open atrium filled with food kiosis and art work for the public to enjoy on the ground level. It is a nice place to relax after a long walk. Take time to admire the art works that line the atrium.
The Atrium at the IBM Building
One piece of art that stands out is the red geometric sculpture on the corner of Madison and East 57th Street is the great artist Alexander Calder “Saurien” (which is a large reptile), that was created by the artist in his studio in 1975. This is an example of Calder’s “Stoic” work and were called ‘stabiles’ because these abstract works, unlike his floating works of art, stand strongly and firmly into the ground (Art Nerd 2018).
The Alexander Calder sculpture, “Saurien” (now replaced by another sculpture by artist Joel Shapiro)
Walk around this wonderful work by Calder and try to take a breath and understand what the artist was trying to say. It is almost like all the ‘legs’ on the sculpture are trying to show stability and contrast.
American Artist Alexander Calder
Inside the atrium, there are two interesting pieces of artwork that standout. There are two colorful acrylic apples that are done in colorful motifs that you should not miss. The sculptures were created in 2004 for the “Big Apple Fest” to promote the City’s tourism. Companies paid $8,500.00 to sponsor and $12,500 to keep the apples in which artists were allowed to decorate inside or outside.
One of them is entitled “A Day in the Big Apple” by an artist named Billy.
‘A Day in the Big Apple’ by artist Billy
The other is of a colorful face by artist Romero Britto entitled “New York Future”.
“New York Future” by artist Romero Britto
Romero Britto is a Brazilian born American artist whose colorful works elude the optimism the artist has on his view of the world. He uses bold and colorful patterns to enhance his works (Artist Bio).
Brazilian Artist Romero Britto
When you reach the edge of the neighborhood at East 59th Street, you are greeted by the former GM Building that stretches from Fifth to Madison Avenues. This elegant 50 story building once represented the presence of GM in New York City. It was designed by the architectural firms of Edward Durell Stone & Associates and Emery Roth & Sons in 1968. It was designed in the “International Style” and stands guard at the end of the commercial district of Midtown East and the Upper East Side.
The GM Building stands guard at 767 Fifth Avenue
As you cross back down Madison Avenue on East 59th Street, you will notice the ever-changing retail landscape and all the empty storefronts on this part of Madison Avenue. Twenty years ago, this would not have existed, but it is a sign of the times.
The details of the Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street
Another interesting building to admire is the Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street on the corner of Madison Avenue. The building was created for the Fuller Construction Company in 1929 by architects Walker & Gillette in the ‘Art Deco Style’. The building’s exterior sculptures were designed by architect Elie Nadelman. Look at the interesting details not just on the outside of the building but walk into the lobby to take a look around (Wiki).
The Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street
One of the great hotels in New York City stands guard at 455 Madison Avenue and 50th Street, the New York Palace Hotel (formerly the Helmsley Palace Hotel) which is a combination of an old mansion and the modern building behind it. The front of the building facing Madison Avenue is the former Villard Mansion.
New York Palace Hotel at 455 Madison Avenue
The front of the hotel is the “Villard Houses” created in 1882 for Henry Villard, a railroad financier, who worked with the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White to create a series of six brownstone townhouses facing a courtyard in the ‘Italian Neo-Renaissance style’. Developer Harry Hemsley leased the houses and hired Emery Roth & Sons to create the 55 story modern hotel in the back of the houses.
The Villard Houses part of the New York Palace Hotel
The hotel opened in 1981 as the notorious ‘Helmsley Palace Hotel’ with hotelier Leona Helmsley in charge. Considered one of the best hotels at the time, it was a five star/five diamond hotel (with one of the most nervous staffs in New York City). The hotel has been owned by Lotte Hotels & Resorts since 2015.
The inside of the New York Palace Hotel, the Villard Houses
Take time to walk through the hotel from the East 50th Street entrance to the East 49th Street exit and walk around the public rooms and admire the architectural details from the Gilded Age. There are elegant features from staircases to marble fireplaces and the most beautiful views on Madison Avenue.
I found this pardon of the Helmsley Hotel on YouTube. It is very clever.
Another older hotel that stands out is the Roosevelt Hotel at 45 East 45th Street at the corner of Madison Avenue and East 45th Street. It stands guard next to Grand Central Station. The hotel opened in 1924 and was designed by the architectural firm of George P. Post & Son for businessman, Frank A. Dudley and it was ran by United Hotels Company from a leased agreement with the New York Central Railroad. Like the other hotels that line Lexington Avenue, there used to be a separate passageway from the railroad to the hotel (Wiki).
The Roosevelt Hotel at 45 East 45th Street (currently closed)
This is similar hotel to take the time to walk through the lobby and look at the vaulted ceilings and the Gilded Age details of the hotels with its thick carpets and elegant staircases. The hotel has a somewhat dark, more European feel to it. There is a lobby restaurant when open that looks pretty interesting.
The entrance to the lobby at the Roosevelt Hotel
As you walk around Grand Central Terminal and through the archway pedestrian tunnels that lead to Park Avenue from East 45th to East 46th Streets, you will be traveling under the Helmsley Building at 230 Park Avenue that stands guard at the beginning to the business and residential neighborhood of Park Avenue.
The Helmsley Building at 230 Park Avenue
The Helmsley Building was built in 1929 as the New York Central Building for the rail company and was designed by architects Warren & Wetmore, who also designed Grand Central Terminal, in the ‘Beaux-Arts style’. Take time to admire the statuary around the clock that dominates its front and the beautiful stone detail work of the exterior of the building.
The beautiful details of the Helmsley Building on Park Avenue
The New York Central used the building as its starting point of “Terminal City”, a series of buildings and hotels that the railroad developed on the top of the rail line (Wiki). The true beauty of The Helmsley Building is at night when the owners put on a light show illuminating the building with colorful spotlights.
The Helmsley Building light show after dark
All along Park Avenue is a series of ‘glass boxes’ for office buildings and residential towers that line the Avenue all the way up to East 96th Street at the exit of the rail line. Along the way, there are some interesting examples of architecture that line Park Avenue.
The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at 301 Park Avenue is currently closed and under scaffolding awaiting its new life as a small hotel and condo complex. The hotel, as mentioned in previous blogs in ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’, was built and opened in 1931. It was designed by the architectural firm of Schultz & Weaver in the ‘Art Deco style’ and is probably one of the most famous and talked about hotels in New York City outside the Plaza Hotel (Wiki). There have been so many movies and TV shows filmed and written about the hotel to count and the restaurants inside the hotel were some of the better ones in New York City. The building will open sometime in the future.
The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at 301 Park Avenue (currently under renovation)
St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church at 325 Park Avenue is one of the older buildings on Park Avenue and stands alone amongst the bigger buildings on this part of Avenue. Though the congregation was started in 1835, this structure was built between 1916-17 and designed by Bertram Goodhue, who had designed the St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue (See Walking the Border of Midtown East-MywalkinManhattan). The church was designed in the ‘Byzantine Revival Design’ and he was required by the congregation to retain the old church portal from the former church on Madison Avenue and East 44th Street in the new church design (Wiki).
‘St. Bart’s’ Church at 325 Park Avenue
Look at the details of the old church and the stained-glass windows. In the Summer months, there is a wonderful (yet somewhat over-priced) restaurant in the courtyard of the church and there are art markets during the Summer and Christmas holiday season that you should visit. There is also afternoon music at certain times of the year.
St. Bart’s restaurant and terrace during the summer
One standout, innovative building on Park Avenue sits between East 52nd and 53rd Streets is the Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue. The building and its exterior designs were created by German American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with the interior Four Seasons Restaurant designed by American architect Philip Johnson.
The Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue
This 38-story building of wonder was innovative in its time. Finished in 1958 as the corporate headquarters of Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, the building was noted for its ‘functional aesthetics’ and a prominent example of ‘corporate modern architecture’. Keeping up with modern building codes, the architect used ‘non-structural bronze I-beams and large glass windows’ to create the cool and well-toned exterior structure of the building (Wiki).
Also utilizing the 1916 building code and the new use of open public spaces, the building was one of the first in New York City to embrace the open-air plaza that was prevalent in the 1980’s and early 90’s design. It was an extremely innovative design at the time and still sets the standard for the modern ‘glass box’.
Seagram Building Plaza, innovative to its time
One of the last stand out buildings that I saw on Park Avenue before my walk back down the Avenue was at 465 Park Avenue, The Ritz Tower, an apartment hotel. This elegant residential building stands out because of its details on the exterior of the building and I later learned it was once home to the famous French restaurant, La Pavilion.
The Ritz Tower at 465 Park Avenue
This elegant building was designed by architects Emory Roth and Thomas Hastings for journalist Arthur Brisbane, who was the developer. The apartment hotel was managed by the Ritz-Carlton Company. The exterior of the building has many carved stone features so look closely from the other side of Park Avenue to admire the detail work. Don’t stare too long because the doorman gets a suspicious look if you look too long. He kept looking me over as I admired the building and the read the plaques.
Look at the elegant details of the Ritz Tower
Up and down the Park Avenue Mall is the work of artist Alex Katz “Park Avenue Departure”, of which it looks like the back of a woman who is walking away from some place. The work is a depiction of the artist’s wife, Ada. Each of the works along the mall is changed slightly to show the sculpture in motion as if it is walking down the mall. This street art exhibition will run through November 2019 (The Fund for Park Avenue).
Alex Katz’s Park Avenue Mall exhibit “Park Avenue Departure” (closed in December 2019)
Alex Katz is an American artist
American artist Alex Katz who was born in Brooklyn, NY and is a graduate of Cooper Union Art College. His long career has seen many changes in art form and today some of his concentrations are in landscape and portraiture. His work can be seen in museums all over the world.
For lunch and dinner that afternoon, I ate at Hop Won Chinese Noodle Shop at 139 East 45th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues (See reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). After a long day of walking, I treated myself to a plate of mixed roasted meats, duck and pork, with a side of rice ($9.00) and an egg roll ($1.38). Their roasted meats are a lacquered delight with the rich, crackling skin of the duck worth every bite. The food here is delicious and so reasonable for Midtown East.
Don’t miss Hop Won at 139 East 45th Street
By the end of the evening, I got a chance to double back around the Helmsley Building and look at the detail work of that structure as well and then walked up and down the tiny Vanderbilt Avenue between East 45th and 47th Streets that line next to Grand Central Terminal. The most notable building on this block is the Yale Club at 50 Vanderbilt Avenue. The famous clubhouse was designed by Yale Alumnus and architect James Gramble Rodgers, and it opened in 1915.
The Yale Club at 50 Vanderbilt Avenue; notice the plaque to Nathan Hale on the bottom left
The most notable item outside the club is the historical mark where supposedly Patriot Nathan Hale was hung. There is a conflict to where it actually took place and there is another site on the Upper East Side (See Walking the Upper East Side Streets in MywalkinManhattan), where that plaque is outside the local Pier One. I personally like that theory better. Where else in American could a Patriot of the Revolutionary War be hung in that two hundred years later would house a retailer that sells Christmas chukkas made in China?
That’s what I love about Manhattan!
Check out my other blogs on Walking Midtown East:
Day One Hundred and Forty-Three-Walking the Borders of Midtown East:
Day One Hundred and Forty-Five-Walking the Avenues of Midtown East:
Day One Hundred and Forty-Six-Walking the Streets of Midtown East:
I have enclosed all the addresses to the interesting buildings you should visit above to make it easier than doing them one by one.
Things to see:
Tour all the famous buildings in the neighborhood
Alex Katz “Park Avenue Departure”
A little video on Alex Katz’s work
Places to Eat:
Hop Won Chinese Noodle Shop
139 East 45th Street
New York, NY 10017
Open: Sunday Closed/Monday-Friday 10:00am-8:45pm/Saturday 11:00am-7:30pm
My review on TripAdvisor:
My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:
My review in MywalkinManhattan.com: