I have never seen such a transformation of a neighborhood.
I finished Kips Bay right before the holidays and discovered the section between Lexington and Third Avenues was also considered part of “Rose Hill”, an old farming estate from Colonial times. The area had not been called “Rose Hill” since the mid-1800’s and was surprised why anyone would want to bring the name back. That’s the real estate market for you. Anything to sell an apartment in a neighborhood.
This area of the Manhattan is actually a cross section of three neighborhoods, the “Rose Hill” estate section, NoMAD (North of Madison Square Park) and the Flatiron District, dominated by the Flatiron Building located on the cross section of Broadway and Fifth Avenue. The area in question is between Fifth and Sixth Avenue from East and West 25th to 30th Street, which is part of both the Flatiron District and NoMAD with a block being in Rose Hill.
It must be very confusing for the residents to know where they live and what neighborhood association to join. That being said there is not much residential in this area as opposed to it being more of the start of the lower Midtown Business District. This is where a lot of your “hip” companies like to have their offices.
The neighborhood’s central point is Madison Square Park, a small oasis of green in the middle of what used to be the financial and retail district from the turn of the last century to about the Great Depression era. Most of the commercial buildings were built between 1890 to about 1930. This district shows that these companies believed in their businesses and built these spaces to last a lifetime. Many of the companies that built this district no longer exist. Still a few of the insurance companies and banks still own their buildings but in the era of COVID with everyone working at home, we will see what the future holds for them as well.
The upper portion of the neighborhood is what is left of the old “Wholesale” and “Flower District”, which are both starting to dwindle in relevance in this neighborhood. As the neighborhood slowly started to be knocked down in the early 90’s and replaced by high rises especially above 23rd Street along Sixth Avenue, it went from being an old commercial district to one that was middle to high end residential.
What is left of the old “Wholesale” district is now concentrated around the stretch from Fifth to Sixth Avenue along East 30th Street and a little along Broadway but little by little the stores are closing up.
All the department stores that the district used to cater to are long gone with the exception of Macy’s Herald Square and realtors have discovered that people really do love the old charm of these turn of the last century Victorian and Art Deco style architecture. These buildings are slowly are being converted back to their original use of hotels, stores and restaurants as they were in the early 1900’s.
Even the ‘Flower District’ is down to about a dozen stores. What was once lined with fresh flowers and decorative house plants as well as all sorts of gardening supplies have packed up and moved to Hunts Point in the Bronx along with the Fish Markets of South Street Seaport and the Meatpacking District in Chelsea. The buildings and land have just become too valuable and the areas are being zoned for residential.
During Mayor Bloomberg’s last term in office all of these and other areas of the City that were once commercial were rezoned for residential and have changed the complexity of these neighborhoods. Some for the better and some for the worse. In NoMAD, the area just keeps morphing even during the era of COVID.
I started my day walking down from Port Authority and touring through the first floor of Macy’s Herald Square. The changes in that store since I have worked there have been tremendous. The Christmas decorations are long gone (except from the Ninth Floor where the Christmas Shoppe was still going strong) and the store was preparing for Valentine’s Day like the rest of the retail industry. The store was pretty crowded for early afternoon and gave me faith that the industry was not dead.
Macy’s Herald Square facing Broadway
I exited through the back door into Herald Square and walked through both Herald and Greeley Squares where people were eating their lunches and socializing on the park chairs and tables (socially distanced of course). It is surprising how busy the parks were a cool cloudy morning. I then walked around Koreatown on my way to NoMAD and the restaurants were really busy again like they were on Christmas Day. People still enjoy eating outside even at this time of the year.
I started my walk of NoMAD on the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 30th Street. This was interesting because in all my years at Macy’s, this had been the Textiles and Handmade Rug showrooms during the late 80’s and through the 90’s. Now there was not much left. The few showrooms that were left in the handmade rug business were closed that afternoon and the commercial part of the block was really quiet. There were not too many people walking around so I could take my time and really admire the buildings.
Many of the wholesale businesses were open but they are becoming few and far between. Even in the Pandemic, I do not foresee them being here in the next two years. As the leases start to get broken or the buildings get renovated, they are slowly emptying out and there are many for rent signs on 30th Street.
Most of the buildings on 30th Street were non-descriptive until I reached the corner of West 30th Street and Fifth Avenue. At 284 Fifth Avenue is The Wilbraham Building, a beautiful Victorian building built between 1888-90 that was commissioned by jeweler William Moir. The building was designed by architect D. & J. Jardine in the Romanesque Revival style. The building has been home to Shalom Brothers Rugs for many years (StreetEasy.com).
284 Fifth Avenue at East 30th Street-The Wilbraham
Rounding the corner on East 30th Street to Madison Avenue, the border of the neighborhood is shared with the “Rose Hill” section of the neighborhood. Technically “Rose Hill” is the eastern section of the neighborhood by historical fact to the location of the original estate. Still on most maps, NoMAD stretches to the border of Kips Bay on Lexington Avenue. This is where the borders of all these neighborhoods got confusing.
So I walked around the block and walked up and down Madison Avenue, the main artery and border of the neighborhood to revisit some of the most beautiful and picturesque buildings on the avenue. This starts the border also of the residential and business district of the neighborhood.
Walking down East 25th Street, you realize as you start to border the Midtown area that the buildings take up more of the blocks and there are less smaller brownstones and tenements in the area. The dominate building on the block by Madison Square Park is 11-25 Madison Avenue, the Metropolitan Life Buildings. The building that lines this part of East 25th Street is the Metropolitan Life North Building (or 11 Madison Avenue).
Metropolitan Life North Building at 25 Madison Avenue
This beautiful building was the extension of the main headquarters next door on Madison Avenue. The building was designed by the architectural team of Harvey Wiley Corbett and D. Everett Waid in the Art Deco style in the late 1920’s as the tallest building in the world but the Great Depression changed the plans and it was built in three stages. The first finished in 1932, the second in 1940 and the third in 1950 (Wiki).
The archways ‘Loggias’ on each side of the building
What stands out about the building is the arched vaults on each corner of the structure called ‘loggias’ and the features were made in limestone and pink marble. When you stand under them you can see the colors and details of the marble carvings (Wiki). Just walking around the building the features are impressive and standout.
Across the street from the Metropolitan Life North Building at 27 Madison Avenue is the Appellate Division Courthouse of New York State and one of the most beautiful and detailed buildings I have seen on my walks. The building was designed by architect James Lord Brown in 1896 in the Beaux Arts Style and is adorned heavily in sculpture (Wiki). You really have to step back and walk across the street to see the details on the building.
27 Madison Avenue The Appellate Division Courthouse of New York State
Looking up close, you can see that the building resembles a Greek Temple and was considered one of the best examples of the “City Beautiful Movement” that occurred during the 1890’s and 1900’s to enhance cities with monumental grandeur and beauty (Wiki).
The historical beauty of the architecture continued up the border of the neighborhood as I walked up Madison Avenue towards East 30th Street. You have to walk both sides of Madison Avenue to appreciate the designs and details of the buildings that line the avenue.
You have to look close to the building or you will miss it is the sculpture by artist Harriet Feigenbaum. It is a memorial to victims of the Holocaust and is very powerful in its work showing the concentration camps.
“The Memorial to the Injustice of the Victims of the Holocaust”-“Indifference to Justice is the Road to Hell”
Harriet Feigenbaum Artist
Harriet Feigenbaum is an American sculptor and environmentalist. Her works cover sculpture, film and drawings that are seen all over the world (Wiki and artist bio).
I passed 50 Madison Avenue and noticed how the buildings blended in design. The bottom level of the building was built in 1896 as the headquarters of the ASPCA (American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals). The building was designed by architects Renwick, Aspinwell & Owen and had a classic ‘club like’ design to it. The building was refitted and added to in 2005 by the firm of Samson Management with a six story addition to luxury condos (CityRealty.com).
50 Madison Avenue-The former ASPCA headquarters
Another ornamental building that stands out in the neighborhood is 51 Madison Avenue which is the home of New York Life Insurance Building. The building was designed by architect Cass Gilbert in 1926 in the Art Deco style with Gothic Revival details along the sides and was finished in 1928. The structure is topped with a gilded roof (Wiki & New York Life Insurance history). This is another building that you have to see from all sides.
51 Madison Avenue-The New York Life Insurance Building
Continuing my walk up Madison Avenue while admiring the architecture of the neighborhood is The James NoMAD Hotel, the former Seville Hotel, on the corner of East 29th Street at 88 Madison Avenue. This interesting hotel has gone through several name changes and renovations since it was built in 1904. The hotel was designed by architect Harry Alan Jacobs in the Beaux Arts style and the annex to the hotel was designed by Charles T. Mott in 1906 (Wiki).
88 Madison Avenue-The James NoMAD Hotel (formerly The Seville)
The outdoor dining was open for the restaurant the first afternoon I had visited the neighborhood even though I thought it was a little cool to eat outside. Even though you can’t go inside unless you are a guest, I could see the holiday decorations and lights from the street and it looked very elegant inside.
Across the street from this elegant hotel is 95 Madison Avenue the former Emmett Building. The structure was designed by architects John Stewart Barney and Stockton B. Colt of Barney & Colt for Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet in 1912 when the area was a wholesale district. The building is designed in the French Neo-Renaissance with Gothic style ornamentation (New York Landmark Preservation Commission and Wiki).
95 Madison Avenue-The Emmet Building
Turning the corner at East 25th Street and Madison Avenue is Madison Square Park, named after our forth President of the United States, James Madison. This well landscaped park is the gathering place of the residents of NoMAD and has a wonderful playground that has been busy the whole time I have spent in the neighborhood.
Madison Square Park is an interesting little oasis from all the traffic and office space. It has an interesting history since it was designated a public space in 1686 by British Royal Governor Thomas Dongan. It has served as a potters field, an arsenal and a home for delinquents. In 1847, the space was leveled, landscaped and enclosed as a park. It became part of the New York Park system in 1870. There are many historical figures featured in the park (NYCParks.org).
The park today is a major meeting spot for residents and tourists alike with a dog track and the original Shake Shack restaurant.
Madison Square Park in the Spring when I was walking the length of Broadway
When I walked into the park to take a break, it must have been the busiest section of the neighborhood between the playground and the original Shake Shack that were serving food to a crowd clung to their cellphones.
I stopped to look at the statue of our 21st President Chester A. Arthur, who had taken oath just two blocks away in his New York townhouse where the Kalustyan’s Specialty Foods is located at 123 Lexington Avenue (See My walk in Kips Bay below). I thought about what was going on in our government today and what they must have gone through with this transition.
The Statue of Chester A. Arthur in Madison Square Park
The statue of our 21st President was designed by artist George Edwin Bissell and the pedestal by architect James Brown Lord.
Artist George Edwin Bissell
George Edwin Bissell was an American born artist from Connecticut whose father was a quarry-man and marble carver. He studied sculpture abroad in Paris in the late 1870’s and was known for his historical sculptures of important figures of the time (Wiki).
The Admiral David Farragut statue in Madison Square Park by artist Augustus St. Gaudens
Admiral David Farragut
Another interesting statue that stands out in Madison Square Park is the of Civil War Navy hero, Admiral David Farragut. Admiral Farragut commanded the Union Blockage of Southern cities and helped capture New Orleans. The statute was designed by sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens. This was the artist’s first major commission when it was dedicated in 1881 (NYCParks.org).
Augustus St. Gaudens
Augustus St. Gaudens was an Irish born American artist whose specialty during the Beaux-Arts era was monuments to Civil War heroes. He had created the statue the William Tecumseh Sherman in the Central Park Mall on Fifth Avenue along with this statue of Admiral Farragut. He had studied at the National Academy of Design, apprenticed in Paris and then studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts (Wiki).
Upon leaving Madison Square Park and proceeding across East to West 25th Street (Fifth Avenue separates the East Side from the West Side of Manhattan), I was traveling into what was once part of Midtown between the Civil War until WWI and then after that Midtown moved closer to Central Park during the 1920’s through the 1940’s. This leads to the former ‘Ladies Shopping Mile’, which I had covered the previous Christmas on a walking tour.
My blog on my Christmas Walking Tour of the Ladies Shopping Mile in 2018:
Most of the buildings in this section of NoMAD were built with decorative stone work and elaborate ornamentation. There are so many in this section of Manhattan I will highlight the ones that are the standouts. As I walked the border of the neighborhood, you could see many beautiful buildings lining 25th Street.
When walking down East 25th Street from Madison Square Park, the first interesting site you pass is the historic Worth Square, the Memorial to and burial site of General William Jenkins Worth.
William Jenkins Worth was a native New Yorker (Hudson, NY) and decorated Army officer who had served our country in the Battles of 1812, The Second Seminole War and the Mexican-American War. His series of campaigns shaped this Country to where it is today. He died working for the Department of Texas in 1849 (Wiki).
Army General William Jenkins Worth
The General’s remains are buried under the monument at Worth Square at the corner of Fifth Avenue, Broadway and East 24th and 25th Street. General Worth was interned here in November of 1857 on the anniversary of the British leaving the colonies (NYCParks.org).
The Worth Monument between East 24th and East 25th Street at Broadway and Fifth Avenue
The Worth Monument was designed by artist James Goodwin Batterson, whose main profession was one of the founders of the Travelers Insurance Company in Hartford, CT and helped design the Library of Congress Building in Washington DC. He had immersed himself in his father’s quarrying and stone importing business early in his career and traveled extensively to Europe and Egypt for the job. He designed this monument in 1857 (Wiki).
Artist and Designer James Goodwin Batterson
Passing Worth Square and continuing down West 25th Street, I was revisiting the edge of the former “Ladies Shopping Mile” and noticed the impressive architecture that lines the streets of this section of the neighborhood.
At 1123 Broadway is the detailed Townsend Building that was built between 1896-97 and was designed by New York architect Cyrus Lazelle Warner Eidlitz in the Classical style. The building is names for Isaac Townsend whose estate the building was built on (Flatiron Partnership).
1123 Broadway-The Townsend Building
The details on 1123 Broadway are amazing
Another beautiful building is the Heritage Hotel at 18-20 West Fifth Avenue. This detailed hotel was designed by the architectural firm of Israels & Harder in 1901 in the Beaux-Arts style.The hotel opened in 1902 as the Arlington Hotel, a residential hotel for well-heeled guests (Daytonian).
18-20 West 25th Street-The Heritage Hotel
By the time I reached Sixth Avenue, named “The Avenue of the Americas” only to tourists and out of towners, I had seen a significant change in this part of Sixth Avenue in the last thirty years. At West 25th Street, the intersection is just above what had been “Department Store Row” that ends at West 23rd Street.
This had once been the heart of the “Flower District” and while there still are some wholesale flower businesses tucked here and there on Sixth Avenue and some of the side streets, that business has mostly moved on. What had once been lined with rows of smaller buildings housing flower shops selling their wares to people in the Tri-State area is now lined with new modern apartment buildings up to almost West 34th Street. The area is still being redeveloped.
As I ended my first day in the neighborhood, I walked back down West 30th Street back to Madison Avenue passing the familiar buildings back through Madison Square Park and just relaxed. It was fun watching people walk their dogs in the park and the dogs have a great time playing with one another.
I ended the evening with a slice of $1.00 pizza at my new ‘go to’ place in the neighborhood, Fresh Pizza & Deli at 876 Sixth Avenue, a little hole in the wall pizzeria and sandwich shop. The prices here are extremely fair both for the pizza and for the sandwiches that range from $5.00 to $7.00. The pizza here is pretty good and has a nice sauce that gives it some flavor. At night, it has some interesting characters hanging around.
Fresh Pizza & Deli at 876 Sixth Avenue
After my snack, I made one last walk around the northern border of the neighborhood to visit what was left of the wholesale businesses. Slowly these jewelry and accessory stores are giving way to boutiques, trendy restaurants and bars. Even in the era of COVID, the whole neighborhood is either being gutted and renovated or knocked down and being rebuilt. There is not one block in NoMAD that isn’t being transformed.
It will be interesting to see the results when all of this passes.
Places to Eat:
Fresh Pizza & Deli
876 Sixth Avenue
New York, NY 10001
Open: Sunday-Friday 6:00am-12:00am/Saturday 24 hours
My review on TripAdvisor:
My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:
Places to Visit:
Macy’s Herald Square
151 West 34th Street
New York, NY 10001
Open: Sunday 11:00am-8:00pm/Monday-Saturday 11:00am-9:00pm
My review on TripAdvisor:
Madison Square Park
11 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10001
Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-11:00pm
My review on TripAdvisor:
My walk in “Rose Hill”:
My walks in Kips Bay:
The Borders of Kips Bay
The Avenues of Kips Bay
The Streets of Kips Bay