I started my walk today with the threat of a major snowstorm. When I went outside, it was cold but blue skies and sunny. There were two times that the skies got cloudy with a small snow flurry and that was it. So much for an “Artic Plunge” in New York City. That lasted about twenty minutes each. So much for the big storm. It ended up being sunny and cold the rest of the afternoon.
I journeyed back to the Lower Garment District to walk the side streets and see what has developed in the neighborhood. Lots of renovations and new construction are part of the neighborhood fabric as this section of Midtown South is going to be redeveloped with new office buildings and apartments. Most of the building stock is rather old and needs a renovation.
The blocks between Ninth Avenue and Sixth Avenue along West 33rd and 32nd Streets is dominated by several older buildings: The former Farly Building is now the Moynihan Train Hall, the former Penn Station is now Madison Square Garden, the Hotel Pennsylvania is now being demolished for an office building and the former Gimbel’s Department is now the Manhattan Mall. New uses for classic buildings that is a trend in many neighborhoods in Manhattan.
The James A. Farley Building was designed by the firm of McKim, Mead & White and was designed in the Beaux Arts style, the sister building to the former Penn Station (where the current Madison Sqaure Garden now sits). The current renovation of the building to turn the dream into a reality is by the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (Wiki).
I was able to walk the halls and staircases of the complex that afternoon and the interiors are still not finished with a few of the restaurants now opened but the polished floors and new artwork is in full view. The public bathrooms are a nice change from the ones in Penn Station. The rest of the complex will be open by the spring.
The new rendering of the James A. Farley Building to the Patrick Moynihan Train Hall (Vno.com)
James A. Farley
James A. Farley was a former politician and the former Postmaster General under the FDR Administration.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a former politician and diplomat.
Across the street from the Moynihan Train Hall is Madison Square Garden, one of the most famous sports areas in the country. It is what replaced the famous Penn Station that was knocked down in 1968.
Madison Square Garden is one of the most controversial buildings in the City when it replaced the old Penn Station. The majestic building that was designed by McKim, Mead & White in the Beaux-Arts style and opened in 1910 was closed in 1963 and knocked down for the current building. The outcry from this started the Historic Preservation Movement in the City and prevented future buildings from demolition. These types of buildings are now protected under New York City’s Landmark Preservation Act. The biggest problem cited at the time was that the rail service was declining, and the building was getting too expensive to maintain (Wiki).
Madison Square Garden at 4 Pennsylvania Plaza
The former Penn Station that was knocked down in the 1960’s
With the reconfiguration of these grand train depots today not just at Grand Central Station (see my blogs on Midtown East and Murray Hill) as well as Penn Stations in Philadelphia and Washington DC, I could only imagine what it would be like today. We are now seeing it in the new Moynihan Train Hall in the former James A. Farley Post Office building.
The Hotel Pennsylvania was built in 1919 by the Pennsylvania Railroad and was designed by architect William Symmes Richardson from McKim, Mead & White. It was designed by the firm who designed Penn Station across the street and the limestone facade mirrored that of the station. The hotel has gone through many ownerships over the last one hundred years and returned to the name Hotel Pennsylvania in 1991. The hotel closed for business in April 2020 and is in the process of being demolished. There will be a new series of office buildings built in the area (Wiki).
The Hotel Pennsylvania at 401 Seventh Avenue (Wiki)
We will always have Glenn Miller though. Pennsylvania 6-5000.
Song “Pennsylvania 6-5000” by Glenn Miller
Behind the hotel is the old Gimbel’s Department Store building that closed in 1986, a year and a half before I started at Macy’s. Gimbels had always been considered our rival for years, but I think because of the sheer size of Macy’s I have a feeling that we beat them in sales. Gimbels had come to New York City by way of Philadelphia by the Gimbel’s family. It was founded by Adam Gimbel in 1887. The store in Herald Square opened in 1910 in the classical style by architect Daniel Burnham (Wiki). The store stretches from West 33rd to West 32nd Streets along Broadway.
Gimbel’s Department Store at Sixth Avenue and 33rd Street
The Gimbel’s sign still appears on the building
When the store closed in 1986, it was renovated and was called A & S Plaza when that store moved into the space. When A & S closed in the mid 1990’s when it merged with Macy’s, the store was renovated again and now is called Manhattan Mall. It is mostly office space now (Wiki).
In the middle of this former shopping district and just south of Herald Square is Greeley Square named after Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune. The square was acquired by New York City in 1846 and turned into the park. The statue that dominates the southern end of the park was designed by sculptor Alexander Doyle in 1890 (NYCParks.org).
Greeley Square was named after Horace Greeley, who published the first issue of The New Yorker magazine and established the New York Tribune. He was also a member of the Liberal Republican Party where he was a congressman and ran for President of the United States after the Civil War.
Publisher and Politician Horace Greeley famous for his quote “Go West, young man, Go West”
The Horace Greeley statue is located in the park just south of Herald Square in Greeley Square.
The statue was created by artist Alexander Doyle. Alexander Doyle was an American born artist who studied in Italy with several artists. He is best known for his marbles and bronze sculptures of famous Americans including many famous Confederate figures that have come under fire recently.
Once you leave Greeley Square and walk south you will be entering what is left of the old Wholesale district where once buyers used to come into these stores to commercially buy goods for their businesses. Slowly all of these businesses as well as most of the Flower District is being gentrified out with new hotels, restaurants and bars replacing the businesses. It seems that most of the district is being rebuilt or renovated or gutted.
The Broadway side of the park opposite the old department stores starts some of the most beautiful architecture in South Midtown. This portion of Broadway until you reach the Battery has the most unique stonework and embellishments on the buildings that show the craftsmanship of another era when companies-built headquarters that were meant to last. These surround the whole square and are always fun to admire.
One building that faces Greeley Square is 1270 Broadway at the corner of West 33rd Street.
1270 Broadway, known once as the Wilson Building, was built between 1912 and 1913 in the class Beaux Arts style. It now serves as an office building. You have to look up from the square to admire its beauty.
Next to the building is across the street at 1265 Broadway, the former Browning, King & Company building. The building was built in 1910 by developer William R.H. Martin for commercial use. The building was designed by architects Townsend, Steinle & Haskell in brick, stone and terra cotta. The interesting decorative top was designed for the Men’s retail company Browning, King & Company. You have to look up at the detail work and the eagle at the roof of the building (Daytonian).
1265 Broadway-The Browning, King & Company building
Another building that stands out and sadly boarded up at this time is the former Martinique Hotel at 49 West 32nd Street (1260-1266 Broadway). This was also built by William R. H. Martin in 1898 with the design by architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh in the French Renaissance style. The hotel had a notorious reputation in the 1970’s and 80’s as a welfare hotel that closed in 1988. It is now a Curio Hotel of Hilton Hotels (Wiki).
I remember this hotel well when I worked for Macy’s in the late 1980’s and all the people yelling and screaming outside the hotel with fire trucks all over the place. The hotel had been nothing but a problem for almost twenty years. It has since been bought by the Hilton Group and is now a historical luxury hotel.
1260 Broadway-49 West 32nd Street-The Martinique Hotel
A couple of buildings that stand out when walking down Broadway are 1234 Broadway on the corner of Broadway and West 31st Street, an elegant Victorian building with a standout mansard roof and elaborate details on the roof and windows. I did not realize that it was the Grand Hotel built in 1868 as a residential hotel. The hotel was commissioned by Elias Higgins, a carpet manufacturer and designed by Henry Engelbert. Currently it is being renovated into apartments (Daytonian). It shows how the City keeps morphing over time as this area has become fashionable again.
1234 Broadway in all its elegance, the former Grand Hotel
After rounding the southern part of Greeley Square, I headed back down Sixth Avenue to West 30th Street, the southern border of the neighborhood with the ever-changing NoMAD (North of Madison Square Park). This southern section of South Midtown as I have mentioned in other blogs is being gutted, knocked down and rebuilt into a hip area of the City with trendy hotels, restaurants and stores.
When I made my way back down West 32nd Street past all the construction and then made my way down West 31st Street. As I passed the southern parts of the larger buildings and walked down the street between Seventh and Sixth Avenues, I had to stop when I saw the beauty of St. Francis of Assisi Church at 135 West 31st Street. The building was so elegant and decorative with its interesting architecture and art details.
St. Francis of Assisi Church at 135 West 31st Street (Church Photo)
The church has an extremely interesting history and has been subject to the changes of the neighborhood. The parish was founded in New York City in 1844 and the church found that it was outgrowing it’s building. In 1890, the parish started plans for a new church. The church was designed by architect Henry Erhardt, and it was designed in the Gothic Revival style and was completed in 1892 (Wiki).
What I had not realized that this was the parish of Father Mychal Judge who was the Fire Chaplain for the FDNY. He had rushed down to the site on 9/11 and had been giving last rights to a victim when he was hit by debris and killed instantly. He had sacrificed so much that day to the men and women of New York City (Wiki).
FDNY Chaplain Mychal Judge the way he should be remembered (Wiki)
Next to the stairs leading to the church was a spooky and very realistic statute of someone who looks like they are begging. The work is entitled “When I was hungry” by artist Timothy P. Schmalz.
“When I was hungry” by Artist Timothy P. Schmalz
Artist Timothy P. Schmalz
Artist Timothy P. Schmalz is a Canadian born artist and is known for his large-scale works. His work is considered spiritual, and the artist says that “he is devoted to creating art that glorifies Christ” and that an artist “needs an epic subject to create epic art” (Artist Bio). The artist attended the Ontario College of Art.
Timothy P. Schmalz YouTube video
On my way back from Sixth Avenue, I stopped at 4 Boys 99Cent Pizza at 252 West 31st Street for a slice of pizza (see my review on TripAdvisor). The pizza here is very good and made a nice snack to warm me up as I continued to walk down the street.
The pizza at 4 Boys 99Cent Pizza at 252 West 31st Street is very good
I made my way back done West 31st Street admiring the architecture of the Moynihan Train Hall and looking at the detailed work done on the building. They really brought this building back to life making it look like it had when it had opened.
West 30th Street takes you more in the heart of what is left of the Garment District with the last of the small furrier shops when this used to be the Fur District forty or fifty years ago. The Fur District still has about a dozen stores scattered between West 30th and 29th Streets just off Seventh Avenue between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. The fact that women are not wearing fur the way they did fifty or sixty years ago, and rising rents are pushing a lot of these businesses out of the area.
There are several beautiful and interesting buildings as you walk down West 30th Street. Another elegant church is St. John’s the Baptist Roman Catholic Church at 213 West 30th Street. The congregation started in Manhattan in 1840 and had a rough start in its history. The current church was built between 1871 and 1872 in the French Gothic style and was designed by architect Napoleon LeBrun. Mr. LeBrun is noted for designing many churches in New York City at the time (Wiki).
St. John’s the Baptist Roman Catholic Church at 213 West 30th Street
Another fascinating building that is part of the street fabric is the former 23rd Precinct Building at 138 West 30th Street. It really looks like an old police station. The precinct building was built in 1907-1908 and designed by architect R. Thomas Short of Harde & Short. The area was once known as the ‘Tenderloin’ and was one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the City. It is now being used as the Traffic Control Division of the NYPD (Wiki).
The former 23rd Precinct at 138 West 30th Street
Another building right down the block is ‘The Cass Gilbert” building at 130 West 30th Street. Originally called the S.J.M. Building for fur trader Samuel J. Manne, the building had been designed by architect Cass Gilbert and was built in 1928. The building’s decorations include friezes of animal reliefs and winged beasts at the entrance of the building. It had been originally built as offices and showrooms (Wiki).
“The Cass Gilbert” building at 130 West 30th Street
As you walk back to Ninth Avenue, you will notice how much more residential that blocks are between Eighth and Ninth Avenues along both West 30th and West 29th Streets. This is where the last of the small intimate brownstones and low-level apartment houses still exist.
This area had become very gentrified over the last twenty years, and I would watch the renovations happening especially on the block of West 29th Street, where all the brownstones lining the park that is part of the Penn Apartments. It is a colorful line of buildings facing the park.
Most of the block has non-descript buildings and a slew of smaller hotels. In a few years, I predict that most of these blocks will be knocked down to build new office high rises and leave most of the Garment District behind. There are still a few furriers closer to Seventh Avenue left, holding guard for those who still enjoy mink and ermine coats. It is a thrill to see all the high-quality coats and hats that are still popular amongst customers who still appreciate this type of clothing.
One building does stick out and that is located at 214 West 29th Street. This unusual building was built in 1925 as an office building and now serves as a We Work office space. The unusual decorations at the entrance include strange statues of grinning males (or could be females as i could not get close enough without the doorman looking at me).
214 West 29th Street
I sat down and relaxed in Greeley Square and watched as the few tourists sat down or were taking pictures of Macy’s and Herald Square just above the park. On the other side of the square is Koreatown (please see my blog on that neighborhood) and there is always a lot of bustles on that side of the park with its slew of great restaurants and now traffic due to the opening of the Martinique Hotel again after another renovation.
That evening I finally made a trip inside the Hotel New Yorker inside of using the hotel as a starting point for my walks in this neighborhood. I ate at the Tick Tock Diner, the corner restaurant of the hotel at Ninth Avenue and West 34th Street (see my review on TripAdvisor). This busy deli is part of the hotel so you can see what the lobby looks like as well and see the other restaurants in the hotel.
Tick Tock Diner at 481 Eighth Avenue
I was starved and ordered a Turkey Club Sandwich with fries ($16.95) and a Pepsi. The food at Tick Tock is really good but pricey (see review on TripAdvisor). The club sandwich was really good, and the sandwich was layered with freshly roasted turkey and fresh lettuce and tomato. The portion size was very generous, and I enjoyed the meal. I even saved room for a piece of Apple Pie A la Mode ($9.95), which the waitress said was homemade at the restaurant but tasted more frozen and baked there.
The restaurant was still a nice experience and a great way to end the day. What we are seeing now in the Lower Garment District is a neighborhood is total transition and in the next ten years will probably mirror the changes that are going on in the Hudson Yards. This will be the lower extension of Midtown and with the new train hall a new hub of the City.
Places to Eat:
4 Boys 99Cents Pizza
252 West 31st Street
New York, NY 10001
Open: Sunday-Saturday 8:30am-4:30am
My review on TripAdvisor:
Tick Tock Diner
481 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10001
Open: 24 Hours
My review on TripAdvisor:
Please read my other blogs on walking the Lower Garment District:
Day Two Hundred and Seventeen: Walking the Borders of the Lower Garment District/Flower & Fur Districts:
Day Two Hundred and Nineteen: Walking the Avenues of the Lower Garment District/Flower & Fur Districts:
Day Two Hundred and Twenty: Walking the Streets of the Lower Garment District/Flower & Fur Districts: