I took a different direction from my walk having finished the Flatiron District (finally!). I had just started Graduate School as I was finishing the Flatiron District and had not completed the blog when classes started. Who knew it was going to be that crazy of a semester. I had not worked that hard since Wines & Menus when I was at the Culinary Institute of America.
I bypassed the whole Theater District after the COVID vaccine mandate was lifted in June of 2020 because between the riots that took place after the George Floyd incident and all the theaters being closed because of COVID (they would not open again until 2021) I skipped this section of the Manhattan. I went to Murray Hill and worked my way down to 23rd Street. The whole Theater District was loaded with police anyway guarding the theaters and the areas in between. There was literally no one walking around this neighborhood and I would have stood out. The theaters and restaurants were boarded up and homeless all over the place.
So I’m back and it makes it really easy since I just get right out of Port Authority and here I am. The Theater District has changed tremendously in the last thirty years and has gotten much better. All of 42nd Street and its seediness has pretty much gone away (but the element still lingers) and some of the most innovative new buildings have replaced all that. It made for an interesting walk before I had to meet my friend, Maricel, for her delayed birthday dinner at Virgil’s, a barbecue restaurant on West 44th Street.
So I started on the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 42nd Street and made my way up Eighth Avenue to the northern border of the Theater District at West 54th Street. Talk about a combination of architectural structures and designs.
One of the most interesting buildings in the Times Square area is the Westin New York at Times Square at 270 West 43rd Street which stretches from West 42nd to West 43rd along Eighth Avenue. This hotel is considered one of the most innovative designed buildings in New York City when it was built.
Westin New York at Times Square at 270 West 43rd Street
The hotel was so innovative at the time when it was built and was considered a key in the redevelopment of the West 42nd Street district. The hotel was commissioned by the architectural firm of Arquitectonica to design the building. The 863 room hotel is actually two towers merged together with a ten story midsection for retail and hotel suites. The large scale abstract design has the look of a multi-dimensional gigantic origami (Arquitectonica website). The building was designed by HKS architects and was finished in 2002.
Further up Eight Avenue is the well-known Row NYC Hotel at 700 Eighth Avenue. This hotel opened in 1928 as the Hotel Lincoln and was the largest hotel in Manhattan when it opened with 1331 rooms. In 1957, the hotel was sold and remodeled and open again as The Hotel Manhattan. It was closed in the 1960’s as the rest of the area declined. It reopened again as the Milford Plaza Hotel in 1978 and was a big theater going hotel. In 2013, the hotel was sold once again and went through another renovation and opened as the currently Row NYC Hotel (Wiki).
The Row NYC Hotel at 700 Eighth Avenue
The famous “Milford Plaza” commercial from 1985
As I made my way up Eighth Avenue that borders the Theater District, I passed the now reopened Smith’s Bar, which has been a fixture in Times Square for over sixty years opening in 1954. The bar had been sold to new owners in 2009 and then closed in 2014 to reopen a year later.
Smith’s Bar at 701 Eighth Avenue
My review on TripAdvisor:
This bar has seen Times Square go through a major transition over the years and was once located in one of the worst areas during the 1990’s. It has since reopened and has been very popular going into “March Madness” with college basketball in full swing.
Located between 728 and 732 Eighth Avenue are three hold out businesses to a major construction project. It still houses Daniela at 728 Eighth Avenue, an Italian restaurant, a gift shop at 730 Eighth Avenue and Playwright Celtic Pub at 732 Eighth Avenue. Frankly I think all three businesses time is coming as the land is getting too valuable in the Times Square area. Every building around these has been torn down for a new building.
Review on TripAdvisor:
Playwright Celtic Pub
Review on TripAdvisor:
The pillars in front of the Playwright Celtic Pub
The pillars are very detailed
The pillars of 732 Eighth Avenue
Further up the avenue on the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 46th Street is the West 46th Street SRO. This interesting building that I thought was an elegant Victorian is actually a combination of three former tenement buildings and two residences to make one building. Architects Oaklander, Coogan & Vitto PC created this interesting building with an additional shared floor topped with a mansard roof and tower. It used to house many trendy restaurants and bars but since the pandemic has been empty. By 2023 though, it is starting to fill up again (OCV Architects PC).
West 46th Street SRO is an interesting building
I reached West 48th Street and I passed Engine 54/Ladder 4/Battalion 9, which I used to pass all the time when I worked down the road at the Java Shop on the corner of Broadway and West 46th Street at 782 Eighth Avenue. These companies were hit hard a year after I left my job on 9/11 when the Brothers of this house lost 15 members that day, their entire shift. The memorial they have to their members is really touching and the guys that work there always seem so friendly to all the tourists that pass by.
Engine 54/Ladder 4/Battalion 9 at 782 Eighth Avenue
Pay respects to the Engine 54/Ladder 4 9/11 Memorial on the front of the building
Engine 54 Plaques and Awards including 9/11
The plaque at the firehouse
There are two wonderful Chinese restaurants that I like to visit when I am in the neighborhood. One is Chef Pho & Peking Roast Duck at 858 Eighth Avenue, which has wonderful lunch specials until 4:00pm. The restaurant has some of the best egg rolls that I have tasted in a long time. I made special stops here for lunch when walking the area.
Peking Roast Duck Restaurant at 858 Eighth Avenue
My review on TripAdvisor:
The other is Real Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns at 811 Eighth Avenue which is known for their Pork & Crab and Pork Soup Dumplings. I love their fried dumplings, Scallion pancakes with sliced beef, the pan-fried Duck Buns and the Shanghai pan-fried pork buns. Everything on the menu here is excellent and you can eat your way through the menu of delicious Dim Sum.
Real Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns at 811 Eighth Avenue
My review on TripAdvisor:
When I turned the corner at West 54th Street, it was like visiting an old friend. Although I walk down this street all the time on the way to the MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art), in the past I never really paid attention to the buildings in the area or the architecture. When I walked down the street I saw the beauty in a lot of the townhouses that lined West 54th Street toward Fifth Avenue.
As I walked the border of the neighborhood on West 54th Street from Eighth Avenue, you can see the traces of Old Residential New York side by side with the new office towers, hotels and the extension of the Museum of Modern Art on the corner of West 54th and Fifth Avenue.
At the very edge of the neighborhood is 254 West 54th Street now the home of a theater but in the late 70’s was home to the famous ‘Studio 54’ nightclub and epicenter of the Disco era. There has never been a club before and after that can compare to it.
The club was opened in 1977 by club owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schlager who had once opened clubs out on Long Island and to much fanfare and the party did not end until the club was raided for tax evasion and closed February of 1980. The party was over! The club continued to open over the years but the original magic was gone as the Disco era faded away in the early 80’s.
254 West 54th Street The famous former “Studio 54”
The history of the Rise and Fall of Studio 54
Seed54 Sculpture at the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 54th Street
On the corner is the an unusual sculpture that I first noticed when walking past a hot dog vendor on the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 54th Street in front of 1330 Sixth Avenue building. This strange looking piece of artwork resembles an open air egg is by artist Haresh Lalvani. This unusual sculpture can be interpreted many different ways. The only problem is that the hot dog vendor on the corner distracts from even looking at it and I have passed it without even noticing it over the times I have been in the neighborhood.
Seed54 Sculpture at the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 54th Street
Artist Haresh Lalvani in front of one of his “HyperSurface” works
Mr. Lalvani is a professional artist and Professor at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. His emphasis in the work is his study of morphology into nature and its effects on art. ‘Seed54′ is part of his HyperSurface’ series. Mr. Lalvani is a graduate of the Pratt Institute of Architecture (Pratt Institute).
Artist Haresh Lalvani in front of one of his “HyperSurface” works
The first building that popped out to me was The Albemarle at 205 West 54th Street. This 12 story Beaux-Arts building was built in 1903 and was once known as the Hotel Harding and then the Alba. Actress Mae West once living in the building. The hotel at one time was home to the notorious “Club Intime” run by Texas Guinan. This was a well-known Speakeasy during Prohibition (City Realty).
Take time to look at the detailed stone work and carvings along the building. It really stands out amongst its more modern neighbors.
The Albemarle Building 205 West 54th Street
In front of 1345 Sixth Avenue is a large silver globe that has always fascinated me on the walks down West 54th Street. There is no name of the artist and nothing on the planters or doorway of the building.
The silver globe in front of 1345 Sixth Avenue on the corner of West 54th Street
At 162 West 54th Street, another beautiful building stands out with faces staring and smiling at you. This recently renovated building has now been turned into luxury condos and has been sandblasted back to its original beauty for a building that was built in 1911.
162 West 54th Street
The building almost smiles at you
Walking further down the street, you will realize that this part of the neighborhood is home to many of the most famous ‘old line’ hotels in Manhattan. At 65 West 54th Street is the luxury Warwick Hotel.
The 36 story hotel was built by William Randolph Hearst in 1926 with the help of architect Emery Roth with the firm of George B. Post & Sons. The outside of the hotel is done with brick, granite and limestone giving it it’s unusual color scheme. Take time to look at the hotel’s detail work and old world charm in the lobby (Wiki).
The Warwick Hotel at 65 West 54th Street
The detail work around the windows of the Warwick Hotel
As you continue to walk the border of West 54th Street closer to Fifth Avenue, you will see the back of the Museum of Modern Art which just reopened after its renovation and expansion. On the northern side of West 54th Street is a series of historical mansions each with its distinctive look.
The first home that really stood out was 35 West 54th Street. The brownstone was built right after the Civil War and was part of a series of identical brownstones built on the block. When the brownstone was bought by owner, Dr. Allan Thomas, in the late 1890’s, he stripped the front of the brownstone and gave it its current Beaux Arts facade to match architecture being built along Fifth Avenue.
35 West 54th Street
The house was then bought by Walter Tower Rosen, whose bought the house in 1916 and it stayed in the family until 1968. It is currently private apartments (Daytonian in NY).
The William Murray House 13-15 West 54th Street
Another mansion that stands out along West 54th Street is the William Murray House at 13-15 West 54th Street. These twin mansions were built for Larchmont businessman William Murray by architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh in the ‘Renaissance style’. This section of fashionable mansions is what is left of the Gilded Age residences in the neighborhood.
James Gordon House at 9-11 West 54th Street
The James Gordon House at 9-11 West 54th Street really stands out. James J. Gordon was the owner of the Erie Railroad and two insurance companies and was a cousin of JPMorgan, the banker. The house was designed by McKim, Mead & White in the Colonial American style. Mr. Gordon’s family had come to the United States in the 17th century and was from an old line Connecticut family. Look at the classic look of the mansion and its elegant stone and grill work. The house is now on the market for 65 million dollars (Curbed New York).
7 West 54th Street-The Philip Lehman House
The last home in this series of brownstones is 7 West 54th Street which was built by banker Philip Lehman in 1900. The brownstone was designed in the Beaux Arts style and after his death in 1947, his son, Robert, moved in and used the home for his art collection. He used the house until he died in 1969. It is now being used as offices (Wiki).
As you turn the corner to Fifth Avenue, you start to experience the old wealth of Manhattan with the University Club to your right and St. Thomas Church to the left when you enter Fifth Avenue at West 54th Street. This area also contains luxury department stores and shops, famous hotels and the Upper Crust churches that dot Fifth Avenue. The Theater District shares the borders with Midtown East, the Upper East Side, Hell’s Kitchen and the Garment District so there is a lot of overlapping with the neighborhoods.
The next block up is a combination of unique buildings back-to-back with the University Club of New York (Princeton) and the Peninsula Hotel. These buildings are so beautiful in their place on Fifth Avenue.
The University Club of New York is a private social club and is just as elegant inside as it is outside. The building was designed by the firm of McKim, Mead & White in 1899 and was designed in the Mediterranean Revival Italian Renaissance palazzo style.
The University Club on the corner of West 54th Street and Fifth Avenue
The University Club of New York at 1 West 54th Street
When reaching the corner of East 53rd Street another historic church, Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue stands guard. Though the church has been part of Manhattan since 1823, the current church was built here by 1914 and consecrated in 1916 as an Episcopal parish (Wiki).
Saint Thomas Church at 1 West 53rd Street
The church was designed by architects Ralph Adams Cram and Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue of the firm Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson with added sculpture by Lee Lawrie. The building is designed in the French High Gothic style and has magnificent deals (Wiki). Even if you are not Episcopalian, going to services at the church is a nice experience. The services are always very relaxed and the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys is excellent. The music and songs are wonderful to hear and the concerts in the afternoon and weekends are a treat.
On the corner of Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street sits a true jewel box in the Cartier store at 653 Fifth Avenue. The store was once home to Morton Freeman Plant, the son of railroad tycoon Henry B. Plant. The home was designed by architect Robert W. Gibson in 1905 in the ‘Neo-Renaissance style’. Mr. Plant felt later that the area was getting too ‘commercial’ and moved further uptown and Cartier bought the building in 1917 (Wiki).
Cartier Fifth Avenue 653 Fifth Avenue
Cartier finished a renovation on the store in 2016 to bring back the true beauty and elegance of the store and of the building. Don’t miss the opportunity to walk around inside and see the refined displays of merchandise.
The Cartier store after the renovation
Next to the Cartier store at 647 Fifth Avenue is the next Versace store which is housed in the left side of the Vanderbilt ‘ marble twin mansions. The Vanderbilt family had bought the land and built twin buildings on the site at 647-645 Fifth Avenue. Designed by architects Hunt & Hunt in 1902, the homes were first leased out as homes until about 1915 when businesses and trade came to the area.
647 Fifth Avenue in 1902
After passing out the Vanderbilt family in 1922, the building went through many incarnations and 645 Fifth Avenue was torn down for the Best & Company Department store in 1945 only to be torn down again in 1970 for the Olympic Tower (which still stands in the spot). The building was renovated in 1995 by Versace as their Fifth Avenue store and spent six million dollars to create the store that greets customers today.
647 Fifth Avenue today
The true catalyst and center of the luxury shopping district though is St. Patrick’s Cathedral which sits gracefully at the corner of Fifth Avenue between 51st and 50th Streets. The Diocese of New York was created in 1808 and the land for the Cathedral was bought in 1810. The Cathedral was to replace the one in lower Manhattan.
This current Cathedral was designed by architect James Resnick Jr. in the Gothic Revival style. Construction was started in 1850 and was halted because of the Civil War and continued in 1865. The Cathedral was completed in 1878 and dedicated in 1879. The Cathedral was renovated in 2013 and this shows its brilliance (Wiki).
During the holiday season the Cathedral is beautifully decorated and the music can be heard all over Fifth Avenue.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue
Next door to St. Patrick’s Cathedral is Saks Fifth Avenue’s headquarters. The business was founded by Andrew Saks in 1876 and was incorporated in 1902. After Mr. Saks died in 1912, the business was merged with Gimbels’ Brothers Department Store as Horace Saks was a cousin of Bernard Gimbel. In 1924, they opened the new store at 611 Fifth Avenue and changed the name of the store to Saks Fifth Avenue (The old store had been on 34th Street previously and called Saks 34th). The building was designed by architects Starrett & Van Vliet and designed in a ‘genteel, Anglophile classicized design’. (Wiki).
The store has recently gone through a major multi-million dollar renovation and is worth the time to look around the new first floor. The new cosmetic department is on the lower level along with jewelry so it is a different shopping experience. In its place, the handbag department has moved to the first floor.
Saks Fifth Avenue at 611 Fifth Avenue
Once you get to West 49th Street things start to change when you enter Rockefeller Center which is across the street from Saks Fifth Avenue. The Rockefeller Center complex covers 22 acres with 19 buildings including Radio City Music Hall and the famous ice skating rink that is holiday tradition once the famous tree is lite. The complex stretches from East 48th to East 51st Street from Fifth to Sixth Avenues. Rockefeller Center was built in two sections, the original 16 building of the complex and then the second section west of Sixth Avenue (Wiki).
Rockefeller Center at 45 Rockefeller Plaza on Fifth Avenue
The land under Rockefeller Center was owned by Columbia University (which was later sold) and the building of the complex started at the beginning of the Great Depression. Construction started in 1931 with the first section opening in 1933 and the remainder of the complex opening in 1939 (Wiki).
The original section of the complex was built in the ‘Art Deco style’ and the extension on Sixth Avenue was built in the ‘International style’. Three separate firms were hired to design the complex with the principal architects being Raymond Hood of Hood, Godley and Fouilhoux who was a student in the Art Deco style, Harvey Wiley Corbett and Wallace Harrison of Corbett, Harrison & McMurray and to lay the floor plans for the project L. Andrew Reinhard and Henry Hofmeister of Reinhard & Hofmeister. They were working under the Associated architects so that no one person could take the credit for the project (Wiki). Two of the original tenants including Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and National Broadcasting Company (NBC) which still exist.
The original section of Rockefeller Center
Radio City Music Hall, known for the elaborate shows and the Rockettes, was finished in 1932 and the ice-skating rink was finished in 1933 and the first Christmas tree was erected by the workers who were doing all the building.
The first tree in Rockefeller Center in 1933 with the constructions workers who erected it.
The rest of the complex went up over the next five years with extensions and renovations being done over the next fifty years. Many famous companies made Rockefeller Center their headquarters or moved their offices to the complex over the years. Still most tourists find their way to the restaurants and the famous rink at the holidays.
Rockefeller Center and the famous tree at Christmas 2022
Of all the beautiful artwork that line the walls and courtyards of the complex, two stand out. Prometheus is a beautiful statue that stands proud above the ice-skating rink. This beautiful cast iron, gilded sculpture was made in 1934 by artist Paul Manship. The work is of the Greek legend of Titan Prometheus who brought fire to mankind by stealing it from the Chariot of the Sun (Wiki).
Mr. Manship was a well-known American artist who noted for his specialized work in mythological pieces in the classic style. He was educated at the St. Paul School of Art and at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
Artist Paul Manship
The other standout statue is of the God Atlas that guards the courtyard of the International Buildings. The sculpture was created by artist Lee Lawrie with the help of Rene Paul Chambellan. The statue was created in the Art Deco style to match with the architecture of the Center and depicts Atlas carrying the celestial vault on his shoulders.
Atlas at Rockefeller Center
Mr. Lawrie was known as a architectural sculptor whose work is integrated into the building design. His work in the Art Deco design fit perfectly into the new building. Mr. Lawrie was a graduate of the School of Fine Arts at Yale.
Artist Lee Lawrie
Touring around Rockefeller Center can take a full afternoon itself especially at the holidays but in the summer months with the outdoor cafe open on the skating rink it is much more open.
Framing the view of Prometheus from the Channel Gardens are Youth and Maiden, which were originally commissioned as companion figures for Rockefeller Center’s famous fire god, one male and one female, to represent humankind.
Artist Paul Manship’s ‘Maiden’
Artist Paul Manship’s ‘Youth”
Originally placed on either side of the gilded Prometheus, each figure extends one hand to receive the gift of fire. The dramatic architecture surrounding Rockefeller Center’s Channel Gardens frames a major exhibition of sculpture by American artist Paul Howard Manship (Public Art Fund 1999).
Also visit the underground walkways of shops and restaurants and visit the new FAO Schwarz that opened in the center. In the winter months, it is fun to watch the skaters on the iconic ice rink. I then headed back down Fifth Avenue again to walk through Bryant Park.
Another former business that was well known on Fifth Avenue for years was located at 597 Fifth Avenue was Charles Scribner Sons Building. It originally housed the Charles Scribner Book Store replacing the old store on lower Fifth Avenue. The building at 597 Fifth Avenue was designed by architect Ernest Flagg in the Beaux Arts style between 1912-13 (Wiki).
The bookstore moved out in 1980 and the company became part of Barnes & Noble Bookstores and the building has been sold since. It now houses a Lululemon Athletica store but you can still see the Scribner’s name on the outside of the building and the Landmarked bookshelves inside the store.
The Charles Scribner Sons Building at 597 Fifth Avenue
The rest of Fifth Avenue is newer office buildings with retail space on the bottom levels some filled and some empty. When I was growing up, this part of Fifth Avenue was filled with high end stores. Today it is a combination of chain stores found in the suburbs or are just sitting empty, a trend found all over this part of Midtown East.
The Fred French Building at 551 Fifth Avenue
At 551 Fifth Avenue another interesting building, The Fred French Building really stands out. The building was created by architects H. Douglas Ives and Sloan & Robertson in 1927 in the ‘Art Deco Style’. Really look at the detail work all the up the building which was done in an ‘Eastern Design’ style with winged animals, griffins and golden beehives made to symbolize according to the architect ‘commerce and character and activities’ of the French companies. The outside material used on the building is faience, a glazed ceramic ware (Wiki).
The detail work on the top of the Fred French Building
From 43rd Street, I walked back up Fifth Avenue to the other side of the street and the buildings on this side of the street contains its share of architectural gems. The glass box building at 510 Fifth Avenue has always stood out to me. It was built in 1954 for the Manufacturers Trust Company. It was designed by architect Charles Evans Hughes III and Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Evans & Merrill in the International style and recently has won awards for its extensive renovation. It had been used as a branch of Chase Bank until 2000 and now is used for retail stores (Wiki).
510 FIfth Avenue-Manufactures Trust/Chase Glass Box
The lower part of this side of Fifth Avenue is going through a transition as a lot of buildings exteriors are either being renovated or the building itself is being knocked down and a new one is rising. Many of the buildings here are quite new or just don’t stand out.
I reached Bryant Park by the afternoon and it was just beautiful that afternoon. The park has gotten more crowded with each month that the City has opened. The tables and chairs are pretty much back to normal since the years of COVID have passed into memory (it is still with us) and people are back to socializing again. It has become one of the nicest parks in New York in comparison to what it was in the late 1980’s. It also has the nicest and cleanest public bathrooms in Manhattan so it is worth the wait in line.
Bryant Park was busy that day
Bryant Park just before the ice skating rink was taken down
Years ago when I worked in Manhattan in the early 90’s, Bryant Park was only used for drug dealing and criminal activity and was best avoided. What twenty years and a major renovation can do to a park. Today you can walk along the flowering paths and think you are in Paris. In the past there have been concerts and movies in the park but because of COVID-19, you can just sit in the park on a chair or bench and enjoy the sunshine and admire the flowers.
Just walking along the paths of Bryant Park in the Spring and Summer months can make you forget your troubles
I continued my walk of the Garment District passing the New York Public Library admiring the stone carvings and statuary that is part of the entrance of the famous library. The library had just had a recent refreshing and looked magnificent with the fountains flowing and patrons filling the tables outside the building.
The New York Public Library guards the borders of Murray Hill from Fifth Avenue (During COVID)
The NY Public Library at night
This famous iconic building was designed by the firm of Carrere and Hastings in the Beaux-Arts style and opened its doors May 23, 1911. The founding for this important library came from patronage of the wealth members of society who believed in the value education and opened it to the people.
The famous lion statues that grace the entrance of the library were designed by American sculptor Edward Clark Potter and they were carved by the Piccirilli Brothers, American stone carvers whose business was based in the Bronx.
The NY Public Library Lions are iconic
Edward Clark Potter is an American born artist who studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and at the Academie Julian in Paris where he studied ‘animalier’, animal sculpture.
Artist Edward Clark Potter
The Piccirilli Brothers were a family of stone carvers and artists in their own right who were from Massa, Italy and owned a business in the Bronx. There were responsible for many famous statues all over the City including the Maine Memorial in Columbus Circle and the Firemen’s Memorial in Riverside Park.
Artist Attilio Piccirillo , one of the most famous from the family
Another feature of the famous building and I had never noticed before was the elegant fountains that flank the entrance to the library. I did not realize that these fountains had just been restored in 2015 after thirty years of not functioning. They were restored with a grant from the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust (NYPL Site).
The fountain “Beauty”
The fountain “Truth”
These beautiful fountains were designed by artist Frederick MacMonnies, an American born artist who studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.
Artist Frederick MacMonnies
I relaxed under the trees and took a break from the walking. It is a funny thing that I have noticed at the park and it seems like no one is ever working. Everyone is either eating or talking. It has been so different since COVID started. You never see dressed business people in the park taking a break. It looks more like it is full of tourists visiting.
Enjoy the opening scene of “Ghostbusters” from 1984 shot at the NY Public Library:
Enjoy this scene from “Ghostbusters” from 1984 shot at the NY Public Library
The opening of the film “Ghostbusters” was shot inside the New York Public Library
Still when the park is in full bloom there is nothing like it. It is surrounded by classic architecture and beautiful buildings. They even were bringing back the “Bryant Park Film Festival” by the end of the summer. One Monday night I took a break from walking and watched the film “Moonstruck” which I had seen outside once at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Even though I had seen it hundreds of times since it came out I never tire of watching the film.
There have been many changes around Bryant Park in the last twenty years. Most of the older buildings of Times Square have been long knocked down and the area rebuilt which needed it. Now the impressive Bank of America building at 1111 Sixth Avenue (or also known as One Bryant Park) graces the corner of West 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue (trust me, no one in New York City calls Sixth Avenue “The Avenue of the Americas”).
This innovative building was designed by architect Rick Cook from the firm of Cookfox Adamson Associates. The building was designed with a clear ‘Curtain wall’ and several diagonal planes for wind resistance. The building was also awarded a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for sustainable ‘green’ architecture (Wiki/Durst website).
Bank of America Building at 1111 Sixth Avenue
The Bank of America Building at night
The further you walk down West 42nd Street, the more you see how the block has changed in the last thirty years. All the older theaters and office buildings were knocked down and cleared out back in the 1980’s when Times Square went through urban renewal. The more historical theaters and old hotels have since been refitted and renovated.
Across the street in Three Bryant Park’s plaza is an interesting statue entitled “The Guardians: Hero” by artist Antonio Pio Saracino. This unique sculpture in made in layers and created from marble set in precision stone. The statue is done in repeated planes of marble . The sculpture is a modern representation on Michelangelo’s “David” Stoneworld/APS Designs).
“The Guardians: Hero at 3 Bryant Park
Artist Antonio Pio Saracino
Artist Antonio Pio Saracino is an Italian born artist currently working in New York City. He is a graduate of Sapienza University of Rome and works as an architect and designer. He has had shows all over the world (Wiki).
At the corner of West 42nd Street and Broadway is the Knickerbocker Hotel at 6 Times Square. This hotel has had many incarnations over the years including an apartment house. As the neighborhood has improved, the historical buildings in the area have been renovated back to their former selves.
The Knickerbocker Hotel was built by John Jacob Astor IV and it opened in 1906. The hotel was designed by the firm of Marvin & Davis in the Beaux-Arts style. The outside of the hotel was built in red brick with terracotta details. The hotel was fully renovated in 2015 (Wiki).
The Knickerbocker Hotel at 6 Times Square
One building that stands tall in Times Square is One Times Square known as 1475 Broadway. Once the home headquarters for the New York Times was opened in 1904. The building was designed by architect Cyrus L.W. Eidlitz. The original façade was of stone and terra cotta but this has been mostly stripped and is now home for mostly advertising. The ball still drops from the top of the building every New Year (Wiki).
One Times Square before the scaffolding went up
One Times Square with the lit ball for the New Year
What is left of the old ’42nd Street’ Theater District has been renovated and refitted of its historic theaters. The rest of the block was knocked down and new office buildings were built starting in the late 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s. This is still a major gateway to the City especially from the Lincoln Tunnel and the Port Authority (NYCEDC/42nd Street Redevelopment Project).
The original 42nd Street Redevelopment project (NYCEDC)
In the early 1980’s to the early 90’s until Mayor Rudy Giuliani took office, this area was being touted for redevelopment. It had started before the 1987 Stock Market Crash and then stalled for almost eight years. In the early 1990’s, the whole block between Seventh and Eighth Avenues along West 42nd Street were torn down, the theaters started to get renovated and new office buildings were built. If someone left New York City in 1990 and came back today, they would not recognize the neighborhood to the changes made.
The 42nd Street Renewal Plan (NYCEDC)
Some of the changes has been the renovation and restoration of three beautiful theaters, the New Victory Theater at 209 West 42nd Street, the New Amsterdam Theater at 214 West 42nd Street and the former Empire Theater now the AMC Empire Theater at 234 West 42nd Street. Each of these architectural wonders used to be major theater houses before they became porn theaters and are now back to their original glory.
The New Victory Theater was one of the first theaters to reopen under the new plan.
New Victory Theater at 209 West 42nd Street
The New Victory Theater was built by Oscar Hammerstein I in 1900 and was designed by architect Albert Westover. It opened as the Theatre Republic in 1900 and showed live stage shows. It did not become a movie theater until 1942 and by 1972 it became a porn theater. it resumed legitimate theater by the 1990’s when it was refurbished in 1995 and was the first theaters renovated in the 42nd Development plan (Wiki).
New Amsterdam Theater at 214 West 42nd Street
The New Amsterdam Theater is one of the oldest theaters in the area having been built between 1903 and 1904. The theater was built by Klaw and Erlanger for live theater and was designed by architects Herts & Tallant with a Beaux Arts exterior design and an Art Deco interior. The embellishments and details on the outside are quite elaborate (Wiki).
The theater was home to the Ziegfeld Follies from from 1913 to 1927 and hosted the elaborate shows of their day. It then was converted to a movie theater in 1937 until 1983 when it was leased to the Walt Disney company and renovated between 1995 and 1997. It is now operated by Disney Theatrical Productions for their live shows (Wiki/Walt Disney Company).
AMC Empire 25 Theater
The detail work at the AMC Empire 25 Theater
The former Empire Theater now the AMC Empire 25 was built in 1912 for producer Al H. Woods and was designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb in the Beaux Arts style. The theater was for live stage performances until 1943 when it was converted into a movie palace. It closed for good in the 1980’s as the area declined (Cinema Treasurers).
In 1998, the theater was moved from its location at 236 West 42nd Street and moved down the street to its present location at 234 West 42nd Street. The exterior was largely kept intact and the present theater interior was built inside of it enhancing the beauty of the present building (Cinema Treasurers/Wiki).
These theaters showed the testament of time and this type of architecture now is appreciated and being refitted to modern uses like the buildings I had seen in NoMAD (North of Madison Square Park) and in the Flatiron District.
A lot of the businesses on West 42nd Street heading back to the Port Authority have started opening up again. Sidewalk cafes were out with the warmer weather and customers were milling around. I saw this happening on my walks into the Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton section just north of the border of the Garment District.
The Port Authority at the edge of the Theater District is always busy.
After I reached the Port Authority, I double backed to West 44th Street to join Maricel for lunch at Virgil’s Barbecue. The restaurant was really crowded as “March Madness” had started and college basketball was in full swing. We had a group of Howard Alumni sitting behind us and by the end of lunch they looked heart broken as their team fell behind. There were plenty of other Alumni from other schools in the restaurant watching the games on the many TVs that lined the bar area of the restaurant.
Virgil’s Real Barbecue at 152 West 44th Street
My review on TripAdvisor:
We had not been to Virgil’s since before COVID hit. We used to come here quite often so it was nice to back. Lunch was wonderful. I had a much-needed Pulled Pork Sandwich with a bowl of homemade chicken soup. Maricel could not finish her Mac & Cheese, so she gave me the rest. It was a wonderful afternoon of food and great conversation. She actually asked how my walk in Manhattan was going. I reminded her that she was supposed to be doing this project with me originally. She laughed at that one. After lunch it was perfect after a long walk around the neighborhood.
The Pulled Pork Sandwich at Virgil’s with Mac & Cheese and a biscuit
It was a nice afternoon to walk around and to spend the rest of the afternoon with a good friend over wonderful food made it even better.
It is nice to see the Theater District come to life again after a long COVID slumber. It is going to interesting to see how the area develops now that all the theaters are open, and the tourists are coming back. Talk about a drastic change in just two years!
Places to Visit:
Fifth Avenue at West 42nd Street
New York, NY
Open: Sunday-Saturday 7:00am-11:oopm
My review on TripAdvisor:
Places to Eat:
Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns
811 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10019
Open: Sunday-Saturday 11:00am-10:00pm
My review on TripAdvisor:
Chef Pho and Peking Roast Duck Restaurant
858 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10019
Open: Sunday-Saturday 11:00am-10:00pm
My review on TripAdvisor:
Virgil’s Real Barbecue
152 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036
Open: Sunday 8:00am-10:00pm/Monday-Thursday 8:00am-11:00pm/Friday-Saturday 8:00am-11:30pm
My review on TripAdvisor:
1 thought on “Day Two Hundred and Sixty: Exploring the Borders of the Theater District from Eighth to Fifth Avenue and from West 54th to West 42nd Streets March 16th, 2023”
The Theater District continues to change and morph every year. So much is going on since it reopened a year and a half ago.
LikeLiked by 1 person