I have been to Miss T’s Two several times when I needed a quick snack and was in the area. The deli is tucked in a residential neighborhood right near Hackensack High School so I know who their customer is when the school year is in session.
Miss T’s Two is primarily a deli/bodega selling some household items and snack foods to the locals who live in the area but they also have a small hot food area in the back of the store and this is where this unassuming place shines. Their hot food selection may be limited but everything I have tried is delicious and extremely reasonable and is always fresh.
The first two trips I made to the deli was by accident. I had passed the place…
I love coming to Demarest Farms and visiting the farm store and the grounds. It is like a step back into time. When I was a young child, I used to come down to the old farm stand that was across the street and pick up corn and tomatoes with my aunt who lived around the corner from the stand. In the 1990’s, the family opened the farm store across the street which used to be the old cornfields right next to the Garden State Parkway and a new tradition was born.
In 1991, they build the big store across the street.
Well, Christmas is finally officially over for me. It was one for the books. The holiday season just came and went without much fanfare or activities. Nothing like last year which was a lot of running around visiting decorated homes or running to the next cocktail party or dinner. Those things just did not exist this year. This season was all about the outside walking tours and small get togethers.
The whole holiday season became a blur and I started to attend a lot of outdoor activities that became available. Anything to get out of the house and see people or go do something out of the ordinary. I really had to search things out.
They started closest to home. I was trying to split my time between places that were just a drive away, going back and forth to the Hudson River Valley, which gave me a change of scenery and walking the neighborhoods of Manhattan, which gave me a sense of purpose as I felt I was supporting the City by being a cheerleader for all it had to offer even in the era of COVID.
My holiday journey started with the delivery of 375 Christmas trees for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. It was a big undertaking for a major charity that supports graduating high school seniors with scholarship money for college. I sometimes wonder if these students know what we go through to get the funds.
The trees were really nice this year
I have never seen so many Christmas Trees fly off a lot so fast. The membership of the Men’s Association got there at 9:00am and the truck arrived at 10:15am. We sold our first tree at 11:30am as we were tagging them. I stayed the entire day from 9:00am to 10:00pm when we closed the lot down for the evening. In the three shifts that I was there with the other guys, we sold 45 trees which we have never done our first day of sales.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at set-up 2020
We were completely sold out by December 11th which I have never seen before. It seemed in the era of COVID everyone reverted back to the 1970’s and wanted a fresh Christmas tree for their home. I thought this was wonderful and people could not have been more supportive to our organization.
Please read my blog on “Christmas tree sales in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ”:
Please watch the commercial I did in 2015 to sell our trees
The first week of December means “Open Houses” at some of our merchants in Downtown Hasbrouck Heights. I look forward to seeing all the Christmas merchandise being offered, all the bouquets created for the event and the beautiful Christmas windows that our florists in town have done.
Bill O’Shea’s Florist at 231 Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ always has a nice gathering the weekend before Thanksgiving. This year was like no other but it did not keep a nice crowd of residents from coming out and looking over ideas for floral displays, house decorating ideas and listening to festive holiday music all while nibbling on prepackaged treats and bottled drinks.
Bill O’Shea’s has some of the nicest displays at the holidays
In a normal year, it would be hot chocolate and coffee with freshly baked goods but COVID has changed the way these businesses are run. Everything had to be prepackaged and most people at it outside as juggling and shopping with a mask on was tough.
The weekend after Thanksgiving, the same weekend we set up the Christmas Tree lot for the Men’s Association, Heights Flower Shoppe at 209 Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ had their Open House and that was equally as nice.
Heights Flower Shoppe is housed in a turn of the last century home that dates back to the original founding of our downtown and has a very classic boutique look to it. The store was stocked with all sorts of Christmas decorations, homemade candies, decorative household gifts and beautiful floral displays as well as outside had decorated wreathes and grave blankets.
The homemade candies and Christmas decorations adorn the store
Like Bill O’Shea’s, there was all sorts of packaged holiday treats to enjoy including Italian sodas, small bags of homemade Christmas cookies and candies. Last year they had a nice assortment of cookies and small sandwiches with coffee, tea and punch so there are always holiday treats to nibble on too here as well.
All of Downtown Hasbrouck Heights was beautifully decorated for the holidays with wreaths on all our lamp posts, Christmas lights on the trees, merchants display windows decorated to the hilt and Christmas music playing.
Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always so nicely decorated for the holidays
This year because of COVID, the Annual Holiday Parade and Christmas Tree Lighting were cancelled in town but they did have a small get together at the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights to light the town Christmas tree. It was lit from Thanksgiving until the Epiphany on January 6th. It is always a beautiful site when entering town from the west side of town.
The Christmas Tree on the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
Even the little Neil Parrot playhouse, a local landmark in Hasbrouck Heights, was decorated for the holidays and was lite up at night as well.
The Neil Parrot Playhouse on the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights awaiting Santa
There were several nights of my aunt and I exploring the town and driving block by block to see all the decorated homes. Hasbrouck Heights and the surrounding towns of Lodi and Wood Ridge always do a wonderful job decorating for the holidays but with everyone being home and COVID hitting the area hard, people wanted to really decorate and make this year even more festive. Between the merchants and home owners, they made this time of year in Hasbrouck Heights very festive.
Please read my blog on Visiting Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ:
I did not just celebrate Christmas in Hasbrouck Heights. I ventured into other parts of New Jersey, to New York City and my usual haunts in the Hudson River Valley but like New Jersey, New York State was on a lock down as well and all the decorated mansions and holiday gatherings were all cancelled as well. So everyone did their best to celebrate outdoors and have all sorts of tours and small get togethers. You had to move fast when reserving these events as they did fill up because everyone wanted to get out of the house and see things.
The Sinterklaas Parade that I have participated and volunteered at for so many years was cancelled because of COVID but like the Halloween Parade, the committee put together a video of the parade to share with the world. Still it did not compare to the excitement of walking down the hill with stars and music lighting up Downtown Rhinebeck, NY.
The noble Frog was to be our mascot for this year’s Sinterklaas Parade
It was not the same as the year before where the crowds kept getting larger and larger every year. The whole town came to life with activities, songs, lights and laughter but was silent that weekend except for people having dinner in town. I was able to sneak up during the week. The entire town was decorated with white lights and beautifully decorated store windows. Rhinebeck is one of those towns in the Hudson River Valley that looks straight out of a Currier & Ives woodcut.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas
Since all the Christmas parties and get togethers were cancelled, it gave me more time to look into other outdoor events. I went to a special “Historical walking tour at the Holidays” at the Bergen County Historical Society in River Edge, NJ. The tour was lead by Historical singer and lecturer, Linda Russell, who explained the traditions of the Dutch Christmas all while singing Colonial Christmas songs in between the talks at each historical house on the property.
The Steuben House at Christmas
Actors dressed in costumes (and masks of course-COVID is still going on) danced in the Steuben House ballroom as colonialists celebrating the holiday, Dutch housewives putting their children to bed while awaiting Sinterklaas. There was a Dutch wooden shoe with carrots for his horse outside the door and mistletoe on the ceiling.
Linda Russell performing and lecturing at the Bergen County Historical Society
There was a discussion on the Pagan traditions of bringing ‘greens’ from outside inside to have a bit of ‘live nature’ into the home. So mistletoe, pine and holly adorned homes during the winter months as these things were green and brought a bit of life into the dead of winter.
The last part of the lecture was done in front of the Campbell-Christie House with a visit from Sinterklaas himself. We had a short talk about who Sinterklaas was and his part in the holiday season. Then all the members of the tour enjoyed refreshments and got a goody bag when we left with holiday sweets. The lecture and songs were a nice way to enjoy the beginning of the holiday season.
My favorite song by Linda Russell “I saw Three Ships”
As I was finishing up the semester at the College, I was getting holiday preparations done at the house, having small gatherings of family and friends and trying to be COVID safe. I was also running in and out of the City finishing my blog on Kips Bay before the holidays started getting busier. I learned a lot of New York’s Colonial past from walking around this area of the City.
My blogs on the Walking the neighborhood of Kips Bay:
The next weekend I made my last trip of the season to Long Beach Island to visit Beach Haven and the tour the rest of the island one last time before winter set in. It had really closed down since Halloween. I expected it to be much busier with more people moving down there on a permanent basis. Driving up to the lighthouse, I saw more dark homes then lite ones.
I wanted to take one more tour of Long Beach Island to see how they celebrate Christmas at the shore. They do things very quietly in Beach Haven. I went to the Surflight Theater to see the only play I had seen since I attended Carnegie Hall last Christmas to see the play “We need a little Christmas” which I had seen advertised at the theater over the summer.
“We need a Little Christmas” at the Surflight Theater in Beach Haven, NJ
After the theater, it was surprisingly warm that afternoon hovering around 58 degrees so I walked to the beach one block away and walked on the Jersey shore for my only time that year and for the first time on Beach Haven beach since 1975. It has been a long journey since that time.
The Beach Haven beach was beautiful that afternoon
The town’s Christmas trees were across the street from the theater on the square just off the downtown. Even they had a subdued Christmas at the shore and the whole event welcoming in the season was done virtually.
Christmas in Beach Haven, NJ adapted like the rest of the world
My holiday dinner was spent at the Chicken or the Egg that evening and it was really good. The menu is so extensive and innovative. It was hard to make choices.
Cinnamon Bun Ice Cream sandwich at Chicken or the Egg
Their fried chicken sandwiches are really good and their Cinnamon Roll Ice Cream sandwich should not be missed.
The Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in Beach Haven
I was able to tour the whole island that afternoon before it got dark and even at twilight here and there were signs of Christmas in small trees lit in the shopping areas and decorated homes. It is an interesting place at the holidays with the waves crashing in the background.
My blog on “Exploring Downtown Beach Haven and Long Beach Island, NJ”:
The next week was finals week at the College and I had to give my final exam. The students also finished work on their case study, “Bud N’ Mud”, a simulated flower/coffee shop I had the students develop. It was interesting to see how a group of student entrepreneurs would create a store with their own ideas on how to grow the business. This project ended the Fall semester.
One of my favorite logo’s from the “Bud N’ Mud” project
With the Christmas trees selling out by December 11th, we held our annual Christmas party at the Christmas tree stand site for the Men’s Association. It was a cool not cold night and we all huddled around the fire taking alternate turns hitting the makeshift buffet table and enjoying good conversation. It was a great way to end the year successfully and there will lots of scholarships being given out at the end of the school year.
The last big event before Christmas came was the Sunday before Christmas with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department holding our Annual “Santa Around Town”. Because COVID was growing, the event was revamped from previous years and instead of stopping at sites all over town, we drove down each street in town slowly, having Santa wave and greet people who were on their lawns, driveways and porches. The residents of Hasbrouck Heights seemed touched by it and I could tell from the safety of the fire truck that the kids got a kick out of seeing Santa. People really needed the pick me up in holiday spirit at the time.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at “Santa Around Town” 2020
On the Tuesday before Christmas after I finished work with my other job I needed a break and wanted to go on a road trip to the Hudson River Valley again. I was nostalgic for Christmas’s past and decided to visit some of the towns Upstate.
I explored Downtown Woodstock first seeing their very unusual Christmas tree in the square. I have to say one thing about Woodstock, they do pick out the most interesting tree to sit in the square. It always looks more surreal than traditional. Their annual “Santa Parade” was cancelled this year as well and they did a drive by with Santa at the Woodstock Fire Department who runs the parade.
Downtown Kingston, NY was next on the list. Talk about a town in transition. In the almost three years since I have been visiting Kingston, I have never seen a downtown change so rapidly. The businesses there have gone from all this ‘hippie granola’ businesses to all these antique furniture stores and art galleries and some really expensive restaurants. One of the locals told me the new residents are “Brooklynizing” Kingston.
Still the downtown was nicely lit for the holidays and their Christmas Tree while small is nicely lit for the holidays on the edge of the downtown “Stockade” district. The Dutch Reformed Church on the other end of downtown was nicely lit with wreaths on the doors.
I crossed the river and drove to Red Hook, NY which I love. Their downtown looks like an old fashioned shopping district straight out of another Currier & Ives print. All the little stores were decorated with garland and white lights and the merchants decorated their windows to the hilt.
My last stop on my search for the perfect picturesque Hudson Valley River town was returning to Rhinebeck, NY for the day. Rhinebeck was quiet on this Tuesday evening as most of the restaurants were closed and the shops had closed for the evening. Still it was nice to walk around and admire the while lights on the trees and admire the display windows.
The Christmas lights and windows of Downtown Rhinebeck, NY
Even the way I celebrate Christmas changed this year. Instead of spending time with my family, I spent three days in Manhattan with my best friend, Maricel, at a hotel in Times Square. Neither of us had the time to travel and we both had to work in the City, her at her hotel and me working on my blogs so both of us needed the rest.
AC Hotel New York Times Square at 260 West 40th Street
We stayed at the AC Hotel New York Times Square at 260 West 40th Street. What the room lacked in size, it made up in the view and in the location. We were one block from Port Authority, two blocks from Times Square and within walking distance from all the Christmas attractions from Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas windows and the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
While Maricel worked on Christmas Eve, I walked around the City. I saw the tree at Rockefeller Center which was loaded with people not keeping socially distanced. I admired the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue which had a New York City theme with Christmas scenes from around the City “This is how we Celebrate”.
Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas Themed window “Over the East River and Through the Neighborhoods to Grandfather’s House We Go”
Rockefeller Center’s Christmas Tree was even more special this year
I thought the windows at Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf-Goodman really lacked in creativity. Bloomingdale’s was having a bad year and Bergdorf’s had just gotten sold again (forth time since I worked there in 2004) so I did not expect much. With Lord & Taylor declaring bankruptcy earlier in the year and closing the main store on Fifth Avenue and B. Altman’s long gone and Macy’s going mechanical for the last few years, the excitement of seeing the windows has been less than enthusiastic.
Still it was nice to walk around Midtown after leaving the Rockefeller Center area and just walking around Third, Park and Madison Avenues. By 7:00pm, everything had shut down for the night and the streets were really quiet. What was eerie was when walking down Park Avenue and looking up and seeing so many dark buildings. The area looked abandoned with so many apartment lights out. I wondered where everyone went?
When Maricel got off work, I brought in dinner 9th Avenue Deli at 769 Ninth Avenue. I brought in a juicy cheeseburger and chicken fingers which we shared and then dug into. The perfect comfort food on a cool night. Christmas Eve was a mild 59 degrees and it was nice to walk around.
9th Avenue Deli at 769 9th Avenue
We just hung out the whole night and watched movies in the hotel room. I went to bed early and sunk into the wonderful Marriott hotel bed. Marriott had the best hotel beds and every time I stay at one of their hotels, I slept like a log.
Christmas Day we just relaxed in the room and I called many members of my family to wish them a Merry Christmas. While Maricel went to work, I decided to start touring neighborhoods like Kips Bay, Rose Hill and NoMAD in preparation in my walks there. It started out being a cold, cloudy day and there was barely anyone on the street. I saw a few people walking their dogs and that was about it until about 3:00pm. It them cleared up and was a mild 55 degrees until it got dark and then cooled down.
What really shocked me about Times Square was how dirty it was on the streets. They had not picked up the garbage on Christmas Eve day and did not pick it up until after Christmas Day so between the theaters being boarded up and the ply boards filled with graffiti, hotels closed and restaurants shut, the whole Theater district looked like NYC circa 1975. It was creepy how the pandemic was affecting the business of this neighborhood.
Neighborhoods like Kips Bay, Murray Hill, Rose Hill, NoMAD and the Flatiron District were really quiet that morning and early afternoon. All the restaurants and stores were dark, three hotels had closed in the district and I saw just a few people milling around. Things changed as I got closer to Macy’s Herald Square.
When walking around Koreatown, which runs between Sixth and Fifth Avenues between 35th to 32nd Streets, the side streets were teeming with Korean couples and groups of family members dining in the outdoor restaurants and cafes. This neighborhood was really jumping and full of life.
As the day wore on by 5:00pm, the rest of the City came back to life and more restaurants and stores opened up. Christmas morning and afternoon were now over and I could tell that people wanted to get out of the house (probably to get away from the family celebrations). When Maricel returned, I ordered in dinner from Golden City Chinese Restaurant at 423 Ninth Avenue, one of the few neighborhood restaurants open and we our dinner in the room. The food was okay. It was nice to just eat in the room and relax.
Christmas dinner was Lemon Chicken and Fried Rice from Golden City Chinese Restaurant
We checked out at noon on the 26th and she left for work that afternoon, I headed into Brooklyn to visit the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Museum. Both were really quiet that day. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden was mostly dormant for the winter and most of the garden was closed off because of COVID. The “Studio 54” exhibition had long closed at the Brooklyn Museum so I just wondered the halls and looked at some of the changes in the permanent exhibitions that they had. I left the City for home early that evening.
The last week of the holiday, I entertained family at a Lasagna and Champagne dinner I had a the house. Since I was not able to spend time at home during the holidays, my aunts came over to my house and we had a three course meal with champagne and wine. We spent the whole night laughing and enjoying the evening.
New Year’s Eve was a quiet evening at home alone talking with other friends who were staying home alone as well. Times Square was empty that evening with the exception of the 350 first responders who were invited to the ball drop. When I watched it on TV it was eerie to see it so quiet. There was no one for blocks except police guarding Times Square.
I headed back up to the Hudson River Valley again on New Year’s Day to go on two walking tours in Staatsburgh, NY at the Mills Mansion. It was the Annual “First of the Year” walking tours and it was a cool, crisp morning for a walking tour of the property. There were two tours that morning, one was on “Winter Activities in Victorian Times” with us learning about all the winter activities that the residents here enjoyed like skating , sledding, ice boating and horse drawn sleigh rides.
Staatsburgh, the Mills Mansion in the winter
The other tour later that afternoon was on “Ice Harvesting in the Hudson River Valley” , where we learned about how the ice harvesting of the Hudson River was a big business before the advent of refrigeration. Large slabs of ice were cut from the river, floated down stream and then packed in straw awaiting sale over the metropolitan area for peoples ice boxes throughout the year. It just gave me anther excuse to visit the region I love so much.
My blog on the Mills Mansion on VisitingaMuseum.com:
Another local event that was COVID safe was a driving tour through the “Holiday Lightshow” at Demarest Farms in Hillsdale, NJ. This was the first time that the farm opened the apple and peach orchard across the street from the farm stand. I saw this display the last week it was open and even after the holidays, it was a special treat as we awaited the Epiphany.
Driving through the display only took about forty minutes but was a delight in the senses and sounds. I played the classical music station as I drove through and admired all the colorful lights on the now dormant trees while Santa’s and Snowmen winked and waved and toy soldiers lit the way through the dark field. Even the Demarest homestead was ablaze with lights.
Demarest Farms at 244 Werimus Drive in Hillsdale, NJ
My blog on “Visiting the Farms of Bergen County, NJ at Christmas”:
Don’t miss this holiday lights ride through the orchard in 2021
The holiday event I visited was the Bronx Zoo for their “Holiday Lights” event at the zoo. It was the last night of the event and I arranged for the tickets that afternoon. The zoo gave me a 30% discount to go that evening and I was on the subway ride up to the Bronx.
The Bronx Zoo Light Show
I was really impressed by the display. The entire park was decorated with white lights, with different sections of the park decorated with different themes such as jungle animals, aquatic mammals and all sorts of assorted elephants, seals, penguins, lions, tigers and bears (oh my haha). There were costumed characters to take pictures with and they even had the Bug Carousel open that evening. I got a kick out of riding this since I had not done this since I was a little kid.
The Bronx Zoo musical Christmas Tree in the old part of the zoo
In the older section of the park, they had zebras on stilts and a musical Christmas trees that had an interesting soundtrack of contemporary Christmas songs. Even though Christmas had been over now for almost two weeks, it me back into the Christmas spirit.
So there was the Christmas holidays in the era of COVID. Lots of outdoor activities in hot and cold weather. Many walking tours and more subdued events. Gone were the cocktail parties and big formal dinners and in their place were many more smaller outdoor events and communicating with nature.
Maybe we all needed to take a break from the more formal traditions and go back to the basics of family and friends. I think this was a reflective year and realizing what is important. It had not changed that much for me. I just adjusted to the times, wore a mask and got going. Staying safe and keeping others safe is what is all about.
Hours: Open Thursday-Sunday: 11:00am-5:00pm (the last tour is at 4:00pm)/Open Monday Holidays from April 19th to October 28th. The mansion then closes to prepare for the holiday season. Closed on Thanksgiving and Easter. There are special programs from January to April so please see the website.
Admission: $8.00 for adults/$6.00 for groups and Seniors/Children under 12 are free. Special events have separate fees and can run from $8.00 to $10.00 and above.
It is funny to go back to a place that you have not visited since 1975 and realize that time does pass by. I had not been to Beach Haven, NJ since the summer of 1975 when I was just a little kid. We used to visit friends of the family who had a house there and we would visit for about three days. It was interesting to visit a beach community as we never went farther than Sandy Hook, NJ. Going to the Jersey shore was a hike from our home in Bridgewater, NJ and since we belonged to a swim club, my parents saw no reason to run “down the shore” as we say in New Jersey. Why deal with the crowds and lousy parking?
Still I remember visiting there in 1974 and 1975 before these friends no longer belonged to our pool. All I can remember of those visits was swimming in the ocean and diving in the waves wanting to impress these two twin sisters and all I did was tumble in the waves. They and my older bother dove into the waves with no problems. The other thing I remember is the planes going by and saying to eat at “Tilly’s Pizza”. So we begged for it one night for dinner. It was terrible pizza and we ordered this cheese pizza that was just dried out and no flavor. It is funny the things you remember as a kid.
Touring The Barnegat Lighthouse Park is a nice way to spend the morning
I returned to Long Beach Island last summer on my way to the Firemen’s Convention in Wildwood, NJ to visit the Long Beach Island Historical Society, which I had read about in a beach magazine for my blog, VisitingaMuseum.com. I had a long visit at the museum and it was nice afternoon. I had not realized that the NJ Maritime Museum was a couple of blocks away but I did not have time that afternoon to visit. I said that I would go back later. Later was September 2020 over a year later. Hey better late than never. In the age of COVID, it has been a pleasure and escapism.
The Long Beach Island Historical Society
After visiting the museum for my blog and then visiting the Barnegat Lighthouse, I gained a new found respect for Long Beach Island and all it has to offer. I also realized how much it had changed in 45 years. It went from a sleepy somewhat ‘honey tonk’ working class resort to an upscale community with the growth of Wall Street in the late 90’s and the rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Many of those small little cottages that once lined the streets were long gone and they have been replaced by stilted ‘McMansions’ by the sea. The whole town has been practically knocked down and completely rebuilt. Even the stores were more upscale in their wares and the restaurants were expensive. I did not see too many tee shirt stores or beachy knick -knacks being sold. These are not Boardwalk businesses.
The NJ Maritime Museum
Still there are some great stores and restaurants to visit, cultural and natural sites to see and of course the beautiful beach with its calming sounds and gorgeous sunsets. You never know the complexity of a place until you visit a few times and find the true beauty of the surroundings and people. The downtown of Beach Haven has a lot to see and do as does the surrounding areas of Long Beach Island.
I started my last two visits to Long Beach Island exploring Beach Haven, a small beach hamlet towards the southern part of the island and where I had spent a few summers when I was a child. I do not remember much of the trips except visiting the beach and how rough the waves were to swim. I don’t remember venturing out that much.
When I returned 45 year later, the town changed so much especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy flooding the island as well as the rest of the Jersey Shore. It leveled homes and tore though businesses with a vengeance. What it left was a chance to build the island again from the ground up. Everything is so new all over the island. Still there are a lot of older homes and businesses that did survive. Some adapted and some just changed.
I walked the whole town and it was a interesting visit over the past two summers especially on two recent tours of the town in the late summer and early fall. My first stop on my recent trip is where I started touring last year at the Long Beach Island Historical Society at 125 Engleside Avenue in Beach Haven for their Ghost Fest, a family event that the Historical Society was running that afternoon for local families.
The ‘Ghost Fest’ at the Long Beach Island Historical Society
The Historical Society had not opened yet when I got to Long Beach Island so I started my tour of the island at the Barnegat Lighthouse State Park on the northern part of the island. Even on a gloomy morning in October, the park was very busy.
The cloudy weather did not deter the fisherman from casting and boats were dotting the bay. It was still a warm day and people were out and about. I joined other visitors to the park on the breakers watching the fisherman discuss the days catch and politics about the upcoming election. Some people were admiring the boats or just relaxing to the sounds of the waves. I just enjoyed the salt air and the sound of the waves crashing.
After I left the walkway, I took a tour through the woods in the sand dunes. It was what is left of some virgin woods at the shore. The woods are very interesting because of all the native plants that can live in a sandy shore and survive the winds are harsh winters. Plants such as Jersey Pines, Beach Plum and American holly are native to the area and played an important role in Colonial New Jersey especially during the holidays.
The lighthouse itself was built in 1859 replacing another lighthouse that fell into the sea with the changing tides (see my review on TripAdvisor). The lighthouse has been closed since March with the onset of COVID but the grounds around it were still open and people, masks and all, were walking along the trails and conversing at the picnic tables. Families were walking the trails and paths along the bay. For an early morning in October the park was busy.
The lighthouse and surrounding park is a nice to tour in the early morning
My next stop was the Barnegat Light Museum but it had been closed all season due to the COVID pandemic. I was able to call one of the Board Members of the museum and I would have to tour it later that afternoon. So took another tour of the park and drove back down the island.
Maybe it was the salt air or maybe it was the two hour drive down the shore but I was getting hungry again. Not wanting to eat another breakfast, I stopped at an old time restaurant, Surf City Pizza for a slice. They had just opened for lunch and I could not believe I was eating pizza this early in the morning but it was good.
Surf City Pizza at 1017 Long Beach Boulevard in Surf City, NJ
The pizza here is really good
I got to the Long Beach Island Historical Society as they were in full swing of their Ghost Fest and what a nice event it was that afternoon.
The Museum was decorated for Halloween
They had a pony ride, marshmallow roasting and smores by the fire pit, corn hole games, a maze, games of chance, a small gift shop, tours of the museum and even a costume parade with the Jersey Devil. The museum had a nice turnout on a somewhat gloomy afternoon but by the end of the event the sun started to shine.
The ‘Jersey Devil’ lead the Costume Parade that afternoon
I had a while before I had to meet the President of the Barnegat Light Museum so I decided to explore the downtown strip of Beach Haven. What an interesting downtown for a shore community. The days of tee shirt shops and beach gift stores has given way to a collection of interesting restaurants, upscale boutiques and gift stores, small specialty shops and art galleries. When you are selling million dollar homes in the area, you need places for those residents to shop and Long Beach Boulevard has an eclectic group of stores to choose from.
When I first visited Beach Haven after my 45 year absence, I discovered The Woo-Hoo around the corner from the museum. On my first trip to Beach Haven last summer, I came across this impressive little ice cream and lunch stand around the corner from the Historical Society and on a recommendation from the staff had lunch that afternoon. It was excellent!
The Woo Hoo at 211 South Bay Avenue in Beach Haven, NJ
I had one of their Classic Burgers with hand cut French Fries which was just excellent. The burgers have a rich juicy flavor and the mix of ingredients was delightful to eat. The fries were perfectly cooked and salted. I was so impressed by the lunch I went back later for their homemade ice cream that is just excellent.
I had the most amazing Strawberry Cheesecake which was rich and creamy and a Cinnamon Toast Crunch, which was loaded with the cereal. On a recent trip, the hot food had closed for the season but the ice cream was still going. I have this amazing holiday special called ‘Cookies & Scream” for Halloween. It was made with holiday M & M’s and Halloween oreos. It was worth the trip to Beach Haven just for that.
The burgers at the Woo Hoo are delicious
What I love about walking around downtown Beach Haven is the interesting array of stores and food establishments they have on the strip. They are fun to explore on a nice sunny afternoon. I lucked out on my two most recent trips here. The weather broke both days and it ended up a sunny warm afternoon. So I set out to explore the town and I discovered a small community that was much than the beach.
My first stop when I exited Engelside Avenue onto South Bay Avenue is the unique little gift store, “How to Live” at 7 South Bay Avenue, which has a great selection of local artisan gifts, artwork, children’s clothes and books, women’s clothes and art and book items created by the owner, Sandy Gingras. Her whimsical books and art work dot the store.
‘How to Live’s’ owner, Sandy Gingras
Walking into the store is an experience with the smell of fragrant smells of body products and the musical sounds of the 1980’s. It is a step back in time to when people took time to decorate their homes and give small host gifts. I really loved the homemade Christmas ornaments by a local artist.
How I Live at 7 South Bay Avenue
Further up North Bay Boulevard, the main artery of the town is Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Boulevard with its constant crowds, popular outdoor dining and creative menu. The menu is stocked with interesting sandwiches, burgers and sides. The outdoor seating on a nice day is the way to dine. I have not had a chance to try the restaurant but it is on my bucket list on my next trip to town.
The Chicken or the Egg is at 207 North Bay Boulevard
North Bay Boulevard has a long stretch of eating establishments that are opened at various times of the week.
I stopped at Fourchette at LBI at 511 North Bay Avenue to enjoy the smells of the array of cheeses and look at their assortment of host gifts. They have a lot of interesting cheeses in the case line and the woman behind the counter was eager to explain them all to me.
Fourchette at LBI at 511 North Bay Avenue
The Cheese case at Fourchette
Another interesting store was Sandy Banks Art Store at 515 North Bay Avenue in which the first afternoon I visited a local artist was having an art show in the small courtyard adjoining the store. The art was vibrant and the artist was proud of the paintings she was showing off.
Sandy Banks at 515 North Bay Boulevard
Anchoring the main part of the downtown is the local shore department store, B &B Stores, which has been a Jersey Shore staple since 1932. Located in many well known beach communities, B &B stocks not just bathing suits and swim gear but an array of clothing, gifts and accessories for the local community. I have been in the store during the summer months and it is wall to wall swim suits, tee shirts and shorts but as the cooler months approach and the rushing of the holidays, I saw my first Christmas tree down the shore.
B & B Department Store at 835 North Bay Avenue
That afternoon there was a nice rush of locals and tourist grasping the last days of warm weather down the shore and even though we were all in masks (COVID is big down the shore too), people were going about their shopping with a vengeance. It was nice to see a crowd of people enjoying a shopping trip and conversing with one another talking over their masks.
The selection of merchandise at B & B Department Stores give me faith in the department store industry.
Crossing the street , there is a tiered mall, The Seaman’s Village, stocked with small stores and restaurants that is big with the beach going community on a rainy afternoon. During the two trips to Beach Haven that I made most of the stores were closed or has partial hours during the week and weekends. It seems though with the warmer weather extending into November and the exodus of people out of the cities, the stores are staying open much longer than usual.
Another homegrown store that I have enjoyed visiting on my last few trips to town is the Crust & Crumb Bakery at 9 North Bay Boulevard. This old fashioned bakery has the usual assortments of cookies, cakes, pastries and doughnuts and an array of Italian pastries as well. I have enjoyed their jelly and custard filled doughnuts and their seasonal pumpkin glazed doughnuts are delicious.
Crust & Crumb Bakery at 9 North Bay Boulevard
Trust me, after a day at the shore or just walking around enjoying the beautiful weather, a trip here can satisfy any sweet tooth. The selection is extensive and don’t miss the giant cinnamon elephant ears.
There are a lot of delicious items to choose from at Crust & Crumb
Walking back down North Bay Boulevard, passing Fantasy Island Amusement Park reminds you that this is still a shore town. On my first trip to Beach Haven in September the park was still open just very quiet. On a warm sunny Friday afternoon, there were not too many people walking around and the staff spent most of their time on their cellphones or chatting amongst themselves.
Fantasy Island Amusement Park at 750 North Bay Avenue
On my second trip in late October, the park was closed but the arcade was open. Talk about bells and whistles with lots of music, lights and excitement. There were only about a dozen of us in the arcade but it was a lot of fun taking a step back into time when I used to visit the pinball and skeetball machines when I was in high school. There were a lot of the old machines that I remember including a version of PacMan and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
The arcade at Fantasy Island Amusement Park brings back memories of a simpler time.
Walking around the arcade before dinner was an experience. The few people who were playing games were laughing and having a good time. The adults were having just a good time as their kids and I saw that it brought the kid back in them.
I stopped for a snack before venturing further at Slice of Heaven Pizza at 610 North Bay Avenue. The restaurant was closed for indoor dining so I ate outside with the pizza chef who was taking a break. The pizza was pretty good and when I was talking to the pizza cook he said how sporadic the business had been all summer. It was just starting to get busy by the end of the summer.
Slice of Heaven Pizzeria at 610 North Bay Avenue
Another wonderful gift, design and furniture store is The Spotted Whale at 500 North Bay Avenue. The store has a light and breezy beach feel to it with light colors and a lot of nautical looks. This store is more geared to the shore customer.
The Spotted Whale at 500 North Bay Avenue has some interesting looks about it
Walking further south, I took detour into the Coffee Nest at 106 North Bay Avenue to see what their baked good were like. The store is a combination gift store, coffee shop and bakery with some floral arrangements up front. There was not much left in the bakery area when I got there but they have a nice assortment and the prices are a bit high. I liked the music playing though. A step in here and your would think you are in Williamsburg or Bushwick and not Beach Haven.
The Coffee Nest at 106 North Bay Street
The interior at the Coffee Nest is very Bohemian
When I visited the first time, I came to see the NJ Maritime Museum that is located around the corner from the Coffee Nest on Dock Road towards the bay. The NJ Maritime Museum is located across the street from two very popular restaurants facing the bay at 528 Dock Road.
The NJ Maritime Museum is located at 528 Dock Road by the bay
This small but interesting museum contains not just the history of the towns of Long Beach Island but also has the history of the hotels that once dotted the shore, shipwrecks, the Coast Guard and the 1916 Shark Attack that inspired the movie “Jaws”. Several cruise disasters have interesting displays with documented accounts and all sorts of memorabilia. The museum was founded in 2007 by collector Deb Whitcraft.
The museum’s nautical displays are very detailed
Take time to explore each room and read the details of the displays. You will delve deeper into the history of Long Beach Island and its rich history as a fishing and hunting area for the Lennape Indians, then the Dutch and English traders to its time as a resort community to the new morphing during COVID as a full time community catering to the residents on their exodus out of New York City and Philly. The museum is rewriting history again in the era of COVID.
For lunch on my recent trip I had to find a place to watch the Michigan State versus Rutgers game. It was depressing watching us get tapped danced on by Rutgers during the third quarter. What made it less depressing was the food at Tuckers Tavern, a restaurant facing the bay at 101 South Bay Avenue( see review on TripAdvisor).
Tuckers Tavern at 101 South Bay Avenue
The bar area was socially distanced and they had plenty of TV’s to watch the game. We ended up losing 38-27 but I knew the game was over pretty much by the end of third quarter and I did not travel two hours to sit at the bar and get depressed.
Michigan State lost to Rutgers that afternoon
What perked me up though was the food. It it was excellent. I had a crab cake sandwich that was out of this world. It was loaded with crab and was so sweet. The fries were freshly cut and deep fried to perfection. The whole meal was delicious and picked me right up to keep going for the rest of the afternoon.
Do not miss the Tuckers Tavern’s Crab cake sandwich
It was nice after lunch to just walk around the bay area and admire the sunshine. The views from the restaurant that lined the bay was just amazing. It was so nice to just walk off lunch and admire the views. I watched the boats coming in and out of the docks.
The bay side restaurant row is breathtaking
After visiting both museums on the lower part of the island, I headed back to the northern part of the island for an appointment that I had to see the Barnegat Light Museum at 501 Central Avenue in Barnegat Light, a tiny museum that housed the original Barnegat Lighthouse light.
The original Barnegat light from the lighthouse
It was an old schoolhouse built in 1903 that had been converted into museum. The museum housed interesting artifacts like dinosaur bones found on the island, housewares from local residents, notes from the students who went to school at the schoolhouse and nautical items.
The Barnegat Light Museum at 501 Central Avenue
The President of the museum took me on a private tour of the museum and she told me about all the pieces in the space. I also got to tour the gardens that surrounded the museum that were tended by the Long Beach Island Garden Club who did a wonderful job.
The gardens at the Barnegat Light Museum
As the day wore on, I walked the Barnegat Lighthouse State park one more time and admired the inlet and enjoyed the breezes. People were walking along the pathways before the park closed at 4:00pm.
As I walked the around the area, exploring Andy’s at the Lighthouse at 202 Broadway, an old general store that had a lot of handmade wood works by a local artist and has a nice selection of tee shirts and gifts.
Wildflowers by the Lighthouse at 410 Broadway
Another store that stood out was Wildflowers by the Lighthouse by owner and artist, Cricket Luker and the store really stands for it innovative clothing and accessories. The owner is a local artist who took her art studio and turned it to a clothing store over time. She also opened Wildflowers Too! an art gallery at 506 Broadway that shows local and metropolitan artists with a collection of paints, sculpture and gifts.
Wildflowers Two! at 506 Broadway
It was later in the afternoon when I headed back down to the southern part of the island to Beach Haven and I had some dinner. When I was walking past the NJ Maritime Museum, I came across Polly’s Dockside and Clamhouse at 112 Northwest Avenue. The restaurant is a small establishment right on the dock facing the bay and has the most amazing fried clams and clam chowder.
Polly’s Dockside & Clamhouse at 112 Northwest Avenue
I sat at the bar facing the water and watching the sun set. I ate the richest clam chowder while watching boats come in and out of the dock. The sun set right in front of all of us as we ate and it was like watching a movie. Mother Nature can really treat you to the most beautiful things in life. I swear I snacked so much during the day that I could barely finish my fried clam appetizer which was much larger than I expected so it came home with me.
The food is just as good as the sunset at Polly’s Dockside & Clamhouse
I left when it got dark much later than I thought I would leave and I had a two hour drive home. I stopped at the Custard House at 6403 Long Beach Boulevard for some vanilla custard that settled my stomach. It was the right pick me up after all the food, touring and walking. This popular little stand has plenty of outside seating on a warm evening.
Custard Hut at 6403 Long Beach Boulevard
I was able to visit the island once more before the dark days of winter came upon us. Surprisingly enough when I visited in December, it was warm. The whole weekend was going to be in the high 50’s. It did not disappoint me as the sun came out.
I started this journey by visiting Barnegat, a small town just north of the cross-way from Long Beach Island. I was exploring the downtown and visiting a store named the ‘Unshredded Nostalgia’, a antique store that carried everything from old movie posters to local history books, 70’s posters and records to house hold decorations. It was one of those stores that a movie scout might look for props.
Unshredded Nostalgia at 232 South Main Street
The town of Barnegat is a small hamlet just north of Long Beach Island on the mainland a few miles from the cross-way. The Victorian architecture is a little shabby and the downtown has a lot of potential if it was renovated a bit more. It does have a unique look to it. It was a stop over for me on my back to Long Beach Island for a pre-Christmas visit.
Downtown Barnegat, NJ
During the late summer I had came across a flyer from the Surflight Theater for a Christmas production entitled “We need a little Christmas”, a COVID related play about Christmas in Maine. I had thought about it and at the last minute decided to visit Long Beach Island to see what the Jersey shore is like at the holidays. This was pretty shocking how quiet it had gotten.
The Surflight Theater at 201 Engleside Avenue
The play was cute and not too serious with a happy ending and a lot of Christmas songs that trust me everyone in the audience needed to hear. It really cheered me up and put me into the holiday spirit.
“We need a Little Christmas” at the Surflight Theater
The irony of the show was that when it was over and we walked outside the theater, the clouds gave way and it was sunny and 56 degrees out. It was so nice outside and no wind that I walked down the block and walked on the beach which surprisingly I had not done in all my trips to Beach Haven. This was the first time I had touched the Jersey Shore all year and since 1975 here.
This is when I believe in God when we can enjoy the Christmas holidays with late summer weather. This is what I liked about visiting Hawaii during the holidays. I could walk on the beach and dig into the sand and smell the salt air without freezing. It was nice to just walk on the beach and hear the waves crash.
Beach Haven beach, what a day!
After the walk on the beach, I decided to walk around the downtown. I was amazed on how much was now closed. “How to Live” was closing for the season and everything was 50% off, the Crust & Crumb and a whole list of other restaurants has closed for the season. The arcade closed for the season as well. B & B Department Store was still open and decorated for the holidays but pretty much everything surrounding it was closed for the season.
The museums, art galleries and some of the bay side restaurants and attractions were shut down for the winter months as well. I thought with so many people staying on the island as residents more would be open. I had lunch at The Shack at 302 North Bay Boulevard, which was one of the few places that was still open. I had noticed it when I was visiting in October and they had a nice selection of lunch specials for $8.00.
The Shack at 302 North Bay Boulevard
Just wanting a snack, I had their $5.00 pizza combination, which was two slices of their fresh pizza and a Coke. I highly recommend their pizza. It must have been cooked in a hot coal oven because the crust and bottom were really crisp and pillowy. The sauce was well spiced and had a nice flavor and the slices were very generous (see review on TripAdvisor).
The Shack Pizza is delicious
After lunch, I decided to head up the coast and explore how the island was decorated for Christmas. In the downtown areas of Ships Bottom there were some nice decorations of lighted trees but outside that with a few store fronts with lights, the area was dark. Everything had closed for the season. With each town I passed, it was really quiet.
When I got to Barnegat Light, the lighthouse was dark and the park was closed as was all the stores surrounding it including Wildflowers at the Lighthouse, which I enjoyed visiting on my last two trips. The stores either were closed for the season or closed at 4:00pm when the park closed.
On my trip back down the island, it was eerie how quiet the neighborhoods had gotten since Halloween. I thought more people were staying down here full time and I did not see that many homes lite up let alone decorated.
The one thing I did see was the most amazing sunset over the island and especially the bay area. The whole sky was reflecting off the clouds and had the most beautiful array of colors in reds, oranges and whites bouncing off the sky. The sun really gives a performance on Long Beach Island.
Beach Haven sunset
Before I left the island for home that evening and for the rest of the season, I stopped at the Chicken or The Egg for dinner which had been on my bucket list to try since the end of the summer. The food and the service were excellent and everyone was so laid back.
The dinner was excellent (see review on TripAdvisor). I had a sandwich named the Chicken Slammer, which was a fried chicken breast topped with Bacon, Jack Cheddar, Lettuce and Tomato and capped off with tangy barbecue sauce with a side of fries and pickles. it had such nice flavor in each bite.
The Chicken Slammer sandwich at The Chicken or The Egg
The restaurant has the most amazing desserts. I had their Cinnamon Roll Ice Cream Sandwich, which I highly recommend. They bake their own cinnamon buns and then cut it in half, load it with vanilla ice cream and top it with caramel syrup and then top it with cinnamon sugar. I swear that their is nothing like each bite of that dessert! No wonder it is so popular.
Cinnamon Bun Ice Cream sandwich is heavenly
I was so stuffed from dinner, I needed to take one last look around and I went back to the square and walked around all the lit Christmas trees , all twenty five of them surround the gazebo, and then the main one inside. On a warm night, with the waves crashing in the background, I thought this was an amazing place to admire a Christmas tree.
It was treat to come to Beach Haven and Long Beach Island again after a forty year absence. Who knew that the island in its transformation from working class resort to high class residential community offered so much in the way of shopping, restaurants and cultural sites packed onto one island. There is something for everyone here including the beach.
I thought it was a nice group of visits to get my mind off what is going on in the world. What’s better than the Jersey Shore in warm weather? Visiting at all times of the year in warm weather.
Christmas at the Shore!
The Beach Haven Christmas Tree Lighting 2020 (virtually of course):
As I have mentioned since the reopening of New York City, people are trying to write the City off as ‘dead’ and that is far from true. I see a City that is quieter, adapting to conditions around it and slowly coming back to life.
I spent my third day exploring in the Murray Hill neighborhood and I am beginning to see more and more people feel the same way I do. They are joining the world again by walking through parks, jogging on the sidewalks and partaking in the outdoor dining that is popping up all over the City streets and sidewalks. Restaurants and bars are doing their best to cater to their customers while still maintaining social distancing and keeping everyone safe.
No where did I see this more in play than in Bryant Park, which has become my headquarters for this part of the walk. When I got into the park that afternoon, people had taken over the lawn even after the overnight rain storm and were lying all over the grass (socially distanced of course) reading, laughing and conversing with friends. The chairs and tables around the park were filled with people eating their lunches, talking and reading. The park was pretty well filled.
Bryant Park Grill, the main restaurant of the park, was filled to capacity during the lunch hour. People were having business meetings over lunch and slowly out of towners are coming back to the City missing the vibrancy of the City. You would never know there was a pandemic going on from all the people in the park enjoying the sunshine on a nice warm sunny day.
Bryant Park is amazing on a sunny afternoon
I had gotten tickets through the Members Website at the Morgan Library & Museum that afternoon at 2:30pm with timed tickets so I knew how to pace my day. I wanted to walk all the streets between East 41st and East 35th Street from Fifth Avenue to FDR Drive. It would be several hours of interesting walking. What I saw all over the neighborhood that afternoon is life coming back.
I started my walk at the New York Public Library entrance admiring the fountains and the gardens planted up front. Most of the tables in front of the New York Public Library were full of people eating their lunches, reading or sleeping.
I threw a coin into the fountain of ‘Beauty’, made a wish and started my walk. This graceful and elegant fountain was designed by artist Frederick MacMonnies. In the background is the words written, “Beauty, old yet ever new, Eternal Voice, and Inward word”.
“Beauty” the fountain in front of the New York Public Library
Frederick MacMonnies is an American born artist whose specialty was “Beaux-Arts style” design. The artist was trained at the National Academy of Design and Arts Student League of New York. The artist continued his training in Paris (Wiki).
I started my afternoon by walking down East 41st Street on a glorious sunny day. With the temperature being around 83 degrees, it was the perfect day to walk around Murray Hill. It was also really quiet being Labor Day Weekend and the streets were deserted for most of the afternoon.
The ‘Library Walk’ starts at Fifth Avenue and ends at Park Avenue
I like to talk a lot about looking up and not missing anything that you might miss by looking ahead. Here on East 41st Street you have to look down to see the “Library Walk” from Fifth Avenue to Park Avenue by artist Gregg Lefevre.
The artist was commissioned by in 1998 to create plaques with words and sayings from some of our greatest authors from Mark Twain to Ernest Hemingway. These plaques line both sides of the street so you will need time to look at each one carefully and be able to read the ones you want.
As I followed the plaques down East 41st Street toward Park Avenue trying to read everyone, I walked past the Library Hotel again at 299 Madison Avenue and East 41st Street. Their outdoor restaurant “Madison and Vine” was set up for lunch and was already getting busy. I spent time admiring the menu and the festive place-settings on the tables. It looked like a fun place to eat.
Madison & Vine is at the corner of Madison Avenue and East 41st Street
Across the street and a little further down is Stone Bridge Pizza & Salad at 16 East 41st Street. One evening when I revisited the neighborhood, stopped in for dinner (The Library Hotel and Madison & Vine were temporarily closed in February 2021). I had the most amazing Meatlovers Pizza loaded with pepperoni, sausage, bacon and saute onions. It really warmed me up a a gloomy rainy night (see review on TripAdvisor).
Stone Bridge Pizza and Salad at 16 East 41st Street
Further down from the Library Hotel is the Dylan Hotel at 52 East 41st Street. This boutique hotel is housed in the historic Chemist’s Building once the home of the American Chemical Society and the Society of Chemical Industry as their club headquarters. The building was designed by architectural firm York and Sawyer and was completed in 1911. The building was designed in the ‘French Renaissance style’ and was home to the club into the 1980’s. It became the Dylan Hotel in 1988 (Dylan Hotel History).
Walking down East 41st Street leads you through mostly office and large apartment buildings until you get to the end when you reach Tudor City, one of the first planned and most important examples of middle class housing . It was designed in the Tudor Revival style and was the creation of the Fred French Company by architect H. Douglas Ives. In the design of the complex you can see the arches, bay windows, gables and towers that make up the design (Wiki).
Tudor City is one of the first planned middle class communities in the United States
What is nice is the parks that line the complex are a nice place to sit and relax. The landscaped paths and the flower beds are a nice reprieve from all the traffic. They are a calm place to relax.
The Gardens at Tudor City are a nice place to relax
One of my favorite little shops in Manhattan is in the Tudor City complex, Azalea & Oak at 5 Tudor City. This unique little store has the most interesting window displays and nicest selection of children’s clothing and toys and customer jewelry.
Azalea & Oak at 5 Tudor City
When walking back through the complex I noticed tucked into the complex but not in the complex is 337 East 41st Street, a small brownstone building that survived the wrecking ball when the complex was built.
337 East 41st Street brownstone
This little brownstone has a survivalist history. Built in 1870 by developer S. S. Stevens, this home and eighteen other like it, were built on the northern side of the street to match similar brownstones that had just been built. Architectural firm Hubert & Pirsson were commissioned to design them in the Italianate style with small yards in the back. Somehow this home was the only one in 1925 that survived the wrecking ball when Tudor City was built. It is now a private home (Daytonian). It’s so interesting the cool things that are tucked in the corners of the this neighborhood.
As I walked back I noticed a Chemical Bank sign on a building considering the company has not existed since the 1990’s. It’s quiet beauty stopped me. The bottom of the building is done in polished black granite and silver details. The former Johns-Manville Corporation leased 14 floors of it originally but the Chemical Bank (which is now part of J.P. Morgan/Chase) sign still shows prominently on the building (NewYorkitecture).
275 Madison Avenue-The John-Manville/Chemical Bank Building
The building was designed in 1931 by architect Kennith Franzheim in the ‘Art Deco style’ and the lower part of the building is done in polished black granite and silver and the geometric design gives it a unique look (NewYorkitecture). The building was leased by the John-Manville Corporation having a large presence on the lower floors but the Chemical Bank sign (now part of J.P.Morgan Chase) still proudly stands.
The beautiful details of the former John-Manville/Chemical Bank Building at 275 Madison Avenue
One of big surprises was discovering the AKC Museum of the Dog at 101 Park Avenue. The American Kennel Club (AKC) founded this museum in 1982 at 51 Madison Avenue, the former headquarters of the American Kennel Club and in 1987 it moved to Queeny Park in Missouri. In 2017, the museum and its collection moved to the new Park Avenue headquarters of the AKC.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) Museum of the Dog at 101 Park Avenue
The museum contains a collection of 1,700 pieces of art that preserves, interprets and celebrates the role of dogs in society and educates the public about human-canine bond (AKC Museum of the Dog history).
The American Kennel Club’s Museum of the Dog exhibition space
Tucked here and there in between buildings that are some small gems that just stand out amongst the more modern buildings. The small firehouse building at 148 East 40th Street I found out later on was actually a stable.
148 East 40th Street-The John W. Allen Stables
John W. Allen was a successful stockbroker and had a home at 14 East 42nd Street and these stables were a status symbol of the times. It meant that you could stable your own horse and carriage in your own building. At this time many stables for the wealthy were located on the side streets of the Avenues. This little building was designed and built by Charles E. Hadden. The building is made of brick with a slated Mansard roof and the top floors were accommodations for the groom or stable boy (Daytonian).
Sitting just outside 300 Madison Avenue, the PricewaterhouseCoopers Building is the sculpture “Stamen” by artist Rodney Carroll. This unusual sculpture caught my attention because of its twist and turns and I could not believe I missed it when I was walking the Avenues of the neighborhood. This unusual piece of art was created in 2009.
Rodney Carroll is noted for his large scale sculptures in public spaces and private collections. He studied sculpture at Old Dominion University and received his BS in Fine Arts and studied sculpture at Norfolk State (The Virginian Pilot).
As I finished walking East 40th Street, I made my way to the Hunan Manor Restaurant at 339 Lexington Avenue between East 39th and 40th Streets only to discover that it was closed. I talked with the deli next door and discovered the restaurant had closed. Disappointed I made my way to my second choice in the neighborhood, Madison & Vine at the Library Hotel at 299 Madison Avenue by East 41st Street. I was not disappointed.
Madison & Vine Restaurant at the Library Hotel at 299 Madison Avenue
What an amazing experience! I have been very leery about eating in restaurants or even take out for that matter since COVID-19 has set in. You never know what is going on in the kitchen. It was such a nice dining experience especially since it is so quiet in the City.
All the tables were spread out by more than six feet and the sidewalk that is outside the hotel has all sorts of planters and flowers to block the street. With the views of the library across the street and the excellent service it was very relaxing. I had a Shrimp Po Boy (see review on TripAdvisor) that was delicious. The hoagie roll was so fresh and the shrimps were fried perfectly with fresh tomatoes and shredded lettuce. The fries were freshly cut and seasoned perfectly. It was just nice to eat a quiet, relaxing lunch and just watch the world go by with all this chaos going on. For an hour, you just forget it is all going on and I think that was the feeling of my fellow diners. I do hope though that Hunan Manor reopens because their reviews and food looked really good.
Relaxed and refreshed from lunch, I continued to tackle and explore the neighborhood. I walked down Fifth Avenue from the restaurant and made a left down East 39th Street when I noticed faces staring at me from 4 East 39th Street. They stared down at me from the entrance of the local Berkshire Bank.
The Keppel & Company building at 4 East 39th Street
The building was originally part of a complex of stables for the wealthy and was knocked down by Frederick Keppel, a art dealer. He commissioned architect George B. Post to design a new building for his business, Keppel & Co. The building was designed in the ‘Gothic style’ and the two figures that stare down at you are artist James McNeil Whistler and the other is artist Rembrandt Van Rijn (Daytonian). You could tell by the details that this did not start as a bank.
The Frederick Keppel & Company building
The rest of East 39th Street is a combination of office and apartment buildings and a lot of closed restaurants. It gets spooky to see so many closed businesses but still at night it will surprise you how many restaurants are opening just for dinner and how alive it will become again. At the end of the block you see a large empty lot overlooking the Queens skyline.
The East River Skyline of Long Island City
East 38th Street is lined with more brownstones on both sides and this shows the beauty of the side streets of the Murray Hill Historical District that stretch within the boundaries of the neighborhood. Each of these homes on the side streets are unique in their own way.
The brownstones on the side streets of Murray Hill are very unique
Passing through the core of the neighborhood, you exit at the end of East 38th Street with the most amazing views of the Queens skyline. On a sunny day these views of the river are really spectacular.
The bulldogs stare back at you
Almost like an insert between two apartment complexes is this unique little building that I thought might be a firehouse but turned out to be a stable. The ‘Bowdoin Stable’ was built in 1902 for clothing and real estate executive William R. Martin by architect Ralph Samuel Townsend in the ‘Flemish Revival Style’. The stables were sold to George C. Bowdoin in 1907 as his carriage house for his carriages, horses and groomsmen to live (ArtNerd & 6SqFt).
The George Bowdoin Stable house at 149 East 38th Street
When walking back from the views of the East River, you will notice the plaques and dedications at the Bide A Wee House at 410 East 38th Street dedicated to the building’s builder art patron John Gellatly.
The Bide A Wee plaque located outside the old Bide A Wee Building at 410 East 38th Street
This elegant plaque was designed by Laura Cardin Fraser, the first woman to design a coin for the U.S. Treasury (Read a Plaque). Ms. Cardin Fraser was an American born artist who studied at the Art Students League in New York City under her soon to be husband, James Earle Fraser. She is known for her sculptures of historical figures and for designing coins for the U.S. Government (Wiki).
Bide A Wee is a ‘no kill’ animal shelter and refuge for dogs founded by Mr.s Flora D’Auby Jenkins Kibbe after seeing this work at a shelter in Paris (Bide A Wee history).
Mrs. Flora D’Auby Jenkins Kibbe, the founder of Bide A Wee, the ‘No Kill’ Shelter
In 1982, they established one of the first ‘Pet Therapy’ programs in the United States. This was extremely innovative at the time.
The plaque dedicated to art patron John Gellatly, a great contributor to Bide A Wee
Patron John Gellaty, whose contributions helped build the building
When walking down East 37th Street you will see the beginnings of the N.Y. Langone Hospital complex where there is a nice public area to sit and relax and watch the neighborhood walk by. This must be very relaxing to the hospital workers. It has some nice chairs and tables to relax
The public square at NY Langone Hospital
If you look to the corner wall of the public square, you will see the art work of artist Daru-Jung Hyang Kim in his mosaic “Sun Feast” that was created in 2013. This beautiful geometric mosaic is such an interesting work. The colors are so vibrant that they pop right out at you.
Sun Feast by artist Daru-Jung Hyang Kim
Artist Daru-Jung Hyang Kim is a Korean born artist who studied at the Seoul National University where she got her BS and then moved to New York City where she got her Masters at Pratt. The works she did for NYU Langone Hospital are some of the large artworks she has created around the world (Artist bio).
I looked up from my walk back from the river to see the unusual top of the building next to me to see a mansard like top to both sides of the building. It almost looked like port holes on the top of the building looking out. This is the Kips Bay Brewery Building that is in two parts. The older section was built in 1904 and the other part of the building was built in 1910.
650 First Avenue-The Kips Bay Brewery Building
When heading back down East 38th Street towards Madison Avenue you reach two unique mansions that are part of the ‘Gilded Age’ architecture of the neighborhood. First is the De Lamar Mansion which is now home to the Consulate of Poland on the corner of Madison Avenue and East 37th Street at 233 Madison Avenue.
This beautiful mansion was designed by architect C. P. H. Gilbert in the ‘Beaux Arts style’ in 1905 for millionaire Joseph R. De Lamar. Mr. De Lamar was a Dutch merchant seaman who made his money in mining and metallurgy. He built this home for his family and by the time it was finished he was divorced and lived here with his daughter until his death eight years later. The mansion was sold to the Consulate in 1973.
The De Lamar mansion at 233 Madison Avenue now the Consulate of Poland
Jan Karski Statue outside the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland/De Lamar Mansion
The statue is of Jan Karski who was a courier who served as part of the Anti-Nazi Resistance in German occupied Poland during WWII. The statue was created by Polish artist Karol Badyna. The statue was dedicated in 2007 (Big Apple Secrets).
Karol Badyna is a Polish born artist who has studied at the Post-Secondary School of Conservation of Works of Art and Sculpture at Monuments Conservation Studio in Krakow, Poland. He currently serves a Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts (Artist bio).
The Isaac Newton Phelps Mansion was home to J.P.Morgan II is at Madison and East 37th Street
The first part of the building was the Italianate brownstone on the corner of Madison Avenue and East 37th Street that was built by Isaac Newton Phelps in 1854 who left it to his daughter upon his death. It was bought by J.P. Morgan for his son, J.P. Morgan II who lived there from 1905-1943. It houses the Morgan Dining Room and the gift shop (Wiki).
I arrived at the Morgan Library & Museum in time for my 2:30pm tour of the museum that I had scheduled. Because of COVID-19, all the museums that have opened up in the City have timed tickets and limited amounts of people are allowed in at one time. As I walked the galleries i realized that there were only about ten of us in the museum. I know this is not the busiest museum in Manhattan but this was really quiet.
The Morgan Library & Museum at 255 Madison Avenue
The afternoon in the museum was nice and I got through the two main exhibitions in about an hour. I saw the “Drawings of Al Taylor” and the “Jean-Jacques Lequeu: Visionary Architect” exhibitions. Neither really grabbed me. The one thing I did like about the Al Taylor exhibition was his works when he lived in the Hawaiian Islands. They were colorful and vibrant. The rest was interesting but not quite my taste.
Al Taylor’s “Duck Bondage” I thought was clever
Al Taylor was an American artist who liked the playful and whimsical look on art. He liked to experiment freely with materials and techniques (Morgan Exhibition). He graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1970 with a BFA.
After my afternoon at the Morgan Library & Museum, I continued to explore Murray Hill by walking down the rest of East 37th Street until I reached the East River Esplanade again and then just sat and enjoyed the cool breezes and the sunshine.
On the way back from the Esplanade, the one thing you will encounter is the exit from the Queens Midtown Tunnel, which is where all the noise and traffic will be coming from. All over the fence on the way back is a series of medallions from looks like various states. Check out the details on these.
Be careful when crossing the street on this part of the block as it can be dangerous or just stay to one side of the road. These cars will zoom by you. The street is really treacherous so look both ways when you are crossing the road. The Tunnel Approach Road which runs from East 40th to East 34th Streets can be hairy so watch the lights.
The Union League Club at 38 East 37th Street
The continued walk on Park Avenue brought me to the Union League Club at 38 East 37th Street. The club was founded in 1863 by former members of the Union Club who did not like the Pro-Southern activities of club members and created their own club with the Union League Club. The current clubhouse was designed by member Benjamin Wistar Morris and opened in 1931.
I was exhausted from all the walking the first day and broke this trip up into a second day. Before I left the City for the evening, I stopped at Upside Pizza, a new pizzeria in the Garment District that has been gaining a cult following for their “Detroit Pizzas”, a square pizza with the sauce and cheese baked into the crust. The pizzeria is at 598 Eighth Avenue. What it lacks in charm, it makes up in flavor.
Upside Pizza at 598 Eighth Avenue in the Garment District
The pizza is so good. The pepperoni square slice I had was loaded with cheese and pepperoni and the edges of it were crisp and chewy. The flavors were spicy and intense with lots of different cheeses and the char flavor from the baking. The pizza is not cheap at $5.00 a slice but it is nice to sit in their outdoor cafe and relax and watch the world go by.
The Pepperoni pizza at Upside Pizza is excellent
It is starting to get dark early now and as I watch the last days of summer go by, I am watching the City slowly come back to life with more people coming outside and enjoying the last of the warmer days of the later summer.
My next day back in the lower 30’s in Murray Hill gave me more time to relax and not rush the neighborhood. I started by walking East 37th Street to make sure that I did not miss anything and the traffic coming out of the Queens Midtown Tunnel seems to be getting busier. I had to dodge more cars today than I did the previous day.
Walking down Tunnel Street between East 42nd and East 34th Streets can be daring especially when traffic is coming so be careful. This narrow strip of sidewalk lines both sides of the entrance and exit of the tunnel.
The other side of the Morgan Library & Museum’s J.P. Morgan Library lines the side of East 36th Street and Madison Avenue as you start to stroll down the East 36th Street. The library, which is now part of the Morgan Library & Museum was built as Mr. Morgan’s private library next to his home on Madison Avenue. The library was designed in the “Italian Palazzo style” by architect Charles Follen McKim in 1906 (Morgan Library & Museum history website).
The J.P. Morgan Library which is part of the Morgan Library & Museum
This part of the neighborhood is chock full of history and famous residents living in the neighborhood. At 125 East 36th Street is the former home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt before their move to their more famous twin home on East 65th Street which is now part of Hunter College. They moved to this brownstone to be closer to his mother’s home in Manhattan a few blocks away.
125 East 36th Street-the former home of FDR and Eleanor
The brownstone complex on this side of East 36th Street was built by architects Kennedy & Haw in 1856 and had had a series of interesting residents until the future President and First lady came to live here from 1905 to 1908 and where their children James and Ana were born (Daytonian).
Hidden like a secret garden behind a locked gate is the Sniffen Court Historic District from 150-160 East 36th Street. Sniffen Court is named after John Sniffen, who built his complex of carriage houses in 1864.
The secret gardens of Sniffen Court is tucked behind an elaborate gate
The district encompasses the entire alley, between Third and Lexington Avenues, of 10 two story brick stables that were built in the ‘Romanesque Revival style’. When they were no longer used for stables they were converted to homes.
Sniffen Court is like a little ‘fantasy land’ behind the gate
One of the most famous residents was artist Malvina Hoffman who lived at 157 East 35th, the back part of the complex. The well known American sculptor lived here until her death in 1966.
Artist Malvina Hoffman
Passing this delightful little garden complex is another unusual building with vines snaking down and faces staring at you. The building at 220 East 36th Street was built in 1910 and look up at the details when you pass. Mysterious faces will stare back at you.
220 East 36th Street has some amazing details to it.
When you reach the end of East 36th Street, there is a wonderful little public square next to the American Copper Buildings at 616-626 First Avenue. These unusual buildings are built almost on a tilt and have a playful appeal to them. What is nice is the public space where you can just relax and talk to people. The neighborhood residents use this as an escape from the confinement of their apartments due to COVID and go out to talk to people.
The American Copper Buildings at 616-626 First Avenue
On a beautiful day, there is nothing like this delightful little park on the extension of First Avenue near FDR Drive. People really enjoy relaxing here and it is nice to see the neighborhood out and about.
The public square at the American Copper Buildings
Another nice place to stop and relax is St. Vartan Park, which is located between East 35th and East 36th Street between First and Second Avenue. The park is extremely popular with the neighborhood families so expect to see the place crowded all the time. The one thing I like about it there are public bathrooms that usually stay open until dusk.
Check out the plaques dedicated to the Murray Hill Post 59 who dedicated the flag post and the lights to the park. The playgrounds are a little worn but the kids and their parents don’t seem to mind.
St. Vartan Park with the namesake Church in the background St. Vartan Armenian Church
There is always so much action going on in the park from pick up basketball games, to jungle gym climbing to who is chasing who around the playground. It is fun even in the days of COVID that people will just throw on a mask and have some fun.
On a beautiful sunny day St. Vartan Park really shines
On the way back from walking the park and enjoying the shine just be careful when walking the south side of East 36th Street as the traffic coming from the Queens Midtown Tunnel funnels out very quickly and some of the drivers really don’t watch.
The site of the famous Henry Lewis Stimson House is at 120 East 36th Street, which is now an apartment building simply known at the Stimson House. Henry Louis Stimson was a influential lawyer and statesman in the United States serving under several presidents.
Henry Lewis Stimson
Here also marks the plaque of Murray Hill Historic District that covers most of the neighborhood. The central part of the neighborhood especially between Park and Third Avenues are lined with brownstones each with their own flair to them.
The commercial district once had two of the great department stores of the era and even today as Lord & Taylor closes it doors for the final time in the next few months after being in business since 1826, the building stands as a testament to the former lower Fifth Avenue corridor. As you enter East 35th Street, you see the grandeur of the former B. Altman department store building built by retail great Benjamin Altman.
The B. Altman building at 361 Fifth Avenue on the corner of Fifth Avenue between East 35th and 34th Streets
This elegant building was designed in the 1906 by architects Trowbridge & Livingston in the “Italian Renaissance style’ to fit into the then fancier residential district it was then located in at the time. The area between 34th and 42nd Street had replaced the ‘Ladies Shopping Mile’ along Sixth Avenue as the retail section of the City marched uptown.
On the next block at Madison Avenue and East 35th Street is the elegant Church of the Incarnation at 209 Madison Avenue. The historic Episcopalian church was built between 1864-65 by architect Emil T. Littel with the church rectory designed by Robert Mook in 1868. The extension of the church was built in 1882 by architect David Jardine (Wiki).
The Church of the Incarnation at 205-209 Madison Avenue
The beautiful plaque honoring this church
On the corner of Park Avenue, I passed the James Robb House. The now apartment building was once the home of James Hampden Robb and his wife, Cornelia Van Rensselaer Robb. The mansion was built by Stamford White from McKim, Mead & White for the couple in the ‘Italian Renaissance style’ in 1892 (Wiki).
James Robb House at 23 Park Avenue
Further down East 35th Street another famous New Yorker lived at 111 East 35th Street. Illustrator Charles Dan Gibson lived in this house. The famous American artist was best known for his illustrations of the ‘Gibson Girl’ inspired by his wife and daughters. He studied at the Art Student League in New York City (Wiki).
111 East 35th Street the former home of Illustrator Charles Dana Gibson
Tucked to the side of the residential neighborhood is another amazing little church. The New York New Church at 114 East 35th Street is a quiet, tranquil little church with another interesting garden that lies another iron fence. The church was built in 1858 and was finished in 1859 and was designed in the ‘neo-Renaissance style’.
The New York New Church at 114 East 35th Street
Further down the street is the Stein College for Woman which is part of the larger Yeshiva University which houses the University’s Arts & Sciences Department. This beautiful building was built in 1911 as the Packard Commercial School. It was taken over by Yeshiva University in 1954. The building was donated to the University by industrialist Max Stern (Wiki).
The Stern College for Women at Yeshiva University at 245 Lexington Avenue
Tucked to the side at 142 East 35th Street is another unique brownstone that was built in 1901. This triplex has the most interesting details in the grill work and almost looks like something seen in New Orleans.
142 East 35th Street has almost a New Orleans feel to it when you walk by
I ended my walk back at the East River Esplanade reading up on the British attack of Manhattan during the Revolutionary War with the landing at Kips Bay (then called Keps Bay) which stretched from East 35th to East 34th Streets. The views of Long Island City were just spectacular at twilight. It amazes me how much change still keeps going on in the East River area.
I stopped by to admire the St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral at 630 Second Avenue which the park was named after. This interesting church sits on the border of the Murray Hill and is the first Cathedral Armenian Apostolic Church to be constructed in North America (Wiki).
St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral at 630 Second Avenue
What I thought was interesting that I had not noticed before was a painting that sits on the side of Profit Chinese Restaurant is a painting of Salvador Dali that was somewhat exaggerated. The painting was painted by Brazilian artist Sipros.
The Salvador Dali painting by @Sipros by the Bushwick Collection
Heading back to Fifth Avenue I came across another interesting brownstone with the most unusual brownstone with the most interesting stonework, The Frances Key Pendleton House which was built in 1853 by Henry H. Butterworth who had architects Washington and Samuel Cronk build four brownstones on what had been Henry Murray’s old estate. The house was bought by Frances Key Pendleton, the grandson of Francis Scott Key the author of “The Star Spangled Banner”. Thought he loved the home, the house had seen much sadness when he lived there (Daytonian).
105 East 35th Street got it’s current look in the 1930’s
The home got its current appearance in the 1930’s when the home was sold to a realty company and they gave it a more Mediterranean look to it with the stucco and statuary.
The last interesting piece of history the walk in the neighborhood which wrapped up the walk of Murray Hill was the plaque for the site of Inclenberg at the corner of Park Avenue and East 35th Street which was the site of the Henry Murray Mansion.
The plaque of the location of “Inclenberg” the Murray family mansion
“Inclenberg” the Murray family mansion where history was made
I thought it was a fitting way to wrap up my walk in Murray Hill then to pay homage to the family who the neighborhood was named. If they could take a time machine and see what their farm and estate has turned into or even experiencing the effects of COVID would have the family wondering.
Sarges Delicatessen & Diner at 548 Third Avenue
Keeping with the spirit of celebrating the past, I went to Sarges Delicatessen and Diner that night for dinner. The deli was founded by former NYPD officer Abe Katz in 1964 who wanted to bring the best of Jewish cooking to the public (Sarges History).
They had set up a small cafe outside the restaurant for patrons to dine and I had a half of a pastrami sandwich and a bowl of Matzo Ball Soup ($18.95) and it was the best dinner after a long walk. The soup hit the spot on a cool evening with the rich chicken broth and the sandwich was piled high with salty meat and hot mustard.
The pastrami sandwich at Sarges is excellent
For dessert, I went to Holey Ice Cream & Doughnut at 522 Third Avenue for dessert. I had to walk around the block a few times to convince myself that I wanted it. I just said I am still hungry and will walk it off and went in.
I had a doughnut filled with Cookie Dough, Maine Blueberry and Birthday Cake ice cream with a glazed doughnut with fruit loops on top. I loved the intense sweetness of the dessert. The sugar high put a smile on my face and the energy to continue walking.
The Ice Cream is excellent but they could work on the doughnuts
I finished my walk this evening by relaxing back in Bryant Park and just walking people converse and have a nice time talking and laughing (socially distanced of course). It was nice to see things calm down and be a little normal for a change.
I came back to Murray Hill a few days later just to confirm some addresses and brownstones that I liked and walked to the neighborhood starved. I first stopped off at Pizza & Pita Halah Food at 344 East 34th Street for some Garlic Knots and sauce on the side ($2.00) and after I confirmed everything I wanted to see, I had dinner at Profit Chinese Restaurant at 643 Second Avenue for dinner. The Beef with String Beans in Garlic Sauce was really good ($11.00) but the eggrolls here are just okay. The best part was I took my dinner back to St. Vartan Park and ate dinner.
Profit Chinese Food at 643 Second Avenue
Even in the age of COVID we all have to adapt but eating a nice Chinese meal on the picnic table in a New York City park in the sunshine is a nice way to finish a visit to Murray Hill.
When I finally finished walking Sutton and Beekman Places, I finally decided to take the long walk down Broadway that I had planned for two years. As you can see by the blog, I like to take one neighborhood or section of the City at a time and concentrate on getting to know it. What is the history of the neighborhood? What is there now? Who are the shop keepers and the restaurant owners? What is the neighborhood association doing to improve the area? I like to become part of the neighborhood when I walk around it.
But recently I have noticed people on the Internet have been posting that they walked the entire length of Broadway and bragged about it like they were ‘performing brain surgery’. So I put aside my next walk and decided to see what the fuss was about walking up and down Broadway. I am…
With the weather reaching now into the high 90’s and the humidity has become unbearable, it has been a chance to take a break from walking the streets of Manhattan with the uncomfortable heat (and the equally uncomfortable feel of the City) and head up to our version of “Upstate New York”. People from Ithaca, where I went to graduate school, actually laugh when I say this is “Upstate New York”. “That’s like Westchester!” some will say to me because it is so close to the City instead of in the middle of New York State.
Still Dutchess County is beautiful at anytime of the year and a nice substitute when the weather just gets too hot. The cool breezes of the Hudson River, the foliage full of deep greens and the unique little downtown’s with their ‘mom and pop’ restaurants and stores (which we need to help desperately at this time) make a nice day or weekend visit. I have also gone to college in Hyde Park so I know the area quite well but still there were many towns I had never visited before. One of them being Red Hook, NY.
I had gotten to know Red Hook quite well since 2014 when I thought I was moving to the Hudson River Valley for work and needed to find a place to live. I got acquainted with Downtown Red Hook when meeting with realtors but it was when I came across an advertisement for “Little Pickles”, a children’s store that had just opened that I wanted to visit that I got to really visit the town.
The nice part of Downtown Red Hook is that it has not been “Manhattanized” the way Downtown Rhinebeck further south has been. Being further up Route 9, the restaurants and stores are not as expensive, the feel of the restaurants are more local and down to earth and a lot less expensive. The one thing about the stores are that they cater to locals and not tourists so much, they are reasonably priced and their merchants are extremely creative in merchandise purchased for their stores and the way their stores are displayed. The service I have found in the stores here is very personal and friendly and you are mostly dealing with the owner of the store.
What is also nice about Red Hook is that the parking is still on the street with no meters and you can park right near the stores. At the current time, the town is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic as is the rest of the country, so a lot of the parking directly in the center of the town is for “Grab and Go”. Between the heat of this summer (it was 96 degrees that day) and the COVID-19 pandemic still keeping everything at bay, the town was quiet the afternoon I visited.
I started my day at the Staatsburgh Historical Site of the Mills Mansion in Staatsburgh, NY. The mansion was not open for tours yet under Phase 4 of Governor Cuomo’s plan as of yet so the park site opened programs that showcased the outside of the mansion. I started my day with a “Garden Tour” of the grounds of the Mill’s Mansion “Staatsburgh” located at 75 Mills Mansion Drive.
The Mills Mansion “Staatsburgh” (Staatsburgh State Historical Site)
The 90 minute tour took us to the back lawn of the estate where we visited the former ice house, boat house, stables and storage areas and the location to where the greenhouses were located. The mansion was once a 25 room home that was a working farm but with Ruth Livingston Mills social standing the house was added and expanded to 79 rooms to the current home of today. The original farms became lawns and Ogden Mills, her husband and a financier himself, became a gentleman farmer and animals were grown and raised for competition and for food for the estate. The greenhouses were used for flowers and fruits and vegetables for the mansion.
The back lawn of the Mills Mansion and the Hudson River in the distance
Most of the buildings have since been knocked down or in disrepair but you have to use your imagination to see how the estate once worked. The whole property was once pretty well self-sufficient.
Ruth Livingston Mills
By 10:30am, our small group of four was done for the morning and I decided to run up to Red Hook for lunch. I was in the mood for a Chicken Parmesan sandwich from Village Pizza III located in the downtown. Before I left for lunch I drove through Downtown Rhinebeck which had just closed off all their downtown parking for outdoor cafes and the place was really busy. All the restaurants were busy for the late brunch and early lunch crowds.
I drove further north on Route 9 which takes you right into Downtown Red Hook and turns into North and South Broadway which is cut at the intersection of East and West Market Street (which is Route 199). The downtown stretches from this intersection for a few blocks before leading to more homes and farms. The wooden store fronts are a combination of Victorian and multi-level architecture and brick buildings which gives it the classic downtown appearance.
Looking down East Market Street
I parked on East Market Street and started to walk towards the intersection. I discovered that one of my favorite stores that I just featured a few months ago, Pause at 10 East Market Street had moved to Rhinebeck. It now has an online store that is available in both Red Hook and Rhinebeck.
Pause was a great store of handmade food products and whimsical toys for pets.
Pause was at 30 East Market Street and is now online
Crossing the street at the intersection of Market and Broadway, I like to head north to my favorite restaurant in Red Hook, Village Pizza III at 7514 North Broadway. I can not tell you how good the food is here in a few sentences. For a small pizzeria, the food is excellent, the service is friendly and the prices are amazingly fair. For a family on a budget, the restaurant is the perfect place to dine. It was unfortunately closed on Sunday.
The food and service at Village Pizza III is excellent!
The many times I have eaten here over the holiday season and on my visits to the area for functions, I really love coming here for lunch and dinner. The red sauce here is just delicious and has a rich tomato flavor that makes every dish wonderful. The Chicken Parmesan dinner with spaghetti could feed two people easily. It is loaded with gooey mozzarella cheese.
The Spaghetti and meatballs are out of this world. Three golf ball sized freshly made meatballs on top of what looked like a half pound of spaghetti. The red sauce here is amazing. The calzones are overstuffed with ingredients and the pizza has the most amazing combination of spices and cheeses. Each bite is like heaven.
The pizza here is fantastic!
The prices here are extremely fair.
During the times I eat in Red Hook, one of my favorite places for dessert is Annabelle’s Village Bake Shop at 7501 North Broadway. They make the best cinnamon rolls and cookies.
Annabelle’s Village Bake Shop is a nice place to sit and relax (post COVID-19)
The last visit I made to Annabelle’s Village Bake Shop, I had one of her Fruit Loop Doughnuts that was an over-sized cake doughnut topped with a thick vanilla icing and finished with lots of colorful fruit loops. Their over-sized Cinnamon Rolls on another visit were layered in sweet cinnamon in a buttery dough. The baker herself has waited on me and is extremely engaging and when it is okay to eat inside again, it is a relaxing experience to just sit and talk. For now, there is a tent outside for dining and enjoying your dessert.
The excellent doughnuts and cinnamon rolls
Next door to Annabelle’s Village Bake Shop is one of the most creative, imaginary and interesting toy stores I have ever seen. Little Pickles Children’s General Store at 7505 North Broadway. This colorful little store caters to the Lilliputian crowd and has all the things you need for a small child or creative tween.
Little Pickles Children’s General Store at 7505 North Broadway is out of a fairy tale book.
Little Pickles is one of those stores I wish was around when I was a kid. Even the big kid in me loves visiting the store when I am in Red Hook. One of the store is dedicated to clothing, shoes and accessories for the small child in need of everyday items. In the room is a castle to explore and wooden trains to play with while your siblings shop (these things are currently not available because of COVID-19).
The outside of the store has an whimsical candy and ice cream shop and lots of little ‘stocking stuffers’ for a quick gift. There are balloons, magnets, small games and puzzles that are perfect for the creative child’s birthday party.
This is where children come for that special gift
The back of the store has a assortment of games, puzzles, magic tricks, science experiments and board games. During these tough times with all of us having to stay in it has the perfect collection of items for family game night.
The back of Little Pickles is perfect for family game night.
Walking down North Broadway and turning the corner to West Market Street another store stands out for its interesting gift items and fascinating artwork Equis Gallery at 15 West Market Street where all things are equestrian.
The Equis Gallery at 15 West Market Street where its all things horses.
The gallery is so unique with the theme with all the artists carried in the store is all things horses. Paintings large and small line the walls and the tables are ladened with jewelry, statuary, small sculptures and gifts for the perfect host present. The store carries the work of many local and distant artists and is all unique to the store. It is always nice talking to the gallery owner, Juliet Harrison, who always greets you with a smile and makes you feel welcome.
The work here is revolving so there are always new artists to see.
Equis Gallery owner Juliet R. Harrison
Walking back down West Market Street and heading down South Broadway, I headed to Golden Wok Chinese Restaurant at 7479 South Broadway but the place had no dining area and it looked closed too so I headed back to Rhinebeck for lunch. This restaurant is still on my bucket list for the next visit.
When I was here last Summer (Pre-COVID-19), there was a enjoyable concert in the parking lot next to Village Hall that was free for the evening with local musicians. That was a nice night and people really had a nice time listening to the music and talking with their neighbors. It must be a nice place to grow up.
The Memorial Day Parade in Red Hook NY from 2008
After my walk around Downtown Red Hook, it was back to Rhinebeck for lunch. There is another branch of Village Pizza in Downtown Rhinebeck as well but I now wanted something different as it was getting even hotter outside and I wanted something light.
So I headed to Pete’s Famous Restaurant at 34 East Market Street, a restaurant I have eaten at many times over the last twenty years of visiting Rhinebeck. The food is always consistent here and the service very friendly. Like the rest of downtown’s all over the nation, the sidewalks and streets of the Main Street have been changed to an outdoor cafes. Pete’s Famous has good amount of tables and umbrellas on the sidewalk under the trees and street which made for a nice experience.
Pete’s Famous Restaurant at 34 East Market Street in Rhinebeck, NY
I had a sudden craving for a Turkey Club sandwich and the restaurant did not disappoint. The sandwich was layered with freshly roasted turkey, juicy tomatoes, crisp lettuce and crisp bacon lathered with mayo on toasted white bread. It was a nice combination of flavors and tastes and the fries just came out of the fryer.
The turkey club with fries here is excellent.
It was nice to sit outside on a sunny afternoon and watch people walk by. It made it almost seem like there wasn’t a global pandemic going on. I am not too sure how long all of this will last but for that afternoon everything felt okay.
I didn’t want to stay for dessert because I has passed an ice cream stand on the way back from Red Hook that I have wanted to try for years but it is closed during the times I usually come up to Rhinebeck, Del’s Dairy Creme at 6780 Route 9 North in Rhinebeck. Do not miss coming here during the warmer months! It’s worth the whole trip.
Del’s Dairy Creme at 6780 Route 9 North is amazing!!
My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:
This little ice cream shop right near the Dutchess County Fairgrounds looks like it had just been renovated and landscaped. The back part of the building has a nice sized lawn with chairs and tables (socially distanced perfectly) that is the perfect place to enjoy your ice cream or lunch items on their listing.
Del’s lunch menu
The ice cream here is so thick and creamy and has the most unique flavors. On the recommendation of the young lady working there I tried the Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Swirl and the Honey Lavender ice creams. I do not say this much but after biting into the Honey Lavender ice cream I thought I saw God. The ice cream was amazing!
It was just the right combination of flavors of sweetness and tartness. The Blueberry ice cream is made from fresh fruit from the farm and you could taste the flavors sweetness and creaminess from the fresh milk and cream from the farm.
The Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Ice Cream here is excellent!
Del’s is Americana during the summer months. It is the place that people look like they have been coming to since the 1960’s and with a new owner and a modernized building brings it into the twenty-first century. It is the perfect place to stop with the family.
After the long and relaxing lunch, I headed back to the Mills Mansion for the “Lecture on the Portico” for a talk on the servants role at the mansion when the family was in house for the late Summer and Fall months. I have to admit with such a large lunch and dessert inside me and the weather being so warm (it was about 92 degrees at this point), I was getting sleepy and started to nod off during the lecture.
Mills Mansion “Servants Talk”
It was an interesting lecture on household items that the servants would have used to maintain the mansion during the summer months. They explained how the servants used the hand-cranked ice cream machine to make the summer treat and showed us their ice cream scoop for the perfect serving of the frozen treat.
Other items that were explained to us to run the household were a meat press for creating juices for broths, a bottle closer for opened beverages and a mop wringer for cleanups. It is interesting the amount of time it took to keep the mansion clean and the items needed to do the work at a time when electrical cleaning items did not exist. It took an army of servants to keep the mansion running.
It was so nice to relax and enjoy the breezes on the portico ( the front porch) while listening to the lecture. I think this is the reason why on top of digesting a big lunch why I kept falling asleep. The heat did not help either. Still it was a nice way to see the mansion in a different light by seeing it from the outside looking in. The grounds have so much to offer and the lecture topics are very interesting.
The portico of the mansion is a nice place for meetings.
It was just nice to be back up in the Hudson River Valley again. I had not been up here since February for the last Tea Lecture (see my review on the mansion above) and since the COVID-19 pandemic, it was an interesting way to still visit the mansion and tour the grounds and have a new sense of scenery.
Spending time at the holidays in Red Hook is also special. The merchants do such a nice job decorating their windows for Christmas and all the older buildings in the downtown are decorated with garland, red ribbons and white lights. It looks like a Currier & Ives print especially at night when the whole town is lit up.
During the usual holiday season, the town holds the “Snowflake Festival” the second Saturday in December (the first weekend in December is the big “Sinterklaas” festival in Rhinebeck and that gets all the people the first weekend) and that is a nice family event.
Red Hook is so peaceful on a pre or post Christmas night. I visited on New Year’s Day and most of the stores and restaurants were closed but still at twilight, the Christmas holiday with all its hope and dreams is still alive and appreciated at night. The Christmas season in the Hudson River Valley especially in these small towns is really special.
It is such a pleasure to visit the Hudson River Valley.
Since my thirty two mile walk around the Island of Manhattan, I have stayed clear of New York City for the time being while things calm down a bit. Since my walk and even on Father’s Day weekend there have been a rash of shootings and thirteen people murdered in various neighborhoods. The papers said they have not seen anything like this since the late 90’s before Rudy Giuliani became Mayor and started to clean things up in New York City. What really spooked me is that I walked through parts of Harlem that were affected the day of the shootings especially between East 145th to East 118th Streets before I got on the riverfront walkway. I still can’t believe that people would act this way at a time like this.
Still between work and the fire department keeping me busy, it has been hard to get back into the City. Phase Three is slowly being introduced in but indoor seating has been put on hold. Outdoor dining has been cautious and the museum and parks have been slow to open. I just got a email from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that they will be opening on August 25th and 26th for a ‘Members Private Night’. It will be interesting to see if that happens.
Upstate New York in Dutchess County is slowly opening up with precautions and we are now entering the ‘new normal’ that I would not have even thought about when I was running around the City and Upstate during the holiday season. I glad I made the visits I made when I did. You can’t do that now.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, we have been pretty much limited on what we can do and needing exercise and to get out of the house, I have been walking to our downtown and around the blocks exploring my own town. The Hasbrouck Height Chamber of Commerce recently sponsored “A Stroll Downtown” for our residents for people to explore their downtown and visit the restaurants and stores that are open for limited business and outdoor dining. With the weather getting warmer, people are tired of getting cooped up in their homes and want to get outside and enjoy the weather (yes, we are all wearing masks when necessary).
So every evening, I walk the Boulevard, our business district in Hasbrouck Heights and over time I have really noticed a lot more of our downtown. There is an array of architecture that dates back to the late 1800’s and historical markers that I had never really noticed before.
I start my walk every evening with a turn around the corner from my home and I walk down Williams Avenue to the Boulevard which starts our small part of downtown on our side of town. What is interesting about Williams Avenue is that is was used as an escape route for George Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War from the Battles in Hackensack and Paramus with the British.
The Battles in Hackensack and Paramus during the Revolutionary War
Our area of New Jersey has a very prominent place in Revolutionary War history with local battles with the British.
Washington’s forces retreated down Williams Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights after the Battle in Hackensack NJ
Before rounding Williams Avenue onto the busy Boulevard, which is a County of Bergen road, you will pass Corleone’s Pizza at 205 Williams Avenue, one of the newest pizzeria/restaurant’s in Hasbrouck Heights. Their pizza and sandwiches are really good anchored by their rich Marinara Sauce and well priced lunch specials. Outdoor dining here is rather unusual on such a busy road but makes it almost seem like you are in the City.
Walking to the downtown area is only a few blocks away passing many homes that have stood in town since the late 1800’s to the 1930’s. Hasbrouck Heights has a diversity of types of homes so it makes walking around interesting especially if you are into historic homes and architecture.
Back in the early 2000’s, our former Mayor Rose Heck, started a beautification of the downtown area by cutting down the old trees and opening the buildings to more sun and creating a whole new landscape by bricking the new sidewalks and adding flowering cherry trees that bloom an abundance of colors in the Spring.
On the new wrought iron lampposts we have pictures of the graduates of Hasbrouck Heights High School, who missed the last four months of school (but recently had their graduation socially distanced on the football field) and American flags that are placed for Memorial Day, Flag Day and the Forth of July. During Christmas time, wreaths and white lights adorn them.
I always start on the right side of the Boulevard as you approach downtown. The downtown starts with the historic Corpus Christi Church at 215 Kipp Avenue. The complex with the historic parish house, which had once been a well-known doctor’s home in the late 1890’s sits between Washington Place, home to many historic Victorian homes and Kipp Avenue, the start of the business district.
The original part of the Church that was built in 1896 was moved from across the street to its current location when the parish bought the Dunstan estate in 1914. The church has been added onto twice in 1934 and 1957.
The parish house is the historic Dunstan mansion on the original estate grounds.
The business district runs from Kipp Avenue in town to the circle at Passaic Avenue. Since there are numerous businesses, I wanted to point out the ones that I have enjoyed and been a patron of for years.
Our newest Chinese restaurant, China House at 250 Boulevard, opened (ironically on March 13th when everything was shutting down) just off Kipp Avenue. This small take out restaurant has a few small tables to dine in, which I did the first week it was open (now due to COVID-19 it is just take out). Their General Tso’s and Orange Chicken are really good. The family that runs the restaurant is really nice and has been offering opening discounts.
The nice thing about our downtown is the diversity of stores and restaurants. One of the most unique shops is the Religious Shoppe at 220 Boulevard. One of the few stores in the State of New Jersey that specializes in Catholic gifts, it has an array of merchandise from crosses to crucifixes and at the holidays there is a selection of jewelry, books, figurines, statuary and selected gifts both religious and secular.
Next to the Religious Shoppe at 220 Boulevard (the other side of the building) is Sophia’s Kitchen, a very popular Greek restaurant that opened several years ago and continues to grow in popularity. Their food and service are excellent and after many great reviews in both the local papers and on the internet has been a destination restaurant ever since. You need to wait for tables between Thursday and Saturday nights.
The Religious Shoppe and Sofia’s Mediterranean Grill during the Summer months
Their gyro sandwiches are delicious with a side of their garlic fries and they have this shrimp appetizer, the Shrimp Sanganaki, that is cooked in a tomato sauce and topped with cheese that is out of this world. Their Baklava is sweet and buttery and soaked in honey in all layers. They also have a dessert called Galactoboureko, a sweet custard wrapped in phyllo dough, that is amazing.
Crossing over Franklin Avenue to the next block, you will find a series of interesting shops with Young Fashions at 208 Boulevard, for beautiful children’s wear and Not Too Shabby at 206 Boulevard for custom made and vintage painted furniture.
Young Fashions at 206 Boulevard (Going through a Management Change)
My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:
Owner Addie Carrino greets all her customers personally (now retired)
Young Fashions is a Lilliputian dream for the well-dressed child and a favorite for grandparents and aunts and uncles all over Bergen County. This delightful store still carries quality clothing for children from infant to age 12. Owner Addie Carrino still believes that there are children that still dress nicely and provides clothing from head to toe for them. She offers complimentary pressing of items when bought and free gift wrapping.
Not Too Shabby (now closed 2020-online business orders) is run by Addie’s daughter, Liz Carrino, who brings to life her custom painted furniture and one of a kind pieces. She loves vintage furniture from the Depression era and all sorts of decorative pieces for the home and office. Take time to walk around the aisles of furniture and knick knacks.
Not Too Shabby at 206 Boulevard (now closed 2020-Online Business)
Please watch the video on the creativity of the business (now closed but online):
Next to Not Too Shabby at 202 Boulevard, the new and much enlarged Dumpling Chinese Restaurant moved to from their old location at 220 Boulevard (now the home to China House). The restaurant is much bigger and brighter than their old restaurant and has lots of places to sit down (during the COVID-19 pandemic it is strictly pick-up and delivery). They made a wonderful Lemon Chicken and Moo Shu Pork and their dumplings are not bad too.
Walking further down the Boulevard I always pass the Masonic Temple at 200 Boulevard, one of the oldest buildings in Hasbrouck Heights. The Euclid Masonic Lodge has been in existence for 145 years and its stately building has been part of the downtown since anyone can remember.
As you walk to the next two blocks you will reach the Circle which is the home to many a Christmas Celebration with the annual Tree Lighting after Thanksgiving. One little unique local landmark we have is the old ‘Neil Parrot Playhouse’ that sits on the Circle and is decorated for the holidays. In 2016 a group of concerned citizens got together to have the little dollhouse, which matched the home of the old Neil Parrot business office and home of Neil Parrot, a local realtor. He used the little house to amuse children while their parents did business with him.
The Neil Parrot Playhouse on the Hasbrouck Heights Circle
The Circle at the corner of Boulevard and Passaic Avenue is the official end of the Business District and is where all holiday events take place with the Tree Lighting at the end of November and the Holiday Choir performing.
The pine trees at the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights add to a festive mood at the holidays
On the other side of the Circle from the old Neil Parrot Dollhouse is the Firemen’s Memorial where every Memorial Day and 9/11 Day, we on the fire department have our special ceremonies and events. It really is a place of reflection and a nice place to sit and think. I like to take time and look at the names of fire fighters from the past.
I like to take a break here but move on I do very quickly and I start the walk on the other side of the Boulevard.
Another nice restaurant that I enjoy going to is Heights Bar & Grill at 163 Boulevard. The restaurant is now serving outdoor diners and has delivery and take out. Still the outdoor dining is really popular. When it is open, it is the local watering hole for customers all over Bergen County who enjoy a good mixed drink, their wonderful pub food and watching the games. Their pizza and burgers are really good and they have a nice assortment of appetizers.
Walking past the Heights Bar & Grill there is a bevy of small businesses and commercial banks housed in older and modern buildings. The architecture in our downtown is a combination of old and new and old becoming new again.
A new addition to our restaurant scene and adding a little ‘hipster’ to Hasbrouck Heights is the new KTB Coffee Shop & Lounge at 183 Boulevard that just opened last year. It had been an old convenience store for years and the new owners stripped it down to the bearings where is looks like a combination of Williamsburg meets Beacon, NY. The food is reasonable and they have nice sandwiches and wraps. The nice part is when the place was open pre-COVID-19, they had entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. It was nice to hear saxophonists and guitar players rather than the usual garage bands. It gives the downtown a little diversity from all the pizzerias and Chinese take out places.
KTB Coffee Shop & Lounge at 183 Boulevard now has outdoor dining
The next few blocks is studded with service businesses, hair salons and banks and then you have a series of restaurants some opening in recent years. On the corner of Hamilton Avenue and the Boulevard replacing the long service Carroll’s Fashion which had been that location for about thirty years. Bella Pizza opened at 193 Boulevard. The pizzeria has quickly established itself in town among the other six pizzerias we have and makes the most amazing calzones and Sicilian pies.
The Risotto House of Hasbrouck Heights, a branch of the popular Rutherford, NJ restaurant is at 203 Boulevard is one of the growing fine dining restaurants added to our downtown. It is always been busy at the holidays and in the COVID-19 era has a small outdoor dining area to sit and relax while you enjoy dishes like Shrimp Risotto and Veal Milanese.
The Risotto House of Hasbrouck Heights at 203 Boulevard
One of the nicest stores in Hasbrouck Heights especially at each of the holidays is Heights Flower Shoppe at 209 Boulevard. Their window displays are some of the best in the downtown area and are especially nice at Christmas and Easter. I love their selection of gifts at the holidays and their owner always makes special arrangements for me when visiting the cemetery. The business is housed in an old home that has been in the downtown since the 1880’s and was renovated to its beauty by the owner.
Heights Flower Shoppe is always special at the Christmas holidays
The historic Lovey’s Pizzeria at 211 Boulevard and has been in town since the early 1960’s. There is a small dining room in the restaurant and I have been partial over the years to their fried calzones and their ravioli with red sauce. The current owner bought the pizzeria from her parents who had owned it all those years.
Lovey’s Pizzeria & Ristorante at 211 Boulevard with Summer dining
One of my favorite Chinese take out places in Hasbrouck Heights is Ho Mei Kitchen at 227 Boulevard. I enjoy many of the dishes here especially their Lemon Chicken, their House Fried Rice and they have the best egg rolls in town. Their lunch specials are really reasonable and you can order them until 4:00pm. They are like a dinner. The family who owns the place are really nice and have set up an interesting system of ordering in the COVID-19 era.
Crossing the street at Jefferson Avenue are three of the oldest businesses in town along with Lovey’s Pizzeria, Height Floral Shoppe and Young Fashions is Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and the Boulevard at 231 Boulevard has been opened since the 1960’s as well.
Like Heights Flower Shoppe, Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts is always so nicely merchandised with the wonderful flower arrangements for a quick pickup, nice assortments of candy and stuffed animals and creative gift items for the home at the holidays. Their owners are really nice and accommodating. They also have a nice Open House at the opening of the holiday season.
The owners of Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts, John and Linda Kosakowski, at their Food Drive.
Bill O’Shea’s Easter Open House 2021
The newest addition to Downtown Hasbrouck Heights is Ralph’s Ice Cream & Ices at 239 Boulevard that opened in the height of the COVID pandemic just in time to cheer a town up that really needed it. The store opened in the summer of 2020 to long lines and gave everyone an excuse to done a mask and meet their neighbors for a sweet treat.
Fisher’s Cafe at 245 Boulevard is another restaurant that has been in town since the 1960’s and is a popular place for breakfast and lunch with a lot of the locals who make this their place to eat. Fisher’s is very popular for their breakfast dishes and platters and is a hang out after school for the junior high and high students for their burgers and grilled cheese.
Another long time merchant in Hasbrouck Heights is Spindler’s Bake Shop at 247 Boulevard, which had reopened after a few years of being closed by the family. The bakery has been a Hasbrouck Heights institution since the 1950’s by the current owners grandparents.
Ginny & Bob Spindler at their store as the next generation of bakers.
They are well-known for their butter cookies arrangements, their fresh rolls and their apple and lemon turnovers are melt in your mouth good! The staff is always friendly and the smells of the baked goods as you enter the store are sensational.
The baked goods are so good! Don’t miss their Lemon Turnovers!
Their Lemon Turnovers are excellent!
As you pass by Spindler’s Bake Shop, you will walk the next block over and pass Kipp Avenue again to the end of the official part of the Business District and start walking back to Williams Avenue past residential and commercial properties and Corpus Christi Church again until you reach our Municipal Building.
In a small strip of stores across from our new Town Hall that was built in 2004 are two very popular restaurants, Tom Young Koong, at 305 Boulevard and Heights Pizzeria at 313 Boulevard which have both adapted to the COVID-19 era of outdoor dining and take-out/delivery.
Tom Young Koong is a very well-known destination Thai restaurant that is very busy between Thursday and Saturday nights. Their assortment of appetizers that include Chicken Satay, Curry Puffs, Fried Dumplings and Shrimp Fried Noodle are excellent and they have the most delicious Pad Thai which is wonderful with Chicken and Shrimp. The food is cooked by the owner with recipes that came from his mother. The service is always friendly and the owners are really nice.
Hasbrouck Heights Pizza (Heights Pizza to locals) at 313 Boulevard has been popular since it opened its doors almost a decade ago. Their pizza is so popular that people order it from several towns away and even during the worst storms even Hurricane Sandy, it never closed and was as busy as ever. Everything here is delicious and it is known not just for its regular Cheese Pizza but their Grandma Pizza, their Pepperoni Calzones, Specialty pies and their entrees are excellent and restaurant quality. The place is always busy so the staff and drivers run in and out of the place. The outdoor dining is even popular from early Spring until it gets cold in October.
When arriving back at Williams Avenue, I cross the Boulevard again with Corleone’s Pizzeria in the distance and their well lit tables. Two other businesses have been in town a long time in this series of stores.
Danson Jewelers at 201 Williams Avenue has been in Hasbrouck Heights since the 1980’s and does a nice job on repairs of watches and jewelry and has a nice selection of watches. The service is very friendly and the family that owns it gets to know their regulars.
Further down the street a new bakery opened. Two Ladies Bakery at 446 Boulevard. They specialize in Lebanese, Russian and French pastries. The bakery just opened two weeks ago so it is nice to go in and support a new business in town.
The Cream Puff I had was a little pricey for our town at $5.00. It was well baked and had a rich creamy vanilla filling. It was good but average.
The cream puffs are good but expensive
Another long service merchant who has been assisting residents for years is Heights Specialty Pharmacy (the former BeJay Drug Store) at 450 Boulevard. The staff has been here for years and is helpful to many of our senior residents. The owners wife runs a small gift shop both in the store and a few doors down has a separate shop.
The last merchant I pass on my way home is Jerry’s Barber Shop at 406 Boulevard, which has been here since the 1920’s when Jerry’s father ran the business. Jerry has been cutting my hair since 1988 and is one of the only people I trust to do it correctly. I even waited for trips home from Hawaii, Guam and California when I lived in those places to get my hair cut. A haircut here is still $14.00 and he does an excellent job. I highly recommend him.
Then I round the corner and am on my way home again. For such a small town, Hasbrouck Heights has the most interesting and historic downtown that few residents appreciate when you look at the history and longevity of our merchants. A few long time merchants have closed their doors as they have either retired or COVID-19 has affected the business.
During the holiday season, the town really rolls out the welcome mat. People in town love to decorate and entertain. In this COVID era, some things have been toned down such as large parties and parades. All the Christmas concerts have been cancelled as school has been put into both virtual and life classes.
Still the spirit of the town can be felt from Halloween to the New Years as people decorate their homes and businesses welcome people to open houses and will cater to small parties of people.
Halloween in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
Every year I look forward to the Downtown Merchants Open Houses with their bright creative display windows and small indoor entertainments as people come to shop and converse with their neighbors.
Right before the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Bill O’Shea Flowers had their annual Open House with Christmas music and lots of pre-wrapped goodies to enjoy and take home. The store was beautifully decorated with all sorts of treasures that customers could buy, I love just walking around and grabbing a snack while shopping every year.
Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts is a delight at the Christmas holidays
Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts welcomes you at Christmas
The weekend after Thanksgiving, Heights Flower Shoppe had their Annual Open House and it was just as spectacular. One tries to outdo the other in a friendly rivalry.
Heights Flower Shoppe has the most interesting merchandise
Heights Flower Shoppe pulls out all stops to welcome you at the holidays
My twenty one years on the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association has done a lot to my back after years at Macy’s selling rugs as well. The Annual Christmas Tree Sale was a HUGE success this year. We sold out in less than two weeks, ending the sale on Friday night, December 11th selling a record 375 trees. We want to thank the residents of Hasbrouck Heights and the surrounding towns for their support on our Scholarship Fund event.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at the set-up being COVID safe
As we ready for Christmas 2020 next week and the coming of a new and hopefully better New Year, the town has done its job to cheer us up. The Annual Christmas Tree lighting was not advertised but happened anyway and welcomes people at our western border of town.
Our town Christmas tree at the Circle
The Neil Parrot playhouse is even decorated at the Circle
Downtown Hasbrouck Heights welcomes you at Christmas
Even though the Annual Holiday Parade was cancelled, we will still be welcoming Santa at Santa Around Town the last Sunday of December before Christmas. This Annual tradition on the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department has the whole town in the Christmas spirit as Santa visits them in their own neighborhoods.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at “Santa Around Town” 2019
The Brothers of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at “Santa Around Town” 2020!
As the State of the New Jersey slowly opens again, I can still walk my entire downtown in the evenings and appreciate the fact that sometimes small town living is not so bad and it is still only twenty minutes and twelve miles to Midtown Manhattan.
This is what walking is all about. Discovering things close to home.
Watch this video on our town and try to locate some of the older homes still standing.
I had the most interesting semester for Spring Term at the college where I work. Everything started off fine. We had classes in the the afternoon, good discussions on Marketing and had a very successful Team Project marketing the Lyndhurst Snack Shop, the new Bulldog Cafe, for business (See Day One Hundred and Fifty-Nine in MywalkinManhattan.com):
I had just handed out the next Team Project, “From Revolution to Renewal: Exploring the Historic Bergen County”, a major tourism project I wanted to the students to work on for the remainder of the semester the week before the break. I had the students to break up into groups and get to know one another and get their game plans in order before the Midterm. We had only one class to introduce the project and they set their group chats up and introduced themselves. The next week I gave the Midterm and then left for the Spring Break.
This project had been inspired by a couple of things. One was the fact that many of these students did not know their own County. They knew nothing of its history let alone had ever really explored it. It amazed me how many of them did not know the history of the towns they lived in and if there was a well-known cultural site in the town they lived in they never visited it. A few students said to me when I asked had they visited this or that in their town the answer always seemed to be “well I passed it but never really noticed it.”
Another thing that inspired the project was the Northwest Bergen Historical Coalition. Every year this historical group runs a “History Day” for the historical sites of northwest Bergen County. When I asked a friend who worked for the County why they did not have a weekend with all the sights in Bergen County, she said that it would be too difficult to put together. That was what I needed to hear to put this project together. To prove that it could be done.
It wasn’t just that. Many of the these sites were never visited and some were only open once or twice a year to visitors because their volunteers were getting too old. Many people were not taking these sites seriously in the role they played in not just the formation of the County but the United States. When you really read the history of the people who lived there or what the site meant, it was interesting to see what role it played in the history of Bergen County.
As I said in my previous blog on my Introduction to Business class creating the Ambassador Program, it was a harder go with my Essentials in Marketing class. They were a younger group who did not know much about the history of Bergen County let alone their own towns. I had poised the question many times in class about where they had visited in the County and mentioned many historical sites in towns which they lived in. Only a few had ever visited them or if they had had been way back in elementary school when it was considered part of a school field trip.
This is when I created “From Revolution to Renewal: A Historical Weekend in Bergen County, NJ”. This would be a two day weekend with an opening private cocktail party of the Arts Community and VIP’s followed by a two day tour of all of Bergen County’s historical sites with side trips to our wonderful historical restaurants and a scavenger hunt to wrap it all up.
I had started to arrange a series of field trips that we were going to take over the last week of school and the first week of Spring Break. I had planned a trip to Downtown Hackensack, NJ to see the Courthouse, visit two Dutch Reformed Churches and the cemeteries and then visit White Mana, a very well-known hamburger place that has been around since the 1940’s.
The Bergen County Courthouse, The Green and the Dutch Reformed Church in Downtown Hackensack, NJ
Another field trip that I started to look into was the Aviation Hall of Fame in Teterboro, NJ and then a tasting at Spindler’s Bakery and Lovey’s Pizzeria in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ and then on to Mills Bakery in Wood Ridge, NJ.
I was doing this while running in and out of New York City for the Restaurant Show and a Michigan State University Alumni Night for the Big Ten Championship game against Ohio State University. I was just getting everything organized and then planning a quick trip to visit my mother when all hell broke loose and the government started to shut everything down. From a Wednesday Membership Night at the Met Breuer to a Thursday morning shut down of New York City and all air travel to Europe, the world changed.
Our Spring Break was extended a week to see what the State of New Jersey was going to do with the educational system and with that at the end of the week we were informed that we would not be returning to school. Not only did that mean no field trips it meant no more live class and I would not be seeing my students again. I was not sure how like my other class we were going to pull this project off.
None of my students had visited practically any of these sites or been to any of the restaurants on the project. Almost everything was closed. You could see some of the sites like the churches and memorials from the street but everything inside was closed. Everything would have to be done online.
The one thing I did have was belief in the class that they could do the work. I had been so impressed by their work on the Snack Shop project that I knew they could do the work. It was the intense research that would have to be done online. A crisis is when you see the best in people. I did.
While my other class had a better head start of the Student Ambassador Project, my Historic Bergen County Team had a lot of ingenuity. The one thing they didn’t know was the history of Bergen County, NJ. I could have asked them to visit some of the sites around the County which would not have been hard as the Reformed Dutch churches could be seen from the sidewalks as well as the cemeteries that surrounded them.
Places like the Camp Merrill Memorial and the Baylor Massacre site were open to the public in obscure areas and not in big parks that would have been closed during the pandemic so it would have been no problem visiting them. I did not want to put anyone at risk of anything at this time so I nixed them leaving their homes. I just did not want to be responsible for anyone getting sick.
Once we realized that we were not returning, I started to contact the President and Senior Vice-President of Operations who I chose for the project and started to get underway. Just like my other class, the students all had their own situations. Some students got sick, some just did not communicate with me, some had changes in their family situations and some had communications problems with me. On top of all of this, the Teams of Student Consultants regrouped and really worked their butts off to make it work.
The Talent Team who was responsible for for setting up the salaries and benefits for the three month Division formation had already started doing their work. They had found the location for the office before the break and had a lot of ideas they were contemplating during the break. Since the two Teams of students from Paramus and Lyndhurst would not be meeting up as I had originally planned, I had the Lyndhurst Team develop their own unique plan for their Division of the company.
The Talent Division set up their office design, created a Wrap Up party for the Division, created a set of ‘perks’ for the Division staff and developed a very fair package of benefits for the staff (see their website below).
The Marketing Division I created for the Team Project had the bulk of the work. I broke the Division down into three sections:
The Historical Museums/Parks/Homes & Zoo Division was responsible doing the research on every historic tourist site in the County. This included the historical homes, churches, parks, cemeteries, monuments and the zoo. They had to do the research on each and then for the website put together a small bio on them so that tourists could find them when using the website on their smartphones. This also included a Scavenger Hunt in the buildings that they had never been inside of before.
They also had to set up a cocktail party opening event at The Gallery Bergen, our on campus art gallery at Bergen Community College. The cocktail party was being created for Museum Curators, Historians, members of the Arts Community, Artists and VIP’s from the County.
The second Division was the Historical Restaurant Division whose job it was to find restaurants all over the County that predated 1980. We were looking showcase well-known restaurants with years of longevity in the County that were well-known not just in the community but around the country with foodies. Places like White Mana in Hackensack, NJ and Hirim’s Hot Dogs in Fort Lee, NJ.
The Third Division of the Marketing Team was the History Division whose job it was to research Bergen County’s History from the Lennape Settlements with the Dutch to the Revolutionary War to World War II. Bergen County played such a huge role in all the wars from setting up and training troops to munitions being developed here to battle grounds between the wars.
They were also responsible for researching a list of the ‘first family’s’ of Bergen County. People like the Zabriskie’s, the Demerest’s, the Terhune’s and the Haring’s played a big part not just in the development of Bergen County but in the formation of the United States especially during the Revolutionary War.
The Marketing Division itself was responsible for for creating the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. websites for the client that were eventually merged into one. The Marketing Team would be gathering information from the three Teams that made up the Division and create the site for tourists and residents who were going to attend the three day History Event.
They were also responsible for filming two commercials. One commercial would be on the role of Bergen County in the United States foundation from the Revolutionary War to World War II.
The Team’s commercial on the ‘History of Bergen County’ for “From Revolution to Renewal-A Historical Weekend in Bergen County, NJ”
The second would be inviting people to come to visit Bergen County and all it has to offer:
The Team’s commercial on “Welcoming people to Bergen County, NJ” in many languages for “From Revolution to Renewal-A Historical Weekend in Bergen County, NJ”
This was a very extensive project and I could not wait to come back to school after the break and start the project. When I took my students ‘out into the field’ (ie field trips) to the location, these projects made more sense to the class. The field trips to Paterson, NJ and to the Snack Shop on the Bergen Community College Lyndhurst, NJ campus resulted in extremely creative work and the students being able to see first hand what it was they were marketing. This would be put to the test when we did not return to the college.
I have to say of all my classes, I have never seen a collective of students regroup and get the job done. The Talent Team was very diligent and got their work done on a timely basis. My senior executives for that division lead their Team and created a game plan to get their job accomplished.
It was much harder in our Historical Division in that there was a lot of research to do with each site, restaurant and family that had to be carefully explored and researched in detail. It was not so easy with no access to certain books as all libraries were shut down and not everything was on an Ebook.
Almost all the restaurants on the list were not open at the time of the project (a lot of them have since opened for take out only) and since this was a younger group of students, they did not know a lot of the restaurants that had been opened for years. Here I was able to assist as a CEO and be able to add to the project. With the help of my aunt, who had lived in Bergen County since the 1950’s, we were able to create a list of about thirty five restaurants, candy and ice cream stores and bakeries all over Bergen County that tourists and residents alike would enjoy when they were touring on the Historical Weekend.
Since all the cemeteries and churches were off limits for the duration of the project (they have now started to open), everything had to be done online by the help of Google. All the wonderful historic cemeteries that we were going to tour in Ridgewood, Hackensack, Dumont and Bergenfield were closed to us and I would not be able to show the significance of the families and how they intertwined with marriage.
The Dutch Reformed Church and cemetery on the Green in Hackensack, NJ
It was a rough first two weeks as communication was limited to just campus email but as things like Zoom and WebEx video conferencing started to be introduced then we were raring to go. My students were already group chatting and video conferencing with each other before my training was over and then it was ‘Zooming’ in meetings for the rest of the semester.
Some of my students needed to learn how to time prioritize and some of them needed to take their work much more seriously but when I read their final papers on the project, I realized that was not always so easy.
Some students were taking care of loved ones who were sick or had been sick themselves, some had multiple classes and not much access to computers and had professor’s like myself emailing them all the time so they got over-whelmed. It was a real challenge but I knew this Team of Student Consultants was up for the sense of self-accomplishment.
For the next three weeks before the Monday, April 27th presentation, I have never emailed so many people so many times answering questions, trying to find information and trying to guide people to doing their best work.
One of the attributes I let the students use was my blog site, VisitingaMuseum.com:
This way it would save them time in their research. I had found when I was putting the site together that many of these smaller historical sites in Bergen County did not even have their own websites. We also discovered as a Team that there was no site in the County or in the State that showed off all of Bergen County attributes.
To add to the historical sites and the historical restaurants, I had all the students in both classes do research on every town in Bergen County to add to the website. This way it would tie everything you needed to know about the County with the families, where they lived, who they were, how they played a role in the development of the County, the towns that they lived in and by the way when you are visiting all the great long service restaurants to dine at for the weekend.
All of this was a major challenge as the Team had never put a website together and the one that the mythical client, the New Jersey Historical Guild of Bergen County, had wanted had an interactive map. This all had to be created from scratch.
I am not sure what went on behind the scenes as I was not privy to the Group Chat but I could tell there was a lot of conversation back and forth on everything. I was lucky that I created an Executive Team who saw this as a challenge themselves. Nothing like this had ever been attempted by the County or the State of New Jersey Tourism that I knew of in past history.
On Monday, April 27th at 11:00am, the students presented me their Power Point Presentation and their commercials. If ever there was a Professor that was prouder of his students, it was me. The Team took all the proposed ideas that I came up with plus adding the history of every town in Bergen County (all 70 of them) and came up with a very creative website not just for the Historical Sites, History of the Country and Historic Restaurants but the Talent Division created their own website as well.
The Power Point presentation was attended not just by myself but with other members of the Historical Community of Bergen County and that made the presentation really special that the students would get that feedback.
I have to say that I was totally blown away by not just the Power Point Presentation but by the commercials and the websites that they created. The one thing I knew is that the global pandemic did not stop this Team of students from accomplishing the task.
Both of my classes exceeded and impressed me with all of their ideas. Hats off to all the students involved in both projects. You should be proud of yourselves!
Here is the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. Historical Website of Bergen County, NJ:
The darker days of the Fall have come and it is starting to get dark at 4:30pm in the afternoon. It gets so depressing sometimes. Still this part of the City is dressed up for the Christmas holidays so all is still cheerful with sparking lights and window displays. The hotels and department stores in the neighborhood are in full swing and everyone is getting ready for the holidays.
Putting the Sinterklaas Parade behind me and visits to decorated mansions in New York and New Jersey for my blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com” (if I saw one more house decorated with garland I would have screamed), I was able to concentrate on finishing Central Park South. Even though it is a smaller neighborhood it still takes time to walk these busy streets. There is a lot to see and do in Central Park South. Between admiring the hotels decorated for the holidays and attending a show at Carnegie Hall for Christmas (I love my research), it was a lot of walking around admiring buildings and street art as well as watching the tourists rush around the area. Central Park keeps everyone busy no matter what the temperature.
According to the history of the area, Central Park South has transformed itself over the last fifty years from a fashionable residential area to a commercial neighborhood and now back to fashionable residential area with some of those very same buildings that were turned to office space and now back to expensive condos.
My walk started on a rather cool afternoon in December. I miss those days in December in 2015 when El Nino was affected the weather and it was 60 degrees. It was a cool 40 degrees and rather cloudy. Still it was a brisk day for a walk.
I started to walk the interior streets from the borders from West 55th to West 58th Streets dodging office workers and tourists. The character of the streets changes from Eighth Avenue to Fifth Avenue. The more classic elegant stone townhouses still surround Fifth Avenue whereas by Eighth Avenue and Broadway, new office buildings dominate.
After a morning of working at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen (we had no extra bread in the Extra Bread station), I went to see the early silent horror film, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” at the Museum of Modern Art. It was an interesting film with a lot of twists and makes you aware of who is really crazy in this film. It is interesting to note how this film has held up in almost 90 years. After the movie, I walked out the back door to West 55th Street and started walking.
My start point was West 55th Street, walking under scaffolding all over the place and noticing reminders of the City when it was on the verge of bankruptcy. When I was kid the New York City Center was on the verge of being knocked down and it was a group of artists that saved the complex. The theater at 131 West 55th Street was built in 1923 designed by architect Harry P. Knowles from the firm of Clinton & Russell.
The building was designed in the ‘Neo-Moorish style’ with interesting terra cotta tile work and murals. The building was originally called the “Mecca Temple” and was used by the Shriner’s for their meetings but its purpose changed after the Crash of 1929 and it became City property. Mayor La Guardia turned it into the performing arts center in 1943. Having faced two bouts with demolition in both the 40’s and 70’s, it has now been land-marked in 1984 and is home to Encores Off-Center (Wiki).
Across the street from the City Center, I came across Myzel’s Chocolates at 140 West 55th Street. Now, I have been walking around this area all my life and could not understand how I missed this wonderful little candy shop. It is such a tiny space but packed with lots of character and a lot of delicious candy.
Myzel’s Chocolates at 140 West 55th Street
The shop was opened in 1990 by Kamila Myzel and her mother, Alina and is known for their handmade chocolates and cookies plus an array of licorice, chocolates and decorative gift items. When she opened the shop in 1990, Ms. Myzel was noted in saying “I love any nuts, chocolate with nuts, almond bark and marzipan. My chocolate is good quality for ordinary people.” (NYT 2009).
Kamila Myzel minding the store at Myzel’s Chocolates
This love of her product shows not just in her merchandising (See review on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) but in the customer service she gives. Even though I was only in to look I could see her eyeing me to see what I would buy while she chatted with a customer she knew. I loved the size of the store, which is tiny, in comparison with the ten people squeezed into the space jocking for her attention. I loved the festive atmosphere as the store was decorated for Christmas.
On a more recent trip to Myzel’s Chocolate, the store was decked out for Valentine’s Day and everything was splashed with the color red. It was quiet enough where I could finally sample the delightful treats that they sell. I tried one of her Chocolate Chip cookies that they are well know for ($11.95 a pound) and a chocolate covered Marshmallow ($9.95 a pound) and both were very good.
The chocolate chip cookie was loaded with butter and chocolate chunks and had a crisp body and a nice caramelized sweetness to it. The chocolate covered marshmallow was enrobed in a thick milk chocolate and had a rich sweetness in every bite. I think the marshmallow was freshly made as well.
I was amazed by the amount of Street art that was in the neighborhood. Inside the lobby at 1350 West 55th Street is an unusual sculpture by artist Janaina Tschape, ‘Cut Out Lobby”.
“Cut Out Lobby” by artist Janaina Tschape at 1350 West 55th Street
Artist Janaina Tschape was born in Munich, Germany and has a BA in Fine Arts from Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg, Germany and a MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York. She is known for her various mediums of art including abstracts in painting, drawing, photography, sculpture and video (Artist Bio).
Another interesting piece of art sits on the side of the Ziegfeld Theater in the courtyard but I was not able to get a closer look. It was an abstract work of what looked like a bird in paradise but once the gates come down I will get a closer look.
As I continued down West 55th Street, I almost missed the historical Rockefeller Apartments at 24 West 55th Street that was hiding under that neighborhood scaffolding. The complex was built in 1936 by Rockefeller family architects Wallace Harrison and Andre Fouilhoux and was designed in the ‘International Style” and was noted for changing our perspective in light and air in building design (HMdg.org).
Rockefeller Apartments 24 West 55th Street
At the end of the block on the corner of Fifth Avenue and West 55th Street is the Peninsula Hotel. This elegant hotel was built in 1905 in the Neo-Classic style as the Gotham Hotel and was bought from bankruptcy in 1988 to the Peninsula Group as their New York property.
Christmas at The Peninsula Hotel at 700 Fifth Avenue
I was able to walk for a bit inside the hotel which was lavishly decorated for the Christmas holidays with all sorts of trees, lights and Santa’s. I could barely walk around with all the tourists taking pictures.
The entrance to the Peninsula Hotel at Christmas
The Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church at 7 West 55th Street is across the street from the Peninsula and was also decorated with lights and garland for the holidays. There was music playing inside as mass was going on at that time of the day. The Church had been built in 1875 by architects George B. Post and finished by Carl Pfeiffer. You really have to look up at the elegant details of this church that was designed in the Victorian Gothic design (Wiki).
Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church at 7 West 55th Avenue
On my way back down West 55th Street, I stopped for some lunch at the Star Stage Deli at 101 West 55th Street (see review on TripAdvisor). In all the times I had been in this neighborhood over the years, I had never noticed the restaurant before. It is a little hole in the wall that is a throwback to the restaurants that used to dot Manhattan all through the 70’s and 80’s until they were pushed out for the expensive ‘revolving door’ restaurants that keep opening and closing in the area.
Star Stage Deli at 101 West 55th Street
At first I was going to have a Cheeseburger platter but when I saw the guy behind the counter throw an already cooked burger on the grill I quickly changed my mind and had the Chicken Parmesan and Baked Ziti platter ($8.95) with a Coke because it looked much fresher. It was delicious and I highly recommend it. You got two big pieces of breaded chicken breast in a delicious tomato sauce with several nice sized scoops of baked ziti. The meal could have fed two people and was enough food to re-energize me. There are all sorts of specials that run under $10.00.
When walking back to Eighth Avenue, there is a series of hotels that you will pass all them decorated for the holidays. The Wellington Hotel at 871 Seventh Avenue was decked out for the holidays with lots of white lights and garlands all over the street level Park Cafe windows. This 27 story hotel was built in 1911 and designed by architect Robert T. Lyons. The entrances and facade of the building are done in polished granite and bronze.
On the corner of West 55th Street and Broadway is the Dream Hotel at 210 West 55th Street which was lavishly decorated in and out for Christmas. Garland, trees and lights are all over the exterior of the building making it very festive. The hotel is housed in a series of renovated buildings with the main one on the corner of Broadway which was built in 1895 in the Beaux-Arts style (Dream Hotels Bio).
The Dream Hotel at the corner of Broadway and West 55th Street
At the end of the block is the well known McGee’s Pub at 240 West 55th Street. McGee’s has been known to be the inspiration for MacLarsen’s Bar in the popular CBS sitcom “How I met your Mother”. The restaurant has been around for years and reflects the changes in time by the whole neighborhood begin knocked down around it. It almost reminds me of PJ Clarks on the Westside of Manhattan with a modern skyscraper surrounding it.
At the end of the block before you get to Eighth Avenue, in a small building front is The Original Soup Kitchen at 259 West 55th Street. Here you can order all sorts of freshly made soups for take out on a daily basis. The restaurant is known best from the ‘Seinfeld’ episode on “The Soup Nazi”. It is popular with tourists and locals alike.
The Original Soup Kitchen at 259 West 55th Street
The famous scene from ‘Seinfeld’
The original ‘Soup Nazi”
As I turned onto West 56th Street, I came across another iconic restaurant that I have eaten at many times, Patsy’s at 236 West 56th Street (see reviews on TripAdvisor). I love the food here. The pastas are all freshly made and their Fried Mozzarella is so well prepared and their Mariana sauce is so flavorful. The service is excellent and I always enjoy eating there.
Patsy’s was founded in 1944 by Pasquale “Patsy” Scognamillo and has been in its current location since 1954 serving locals, celebrities and tourists alike. There has only been three chefs at Patsy’s, Patsy himself, his son, Joe and Joe’s son Sal (Patsy’s history).
Patsy’s Restaurant at 236 West 56th Street
The last time I had dinner there before the theater the food was amazing (see my review on TripAdvisor). I had the Mozzarella in Carrozza ($24.00) for two which I finished on my own. It is basically a breaded mozzarella sandwich with their fresh Mariana sauce which were pan-fried perfectly and melted in the middle.
The Mozzarella in Carrozza at Patsy’s is excellent
For the entree I had the Lobster with Linguine Oreganata, which I had seen prepared on the Travel Network and feeling generous to myself at the holidays, I treated myself. It was excellent. Perfectly cooked pasta with almost a half of sweet lobster topped on the dish.
The best part of the evening was that I got to meet Sal, the chef on the way out and I told him about my meal and how I ordered it because of the Travel Network show. Then I added how much I loved the meal. He was so nice and gave me a jar of his Mariana sauce and told me to enjoy it at home. I thought he was a great guy and good businessman.
Chef Sal Scognamillo of Patsy’s Restaurant
On the back part of the City Center is The Writers Room plaque dedicated the writers of Sid Caesar’s “The Show of Shows”. Some of the most famous writers and comedians had worked on this show and went on to their own famous careers.
This plaque is located on the back of The City Center on the West 56th side of the building
In the corridor of The Marlborough Building at 40 West 57th Street which runs to West 56th Street is an exhibition of artist Tom Otteness’s work. Don’t miss this open air art exhibition on the artist’s work.
The Marlborough Building open air exhibition of Tom Otterness works
The artist studied at the Arts League of New York and is well known for his work on public art. He art has graced many parts of New York City including an exhibition of “Tom Otterness on Broadway” which ran from Columbus Circle to 168th Street. Don’t miss this interesting open air exhibition that stretches from West 56th to West 57th Streets.
On the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 55th West and 56th Streets at 881 Seventh Avenue is Carnegie Hall which is all decked out for the holidays. This palace of entertainment was designed by architect William Burnet Tuthill and built by industrialist Andrew Carnegie. It is one of the biggest buildings in New York built entirely of masonry without a steel frame Wiki).
Carnegie Hall at 881 Seventh Avenue at Christmas is beautiful
At the last minute I got the last ticket to “New York Pops with Frank and Ella” on Friday December 20th and off I went to enjoy the concert. It was a really cool night that evening and it was nice to see so many people dressed for the occasion. I even saw a few mink coats out.
I really enjoyed the concert and talk about putting you in the Christmas spirit. I had not been Carnegie Hall since the concert last year. The stage was so tastefully decorated and the New York Pops entertained us first. We started with a round of traditional Christmas songs before the show started and ‘Deck the Halls’ was one of the songs on the schedule.
The New York Pops performing “Deck the Halls”
The concert “A Frank and Ella Christmas” starred Tony DeSare and Capathia Jenkins sang the songs of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Essential Voices USA provided the background singing and backup and they were excellent.
Tony DeSare singing “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
What I love about this concert is one of the events at the holidays I look forward to as it always puts me in the holiday mood. Carnegie Hall is always sold out for both nights of the concerts as I think everyone else feels the way I do.
Last year, the only seat left was on the aisle and Santa himself was standing next me when he entered the concert hall to start the sing a long. For a split second, I really believed. That’s how much this concert puts you in to the proper holiday spirit. What I loved the most about the concert was the sing a long at the end of the concert and I mean everyone sings! It is really something. That’s the wonderful memory I have when I walk past Carnegie Hall.
As I headed back to Eighth Avenue, I passed one of the best McDonald’s (see my reviews on TripAdvisor) in the City at 946 Eighth Avenue on the corner Eighth Avenue and West 55th Street. I have eaten at this McDonald’s so many times in the series of walks for this project that I can’t even count them on my finger. The food here is really good and the service is very quick. When there is no alternative before the movies or theater, this is the go to place for a McDouble or Premium Chicken sandwich.
Sitting at the head of the neighborhood is the Hearst Publishing Building at 300 West 57th Street between West 56th and 57th Streets. This impressive building was built in two stages. The first part of the building was built in 1928 by architect Joseph Urban as the headquarters of Hearst Publications for William Randolph Hearst. The rest of the building was not completed due to the Great Depression (Wiki).
The original part of the building by architect Joseph Urban
The newer part of the building was completed eighty years later and was finished in 2006. This 46 story tower was designed by architect Norman Foster and is designed in triangle grid called a “diagrid” and won many awards as one of New York’s first ‘green buildings’ (Wiki). Look up at this unusual design and the contrasts of the two parts of the building.
The Hearst Tower designed by architect Norman Foster
I rounded West 57th Street and walked past many familiar buildings from crossing the neighborhood but there are many well known restaurants and stores on this block. There is a lot of excitement with the new Nordstrom department store that opened on the corner of Broadway and West 57th Street at 225 West 57th Street.
The store is one of the largest and single project investments in Nordstrom history. There is seven levels of merchandise, six restaurants and an extensive list of services for the customers. The store forms the base of one of the largest residential buildings in the Western Hemisphere and is the combination of old and new. It is the first department store to open in New York City since the 1920’s. With a facade of large windows and lots of natural light you can see the happenings in the store from street level (Nordstrom Press Release).
During the three times I walk through the store is was indeed busy with lots of hipster employees walking around but most were on their cellphones and the customers seemed to be looking around. The restaurants were mostly full the nights I was there but the one thing I did not see was shopping bags leaving the store. I did not see one Nordstrom bag on the streets in the neighborhood. It is going to be interesting to see how the store does during its first Christmas especially with the Lord & Taylor flagship closing on Fifth Avenue and West 38th Street and Barney’s on Madison Avenue.
Further down the street I passed the Osborne Apartments at 205 West 57th Street. These iconic condos were built between 1883-1885 by architect James Edward Ware in a rusticated brownstone outside to the building and an ‘American Renaissance’ in the detailed foyer and public rooms (Wiki). The building is truly one of kind and its apartment structure a time of ‘Gilded Age’.
The elaborate lobby is something to see. It has stuccoed and mosaic tiled floors with use of Italian marble. The walls are covered in glazed terra-cotta panels and the ceilings are covered in different colored hues (Wiki).
The details of the Osborne Apartment’s lobby
Near the Osborne Apartments at 200 West 57th Street at the corner of Seventh Avenue is the Rodin Studio Apartments. This beautifully detailed building was built in 1917 by architect Cass Gilbert, who had designed the Woolworth Building downtown. The building was designed as studios for artists and combination studio/living spaces thus the name Rodin after the artist Auguste Rodin. The building had been the brainchild of a groups of established artists (Daytonian Manhattan).
The Rodin Studios building at 200 West 57th Street
The building, like the Woolworth Building, is designed in ‘white terra-cotta Gothic Revival’ with lots of windows to let in the natural light. You will have to look up from the other side of the street to see the interesting details of the building. The exterior of the building just went through a full renovation.
Another well-known iconic restaurant is located in the neighborhood that has always catered to the theater and business crowd alike, the Russian Tea Room at 150 West 57th Street right next to Carnegie Hall. I have been in this restaurant many times over the years and the renovations twenty years ago made it a little ‘glitzy and over the top’ in design.
The entrance to the Russian Tea Room at 150 West 57th Street
The restaurant had opened in 1927 by a group of Russian Ballet expatriates as a gathering place and it then got the reputation as a place for the entertainment industry to gather for lunch and dinner. The restaurant had a series of owners but when Warner LeRoy bought the restaurant in 1996 and when he closed it he took a very nice elegant restaurant and turned it into another “Tavern on the Green” with garish decor.
The food and atmosphere was never the same both to many New Yorkers, who left it for the tourists and in many meals I have had there in recent history, the last one being in April of 2011 for my father’s birthday/Christmas present one month before he got sick. That evening has special meaning to me now.
In the years that I ate at the restaurant during the holidays in the early 90’s, my brother and I would see celebrities all the time in the other booths. Our last meal there before it closed for renovations in 1996, we sat next to Sylvia Miles, who recently passed away in the summer of 2019. But that night she held court in the restaurant and our attention especially to my brother who kept nudging me that she was there. This was when dining there was a special event and the food was really good. Today you get a ‘watered down’ version of Russian cooking. (I would not recommend it in this blog.)
Many movies were shot there but this scene from Tootsie in 1982 captured the mood of the restaurant in the 1980’s.
One of the funniest scenes of a movie shot in the Russian Tea Room from the movie “Tootsie” in 1982
There was more interesting apartment buildings to see in the neighborhood another located at 130 West 57th Street. This elegant building was built between 1907-08 by architects Pollard & Steinam in the ‘Art Deco style”. This building was also created as artists studios/residences when this was a creative residential district.
130 West 57th Street
At the end of the block, I revisited Bergdorf Goodman at 754 Fifth Avenue that runs from West 57th to 58th Streets opposite of the Plaza Hotel. This palace of luxury was founded in 1899 by Herman Bergdorf and later owned by Edward Goodman. The store when you look at it was designed as a series of buildings that could have been broken into shops had the business not done well. During the Depression, the store thrived and Edward Goodman bought up the remaining parts of the building to reconfigure the store into its present form (Wiki).
The Palace of Luxury Bergdorf Goodman at 754 Fifth Avenue is fun to visit
It is a fun way to spend the afternoon taking the escalator to the various floors and look at how the clothes are displayed and examine the beautiful jewelry and handbags. It also had one of the nicest perfume departments in the county with items found no where else in the United States. Having worked there in 2004, I found it a unique experience to my retailing career and I still enjoy talking to James, the doorman who works there.
The new Jewelry Salon at Bergdorf-Goodman
Right down the road from Bergdorf-Goodman at 35 West 57th Street is the loneliest looking stone mansion that new houses a deli. This magnificent mansion is the Schieffelin-Bowne Mansion that was built in 1891 by Margaret Vanderbilt Shepard for her daughter, Maria Louise Vanderbilt Shepard for her marriage to William Jay Schieffelin, a member of a drug manufacturing family and the grandson of John Jay, the first Chief Justice. The house was a few steps from the large mansion of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, which was one the location of Bergdorf-Goodman (Daytonian 2012).
The Vanderbilt Mansion at 35 West 57th Street sits lonely now
The house was sold to millionaire Samuel Bowne in 1898 when the Schieffelin’s moved to East 66th Street. Mr. Bowne suffered a stoke around 1909 and died a year later. His widow sold the house and moved to Florida and died in 1930. Since 1930, the mansion has been used for commercial purposes and sits next to a construction site as a sad reminder of how fashionable the neighborhood was once (Daytonian 2012). It could used a good cleaning.
At 57 West 57 Street on the corner of West 57th and Seventh Avenue is a beautiful Art Deco office/apartment building that was built in 1928. The building has interesting details from the gilded facial imagines on the cornices to the marble front and lobby inside. Really look at the artwork carved into the outside of the building. Der Scott, the architect of Trump Tower renovated the building in 1988 and added many of the details to the building.
57 West 57th Street is a gilded Art Deco Building
Another beautiful building at 123 West 57th Street #3 is the Calvary Baptist Church which stands guard amongst its more modern neighbors. This interesting church is an example of a ‘skyrise church’ as it is a sixteen story building. It was built in 1929 by architects Jardine, Hall & Murdock and the building was dedicated in 1931 (Wiki). Take a look up at the stone carvings and intricate design of the stone work.
I started my third afternoon in the neighborhood back at the Turnstyle Underground Market at 1000S 8th Avenue which is in the subway station under the Time Warner Building. This surprising little food court has some innovative and very reasonable restaurants. Last time I ate here was at Daa! Dumplings, the Russian dumpling restaurant and this time I ate at Champion Pizza at the end of the court after eyeing a Mac & Cheese Pizza in the display window.
Champion Pizza in the Turnstyle Underground Food Court
After deciding on that and a Coke (see Review on TripAdvisor), I sat down at one of the busy tables with high school students and tourist staring into their phones. The pizza was delicious and tasted like Kraft Mac & Cheese topped with mozzarella on the top. After my lunch, I was ready for a long walk.
I rounded the corner and entered the more commercial West 58th Street in the early afternoon. This is an interesting block as you head past Seventh Avenue the street is lined with the back of the New York Athletic Club, the Park Lane Hotel and the Plaza Hotel.
One of the more interesting buildings is the Central Park Mews at 117 West 58th Street. This interesting brick apartment building was built in 1900 and show a lot of character with its marble and brick facade. Look at the stone details around the building and interesting windows towards the top.
Central Park Mews at 117 West 58th Street really stands out
At the end of West 58th Street towards Bergdorf-Goodman is the now closed Paris Theater at 4 West 58th Street, which was once a major art movie theater and noted for its edgy releases. Now Netflix has reopened it for their releases to the public before they start screening films on TV. The 71 year old theater is seeing new life and a lot of new patrons (NYTimes 2019). The theater is the last single screen theater in New York City.
The Paris Theater at 4 West 58th Street is now leased by Netflix
Just outside theater and in front of 9 West 58th Street, the Solow Building, is an unusual and very strange statue standing guard on the street. This is “Moonbird” by artist Joan Miro. This strange fourteen foot abstract sculpture had replaced an Alexander Calder sculpture that had been once stood here.
‘Moonbird’ by Joan Miro from 1966 in front of the Solow Building
The sculpture was created in smaller forms in 1966 and was noted as having a cosmic connection to nature. The sculpture was derived from a connection the artist had in the world of birds and the terrestrial and celestial worlds (Artworld 1988).
Joan Miro was a Spanish born painter, sculptor and ceramicist whose art gravitated towards Surrealism, whose goal it is to liberate thought, language and human experience from the boundaries of rationalism (Artworld). The artist had studied at the Cerle Artistic de Sant Lluc and held is first solo show in 1918 (Wiki).
When crossing the street into the Plaza Hotel and know the hotel of its heyday, it is a much smaller and more compact hotel. When enter from the back of the Plaza Hotel you will come across The Shops at the Plaza Hotel and the Plaza Hotel Food Hall inside the basement area of the hotel at Central Park South and Fifth Avenue.
There is a selection of expensive stores and small restaurants inside the Food Hall. You can choose from bakery items, Chinese, Italian and sandwiches. The Shops has an exclusive Plaza boutique and an Eloise shop that even has a tea room for children’s tea parties. There is a nice selection places to visit if money is not the object.
The Shops at the Plaza Hotel and the Plaza Hotel Food Hall are interesting to visit
When exiting the back of the Plaza Hotel, you will see the service areas and backs of some of the most famous hotels facing Central Park. As you head back down West 58th Street, there are two side by side buildings you might miss under all the scaffolding all over the block.
Tucked behind scaffolding is 213 West 58th Street, now the Unity Center of New York but when it was built was the stables/garage of Helen Gould Miller. The structure was built in 1910 by architects York & Sawyer in the ‘French Renaissance style’ for the daughter of financier Jay Gould. This was the home of her carriages and then cars with apartments for the coachman and then chauffeur. Even in the shadows of all the construction you can see the detailed stone work and carved details of the building.
213 West 58th Street, The Helen Gould Miller Stables
Next door at 215 West 58th Street is Engine 23, “The Lion’s Den” a FDNY Firehouse that was established on October 6th, 1865 as one of the oldest companies in New York City and two months after the department became paid. The original company had been established in 1810 as Equitable Company 36 then as Harry Howard Volunteer Company named after the Department Chief Engineer.
Engine 23 at 215 West 58th Street “The Lion’s Den”
The building was designed by architect Alexander H. Stevens between 1905-06 in the ‘Beaux Arts style’ (New York YIMPY).
Engine 23, “The Lion’s Den”
I ended the walk at the Museum of Art & Design at 2 Columbus Circle on the very edge of the neighborhood. This unique museum I have written about many times in my VisitingaMuseum.com site. The museum was opened in 1956 to celebrate American craftsmanship and in it’s current incarnation established at its present site in 2008, the museum studies the art and design process dealing with many art forms including movies, music, painting, jewelry and clothing & textiles (See my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com)
The Museum of Art & Design at 2 Columbus Circle on the very edge of Central Park South
I went to a walking tour of the museum highlights and then visited the Anna Sui exhibition of her clothing, accessories and cosmetics. Her clothing is an interesting art form itself with each season it gets more interesting.
Designer Anna Sui
The collections of Anna Sui at the Museum of Art & Design at 2 Columbus Circle
The walk of the neighborhood ended with dinner at China Gourmet, a tiny hole in the wall restaurant at 877 8th Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor) that I had passed walking up to the neighborhood. This is a big restaurant with the office workers in the area and had been packed for lunch. I had a Sweet & Sour Pork combination platter with an egg roll and Coke ($10.95).
China Gourmet at 877 8th Avenue is in Hell’s Kitchen
Even though the portion size was large and the food fresh it tasted like the wok had not been cleaned or the oil was old. The meal was okay but still the place bustled and the most interesting characters walked in and out of the restaurant. There was no lack of entertainment in the customers here at 9:00pm at night.
To end the evening, I went to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree which was surprisingly still up on January 8th. Much less crowded than the week before, I was able to walk around the rink and watch the skaters and admire the tree from afar with the gaping tourists taking ‘selfies’ all over the place. I will tell you that tourists spend more time in Manhattan taking pictures than actually admiring what is around them. That is such a pity as I think you miss more if you don’t actually look at what is surrounding you as you walk around.
All the interesting buildings in the neighborhood I have mentioned by address and you should take the time to really look up at these beautiful structures. There are coming down too fast to make way for new things.