There are just some restaurants and shops that are institutions in their neighborhoods and the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is one of them. I have been coming to the store since the 1990’s when I fell in love with their Lychee and Fortune Cookie Ice Creams. What I have loved about the flavors here is that they follow a Chinese-American theme with flavors based on fruits and desserts popular here in the states.
The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory logo
Since the first time I ate there, I have tried their Almond Cookie, Banana, Mango and Passion Fruit flavors over the years along with some of their seasonal flavors like Pineapple and Strawberry. Since then they have added flavors like Durian, Black Sesame, Green…
I have stopped in at the Hotel Chocolat a few of times over the last couple of months and have found that the store has the most amazing candies, chocolates and ice cream creations. The store had been closed during the COVID pandemic but reopened with a nice manager with a big smile and hearty greeting. I have never been so warmly welcomed to a store before.
I had been staying in Manhattan over the Spring Break, working on updating my blog on ‘Midtown East’ for my sister site “MywalkinManhattan.com” and revisited the store again. There were all sorts of beautifully boxed chocolates for sale for the upcoming Easter holidays as well as every day candies.
The candies here are creatively made and packaged with all sorts…
With classes being over and having the Summer Break ahead of me, I thought it was time to start exploring more of the Hudson River Valley region and continue my walk around the City. Instead of heading deeper Downtown into the Flatiron District, I also decided start exploring more of the West Side and started in Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton (Days One Hundred and Ninety Ninety-Six and Ninety Seven).
In the middle of exploring the neighborhood, I had an opportunity to leave the City and head upstate to see the Lindsey Webster Band perform at the Bearsville Theater on Saturday, May 22nd. I have written about seeing the band perform at the Woodstock Christmas Parade years ago when I used to spend Christmas in Woodstock from 2014-2017. When I saw the band in concert in December of 2014, I had not realized how huge the second album was going to be and a number one hit would come from it. It was nice to see the band in the very beginning when it was getting well known.
The concert was at the Bearsville Theater at 291 Tinker Street in Woodstock, NY, which again I had not been to since the concert in 2014 and that was a very low key but lively concert.
Somehow I got to Hyde Park where I was spending the night, which is my headquarters in the Hudson River Valley when I am visiting the area very quickly. I checked in and dropped my bags off at the hotel before I drove to Woodstock which is about a half hour away over the bridge.
Since I had time before the concert started, I decided to stop at The Little Bear at 295 Tinker Street B, a Chinese restaurant within the complex for some dinner (see review on TripAdvisor). I have been many times when I have been up for a visit during Christmas and the food has gotten more uneven over the years since my first time.
The Little Bear Chinese Restaurant at 295 Tinker Street
The window seats at The Little Bear are the best for views of the woods and stream
I started my meal with the Fried Dumplings and they were fried. They tasted as if someone had deep fried them. They were crisp! They still tasted good but they were really well-done. The Lemon Chicken had a nice sauce but again the chicken breasts were over cooked. The Lemon Sauce was delicious and tasted really good. The Mixed Fried rice was the best part of the meal. It was loaded with all sorts of meats, seafood and vegetables and they make it so good.
The Fried Dumplings at Little Bear
The biggest problem that I have with Little Bear as a restaurant (see review on TripAdvisor) is the service. The family who runs the restaurant always seem so overwhelmed. At Christmas time, it was one of two restaurants that were open in Woodstock and the surrounding areas so it was mobbed and the phone would not stop ringing with take out orders. It was chaos! The people that run the restaurant are really nice but it gets to be too much for them when it is busy.
The Fried Rice at The Little Bear was the best part of the meal
After dinner, put the leftover fried rice in the car and headed over to the concert. This is when the State of New York needs to get their protocols together. I had to take a COVID test to go inside the building because I did not have my vaccine card on me. So I had to spend another $15.00 to be tested (negative of course) again. Thank God I have had all my vaccine shots. The concert started late because a lot of people had to take the test. Still it was worth it as the concert was excellent and the best part was that no one had to wear a mask.
The concert was of course excellent! I had not seen the band play live since 2014 and a lot of good things have happened to them since including a number one song. This is not the concert from that night but the songs you can enjoy just the same.
The Concert has not yet made it to YouTube but this concert from Daryl’s House is close:
The Lindsey Webster Band
What made the concert so special to all of us was not just the excellent vocals and music but it was the first time everyone was allowed to the Bearsville Theater without masks. It was nice to see people dancing and just enjoying themselves. It had been such a long time for everyone. It makes you appreciate life more.
The drive from Woodstock to Hyde Park was not that long and I got one of the best nights sleep in a long time. The hotel was so relaxing after a long drive. What I love about staying up in the Hudson River Valley is the quiet of it all. That and people do not seem that much of a rush (unless you get those City visitors).
The next day I started to explore the surrounding area and visit the small towns that make up the character of the Hudson River Valley. There has been much talk about the “Brooklynization” of the Hudson River Valley and I wanted to see those changes. In retrospect of the towns I visited, it depends on a couple of things: how close is the town to a train station to the City, how closed it is to Route 9, the corridor on both sides of the Hudson and how close to a college is the town.
What I like about so many of these towns is that the classic turn of the last century architecture that makes up the character of these towns. Also how carefully the new owners go to renovating these buildings back to their former glory. Town by town a lot of work has been done to refit these buildings and bring life back to downtowns that may have been forgotten by tourism.
My first stop was Rhinebeck, NY just above Hyde Park about a half hour up Route 9 depending on how fast you drive. Rhinebeck has changed a lot from I went to the Culinary Institute of America in the late 1990’s. It has transformed from a town of local stores and restaurants to a high end town of more expensive stores and restaurants. A lot of the mom & pop stores I remembered and galleries in the first wave of development are now gone. Still it is a very vibrant town with lots of activities.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY is always fun to walk around in
I love to walk around the town and admire the stores. There is such a nice collection of businesses that cater to every taste. I still have my favorites that have been around for a long time and are staples in Downtown Rhinebeck. Many of these can be found on my websites:
The stores I love to visit are Pause Dog Boutique at 6423 Montgomery Street Suite 3 in the Montgomery Row Shopping Complex. This store formerly of Red Hook carries all sorts of pet products to pamper your pooch with from collars to snacks (see my review on LittleShopOnMainStreet@Wordpress.com). There is a unique merchandising approach to their items that showcases all the things that your dog could desire.
Pause Dog Boutique at 6423 Montgomery Street Suite 3
Another great store I love to visit is Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street, a wonderful little candy and dessert store (see my reviews on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). I love the way they merchandise the store with all sorts of colors and displays. When I was walking around the store, admiring the shelves of candies and sweets, I eyed a glazed doughnut under one of the glass domes ($2.00) and had to have one. God with was soft, chewy and had a nice sugary glaze. Talk about waking you up!
I walked the Farmer’s Market which is held in the municipal parking lot and I have to say that their wares are much more expensive than the surrounding towns. When a pastry is $5.00 or homemade soap or jelly is over $10.00 you are pricing yourself out of the local market. When I used to stop at the Farmer’s Market in Hyde Park, NY, the prices of everything were very fair. I guess post COVID people are trying to make their money back.
After finishing my walk around Rhinebeck, I drove further north to Red Hook, NY which is a quaint little downtown that I love. What I enjoy about the town of Red Hook is that it is not geared towards tourists as opposed it is a place that locals do their shopping. On a Sunday afternoon, it is really quiet as by the late afternoon a lot of things are closed.
Downtown Red Hook, NY
Check out my blog on Exploring Downtown Red Hook for more information on the town:
One store that was open and I was able to visit was Petals & Moss at 6 East Market Street. This wonderful little flower shop treats its plants and flowers with such respect and they are merchandised like a piece of art. I was talking with the owner and she said that even though she goes into the flower markets to buy things, when in season she will grow flowers in her own year for the store.
Another store I love to visit and it is such a whimsical and well decorated place is Little Pickles at 7505 North Broadway. This delightful little toy and clothing store has everything a child could desire from jars of candy and balloons to wooden toy and experiments to clothing and shoes all in a playhouse environment. It is what you would expect a toy store catering to the Lilliputian set to look like.
Some of my other favorites such as Equis Gallery and Village Pizza III were closed that day but I was able to have another snack at Annabelle’s Village Bake Shop at 7501 North Broadway (right next door to Little Pickles) and I had a jelly doughnut that said to me “buy me”! They know how to make a good doughnut. The jelly was so tangy and the doughnut was soft and fresh. The store has that classic bakery look almost like you are visiting an old General Store.
Annabelle’s Village Bake Shop at 7501 North Broadway
Since a lot of the stores and restaurants were closed that Sunday morning, I headed up Route 9 to Tivoli, NY. Tivoli has a very small but quaint downtown in the middle of an area with large farms. Since visiting a few years ago, more restaurants and shops have opened and there is a good arts representation with the Tivoli Artists Gallery at 60 Broadway.
In the last three years, I have seen a change in the quality of the restaurants and again they have gotten pricey. Creative but pricey. I ate lunch at a local restaurant, Tivoli Broadway Pizza at 49 Broadway. The pizza and the service were really good and it was nice to sit back and relax and read the local paper.
What I love about Tivoli is the charm of the village. It is such a nice little town to walk around and just admire the farms and the woods. You can walk the downtown quickly but it is fun to take your time and let it all soak in.
After leaving Tivoli, it was time to cross the river at the Kingston Bridge and explore the other side of the river. I have written about Kingston , NY many times over the years so it was time to explore other towns. I headed up Route 9 for my next destination, Catskill, NY.
Catskill, NY on the other side of the Hudson River. I had only driven through Catskill about seven years ago when I explored the towns surrounding Rhinebeck and it was the other side of the river that I visited. Downtown Catskill is pretty amazing when it comes to architecture and I can tell that other people think so as well as all the buildings seemed to being snatched up and renovated.
Downtown Catskill, NY
Most of the businesses in Downtown Catskills were closed on a sunday with the exception of a few gift stores and a couple of restaurants. Even walking around the downtown after crossing the bridge there were maybe a handful of people.
The downtown is absolutely beautiful and it was interesting that the urban renewal that hit so many of these towns in the late 60’s and early 70’s did not come to Catskill so all the 19th and early 20th century architecture still dominates the main street.
Weaving in and out of a lot of the stores and provision shops I was most impressed by Cat on the Corner, a tiny store dedicated to everything cats at 362 Main Street. I was impressed by the variety of merchandise starting with items for everyone’s favorite feline to gifts and decorative items for the home.
Among all the objects I found was a magnetic with a lot of dirty words on it that I had to get for my mom (who loves cats) and to spend the $10.00 credit card minimum, I also got her a cat cookie by a local baker from the area, which I thought was really cleaver. She ended up loving both. What I also like about the business is that the owner was helping a lot of small women owned cottage businesses with their wares and I found that good business.
These clever cookies are baked locally
Another business that stood out to me was a Left Bank Ciders at 150 Water Street. What made me walk into the Tap Room was the sign and location. It was down a alleyway and then tucked into an above ground basement area. The inside of the Tap Room was exposed walls and ceilings. The selection of ciders looked terrific as well.
Left Bank Ciders at 150 Water Street’s Tap Room here is so unique
After walking the entire downtown both sides and the local park plus the entire other side of the creek area, I just relaxed by the car. I can tell they are starting to renovate the other side of the creek as well as some of the homes. It will take time to bring life back to this part of the neighborhood.
My last stop was Saugerties, NY, a quirky little downtown right by the Hudson River and again another downtown with a lot of charm and interesting architecture. It had not changed much since I visited and had lunch here seven years ago. The prices of everything have gone up significantly though over the years.
Downtown Saugerties has a interesting vibe
I drove through the downtown last when I went up to Cooperstown, NY back in October for my birthday and saw that there had been changes in several of the buildings. After my trip to Catskill, I made this my final stop of the day.
Before I stopped in downtown to walk around, I made a detour to see the Saugerties Lighthouse at 168 Lighthouse Drive, which I had always seen signs for but never stopped to see. It is nice when you have the time on your hands to detour to all these special places.
I have to say it was a drive off the main road of Route 9 down several hills and winding roads. When you come to the small parking lot, there is not a lot of space to park on a busy day but it was the late afternoon when I got here so it was quiet.
The pathway to the lighthouse is surrounded by woods and flowers and a few streams so in the Spring and Summer months, it is very beautiful to walk down the path. Many flowers were in bloom and it was very colorful. You have to stay on the path though as there is water everywhere.
The lighthouse sits on the end of the path with a small dock on one side and a small beach at low tide. I did not realize that it is being used as a B & B and you should check out the Friends website for details if you want to stay there. The lighthouse was built in 1869 and was decommissioned in 1954. It is an elegant old building with the Hudson River in the backdrop which makes it very impressive. (There are tours available by appointment). After my tour around the lighthouse and park, it was back to downtown.
A slice of pizza at Slices at 71 Partition Street went up to almost $4.00 and an ice cream cone at several places will set you back over $5.00. I know these things are gourmet but not when they are more than New York City prices. The rents must have really gone up over the years. Even my favorite restaurant, Miss Lucy’s Kitchen at 90 Partition Street was more than I remember. Their food was mind-blowing the last time I ate there years ago.
Miss Lucy’s Kitchen at 91 Partition Street was a favorite of mine years ago
I was able to walk the entire downtown and it was also slowly changing as well as buildings were being renovated all over the downtown and homes were getting a facelift. I had never seen so many potted plants and wreaths on doors. A younger crowd was moving downtown with many bars opening and an increase in nightlife that I did not remember on my last few visits.
Before I left that evening, I took a walk down by the river to the Saugerties Village Beach Park at 47 South Partition Street and watched all the kids running around the park and some people actually taking a dip in the water (I thought it was too early). It was so nice to watch the sun shine and sit back under a tree and just watch the world go by. It is such a relaxing park.
Saugerties Village Beach Park at 47 South Partition Street is a the bottom the downtown area
Don’t miss taking a trip to any of these small towns lining the Hudson River. COVID has driven people out of the City and it has brought a new vibe and built on improvements made to these once small manufacturing and shipping towns. New restaurants, art galleries and stores have brought not just new customers but new ideas on ways to reach customers. It is so nice the times of good service and a friendly local atmosphere have not given way in the Amazon era.
There is still a relaxed and creative buzz to these towns that was always there but now being added to with new members of the community. COVID did not kill this spirit in the Hudson River Valley.
*Bloggers Note: In fairness to stores, restaurants and parks I visited on my journey are mentioned below. The others I have added their links so that you all can choose the places you want to go. I will keep adding to this blog with more small towns.
The Creation of the Case Study “Scoops & Sundaes”:
Every semester when I am teaching “Introduction to Business 101” at Bergen Community College, I have my class create a major class project in which the whole class becomes part of an Executive team of a mythical company. This way the class benefits from getting to know one another and starting to form their connections with each other both professionally and as a student body.
In the past we created Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc., my main company that I have used for the last three semesters, Orion Malls Inc., a Mall design firm and Buscomonzefi.com, my Tech company. Each was an example of how a business team needs to interact with one another and create their part of the business. It has been tough since we took our live classes to online classes so I refigured the project to an individual basis and asked each student to create one project from their standpoint.
The Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. corporate logo
Professor Justin Watrel, CEO Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.
I had the class work on their project “Scoops & Sundaes”, an artisan ice cream shop. While my other class worked on their business project “Mother Goose’s Toy Chest” (See Day One Hundred and Ninety Six), the members of this class created an interesting shop many carrying homemade ice cream, baked items and gift products.
Day One Hundred and Ninety Six-“Mother Goose’s Toy Chest”
Using the textbook “Understanding Business” by William Nickels and James and Susan McHugh as our guide, we covered chapter by chapter on how to build a small business. Each student was asked to create their own store concept by reading Chapter Five “How to Form a Business” and Chapter Six “Entrepreneurship and Starting a Small Business”. We started the project when I assigned the concept and the first extra credit project by creating the logo for the store.
Here is some of the creativity of the logo’s for the store:
Logo One: “Scoops & Sundaes”
Logo Two: “Scoops & Sundaes”
Logo Three: “Scoops & Sundaes”
Logo Four: “Scoops & Sundaes”
Logo Five: “Scoops & Sundaes”
When we studied Chapter Seven “Management & Leadership” I had them create their Mission Statement to tell me who they were as a store owner and as a company. We then studied Chapter Eight “Structuring Organizations for Today’s Challenges” and Chapter Nine “Production and Operations Management”, I had them design their store layout and how they would show how it would work.
Store Design: “Scoops & Sundaes”
I gave a long lecture on Chapter Ten “Motivating Employees” and Chapter Eleven “Human Resources” to help the students understand that they can’t do it all themselves. There will be a point in the business where they will need to hire a few part timers for the Summer and Christmas holidays months when things get busy. Who are they looking for? What characteristics do they want in an employee? This lead to me asking them to create an ad for a Job Description. Looking for the perfect employee can be tough.
In Chapter Fourteen “Developing and Pricing Goods and Services”, I had the students think about promotions and how to sell multiples to help increase the bottom line and then in Chapter Sixteen “Using Effective Promotions”, when we studied ‘word of mouth’ and ‘sampling’ I had the students work on a Bundling Ad top promote their goods for sale as a promotion. This helped them understand how to increase sales in a tough COVID economy. I also had create a menu for their store as well. How will you stock your store and with what items?
Some of the menus they created were very clever:
The prototype for Menu One: “Scoops & Sundaes”
Menu Two: “Scoops & Sundaes”
Menu Three: “Scoops & Sundaes”
Some of the promotions for the “Bundling of Products” were highly effective. I had to explain to the students that Bundling is taking different products and promoting them a certain price point to make them seem more cost effective to buy in a grouping as McDonald’s does with their “Extra Value Meals”. Try to imagine if you had to buy the products on an individual basis.
Their ideas were very clever.
Bundling Ad for “Scoops & Sundaes”
The students earned extra credit for creating their Logos , The Mission Statement, their Menu, the Store Design, A Job Description and a Bundling Ad. Some students took full advantage of the project and the extra credit and it resulted in good grades.
To finish the project, I assigned their final two papers to discuss how they developed the project and then what they learned from it. For the most part the class understood and had a good time building their business.
Who knows, we may see a “Scoops & Sundaes” chain in the future.
Here is the supporting work for the project:
The Class Participation Questions to help build the project “Scoops & Sundaes”:
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…