Category Archives: exploring Chelsea

Lions & Tigers & Squares 268 West 23rd Street New York, NY 10011

In honor of Small Business Saturday, I am featuring wonderful restaurants that are reasonable in New York City.

Lions & Tigers & Squares Pizza

Square Detroit style pizza

Dining on a Shoe String in NYC

Lions & Tigers & Squares

268 West 23rd Street

New York, NY  10011

(917) 271-6772

http://www.lionsandtigersandsquares.com

Open: Sunday-Saturday-11:00am-4:00am

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d14124878-Reviews-Lions_Tigers_Squares_Detroit_Pizza-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

This new pizzeria opened in the heart of Chelsea in Manhattan that specializes in ‘Detroit style’ pizza, which is a type of Sicilian pizza that is baked in a deep dish with the cheese baked right into the sides of the pizza producing a caramelized edge to the pizza. Having gone to college at Michigan State University, I was introduced this this type of pizza at a restaurant named “Dooley’s” in the mid-Eighties. It’s nice to see it come to New York City.

Lion’s & Tiger’s (Named after two sports teams in Michigan) & Squares, a very clever ring in the fact that the pizza is cooked in a square pan in a pizza oven. These wonderful deep-dish pizzas are offered with a limited amount of toppings such as pepperoni, sausage…

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The NYC Fancy Food Show

Day One Hundred and Forty-One: Visiting the NYC Fancy Food Show June 23rd & 24th, 2019

Every year the Fancy Food Industry holds one of the most innovative events in New York City, the Annual Fancy Food Show at the Javis Center every June. This amazing show shows the industry the newest and latest products that are coming onto the market, old favorites that get new packaging or new flavors, the latest in food trends, cooking classes that introduce a product in a whole new way and products from abroad that are looking for distribution in the States. I found the most interesting products at the show and it was nice to see some of the old standbys that I have been sampling since my first show back in 2004.

Fancy Food Show 2019

https://www.specialtyfood.com/shows-events/summer-fancy-food-show/

I have learned over the years that this is NOT the place to over eat and is not lunch. It can be extremely over-whelming if you sample everything in the first row and then realize that you have about 100 more rows to visit. Don’t overdo it on the cheese and chocolate the first day of the show or you will feel it by 5:00pm. I have learned to pace myself and take notes about what I saw. I also like to see what the products are in the foreign pavilions because they have the most interesting packaging and the representatives are usually bored.

I have also learned that you will get pushed out of the way for a vendor to talk to a Whole Foods buyer even if you are having a nice conversation about their product. Business is business and many of these people are looking for someone to distribute a product that probably is already represented in the food market in the States by a dozen other vendors. It took two days of walking, sampling and talking but there were many standouts at the show that I would like to share with everyone.

I got to the show on Sunday by 10:00am and the Javis Center was just starting to get crowded so people were more willing to talk. Some representatives and sales people looked so bored that no one went to visit them if their product looked interesting I would walk over and talk to them. I had some really nice conversations at the show and learned a lot of the new developments in the fancy food industry.

My first day at the show I covered most of the first level where it seemed that the most popular vendors were placed and got the most traffic. It is also where most of the County Pavilions were placed so I got a chance to visit them with some peace and quiet. Most of the visitors and buyers ran through the foreign pavilions but I had fun checking out all the new products and talking to all their salespeople.

Most of the foreign pavilions were manned by one or two people and it looked to me that unless they already had connections in this country many were sitting at their booths checking their computers or emails. This went on with pretty much all the foreign pavilions with the exception of the Canadian where everyone was out sampling their products and stopping passers by. It is tough for a lot of these manufacturers as they are looking for distribution.

My first stop was at the Japanese Pavilion where I stopped at various booths to look at the packaging of products and sample items that I had not seen before. A few unique things popped out at me.

The Meiji America Inc. featured a whole line of desserts and snacks including a product call Chocorooms which are butter cookie in the shape of mushroom covered with chocolate where the top of the mushroom would be.  They also carried a crunchy chocolate snack called ‘Hello Panda’ which is a crisp butter cookie filled with chocolate with a playful panda printed on the top of it. Perfect for those little kids that like something catered to them.

https://www.meiji.com/global/

Meiji Foods.jpg

Chocorooms Cookies

The Ginbis Company of Japan was showing a line of snacks that I thought was quite interesting. One product that was delicious the Shimi Choco Corn which was star shaped corn snacks in both vanilla and chocolate. Another was rather odd but really worked was the Black Sesame Biscuits which were mini asparagus shaped snacks that were studded with sesame seeds.

Ginbis Cookies II.jpg

Ginbis Cookie snacks

https://www.candysan.com/manufacturer.php?id_lang=1

Another product that I think will be popular is their Dream Animal cookies which are a Japanese version of animal crackers. These delightful little butter flavored biscuits are in the shape of animals with the names of the animals printed on the cookies in English. Very cleaver for the child who is learning their ABC’s. Their snacks were sweet and savory.

Ginbis Cookies.jpg

Ginbis Animal Crackers

The EIWA America Inc. headquartered in Japan has the license for Sanrio Company’s Hello Kitty line of marshmellows including one that was filled with chocolate which are called smores mellows. They also come flavored in strawberry, mango, pineapple and matcha.

https://www.eiwa-net.co.jp/english/

In the South Korea Pavilion, there were a couple of standouts that were featured. Plado Company  featured a children’s drink that I thought was nicely packaged but a little on the sweet side. It was a strawberry juice fruit drink for kids called Poro Aazz that featured a cartoon duck on the outside. The bottle was playful and I could see children loving it. The flavors come in milky, apple, tropical, green grape and mango. They also have a line of seaweed snacks and noodle cup soups.

Paldo Company drinks

These unique drinks will be popular with little children

A product that stood out at the South Korean Pavilion was by Bibigo with their Gochujang Hot Sauce that had many layers of spiciness. This sauce really lasts with you.

http://www.bibigo.com/

The Pureplus Company featured a line of kids yogurt/coco drinks that had many Japanese cartoon characters on the outside. These types of drinks were really on the sweet side catering to a child with a developing taste bud. These drinks were also quite rich.

https://www.wabel.com/c/pure_plus_co_ltd

The next Asian Pavilion I visited was the Thailand  Pavilion and they had more  food lines to cater to all age groups. The Sun Yang Food Company were showing several food items that I thought were interesting. They created a line called Ten Jang which are a line of seasoned fish snacks that I am not sure would appeal to a mass audience but the snacks in barbecue and chili would find their way to kids who like a spicy snack, They also offer the line in Chicken and Squid. Their line of rice crackers called “Mochi Max” has some interesting flavors such as pizza, satay and wasabi.

Sun Yang Fish Snacks.jpg

http://www.sunyangfood.com/

The Srinanaporn Marketing Public Company Limited also offered a few noteworthy beverage lines that I thought might appeal to the child who has a sweet tooth. They had a refreshing line of drinks named ‘Uzu’, which is a white grape juice drink flavored with strawberry, Lychee and Orange. The lychee was thirst quenching and just the right amount of sweetness.

https://www.snnp.co.th/

Leaving the Asian booths I walked next to the Egyptian Pavilion to see what food products they were showing at the show. One standout was the Shanawany Group’s line called ‘Delta Sweets” which carried an assortment of candies and crackers. One of the standouts was the Caramel bites, another being a mildly sweet line of Strawberry Wafers and a delicious Chocolate Wafer line called “Chocolatoo”.

Another vendor that stood out amongst the rest was the Elvan Company who carried a line of snack cakes. They offered an interesting sponge cake line that almost looked like a ‘Twinkie’  but not as sweet. The line called ‘CakeTime’ came in both a chocolate and vanilla flavor and had a very nice taste to them. The ‘CakeTime’ Donut line looked really good as well but unfortunately they did not have the samples with them. Their snack cakes were just a step below in sweetness than a traditional Hostess snack cake.

Elvan Cakes.jpg

Elvan Company Snack Cakes

http://elvan.com.tr/en

When touring the United Kingdom Pavilion I came across an interesting product in the Great Britain booths by  Flower & White Ltd. They have a line of Meringue Bars in various flavors that were light and crunchy and at 96 calories were a decadent little treat. I was able to sample the flavors in Lemon and Raspberry and they were sweet and melted in your mouth. Perfect for that afternoon coffee or tea break.

https://www.linkedin.com/company/flower-and-white-ltd

In the Pavilion for the Country of Greece, there was a lot of olive, nuts and oil companies to choose from. One that carried a line of interesting sweet and savory pastries was from the Ioniki Sfoliata S.A. company in Athens. Their line of cheese and spinach pies, sweet and savory croissants and meat Peinirli (a type of Italian meat pastry) were standouts at the booth. Each was generous filled with cheese and meats and when warmed up had a delicious buttery taste to the dough and the fillings were well spiced.

https://ioniki.com/en

The Canadian Pavilion offered many choices in maple syrup products and there were a few standouts beside just maple syrup. Jakeman’s Maple Products that was founded in 1876 in Ontario produces an interesting group of products that are flavorful and make good use of their maple syrup background. Their standard maple syrup selections are wonderful but their use of the product in their maple chocolates, maple popcorn (a spin on caramel corn) and their Maple Cream Cookies were just amazing. Their Maple Cream Cookies are extremely addictive and just crunching on them at the show you can easily eat a whole bag at one sitting. They are sweet but not in the sweetness you would in a sugar product.

Jackman's Maple Products.jpg

Jackman’s Maple Products

https://jakemansmaplesyrup.com/

Another sugary product that stood out was the Double Dutch cookie by Schep’s Bakery Ltd. out of Norwich, Ontario called a Stroopwafels. These sweet little waffle cakes are two light waffle like cookies filled with caramel and are Holland’s favorite cookie.  These rich little cookies taste like a portable breakfast and are perfect with coffee.

http://www.schepsbakeries.com/

The French Pavilion always bring such elegant and high quality products. I always love their packaging and I love the way the French do business. Everyone is so nicely dressed and mannered and not one is pushy about selling you something. There is so much pride in the quality in their food products that it shows when they describe and sample them. United Biscuits of France has the lightest and buttery cookies with a happy face where the chocolate filling smiles at you.

BN Pocket Cookies.jpg

BN Pockets Cookies

https://www.lepanierfrancais.com/biscuit-nantais-chocolat-cookies

The French quality in their jellies show too and not just in the traditional Bon Mama. One of the representatives from La Fruitiere Jams and Toppings let me sample a few of their jellies which are some of the best I ever tasted. You could really taste the fresh fruit in every bite. There were chunks of strawberry and cherry in each bite of the samples.

https://www.lafruitiere.com/home.html

The was one candy that stood above the others from the Spanish Pavilion was Wonkandy marshmellows in bright colors. These colorful treats were sweet marshmellows covered with colorful sugar topping. These little confections come in a rainbow of colors in a large plastic container.

Wonkandy

Wonkandy Marshmellows

https://wonkandy.com/

Leaving the foreign pavilions behind, I started to concentrate on the domestic vendors and found amongst all the cheese, chocolate and popcorn vendors many interesting standouts that I could see becoming popular on the wide market.

One vendor that was garnering long lines was the Hancock Gourmet Lobster Company who was featured in the State of Maine section of the show. Their lobster products were not only fresh tasting like the lobster had just been caught but decadently rich, creamy and buttery. They sampled their ‘Lobster Grilled Cheese’ appetizers which were so decadent and delicious I had to keep returning to their booth to try them again. I had had a taste of the their Lobster Bisque at a different show a few years earlier and that was also rich and silky to taste. Their products were top quality when serving lobster.

Hackcock Lobster.jpg

These Lobster Grilled Cheese were one of the best products at the show

https://www.hancockgourmetlobster.com/

Another rich tasting standout in the State of Florida section of the show was their ‘Stuffed Garlic Bread’ that is stuffed with cheese, garlic and spices. The flavors are in Original with garlic and cheese and the mild spice variety with a garlic, pepper and cheese filling. When baked it is almost like an open face Stromboli. The combination of garlic and cheese with the soft caramelized bread you could eat on its own with just a little sauce.

https://www.facebook.com/HotStuffedBreadCompany/

There were a few standouts in the Asian-American market as well. The Green Spirit Food Inc. offered a line of vegan food products where you would not have known it wasn’t chicken. Their Vegan Chicken Cake and their Veggie Corn Koroke Cakes were the highlight of their food lines at the show. The chicken variety tasted so much like chicken that I was fooled by it. The corn cakes were filled with buttery corn kernels and fried to golden crisp with a light breading. Both were well spiced and would be perfect at any dinner party.

https://green-spirit-food-inc.business.site/

In the State of Hawaiian section of the show the Noh Foods of Hawaii had a line of ‘Hawaiian Ice Teas’ that I enjoyed very much. Their ice tea line was light, refreshing and the best part was made with Hawaiian cane sugar and not high fructose corn syrup. It was light and sweet and chilled could be drunk right out of the can. They also had an interesting line of spices and rubs.

Noh Foods Company

Noh Foods Company

http://www.nohfoods.com/

Another beverage that stood out at the show was manufactured in Minnesota by Maud Borup Inc. It was a line of Fizzy Drink Bombs which are a fruit flavored ball in blueberry and cherry that you drop into a glass of water and watch it fizz. These lively treats are perfect for a child’s birthday party where the children could make the drinks themselves and watch the water pop, fizzle and show the edible glitter.

https://www.maudborup.com/

In the Candy area there were so many choices that I was on sugar high for most of the show. The one standout that I love and it has been mentioned in a few of my food blogs is the Butterfield Candies founded in 1924. The Butterfield Fruit Hard Candies are delicious and you can taste the infused flavors of the fruits. My favorites have been their peach and cherry flavors that I have tasted at the show. Just crunching on them is a real treat.

Butterfield Candy.jpg

Butterfield Candies

HOME PAGE

Back in the State of New York section of the show, one delicious standout was Bantam Bagels which had started out as a small shop on Bleecher Street down in the Village in Manhattan. The couple had been making their stuffed bagels in their kitchen and they were so popular with their friends that they opened a shop and the rest was history. The best part of their bagel bites is that they are already stuffed with cream cheese so you don’t need it on top.

Bantam Bagels

Bantam Bagels are delicious

At the show they were featuring their Classic with just cream cheese and the Onion which had a nice pronounced flavor to it. No wonder the line was so popular that the line was long. Also the people working there were really nice and let you taste a few of them.

https://www.bantambagels.com/

Another standout product  was from DuFour Pastry Kitchens out of the Bronx were their Smoked Cheddar and Bacon Cocktail Straws (a type of pastry cheese stick) that had a nice smoky savory taste that were light and crispy and had a bite of a mixture of cheeses. Another great cheese snack that I tried are an oven baked cheese bite by Granarolo. The crisp is made with Italian milk and grated cheese and then it is baked. It has a rich sharp taste to it.

https://www.dufourpastrykitchens.com/

A cracker that stood out was by La Panzanella who make a wonderful GMO product. These crisps are made in flavors in Italian Herb, Sundried Tomato Basil and spicy olive and have a nice bite to them.

WELCOME TO OUR BAKERY

Haldiram’s, a company that specializes in Indian food had a interesting and spicy line of naan bread,  stews and delicious samosa’s and shami kebabs which are a type of patty. All the foods that we were able to sample were full of spices and hot dipping sauces. Everything was delicious.

http://www.haldiram.com/

There were many wonderful desserts that were featured at the show and too many to mention but there many that I enjoyed eating. The Well Luck Company Inc. sampled a line of Mille Crepe Cakes in flavors Strawberry and Mango which were layers of French pastry and ice cream and were sweet and creamy in each bite.

https://www.specialtyfood.com/organization/129684/well-luck-coinc/

Dewey’s Bakery out of North Carolina offers a delicious line of Doughnut cookies which I thought were unique. These soft batch cookies were a cross between a doughnut and cookie that came in Old Fashioned Glazed, Cinnamon Bun and Apple Fritter that were soft and rich with every bite.

Dewey's Doughnut Cookies.jpg

Don’t miss these soft rich cookies especially the glazed

Home

Another line of delicious cookies were from Goodie Girl out of Ridgefield, New Jersey which were packaged and almost looked like Girl Scout Cookies. Their Double Chocolate Chip and Birthday Cake cookies were wonderful and they let me take samples home.

Goodie Girl Cookies.jpg

Goodie Girl Cookies which are crisp and sweet

Home

Two snack foods that were a real treat were the Sweet Lemon Sweet Crisps by the 34 Degrees Company. These light and sweet crisps will melt in your mouth. These can be paired with a entree or a dessert or just served with coffee or tea.

The one standout popcorn of the many popcorn merchants was by Fisher’s Popcorn of Delaware Inc.. They made a Maple Popcorn with Old Bay Seasoning. It was a delicious twist to a sweet and savory snack.

Fisher's Old Bay Popcorn.jpg

Fisher’s Old Bay Popcorn

https://www.googleadservices.com/pagead/aclk?sa=L&ai=DChcSEwjRrdj96KfoAhWPk7MKHTP0AEwYABAAGgJxbg&ohost=www.google.com&cid=CAASEuRoeKWMfyBE41IzRkRldLkXBw&sig=AOD64_2j-aQPjHlWPpFlQt1C1MY8s0xz_Q&q=&ved=2ahUKEwjy5s_96KfoAhUclXIEHYjtAFIQ0Qx6BAgVEAE&adurl=

Of all the computer software companies that I talked with in those two days, one innovative company that grabbed my attention was I-Whiz. This company works with smaller vendors, restaurants and suppliers and farmers to match up products to sell and buy. The software is rather cutting edge for the restaurant industry.

I-Whiz

I-Whiz Computer Software

https://www.i-whiz.com/

On my trip day excursion in the world of food, these companies were just a small samples of the people I met. I mentioned more in my blog in July of 2015 and went into more detail of the American companies.

The New York Fancy Food Show is an eye opener in the food and snack industry. Walking the several miles of the show is a glimpse of what we will see on shelves all over the country and all over the world. The products that I pointed out were the ones I thought were different from the rest. I look forward to the long walk of the show next year.

https://www.specialtyfood.com/shows-events/summer-fancy-food-show/

Happy Eating!

 

The Ladies Shopping Mile

Day One Hundred and Twenty Eight-The Victorian Christmas Walking Tour of the Ladies Shopping Mile with the Cornell Club December 15th, 2018

On Saturday, December 15th, I met with other members of the Cornell Club to travel back to the Victorian Era and learn about the traditions of the Christmas past. We explored the Gramercy Park, Union Square and lower Sixth Avenue sections of the City to visit where a New York Victorian Christmas would be celebrated and honored.

We would be walking the old “Ladies Shopping Mile” that had been built up right after the Civil War when the disposable income  for Middle and Upper Middle Class residents had increased after the Civil War and people wanted to spend their money at the newly built department stores, shops and restaurants.  The Industrial Revolution was in full swing and shopping had changed with the development of the department store.

The tour took us past brownstones, parks, restaurants and old department stores that line the streets of Manhattan between East and West 21st Street to 23rd Street and along that stretch of Sixth Avenue which is lined with the old buildings that once housed some of New York City’s great department stores.

The tour started on a sunny morning in Gramercy Park just off East 21st Street right near the Gramercy Park Hotel at the Cyrus Field House at One Lexington Avenue. The plaque was laid on the side of the old home dedicated to the man who laid out the first Atlantic cable in 1858.  Cyrus West Field was a self-made man who founded his own business and retired at 33 with a fortune of $250,000 (about 6 million today).

Cyrus West Field

Cyrus West Field

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Cyrus-W-Field

He and his brother, David, an attorney had built twin mansions side by side facing Gramercy Park which was then being developed into a private park for the neighborhood in 1844 by Samuel Ruggles.

Samuel Ruggles

Samuel Ruggles, the creator of Gramercy Park

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_B._Ruggles

Cyrus West Field along with Fredrick Newton Gisborne, a Canadian inventor and electrician had laid out the first undersea cables. Partnering up, they laid the first successful cable line to Europe in 1866 after two other failed tries. Even with his successes, when his wife, Mary died in 1891 and his son’s banking business failed and his partner’s daughter in law was his sister, Grace who took ill and died later that year. Cyrus Field was vacationing in his summer home when he died as well (Wiki & the tour guide).

Field Mansion

The Field Mansion before it was torn down

Both his and his brother’s house were purchased by another banker who renovated them into one mansion. His business would later fail and he also was forced into bankruptcy. The houses were part of an ever changing New York neighborhood and were demolished and replaced by the Italian Renaissance apartment building that sits there today with the plaque neatly presented on the side of the building. A very interesting place for a colorful family history.

After we left the site of the Field Mansion, we toured the sides of Gramercy Park, which was created in 1844 by Samuel Ruggles, who developed the area as an exclusive enclave. The 22 acre site was once a swamp and the farm of James Duane, the son of the Mayor of New York and a direct descendant of Peter Stuyvesant, called ‘Gramercy Farm’.  The park was enclosed by a fence in 1833 and the parcels surrounding it were developed in 1840. The park’s landscaping was done by James Virtue and the park was surrounded by 39 lots whose owners had access to the private park. Today only those people residing in the 39 lots surrounding the park can have a key to it and help in the maintenance of the park (Wiki).

As we passed the park which looked a little sparse due to the time of the year with the exception of the pines and the Christmas Tree in the center of the park. Still you can see the elegance of the park and the constant upkeep of the landscaping. Behind the locked doors, it is almost a secret garden almost waiting to be discovered. Even today, you still need that key to open the door to the park and you have to live in the area to get in.

Christmas in Gramercy Park

Christmas Tree in Gramercy Park today

While we were at the park, the tour guide gave us a little history of a Victorian Christmas and the rules and etiquette of the holidays under the rule of Queen Victoria and her marriage to Prince Albert who was from Germany.

When the marriage took place, Prince Albert had brought many of his traditions with him and introduced the Pagan tradition of bringing evergreen trees into the house. Since it was the only tree that was green during the long winter months, the Pagans brought it into the warmth as a sign of life. It was later decorated with sweets and small gifts then got more elaborate with candles and ornaments. Ornaments started to appear in 1853.

The idea of the Christmas card came in 1843 when Henry Cole created the first card with a simple message. By the 1880’s, the Victorians were sending out the cards in great numbers due to the advancement of the postal services, many of them handmade by the children of the house. Decorating the house got more and more elaborate. What had started with a simple tree and garland to decorate the doors and windows became more detailed with decorations.

Gift giving was once relegated to New Year’s Day but as Christmas became the more predominate holiday, gifts were given either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Initial gifts were things like small handmade trinkets and sweets and then moved to store bought gifts from the developing department stores that could be placed under the tree.

The Christmas Dinner had its roots in Medieval times but became more elaborate after the Civil War. During the Revolutionary War, Christmas Day meal was a family affair after church services but by the 1880’s as the Industrial Revolution started to change the way we lived, it became the feast we celebrate today.

Roasted meats like goose and duck were some of the things served but later turkey became a favorite for dinner. It became predominate on a middle class family table because the average turkey could feed a family nicely for dinner. Even Christmas crackers, which were invented by Thomas Smith in 1848 on an idea he saw in Paris on the way bon-bons were wrapped. He perfected them to ‘pop’ when they opened and were then filled with candies and small toys. This became part of the place setting.

Since the holiday was now being based around the family, things like parlor games and Christmas carols became family favorites.  Carols had started during Medieval times and had been brought back by the Victorians. The family was the center of the holiday and a family was only restricted by their budget.

There were also strict rules on visits during the preparation for the holiday. Our guide pointed out that when you visited a home leading up to the holidays, etiquette stated you stayed for about ten minutes and you only partook in the food that was laid out, such as a plate of Christmas cookies and you did not linger. The host had lots to do to prepare for the holiday and she did not want you stay and take up her time.

As we rounded the corner and the tour guide discussed the attributes of the park, he also talked about the history of the architecture that surrounds it. Many structures have a long and very interesting history.

James Harper House

4 Gramercy Park West

At 4 Gramercy Park West is the James Harper House, which almost resembles something you would see in New Orleans with its decorative iron work and graceful porches. The homes were built in 1846 for the James Harper, the Mayor of New York and one of the founders of Harper-Collins Publishing. The house was a Greek Revival design with an iron lace terrace with a mirror image of the home next to it with the exception of the lamps outside the house.

James Harper

James Harper, Mayor and Publisher

James Harper, Mayor Of New York City

History has said that the lanterns in front of the home are a throw back to the Dutch era when lantern bearers accustomed to escort the Burgomaster home with the proper dignity from the city tavern or another place of entertainment. The Dutch custom of placing special lamps at the mayor’s door was an aid to finding his house at night but by Harper’s day, it was just ceremonial. The customer ended with the establishment of Gracie Mansion as the Mayor’s residence(Ephemeral New York).

 

James Harper House II

3 & 4 Gramercy Park

Harper died in 1869 and the house stayed in the family until 1923. It was known also for being the rumored home townhouse for the book “Stuart Little” and again achieved fame for being on the cover of Bob Dylan’s 1965 album cover for ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ (Ephemeral New York & the tour guide).

From the Harper House , we visited the Samuel Tildon House at 15& 16 Gramercy Park South around the corner from the Harper House.  This historic townhouse was built in 1845 and the home of former New York Governor Samuel J. Tilden who was a fierce opponent of the Tweed Ring and the losing Presidential candidate in the 1876 election. He lived in the house until his death in 1886 (Wiki & tour guide).

Samuel Tilden House

The Samuel Tilden House

Samuel Tilden

Samuel Tilden Politician

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Samuel-J-Tilden

The house was combined and redesigned by Calvert Vaux with the row house next door to make the building it is today. The brownstone was considered the height of Victorian Gothic in residential architecture with Italian Renaissance style elements. Since 1906,  it now serves at the National Arts Club (Wiki & tour guide).

Samuel Tilden House II

The home at 16 Gramercy Park South, now the home of the Players Club has an interesting past as well. The home was bought by Edwin Booth, one of the great Shakespearean actors of the 19th Century and one of the founders of The Players Club. He was the brother of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln. He turned over the deed to the house in 1888 to the club (Wiki & tour guide).

The Players Club.jpg

The Players Club which was owned by Edwin Booth

From the square of scandals and shame we moved to look inside the park where a statue of Edwin Booth stands. It was an interesting twist of events that he landed in New York City. The whole area was designated as the Gramercy Park Historical District in 1966 (Wiki & the tour guide).

Our next place to visit was the famous Pete’s Tavern at Irving Place at 129 East 18th Street. This famous bar/restaurant has been around since 1864 and has been a major watering hall for the neighborhood.  The building was originally known as the Portman Hotel and was built in 1829. It was known as a ‘grocery & grog” store and may have been serving alcohol since 1852 (Wiki).

Pete's Tavern

Pete’s Tavern is now an Italian restaurant

Welcome to Pete’s Tavern….the Tavern O. Henry made famous!

The writer O. Henry lived down the block at 55 Irving Place from 1903 to 1907 when the place was called Healy’s after Tom and John Healy,  who bought the restaurant in 1899. The famous writer included the name of the bar in a short story entitled “The Lost Blend” under the name “Kenealy’s”. It has been rumored that he wrote the well-known story “The Gift of the Magi” in the second booth from the front but it can not be proved (Wiki & the tour guide).

 

Washington Irving House III

The Irving House

Around the corner from Pete’s Tavern is 11 Commerce Street, the Irving House, the former home of Washington Irving’s sister. The Federalist style home was built in 1826 and was rumored to be where he wrote part of the book “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. No one was too sure where Washington Irving Jr. came from because Washington Irving did not have any children.

Washington Irving House.jpg

The Irving House at 11 Commerce Street

Washington Irving

Washington Irving Author

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Washington-Irving

We left the Gramercy Park District which is slowly changing on the fringes of the Historic District from residential to modern hotels and apartments refigured into the older buildings of the neighborhood to the very modern and updated and hip Union Square Park.

Union Square Park was once the cross-roads from the old commercial part of Manhattan to the residential part of the island. When Manhattan was surveyed by John Randel for the Commissioner’ Plan of 1811 to create the grid of the island, Broadway angled away from the Bowery that would have been awkward to build on and it was decided to create a square at the union of the two streets. Samuel Ruggles, who had created Gramercy Park renamed the are ‘Union Square’ from its former name, ‘Union Place’. It was Ruggles who developed the area with streets and plantings at the park (Wiki & the tour guide).

At first the area was a fashionable residential area surrounded by brownstones and mansions but after the Civil War, the area gave way to a commercial shopping district that included Tiffany & Company and FAO Schwarz Toy Store. The area is now home to many upscale merchants and restaurants once again. It also has one of the biggest Farmer’s Markets in the City.

Union Square.jpg

Union Square today facing the once fashionable shopping district

From Union Square, our group walked to Sixth Avenue down West 17th Street to the start of the Ladies Mile Historic Shopping District. Today the area is still going through changes from discount superstores to advertising and communications companies but between the Civil War and World War I, the district was home to some of the most famous department and specialty stores of the time, places of worship and performance venues like the Academy of Music and Steinway Hall (Wiki & the tour guide). It is here where Victorian Christmas roots began.

We started the tour on West 17th Street and walked our way up Sixth Avenue while admiring the old department store buildings. One point that the tour guide wanted us to all note was the big windows on the second and sometimes third floor of the buildings. This was done when the old ‘Sixth Avenue El’ subway line used to travel down the avenue before the war so that people could see the clothes and fashions from the elevated subway cars. We walked up Sixth Avenue and we noted all the stores we passed and a little on the history of each store.

The old B. Altman & Company building located at 625 Sixth Avenue between West 18th and 19th Streets was once a luxury department store that catered to the strictly ‘carriage trade’ clientele of the time. It had been founded in 1865 by the Altman family on the lower East Side and progressed uptown to this location in 1877. It was originally designed by David and John Jardine, a New York architectural firm.

The store had been known for couture merchandise and fine furniture. As the clientele changed and moved uptown after World War I, the company moved the new store to Fifth Avenue and East 34th Street in 1906. The company went bankrupt in 1990 (Wiki, History of Department Stores & the tour guide).

B. Altman & Co.

B. Altman & Company store at 625 Sixth Avenue & West 18th Street

Our next stop was at the old Siegel-Cooper Company Department store at 620 Sixth Avenue at 18th Street. The company was founded in 1887 by Henry Siegel, Frank Cooper and Isaac Keim in Chicago and opened their store on State Street.

Their second store opened in New York City in 1896 at 620 Sixth Avenue between West 18th and West 19th Streets. The store used innovative steel-framing, the first department store in New York to use this construction, to create the world’s largest store at the time (to be surpassed by Macy’s Herald Square). The offered a wide variety of dry-goods and shops including a art gallery, conservatory selling plants, a photo studio and a 350 seat restaurant . The store was designed by the firm of DeLemos & Cordes in the Beaux-Arts style (Wiki & the tour guide).

 

Seigal-Cooper Department Store

The Siegel-Cooper Company store at 620 Sixth Avenue

The main floor featured a copy of David Chester French’s statue, The Republic inside a marble enclosed fountain on the first floor which the phase “Meet me at the Fountain” became the store slogan (Wiki & the tour guide).

Siegel-Cooper Department Store.jpg

The fountain that was at Siegel-Cooper

Yet by 1902, Henry Siegel sold the store and the company went bankrupt in 1915 and the store closed in 1917 and became a military hospital during World War I. Today the store is home to Marshall’s and TJ Maxx. It’s ornate outside is really hidden now.

We next moved on to the Simpson-Crawford Department Store at 641 Sixth Avenue between West 19th and 20th Streets, which once catered to the wealthy elite of Manhattan and beyond. The store was established in 1878 by Richard Meares and William Crawford as Richard Meares & Company. Meares left the firm a year later and William Crawford then partnered with Thomas and James Simpson to create Simpson, Crawford and Simpson. When Thomas Simpson died in 1885, the store became known as Simpson-Crawford (Daytonian in Manhattan).

Simpson-Crawford Department Store.jpg

Simpson-Crawford Store today at Sixth Avenue between West 19th and 20th Streets

When James Simpson died in 1894, William Crawford became the sole owner and in 1899 with the rise of the great stores on Sixth Avenue, Crawford designed a new store of marble designed by William H. Hume & Son. The exterior of the store shined with polished marble and granite (Daytonian in Manhattan & the tour guide).

The store had many innovations at the time. It had the first escalator in the city, the first display windows with mannequins and large display windows that had to be created for the store. The store was stocked with the finest imported clothes, furs and laces and on the top floor was a restaurant that catered to 1200 guests (Daytonian in Manhattan & the tour guide).

Before the store opened, William Simpson retired and sold the store to Henry Siegel across the street who kept the tradition of the store going. When Siegel-Cooper Company collapsed in 1914, Simpson-Crawford was kept closed for three weeks and then reopened. Both stores closed one year later and the store was converted to mail order warehouse. Today it holds various stores (Daytonian in Manhattan).

Our next stop was in front of Hugh O’Neill’s Dry Goods Store at 655 Sixth Avenue between West 20th and 21st Streets. It was built by the firm of Mortimer C. Merritt in the neo-Grec style who built the four stages of the building between 1887-1890 (Wiki & the tour guide).

Hugh O'Neill II.jpg

The Hugh O’Neill Store when it opened in 1890

Hugh O’Neill had started a small dry goods business right after the Civil War in 1865 with a small store around Union Square. In 1870, he decided to build a trade on the middle market customer and offered discounts on goods. The four floors of merchandise contained laces, ribbons, clocks and on the upper floors women’s and children’s clothing (Wiki).

When O’Neill died in 1902, the shopping area had just began its decline and in 1906 it merged with Adams Dry Goods up the block.  A year later they both went out of business as the area gave way to manufacturing. The building today has been converted into condos.

Hugh O'Neill.jpg

The Hugh O’Neill store today

Our last store that we looked at and discussed was the former Adams Dry Goods Store at 675 Sixth Avenue between West 21st and 22nd Street.

Samuel Adams, a merchant who had been selling upscale clothing and furnishing to customers in the area decided to open a store on Sixth Avenue. He used the architectural firm of DeLemos & Cordes, who had designed the Seigel-Cooper Department Store and the six story building opened in 1902. The store was the first in New York City to use the new Pneumatic tubes to transport money and messages throughout the store (Wiki).

Adams Dry Goods Store II.jpg

Adam’s Dry Goods Store when it opened in 1902

The problem with the store was its location. He built the store at the very edge of the neighborhood as the business changed. As the shopping area started to decline in the early 1900’s, Adams sold the store to Hugh O’Neill Dry Goods Store and they merged the two companies together, converting three floors of the Adams Dry Goods store to furniture. This concept was not popular as well and the businesses failed and the store closed in 1913 (Wiki & the tour guide).

Adams Dry Goods Store.jpg

Adams Dry Goods Store today at Sixth Avenue between West 21st and 22nd Streets

The store has gone through a manufacturing stage and in the 80’s became part of the change to large box retailing. The building now houses eBay and several stores including Trader Joe’s and Michael’s. As we could see on the tour, the old department stores are finding new life in retailing.

The last part of our tour discussed one of the most famous Christmas poems, “A Visit from St. Nicolas” or known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas” , which was one of the first mentionings of Santa Claus in a modern form,  written in 1822 and published in 1823 anonymously. Some saw the poem as a social satire on the ‘Victorianization’ of Christmas (Wiki & the tour guide). Our tour guide said you really have to read into the poem to see what it is really saying about the times that it was written in. He noted really read the line “Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap” as the stress of the holidays and child rearing was even back then.

Twas the night before christmas.jpg

“A visit from St. Nicholas”

It was in 1837 that poet Clement Clark Moore claimed to be the author. Even today there is a controversy of who really wrote the poem, Clement Clark Moore or Major Henry James Livingston Jr. This discussion is still being debated today (Wiki).

Clement Clarke Moore.jpg

Clement Clarke Moore poet

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/clement-clarke-moore

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43171/a-visit-from-st-nicholas

Henry Livingston Jr.

Henry James Livingston Jr. Writer

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/henry-livingston

How the poem mixed well into the tour is that Clement Moore’s family owned an estate here on the area on West 23rd Street between Hudson River and Eighth Avenue from West 24th Street to West 19th Street. His home was at 348 West 23rd Street. He developed the area after donating a large portion of the estate to his church and created a residential neighborhood that still stands today.

 

Clement Moore Estate.jpg

The Clement Clarke Moore estate when he sold it into real estate parcels

I walked the entire neighborhood after we said our goodbyes on Ninth Avenue by the subway and discovered an ever gentrifying neighborhood of brownstones and small mansions. The one home that stood out amongst the brownstones was the James Wells Mansion at 400-412 West 27th Street.

James Wells Mansion III

 

The James Wells Mansion in Chelsea one of the most beautiful homes on the block

James N. Wells was a real estate broker and built the house in 1835 when Clement Clarke Moore developed this part of his estate. He built the grand house for his family. Sometime in 1866 after the Civil War, the house was renovated and a mansard roof was added to the house. It must have not stayed in the family too long after this as it was turned into a home for the aged in 1867 (Wiki). Today it has been restored by its owners to its grand glory.

The last part of the tour I visited the only spot that still carries the name of the family to know that the estate was located here and it was the Clement Moore Park at West 23rd to 22nd Streets on Tenth Avenue. The park was initiated by the West 400 Block Association to turn a neglected lot into a park and in 1965 it was opened to the public. When I visited the park that afternoon and others to complete the walk of the neighborhood, the park was closed for renovations.

Clement Moore Park.jpg

Clement Moore Park before the renovation

This is where I ended the tour that day. I walked this part of West 23rd Street from Sixth Avenue to Tenth Avenue on my own to see the development of the estate and how the gentrification of Chelsea was progressing. Let me put it this way, the Clement Clarke Moore brownstone was on the market in 2016 for 8.7 million dollars. I wonder how he would feel about that today?

Check out my Christmas blogs this year (2018) and my busy holiday season that stretched from the Hudson River Valley in New York State to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. I swear my feet never touched the ground the whole holiday season.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!

I want to add these two new Christmas songs by the late Jazz artist Al Jarreau and current up and coming artist Lindsey Webster for you all to enjoy. They got me through my Christmas Holiday season.

Christmas Morning by Al Jarreau:

 

It’s Gonna Snow on Christmas by Lindsey Webster:

 

 

Again everyone have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

 

The Halloween Parade 2018

Day One Hundred and Twenty Three: Halloween Again 2018 October 31st, 2018

I can’t believe that the year went by so fast. I blinked my eye and the leaves changed colors and it was the end of the summer. The weather has been so unpredictable  since the beginning of 2018, it is hard to judge the seasons. It was a cold Winter, was cool and rainy most of the Spring, and the Summer was either humid or rainy. We never had normal seasonable days the way we have had in the past. We had two rather nice days around Labor Day Weekend and that was about it.

The Fall became cool very quickly. Where as last year, the leaves did not change colors until November 12th, this year it got really cool early in October and the leaves changed quickly and were off the trees because of constant rain storms. So much for the seasons!

Halloween was the exception to the rule. We had a sudden burst of an “Indian Summer” and the weather to 59 degrees on October 30 and the night of Halloween it was 64 degrees, a perfect night for the Halloween Parade. It was nice to have three days of above 60 degree weather and then by November 2nd back down to 40 degrees. Still it made Halloween more fun and engaging.

Halloween activities ranged from watching films to museum events to the best part of all, the New York Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village. Its more of a lower Manhattan parade now but still keeps it heart in the community. I even designed our shirts for Engine One HHFD with a Jack-o-Lantern logo.

Engine One Tee-shirt 2018

The Engine One Hasbrouck Heights tee-shirt logo.

My first activity of Halloween was visiting the Meadowlands Museum for the Annual Scarecrow Festival. The tough part was it was a gloomy day and there were not many participants. Still the people who came were really artistic and very enthusiastic. There were only a dozen or so scarecrows on the sticks but there were some interesting designs. The sad part was there were only about twenty or so people at the event. This could be a very interesting event if they advertised it more.

Scarecrow Day

Scarecrow Day at the Meadowlands Museum in Rutherford, NJ

The second event I attended was the Ridgewood Schoolhouse Museum Historical Society’s Annual Cemetery Walk through both the Old Dutch Cemetery and the Valleau Cemetery across the street. This is an interesting tour that I did last year by with different actors at the grave sites.

What the Schoolhouse Museum located at 650 East Glen Avenue in Ridgewood does is they wait until nightfall and they take you on a lantern tour of the grave sites of prominent members of the Ridgewood community and an actor plays that person and describes their life and their role in the community.

Ridgewood Cemetery tour I

Joe Suplicki from the Ridgewood Historical Society

Under the direction of Ridgewood historian, Joe Suplicki, who leads the tour into the graveyard with lantern in hand, you will walk a lighted path of luminaries into the heart of the cemetery to the different sites. The most interesting one I found on this tour was the mausoleum of J. J. Newberry, the founder of the discount department store. This company went out of business years ago but I had not realized the family had lived in Ridgewood.

Ridgewood Cemetery Tour II

The Cemetery Walk in Ridgewood, NJ.

The tour really does take you to the spooky parts of the cemetery and it is best to stay with the group. Although no one is popping out at you, you still have a creepy feeling from walking around all the tombstones. It is almost a relief to get back to the museum. The best part is that Demerest Farms in Hillsdale, NJ donates their apple cider and cider doughnuts to the museum for the end of the tour and that is a real treat.

You get to munch on doughnuts and listen to ghost stories from the head of the museum around ‘a campfire’. The best part is watching the kids scared from stories that are told and by kids I mean the forty year olds. Their children are too busy on their cell phones. The museum does a wonderful job every year and for the $10.00 donation it a nice tour.

My next venture on the Halloween list takes me to Croton-on-Hudson to the Van Cortlandt Manor to the annual ‘Pumpkin Blaze’. That is a site to see every year. Even though I have visited it over the last five years, I never get tired of looking at it. The estate is illuminated with hundreds of pumpkins. The pumpkins take all sorts of shapes, sizes, carved faces and even in the structures.

When you enter the estate, you are greeted with a form of mortuary, Halloweenish music that sets the tone for the walk. The Pumpkin Blaze has gotten even more popular in the four years that I have been going and I had to get the tickets way in advance. The weather was nice but it had cooled by this point and was in the low 40’s when I got there.

I was part of the last group that arrived at 8:30pm so the place was starting to clear out when I arrived. It is a lot easier coming towards the end of the night as it gives you more time to walk around.

The display was just as spectacular as in years past. You are greeted at the beginning of the path by the river with carved lit pumpkins of all expressions until you reach the pumpkin bridge, ‘The Pumpkin Zee Bridge’ and travel over it to the rest of the displays which include pumpkin jack in the boxes, a pumpkin ferris wheel and a pumpkin tunnel.

pumpkin blaze

The Pumpkin Zee Bridge and Spider Web at the Pumpkin Blaze.

Through out the display, I walked the path by myself to see pumpkin skeletons, the pumpkin version of the headless horseman, spiders, dinosaurs and a pumpkin circus train. This lead to the main house, the Van Cortlandt Manor, where there were pumpkin scarecrows, a pumpkin cemetery and a light show at the manor that was ablaze with lit pumpkins. The whole effect was engaging.

I doubled back around the cemetery and walked through the sea of pumpkins smiling and grinning at me. The music continued to play as I doubled back through the display but by this time the crowds started to thin and it got colder. When I reached the gift shop it was about 38 degrees I heard someone say. I looked back at the dark lawn with the music still moaning and thought about the amount of work to make this spectacular display every year.

My last event of the holiday was work as a marshal for the Halloween Parade in New York City. I have been working as a marshal for five years now starting in 2014. My job is the least glamorous part of the parade. I work the performance gate where all the performers enter the parade route to their floats. It is also one of the tougher jobs of the parade as I have to make sure all the people who don’t belong in the parade stay out.

It has gotten easier since the passes are now on cell phones or the performers print them out. They know that they have to bring it to the parade. What I love are all the people who try to wheedle  their way in to see the parade at its starting point. I have watched people say that they lived there, were staying at the hotel near by, they have dinner plans across the street, they are meeting someone there or try to sneak in with the groups of performers, After five years, I have gotten wise to everyone. The only problem I have is that I work with people who just let people in because they don’t want to confront people. I just tell them “and the cow jumped over the moon!” when they give me a lame answer.

This year I had a pretty good track record of keeping people out with new volunteers who followed the rules.  It is fun watching the parade come to life. I have watched hundreds of volunteers come through the parade entrance in costume and with instruments in hand who volunteer to make the magic of the parade.

After we got everyone in the parade route, we closed the gate for the night and the NYPD protected it. I got to go into the parade route and by Broome Street got to watch the parade come together with a combination of floats, performing acts and costumed participants progress up the Avenue. By the time I got to the parade starting point most of the parade was already over and had proceeded uptown. I got to see the last of the floats and bands head uptown.

Halloween Parade 2018 IV

The robot themed puppets in the parade.

By 9:00pm, the last float headed uptown with a group of Mardi Gras drag queens yelling and screaming over disco music. The rest of the people in the parade were the costumed participants from all over the world who were thrilled to be in the parade. We left yelling and cheering as they entered the parade route.

There were many creative costumes in the parade. You had your usual cartoon characters, police, fire fighters, superheros and witches and devils. There was not much politics as I had seen in the last two years though there were a few Donald Trump masks. Maybe because I was seeing the end of the parade head up town, it looked to me like people were there to have fun and march in the parade less the politics. I did see some unusual and creative costumes such as geometric angels, elaborate dress costumes and show outfits. There still is a lot of creativity left in the population and they like to show it off one night of the year.

To end Halloween, we all met at Tipsy Parson on 156 9th Avenue for a parade rap up party. It was a nice way to end the evening meeting with all the parade marshals and volunteers. They had a nice meal for us as they did the year before with pulled pork sliders, spiced chicken wings, deviled eggs, macaroni and cheese, chips and dip and assorted desserts. Everyone was starved by the time we got there at 9:30pm and made multiple trips to the buffet.

It was nice to sit back and laugh with everyone. My distant cousin, Mark Schuyler and I got to kid around through the evening about some of the stories we heard about people trying to sneak into the parade lineup. We have been swapping these stories now for five years ( I can’t believe it was that long) and still through the back of my mind I thought “We are here again? A year has gone by this quickly? Where did it all go?”

Through the laughing I realized that time has gone by pretty quickly and Christmas was right around the corner. As another Halloween drew to a close, I look back on this Halloween and realize that you can have fun without dressing up and Trick or Treating. You just have  to see where life takes you and the experiences in front of you.

Halloween is not so bad after all!

The Halloween Parade 2018:

The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade

 

Places to Visit:

 

Ridgewood Schoolhouse Museum & Historical Society

650 East Glen Avenue

Ridgewood, NJ 07450

(201) 447-3242

https://ridgewoodhistoricalsociety.org/

Open: Thursday 1:30pm-3:00pm/ Saturday 1:00pm-3:00pm/Sunday 1:00pm-3:00pm/Closed Monday-Wednesday & Friday

Admission:  By Donation

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46772-d10353516-Reviews-Schoolhouse_Museum-Ridgewood_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1528

 

Van Cortlandt Manor

525 South Riverside Avenue

Croton-on-Hudson, NY  10520

(914) 366-6900

Open: Friday-Sunday 10:30am-4:30pm/Closed Monday-Thursday

Admission: By Donation-Tickets to the Blaze vary by membership and by year.

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g47560-d116391-Reviews-Van_Cortlandt_Manor-Croton_on_Hudson_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/3677

 

Meadowlands Museum

91 Crane Avenue

Rutherford, NJ  07020

(201) 935-1175

https://www.meadowlandsmuseum.com/

Hours: Wednesday & Saturday-10:00am-4:00pm/The Rest of the week is closed

Admission: Donation

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46796-d2403380-Reviews-Meadowlands_Museum-Rutherford_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1861

 

The Halloween Parade NYC

Along Sixth Avenue from Canal Street to 23rd Street every Halloween Night October 31st.

 

Places to eat:

Tipsy Parson

156 9th Avenue

New York, NY  10011

(212) 620-4545

http://www.tipsyparson.com/

Hours: Monday-Friday-12:00pm-11:00pm/Saturday-10:00am-11:00pm/Sunday-10:00am-10:00pm

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d1986889-Reviews-Tipsy_Parson-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

http://www.tipsyparson.com/

Marshaling at the Halloween Parade

Day Ninety-Six: This is Halloween! New York & New Jersey Style! October 31, 2017

Halloween again?! I can’t believe how fast this year has gone. Ever since July 4th, it has just accelerated again. I have never seen time fly so fast. Every year the same thing, once the July 4th weekend is over, you blink your eye and there is Christmas again.

I have never been a great fan of Halloween when growing up. I must have been the only kid who hated trick or treating (like begging) and dressing up for elementary school parades (I thought that they were stupid and a waste of time). It was not until I became an adult and got to celebrate in non-conventional terms that it became fun for me. I always liked the occult side of it and look at it from the way the early Celts did with a ceremonial celebration. This is why I participated in more unusual events.

In researching many of our historical sites and museums in Bergen County, New Jersey where I live, I came across many events that the museums were sponsoring leading up to Halloween. I was impressed by the uniqueness of the events and the response to them. I was lucky to get in because everything sold out so quickly. All of these events lead to the big one, the Halloween parade Halloween night.

Halloween starts for me in Hasbrouck Heights with the town’s Annual Halloween in the Park, an event that takes place each fall in Woodland Park in Hasbrouck Heights. First thing to note that since developers have built new condos on the parks edges, it has taken some of the allure from the park. You can see the lights and people moving around.

The DPW takes families around the park in hayride fashion with bales of hay in the trailers and everyone on the trailer is chased and harassed by various ghosts, ghouls and witches. You spend most of the evening being chased with someone with a knife or chainsaw. This popular event is always sold out and residents get such a kick out of it. I of course was working that night and got there in time for the last two rides and people were still screaming at 9:30pm.

Halloween in the Park

Halloween in the Park in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ in Woodland Park

I started the next part of the Halloween celebration at The Schoolhouse Museum (see VisitingaMuseum@wordpress.com for more details and review on TripAdvisor) 650 East Glen Avenue in Ridgewood, New Jersey for the Annual Cemetery Walk on October 20th. Usually I am not keen on walking around cemeteries at night but this was a unique fundraiser for the museum. In fact, for a small museum there was a sold out attendance with more people wanting to go on the tour. The museum ran the walk around the cemetery for only one night and all the walks were packed with families with a surprising number of small children who seemed to love the idea of walking around tombstones.

My tour was the last one of the evening and it was already getting dark by 6:00pm and I was on the 7:00pm tour. The staff at The Schoolhouse Museum could not have been nicer and the volunteers both there and at the cemetery could have been more engaging with the crowds. We started our tour with a ghostly talk in front of the museum by Ridgewood Historian, Joseph Suplicki, who gave a quick tour on the well-known residents of Ridgewood who were buried in the cemetery.

We proceeded as a group (which had ballooned from 20 people to 36 people as more people showed up then there were places so they came on our tour) walked in the dark across the street to the Valleau Cemetery, which is between East Glen Avenue and Franklin Turnpike, one of the original Colonial roads in Ridgewood. We all thought we would be walking in the Dutch Reformed Church cemetery next to the museum but they later told us that there were insurance problems with doing that.

Off our troop trekked across the street to a lantern flank paths through the cemetery to well-known residents  of Ridgewood’s burial sites. It was interesting as many of the local residents who were business people that schools and buildings were named after were pointed out. What the interesting twist was to it was they had students and members portray the person buried there and did a bio on the person and their contribution to the town.

Ridgewood Cemetery Tour II.jpg

The Cemetery Tour

I have to say that I give many of the actors credit for playing the roles they did because that meant staying by the grave site until the event ended and that meant being along for about twenty to thirty minutes by a tombstone. I would have thought it was creepy. Our group followed the lanterns on the paths deeper into the cemetery to hear all sorts of stories.

We visited the graves of various movers and shakers in the town of Ridgewood over the last hundred or so years including many who had streets and schools named after them. The most interesting actor was the lady who portrayed Mary Elizabeth Rosencrantz, who was the last owner of The Hermitage (The Hermitage Museum that is located up Franklin Turnpike from the cemetery), who was left penniless in the end while the house crumbled around her in the 1970’s. The actor told the story of her prominent family and the demise of the family fortune. Having visited The Hermitage in the past, it made it more interesting to see where she was buried.

The tour of the cemetery ended in front of The Schoolhouse Museum where we joined the staff for ghost stories and fresh apple cider and apple cider doughnuts that had been donated by Demarest Farms in Hillsdale (See TripAdvisor review). That was the best and people so happy for snack after the tour.

Schoolhouse Museum Ridgewood.png

The School House Museum in Ridgewood, NJ

This interesting and engaging tour is offered by The Schoolhouse Museum in the middle of October and should not be missed. For the $10.00 donation for the tour, it is well worth the visit. On the weekends, check out their current exhibitors. The museum mounts wonderful shows. The museum is open on Thursdays and Saturdays from 1:00pm to 3:00pm and Sundays from 2:00pm-4:00pm.

Another interesting Halloween event I attended was The Hermitage House Museum’s Annual Midnight Tour and Séance on October 30th. The Hermitage House Museum at 335 North Franklin Turnpike in Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ is featured on my blog, ‘VisitingaMuseum@wordpress.com’ and I have visited the museum several times during the year (See review on TripAdvisor). The house was the home of Theodosia Prevost and her second husband, Aaron Burr, when they married in 1782.

Hermitage at Halloween.jpg

The Hermitage Mansion at Halloween

The evening featured a 10:00am ‘ghost tour’ of the house and a séance at midnight to start Halloween day. Frankly, I thought the thing was over-hyped. I have toured the house twice and have never seen or felt anything but hospitality in the house. I arrived at The Hermitage House Museum at 10:00pm on the dot after I gave my Midterm to my class (I am currently teaching business students at Bergen Community College), so I was already tired. Listening to someone including the tour guide, who was a medium, talk about a house being haunted made me a little skeptical since the price for the event was $50.00.

Taking a night tour in a creepy old house was interesting and the Hermitage is steeped in so much history that I seriously suggest taking the tour in daylight and enjoy the grounds. The families that have lived here bring so much to the story of the house. The original owner of the house had invited General George Washington to stay at the house in response to the fact that her husband was fighting on the side of the British and she did not want to loose her home. Marrying Aaron Burr helped as well.

The next family that owned the house expanded it and lived in it for almost a 100 years. It became the modern New Jersey version of ‘Grey Gardens’, when the last owner ran out of money to run the house and the whole place overgrew. She ended up sick and when she died she left the house to the State of New Jersey.

With a history like that, you would think that you really might see something. All I saw was an over-weight bullshit artist who worked everyone up. I admit I would not like to spend a night alone in an old house like this but he got everyone so worked up that I believe that people thought they were seeing things. It got to the point where he kept asking everyone if they felt a cold spot or did they see a shadow. The house was old and drafty, that’s it. I got a kick out of one women saying she saw a rocking chair moving by itself and then another women walk by it and the loose floor board moving it. She looked embarrassed.

The worst was when we entered the parlor where Mary Rosencrantz, the last owner of the house, along with her sister and aunt used to serve tea during the 20’s to raise money to keep the house up. We all sat around the room in a semi-circle trying to communicate with the dead. All he did was rattle off a bunch of names and types of people he felt might be in the room. He was called out when he said someone named “Rose” was trying to reach him and then asked us did anyone know a ‘Rose’. When one guy said he did and it was the name of his 93 year old grandmother, the medium practically swooned and asked when she died. He answered that she was alive and living down the street from him. That almost crushed the medium.

For the price of the event and the time of night it is at my suggestion to anyone wanting to visit The Hermitage Museum is to visit it during the day and take a formal tour with a docent for $7.00 and enjoy the house for its history and beauty.

The highlight of Halloween for me is volunteering for the Halloween Parade in NYC. That is a lot of fun and its a comradery builder working with all the other volunteers. This was fourth year working on the parade and I am assigned working the gate where all the volunteers and performers walk through to check in. I have never seen so many people try to bullshit their way into the parade. They just want to see the parade from our route. I have to turn angry people away every year and do they get nasty. Is it my fault there is a major parade going on and you can’t get to a party three blocks away?

The Halloween Parade took even a weirder twist when we had a terrorist attack just a few blocks from the parade route. Some guy took a truck and ran down joggers and bikers on the park path a few blocks from the World Trade Center site. I was shocked when one of the guys from the FDNY pulled me aside at 5:30pm to tell me. Even though it had happened a few blocks from the parade nothing beats down a New Yorker. They show resilience and the parade continued as if nothing happened. Like myself, if no one had said anything I would not have known.

Halloween Parade 2016

The Halloween Parade

The parade route was mobbed with people and I have to say that the costumes are getting more creative every year especially this year. There were a lot of ‘Dump Trump’ signs all over the parade route including many people dressed like the President doing all sorts of strange things. (I have to admit I may not agree with all the things he says but he is still our President and should be respected.)

There were all sorts of political undertones to the parade as there always are such as the Gun Lobbying Zombie’s, The ‘Dump Trump’ characters, all the LGBT groups fighting over the problems they are having in the military and comments over the immigration policies. I have not seen this much political rhetoric since the ‘I am peach Bush’ costumes that I saw about nine years ago. People were saying their piece this year.

I have also seen a bump in foreign tourists as they kept asking where things were located and did not know where Canal Street was located.  Some said they came to New York City just to see the parade. I was floored by how many  families brought their children all the way to the U.S. to see the parade. It was an exciting site to see all the bands, unusual costumes and towering puppets. There were skeletons and serpents on the parade route. The puppet makers go above and beyond when it comes time for the parade. The dancing Pumpkin people were new to the parade added that air of creativity to the event.

I usually end up watching the full parade on YouTube but I get to see the parade from the ground up. By working the gate, I get to see all the people in costume coming into the route. Ever since the 20th Anniversary of  the ‘Thriller’ album, the ‘Thriller’ dance routine has gotten bigger and I swear they get so into it. We have dancing zombies all over the place. I see so many bands going through the gate and everyone comes in at once. I swear the three of us saw so much that night.

The Thriller Dance:

So here is my Halloween experience this year. Full of ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night. BOO!

Happy Halloween!

(For those of you who are reading this and want to be in the parade next year, please go to Canal Street to line up. Don’t come to the gate and drive us crazy. We are busy enough.) Use the Number 6 subway to get to the parade route.

The Halloween Events:

 

Halloween in the Park

Every second week of October in Hasbrouck Heights NJ

Check out the Hasbrouck Heights Recreation Department Website

 

Old Schoolhouse Museum

650 East Glen Avenue

Ridgewood, NJ 07650

RidgewoodHistoricalSociety@verizion.net

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46772-d10353516-Reviews-Schoolhouse_Museum-Ridgewood_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1528

 

The Hermitage Museum

335 North Franklin Turnpike

Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ 07423

http://www.thehermitage.org

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46514-d10356697-Reviews-The_Hermitage-Ho_Ho_Kus_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1566

 

The Halloween Parade is every October 31st in New York City lining Sixth Avenue

(The picture is of the three of us working the gate. Mark Schuyler and I are twelve cousins once removed by the marriage of Mark’s GGG Grandfather to my GGG Grandmother, who was a member of the Beekman family by my Step-Grandmother. We like to kid around a lot about it.)

The Halloween Parade 2017: