As part of my tour of Historic Bars and Pubs on Day One Hundred and Thirteen with the Cornell Club on May 9th, 2018, we toured the famous ‘Stone Street’ one of the original paved streets of Manhattan. You will not find architecture or pavings like this left in New York City. Here and there are streets or buildings that represent these times during the early to mid-1800’s but they are few and scattered in remote spots all over the island. Here the street still represents a different era of Manhattan.
The stores in the 90’s had been either boarded up or were used but in horrible shape. During the business hours not too many people inhabited this area of Lower Manhattan and it was ignored. The neighboring South Street Seaport was being transformed in the mid 80’s into a type of historic theme…
When I was exploring the Turtle Bay neighborhood for my blog, “MywalkinManhattan.com” when rounding the corner by the Roger Smith Hotel I was greeted by the beautiful vibrant colors of clothes in the window of Gabrielle Carlson Studio, which at the time was on East 47th Street and has now moved to 501 Lexington Avenue in the Roger Smith Hotel’s shops facing Lexington Avenue.
What attracted me to the store was the vibrant colors of the clothing and uniqueness of the styles and designs. Clothes were hanging from the racks in vibrant deep greens and purples and various hues of blue. There were different types of clothes to choose from including dresses, skirts, tank tops, tee-shirts, scarfs and sheen coverings in various colors and sizes. The store’s motto is “Beautiful Clothes in Your Size” and it…
Walking the streets of Midtown East is very different from all the other neighborhoods that I have walked so far. The character of the neighborhood differs so much in that it is mostly commercial with hotels, specialty shops, office buildings and more residential on the upper parts of the neighborhood than any other part of the City. When you walk down the side streets of Midtown East, you are usually passing a building that stretches from one block to the other with nothing much in between but a loading dock or garage for the employees. Most of the smaller buildings and brownstones have been long knocked down and replaced with large office buildings some of which the character lacks in these giant ‘glass boxes’.
I know in the past few years that New York City has allowed more innovation in building design and there has been more original designs then the original 1980’s ‘glass boxes’ but even now there are a lot of makeovers that are happening all over the neighborhood and you will be dodging scaffolding that I have not seen since my days walking Harlem. From block to block especially as you get closer to Grand Central Station, there are many closed sidewalks and you can only walk on one side of the street.
Grand Central Station sits at the head of this neighborhood
With that said, there are still many hidden treasures to find if you just look up and across and they just jump out on you. It is surprising in this ever changing neighborhood of soaring towers and busy hotels that tucked here and there are public atriums with places to sit and tiny cafes inside them that cater to the busy lunch crowd. Small brownstones here and there around the neighborhood have survived the wrecking ball and now house small cottage businesses and some upscale boutiques. I even found a few waterfalls along the way. I started my walk on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, which is becoming like an old friend. East 59th Street with its luxury shops and hotels is going through a transition itself since the domination of the internet.
Many of the luxury stores from Steuben Glass to the old FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue have either disappeared or have moved to other parts of Midtown. Even the Barney’s New York on Madison Avenue on the edge of the Upper East Side neighborhood has filed for bankruptcy sighting changing tastes (people just don’t dress like that anymore) and the cost of doing business in a Brick & Mortar store which such high rents. I really don’t think honestly that people can afford these places anymore and if they can, will order it online not having to deal with the sometimes indifferent service you get now in stores (I experienced this feeling in Paul Stuart when I walked in twice with shorts). The result is a lot of empty retail space.
This is changing though with the remodeling of the older office buildings with new facelifts and newer foreign stores coming into the neighborhood. Even so, look again for the open-air museum of artwork all over the streets and in the lobbies of these soaring office buildings. When walking down East 58th Street, I came across the sculpture “Rondo” by artist Tony Rosenthal in 1969 in front of 127 East 58th Street. This interesting circular sculpture is made of welded bronze.
‘Rondo’ by artist Tony Rosenthal
Tony Rosenthal was known for his large ‘Monumental Public Art Sculptures’ that appeared in cities all over the United States. Mr. Rosenthal had studied at the Chicago Institute of Art and in the 1960’s concentrated on large Abstract Geometric Sculptures. With his “Rondo” series in the 1960’s, it is noted that “Tony Rosenthal finds, discovers and reports to us what we might not have seen without him” (Tony Rosenthal biography).
Take a look at the detail work of 480 Park Avenue on the corner of Park Avenue and East 58th Street. Designed by architect Emery Roth in 1929, notice the terracotta detail work all over the building. It is one of the great residential buildings where each apartment had working fireplaces and high ceilings.
Look at the detail work at 480 Park Avenue
One building that stands out on the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 57th Street is the Cohen Building at 135 East 57th Street with its soaring floors and interesting entrance with a ringed pavilion. This 31 story commercial office building has a unique circular path for vehicles up from and pillared terrace entrance. The architect is Kohn Pederson Fox Associates and was built in 1987 in the ‘Post-Modern’ design with a plaza in the front of a concave tower. The building is right across the street from Bloomingdale’s Department Store (NewYorkitecture).
135 East 57th Street The Cohen Building
Walking past the IBM Building again, it was nice to finally discover that the sculpture outside the building was an Alexander Calder, the famous “Saurien”, that he created to emulate a reptile. This interesting and unusual sculpture deserved a second look. Other buildings that stand out in the neighborhood have been mentioned in Day One Hundred and Forty of MywalkinManhattan.com are the Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street and 465 Park Avenue. Look up and notice their detail and artworks that line the outside of these buildings.
When walking around East 57th to East 56th Streets, please be careful of the security around Trump Tower. They watch everything you do and it is best to just walk around this part of the neighborhood between Fifth and Madison Avenues. Most of the buildings on this block stretch from one block to the next.
Trump Building at 725 Fifth Avenue is where the security is tight
When walking down East 55th Street from Fifth Avenue back to Lexington Avenue, stop and notice the building at 116 East 55th Street, home to the SUNY Global Center. The building was the former mansion to the Zeigler family and was built between 1926-1927. The house was designed by architect William L. Bottomley in the ‘Neo-Georgian style’ and features Flemish blond brickwork on the outside. William Zeigler Jr., who owned the house with his wife, Helen was a businessman, sportsman and philanthropist (Wiki).
Zeigler House SUNY at 116 East 55th Street
I finished the first day of the neighborhood at East 55th Street and had dinner at Tri Dim Shanghai Restaurant at 1378 Third Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor). Their food is excellent and you have to try their Soup Dumplings that they are noted for.
Tri Dim’s Soup Dumplings are excellent
They burst in your mouth with each bite and their Classic Chicken, which is cooked in what I figure is a honey, soy and plum sauce is just excellent.
Tri Dim’s Classic Chicken is excellent
Tri Dim Shanghai Restaurant at 1378 Third Avenue
For dessert, it was time to revisit Bon Vivant Bakery at 231 East 58th Street for dessert (See reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). I had one of their Rose Petit Fours ($4.00) and it was just excellent. A subtle sweetness with the accent of the rose extract that is used in the filling and the icing. These delightful cakes can be eaten in the two tier bakery and it is fun to watch the world go by.
Bon Vivant at 231 East 58th Street is wonderful for desserts
On my second day of walking the Streets of Midtown East I had just finished a busy day at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen working in the busy Bread Station and was exhausted by the time I got to East 55th Street. I stopped along the way for a Chicken Empanada at Empanada Suprema(see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) at the corner of East 38th Street and Broadway for a quick lunch. This little stand is open only during the week and had the most delicious chicken, beef and cheese empanadas for $2.00! I love his sign with the Caped Empanada.
Empanada Suprema at the corner of West 38th Street & Broadway
Don’t miss admiring the famous Friar’s Club at 57 East 57th Street. This beautiful building was built for Investment Banker Martin Erdman in 1908 by architect Alfredo S.G. Taylor and was designed in the ‘English Renaissance’ style.
The Friar’s Club at 57 East 55th Street
When walking the bottom of East 55th Street from Lexington Avenue, take time again to admire the former AT&T Building at 550 Madison Avenue and IBM Building at 590 Madison Avenue in the distance. These iconic buildings show the resilience and creativity of their corporate owners. They are such interesting designs (see Day One Hundred and Forty Walking the Borders of Midtown East).
Madison Avenue in the 50’s
One of the most interesting little pocket parks in the neighborhood I found when I rounded the corner at East 54th Street. It was right in front of the Christie’s at 535 Madison Avenue is the Christie’s Sculpture Garden with its small tables and chairs, trees covered with white lights and interesting public art. The artist Jonathan Prince is showing his work, “Shattered I, II and III’ in the garden courtyard.
Christie’s Sculpture Garden in front of 535 Madison Avenue with “Shattered Sculptures”
Artist Jonathan Prince is New York born and raised and holds degrees from Columbia University and the University of Southern California. Over the past twenty years, the artist has had a passion for form and material with the use of chaos in his works. His use of steel and CorTen is used in the ‘Shattered’ pieces and they have a reflective element against the white lights of the park (Artist website).
Jonathan Prince in front of his “Shattered Sculptures”
This public garden is one of the nicest I have seen in many blocks and it is nice that Christie’s gives us an opportunity to view Public Art on sale while sitting back on the chairs on a nice day and just admire the park and people passing by.
The Kiton Store at 4 East 54th Street is the former home William Earle Dodge Stokes and his former wife, Rita. Mr. Stokes bought the land and leveled the houses that were there and had architects McKim, Mead and White design the marble mansion in 1896. The couple never lived in the house and filed for divorce soon after. The house was then bought by William H. Moore, the founder of Nabisco and his wife, Ada who movements in New York Society were well known. After Mrs. Moore’s death in 1955, the mansion was used for retail purposes (Daytonia in Manhattan).
The Kiton Store Stokes/Moore House at 4 East 54th Store
The ironic part of the former Stokes/Moore house is that right behind it when rounding the corner to East 54th Street is the Paley Garden, another small public garden with a waterfall as its centerpiece at 3 East 54th Street. The park was designed by architects Zion Breen Richardson Associates and opened in 1967. CBS Head William Paley financed the park in honor of his father, Samuel Paley (Wiki). This pristine little park is also nice to just sit and relax and listen to the waterfall and drown out the sounds of the City. The rest of East 54th Street is lined with large office buildings and the rush of people walking from one block to the next.
Paley Garden at East 53rd Street
Rounding East 53rd Street make an effort to stop inside the lobby of 1 East 53rd Street to see the gallery display from the Studio in the School New York City. The works that line the wall of the lobby space of the building is from art students all over New York City.
The Studio in the School is the largest not for profit visual arts education organization in New York City with the mission to “foster the creative and intellectual development of youth through quality visual arts programs, directed by arts professionals. We also collaborate with and develop the ability of those who provide or support arts programming and creative development for youth both in and outside of schools. We fulfill our mission through two divisions; the New York City Schools Program and the Studio Institute” (Studio in the School mission statement).
The Studio in the School Gallery at East 53rd Street
Walking the rest of East 53rd and then onto East 52nd and East 51st is lined with large office buildings that stretch from one block to the other. Most of this part of the neighborhood was knocked down in the late 1960’s for commercial use.
When walking down East 50th Street there is a small gem of a public pocket park at the south side of East 50th Street between Madison and Park Avenues. Created by the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 2014, this little park called the “50th Street Commons” features a water feature ‘waterfall’ that turns colors from blue to green to yellow to fuchsia. This unique little park surrounded by exotic plants is another nice place to just sit and relax (Murray Hill, Gramercy and Midtown East Paper).
The “50th Street Commons” on East 50th Street
Across the street from the park and wedged between office buildings is the restaurant, Maloney & Porcelli, which was founded in 1996 and offers “clubby American cuisine” and harks back to an era when lunch time was taken seriously. It stands in contrast to the ever changing neighborhood.
The restaurant classic, Maloney & Porcelli at 37 East 50th Street
When rounding East 49th Street, stop at Tower 49 at 12 East 49th Street, the home of WeWork to see the art exhibition of artist Enrico Isamu Oyama exhibition “Inside Out”. This exhibition located on all side of the lobby. This contemporary and rather unusual exhibition starts with the pillars on both East 49th and 48th Streets to invite you inside (the security at the building is really cool and nice about people looking around). The Tower 49 Gallery offers exhibitions of art free of charge and is open to the public at street level.
Mr. Oyama’s work is unique at best with a lot of lines and movement. His work “Quick Turn Structure” consists of interlocking intersections of black and white shapes and the unique style replaces letters with lines, highlighting their dynamic motion through the process of repetition that subsequently creates and abstract form with angular points and three-dimensional depth (Artist Press Release).
Tower 49 Gallery
Mr. Oyama is originally from Tokyo and is now based in New York City and likes to creat a visual art in various mediums that features Quick Turn Structure, the motif composed of spontaneous repetition and expansion of free flowing lines influenced by the aerosol writing of the 1970’s-1980’s New York and beyond (Artist Press Release).
If you are in need of a public bathroom, try the fourth floor of Saks Fifth Avenue in the Men’s Department. When the store is open, this is one of the most convenient places to go to the bathroom in the area.
When proceeding down East 48th Street, take a stop in front of 4 East 48th Street, The Church of Sweden. This Neo-Gothic Church was built in 1921 for “The Bible House” and was sold to the Church in 1978. There is a library and cafe that are inside and open to the public. For the most part, the rest of East 48th Street is filled with large buildings that stretch from side to side.
Church of Sweden at 4 East 48th Street
There is one stand out piece of artwork in the lobby of 280 East 48th Street of four people hunched over in a circle. As hard as I tried though I don’t know who the brilliant artist is of the work.
The lobby sculpture at 280 East 48th Street
Rounding East 47th Street, take a trip back in time to Manhattan of the 1970’s inside of Phil’s Stationary at 9 East 47th Street. I was talking to the gentlemen who were running the store and told them I had not seen inventory like this on sale in a long time. Hard to find things like stationary, note pads, typing paper and ribbon and even recommendations to a place to fix the typewriter. This stationary store harks back to the days when people left the office to go shopping for things needed at the last minute. They still sell pens, pencils and even the old accounting ledger books. The nice part is that it still smells like a stationery store.
Phil’s Stationery at 9 East 47th Street
Most of the Streets between East 47th to East 46th Streets are lined with larger office buildings that stretch from block to block with a smattering of small businesses here and there. One standout at 556 Fifth Avenue at the entrance of East 46th Street is the Philippine Consulate General which services Philippine nationals in the Northeast states. This unique building is one of the last holdovers from the Country buildings that used to line this part of Fifth Avenue in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. The building was designed by Carrere & Hastings in 1912 for the Knoedler and Company Art Gallery.
The Philippine Consulate at 556 Fifth Avenue
On the edge of East 46th Street sits the famous Roosevelt Hotel and the Helmsley Building which sit as the old guards to the neighborhood once known as “Terminal City”. The Helmsley Building at 230 Park Avenue was originally built for the headquarters of the New York Central Building in 1929 by Warren & Wetmore in the Beaux-Arts style. These are also the architects of Grand Central Station behind it that stands guard of the neighborhood from Turtle Bay to Midtown East.
The Helmsley Building at 230 Park Avenue stands guard over this part of Park Avenue
The Roosevelt Hotel at 45 East 46 sits between East 46th and 45th Streets next to Grand Central Terminal. The hotel was designed by architect George C. Post & Son in 1924 and was once part of a series of hotels that made up “Terminal City” that stretched along both sides of Grand Central. The hotel was named for President Teddy Roosevelt and even had a child care service in ‘The Teddy Room’.
The Roosevelt Hotel at 45 East 46th Street
Take time to walk around these impressive buildings and look at the outside stone carvings and elaborate lobbies. The lobby of the Helmsley Building is impressive with its marble floors and impressive chandeliers.
On the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 46th Street tucked behind the Barnes & Noble bookstore I had lunch at a new branch of JoJu at 555 Fifth Avenue, which had just opened that afternoon with a soft opening. I had some of their Vietnamese spring rolls ($5.50) which were filled with ground pork and vegetables and were cooked to perfection.
On another occasion to visit the restaurant, I had the Vietnamese sandwich ($9.95) with Caramel Pork and fish sauce and a side plain double-fried French Fries and a Cold Brew Lemon tea ($3.96). Lunch did come to almost $19.00 but the sandwich can feed two and it is worth the indulge. The service there is really nice as well.
JoJu is a new addition to the Fifth Avenue restaurants at 555 Fifth Avenue
Tucked into the side of the Helmsley Building at the corner of East 45th Street and Vanderbilt Avenue is Urbanspace Vanderbilt, a indoor food court with some of the most hip and innovative local restaurants in New York City. These artisan and chef driven restaurants are outposts of the original neighborhood restaurants including well known names of Roberta’s Pizza and Dough Doughnuts.
Dough at the Urbanspace Vanderbilt
The company Urbanspace has been creating these experiences since 1993 since the company’s establishment in 1972 in Great Britain. Don’t miss the vibrancy of the atmosphere and the smells that waft through the hall at lunch time. I love going to Dough that occasional $4.00 doughnut that is well worth it.
Urbanspace food court in the corner of the Helmsley Building on East 49th Street
The rest of East 45th and 44th Streets are lined with small office buildings and stores and along Madison Avenue the headquarters of Brooks Brothers and Paul Stuart stores that cater to the City professionals and “preppie class”.
Brooks Brothers at 346 Madison Avenue
Midtown East is now mostly a commercial neighborhood lined with office buildings and retail businesses but as you walk the streets here and there things still pop out and amaze you. It really shows the complexity of the City at its best and how a little creativity and renewal can change a space from one use to another.
That shows the imagination of the people who keep making Manhattan a unique experience.
Don’t miss my other walks in MidTown East Manhattan:
Walking the Avenues on Day One Hundred & Forty-Five:
On my travels to the Turtle Bay neighborhood, I came across a little gem of a restaurant tucked into the office buildings that line the border of Turtle Bay and Midtown East. Hop Won Chinese Noodle Shop is located in a series of small mom and pop restaurants in what is left of the brownstone section of the neighborhood. The rest of the street had been leveled for new office towers and this small strip of restaurants is what remains.
Hop Won appears small from the outside but the restaurant is rather large in the back with lots of nice seating to enjoy your meal. The front section of the restaurant is where you do your ordering and during the lunch rush…
I have been running in and out of the City since I started teaching classes again at the college and had a ‘bucket list’ of small museums that I wanted to visit for my blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com” and restaurants I wanted to try before the Summer was over. So there was a lot of running around the last several weeks. That’s why the blogs come out a little later than usual.
I got back to finishing my walk around ‘Midtown East’ by walking the only two Avenues inside the neighborhoods borders, Madison and Park Avenues from East 43rd Street (which hugs the Turtle Bay neighborhood) and East 59th Street (which hugs the Upper East Side & Sutton Place). On the Avenues in this part of the neighborhood is mostly residential and commercial spaces with rows glass boxes on some streets and limestone and marble residential buildings one the others. There is a lot of sameness in the architecture here but don’t let that fool you. There are a lot of interesting things to see and places to visit in this very much working modern neighborhood.
My walk started on Madison Avenue’s commercial district at the start of East 43rd Street where a giant new glass box is being created right next to Grand Central Station. Probably not Mr. Vanderbilt’s vision for the area but I think he would have been impressed by the progress the area has experienced in the last 100 years.
My first stop is admiring and walking into the headquarters of Brooks Brothers Clothing store at 346 Madison Avenue, one of the most American and famous clothing stores in the United States. Stepping into Brooks Brothers is like a step back into time when shopping was still experience and customer service actually meant something. Their displays are elegant without being stuffy.
The elegant displays at Brooks Brothers main floor
The store was designed by architects La Farge & Morris in 1915 the Italian Renaissance design with prominent arched entrances, wrought iron arches and carved limestone details around the building. You can see the detail work in the cornices that line the top of the building.
The Brooks Brothers headquarters at 346 Madison Avenue
Another great clothing store is Paul Stuart at Madison Avenue and East 45th Street. The store has been in business since 1938 and carries some of the most impressive clothing and accessories for Men and Women.
Paul Stuart Specialty Store at Madison & East 45th Street
The store was a privately held family business until December of 2012 and then it was sold it’s long time partner, Mitsui. The store has changed a lot since the sale. It once had some of the best customer service in all the specialty stores in Manhattan but when I went to visit on this trip in my shorts and polo, the three sales people on the floor at the time ignored me. It’s not the same store with the orange carpet and older, more mature salespeople.
The Men’s Department after the renovation
When you get to Madison and 55th Street, watch for the security as this is the back section of Trump Tower and East 55th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues is blocked off by barriers and armed NYPD detectives and police. Only one side of the street is open here so it is best to keep walking.
Another impressive building on Madison Avenue is at 550 Madison Avenue, the old AT&T Building with its signature ‘Chippendale’ roof. This building was considered radical and innovative at the same time when AT&T built it to house their world headquarters. The 37 story building was designed by famed architect Philip Johnson in 1984 in the postmodern design. Critics called it ‘Chippendale’ after the famed furniture due to the ‘open pediment’ look of the top of the building based on English furniture design (Wiki). The building is currently have some lobby renovations that I passed.
550 Madison Avenue
Next to the AT&T Building is the IBM Building at 590 Madison Avenue. This 41 story building was built in 1983 by architect Edward Larrabee Barnes & Associates and developed by IBM and designed in the post-modern design (Wiki).
The IBM Building at 590 Madison Avenue & East 57th Street
Because of the zoning laws established in 1916, there is a beautiful and relaxing open atrium filled with food kiosis and art work for the public to enjoy on the ground level. It is a nice place to relax after a long walk. Take time to admire the art works that line the atrium.
The Atrium at the IBM Building
One piece of art that stands out is the red geometric sculpture on the corner of Madison and East 57th Street is the great artist Alexander Calder “Saurien” (which is a large reptile), that was created by the artist in his studio in 1975. This is an example of Calder’s “Stoic” work and were called ‘stabiles’ because these abstract works, unlike his floating works of art, stand strongly and firmly into the ground (Art Nerd 2018).
The Alexander Calder sculpture, “Saurien”
Walk around this wonderful work by Calder and try to take a breath and understand what the artist was trying to say. It is almost like all the ‘legs’ on the sculpture are trying to show stability and contrast.
Inside the atrium, there are two interesting pieces of artwork that standout. There are two colorful acrylic apples that are done in colorful motifs that you should not miss. The sculptures were created in 2004 for the “Big Apple Fest” to promote the City’s tourism. Companies paid $8,500.00 to sponsor and $12,500 to keep the apples in which artists were allowed to decorate inside or outside.
One of them is entitled “A Day in the Big Apple” by an artist named Billy.
‘A Day in the Big Apple’ by artist Billy
The other is of a colorful face by artist Romero Britto entitled “New York Future”.
“New York Future” by artist Romero Britto
Romero Britto is a Brazilian born American artist whose colorful works elude the optimism the artist has on his view of the world. He uses bold and colorful patterns to enhance his works (Artist Bio).
When you reach the edge of the neighborhood at East 59th Street, you are greeted by the former GM Building that stretches from Fifth to Madison Avenues. This elegant 50 story building once represented the presence of GM in New York City. It was designed by the architectural firms of Edward Durell Stone & Associates and Emery Roth & Sons in 1968. It was designed in the “International Style” and stands guard at the end of the commercial district of Midtown East and the Upper East Side.
The GM Building stands guard at 767 Fifth Avenue
As you cross back down Madison Avenue on East 59th Street, you will notice the ever changing retail landscape and all the empty storefronts on this part of Madison Avenue. Twenty years ago this would not have existed but it is a sign of the times.
The details of the Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street
Another interesting building to admire is the Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street on the corner of Madison Avenue. The building was created for the Fuller Construction Company in 1929 by architects Walker & Gillette in the ‘Art Deco Style’. The buildings exterior sculptures were designed by architect Elie Nadelman. Look at the interesting details not just on the outside of the building but walk into the lobby to take a look around (Wiki).
The Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street
One of the great hotels in New York City stands guard at 455 Madison Avenue and 50th Street, the New York Palace Hotel (formerly the Helmsley Palace Hotel) which is a combination of an old mansion and the modern building behind it. The front of the building facing Madison Avenue is the former Villard Mansion.
New York Palace Hotel at 455 Madison Avenue
The front of the hotel is the “Villard Houses” created in 1882 for Henry Villard, a railroad financier, who worked with the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White to create a series of six brownstone townhouses facing a courtyard in the ‘Italian Neo-Renaissance style’. Developer Harry Hemsley leased the houses and hired Emery Roth & Sons to create the 55 story modern hotel in the back of the houses.
The Villard Houses part of the New York Palace Hotel
The hotel opened in 1981 as the notorious ‘Helmsley Palace Hotel’ with hotelier Leona Helmsley in charge. Considered one of the best hotels at the time, it was a five star/five diamond hotel (with one of the most nervous staffs in New York City). The hotel has been owned by Lotte Hotels & Resorts since 2015.
The inside of the New York Palace Hotel, the Villard Houses
Take time to walk through the hotel from the East 50th Street entrance to the East 49th Street exit and walk around the public rooms and admire the architectural details from the Gilded Age. There are elegant features from staircases to marble fireplaces and the most beautiful views on Madison Avenue.
I found this pardony of the Helmsley Hotel on YouTube. It is very clever.
Another older hotel that stands out is the Roosevelt Hotel at 45 East 45th Street at the corner of Madison Avenue and East 45th Street. It stands guard next to Grand Central Station. The hotel opened in 1924 and was designed by the architectural firm of George P. Post & Son for businessman, Frank A. Dudley and it was ran by United Hotels Company from a leased agreement with the New York Central Railroad. Like the other hotels that line Lexington Avenue, there used to be a separate passageway from the railroad to the hotel (Wiki).
The Roosevelt Hotel at 45 East 45th Street
This is similar hotel to take the time to walk through the lobby and look at the vaulted ceilings and the Gilded Age details of the hotels with its thick carpets and elegant staircases. The hotel has a somewhat dark, more European feel to it. There is a lobby restaurant when open that looks pretty interesting.
The entrance to the lobby at the Roosevelt Hotel
As you walk around Grand Central Terminal and through the archway pedestrian tunnels that lead to Park Avenue from East 45th to East 46th Streets, you will be traveling under the Helmsley Building at 230 Park Avenue that stands guard at the beginning to the business and residential neighborhood of Park Avenue.
The Helmsley Building at 230 Park Avenue
The Helmsley Building was built in 1929 as the New York Central Building for the rail company and was designed by architects Warren & Wetmore, who also designed Grand Central Terminal, in the ‘Beaux-Arts style’. Take time to admire the statuary around the clock that dominates its front and the beautiful stone detail work of the exterior of the building.
The beautiful details of the Helmsley Building on Park Avenue
The New York Central used the building as its starting point of “Terminal City”, a series of buildings and hotels that the railroad developed on the top of the rail line (Wiki). The true beauty of The Helmsley Building is at night when the owners put on a light show illuminating the building with colorful spotlights.
The Helmsley Building light show after dark
All along Park Avenue is a series of ‘glass boxes’ for office buildings and residential towers that line the Avenue all the way up to East 96th Street at the exit of the rail line. Along the way, there are some interesting examples of architecture that line Park Avenue.
The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at 301 Park Avenue is currently closed and under scaffolding awaiting its new life as a small hotel and condo complex. The hotel, as mentioned in previous blogs in ‘MywalkinManhattan’, was built and opened in 1931. It was designed by the architectural firm of Schultz & Weaver in the ‘Art Deco style’ and is probably one of the most famous and talked about hotels in New York City outside the Plaza Hotel (Wiki). There have been so many movies and TV shows filmed and written about the hotel to count and the restaurants inside the hotel were some of the better ones in New York City. The building will open sometime in the future.
The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at 301 Park Avenue
St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church at 325 Park Avenue is one of the older buildings on Park Avenue and stands alone amongst the bigger buildings on this part of Avenue. Though the congregation was started in 1835, this structure was built between 1916-17 and designed by Bertram Goodhue, who had designed the St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue (See Walking the Border of Midtown East-MywalkinManhattan). The church was designed in the ‘Byzantine Revival Design’ and he was required by the congregation to retain the old church portal from the former church on Madison Avenue and East 44th Street in the new church design (Wiki).
‘St. Bart’s’ Church at 325 Park Avenue
Look at the details of the old church and the stained glass windows. In the Summer months, there is a wonderful (yet somewhat over-priced) restaurant in the courtyard of the church and there are art markets during the Summer and Christmas holiday season that you should visit. There is also afternoon music at certain times of the year.
St. Bart’s restaurant and terrace during the summer
One standout, innovative building on Park Avenue sits between East 52nd and 53rd Streets is the Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue. The building and its exterior designs was created by German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with the interior Four Seasons Restaurant designed by American architect Philip Johnson.
The Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue
This 38 story building of wonder was innovative in its time. Finished in 1958 as the corporate headquarters of Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, the building was noted for its ‘functional aesthetics’ and a prominent example of ‘corporate modern architecture’. Keeping up with modern building codes, the architect used ‘non-structural bronze I-beams and large glass windows’ to create the cool and well toned exterior structure of the building (Wiki).
Also utilizing the 1916 building code and the new use of open public spaces, the building was one of the first in New York City to embrace the open air plaza that was prevalent in the 1980’s and early 90’s design. It was an extremely innovative design at the time and still sets the standard for the modern ‘glass box’.
Seagram Building plaza, innovative to its time
One of the last stand out buildings that I saw on Park Avenue before my walk back down the Avenue was at 465 Park Avenue, The Ritz Tower, an apartment hotel. This elegant residential building stands out because of its details on the exterior of the building and I later learned it was once home to the famous French restaurant, La Pavilion.
The Ritz Plaza at 465 Park Avenue
This elegant building was designed by architects Emory Roth and Thomas Hastings for journalist Arthur Brisbane, who was the developer. The apartment hotel was managed by the Ritz-Carlton Company. The exterior of the building has many carved stone features so look closely from the other side of Park Avenue to admire the detail work. Don’t stare too long because the doorman gets a suspicious look if you look too long. He kept looking me over as I admired the building and the read the plaques.
Look at the elegant details of the Ritz Tower
Up and down the Park Avenue Mall is the work of artist Alex Katz “Park Avenue Departure”, of which it looks like the back of a woman who is walking away from some place. The work is a depiction of the artist’s wife, Ada. Each of the works along the mall is changed slightly to show the sculpture in motion as if it is walking down the mall. This street art exhibition will run through November 2019 (The Fund for Park Avenue).
Alex Katz’s Park Avenue Mall exhibit “Park Avenue Departure”
American artist Alex Katz who was born in Brooklyn, NY and is a graduate of Cooper Union Art College. His long career has seen many changes in art form and today some of his concentrations are in landscape and portraiture. His work can be seen in museums all over the world.
For lunch and dinner that afternoon, I ate at Hop Won Chinese Noodle Shop at 139 East 45th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues (See reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). After a long day of walking, I treated myself to a plate of mixed roasted meats, duck and pork, with a side of rice ($9.00) and an egg roll ($1.38). Their roasted meats are a laquered delight with the rich, crackling skin of the duck worth every bite. The food here is delicious and so reasonable for Midtown East.
Don’t miss Hop Won at 139 East 45th Street
By the end of the evening, I got a chance to double back around the Helmsley Building and look at the detail work of that structure as well and then walked up and down the tiny Vanderbilt Avenue between East 45th and 47th Streets that line next to Grand Central Terminal. The most notable building on this block is the Yale Club at 50 Vanderbilt Avenue. The famous clubhouse was designed by Yale Alumnus and architect James Gramble Rodgers and it opened in 1915.
The Yale Club at 50 Vanderbilt Avenue; notice the plaque to Nathan Hale on the bottom left
The most notable item outside the club is the historical mark where supposedly Patriot Nathan Hale was hung. There is a conflict to where it actually took place and there is another site on the Upper East Side (See Walking the Upper East Side Streets in MywalkinManhattan), where that plaque is outside the local Pier One. I personally like that theory better. Where else in American could a Patriot of the Revolutionary War be hung in that two hundred years later would house a retailer that sells Christmas chukkas made in China?
That’s what I love about Manhattan!
I have enclosed all the addresses to the interesting buildings you should visit above to make it easier then doing them one by one.
After my long walks around the classic New York neighborhoods of Sutton Place, Beekman Place and Turtle Bay, it was now time to turn my attention to the commercial part of Manhattan and the shopping districts that are popular with the tourists. This neighborhood is in a whirlwind of change right now as everything old is being knocked down and replaced with shiny new office towers and large glass boxes. Slowly the character of this part of Midtown is changing from the old stone buildings with the beautifully carved embellishments to a lot of glass towers lining both the Avenues and the Streets of the neighborhood. I have never seen so many changes over a twenty year period.
I have also seen the decline of the Fifth and Madison Avenue exclusivity in the shopping district from East 60th Street to East 43rd Street right near the New York Public Library. All the big department stores one by one have closed leaving only Saks Fifth Avenue and specialty store Bergdorf Goodman both Men’s and Women’s stores left. Even those stores have gone from elegant well-bred stores to somewhat showy and glitzy as I am not sure they know who their customer is anymore. There are a lot of empty storefronts because of the rising rents.
The selection of stores and restaurants lining this side of the neighborhood are still somewhat exclusive but it reminds me more of North Michigan Avenue in Chicago than Fifth Avenue in New York City. There seems to have been a dispersion of stores from the street over the last two years to areas like Madison Avenue or even SoHo or Tribeca downtown. There are a lot of empty store fronts both on Fifth and Madison Avenue which you never saw until the Stock Market Crash of 2008. The area has not fully recovered from that yet.
Still the borders of the neighborhood still hold some of the most iconic and famous buildings in Manhattan and interesting shops and restaurants along the way. Some of the most famous hotels in New York City are located in this neighborhood with their classic old world charm and their elegant stonework entrances.
I started my tour of the neighborhood by revisiting the length of Lexington Avenue from East 43rd Street and walking up the Avenue to East 59th Street and then crossing over East 59th to Fifth Avenue. First I stopped for some lunch at Hop Won Chinese Noodle Shop at 139 East 45th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues (See reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).
Hop Won Chinese Noodle Shop is one of the few remaining restaurants in the former brownstone section of the neighborhood that has not been razed for an office building. The food is so good and different from the other Chinese take out places in Midtown. They specialize in roasted meats, noodle soups and dishes while keeping the traditional Cantonese favorite for the busy office workers in the area.
Hop Won Chinese Noodle Shop at 139 East 45th Street
My first and second trips to the restaurant I wanted to concentrate on the roasted meats. You could not taste a more moist or succulent meat outside of Chinatown. The Roast Pork, Roast Duck and Boneless Roast Pork with rice makes a nice lunch. The meats are perfectly marinated, lacquered and roasted to perfection with crackling skin and the taste of soy and honey. Their prices are very fair and the selection of combination dishes all run under $10.00.
The delicious roasted meats at Hop Won
After lunch, I walked up the familiar Lexington Avenue to East 59th Street, passing well-known hotels and office buildings that still make up the character of the neighborhood. In between the ‘glass boxes’ there are still many buildings that standout and you can read about them more in my travels around Turtle Bay (Day One Hundred and Forty Walking Turtle Bay).
As I rounded along East 59th Street, I saw in the distance the now bankrupt Barney’s specialty store. Talk about a store that traveled in full circle from a discount store to exclusivity now into bankruptcy with the changing tastes and buying habits of customers all over the city. I’m surprised with the rent for this location they are bothering to keep it open.
Further down the street passing various stores and restaurants on the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 59th Street is the famous Sherry-Netherland Hotel at 781 Fifth Avenue. Built between 1926-27 by the architects Schultz-Weaver with Buckman and Kahn in the Neo-Romanesque/Neo-Gothic style and you can see the stone work details around the edges of the building. It was once the tallest apartment hotel in New York City.
Sherry-Netherland Hotel at 781 Fifth Avenue
When walking around the corner East 59th Street to Fifth Avenue, you will pass the General Motors Building at 767 Fifth Avenue. This modern skyscraper was designed in the ‘International style’ by architects by Edward Durell Stone & Associates with Emory Roth & Sons in 1968 and is one of the few buildings that utilizes a full city block (Wiki). The building was used by General Motors as their New York headquarters until 1998 when they sold the remaining interest in the building.
The GM Building at 767 Fifth Avenue
Next door to the GM Building is 745 Fifth Avenue, the home of Bergdorf-Goodman Men’s Store and once the home to FAO Schwarz Toy Store from 1932-1986. You can see this classic New York skyscraper in many TV shows and movies including the theme song for the opening of “That Girl” and in the FAO Schwarz scene of the movie “Baby Boom” with Diane Keaton. This beautiful ‘art-deco style’ building was designed by architects Buckman-Kahn in 1930.
745 Fifth Avenue
745 Fifth Avenue on TV in the opening of “That Girl” with the Bergdorf-Goodman store window on the corner of 5th Avenue and 59th Street where she is looking into.
The architecture continues to evolve on Fifth Avenue as you continue to make your way down the street.
Watch the traffic and security as you pass Trump Tower at 721 Fifth Avenue. I could write an entire book on the building of this famous and iconic structure of the 1980’s. The building was designed by architect Dur Scutt of Poor, Swanke, Hayden & Connell. It is tough to visit the building with all the security but still it is interesting to see the shops and inside design.
Trump Tower at 721 Fifth Avenue
There is a combination of building designs and structure along the way. Located on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 55th Street is one of the most famous hotels in New York City, The St. Regis Hotel. This luxury hotel on the corner of 55th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenue’s at 2 East 55th Street was built in 1904 by John Jacob Astor IV.
St. Regis Hotel at 2 East 55th Street
The hotel was designed by architects Trowbridge & Livingston in the French Beaux-Art style and was the tallest hotel in New York when it was built. Take time to go inside and see the true beauty of this hotel which was fully renovated in 2013. There are interesting restaurants to eat at and they have a wonderful (but very pricey) Afternoon Tea. The hotel which is a Five Star and Five Diamond hotel has been featured on countless TV shows and movies.
The Front entrance of the St. Regis Hotel off Fifth Avenue
On the corner of Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street sits a true jewel box in the Cartier store at 653 Fifth Avenue. The store was once home to Morton Freeman Plant, the son of railroad tycoon Henry B. Plant. The home was designed by architect Robert W. Gibson in 1905 in the ‘Neo-Renaissance style’. Mr. Plant felt later that the area was getting too ‘commercial’ and moved further uptown and Cartier bought the building in 1917 (Wiki).
Cartier Fifth Avenue 653 Fifth Avenue
Cartier finished a renovation on the store in 2016 to bring back the true beauty and elegance of the store and of the building. Don’t miss the opportunity to walk around inside and see the refined displays of merchandise.
The Cartier store after the renovation
Next to the Cartier store at 647 Fifth Avenue is the next Versace store which is housed in the left side of the Vanderbilt ‘ marble twin mansions. The Vanderbilt family had bought the land and built twin buildings on the site at 647-645 Fifth Avenue. Designed by architects Hunt & Hunt in 1902, the homes were first leased out as homes until about 1915 when businesses and trade came to the area.
647 Fifth Avenue in 1902
After passing out the Vanderbilt family in 1922, the building went through many incarnations and 645 Fifth Avenue was torn down for the Best & Company Department store in 1945 only to be torn down again in 1970 for the Olympic Tower (which still stands in the spot). The building was renovated in 1995 by Versace as their Fifth Avenue store and spent six million dollars to create the store that greets customers today.
647 Fifth Avenue today
The true catalyst and center of the luxury shopping district though is St. Patrick’s Cathedral which sits gracefully at the corner of Fifth Avenue between 51st and 50th Streets. The Discesce of New York was created in 1808 and the land for the Cathedral was bought in 1810. The Cathedral was to replace the one in lower Manhattan.
This current Cathedral was designed by architect James Resnick Jr. in the Gothic Revival style. Construction was started in 1850 and was halted because of the Civil War and continued in 1865. The Cathedral was completed in 1878 and dedicated in 1879. The Cathedral was renovated in 2013 and this shows its brilliance (Wiki).
During the holiday season the Cathedral is beautifully decorated and the music can be heard all over Fifth Avenue.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue
Next door to St. Patrick’s Cathedral is Saks Fifth Avenue’s headquarters. The business was founded by Andrew Saks in 1876 and was incorporated in 1902. After Mr. Saks died in 1912, the business was merged with Gimbel’s Brothers Department Store as Horace Saks was a cousin of Bernard Gimbel. In 1924, they opened the new store at 611 Fifth Avenue and changed the name of the store to Saks Fifth Avenue (The old store had been on 34th Street previously and called Saks 34th). The building was designed by architects Starrett & Van Vliet and designed in a ‘genteel, Anglophile classicized design’. (Wiki).
The store has recently gone through a major multi-million dollar renovation and is worth the time to look around the new first floor. The new cosmetic department is on the lower level along with jewelry so it is a different shopping experience.
Saks Fifth Avenue at 611 Fifth Avenue
Another former business that was well known on Fifth Avenue for years was located at 597 Fifth Avenue was Charles Scribner Sons Building. It originally house the Charles Scribner Book Store replacing the old store on lower Fifth Avenue. The building at 597 Fifth Avenue was designed by architect Ernest Flagg in the Beaux Arts style between 1912-13 (Wiki). The bookstore moved out in 1980 and the company became part of Barnes & Nobel Bookstores and the building has been sold since. It now houses a Lululemon Athletica store but you can still see the Scribner’s name on the outside of the building and the Landmarked book shelves inside the store.
The Charles Scribner Sons Building at 597 Fifth Avenue
The rest of Fifth Avenue is newer office buildings with retail space on the bottom levels some filled and some empty. When I was growing up, this part of Fifth Avenue was filled with high end stores. Today it is a combination of chain stores found in the suburbs or are just sitting empty, a trend found all over this part of Midtown East.
The Fred French Building at 551 Fifth Avenue
At 551 Fifth Avenue another interesting building, The Fred French Building really stands out. The building was created by architects H. Douglas Ives and Sloan & Robertson in 1927 in the ‘Art Deco Style’. Really look at the detail work all the up the building which was done in an ‘Eastern Design’ style with winged animals, griffins and golden beehives made to symbolize according to the architect ‘commerce and character and activities’ of the French companies. The outside material used on the building is faience, a glazed ceramic ware (Wiki).
The detail work on the top of the Fred French Building
When you cross over to West 43rd Street, you will see the elegant Grand Central Station complex which covers from West 42nd to West 45th Streets with the train station facing the West 42nd Street entrance to the MetLife Building (forever known at the Pan-Am Building for those of us to remember it) toward the back. It hovers over Grand Central like a modern gleaming giant. It should never been built there but that was the modern way of doing things in the 1960’s.
One of the best movie scenes of Fifth Avenue & the Pan-Am Building from “On a Clear Day you can see Forever”
Grand Central Station, once the home of the New York Railroad is one of the famous buildings in New York City. Saved from demolition in the 1960’s by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and other concerned preservationists.
Grand Central Terminal dominates this part of the neighborhood at 89 East 42nd Street
Grand Central Terminal was built between 1903-13 and opened in 1913. This beautiful rail station was designed New York Central Vice-President William J. Wilgus and the interiors and some exteriors by architects Reed & Stem and Warren & Wetmore in the Beaux Arts design. The exterior facade of building including the famous “Glory of Commerce” were designed by French artists and architects Jules Felix Coutan, Sylvain Salieres and Paul Cesar Helleu (Wiki).
There is a true beauty to the statuary and stone carvings on the outside of the building.
‘The Glory of Commerce’
The terminal housed the New York Central Railroad and some of the busiest routes. It now houses the New Haven, White Plains and Poughkeepsie lines and stop overs for some Amtrak lines. In 2020, it was house the new lines of the Long Island Rail Road.
The interior of the building is just as spectacular. When you walk into the building and stare from the top of the stairs, you see the power and bustle of New York City. When you look up you will see the famous ‘Constellation’ ceiling cleaned and lit with all the stars in the sky. There is still a small portion of the ceiling that was not cleaned to show how dirty it once was before the renovation.
Take time in the building to walk around and look up and down. This is an amazing building that takes time to look around. I will admit that security is tight around the building so don’t be to obvious as a tourist. Take the escalator to the bottom level to the Food Court. If you can’t find it down here, you won’t find it. Every restaurant is represented down here and there are public bathrooms as well.
After touring Grand Central station, I walked back down West 43rd Street to Fifth Avenue. Outside the Emigrant Bank is the statue of ‘Kneeling Fireman’ which was once placed by Times Square when it first arrived in this country from Parma, Italy. The statue arrived in this country on September 9, 2001 on its way to Missouri as it had been commissioned for the Firefighters Association of Missouri (Wiki).
After the attacks on 9/11, the statue was presented to the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation as a gift to the City. With funding from the Millstein family, the statue was mounted and placed in front of their hotel, The Milford Plaza which is in the Times Square area. It was a placed of remembrance for people to gather after the attacks (Ciston 2011).
The Kneeling Fireman outside 6 East 43rd Street
The Statue is now placed in front of the Emigrant Savings Bank headquarters at 6 East 43rd Street and funding from the Millstein family provided a permanent home for the statue. People still come to visit the statue (which had been in storage for a decade until 2011) but its meaning seems different now with so many years passing. Still it is an important part of the City’s history at a time when it brought everyone together.
Across the street from the statue, I noticed an unusual building that was part marble and part modern. This is the Fifth Church of Christ Scientist. The building was built in 1921 for the Church in the Classic Revival style and as part of the agreement there is a 21 story glass tower on top of it (Wiki). It really does stand out for its unique design. Still it does not look that big from the outside but the building does seat 1800.
From 43rd Street, I walked back up Fifth Avenue to the other side of the street and the buildings on this side of the street contains its share of architectural gems. The lower part of this side of Fifth Avenue is going through a transition as a lot of buildings exteriors are either being renovated or the building itself is being knocked down and a new one is rising. Many of the buildings here are quite new or just don’t stand out.
Once you get to West 49th Street things start to change when you enter Rockefeller Center which is across the street from Saks Fifth Avenue. The Rockefeller Center complex covers 22 acres with 19 buildings including Radio City Music Hall and the famous ice skating rink that is holiday tradition once the famous tree is lite. The complex stretches from East 48th to East 51st Street from Fifth to Sixth Avenues. Rockefeller Center was built in two sections, the original 16 building of the complex and then the second section west of Sixth Avenue (Wiki).
Rockefeller Center at 45 Rockefeller Plaza on Fifth Avenue
The land under Rockefeller Center was owned by Columbia University (which was later sold) and the building of the complex started at the beginning of the Great Depression. Construction started in 1931 with the first section opening in 1933 and the remainder of the complex opening in 1939 (Wiki).
The original section of the complex was built in the ‘Art Deco style’ and the extension on Sixth Avenue was built in the ‘International style’. Three separate firms were hired to design the complex with the principal architects being Raymond Hood of Hood, Godley and Fouilhoux who was a student in the Art Deco style, Harvey Wiley Corbett and Wallace Harrison of Corbett, Harrison & McMurray and to lay the floor plans for the project L. Andrew Reinhard and Henry Hofmeister of Reinhard & Hofmeister. They were working under the Associated architects so that no one person could take the credit for the project (Wiki). Two of the original tenants including Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and National Broadcasting Company (NBC) which still exist.
The original section of Rockefeller Center
Radio City Music Hall, known for the elaborate shows and the Rockettes, was finished in 1932 and the ice skating rink was finished in 1933 and the first Christmas tree was erected by the workers who were doing all the building.
The first tree in Rockefeller Center in 1933 with the constructions workers who erected it.
The rest of the complex went up over the next five years with extensions and renovations being done over the next fifty years. Many famous companies made Rockefeller Center their headquarters or moved their offices to the complex over the years. Still most tourists find their way to the restaurants and the famous rink at the holidays.
Rockefeller Center and the famous tree today
Of all the beautiful artwork that line the walls and courtyards of the complex, two stand out. Prometheus is a beautiful statue that stands proud above the ice skating rink. This beautiful cast iron, gilded sculpture was made in 1934 by artist Paul Manship. The work is of the Greek legend of Titan Prometheus who brought fire to mankind by stealing it from the Chariot of the Sun (Wiki).
Mr. Manship was a well known American artist who noted for his specialized work in mythological pieces in the classic style. He was educated at the St. Paul School of Art and at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
The other standout statue is of the God Atlas that guards the courtyard of the International Buildings. The sculpture was created by artist Lee Lawrie with the help of Rene Paul Chambellan. The statue was created in the Art Deco style to match with the architure of the Center and depicts Atlas carrying the celestial vault on his shoulders.
Atlas at Rockefeller Center
Mr. Lawrie was known as a architectural sculptor whose work is integrated into the building design. His work in the Art Deco design fit perfectly into the new building. Mr. Lawrie was a graduate of the School of Fine Arts at Yale.
Touring around Rockefeller Center can take a full afternoon itself especially at the holidays but in the summer months with the outdoor cafe open on the skating rink it is much more open. Also visit the underground walkways of shops and restaurants and visit the new FAO Schwarz that opened in the center.
Leaving Rockefeller Center and heading up Fifth Avenue you will pass the rest of the complex that was designed in a combination of the International and Art Deco design. When reaching the corner of East 53rd Street another historic church, Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue stands guard. Though the church has been part of Manhattan since 1823, the current church was built here by 1914 and consecrated in 1916 as an Episcopal parish (Wiki).
Saint Thomas Church at 1 West 53rd Street
The church was designed by architects Ralph Adams Cram and Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue of the firm Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson with added sculpture by Lee Lawrie. The building is designed in the French High Gothic style and has magnificent deals (Wiki). Even if you are not Episcopalian, going to services at the church is a nice experience. The services are always very relaxed and the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys is excellent. The music and songs are wonderful to hear and the concerts in the afternoon and weekends are a treat.
The next block up is a combination of unique buildings back to back with the University Club of New York (Princeton) and the Peninsula Hotel. These buildings are so beautiful in their place on Fifth Avenue.
The University Club of New York is a private social club and is just as elegant inside as it is outside. The building was designed by the firm of McKim, Mead & White in 1899 and was designed in the Mediterranean Revival Italian Renaissance palazzo style.
The University Club of New York at 1 West 54th Street
Next door to the club is the New York branch of the Peninsula Hotel located at 700 Fifth Avenue at West 55th Street. The hotel opened in 1905 as the Gotham Hotel designed in the neoclassical style. The hotel lived in the shadow of the St. Regis across the street and the Plaza Hotel up the road and went bankrupt in 1908. The hotel had many incarnations over the next eighty yeas until 1988 when it was bought by the Peninsula Group. They spent forty five million dollars in a renovation (Wiki).
Take time to go inside and see the elegant public rooms and take a walk down the hallway to see the inside of the hotel. During the holidays it is beautifully decorated adn their restaurants are considered excellent.
The Peninsula Hotel New York at 700 Fifth Avenue
Across the street from the Peninsula Hotel is the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church at 7 West 55th Street. The church was founded in 1808 and has been on this spot since 1875. The church was designed by architect Carl Pfeiffer in the Victorian Gothic style. The church is built with New Jersey Red Sandstone and the interesting part of the structure is that the clock tower has the original clockworks since 1875 and must be wound each week by hand (Wiki).
Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church at 7 West 55th Street
On an Avenue of churches and department stores, another office building does stand out so you really have to look up and admire the detail work of the Crown Building at 730 Fifth Avenue one of the buildings that was gilded and gold leafed in the 1980’s.
The Crown Building was built in 1921 and was designed by architects from Warren & Wetmore who you will note had designed Grand Central Terminal and the Helmsley Building on Park Avenue. They changed the name to the Crown Building in 1983 because of the ‘crown like look’ when illuminated at night. The building has been owned by many well known families including the Marcos Family from the Philippines and the Spitzers of New York (Elliot Spitzer was New York’s former Governor). It has been many ownerships over the years and their are considerations by the new owner to turn it into condos (Wiki).
The Crown Building at 730 Fifth Avenue
The last building I visited on my walk up Fifth Avenue was my old employer, Bergdorf-Goodman Specialty store. This is truly the palace of luxury and innovation in fashion. There are designers here that keep popping up that I have never heard of all displayed in elegant fashion where the store looks more like a art gallery of fashion than just a store.
The Cornelius Vanderbilt II house on the site before Bergdorf-Goodman
Bergdorf-Goodman was once the location of the Cornelius Vanderbilt mansion (which was torn down in 1926) and was opened in this location in 1928. The store was founded by Herman Bergdorf and was later owned by Edwin Goodman. The store is designed in the Beaux-Arts style and the inside of the store just went through a multi-million dollar renovation.
Bergdorf-Goodman at 745 Fifth Avenue
Bergdorf-Goodman is a lot of fun to walk around. My favorite floors are the first floor where Jewelry and Accessories is located. The displays of merchandise look like a museum and the Seventh Floor is stocked with interesting home furnishings, creative dishware and very pretty restaurant that overlooks Fifth Avenue and the park below. Pack your credit cards because you will find something you like here. Visit the store at Christmas for the creative window displays, the well-stocked Holiday Department or just go for Afternoon Tea in the restaurant. Its fun to window shop here.
The last place I visited was Pulitzer Plaza to sit down and relax from all of the walking and see the Pulitzer Fountain.
Pulitzer Plaza and Fountain at 1 Pulitzer Plaza
This busy little park is a refuge for people shopping on Fifth Avenue, tourists wanting to take pictures of the Plaza Hotel and the pigeons so watch out. The park is of the Grand Army Plaza that extends to the other side West 59th Street.
The fountain was designed by sculptor Karl Bitter and the park by architect Thomas Hastings of the firm Carrere & Hastings. The statue is of the Pomona, the Goddess of Abundance who is holding a basket of fruit.
When Mr. Bitter died in a car accident, the statue was finished by his assistant, Karl Gruppe with the help of Isidore Konti. The fountain was dedicated in 1916 (Wiki).
The Goddess Pomona statue by artist Karl Bitter
While sitting in the park watching the tourists walk by muttering things about the “Home Alone” film that had been shot at the Plaza Hotel, it really struck me about the treasure trove of architectural styles, immense detail work on the buildings and the interesting statuary that lines this part of East Midtown. It is its own open air museum if you really take the time to look up and around and admire the true beauty of the neighborhood. Some of the most famous buildings in Manhattan are located right here.
I ended my walk back at the corner of Lexington and East 59th Street, revisiting the Turtle Bay neighborhood that I walked a few months earlier. As much as this neighborhood is changing, there still is enough of the past to admire. Look to see how the future intertwines with the past in Mid-Town East.
Places to Visit:
There are so many wonderful and beautiful buildings to see in this neighborhood that I mentioned their addresses in the main part of the walk rather one by one. Please walk both sides of Fifth Avenue and look across the street to admire the true beauty of these magnificent buildings.
Places to Eat:
Hop Won Chinese Restaurant
139 East 45th Street (between Lexington & Third Avenue)
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 not sure about everyone else but it was a long trip that took a little over eight hours and I highly recommend the exercise. It was a lot of fun and I felt terrific afterwards. The walk goes by very quickly.
I got to visit neighborhoods that I had not seen in about two to three years. The most striking thing I had discovered especially walking through Harlem and Washington Heights is how many of the old businesses I had either passed or had eaten at had closed. Just like the rest of the City, these areas are going through a lot of change and are being gentrified. It seems like the college campus neighborhoods are leading the way especially around Columbia’s new campus above 125th Street and SUNY between 145th Street to 130th Street. The shifts in neighborhoods are changing very fast and more and more buildings are under scaffolding or being knocked down and replaced.
Since the walk down Broadway from 242nd Street to Bowling Green Park is so extensive, I will not go into the intense detail of historical sites and parks along the way. More detail can be found on my sister sights, VisitingaMuseum.com, DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com. On these three sites I will discuss more on each site and a more detailed history. More information on each neighborhood can be found section by section of Manhattan on my blog, MywalkinManhattan.com.
Broadway itself as an Avenue has a very interesting history. Broadway is the English-language literal translation of the Dutch name, ‘Brede-wey’. Broadway was originally the Wickquasgeck Trail that was carved into brush of Manhattan by the Native American inhabitants. ‘Wickquasgeck means “birch-bark country” in Algonquian language. The trail originally snaked through swamps and rocks along the length of Manhattan island (Wiki).
Manhattan in Colonial Times
When the Dutch arrived, the trail became the main road through the island with the colony of Nieuw Amsterdam at the southern tip. The word ‘Brede-wey’ was translated when the British took possession of the island they changed the name to ‘Broadway’. Known in the past as ‘Broadway Street’, ‘Kingsbridge Road’ and ‘Bloomingdale Road’ in parts around the island, it officially became ‘Broadway’ in 1899 when the whole street from the top of Manhattan to the bottom was named for one long road (Wiki).
The entire length of Broadway through Manhattan from Inwood to the Battery is 13 miles and the length in the Bronx is 2 miles. There is an additional 18 miles that runs through Westchester County all the way to Sleepy Hollow, NY where it ends. I just concentrated on the subway route from the 242nd Street Subway exit to the Bowling Green at the tip of Manhattan.
I started my mornings at 5:30am getting up and stretching. The sun shined in my room and that was a good start to the day. The weather was going to be in the high 70’s with a touch of clouds and the weather really cooperated. I got into New York City at 8:15am and started my day with breakfast at my favorite deli in the Garment District, 9th Avenue AM-PM Deli (or Juniors AM-PM Deli as it also known by (See reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com)
What I love about 9th Avenue AM-PM Deli is the generous portions at a very fair price. I started my day with a French Toast platter ($4.99). I had four very nice sized slices of French Toast that were nicely caramelized and just a hint of cinnamon. On my second time on the walk, I ate here again ordering one of their Hungry Man Hero’s ($9.75), which is three eggs, potatoes, ham, bacon and sausage on a soft hero roll with mayo. Ladened with calories yes but taste wise wonderful. It had all the calories and carbs for a 15 mile walk.
It is always nice to grab one of the stools and eat by the window and watch the world go by. Just remember to get here early before all the construction workers from the Hudson Yards come over for their half hour union break. Then it really gets busy.
9th Avenue AM-PM Deli
After breakfast, it was off to Times Square to take the Number One Subway up to 242nd Street-Van Cortland Park stop to start the walk. Manhattan actually starts lower than that but on such a nice day, I thought it would be nice to start at the very top of the subway route. I had not been to the Van Cortlandt House Museum (See VisitingaMuseum.com and TripAdvisor for my reviews) since right after the holidays to see the house decorations and not seen the park ever in the warmer months.
Van Cortlandt House Museum in Van Cortlandt Park
I got to my destination at 9:00am and had to go to the bathroom. What is nice about Van Cortlandt Park is that the public bathrooms are right near the subway exit and there is another set right next to the Van Cortlandt House Museum so that is covered when you enter the neighborhood. Make sure to take a bathroom break now because the options get slimmer until about 207th Street.
I started my adventure by walking into the park and visiting the museum grounds. Van Cortlandt Park is a beautiful park that was once the Van Cortlandt estate. The last time I had been here was to tour the house for Christmas and to see the decorations. The house is much nicer in the Summer months with the gardens in bloom. The house was closed when I got to the park so I just walked around the grounds to stretch a bit and admire the foliage. It was nice to see the trees with leaves on them and the gardens surrounding the house were in full bloom.
Van Cortlandt Park
Don’t miss when exiting the park to stop and see Memorial Grove, a small section of the park dedicated to 21 servicemen who gave their lives in World War. There are twenty-one oak trees that were planted by the graves which are now fully grown. It is a somber but quiet place to reflect on what these men gave for our country.
Memorial Grove Park inside Van Cortlandt Park
Also, take a peek at the statue of General Josiah Porter, a Civil War hero who is memorialized just outside the entrance to Van Cortlandt Mansion. This elegant statue was created by artist William Clarke Nobel in 1902.
General Porter lead the 22nd Regiment of the National Guard of New York during the war (NYCParks.org).
General Josiah Porter in front of the Van Cortlandt Mansion
Once I left the park, I started the walk on the west side of Broadway and the plan was to walk the west side the first day and then the east side the second time so that I could see the buildings along the way and see what restaurants had opened, closed and what looked interesting. Plus where to find public bathrooms along the way. This was the interesting part of the walk was trying to find bathrooms when you needed them.
Since I have visited most of the neighborhoods already from 59th Street up to the tip of Inwood and wrote about historical sites, buildings, gardens and museums that I have visited along the way in other blogs, I won’t be mentioning these in as much detail as you can see them in other entries.
I will refer to the other sites DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com, LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com, VisitingaMuseum.com and other entries of MywalkinManhattan.com for more details to read on each neighborhood.
Also to make the walk more enjoyable and include all the wonderful places to visit and see along the way, I will be blending both days experiences into one blog so I can make stopping points that visitors should take time to see. Both walks took just over eight hours and please watch the humidity. There was a big difference doing this walk in 70 degree weather versus 85 degree weather with humidity. I needed more liquids in me and more time to sit down. Still it was great exercise and you will never be bored.
Once I left Van Cortlandt Park, it was walking down through the commercial district of the Bronx along the Broadway corridor which is loaded with chain stores and malls of all sorts. So much for people saying the Bronx is dead. There was so much shopping going on that you never had to leave for the suburbs to find a chain store.
At each subway stop station I did notice clusters of small family run businesses and here you can find some interesting restaurants and pizzerias. There are a lot of family run bakeries as well but none that stood out.
When you reach the edge of Marble Hill (the Northern most part of Manhattan), you will pass the Marble Hill Houses. I had more whistles and yells when I passed the projects on my second trip on the neighborhood. I am not sure what about me screams cop. Even so as I walked in the front walks of the houses I noticed that the residents were growing gardens that were part of the ‘Outer Seed Project’, a program of growing crops on the projects lawns. I thought it will be interesting when everything gets harvested.
It was when you will cross the bridge at 225th Street in the Bronx to the tip of Manhattan in Inwood is where it all starts to change as you enter the northern Columbia University campus and pass the football stadium.
The Columbia University ‘C’ when you exit Marble Hill and go over the bridge to the Island of Manhattan
The interesting part of this part of Inwood is that on tip of Manhattan is nothing at the end of it. Here we have bus stations, garage trucks and delivery vans. This is one of the most commercial parts of Manhattan I have ever seen outside parts of the Garment District. The area has been rezoned so there will be a lot more changes up here in the future. Once you cross the bridge from the Bronx, you feel the difference in the neighborhoods depending on what side of Broadway you are on.
Crossing the bridge means that you have entered Columbia University territory and to the right is Columbia Stadium which is pretty much shut down this time of year. There were some football players in the field but the Ivy League season starts later so it was not that busy. On my second trip down the east side of Broadway, I made two pit stops in Inwood past the stadium that I think tourists and residents alike should see.
The first is Muscato Marsh at 575 West 218th Street (See review on VisitingaMuseum.com)right behind Columbia Stadium that faces the shores of Marble Hill. This interesting marsh is one of the few in the City and one of the only ones in Manhattan that I know of and it is a great place to just sit and relax.
Muscato Marsh at 575 West 218th Street
The Muscato Marsh is right next to the Columbia Boathouse where their rowing team set their boats off and right next to the Columbia Football stadium. On a sunny morning or afternoon it is a nice place to just sit back and watch the boaters and people on jet ski’s zoom by. It is nice to just sit by the flowers and relax.
If you want to walk a little further into Inwood Park, visit the Shorakkopoch Rock the place where it has been said that Peter Minuet had bought the island of Manhattan from the Native Americans. This is where a three hundred year old tulip tree had once stood and legend stated that the event had taken place under a tulip tree in clearing on the island. No one is too sure if this is the right place but to really understand the history of Manhattan. this is the spot where to begin.
Shorakkopoch Rock the site of the purchase of Manhattan Island by Peter Minuet
On the way of exploring Broadway, I followed the path of artwork by artist Nicolas Holiber and his bird sculptures that lined Broadway similar to the art by Joy Brown and Bernadette Myers. So traveling from 165th Street to 59th Street searching for bird artwork.
As I left Inwood Park, I watched as kids participating in Summer camps were playing games and running around. Parts of the park were closed to reseeding so you can see that money was being put into the park and renovations were starting.
As I walked down Broadway the few times I have visited the area since my initial walk in 2015, I have noticed so many businesses open and close which is almost a epidemic all over Manhattan. Broadway for almost the entire length is no different. I had recently read an article about Borough President Gale Brewer walking the length of Broadway in Manhattan and saying that about 200 store fronts were empty. This is not good and is showing what is going on not just in the economy but how the landlords are beginning to gouge small businesses with rent increases. So many small Dominican businesses I have watched close to be replaced by Hipster restaurants who are also not making it with these rent increases.
Still there are many businesses that are thriving along the Broadway corridor and a lot of great restaurants to stop and visit along the way. Even after a big breakfast, I needed to take snack breaks along the way and the restaurants in the Washington Heights area are reasonable and have great travel food.
My first stop after visiting the Muscato Marsh was Twin Donut at 5099 Broadway for a donut and a bathroom break. You will need to know which public bathrooms are good along the way and for the price of a donut is was well worth the visit. Their donuts are around a $1.75 depending on the type but go for one of their jelly or custard filled. They are really good. This is one of the first places I visit during the Cornell/Columbia Football games.
As you are traveling down Broadway, take some time to walk the side streets into the heart of ‘Little Dominica’, Inwood’s Dominican community of stores, restaurants and bakeries. The first stop should be walking down 207th Street to the subway stop on 10th Avenue. While the street is full of all sorts of restaurants, stop at the street vendors for fresh juice and pastilitos, the Dominican version of the empanadas. These usually run about $1.00. There are all sorts of street vendors selling their wares along the sidewalks. On my second trip down I stopped at a vendor for fresh chicken pastilitos and there is nothing like them when they are just out of the fryer.
As I traveled through Inwood, I stopped at the Dyckman Family Farmhouse (See reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com), which is the oldest home on the Island of Manhattan. The Dyckman Farmhouse was built in 1785 and was once part of a 250 acre that stretched to the tip of Inwood. The house now sits on a bluff overlooking Broadway and Washington Heights on about an acre of land. The house is still impressive to walk through and when you have time, take the formal walking tour of the home and hear about the history of how the farm worked and about the Dyckman family.
The Dyckman Family Farmhouse at 4881 Broadway
As you pass the Dyckman House and walk south also take a side trip down Dyckman Avenue to visit more Dominican restaurants, bakeries and stores from Broadway to Nagle Avenue. There are some interesting places to have a snack but again check out the street vendors first especially on the weekends when the weather is nice. More people are out walking around.
When you cross Dyckman Street, Ann Loftus Playground at 4746 Broadway (named after a local community leader) will be to the right and there are nice public bathrooms and water fountains here. There are also benches under shade trees to sit under and on a warm day, their are vendors selling Dominican ices for $1.00. Go for the mango/cherry or the rainbow. On a hot day, they are very refreshing.
Ann Loftus Playground at 4746 Broadway
Ann Loftus Playground is part of the extensive Fort Tyron Park that runs from Riverside Drive to Broadway from Dyckman Street to 190th Street. If you want to take a walk through the park, not only are there beautiful views of the Hudson River along the stone paths but it leads up to The Cloisters Museum at 99 Margaret Corbin Drive which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that features Medieval Art including the ‘Hunt of the Unicorn’ tapestries.
The Cloisters and Fort Tyron Park
The park also has many colorful flower gardens and paths along the river with amazing views. There is a lot of walking up and down hills in Fort Tyron Park but trust me the views are breathtaking and the paths lead to amazing gardens and lawns. There are also nice public bathrooms to stop at here.
As you leave the park and continue walking down Broadway, you will be in the heart of Washington Heights so on a warm day expect to see people sitting on the benches socializing, playing checkers and dominoes and listening to music. There is a lot of life on these sidewalks.
As you pass Fort Tyron Park, take a peak at the street art work inside the 190th Street Station and take some time to walk the corridor. It is its own museum in constant change and the street taggers do some interesting work.
The subway station at 190th Street
When walking into the streets between 187th and 160th, there are some wonderful Spanish restaurants catering mostly to Dominican families but the menus are extensive and the prices are reasonable. There are a lot of restaurants especially clustered around the George Washington Bridge Depot. Two standouts that I highly recommend are La Dinastia at 4059 Broadway for Dominican Chinese food and 5 Star Estrella Bakery at 3861 Broadway for pastries, pastilitos and all sorts of hot snacks.
The restaurant row around 181st Street
La Dinastia has a reasonable lunch menu and I recommend having the Chicken Cracklings, a type of batter fried chicken patty with their Special Fried Rice which contains shrimp, sausage, eggs and vegetables (See review on TripAdvisor). A lunch special here can run about $12.00 with a Coke and tip and you will be full for the rest of the afternoon.
La Dinastia Chicken Cracklings and Special Fried Rice
Before you leave this area, check out the former Coliseum Cinema on the corner of Broadway and 181st Street before they tear it down. It was built in 1920 as an old vaudeville theater and famous actors including the Marx Brothers and Harold Lloyd performed there. The building is slated for demolition due to its structure concerns and will be replaced by housing and a retail mall.
The Coliseum Theater at 181st & Broadway has interesting detail work
There is a small park across from the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, Mitchell Square, at the corners of Broadway and St. Nichols Avenue at 168th Street, that features the Washington Heights-Inwood War Memorial by artist Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. It was dedicated in 1922 for members of the community who fought in WWI. I found it very touching. It features two soldiers assisting another wounded one.
Washington Heights-Inwood War Memorial by artist Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney
Also check out some of the Dominican bakeries in the area. 5 Star Estrella Bakery is near the corner of 161st Street and Broadway. Everything at the bakery is delicious and I have never had one bad thing to eat here (See reviews on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com and TripAdvisor).
Their chicken and beef pastilitos are cooked perfectly and stuff full of filling ($1,50), their doughnuts are light and slathered in thick icing ($1.00) and their cinnamon buns ($2.00) are the best. They are light, chewy and sugary. Another item that stands out is a type of potato croquette that is filled with meat ($1.50). If they are available, grab one. Totally delicious!
5 Star Estrella Bakery at 3861 Broadway
As you reach the small pocket park at 157th Street, you will come across the first piece of Broadway Art by artist Nicolas Holiber for his “Birds on Broadway” Audubon Sculpture Project exhibit which is a partnership he has with Broadway Mall Association, NYC Parks, NYC Audubon and the Gitler Gallery. These interesting sculptures bring attention to birds species that are endangered by climate change. These birds are either native to New York or do a fly by when in season. They are made of 100% reclaimed or recycled wood (Nicolas Holiber website).
The Wood Duck by artist Nicolas Holiber
The first sculpture on the walk that I saw was the Wood Duck. It was an interesting piece that unfortunately was being walked on by a couple of kids that did not seem to know the significance of the work. These rustic pieces really do stand out though and I like the write ups with each one which gives a short story on each bird.
As you pass the sculpture and continue south to the right is the Audubon Terrace at 155th Street and Broadway, which is home to Boricua College, the Hispanic Society of America Museum (See reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com) which is currently closed for renovation and the American Academy of Arts & Letters (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com) which just recently closed and is only open twice a year to exhibitions. Both museums are only open at select times of the year so you have to visit their websites for more information.
The American Academy of Arts & Letters at 633 West 155th Street
The college abuts the Trinity Church Cemetery that holds the graves of many prominent New Yorkers including John Jacob Astor IV and Mayor Ed Koch. It is interesting to walk along the paths of the cemetery during the day and look at the historic tombstones. When visiting the grave of Mayor Koch, be prepared to find lots of stones along the gravesite as a sign of respect for the dead.
Ed Koch grave site
As you pass the borders of 155th Street into Harlem there is a distinct change in the street life. It is a lot quieter when you reach the borders of Washington Heights and Harlem. There are less people on the sidewalks here. In Washington Heights, there is music on the side walks, families playing games and men debating issues. It is a lot quieter I noticed when you cross the 155th Street border between the neighborhoods.
There is also a difference in the types of restaurants and shopping as slowly CUNY is starting to spread its wings and more businesses catering to students and faculty are opening in this area.
The next stop was to see Nicolas Holiber’s Snowy Owl at 148th Street. This was one of the more whimsical pieces in the exhibit and was unique with its outlaying wings.
The Snowy Owl by artist Nicolas Holiber at 148th Street
My next stop for a snack was at Olga’s Pizza at 3409 Broadway (See review on TripAdvisor). Olga’s I had just stumbled across as I had a craving for a slice and the pizza is delicious. The secret to a good pizza is a fresh tasting and well spiced sauce and Olga’s hits both marks on this. It is a little pricey at $2.50 a slice but she is catering to the CUNY students who venture from campus to the restaurants on Broadway for meals. I got to meet Olga herself in the pizzeria who was working alongside of her parents and she seemed please that I liked her pizza so much.
To the right of Olga’s just down the block is Montefiore Park, which is always a nice place to take a break and sit down to rest under the trees. It is a real mixture of neighborhood families, college students and teenagers who are eating at the local McDonalds or one of the food trucks that line the park in the warmer months. Just north of the park at 139th Street is the third sculpture in the Nicolas Holiber exhibit, the Hooded Merganser.
The Hooded Merganser by artist Nicolas Holiber at 136th Street
One surprising thing I found at the corner of Broadway and 135th Street was a Pediatric office that housed in the front of it the Martinez Gallery at 3332 Broadway. The gallery features in the front waiting room an array of street art. This was interesting for a doctor’s office.
The Martinez Gallery at 3332 Broadway
The inside artwork at the Martinez Gallery. Very unassuming doctor’s office
Once you pass 135th Street, you enter the new extension of the Columbia University campus and because of the growth of the campus to this section of Harlem especially around the 125th Street corridor, it is changing fast. I have never seen so many new restaurants and shops going up right across the street from the Manhattanville Housing Projects. It is becoming a real extreme in this part of the neighborhood.
Columbia University’s new Manhattanville campus that stretches from 125th to 130th Streets
Once you cross 125th Street on this part of Broadway, you enter Morningside Heights and the home of Columbia University. This part of 125th Street and Broadway has really changed since I started the walk of the island. There is a more established ‘Restaurant Row” that stretches from 125th Street to 122nd Street on Broadway that contains such restaurants as LaSalle Dumplings at 3141 Broadway and Bettolona at 3143 Broadway that I have tried in previous entries on this blog and check them out on my blog on Morningside Park. They are both excellent and I highly recommend them.
As soon I arrived on the Columbia University campus at 125th Street the mood of Broadway changed again from the streets of Harlem to a collegiate atmosphere. Don’t miss a break at the Columbia University commons around 116th Street. It is a lot of fun when school is in session and even during these quiet times of the summer, there still is a lot of energy here. It is a nice place to gather your thoughts and relax.
What is also nice is all the food trucks outside the commons that cater to the Asian students. You can get fresh dumplings, pork pancakes, noodle dishes and fresh soups for very reasonable prices and you can relax in the commons on a nice day and enjoy your lunch.
Right next to the campus on East 117th street is the third in Nicolas Holiber’s sculptures, the Common Golden Eye. This is one of the nicer locations for the work as there is plenty of seating in much less congested area of Broadway. You can sit back and just admire the work.
The Common Goldeneye by artist Nicolas Holiber at 117th Street
After taking a break in the commons and watching the summer students reading and chatting amongst themselves or so involved in their cell phones that they would not look up at a zombie attack, I headed back to Broadway to cross into the Upper West Side. It is amazing how everything between 125th and 110th have changed over the past few months and even from 110th to 100th Streets the changes have been constant in a twenty year period.
When you need to take a break from the heat, Straus Park which is between 107th and 106th Streets. This shady and well landscaped little pocket park was name after Isidor and Ida Straus who were once the owners of Macy’s and died in the Titanic sinking. There is a beautiful memorial to them in the park. Friends of the Park maintain it with the city so it is always beautifully planted.
Straus Park at 107th Street
Look close or you will miss it is the ‘Art for Art Sake’ dedication to Duke Ellington on the Broadway Island on West 106th Street. The work is done in tiles and you have to look down to see the work as it on the bottom park of the cement island facing the bench. I guess most people miss this interesting piece of street art.
One of my favorite bakeries in Manhattan is located right near the park at West 105th Street and Broadway, Silver Moon Bakery at 2740 Broadway (See review on TripAdvisor ande DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). I love coming here for all the creative pastries and buns that the bakery created and I have the most delicious blueberry danish ($3.50) and cinnamon bun ($3.25) for a snack. Don’t be shy in this bakery and try several items. Everything I have ever ate there was wonderful.
Silver Moon Bakery at 2740 Broadway
When I got to 103rd Street, I saw the next part of the Birds on Broadway exhibit with the Double Crested Cormorant that stood proud on the Broadway island looking over the neighborhood.
The Double crested Cormorant by artist Nicolas Holiber at 103rd Street
Another little pizzeria that you might miss is Cheesy Pizza at 2640 Broadway (See reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). The food is really reasonable and their personal pizza ($5.00) and pizza special (Two slices and a Coke for $5.00) are a real steal and their sauce is delicious and so well spiced.
Cheesy Pizza at 2640 Broadway
When you finally cross over past West 100th Street, you enter the Upper West Side which has been extensively traveled on this blog. There are dozens of shops and restaurants that line Broadway on this stretch of Broadway and sadly a lot of empty store fronts. This seems to be an epidemic all over the City with landlords jacking up rents every month. It really is changing this stretch of Broadway. At West 96th Street and Broadway is the next “Birds on Broadway” piece, the “Brant Goose”.
The Brant Goose at West 96th Street
When walking on Broadway in the West 80’s, don’t miss walking through Zabar’s at 2245 Broadway near 80th Street. It is fun to wander around the store and smell the aromas of cheese, olives, freshly baked breads and chocolate. Don’t miss their cafe at the corner of West 80th Street (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). There is a nice assortment of pastries and soups at a reasonable price and on certain days they have specials that are reasonably price. They have the most delicious pastries and pan pizza.
Zabar’s Cafe is the original place where Zabar’s started at 2245 Broadway
You will also see the next sculpture by Nicolas Holiber at West 79th Street, the “American Brittern”, which stands majestically on Broadway.
“The American Brittern” by artist Nicolas Holiber at West 79th Street
Still when you reach the West 70’s there are many beautiful apartment buildings that I admired that were built at the turn of the last century when builders were trying to woo the wealthy in the late 1890’s to the early 1900’s. The area itself is going through building boom and is changing all the time. At West 79th Street, look to the Broadway island again to see Nicolas Holiber’s “Scarlett Tanager” sculpture. These playful little birds are fun to look at.
The Scarlet Tanager by artist Nicolas Holiber at West 86th Street
Broadway has a series of churches that are really beautiful in design and in the details like the stone work and the stained glass windows. One church that stands out is the First Baptist Church 265 West 79th Street. It was built between 1890-93 and was designed by architect George M. Keister. The large window facing Broadway depicts Christ as the center of the New Testament Church (Wiki).
First Baptist Church on West 79th Street
Some of the apartment buildings are quite spectacular. The Apthorp Apartments at 390 West End Avenue (that stretches back to Broadway) is one of the most beautiful enclosed buildings with an elegant courtyard in the center. This building was built in 1908 and is the largest type of apartment of its kind in New York City. If you can take a peek inside the gates it is worth it.
The Apthorp Apartments at 390 West End Avenue
The Ansonia Apartments at 2109 Broadway is one of the biggest and grandest of the Victorian age apartment buildings on the Upper West Side. Built between 1899 and 1904 the outside of the building is studded with beautiful stone work, interesting torrents and a Mansard roof. Take time to walk around the building and admire the stonework.
The Ansonia Apartments at 2109 Broadway
Another building that stands out in the neighborhood is the Doriltan Apartments at 171 West 71st Street that was built in 1902. This elegant building is in the Beaux-Arts style and is another building that sets the tone for this part of the neighborhood.
The Doriltan Apartments at 171 West 71st Street
This is where the Upper West Side has changed so much. This area has become so expensive and the once notorious “Needle Park” Sherman Square is now a nicely landscaped park with a coffee vendor and young mothers with strollers. It is amazing how the City just keeps changing itself.
Sherman Square; the once “Needle Park”
Right by the subway stop at West 72nd Street is the next sculpture the “Peregrine Falcon”.
“The Peregrine Falcon” at West 72nd Street
Once you pass the borders of West 72nd Street, you will begin to see the magic of former Parks Director and major City Planner, Robert Moses. In the mid-1960’s, the City decided the area was dilapidated and pretty much leveled the neighborhood to build the Lincoln Center complex and branches of the local colleges so you will see more modern architecture on the western side of Broadway.
By the time you get to West 67th Street, you will see Julliard School, some of the buildings in the Lincoln Center complex and then Lincoln Center itself between West 65th and West 62nd Streets. On a theater night, the complex is so full energy and it is always a nice trip to see the ballet, opera or the philharmonic. The groundbreaking for this complex was in 1959 with President Eisenhower present and the complex was developed between 1962 and 1966 with current renovations still occurring in 2005. Take time to walk the courtyard and admire the fountains and the artwork that are around the buildings.
Lincoln Center at night
While passing Lincoln Center, you will see Dante Park across the street and the stately Empire Hotel. Here in Dante Park which is named after the Italian Poet, Dante Alighieri. This beautiful little pocket park sits across from Lincoln Center and has been a place to relax on my walks down Broadway. This is also the location of the last sculpture on the “Birds on Broadway” tour, the “Red Necked Grebe with Chicks”. This whimsical piece shows the mother grebe with her little ones on her back.
The Red Necked Grebe with Chicks by artist Nicolas Holiber at West 64th Street
As you head down Broadway, you will reach the Time Warner Building with its upscale shops and restaurants and Columbus Circle with its impressive statue of Christopher Columbus and the soaring fountains that surround it. This is one of the best places in Manhattan to just sit back and relax and people watch. The statue was recently part of a controversy on statues of specific people and history and happily that seems to have gone away for now.
Columbus Circle at West 59th Street
As you pass Columbus Circle and enter into Midtown Manhattan, notice to the south the Museum of Art & Design at 2 Columbus Circle. This innovative little museum has the top floors of the building has a interesting exhibition of “Punk Rock” art and music going on right now. (See my write up on it on VisitingaMuseum.com.)
Museum of Arts & Design at 2 Columbus Circle
Punk Rock Exhibition
The crowds get larger the closer you come to the 42nd Street Mall. This part of Broadway near the TKTS for Broadway shows becomes crowded as these four blocks of Times Square is now an open air mall with seating and loads of costume characters who beg for pictures and money with tourists. It has gotten really crowded and annoying and the quicker you get through it the better. This is where the Ball drops on New Year’s Eve and you can see it up above the One Times Square building. Still get through Times Square, especially on a Saturday or Sunday as quick as possible.
Times Square by the TKTS booth and the Marriott Marquis to the right
The one thing that is important to know is that the bathrooms at the Marriott Marquis at 1535 Broadway are free and it is a good pit stop before heading further downtown. They are located on the Eighth floor and are clean and very nice. They also have some good restaurants in the hotel like the Broadway Bar (See review on TripAdvisor) to eat at but wait until you head further downtown.
As you head down past Times Square you will notice that not much has changed on this part of Broadway. Most of the buildings are pre-war and been around since the 30’s and 40’s. Here and there new buildings have creeped in. Stop in the lobby at 1441 Broadway, the Bricken Textile Building that was built in 1930 to see the “Nurturing Independence Through Artistic Development” art exhibition. It is quite creative. The whole lobby was full of modern art. There was a very interesting piece by artist Daniel Rozin who created a ‘Software Mirror’ where when you looked into it, it then looked back at you.
Artist Daniel Rozin demonstrating how the piece works
After wondering through the art show, I stopped in Frankie Boys Pizza at 1367 Broadway for a slice and a Coke and just relaxed. I was starved by this point of the walk. Their pizza is very good (See review on TripAdvisor) and was crowded that afternoon with people having an late lunch.
After I finished my lunch, I continued the walk to Herald Square the home of Macy’s at 151 West 34th Street, whose store still dominates the area and is one of the last decent department stores in New York City. It is fun to take a quick pit stop in the store to see the main lobby and there is another public bathroom both on the lower level and on the Fourth Floor.
Macy’s Broadway entrance
Once you leave Herald Square and walk south you will be entering what is left of the old Wholesale district where once buyers used to come into these stores to commercially buy goods for their businesses. Slowly all of these businesses as well as most of the Flower District is being gentrified out with new hotels, restaurants and bars replacing the businesses. It seems that most of the district is being rebuilt or renovated.
I got down to Worth Square by Madison Square Park in the early evening and admired the William Jenkins Worth monument. General Worth was a military hero during the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War. The monument was designed by James Goodwin Batterson and when General Worth died in 1849, his remains were buried under the monument.
It was interesting to read that at the percussion for his funeral that 6500 military men were at the ceremony (Wiki).
The General William Jenkins Worth Monument
As you look down further on the square, you will see the Flatiron Building one of the most famous and most photographed buildings in New York City. The building was designed by Daniel Burnham as a Renaissance Palazzo with Beaux-Arts styling . The original name for the building was the “Fuller Building” for the Company. The name “Flatiron” comes from a cast iron clothes iron from the turn of the last century. (Wiki)
The ‘Flatiron’ Building at 175 Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street
As you pass the Flatiron Building and continue the walk south between 23rd and 14th Streets, take a look up to admire the buildings that once help make up the “Ladies Mile”, once the most fashionable shopping neighborhood after the Civil War (See my blog in MywalkinManhattan.com “Walking the Ladies Shopping Mile”).
One of the most elegant buildings on this part of Broadway is the former “Lord & Taylor” building at 901 Broadway. The building was constructed for the department store in 1870 and was the main store until 1914. It is now the Brooks Brothers Red Fleece store. Really take time to look at the detail work of the store and step inside. The Mansard Roof is an amazing touch.
901 Broadway “Lord & Taylor” building from 1870-1914
Finally reaching Union Square at Broadway and 14th Street, I was able to relax on a bench under a shade tree. I stopped at the Farmers Market, that is there every Wednesday and Saturday, and pick up some fruit and a couple of cookies from one of the stands. This is a lot of fun in the warmer months and don’t miss it September and October when the produce really comes in.
Busy Union Square
As you leave Union Square and head south again, you will be entering the campus of New York University and all over you can see classrooms, stores and restaurants that cater to the students. Sometimes I think these kids are trying so hard to look cool it becomes outlandish. The way some of them dress is over the top.
At the bend on Broadway, another church stands out in the neighborhood. Grace Episcopal Church at 802 Broadway on the corner of Broadway and East 10th Street sits at a bend in Broadway and makes an impressive statement in the neighborhood. The church was designed by architect James Renwick Jr. in the French Gothic Revival style and started construction in 1843 (Wiki).
Grace Church at 802 Broadway
Walking south, stop in front of both 770 Broadway between 8th and 9th Street, the former home of John Wanamaker Department Store and 693 Broadway at 4th Street, the Merchants Building. These two buildings stand out for their beauty and design.
770 Broadway was built between 1903 and 1907 by architect Daniel Burham as the annex for the main store of Wanamaker’s which was next door. There was a skyway that once connected the two stores. The company closed for business in 1954. (Wiki)
770 Broadway, the former Wanamaker’s Department Store Annex
Stop at 693 Broadway to admire the design of the building. Built in 1908 by architect William C. Frohne the building is studded with interesting stone carvings and ornamentation. What really stands out is all the owls that decorate the building (Greenwich Village Preservation).
693 Broadway The Merchants Building
The owls that line 693 Broadway
Looking up at the scaffolding of 611 Broadway, The Cable Building, it is not hard to miss the detail work of this graceful building. The stone work like a lot of the buildings on lower Broadway has beautiful detailed stonework adorning it. The building was designed by architect Stanford White of McKim, Meed & White and was designed in the Beau-Arts design of “American Renaissance”. The building was once home to the Metropolitan Traction Company, one of New York’s big Cable Car companies. In the last twenty years it has been home to the Angelika Film Company and Crate & Barrel home store. (Wiki)
Above all the scaffolding, look at the stone detail work of 611 Broadway
Take some time to admire 366 Broadway, a former Textiles Building built in 1909. Designed by Fredrick C. Browne, the building was designed in Edwardian commercial architecture and look at the detail work of the pillars, stone carved faces and other decorative stonework. The building once housed the Royal Typewriter Company then moved on in its later life to house textile firms including Bernard Semel Inc. (where the signage comes from on the outside), who was a former clothing jobber. Now called The Collect Pond House is a coop in Tribeca neighborhood (Tribeca History News)
The Woolworth Building at 233 Broadway is one of the most famous buildings on Broadway. The former headquarters for F. W. Woolworth & Company was once the tallest building in the world when it was constructed in 1913 and stayed the tallest building until 1930 when the Chrysler Building was finished on Lexington Avenue in 1930. The building was designed by architect Cass Gilbert in the neo-Gothic style and was a representation of the time as a “Cathedral for Commerce”. The lower floors are clad in limestone and the upper floors in glazed terra-cotta panels (Wiki). The lobby is one of the most detailed and ornate in New York but ask security first if you can walk around.
The Woolworth Building at 233 Broadway
Across the street from the Woolworth Building is the very popular City Hall Park home to the to the 1803 built City Hall (Tweed Hall) and the seat of government for the City of New York. The park has always been used as some form of political function since the beginning in the Colonial days as a rebel outpost to its current function. It has had a prison, public execution site and parade ground on the site. Since the renovation in 1999 under then Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the park has been a place for people downtown to gather and relax by its fountain and beside the beautifully designed gardens. There are about a dozen statues in the park to admire so take time to enjoy a walk in the park (NYCParks.org).
The City Hall Park
Another historic church that played a big role in the recovery of the World Trade Center events of 9/11 is the St. Paul’s Chapel of Trinity Church at 209 Broadway. The Church was built in 1766 and is the oldest surviving church in Manhattan and is designed in the late Georgian church architecture by architect Thomas Mc Bean and crafted by Andrew Gautier (Wiki).
St. Paul’s Church at 209 Broadway
George Washington worshipped here on his Inauguration day in 1789 and continued to worship here when New York City was the capital of the country. The church had been spared by a sycamore tree on the property that absorbed the debris from the World Trade Center site and became a place of recovery and reflection in the aftermath of the events on 9/11 (Wiki).
Another building to admire is 108 Broadway at Leonard Street. This beautiful Italian Renaissance Revival building was designed by McKim Mead & White and has been refitted for apartments.
108 Broadway at Leonard Street
Upon reaching Zuccotti Park which is right near the World Trade Center sight and the home of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that traveled around the world after the 2008 meltdown of the New York Stock Market. The movement and occupation of the park which is private property, began in September of 2011. The park which is owned by Brookfield Office Properties was named after the Chairman of the company, John Zuccotti in 2011. (Wiki)
Zuccotti Park at twilight at Broadway and Cedar Streets
Zuccotti Park during its days of “Occupy Wall Street”
Take time to admire “Joie de Vivre” by artist Marco Polo ‘Marc’ di Suvero, and Italian now American artist.
This interesting sculpture was installed in the park in 2006 and features “four open-ended tetrahedrons”. (Wiki)
“Joie de Vivre” by artist Marc di Suvero
As you pass Zuccotti Park and head down the last stretch of Broadway look around at the buildings on both sides of Broadway as they have not changed much since the early 1900’s.
The last historic church I have visited and have walked past many times when in the neighborhood is Trinity Church, an Episcopal church at 75 Broadway. The first church on the site was built in 1698 and burned during the Revolutionary War during the Great Fire of 1776 when a two thirds of the City burned after a fire started in tavern and left most of New Yorkers homeless (Wiki).
Trinity Church at 75 Broadway
The current church was built in 1839 and finished in 1846 and was built in the Gothic Revival design by architect Richard Upjohn. It was the tallest building in the United States until 1869. The church has played important roles in recent history as a place of refuge and prayer during the attacks on 9/11. It also was part of the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2012 as a place of refuge and support to the protestors (Wiki and Church History).
One of the most elegant buildings in lower Manhattan is the Cunard Building, the former home of the Cunard Shipping line. The building was designed by architect Benjamin Wistar Morris and opened in 1921. The company sold the building in 1971 and has different tenants now.
The Cunard Building at 25 Broadway
I finally got to my designation of Bowling Green Park on the first trip down Broadway at 5:45pm (starting time again 9:00am) just in time to see all the tourist lined up by The Bull statue (see my review on VisitingaMuseum.com). The statue was designed by artist Arturo de Modica and was installed as ‘renegade art’ meaning he did not have permission from the City to place it there. It has been a big tourist attraction since its installation and I could not see a reason for the City to move it from its location. At 7,100 pounds they can move it too far.
The Charging Bull at Bowling Green Park by artist Arturo de Modica
I reached the end of Broadway at 5:45pm and relaxed in Bowling Green Park (See review on VisitingaMuseum.com) for about a half hour. It was so nice to just sit there watching the fountain spray water and watching the birds as they pecked around.
Bowling Green has a rich history as a park. It was designed in 1733 and is the oldest park in New York City. It was here that the first reading of the Declaration of Independence was read and then the toppling of the Statue of King George III in defiance. You can still see where the citizens at the time cut off the small crowns on the fencing that surrounds the park. This is another place that was rumored to be the site of where the Dutch bought Manhattan. The park is the official start of Broadway.
Bowling Green Park at the height of its beauty
I walked from the Bowling Green Park and sat by the harbor in Battery Green Park and watched the ships go by. It is a nice place to relax and watch the sun set and the lights go on in all the buildings in lower Manhattan and watch the Statue of Liberty illuminate. It is quite a site. Look at the lights of Jersey City and Governors Island.
For dinner that night, I walked from the Battery into Chinatown and went to Chi Dumpling House (See reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) at 77 Chrystie Street in Chinatown. They have the most amazing menu that is so reasonable. Ten steamed dumplings for $3.00 and a bowl of Hot & Sour Soup for $1.50.
Chi Dumpling House at 77 Chrystie Street
For dessert that evening I came across Gooey on the Inside at 163 Chrystie Street (See review on TripAdvisor) for the most soft and gooey homemade cookies. I saw a bunch of people smiling as they left this basement business raving about the cookies and I had to investigate. I have to admit that they are pricey ($5.00 and higher) but the cookies are amazing. The Chocolate Chunk was loaded with large pieces of chocolate and the Birthday Cake is filled with icing and is soft and chewy. The best way to end the evening.
Gooey on the Inside Birthday Cake Cookies at 163 Chrystie Street
On my second day of walking down Broadway, I stopped at Pranzo Pizza at 34 Water Street (See reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for dinner. I had arrived later in the evening and did not realize they closed at 8:00pm. The food which is normally excellent, had been sitting for awhile and was not that good. I had a Chicken Parmesan and spaghetti special that was dried out. Not their best work.
Pranzo Pizza at 34 Water Street
After dinner, I returned to Battery Park to admire the lights on Governor’s Island and the illuminated Statue of Liberty. There is nothing like this site in the world and only off the. Island of Manhattan can you see it this way.
The Broadway Mall Art Exhibition:
The Birds of Broadway by artist Nicolas Holiber:
Artist Nicolas Holiber in front of his sculptures for the “Birds on Broadway” show
(This project is dedicated with much love to my father, Warren George Watrel, who still inspires me!)
Hello and Welcome to ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’, an extensive project to walk the entire island of Manhattan. My name is Justin Watrel and I will be your guide in exploring the island of Manhattan, searching every nook and cranny of the island for the unusual, the usual and the in between.
‘Walking the Island of Manhattan’ may not be terribly original as there are about four other people doing the project at the same time, but this project is different in the way I see the island. Not rushing through to prove I have walked it but to see what these neighborhoods are all about and what is there to discover and enjoy.
For all you ‘Manhattanites’ who think you know your island, I will show you things that you have never seen and places you have never gone, restaurants you have never tried and historical sites and museums you never knew existed. Maybe just a few blocks from where you live. As the son of two “Brooklynites’, I have traveled around the city a lot since 1969, my first time in the City when my parents took me to Chinatown to Hunan Gardens, a Chinese restaurant on Mott Street. I ended up there for eight birthdays until it closed in the early 2000’s.
Lunar New Year Parade in Chinatown
“My Walk in Manhattan” is a project to walk the entire island of Manhattan in New York City from top to bottom from the beginning of the Summer of 2015 until I finish the walk. Manhattan is 13.4 miles long and 2.3 miles wide and covers a total area 23.7 square miles. Along the way of walking the streets of Manhattan, I will be walking into parks, museums, restaurants and looking at the architecture of the neighborhoods and the buildings in them.
My soon to be path around the Island of Manhattan
I have found that people miss a lot when they walk with their cellphones and only look down at it. When you look up, you see the true beauty of the City. You see the stone work of old brownstones, you see small boutiques off the beaten track and can indulge in those hole in the wall restaurants that are usually found by foreign tourists. Nothing is more interesting then seeing a stone face on a building staring back at you, a tiny pocket park that residents created out of a garbage dump and that small entrepreneur trying to create a vision.
The Cable Building at 631 Broadway
This project was inspired by many things. My major inspiration for this project follows the recent passing of my father, Warren George Watrel. My dad and I loved to walk around the city and spend the day at various museums, walking around Central Park and the Conservatory, taking the subway to try new restaurants in Chinatown or Little Italy or any new place I had read about in the Village Voice (my Bible when looking for things to do on weekends).
Columbus Circle on the West Side
My father was a ‘Brooklynite’ from Williamsburg (long before it was ‘Hipster Central’, he would have been amused) and loved the city, so this voyage is dedicated to him. Having watched the movie “The Way” with Martin Sheen, we look for inspiration in our travels and try to find the answers to why something happens the way it does. Walking to explore does that.
I was my father’s caregiver after his illness hit him and I continued my trips into Manhattan as my father got better. It was the inspiration to this site’s sister site, ‘BergenCountyCaregiver.com’. After he passed in 2014, I wanted to spend Father’s Day doing something different yet do something that we would have done together. Thus started the first walk in Marble Hill.
My first Day in Marble Hill, Manhattan
Another inspiration was a recent article in New York Magazine entitled “Which New York is Yours? A Fierce Preservationist and a Pro-Development Blogger Debate” in which the author Justin Davidson asks about the disappearance of New York’s Character. “What does that character actually consist of? If we did make an all-out effort to preserve it, how would we know what to protect?” How much is the city changing? I have worked off and on in New York City since 1988 and the answer is in some parts of Manhattan it is night and day. Could you imagine walking in Bryant or Tompkins Square Parks in 1990?
I did and they were very different places back then. With the changing Zoning Laws and gentrification of many neighborhoods, its not the city of 1970’s movies. What I am looking for are those unique little pocket parks that we pass, those statues of people we have no clue who they are and those historic plaques of places gone by and people we don’t know.
Astor Row Houses in Harlem
Another are the books, ‘Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost its Soul’ by Jeremiah Moss and ‘The Death and Life of the Great American City’ by Jane Jacobs. How do cities keep progressing and changing? How does change effect a city and what direction are we going in? Does the Island of Manhattan have to be all luxury or can it be mixed to help keep the creativity alive and keep innovation going? Do we want the big bad 70’s again or the luxury brand of the 2010’s and 20’s? How is it impacting and changing the city? How much has Manhattan and the rest of the boroughs changed with the rezoning of the city under the Bloomberg Administration. This can also be looked at in the documentaries “Gut Renovation” and “My Brooklyn”.
The last inspiration was my doctor. He said I have to lose ten pounds. I am hardly over-weight but like many people he feels that I will be healthier if I lose the weight and keep it off. I want to see how a walk like this tones the body.
Bowling Green Park in Lower Manhattan
I know many people before have walked the entire length of Manhattan while others have or are attempting to walk the every block in the city, mine has a more personal reason. To really see the city I love from the ground up and explore parts of the island that I have never ventured to and see what I find there. Along the way, I want to see how the city changes while I am taking the walk. This is not the “Christopher Columbus” attitude most people are taking when exploring the neighborhoods but more honoring those residents who are trying to make the City better.
My project also includes stops at various points of interest and to get a better feel for all the neighborhoods, I am walking both sides of the street to get a better look at the buildings in each neighborhood and what defines the character of a neighborhood. I get the impression from some of the readers of Mr. Davidson’s article and from comments on the Internet that Manhattan is some “playground of the wealthy that is being gentrified to the hilt and soon no one will be able to afford any part of Manhattan”. Like in any place, there are people struggling everyday to survive in New York and like every city in the country, people are moving back in droves and want a quality of life for them and their families.
Delacorte Clock in Central Park
I have now expanded this site to three other blogs, ‘VisitingaMuseum’ (VisitingaMuseum..com), which features all the historical sites, community gardens and small museums and galleries I find in not just Manhattan but throughout the rest of the NYC and beyond in the suburbs. ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC’ (DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.wordpress.com), where I feature wonderful little restaurants, bodegas and bakeries that I find along the way. The one requirement is that the meal is around $10.00 and under (for us budget minded people). “LittleShoponMainStreet” (LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) where I find unique and creative stores in Manhattan and locally whose merchandising, displays, merchandise and service stand out in an age of Amazon. This harks back to a time when shopping was enjoyable and not a chore.
So to readers who will be following me on the journey walking through Manhattan, I hope you enjoy trip walking by my side!
Me in Red Hook, Brooklyn with Street Art
This project is dedicated to my father, Warren George Watrel, with lots of love and many wonderful adventures and memories to keep me company as I take “My Walk in Manhattan”.
My dad, Warren and I at a Grandparent’s Day Brunch in 2013