One of the nicest events we have as members of the Cornell Club is the walking tours that the club offers during the year. It really does give you an interesting perspective of New York City. I have toured the historic bars and saloons of Lower Manhattan, walked through historic Midtown Manhattan for a Victorian Christmas through the Ladies Shopping Mile, walked through the haunted historic sites of lower Manhattan and toured Chinatown through some of its oldest buildings and then lunch at a local restaurant. I even got to sit next to the gentleman who helped the President of Bloomingdale’s organize the big “China at Bloomingdales” exhibition. Now that was interesting.
The latest tour I went on was the “Secrets of Grand Central Station” tour on a recent Saturday. A group of about 25 of us met at the club to tour Grand Central Station and learn about various points of the history of the building. The tour guide was over an hour late so everyone on the tour got to know one another before we left the club.
When the tour guide arrived, we took the two block walk to the club and started at the staircases as you enter the building at Vanderbilt Avenue.
The Grand Central Terminal is right around the corner from the club
The terminal was not that busy that Saturday morning and we were still able to walk around with no problems. We started the tour at the top of the stairs leading into the Great Hall of Grand Central Station. We were able to admire the room from a distance and all the activity that train travel brings.
As the tour guide explained, Grand Central Terminal was meant to impress a visitor when they arrived into New York City from wherever they were traveling from. You entered the room to see the elegance and vibrancy of Manhattan.
Though splendid in its day, the original Grand Central Depot of 1871 had become a 19th century relic struggling to meet the demands of a 20th century city. Its 30-year-old rail tunnels couldn’t handle the steadily increasing traffic. The building lacked modern conveniences and signaling technology, as well as the infrastructure for electric rail lines. And having been designed for three independent railroad companies—with three separate waiting rooms—the terminal was badly outdated, crowded, and inefficient.
On top of that, the old station no longer reflected its surroundings. In 1870, 42nd Street was still a relative backwater. By 1910, it was the vibrant heart of a dynamic, ambitious, and swiftly growing New York City (Grand Central Terminal History).
The new 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 façade 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).
Grand Central Terminal Great Hall
The architects brought in Parisian artist Sylvain Saliéres to craft bronze and stone carvings, including ornamental inscriptions, decorative flourishes, and sculpted oak leaves and acorns (symbols of the Vanderbilt family.) Playful carved acorns festoon the Main Waiting Room’s chandeliers. The architects specified Tennessee marble for the floors, Botticino marble for wall trim, and imitation Caen stone for the walls (History of Grand Central).
The Great Hall of Grand Central Terminal right before COVID 2020
The view of the Great Hall from the stairs at the Vanderbilt entrance
The Landmarks Preservation Commission protected Grand Central from demolition, but the dilapidated terminal was still ailing. Restoring its former glory required an owner that recognized the station’s beauty and potential, craftsmen able to renovate its battered décor, and strong public support. It also required money. In 1982, Metro-North took over the terminal—now primarily a commuter hub—and launched a four-year, $12 million repair program that stopped further deterioration but didn’t erase decades of decay (Grand Central Terminal History).
In 1990, Metro-North announced ambitious plans to restore the station’s structural, architectural, and decorative glory. Peter E. Stangl, Metro-North’s first president and later Chairman of the MTA, led these efforts. Metro-North’s vision went far beyond simply refurbishing the building. Its master plan reimagined Grand Central as a vibrant shopping and dining destination, reclaiming its role as New York’s town square (Grand Central Terminal History).
The windows and the ceilings of the Great Hall
All the art on the window arches is dedicated to travel. The friezes were dedicated to travel, motion and speed. The theme of the sculptures was travel. The sculptures were designed by Sylvain Salières, who designed many other decorations around the terminal.
Artist Sylvain Salieres was born in France. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris. He taught at Carnegie Institute as a Professor of Art.
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.
The ceiling of the Great hall shows all the constellations
The ceiling had been designed with the help of a professor from Columbia University who taught astrology. The tour guide told us it was after the completion of the ceiling that the constellations were upside down and backwards (which was also noted in the video as well). Still you can see its magnificence in the details and the fact that it is lit up with lightbulbs to represent the stars.
The dirt on the ceiling
This small spot left in the ceiling in the corner was what was left after they finished cleaning the ceiling and renovating the rest of the terminal in the early 1990’s. Both the tour guide and the video said that this was from years of allowing smoking in the terminal. That was banned in the late 1980’s and early 90’s by both the Giuliani and Bloomberg Administrations.
The windows of the Great Hall which have walkways going across balconies
The tour guide explained to us that the windows were also skyways where people could walk across them. I did not believe it until I looked up and actually saw people walking across the windows. They are actually skylights that are double paned and there are three levels of walkways for people who work in the building to walk across.
The tile ceilings of the “hallways”Whispering Hall” of Grand Hall
In all the years I have been visiting Grand Central Terminal the “Whispering Hall” was the most fascinating part of the tour. You can stand on one side of the hall and hear someone talking on the other side of the room. It was fun testing it out and it really does work.
This remarkable acoustic oddity is caused by the unusually perfect arches, which are a version of Catalan vaults, that compose the gallery. The distinctive tile work in the gallery is known as “Guastavino” tiles, named for the patented material and methods of Spanish tile worker Rafael Guastavino in 1892, whose meticulous work and herringbone patterns can be admired here and elsewhere in the city (Atlas Obscura/Wiki).
The Grand Central Oyster Bar Restaurant inside the main terminal
The Grand Central Oyster Bar was closed that day but is one of the oldest restaurants in the city and was located there for the commuters who came and went from the terminal. It has been there since the beginning.
The chandeliers of Vanderbilt Hall make quite a statement. These were created to show off the new modern technology of electricity which was new back in 1913 when they were installed. The modern light bulb replaced gas lamps and candles of an earlier era. The Vanderbilts wanted to show how progressive they were with the railroads so these were created to dazzle the modern train rider.
The first part of the use electricity with these chandeliers
The vaults and chandeliers on the side of the Great Hall
A combination of soaring ceilings and modern lighting were to show the progress of the rail system and to dazzle customers as they came into New York City. These halls were meant to impress travelers when they entered this part of the Terminal.
The Vanderbilt’s wanted travelers to know that Grand Central Terminal was electrified which was unusual at the time when the building was built. This was very important as they wanted travelers to know that they were in the modern age of travel.
Next we toured the Graybar Passage Way which is part of the Graybar building that is part of Grand Central Terminal. The tour guide noted the very decorative chandeliers that lined the passageway.
The Graybar Passageway of Grand Central
The details of the chandelier in the Graybar Passageway
The mural on the ceiling
The tour guide and the video you can listen to below both explained that this mural was part of the original terminal from 1913. The mural is a bit faded and I had walked these hallways before and never noticed it. It is a depiction of train transportation. The video said that at the time murals should represent what the building was all about (Grand Central Terminal Video). I thought that was very interesting. It is very easy to miss.
The Food Court
We took a quick tour of the Food Court area in the lower level and some people had to go to the bathrooms. This is one of the many money making parts of the terminal and the profits help with the continuous renovation and upkeep of Grand Central Terminal. Since COVID, this are is still not at 100% of what it was pre-COVID but is still slowly making its way back. It has a lot of popular restaurants that are convenient to commuters, tourists and office workers alike.
The Food Court like most of the retail spots in the Terminal was created to bring in income for the renovation and upkeep of the Terminal. We headed back up the ramps to the main room and headed up the ramp and out the door. We stopped first in the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Foyer. This was dedicated to the former First Lady.
The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Foyer leading to East 42nd Street
Notice the lamp in the shape of an acorn. This was part of the Vanderbilt coat of arms. The coat of arms symbolized “from an acorn a mighty oak will grow”.
This entrance way was dedicated to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who with members of the Municipal Art Society and the City helped save this treasured building. With the recent destruction of Penn Station, the former First Lady lent her celebrity to helping save and preserve Grand Central Terminal.
Jackie Kennedy Onassis with Bess Myerson and Ed Koch in front of Grand Central (The Attic 2020) trying to save this landmark
Grand Central was symbolic of old Manhattan, a city her grandfather, James T. Lee, had helped build (highlights include 740 Park Avenue). Onassis also cared about historic preservation, having restored the White House to its former glory and saved Washington’s Lafayette Square from being replaced by ugly government office buildings in the early 1960s (Bloomberg 2013).
She was the star of a press conference in Grand Central’s Oyster Bar. “If we don’t care about our past we can’t have very much hope for our future,” she said into a bank of microphones over the din of flashbulbs popping. “We’ve all heard that it’s too late, or that it has to happen, that it’s inevitable. But I don’t think that’s true. Because I think if there is a great effort, even if it’s the eleventh hour, then you can succeed and I know that’s what we’ll do.” (Bloomberg 2013).
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Plaque in the foyer
This entrance was dedicated to her for all her work in preserving the building for future generations.
When we walked outside, the tour guide pointed at the grill work that surrounds the building. I never really thought of it because I had never looked at it before. All over the grill work is tiny acorns and leaves, the Vanderbilt coat of arms that was created by Alice Vanderbilt. They were all in the details of the grill work. This was a symbol of the Vanderbilt’s influence at that time.
The Grill Work on the outside of Grand Central Terminal
The Acorn Coat of Arms of the Vanderbilt family
Acorns and Oak Leaves are all over the Terminal as a symbol of the Vanderbilt family and the lasting of the family business. Within one generation the railroads and the family fortune would be gone.
The Statue of Mercury and the famous Grand Central clock “The Glory of Commerce”
There is a true beauty to the statuary and stone carvings on the outside of the building. Each of these were done by different artists. Some of the statuary was taken from the original railroad terminal such as the statue of Commodore Vanderbilt and the Eagle statues on both side of the front of Grand Central Terminal.
The Commodore Vanderbilt Statue
The statue was designed by artist Ernst Plassman a German born American artist who moved to New York in 1853. The artist studied under many famous artists in Europe before founding the “Plassman’s School of Art” in New York City in 1854.
The Eagle statues were taken from the previous terminal.
They are two of the 11 or 12 eagle statues that ornamented the terminal’s predecessor, Grand Central Station. In 1910, when the station was demolished to build Grand Central Terminal, the eagles were dispersed throughout the city and New York State (Wiki). These two statues now are located on both sides of the Terminal. This eagle was returned to the Terminal in 2004.
The Eagle Statue on the outside of the front of the Terminal
The Vanderbilt Eagle plaque in the Vanderbilt Plaza
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 Railroad.
The new Grand Central Madison Avenue Concourse:
The Grand Central Madison Avenue is a brand new terminal that is situated deep underneath Manhattan’s East Side. In the next few months, 296 LIRR trains per day will be rolling in and out of the terminal. This will mean more frequent train service to Long Island and better access to the East side of Manhattan.
The project was first proposed back in the 1960’s and then began in the 1990’s. After 25 years, the project was finally finished with an 11 billion dollar price tag. The project delays were because of budget cuts, 9/11, Hurricane Sandy and other issues that the City was dealing with over the last forty years. The terminal finally opened fully in March of 2023 (Tour Guide/Wiki).
This is the new Madison Avenue Concourse to the Madison Avenue Terminal
In the lower terminal, steel and glass creates a sleek, modern feel. As passengers rise toward the 350,000 passenger concourse and street level, however, visual references to Grand Central’s Beaux-Arts style will create a smooth transition to the century-old landmark above. The Grand Central Madison Terminal provides eight new miles of track to connect Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal. Transportation efficiency meets energy efficiency! Green design at the new LIRR concourse and terminal will combine maximum comfort with minimal power and water use (Grand Central Terminal History and tour guide).
The new artwork that dots the terminal and all the hallways is just beautiful. Many artists were commissioned to decorate the new rail terminal. These glass mosaics decorate the halls and subway entrances to the new part of the terminal.
Kiki Smith is a West German-born American artist whose work has addressed the themes of sex, birth and regeneration. Her figurative work of the late 1980s and early 1990s confronted subjects such as AIDS, Feminism and Gender but her most recent works concentrate on the human condition and how it relates to nature. She studied at the Hartford Art School and is a member of Collaborative Projects, an artist collective (Wiki).
Further down the hall, we were greeted by this delightful and whimsical wall of surrealist images of happy and playful pictures. These engaging images were by artist Yayoi Kusama.
The artwork on the hallways of the new terminal area by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama “A Message of Love, Directly from My Heart unto the Universe 2022”
“The other part of the artwork”A Message of Love, Directly from My Heart unto the Universe 2022” . The other side of the piece.
Artist Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese born artist who studied at the Kyoto School of Arts & Crafts and is known for her installments and sculptures but also works in film, performance art and fashion among other mediums and is known for influence in ‘Pop Art’ . She is currently the most successful living female artist in the world and is still going strong in her early 90’s. She currently is working on a second line of merchandise with Louis Vuitton (Wiki/Artist Bio).
Please watch the video of Yayoi Kusama
On the lower levels at each subway platform entrance, there is a new piece of art by Artist Kiki Smith, who continues to show here creativity in a series of local points of nature as she interprets it. Each work of art has a different theme and use of creativity and color.
The artwork at each track entrance “The Sound” by Artist Kiki Smith
The artwork at the track entrance “The Spring” by Artist Kiki Smith
The artwork at the track entrance “The Presence” by Artist Kiki Smith
The artwork at the track entrance “The Water’s Way” by artist Kiki Smith
“I made images from nature that hold affection and personal significance to me as I hope they will for others,” Smith said. “I am very honored to be included in the tradition of artists making work for the MTA, particularly as I have rarely had the opportunity to make something that lives within the public realm.” (6SqFt 2023)
We finished our tour at the last piece of artwork and then made our way back to the Cornell Club. I stayed for a half hour taking more pictures around the terminal and admiring the architecture one more time now knowing its history in more detail. It is amazing to walk around a building your whole life and never really know its history or its details. It was a wonderful tour.
The new modern entrance is now open for business and people can enjoy these wonderful pieces of art created for them to enjoy on their way to their trains and subways.
Grand Central Terminal at night
When I left for the evening, I got to see Grand Central Terminal at night and it really is nicely lit. You get to see the building at its best. It really is a beautiful building.
This was the closest tour I could find online of what I experienced:
Listen to the YouTube video while you are reading the blog. We had the same tour as on this video.
I took a different direction from my walk having finished the Flatiron District (finally!). I had just started Graduate School as I was finishing the Flatiron District and had not completed the blog when classes started. Who knew it was going to be that crazy of a semester. I had not worked that hard since Wines & Menus when I was at the Culinary Institute of America.
I bypassed the whole Theater District after the COVID vaccine mandate was lifted in June of 2020 because between the riots that took place after the George Floyd incident and all the theaters being closed because of COVID (they would not open again until 2021) I skipped this section of the Manhattan. I went to Murray Hill and worked my way down to 23rd Street. The whole Theater District was loaded with police anyway guarding the theaters and the areas in between. There was literally no one walking around this neighborhood and I would have stood out. The theaters and restaurants were boarded up and homeless all over the place.
So I’m back and it makes it really easy since I just get right out of Port Authority and here I am. The Theater District has changed tremendously in the last thirty years and has gotten much better. All of 42nd Street and its seediness has pretty much gone away (but the element still lingers) and some of the most innovative new buildings have replaced all that. It made for an interesting walk before I had to meet my friend, Maricel, for her delayed birthday dinner at Virgil’s, a barbecue restaurant on West 44th Street.
So I started on the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 42nd Street and made my way up Eighth Avenue to the northern border of the Theater District at West 54th Street. Talk about a combination of architectural structures and designs.
One of the most interesting buildings in the Times Square area is the Westin New York at Times Square at 270 West 43rd Street which stretches from West 42nd to West 43rd along Eighth Avenue. This hotel is considered one of the most innovative designed buildings in New York City when it was built.
Westin New York at Times Square at 270 West 43rd Street
The hotel was so innovative at the time when it was built and was considered a key in the redevelopment of the West 42nd Street district. The hotel was commissioned by the architectural firm of Arquitectonica to design the building. The 863 room hotel is actually two towers merged together with a ten story midsection for retail and hotel suites. The large scale abstract design has the look of a multi-dimensional gigantic origami (Arquitectonica website). The building was designed by HKS architects and was finished in 2002.
Further up Eight Avenue is the well-known Row NYC Hotel at 700 Eighth Avenue. This hotel opened in 1928 as the Hotel Lincoln and was the largest hotel in Manhattan when it opened with 1331 rooms. In 1957, the hotel was sold and remodeled and open again as The Hotel Manhattan. It was closed in the 1960’s as the rest of the area declined. It reopened again as the Milford Plaza Hotel in 1978 and was a big theater going hotel. In 2013, the hotel was sold once again and went through another renovation and opened as the currently Row NYC Hotel (Wiki).
As I made my way up Eighth Avenue that borders the Theater District, I passed the now reopened Smith’s Bar, which has been a fixture in Times Square for over sixty years opening in 1954. The bar had been sold to new owners in 2009 and then closed in 2014 to reopen a year later.
This bar has seen Times Square go through a major transition over the years and was once located in one of the worst areas during the 1990’s. It has since reopened and has been very popular going into “March Madness” with college basketball in full swing.
Located between 728 and 732 Eighth Avenue are three hold out businesses to a major construction project. It still houses Daniela at 728 Eighth Avenue, an Italian restaurant, a gift shop at 730 Eighth Avenue and Playwright Celtic Pub at 732 Eighth Avenue. Frankly I think all three businesses time is coming as the land is getting too valuable in the Times Square area. Every building around these has been torn down for a new building.
Further up the avenue on the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 46th Street is the West 46th Street SRO. This interesting building that I thought was an elegant Victorian is actually a combination of three former tenement buildings and two residences to make one building. Architects Oaklander, Coogan & Vitto PC created this interesting building with an additional shared floor topped with a mansard roof and tower. It used to house many trendy restaurants and bars but since the pandemic has been empty. By 2023 though, it is starting to fill up again (OCV Architects PC).
I reached West 48th Street and I passed Engine 54/Ladder 4/Battalion 9, which I used to pass all the time when I worked down the road at the Java Shop on the corner of Broadway and West 46th Street at 782 Eighth Avenue. These companies were hit hard a year after I left my job on 9/11 when the Brothers of this house lost 15 members that day, their entire shift. The memorial they have to their members is really touching and the guys that work there always seem so friendly to all the tourists that pass by.
Engine 54/Ladder 4/Battalion 9 at 782 Eighth Avenue
Pay respects to the Engine 54/Ladder 4 9/11 Memorial on the front of the building
Engine 54 Plaques and Awards including 9/11
The plaque at the firehouse
There are two wonderful Chinese restaurants that I like to visit when I am in the neighborhood. One is Chef Pho & Peking Roast Duck at 858 Eighth Avenue, which has wonderful lunch specials until 4:00pm. The restaurant has some of the best egg rolls that I have tasted in a long time. I made special stops here for lunch when walking the area.
The other is Real Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns at 811 Eighth Avenue which is known for their Pork & Crab and Pork Soup Dumplings. I love their fried dumplings, Scallion pancakes with sliced beef, the pan-fried Duck Buns and the Shanghai pan-fried pork buns. Everything on the menu here is excellent and you can eat your way through the menu of delicious Dim Sum.
Real Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns at 811 Eighth Avenue
When I turned the corner at West 54th Street, it was like visiting an old friend. Although I walk down this street all the time on the way to the MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art), in the past I never really paid attention to the buildings in the area or the architecture. When I walked down the street I saw the beauty in a lot of the townhouses that lined West 54th Street toward Fifth Avenue.
As I walked the border of the neighborhood on West 54th Street from Eighth Avenue, you can see the traces of Old Residential New York side by side with the new office towers, hotels and the extension of the Museum of Modern Art on the corner of West 54th and Fifth Avenue.
At the very edge of the neighborhood is 254 West 54th Street now the home of a theater but in the late 70’s was home to the famous ‘Studio 54’ nightclub and epicenter of the Disco era. There has never been a club before and after that can compare to it.
The club was opened in 1977 by club owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schlager who had once opened clubs out on Long Island and to much fanfare and the party did not end until the club was raided for tax evasion and closed February of 1980. The party was over! The club continued to open over the years but the original magic was gone as the Disco era faded away in the early 80’s.
254 West 54th Street The famous former “Studio 54”
The history of the Rise and Fall of Studio 54
Seed54 Sculpture at the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 54th Street
On the corner is the an unusual sculpture that I first noticed when walking past a hot dog vendor on the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 54th Street in front of 1330 Sixth Avenue building. This strange looking piece of artwork resembles an open air egg is by artist Haresh Lalvani. This unusual sculpture can be interpreted many different ways. The only problem is that the hot dog vendor on the corner distracts from even looking at it and I have passed it without even noticing it over the times I have been in the neighborhood.
Seed54 Sculpture at the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 54th Street
Artist Haresh Lalvani in front of one of his “HyperSurface” works
Mr. Lalvani is a professional artist and Professor at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. His emphasis in the work is his study of morphology into nature and its effects on art. ‘Seed54′ is part of his HyperSurface’ series. Mr. Lalvani is a graduate of the Pratt Institute of Architecture (Pratt Institute).
Artist Haresh Lalvani in front of one of his “HyperSurface” works
The first building that popped out to me was The Albemarle at 205 West 54th Street. This 12 story Beaux-Arts building was built in 1903 and was once known as the Hotel Harding and then the Alba. Actress Mae West once living in the building. The hotel at one time was home to the notorious “Club Intime” run by Texas Guinan. This was a well-known Speakeasy during Prohibition (City Realty).
Take time to look at the detailed stone work and carvings along the building. It really stands out amongst its more modern neighbors.
In front of 1345 Sixth Avenue is a large silver globe that has always fascinated me on the walks down West 54th Street. There is no name of the artist and nothing on the planters or doorway of the building.
The silver globe in front of 1345 Sixth Avenue on the corner of West 54th Street
At 162 West 54th Street, another beautiful building stands out with faces staring and smiling at you. This recently renovated building has now been turned into luxury condos and has been sandblasted back to its original beauty for a building that was built in 1911.
Walking further down the street, you will realize that this part of the neighborhood is home to many of the most famous ‘old line’ hotels in Manhattan. At 65 West 54th Street is the luxury Warwick Hotel.
The 36 story hotel was built by William Randolph Hearst in 1926 with the help of architect Emery Roth with the firm of George B. Post & Sons. The outside of the hotel is done with brick, granite and limestone giving it it’s unusual color scheme. Take time to look at the hotel’s detail work and old world charm in the lobby (Wiki).
The Warwick Hotel at 65 West 54th Street
The detail work around the windows of the Warwick Hotel
As you continue to walk the border of West 54th Street closer to Fifth Avenue, you will see the back of the Museum of Modern Art which just reopened after its renovation and expansion. On the northern side of West 54th Street is a series of historical mansions each with its distinctive look.
The first home that really stood out was 35 West 54th Street. The brownstone was built right after the Civil War and was part of a series of identical brownstones built on the block. When the brownstone was bought by owner, Dr. Allan Thomas, in the late 1890’s, he stripped the front of the brownstone and gave it its current Beaux Arts facade to match architecture being built along Fifth Avenue.
Another mansion that stands out along West 54th Street is the William Murray House at 13-15 West 54th Street. These twin mansions were built for Larchmont businessman William Murray by architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh in the ‘Renaissance style’. This section of fashionable mansions is what is left of the Gilded Age residences in the neighborhood.
The James Gordon House at 9-11 West 54th Street really stands out. James J. Gordon was the owner of the Erie Railroad and two insurance companies and was a cousin of JPMorgan, the banker. The house was designed by McKim, Mead & White in the Colonial American style. Mr. Gordon’s family had come to the United States in the 17th century and was from an old line Connecticut family. Look at the classic look of the mansion and its elegant stone and grill work. The house is now on the market for 65 million dollars (Curbed New York).
The last home in this series of brownstones is 7 West 54th Street which was built by banker Philip Lehman in 1900. The brownstone was designed in the Beaux Arts style and after his death in 1947, his son, Robert, moved in and used the home for his art collection. He used the house until he died in 1969. It is now being used as offices (Wiki).
As you turn the corner to Fifth Avenue, you start to experience the old wealth of Manhattan with the University Club to your right and St. Thomas Church to the left when you enter Fifth Avenue at West 54th Street. This area also contains luxury department stores and shops, famous hotels and the Upper Crust churches that dot Fifth Avenue. The Theater District shares the borders with Midtown East, the Upper East Side, Hell’s Kitchen and the Garment District so there is a lot of overlapping with the neighborhoods.
The next block up is a combination of unique buildings back-to-back with the University Club of New York (Princeton) and the Peninsula Hotel. These buildings are so beautiful in their place on Fifth Avenue.
The University Club of New York is a private social club and is just as elegant inside as it is outside. The building was designed by the firm of McKim, Mead & White in 1899 and was designed in the Mediterranean Revival Italian Renaissance palazzo style.
The University Club on the corner of West 54th Street and Fifth Avenue
The University Club of New York at 1 West 54th Street
When reaching the corner of East 53rd Street another historic church, Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue stands guard. Though the church has been part of Manhattan since 1823, the current church was built here by 1914 and consecrated in 1916 as an Episcopal parish (Wiki).
The church was designed by architects Ralph Adams Cram and Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue of the firm Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson with added sculpture by Lee Lawrie. The building is designed in the French High Gothic style and has magnificent deals (Wiki). Even if you are not Episcopalian, going to services at the church is a nice experience. The services are always very relaxed and the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys is excellent. The music and songs are wonderful to hear and the concerts in the afternoon and weekends are a treat.
On the corner of Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street sits a true jewel box in the Cartier store at 653 Fifth Avenue. The store was once home to Morton Freeman Plant, the son of railroad tycoon Henry B. Plant. The home was designed by architect Robert W. Gibson in 1905 in the ‘Neo-Renaissance style’. Mr. Plant felt later that the area was getting too ‘commercial’ and moved further uptown and Cartier bought the building in 1917 (Wiki).
Cartier 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.
The true catalyst and center of the luxury shopping district though is St. Patrick’s Cathedral which sits gracefully at the corner of Fifth Avenue between 51st and 50th Streets. The Diocese of New York was created in 1808 and the land for the Cathedral was bought in 1810. The Cathedral was to replace the one in lower Manhattan.
This current Cathedral was designed by architect James Resnick Jr. in the Gothic Revival style. Construction was started in 1850 and was halted because of the Civil War and continued in 1865. The Cathedral was completed in 1878 and dedicated in 1879. The Cathedral was renovated in 2013 and this shows its brilliance (Wiki).
During the holiday season the Cathedral is beautifully decorated and the music can be heard all over Fifth Avenue.
Next door to St. Patrick’s Cathedral is Saks Fifth Avenue’s headquarters. The business was founded by Andrew Saks in 1876 and was incorporated in 1902. After Mr. Saks died in 1912, the business was merged with Gimbels’ Brothers Department Store as Horace Saks was a cousin of Bernard Gimbel. In 1924, they opened the new store at 611 Fifth Avenue and changed the name of the store to Saks Fifth Avenue (The old store had been on 34th Street previously and called Saks 34th). The building was designed by architects Starrett & Van Vliet and designed in a ‘genteel, Anglophile classicized design’. (Wiki).
The store has recently gone through a major multi-million dollar renovation and is worth the time to look around the new first floor. The new cosmetic department is on the lower level along with jewelry so it is a different shopping experience. In its place, the handbag department has moved to the first floor.
Once you get to West 49th Street things start to change when you enter Rockefeller Center which is across the street from Saks Fifth Avenue. The Rockefeller Center complex covers 22 acres with 19 buildings including Radio City Music Hall and the famous ice skating rink that is holiday tradition once the famous tree is lite. The complex stretches from East 48th to East 51st Street from Fifth to Sixth Avenues. Rockefeller Center was built in two sections, the original 16 building of the complex and then the second section west of Sixth Avenue (Wiki).
Rockefeller Center at 45 Rockefeller Plaza on Fifth Avenue
The land under Rockefeller Center was owned by Columbia University (which was later sold) and the building of the complex started at the beginning of the Great Depression. Construction started in 1931 with the first section opening in 1933 and the remainder of the complex opening in 1939 (Wiki).
The original section of the complex was built in the ‘Art Deco style’ and the extension on Sixth Avenue was built in the ‘International style’. Three separate firms were hired to design the complex with the principal architects being Raymond Hood of Hood, Godley and Fouilhoux who was a student in the Art Deco style, Harvey Wiley Corbett and Wallace Harrison of Corbett, Harrison & McMurray and to lay the floor plans for the project L. Andrew Reinhard and Henry Hofmeister of Reinhard & Hofmeister. They were working under the Associated architects so that no one person could take the credit for the project (Wiki). Two of the original tenants including Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and National Broadcasting Company (NBC) which still exist.
The original section of Rockefeller Center
Radio City Music Hall, known for the elaborate shows and the Rockettes, was finished in 1932 and the ice-skating rink was finished in 1933 and the first Christmas tree was erected by the workers who were doing all the building.
The first tree in Rockefeller Center in 1933 with the constructions workers who erected it.
The rest of the complex went up over the next five years with extensions and renovations being done over the next fifty years. Many famous companies made Rockefeller Center their headquarters or moved their offices to the complex over the years. Still most tourists find their way to the restaurants and the famous rink at the holidays.
Rockefeller Center and the famous tree at Christmas 2022
Of all the beautiful artwork that line the walls and courtyards of the complex, two stand out. Prometheus is a beautiful statue that stands proud above the ice-skating rink. This beautiful cast iron, gilded sculpture was made in 1934 by artist Paul Manship. The work is of the Greek legend of Titan Prometheus who brought fire to mankind by stealing it from the Chariot of the Sun (Wiki).
Mr. Manship was a well-known American artist who noted for his specialized work in mythological pieces in the classic style. He was educated at the St. Paul School of Art and at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
The other standout statue is of the God Atlas that guards the courtyard of the International Buildings. The sculpture was created by artist Lee Lawrie with the help of Rene Paul Chambellan. The statue was created in the Art Deco style to match with the architecture of the Center and depicts Atlas carrying the celestial vault on his shoulders.
Atlas at Rockefeller Center
Mr. Lawrie was known as a architectural sculptor whose work is integrated into the building design. His work in the Art Deco design fit perfectly into the new building. Mr. Lawrie was a graduate of the School of Fine Arts at Yale.
Artist Lee Lawrie
Touring around Rockefeller Center can take a full afternoon itself especially at the holidays but in the summer months with the outdoor cafe open on the skating rink it is much more open.
Framing the view of Prometheus from the Channel Gardens are Youth and Maiden, which were originally commissioned as companion figures for Rockefeller Center’s famous fire god, one male and one female, to represent humankind.
Artist Paul Manship’s ‘Maiden’
Artist Paul Manship’s ‘Youth”
Originally placed on either side of the gilded Prometheus, each figure extends one hand to receive the gift of fire. The dramatic architecture surrounding Rockefeller Center’s Channel Gardens frames a major exhibition of sculpture by American artist Paul Howard Manship (Public Art Fund 1999).
Also visit the underground walkways of shops and restaurants and visit the new FAO Schwarz that opened in the center. In the winter months, it is fun to watch the skaters on the iconic ice rink. I then headed back down Fifth Avenue again to walk through Bryant Park.
Another former business that was well known on Fifth Avenue for years was located at 597 Fifth Avenue was Charles Scribner Sons Building. It originally housed the Charles Scribner Book Store replacing the old store on lower Fifth Avenue. The building at 597 Fifth Avenue was designed by architect Ernest Flagg in the Beaux Arts style between 1912-13 (Wiki).
The bookstore moved out in 1980 and the company became part of Barnes & Noble Bookstores and the building has been sold since. It now houses a Lululemon Athletica store but you can still see the Scribner’s name on the outside of the building and the Landmarked bookshelves inside the store.
The Charles Scribner Sons Building at 597 Fifth Avenue
The rest of Fifth Avenue is newer office buildings with retail space on the bottom levels some filled and some empty. When I was growing up, this part of Fifth Avenue was filled with high end stores. Today it is a combination of chain stores found in the suburbs or are just sitting empty, a trend found all over this part of Midtown East.
At 551 Fifth Avenue another interesting building, The Fred French Building really stands out. The building was created by architects H. Douglas Ives and Sloan & Robertson in 1927 in the ‘Art Deco Style’. Really look at the detail work all the up the building which was done in an ‘Eastern Design’ style with winged animals, griffins and golden beehives made to symbolize according to the architect ‘commerce and character and activities’ of the French companies. The outside material used on the building is faience, a glazed ceramic ware (Wiki).
The detail work on the top of the Fred French Building
From 43rd Street, I walked back up Fifth Avenue to the other side of the street and the buildings on this side of the street contains its share of architectural gems. The glass box building at 510 Fifth Avenue has always stood out to me. It was built in 1954 for the Manufacturers Trust Company. It was designed by architect Charles Evans Hughes III and Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Evans & Merrill in the International style and recently has won awards for its extensive renovation. It had been used as a branch of Chase Bank until 2000 and now is used for retail stores (Wiki).
The lower part of this side of Fifth Avenue is going through a transition as a lot of buildings exteriors are either being renovated or the building itself is being knocked down and a new one is rising. Many of the buildings here are quite new or just don’t stand out.
I reached Bryant Park by the afternoon and it was just beautiful that afternoon. The park has gotten more crowded with each month that the City has opened. The tables and chairs are pretty much back to normal since the years of COVID have passed into memory (it is still with us) and people are back to socializing again. It has become one of the nicest parks in New York in comparison to what it was in the late 1980’s. It also has the nicest and cleanest public bathrooms in Manhattan so it is worth the wait in line.
Bryant Park was busy that day
Bryant Park just before the ice skating rink was taken down
Years ago when I worked in Manhattan in the early 90’s, Bryant Park was only used for drug dealing and criminal activity and was best avoided. What twenty years and a major renovation can do to a park. Today you can walk along the flowering paths and think you are in Paris. In the past there have been concerts and movies in the park but because of COVID-19, you can just sit in the park on a chair or bench and enjoy the sunshine and admire the flowers.
Just walking along the paths of Bryant Park in the Spring and Summer months can make you forget your troubles
I continued my walk of the Garment District passing the New York Public Library admiring the stone carvings and statuary that is part of the entrance of the famous library. The library had just had a recent refreshing and looked magnificent with the fountains flowing and patrons filling the tables outside the building.
The New York Public Library guards the borders of Murray Hill from Fifth Avenue (During COVID)
This famous iconic building was designed by the firm of Carrere and Hastings in the Beaux-Arts style and opened its doors May 23, 1911. The founding for this important library came from patronage of the wealth members of society who believed in the value education and opened it to the people.
The famous lion statues that grace the entrance of the library were designed by American sculptor Edward Clark Potter and they were carved by the Piccirilli Brothers, American stone carvers whose business was based in the Bronx.
The NY Public Library Lions are iconic
Edward Clark Potter is an American born artist who studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and at the Academie Julian in Paris where he studied ‘animalier’, animal sculpture.
The Piccirilli Brothers were a family of stone carvers and artists in their own right who were from Massa, Italy and owned a business in the Bronx. There were responsible for many famous statues all over the City including the Maine Memorial in Columbus Circle and the Firemen’s Memorial in Riverside Park.
Artist Attilio Piccirillo , one of the most famous from the family
Another feature of the famous building and I had never noticed before was the elegant fountains that flank the entrance to the library. I did not realize that these fountains had just been restored in 2015 after thirty years of not functioning. They were restored with a grant from the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust (NYPL Site).
The fountain “Beauty”
The fountain “Truth”
These beautiful fountains were designed by artist Frederick MacMonnies, an American born artist who studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.
I relaxed under the trees and took a break from the walking. It is a funny thing that I have noticed at the park and it seems like no one is ever working. Everyone is either eating or talking. It has been so different since COVID started. You never see dressed business people in the park taking a break. It looks more like it is full of tourists visiting.
Enjoy the opening scene of “Ghostbusters” from 1984 shot at the NY Public Library:
Enjoy this scene from “Ghostbusters” from 1984 shot at the NY Public Library
The opening of the film “Ghostbusters” was shot inside the New York Public Library
Still when the park is in full bloom there is nothing like it. It is surrounded by classic architecture and beautiful buildings. They even were bringing back the “Bryant Park Film Festival” by the end of the summer. One Monday night I took a break from walking and watched the film “Moonstruck” which I had seen outside once at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Even though I had seen it hundreds of times since it came out I never tire of watching the film.
There have been many changes around Bryant Park in the last twenty years. Most of the older buildings of Times Square have been long knocked down and the area rebuilt which needed it. Now the impressive Bank of America building at 1111 Sixth Avenue (or also known as One Bryant Park) graces the corner of West 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue (trust me, no one in New York City calls Sixth Avenue “The Avenue of the Americas”).
This innovative building was designed by architect Rick Cook from the firm of Cookfox Adamson Associates. The building was designed with a clear ‘Curtain wall’ and several diagonal planes for wind resistance. The building was also awarded a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for sustainable ‘green’ architecture (Wiki/Durst website).
The further you walk down West 42nd Street, the more you see how the block has changed in the last thirty years. All the older theaters and office buildings were knocked down and cleared out back in the 1980’s when Times Square went through urban renewal. The more historical theaters and old hotels have since been refitted and renovated.
Across the street in Three Bryant Park’s plaza is an interesting statue entitled “The Guardians: Hero” by artist Antonio Pio Saracino. This unique sculpture in made in layers and created from marble set in precision stone. The statue is done in repeated planes of marble . The sculpture is a modern representation on Michelangelo’s “David” Stoneworld/APS Designs).
Artist Antonio Pio Saracino is an Italian born artist currently working in New York City. He is a graduate of Sapienza University of Rome and works as an architect and designer. He has had shows all over the world (Wiki).
At the corner of West 42nd Street and Broadway is the Knickerbocker Hotel at 6 Times Square. This hotel has had many incarnations over the years including an apartment house. As the neighborhood has improved, the historical buildings in the area have been renovated back to their former selves.
The Knickerbocker Hotel was built by John Jacob Astor IV and it opened in 1906. The hotel was designed by the firm of Marvin & Davis in the Beaux-Arts style. The outside of the hotel was built in red brick with terracotta details. The hotel was fully renovated in 2015 (Wiki).
One building that stands tall in Times Square is One Times Square known as 1475 Broadway. Once the home headquarters for the New York Times was opened in 1904. The building was designed by architect Cyrus L.W. Eidlitz. The original façade was of stone and terra cotta but this has been mostly stripped and is now home for mostly advertising. The ball still drops from the top of the building every New Year (Wiki).
One Times Square before the scaffolding went up
One Times Square with the lit ball for the New Year
What is left of the old ’42nd Street’ Theater District has been renovated and refitted of its historic theaters. The rest of the block was knocked down and new office buildings were built starting in the late 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s. This is still a major gateway to the City especially from the Lincoln Tunnel and the Port Authority (NYCEDC/42nd Street Redevelopment Project).
The original 42nd Street Redevelopment project (NYCEDC)
In the early 1980’s to the early 90’s until Mayor Rudy Giuliani took office, this area was being touted for redevelopment. It had started before the 1987 Stock Market Crash and then stalled for almost eight years. In the early 1990’s, the whole block between Seventh and Eighth Avenues along West 42nd Street were torn down, the theaters started to get renovated and new office buildings were built. If someone left New York City in 1990 and came back today, they would not recognize the neighborhood to the changes made.
Some of the changes has been the renovation and restoration of three beautiful theaters, the New Victory Theater at 209 West 42nd Street, the New Amsterdam Theater at 214 West 42nd Street and the former Empire Theater now the AMC Empire Theater at 234 West 42nd Street. Each of these architectural wonders used to be major theater houses before they became porn theaters and are now back to their original glory.
The New Victory Theater was one of the first theaters to reopen under the new plan.
The New Victory Theater was built by Oscar Hammerstein I in 1900 and was designed by architect Albert Westover. It opened as the Theatre Republic in 1900 and showed live stage shows. It did not become a movie theater until 1942 and by 1972 it became a porn theater. it resumed legitimate theater by the 1990’s when it was refurbished in 1995 and was the first theaters renovated in the 42nd Development plan (Wiki).
The New Amsterdam Theater is one of the oldest theaters in the area having been built between 1903 and 1904. The theater was built by Klaw and Erlanger for live theater and was designed by architects Herts & Tallant with a Beaux Arts exterior design and an Art Deco interior. The embellishments and details on the outside are quite elaborate (Wiki).
The theater was home to the Ziegfeld Follies from from 1913 to 1927 and hosted the elaborate shows of their day. It then was converted to a movie theater in 1937 until 1983 when it was leased to the Walt Disney company and renovated between 1995 and 1997. It is now operated by Disney Theatrical Productions for their live shows (Wiki/Walt Disney Company).
The former Empire Theater now the AMC Empire 25 was built in 1912 for producer Al H. Woods and was designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb in the Beaux Arts style. The theater was for live stage performances until 1943 when it was converted into a movie palace. It closed for good in the 1980’s as the area declined (Cinema Treasurers).
In 1998, the theater was moved from its location at 236 West 42nd Street and moved down the street to its present location at 234 West 42nd Street. The exterior was largely kept intact and the present theater interior was built inside of it enhancing the beauty of the present building (Cinema Treasurers/Wiki).
These theaters showed the testament of time and this type of architecture now is appreciated and being refitted to modern uses like the buildings I had seen in NoMAD (North of Madison Square Park) and in the Flatiron District.
A lot of the businesses on West 42nd Street heading back to the Port Authority have started opening up again. Sidewalk cafes were out with the warmer weather and customers were milling around. I saw this happening on my walks into the Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton section just north of the border of the Garment District.
The Port Authority at the edge of the Theater District is always busy.
After I reached the Port Authority, I double backed to West 44th Street to join Maricel for lunch at Virgil’s Barbecue. The restaurant was really crowded as “March Madness” had started and college basketball was in full swing. We had a group of Howard Alumni sitting behind us and by the end of lunch they looked heart broken as their team fell behind. There were plenty of other Alumni from other schools in the restaurant watching the games on the many TVs that lined the bar area of the restaurant.
We had not been to Virgil’s since before COVID hit. We used to come here quite often so it was nice to back. Lunch was wonderful. I had a much-needed Pulled Pork Sandwich with a bowl of homemade chicken soup. Maricel could not finish her Mac & Cheese, so she gave me the rest. It was a wonderful afternoon of food and great conversation. She actually asked how my walk in Manhattan was going. I reminded her that she was supposed to be doing this project with me originally. She laughed at that one. After lunch it was perfect after a long walk around the neighborhood.
The Pulled Pork Sandwich at Virgil’s with Mac & Cheese and a biscuit
It was a nice afternoon to walk around and to spend the rest of the afternoon with a good friend over wonderful food made it even better.
It is nice to see the Theater District come to life again after a long COVID slumber. It is going to interesting to see how the area develops now that all the theaters are open, and the tourists are coming back. Talk about a drastic change in just two years!
Our special ‘Members Only” nights at the Met are a lot of fun!
I had just finished Finance class at NYU and I needed a break. I could tell that my Professor wanted to leave early as well and the whole class was lost on learning the Income Statement so it was a perfect time to end the class for the evening.
I had signed up for the ‘Private Members Night’ on Valentine’s Day thinking that people would not attend this event on Valentine’s Day. Boy was I wrong! The museum was packed with people all over the museum. Since the whole museum was not open (the Roman and Greek Galleries on the first floor with the American Wing to the back being open and upstairs it was the Special Galleries and the Impressionist Wing), the areas of the museum including the restaurants and gift shops filled with members dining together for the evening and snatching up bargains such as the 50% ornaments from Christmas at the Gift Shop. I had never seen a Private Members Night so busy. That made it more fun as people were out to enjoy themselves without the pressure of the holiday.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art at 1000 Fifth Avenue during the day
Since I had seen most of the museum in the past and time was limited (I had about an hour and a half), I decided to spend my time at the new “Mayan Exhibition-The Lives of the Gods-Divinity in Maya Art”.
The entrance to the exhibition: “LIves of the Gods-Divinity in Maya Art”
‘In Maya art, the gods are depicted at all stages of life: as infants, as adults at the peak of their maturity and influence, and as they age. The gods could die, and some were born anew, serving as models of regeneration and resilience. In Lives of the Gods: Divinity in Maya Art, rarely seen masterpieces and recent discoveries trace the life cycle of the gods, from the moment of their creation in a sacred mountain to their dazzling transformations as blossoming flowers or fearsome creatures of the night.
Maya artists, who lived in what is now Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, depicted the gods in imaginative ways from the monumental to the miniature—from exquisitely carved, towering sculptures to jade, shell, and obsidian ornaments that adorned kings and queens, connecting them symbolically to supernatural forces. Finely painted ceramics reveal the eventful lives of the gods in rich detail.
Created by master artists of the royal cities of the Classic period (A.D. 250–900) Maya, the nearly 100 landmark works in Lives of the Gods evoke a world in which the divine, human, and natural realms are interconnected and alive’.
(from the Met website)
These were my favorite pieces from the exhibition:
The Mayan Throne at the entrance of the exhibition
The information on the ‘Throne Back’
The beautiful Jade icon pieces
The Rain Deity
The Deity Figure
The King Jaguar Bird Tapir
King Jaguar Bird Tapir
The Rain Deity
The Rain Deity Column
The Rain Deity
The Rain Deity Column
The exhibition was not that long and I was able to see everything in about an hour. I will have to go back to take some more time to read things but the art was just amazing. The detail work that these artisans had back then just showed how advanced they were without our modern tools. The Jade work was especially impressive.
After I finished the exhibit, I went down to the Impressionist Wing for twenty minutes before I toured the gift shop to see if anything new had come in. The museum must have emptied the storerooms of all the Christmas merchandise they were keeping in storage because there were tables of ornaments on sale fifty percent off. People were snatching things up and the lines were about fifteen deep. I have to say one thing, I was much more relaxed by the end of the evening.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art at closing
The museum had such an elegant look after dark. As we left the museum that evening, they gave us each sugar cookies that said “Met Member” on it printed on the icing. It was a very nice touch when we left and it was so sweet. It really pepped me up. It was such a nice warm evening (for the winter) and I decided to walked back to the Port Authority. It was quiet on the Upper East Side and it was nice to walk around.
When I got back down Fifth Avenue and passed Bryant Park, I saw the most spectacular view of the Empire State Building lit in pink for Valentine’s Day. What a site! This is why I love Manhattan so much. Where else do you get a view like this?
By the time I got back to Port Authority, things had gotten a little quieter. I stopped for a quick slice of pizza at the 99 Cent Pizza place down the road from the Port Authority and then headed home.
99 Cents Pizza at the corner of Seventh Avenue and 40th Street at 143 West 40th Street
I do not know where time went. One day I am cutting the lawn in 70-degree weather and the next day it is 32 degrees, and everyone is freezing. The weather has been going up and down like a yoyo and everyone is getting sick right before the holidays. Every other day the weather was changing, and this is the way the temperature would be every day for the month of December. One day it is Spring or Fall and the next everyone is bundling up.
Don’t be fooled by all the pictures and activities. There were a lot of late nights, a lot of driving and a lot of arranging to pull the holidays off this year. Teaching three classes and taking four classes in Grad school on top of volunteer work that I was committed to and getting ready for the holidays and all its expectations I had a lot of nights where I did not go to bed until two in the morning. I would study on busses and in hotel rooms and I never worked like this before in my life. Still it was a Merry Christmas and I consider myself a lucky person to see all these wonderful things.
All I did was run in and out of New York City every week for classes and work. There were so many historical sites that I wanted to visit over the holidays to update previously blogs that every moment of my day was taken up with touring. Still, I enjoyed taking my time to walk to school through Greenwich Village. The residents and merchants here know how to celebrate the holidays.
Christmas in Greenwich Village. I saw this home after class and I knew Santa was on his way
Walking past the train station on the way back to Port Authority was even festive.
With Grad School taking up so much of my time and I just finished all my presentations at Bergen Community College where I work (please see all three Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. projects), it’s now the final project for Grad School and getting ready for the holidays that are taking up my time. It is only two more weeks.
Thanksgiving with my cousins and aunt at the Lambertville Inn
Christmas started for me right after Thanksgiving with my family when the next day we had Christmas Tree delivery for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. We had 390 Christmas Trees delivery and we emptied the truck in one hour. By 10:30am, we sold our first Christmas tree and by the end of the first weekend, we sold 134 trees and 8 stands. We just missed last year’s numbers. It had rained most of Sunday so we missed that afternoon and evening of that day.
Christmas Tree drop off is right after Thanksgiving at 8:00am the next morning
The guys on the Men’s Association after we finished tagging and unloading the trees
Friday was a busy day selling. It often amazes me how many trees sell that first weekend. Last year we sold out in 11 days and people were disappointed that they had to wait. Many said that this year, they arrived early to get the tree they wanted. Even with the rain on Sunday, we did very well and were anticipating another get year (we sold out by December 9th on the morning shift).
My blog on Christmas tree drop off for the Men’s Association:
I knew it was Christmas when my neighbors set out all their decorations
The next evening after Thanksgiving was the Annual Parade and Tree Lighting ceremony in Downtown Hasbrouck Heights. Since we were opening the tree stand and I was on leave from the fire department this year, I did not go. Instead I stayed at the tree stand that evening and sold trees on my first split shift. We sold 44 trees on the first day of sales.
The Christmas Tree at the Circle in Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
The Gazebo at the Firemen’s Circle Memorial in Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
I have to admit, Thanksgiving weekend and the subsequent week were all about grad school. We would be wrapping up classes in two weeks (classes ended on December 14th) and I had three major papers due, one for each class. With the exception of my Data Analytics class, I had one partner on each paper I really did not know if I could count on so there would be a lot of extra work to do.
Heights Bar & Grill at 163 Boulevard became a place to relax and unwind with a pizza and a drink
Heights Bar & Grill was very festive during the holidays
My post birthday dinner became my pre Christmas/post class dinner
The next weekend was Sinterklaas weekend, and I knew I had to be in Rhinebeck and then Boonton, NJ for the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Christmas Party that I committed to last month. When you’re on all the Executive Boards of these organizations, you have to be there.
Still on the way back and forth to classes starting from mid-November until classes ended, I enjoyed my walks from the Port Authority to the NYU campus in the Village to admire all the decorations, display windows and Christmas tree setups all over the Village. Even before Christmas started, this section of the City is very traditional ‘Old New York’ and when it is all ready for the holidays it puts you in the Christmas spirit.
Christmas in Greenwich Village really kept my spirits up between classes
Selling Christmas trees in New York City was not difference from us but in prices.
The window displays in the Greenwich Village stores and boutiques were really creative. I loved walking all the side streets to discover what shop owner did that was so different from the others and these are some of my favorites. They really cheered me up as the pressure of the assignments built up.
Window display in the Village after they changed from Halloween to Christmas
Window display in the Village
Window display in the Village
Christmas display inside and outside at Greenwich Village store
More Christmas trees for sale on lower Seventh Avenue
The Washington Square Park Christmas tree was so beautiful both during the day and night. It was so nice to pass every evening I was coming back from class. It really put me in the holiday spirit especially when I was stressed out on my last three research papers of the semester. I took the time to just walk around the park and enjoy the cool air.
The Washington Square Park Christmas tree by day
The Washington Square Park Christmas tree at night
In between classes and work, I had to decorate and get my own house ready for the holidays. I have never worked so hard trying to pull off the holidays with so much going on in my life. Still I thought the house looked very nice. I decorated both the living room and dining room and it looked really festive. It was too bad there was no time for entertaining. That and the fact that everyone else was so busy, it made it impossible to do anything.
I keep it simple but elegant in my house
For years, I used to have a Christmas dinner but with everyone’s schedules and COVID still around, I am finding more and more people don’t want to get together. Again my schedule was no better this December. Still I worked my own “Santa” magic with other things I did for friends, neighbors and family.
From December 1st to the 31st, my feet never touched the ground. From unloading trees for the Men’s Association to watching the ball drop to completing three major projects for my job at Bergen Community College to the three major papers at school, my laptop followed me everywhere and was prominent in each of my hotel rooms as a worked on every business trip for my work with this blog. Who says that life is boring? The fun began as it does every year with Sinterklaas weekend in Rhinebeck.
My blog on Sinterklaas/ The Snowflake Festival weekend in Rhinebeck Day Two Hundred and Fifty-Six:
I had to plan Sinterklaas weekend like D-Day. I had a major presentation on the Metaverse when I returned back on the next Monday night so I had to finish the framework for the paper the Friday night before the parade. I was visiting the Culinary Institute of American to interview one of my old chefs at the college but I was not able to get in touch with him.
Still I was able to leave a message for an appointment and then tour the campus. I forgot how beautiful the campus is and I never saw it during Christmas time. I had been on my Externship my first year at the CIA so I never experienced the holidays at the CIA.
Roth Hall decorated for Christmas
The Christmas tree in the outside courtyard
I did not have any plans that Friday evening and I looked at the papers and saw that there was a Snowflake Festival in Downtown Kingston, NY. So that evening after a nice nap at the hotel, I headed there for the evening. It was just what the doctor ordered. It was a cool but not cold evening full of activities and lots of Christmas decorations and a festive environment.
Downtown Kingston, NY the night of the Snowflake Festival
It was a nice evening of Christmas activities, horse drawn carriage rides, visiting the firehouse, beautifully decorated windows of the local merchants and people just having a good time amidst COVID problems and a bad economy. People ‘needed a little Christmas now’ (Please read the blog below on the Snowflake Festival and the Sinterklaas Parade).
The line to see Santa was impossibly long. I think everyone needed him this year.
The Christmas tree in Downtown Kingston, NY
My homebase for the weekend was the Quality Inn Hotel in Hyde Park, which is becoming a tradition with me. I love the location and the comfortable beds. If you get a room facing the field to the right, you can see the stonewall that lines the property. Plus, they have the best fresh waffle station every morning.
The Quality Inn Hyde Park at 4142 Albany Post Road
Sinterklaas morning was a really gloomy day. Even if the weather outside that morning was gloomy, the spirit of Sinterklaas was in full swing inside the Beekman Arms Hotel for the Opening Ceremony.
The Opening Ceremony at Sinterklaas with Founder Jeanne Fleming and the Pocket Lady
The animal being celebrated this year was the porcupine and this was his home in the courtyard in Downtown Rhinebeck. This wise woman told us his tale.
The “Into the Light” show at the local church
The parade is the highlight of the evening and we lucked out that night as the weather broke by the afternoon. The sun started to come out and it was a much nicer evening with a cool but not cold feel and you could see the stars out on this clear evening. The parade is always exciting especially as we walk down the hill into Downtown Rhinebeck.
The parade begins at the Starr Library
The serpents are always a big hit at the parade
The stars always lead the parade down the hill
I marched at the end of the parade so all I saw was everyone’s backs. The crowds were not the same because of the weather that morning but they were still pretty large once we got into the core of downtown. Because of the weather earlier in the day, I could tell we had a more local crowd which was nice because Downtown Rhinebeck can only handle so many people.
All the characters come together at the closing ceremony
I swear that this parade like selling Christmas trees goes by faster and faster every year. I come to Rhinebeck in the Spring and the Summer and it just seems like I am counting the weeks until it starts all over again. After the parade was over, I stopped at Village Pizza for a few slices with the last of the parade stragglers. There were maybe three families eating a late dinner. By the time I warmed up and finished my pizza I walked around the downtown one more time. It was so quiet and peaceful with the exception of the saxaphone player who plays downtown at night. You would have never known there was a parade that night.
My review on TripAdvisor on Village Pizza in Rhinebeck, NY:
After a very sound sleep, I ate breakfast and enjoyed the waffle bar. Then I headed down to Boonton, NJ for the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Christmas Party that we were hosting at the home. Again, the year seems to go by fast.
The Executive Board the day of the party (I’m third to the right)
Because of COVID, the party is more subdued and families are still not allowed back with any great crowds. Still we had a DJ and Jerry Naylis’s daughter and granddaughters entertained the residents of the home. We really had a nice afternoon.
The Naylis family entertaining the residents
After the party was over, a few of us went the Columbia Inn for dinner. There was only a small group of us this year because again many of the guys were worried about COVID and large crowds. Still we toasted in the holiday season and after dinner, it was right back home to do my homework for school and classwork for my students. It would be never ending for the next three weeks.
The week between Sinterklaas and the next weekend of the Mills Mansion Party and exploring the decorated mansions to update my blogs for work, classes in both schools took a frenzy of activity on. I had to finish papers on the Metaverse and complete my White Paper on the Travel Industry and we started our paper on Mapping the Rockaways. I don’t think I ever went to bed before 2:00am every night for the next three weeks.
The “Dining on the Metaverse” paper required me to run around and interview chefs on the what their thoughts were on the Metaverse. I first went to the Ivy Inn in Hasbrouck Heights and talked with the Chef/Owner Jack. His thoughts on the Metaverse in dining were pretty strong and I needed a second interview so back to the Culinary Institute of America I went to talk to my former Chef at the college. He just happened to reach out to me that week so I stopped in to see him late on Friday.
The Ivy Inn at 268 Terrace Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ decorated for the holidays
I had an offer to revisit the Brinckerhoff Homestead the next afternoon before they ran a Afternoon Tea fundraiser to take pictures of the home decorated for Christmas for work and was able to get a last minute invitation acceptance for the Mills Mansion fundraiser, I decided to spend the night again at the Marriott in Fishkill, NY. It would be another long weekend of running around. So I booked a room at the Marriott Courtyard Fishkill, where I had stayed twice before and it would be close to all the sites and headed Upstate.
The Marriott Courtyard Fishkill at 17 Westage Drive & Route 9
I got up to the CIA before 4:30pm and walked around campus and enjoyed the Christmas lights again. The campus was starting to wind down for the holidays as the students would be leaving for break in a week and a half but the restaurants were busy with weekend reservations and by 4:30pm, I stated my interview on “Dining on the Metaverse” with the last chef I had before I graduated in 1998. I had not seen the guy in almost 25 years. Still he was just as nice as he was when I had him as an instructor and we had a good interview for almost two hours.
The campus was at twilight and it showed its true beauty next to the Hudson River.
The Culinary Institute of America at sunset
The Christmas tree lit at the Culinary Institute of America
We had our interview and it was nice talking with a Instructor that I had a lot of respect for years ago. It was nice of him to meet me after almost 25 years.
My TripAdvisor review on my lunch at the Apple Pie Bakery Cafe:
We bullshitted for the first hour and knowing that I had to be at the Mills Mansion by 6:30pm (the party was only going to 8:30pm), we had to get down to business. We spent the next hour talking about the effects of dining on the Metaverse and what it could do to the business in the future. His thoughts were pretty much the same as the Ivy Inn but it was an engaging conversation and I was able to take notes and write that section of the paper before I left for the weekend. Then it was off to the Mills Mansion for the Masquerade Cocktail Party fundraiser. That got my mind off a lot.
I had not been to a fundraiser here for the holidays since 2018 (COVID and work stopped me from going in the past) and it was a last minute thing I was able to attend. The President of the Friends of the Mills Mansion graciously let me come since it was sold out. I did not get there until almost 7:15pm by the time I left the CIA and got to Staatsburg and then had to park all the way down the hill.
The entrance to Staatsburgh, The Mills Mansion at 75 Mills Mansion Drive the night of the party
I was not too keen on wearing a mask since I had to wear glasses but I still had a nice time. The band was excellent and the singer wore an outfit that looked like it was from the early 1920’s. The food was wonderful and they had nice passed appetizers and wine and champagne to drink. The mansion’s Dining Room was decked out with masks and everyone was dressed to the nines. I had not seen people so dressed up in years. It was so impressive to see how elegant the evening was like something out of the mid-1980’s. No one had dressed up this much in years and it made the whole event feel so festive and special.
The band with the singer with the 1920’s outfit
I was able to catch up to people I had not seen in two years (since the last Afternoon Tea lecture in February of 2020 right before the shutdown) and we had a nice time talking about what had been happening over the last two years. It was a nice evening to get my mind off school and work. I slept so soundly that night when I got back to the hotel.
It was a very elegant party that night
The Mill’s would have been proud of this party
The day after the interview and the party, off I went early in the morning to visit the decorated mansions and take the tours. The Brinckerhoff House was my first stop and I would not be there long because they had a fundraiser at 1:00pm and I promised to be there, take the pictures and leave because they would be busy for the rest of the afternoon. The house looked just as pleasant as it did when I visited it over the summer but the nice part was the fireplaces were going giving that house that winter smell of firewood and pine.
The Brinckerhoff House at 68 North Kensington Drive at Christmas
The house was set up and decorated for an Afternoon Tea fundraiser
The Christmas tree at the Brinckerhoff house
I only stayed for about an half hour as volunteers were showing up to assist with the event and then I was off to my next house which was the Vanderbilt Mansion. This was a big weekend for the decorated homes and I figured I should visit them since I would not have time in the future.
The Vanderbilt tour was booked solid as people had the same idea that I had. I got on the 1:00pm tour and off we went to tour the mansion. I had been there many times before but never to see the Christmas decorations. When I had visited back in 2019, they were taking the decorations down when I got there. By the time we left, most everything on one side of the house was gone. Today though, the mansion was in its full glory.
The Vanderbilt Mansion at 4097 Albany Post Road in Hyde Park
The house was tastefully but not over-decorated as Fredrick Vanderbilt and his wife never used the home for Christmas. They were in Manhattan for the Christmas and the beginning of the social season that would last from Christmas to about Easter when everyone would head to their Spring homes in the country or in Florida.
The entrance hall to the Vanderbilt Mansion
The Dining Room set for a formal Christmas dinner
The Living Room with the family Christmas tree
The full tour of the mansion was very interesting and you got to hear the stories of Fredrick and the last years of his life. He simplified matters, sold all his other homes and moved here until he passed away. He wife had died and he stopped the social swirl and concentrated on his job with the railroad.
After the tour was over, the tour guide told me that FDR Estate was having a big Open House that day and that I should head over before they closed at 5:00pm. Myself and pretty much everyone on my tour headed over to Springwood, the home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Springwood Mansion at 4097 Albany Post Road in Hyde Park, NY
The first floor was decorated as it would have been for FDR and his family’s last Christmas when he was alive. The decorations were taken from old pictures of the house the year that he passed.
The entrance hall of Springwood decorated for Christmas
The library decorated for FDR’s last Christmas
The Dining Room was set for Christmas supper
The mansion again like the Vanderbilt Mansion was tastefully decorated but not overdone. The library had a tree with decorations and the many presents that the large extended family would have opened that day. The Dining Room was set for the family dinner with a children’s table in the back. It would have been a nice family affair.
We got to tour the rest of the house and head back to the Visitors Center for Hot Chocolate and cookies that they set up in the snack shop. That evening around 6:00pm, the Bard College music department was putting on a recital but I had to leave right after the tour as I had a tone of assignments and homework that I had to do for both colleges. At least I was finally able to see both mansions in their full glory at Christmas.
As I left the Vanderbilt and Roosevelt mansions, I passed Downtown Hyde Park, NY which has a small downtown with about two blocks of historical buildings and admired the lights and how the businesses decorated the lights and buildings. I stopped to take a picture of their Christmas tree which was ablaze with lights on this snowy night. It really did look like Christmas.
Downtown Hyde Park, NY
The Hyde Park, NY Christmas tree a block from downtown
I got home early that night to finish my papers on the Metaverse and my White Page on the visitors we had to our Travel Trends class. It was an uphill battle that night and on Monday for both presentations. We got a “B+” on the Metaverse paper and an “A” on the White Page and in both classes I got an “A”. The Mapping project would go on until December 22nd. It would take five revisions and a lot of late nights. We were able to pull out a “B+” on the Mapping paper of the Rockaways right as my own classes were ending.
That last week of school Monday classes ended and after the Tuesday class my classmates wanted to go for an evening of Karaoke. I had papers to grade when I got home so I declined and took a walk up to see the tree and clear my head before heading home.
Christmas in New York City is always a pleasure and with the City opened back up to tourism, it made it exciting again. The anticipation of Christmas in Manhattan is something to experience if you have never done it before. It all started for me when I declined a karaoke night with my classmates and went to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. I just needed a walk after my Data Analytics class. It had been a rough semester. Just seeing the tree put me in the Christmas spirit.
The Tree as we call it in Rockefeller Center December 2022
I walked around Midtown along Fifth Avenue, looking at Saks Fifth Avenue’s windows, admiring the lights and looking at the skyline. I forgot how beautiful this area of the City is at night. It was a mild Tuesday night when I was walking around and there were not too many people around. the tourists had not arrived in full swing yet. Being a Tuesday night, it was relaxing being able to walk around the Rockefeller Center area without the crowds.
The side streets were particularly elegant
West 58th Street in its glory
The Plaza Hotel in all its glory that night
I saw this playful sculpture along with others on Fifth Avenue but it was near my old haunt FAO Schwarz
This was the best display window at Bergdorf-Goodman on Fifth Avenue
Still what stood out to me on that glorious evening was the beauty of Midtown Manhattan at night. Even though it was still early in the evening, it might have well been 11:00pm because the streets were so quiet that evening. This is why I love Manhattan.
The beauty of Midtown Manhattan at night
The Plaza Hotel and Bergdorf-Goodman shined that evening
This little trip to Midtown after class really cheered me up. It had been a long semester and I needed this little Christmas break from school. It really put me into the holiday spirit. On my way back to Port Authority to head home, I passed the New York Public Library on my way through Bryant Park to see the Christmas Village
Outside the New York Public Library where the lions were decorated for the holidays.
As the school year ended at Bergen Community College and classes were wrapping up, I was getting tired of giving the traditional quizzes so for Quiz Four I gave all three classes from Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. The students were asked by Corporate to arrange the company Christmas Party. They were asked to create the Invitation, the menu with an appetizer, main dish, dessert and a signature drink.
Then were asked to create a Christmas Corporate message and two classes were asked to create an original Christmas song. It is amazing what a group of students can accomplish in an hour. Everyone in all three classes got an “A” and I did not have to drag home quizzes to grade. I will remember this quiz in the future.
The Paramus Business 101 Team’s idea for the Corporate Christmas Event
The Marketing 201 Team’s Ideas for the Corporate Christmas Event
The original Christmas song from the Marketing 201 Team for the Corporate Christmas Party
The ideas that the students came up with in ONE HOUR were just fantastic. This is why I love being a College Professor when you can get this type of creativity out of your students.
This Christmas message won the competition from my Business 101 Lyndhurst Team
As we put the revisions to the Mapping paper for my Data Analytics class and I prepared the final exams for my students and graded my other classes work, I planned another trip to the Hudson River Valley to visit the rest of the decorated mansions on my list and update all my blogs for work. This was a long and very productive weekend. It would be capped off with a last minute Historical Christmas concert at the Bergen County Historical Society. I had not been to one of these in three years.
The Marriott Courtyard Fishkill is where the adventure began. I revisited Staatsburgh (The Mills Mansion) and Wilderstein and then on Saturday I went to the Meiser Homestead in Wappinger Falls for their Holiday Open House. I had to time everything perfectly because I had to be in Manhattan for a Christmas concert at Carnegie Hall at 8:00pm. I timed everything perfectly.
The Marriott Courtyard Fishkill was decorated nicely for Christmas
The Marriott did a nice job decorating the hotel for the holidays
I started my trip on a snowy Friday afternoon (it was funny that the weather was just cloudy down by us) and I made it for my 11:00am appointment to see Staatsburgh. I had been to the Mills Mansion fundraiser the week before but the whole house was not open that evening and I had only been there for an hour. Now I was able to tour the house at my leisure. I was even interviewed for the local papers by a woman who was doing an article on the decorated mansions of the area.
I returned to Staatsburgh on snowy cold afternoon so the mansion was pretty quiet for touring. There were only two people on the walking tour of the mansion that afternoon. The roads up to Hyde Park were not the best.
Staatsburgh-The Mills Mansion at 75 Mills Mansion Drive on that snowy afternoon
It was nice to tour the house in peace and quiet. The party the week before had been a lot of fun but you could not see the rest of the house. All the rooms were so beautifully decorated, and the Dining Room was decorated to the hilt with masks, the theme of the party the week before. Since there was only two of us touring around, I got interviewed by the local paper by a reporter doing the same thing I was doing, visiting these beautiful homes. Visit my blog, VisitingaMuseum.com to see all my stories on my visits to these beautiful mansions.
The article on The Mills Mansion:
Then it was off to Wilderstein
Wilderstein at 330 Morton Road in Rhinebeck, NY on that snowy afternoon
My last stop that evening was to Woodstock, NY. I had planned to come this year for the parade but with my brother coming in for Christmas that changed my plans. I figured this was the last time I was going to be able to come up before the holidays. So I braved the slush and snow and drove the long roads up to Woodstock. It never disappoints me.
The Village Square at Woodstock, NY during the holidays
The Woodstock, NY Christmas tree is always interesting
After dinner, I slept so soundly at the hotel again. The Marriott Courtyard in Fishkill, NY is in the perfect location with Route 84 and the mountains right behind it. Easy to get to the highway home but still the best views when you wake up.
The amazing view from my hotel room at the back of the hotel facing the mountains
I had to rush to go on the 10:30am tour of Locust Grove, the former home of Samuel Morse, that I wanted to photograph before I left for the Meiser Homestead. There was not time to eat this morning. Thank God I had some baked goods in the hotel room.
The Christmas tree in the formal Living Room in the Tower section of the home
The Dining Room at Locust Grove at Christmas
The Billiards Room at Locust Grove at Christmas
I toured the whole house in our private tour at 10:30am. There were so many people on the tour, they called a special docent in to run the tour and we had the house to ourselves. Ehtel lead the tour and we took time to enjoy each room. Then it was off the Meiser Homestead for their Open House.
The Mesier Homestead at 2 Spring Street in Wappingers Falls, NY
The Foyer at the Meiser Homestead decked out for the holidays
The Living Room with the Christmas tree
The Dining Room set for Christmas lunch
Downtown Wappingers Falls during Christmas
The Wappingers Falls Christmas tree in the downtown
After I returned home from the Meiser Homestead Open House, it was change clothes again and into the City I went. I did not have much time to do anything in the evenings when classes were going on at NYU so after the semester was over and my third class was finished for the semester at Bergen Community College, I got a last minute ticket to see NY Pops at Carnegie Hall with singer Ingrid Michaelson. What a concert!
I had not been to Carnegie Hall since 2019 in pre-COVID and this always is a tough concert to buy tickets for but I snagged a Saturday night ticket in Row H on the aisle (I have long legs) and it was fate.
The entrance to Carnegie Hall at 57th and Seventh Avenue on the night of the concert. Our concert is to the left.
The inside of Carnegie Hall decorated for the holidays. The crowds were getting settled into the theater.
The stage at Carnegie Hall decorated for Christmas
The excitement built when I entered the hall and it was all decked out for Christmas. It was a site to see. The surprising part was how casual everyone was dressed for the evening. I was really thrown by this especially at the holidays. My seatmate was also dressed to the nines and she made the same comment. She introduced herself and I thought it was funny that a recently married woman would come to the show by herself but there we were acting like two single people.
The beauty of the stage that night just as the NY Pops members started to come on to the stage
Ingrid Michaelson and her fellow singers on stage
The whole concert was amazing and Ingrid Michaelson was fantastic that evening. What I thought was funny was the end of these concerts end with a sing along with Santa on stage and that did not happen this time. She ended the show with one of her signature songs. Maybe her Friday night concert had that. Even though, the concert was excellent and I shared the two songs below that were my favorite from the show.
This was my favorite song from the concert “Christmas Valentine” a new classic. This was written by both Ingrid Michaelson and Jason Mraz who performed it that night on stage.
The other great song from the concert was “Christmas Time is Here”:
“Christmas Time is Here” by Ingrid Michaelson
Even though it was a almost a two hour concert, it just seemed to end very quickly. After the concert was over, I just exploring the area around Lincoln Center. What a beautiful evening it was right before Christmas. People were talking in the local parks, admiring the Christmas lights in trees all over the neighborhood. Christmas tree stands were running in full force as people were decorating their homes on top of the their busy schedules.
Christmas tree sales by Carnegie Hall
For both lunch and dinner I returned to Amore Pizza cafe at 370 West 59th Street, which is down the road from Carnegie Hall. I swear that their food is the best.
I stopped in for a slice of Meat Lovers Pizza which was more than enough before the show and after the show I was still hungry. I went back and had a Chicken Parmesan Hero, which was good but it had been made from chopped fried chicken breasts instead of a freshly fried breast. It was good but not as good as the pizza was that night. After dinner, I just walked around Midtown and down Fifth Avenue admiring the windows.
The Meat Lovers Pizza at Amore Pizza Cafe is excellent
The weekend was not finished yet as I had an early morning walking tour of the Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow and then I had a Christmas concert at the Bergen County Historical Society in River Edge. Since I had to extend my leave with the fire department, I missed the first “Santa Around Town” in eighteen years. This on top of the fact that I was supposed to run it. With my work and college schedule, I had to ‘cry uncle’ and give it up which really disappointed me. I had some really good plans for it. In the end only thirteen guys showed up out of fifty and they had a fire call before the event ended. Thank God it was just a block chimney.
I left for the last day walking tour of the Philipsburg Manor before the house closed for the season. I was on the last walking tour of the house. Since the house was not insulated and the weather gets bad for the winter, the house will not open again until April. So I was hoping to get some picture taking in and see the decorations. The house was not decorated for the holidays but still the tour was interesting.
The Philipsburg Manor house 381 North Broadway in Sleepy Hollow, NY
The tour was about an hour and we had indoor and outdoor activities that we got involved with cooking hardtack, touring the house and grounds and helping in the barn beating out the wheat seed. When the actors who worked at the site (who must have been freezing their butts off because it was cold that morning) told us and demonstrated the work that had been done on the estate, this was hard work! This was a working farm and business transport spot, not where a family lived and entertained. When Mr. Philips was on property, he was here for business and nothing else. The staff ran this farm.
Us making Hardtack at the outdoor oven
Our visit to the barn where were loosening the wheat seeds. This poor woman was out there all morning in the cold!
The tour was about an hour and I thought that the house would have had some Dutch Christmas decorations but again the tour guides and historians said that the house for business and visiting not for the day in day out lives of the family. Still it was interesting. After our tour finished, I toured the gift shop and then headed home to get ready for the concert.
The Bergen County Historical Society at New Bridge Landing brought back their indoor concerts for Christmas including opening the Blackhorse Pub (The Campbell-Christie House) for dinner before and after the concerts. It was so nice to come to this again. The crowds were a little light at the second concert at 7:45pm on a Sunday night but it made it more fun that we could still socially distance from each other and there was plenty of space to spread out.
I started the evening early at the pub eating my dinner before the concert. The pub had a limited but very nice menu based on what foods that may have been served at the time period (with a modern twist of course). There was Shepard’s Pie, a Ploughman’s Plate, Onion Pie, Trifle and Dutch Cookies and desserts on the menu..
The Campbell-Christie House at 1209 Main Street in River Edge, NJ at the Bergen County Historical Society
The Campbell-Christie House was used as the “Blackhorse Tavern” for the evening where pub food could be ordered for dinner. It was really beautiful that night with all the tables a glow from the candles and the room decorated with holly, garland and wreaths for the holidays.
The Blackhorse Tavern for dinner
After dinner was over, I had plenty of time to explore the gift shop and wonder around the property to see the other decorations. The other buildings on the property were closed that evening but still decorated so I followed the lantern filled pathway and looked at the decorations.
Before the second concert that evening that I would be attending at 7:45pm I wondered around the museum part of the Steuben House where the concerts were taking place. The exhibits were set up with a holiday/Christmas theme in mind. One display was on a candy maker who once had a store in Downtown Hackensack.
Bogert’s Candy Shop in Downtown Hackensack closed in 1934
Decorating the house both during the Revolutionary War and during the Victorian Age was a very extensive affair of preparing the house for entertainment. Garland, holly and pine would have been important to decorate with but it was the Christmas ornaments of the Victorian age and trimming trees with ornaments that would have made the tree very festive.
There were also displays on entertaining during that time period and soldiers lives while the war was going on and what would be needed. It could be lonely at the holidays.
We started to settle in as the second concert was about to start. The room was decorated for the holidays with a combination of Victorian and Revolutionary decorations.
The ballroom at the Steuben House
We were then treated to a concert by the great Linda Russell whose interpretations of Revolutionary Christmas songs is well known. We had a hour long concert of favorite songs, talks about the times and a history of the music itself. She shared with us her insights towards the holidays of New Jersey versus New England and their Puritan ways. Thank God we knew how to party then too.
Linda Russell (to the far left) and her group entertained us for the evening with songs, talks, a few jokes and a wonderful night of excellent music.
We were entertained for about an hour and got time during the intermission to talk with the musicians who shared their experiences with us and about the musical equipment that they were using that evening. It was an interesting talk and a wonderful concert. I highly recommend visiting the Bergen County Historical Society during this time of the year. They do a nice job with this concert and the site is so beautifully decorated for the Christmas holiday season.
Before my the last day of classes at Bergen Community College on December 22nd, I made one last trip into the City before I left for my mother’s. The house had to get cleaned and the laundry had to get done and I got all my errands done before I left. I just wanted to walk around and get my mind off both colleges. It had been a long semester and I was burnt out. The City could not have been more beautiful.
Christmas on Park Avenue
Park Avenue was lined with Christmas trees lighting up before it got dark
Homes on the Upper East Side were beautifully decorated for the holidays
Homes on the Upper East Side were decorated so nicely and some blocks there seemed to be a competition for whose house was nicer.
I went to Rockefeller Center one more time to see the tree and it was like a madhouse so I just looked at it from across the street and continued walking around the Upper East Side down to the Cornell Club where I relaxed for a bit before I went home. People would start taking their decorations down after the holidays and I wanted to take one more glimpse of the neighborhoods before that happened.
The Empire State Building from the Flatiron District
Christmas Eve morning, I visit the cemeteries and pay my respects to my family before I leave for my mother’s. I think it’s important to pay your respects. After fighting the crowds at Mills Bakery on Christmas Eve morning to get a Seven Layer Cake and breakfast cakes and doughnuts for the next day, I left for Rehoboth Beach. I swear the roads were really quiet and it was the first time that I got down to my mom’s in three and a half hours.
Mills Bakery at 275 Valley Boulevard in Wood Ridge, NJ had the most festive cakes, pies and cookies for the holidays
I had just seen my mother in September after the Firemen’s Convention but this was the first time since 2019 that we had spent Christmas together. COVID has really wreaked havoc on the holidays.
Christmas Eve and Day were spent at my mom’s which we have not done since the pandemic. It kept us away and it was strange not having a family get together for three years. It was nice to get together as a family again. On Christmas Eve, we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner and the place was a madhouse.
My review on TripAdvisor of Confucius Chinese Restaurant:
Even with all the crowds, it was nice to just sit back and enjoy the meal and not have to do anything. I slept so soundly that night knowing that I did not have to be anywhere for a month.
My mother really decorated the house beautifully.
The House at Christmas.
Jane set the table so elegantly.
Cooking this year like in 2019 is now a family affair. My Mom relinquish some control of the kitchen over the last couple of years as dinner was getting to be too much for her to do alone so we all help now. My brother and I coordinate the schedules and plan the menu with my mom and we each did part of the meal and cooked it. This is what the Team work produced:
The Appetizers and Desserts being prepped for dinner:
Mom should be hired by Nancy Meyers to do visuals for her films.
The Potato Croquettes that I prepared for dinner, the Broccoli Casserole and the homemade Apple Pie my mother prepared for dinner (my mom makes the best pies).
We were all getting ready to cook our portion of Christmas Dinner.
My mother preparing the Sauteed String Beans
Me preparing the Potato Croquettes (which by the way were a big hit I think I look like a French Chef).
My brother getting the Roast carved before the start of dinner.
My Mother with the final Christmas dinner that was the Team effort
Christmas Dinner 2022 and everyone loved it! The dinner was Roast Fresh Park, Potato Croquettes, Apple Sauce, Broccoli Souffle and Sauteed String Beans.
The Desserts were Homemade Apple Pie and a Seven Layer Cake that I brought from Mills Bakery. My brother also made all the Christmas cookies.
My family on Christmas Day after dinner (minus my younger brother and his kids).
We had such a nice time with my mother and her friends at dinner and it was a nice quiet and mellow Christmas. It was what I needed after a long school year.
The day after Christmas while my brother headed to New York City, I took the ferry from Lewes to Cape May to spend the night and admire all the decorations all over town. I only spent one night in Cape May but with how relaxing, beautiful and quiet it was that evening I felt like I had been there for a week. I always say in my blogs that the only town to rival Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas is Cape May, NJ.
I took the ferry the next day from Lewes, DE to Cape May, NJ and thank God the weather was nice. We had really light waves and the trip went by really quick. We got into Cape May in a little over an hour and a half. Since I did not have to check into my hotel and it was getting late, I decided to head over to Sunset Beach and watch the sun set. That really relaxed me. In any weather, I swear the beach is always full of people doing the same thing. It was relatively warm that day and when I got to the park, people were playing miniature golf at the little range they have there. I thought that was amusing.
The sunset was fantastic! The weather had really cleared that evening and the colors were so entrancing.
The sun preparing to set that night
The hues at Sunset Beach make this place very special
I just stayed until it got a bit dark and then I headed to the hotel. I stay at the Chalfonte in the winter time in their Souther Quarters (the regular hotel is not insulted and closed until May) and I always enjoy the rooms with their cheery shabbiness and the way the place is always decorated for the holidays. You have to like these old hotels.
The Southern Quarters at the Chalfonte Hotel at 301 Howard Street
I have been coming to the hotel for Christmas for the last several years and last year when COVID again shut things down for Christmas, I stayed here while visiting my younger brother in Rehoboth Beach when he came for a visit. I love Cape May at Christmastime.
The hotel has that festive home away from home feeling with poinsettias around the hotel, Christmas candies and chocolates at the front door and Christmas lights around the building.
I like the shabby chic of the place
My room was really nice and the bed was so comfortable
The room has just been renovated but still had a water spot on the ceiling. That is the charm of the Chalfonte. It reminds you that it is an old hotel. I ventured out to the downtown and the Washington Mall that evening to see the true magic of what makes Cape May a Christmas town. All the lights, trees and decorations make sure that Santa does not miss this town.
The town square with it’s Christmas tree in the bandstand and white lights all over the little part are whimsical and magically as you walk through them. It always reminds me of “Whoville” in the “Grinch that stole Christmas”.
Cape May Town Square at Christmas
The bandstand and Christmas tree are amazing at night
The Cape May Christmas tree
I spent a good part of the my evening admiring the lights of downtown and of Washington Mall which is the downtown section of Cape May. The whole neighborhood was ablaze with lights, decorations and beautiful Christmas displays in the windows. Cape May knows how to decorate for the holidays.
The Washington Mall at night
The Washington Mall in Cape May decorated for the holidays
Our Lady of the Star Sea Church at 525 Washington Street in Downtown Cape May
After a long walk picture taking everything in the downtown from every angle (I have pictures that I ended up using for other sites), I went back to the room to relax. I just sunk into the pillows and went out like a light. I woke up two hours later and got to bed. I slept so soundly again.
The next morning was rested and ready to go. I had my usual post-Christmas game plan. I started with breakfast at the Mad Batter, a local well known restaurant in Cape May and the food is always excellent. I have eaten here several times and I highly recommend it.
The food and the service are always very good. That morning there seemed to be only one waitress on the floor and I swear that this woman handled the dining room like a pro. The service was flawless and she never panicked.
The Bacon and Cheese Omelet with home fries was outstanding
After breakfast was over, I gathered my things at the hotel and dropped off my keys and then spent the afternoon visiting historical sites. Most everything I was surprised were closed so I took exterior shots to update my blogs.
While walking downtown, I saw that Our Lady of the Star Sea, the Catholic Church in the Washington Mall was having service at 11:00am. Since I did not go to church services on Christmas Eve or Day, I went in for the post-Christmas services. I was surprised how crowded they were that morning. I found out that a young new priest has just come from the seminary and started that day. I found him very inspirational and very enthusiastic.
The church was so beautifully decorated for the holidays
Our Lady Star of the Sea for the Christmas holiday season
After church services were over, I toured around Cape May. I had a noon time appointment at the Physick Mansion to see their Christmas decorations so I stopped at a few of the museum around the downtown area but again all closed.
The Physick Mansion tour at the holidays I have taken many times and it is one of the nicest homes decorated for the holidays. Many people would not have decorated every nook and cranny of the house the way this is but like Locust Grove, it gives you an idea of how the Victorians celebrated the holidays.
The decorations were amazing and the house was decked to the hilt for the Christmas holidays. We got to tour the entire house and every room has such festive garland and Christmas trees. The family seemed to know how to celebrate the holidays.
The Living Room at the Physick Estate
The Dining Room
The Parlor with the ‘Tabletop’ Tree in the corner
We went room by room with the tour guide explaining how the family would prepare for Christmas and the preparations that would have to be done by the staff for guests and for the family dinner. There would be many trips to Philadelphia department stores for gifts for the family. You felt on the tour that the family had just left for the day.
After the tour, I headed over to West Cape May to see the Cape May Lighthouse and was surprised that it was open that day. With everything else being closed, it was a treat to be able to climb it again. The drive in was nice as people decorated their homes nicely and being a warm day around 50 degrees (Christmas just seems to be getting warmer), I drove around for a bit to admire them.
The entrance to the Borough of Cape May Point decked for the holidays
The outdoor Christmas display in West Cape May
The Cape May Lighthouse and grounds were really busy with visitors and being such a warm day many were walking on the beach or admiring the park. Several passed me as I climbed the lighthouse which I had not done in a few years. The view on this clear sunny day was great.
The views from the top were so clear and beautiful and being so clear you could see the entire surrounding community.
The view from the top of the Cape May Lighthouse
After climbing up and back down, I passed more people who I could not believe were complaining on how hard it was to walk it. I got up in about ten minutes with a couple of stops and then was back down again once reaching the top. It is not that hard and is well worth the trip up.
Watching the time, I wanted to visit the farms in the area but Rea Farm was closed for the season so I headed to Beach Plum Farm, which has become quite the tourist stop since my first trip to Cape May. It is such a picturesque farm but it looks very planned. When I first started coming here is was a more local farm. Now it looks like a gourmet shop and it has gotten more expensive.
The entrance to Beach Plum Farm at 140 Stevens Street
I toured around the gift shop and admired the beautiful displays of gourmet foods. The place was almost empty as I could see that they must have had a very good Christmas. There was some serious restocking that needed to be done.
The wonderful gourmet items at Beach Plum Farm
I ended my afternoon feeding the chickens before I left the farm. God they were so excited to see me. I just had a little feed and they ran all around me like groupies. I guess this is how the farm feeds them. It was the best quarter I spent on the trip.
The chickens were a very excited bunch that afternoon
Before I left Cape May that day for home, I visited Sunset Beach one more time to enjoy the weather. The beach was pretty crowded again as everyone waited to see the sun set again on Cape May. Like I said before, you can see this a hundred times but it is never boring.
Sunset Beach on a warmish sunny day attracts a lot of visitors
From Sunset Beach, I headed home. I stopped for a quick slice of pizza on the way and then I had to leave Cape May (until the next time). There was a lot to do and I had places that I wanted to visit before the holidays were over. I could not believe how much work I got done on this two day trip to Cape May. I got to see a lot.
In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I made another trip around the City. Since I did not have to return to classes until the end of January, I was able to take my time and explore around campus and the Village. Christmas was still in full swing.
Christmas in Greenwich Village
Decorations in one of the pocket parks on Greenwich Street
Homes decked out for the holidays
Townhouses decked out for the holidays
I also made a special trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Christmas tree and decorations before the museum took them down after the Epiphany. I love seeing them every year. It still is a big attraction at the museum and you have to visit it before that first weekend in January is over.
The Metropolitan Museum of at at 1000 Fifth Avenue:
My last holiday event before school started again was Epiphany services at the Reformed Church of Paramus and visiting my father for his birthday. It can be sobering but I try to still celebrate his life and going to this church puts me into the Christmas spirit.
The Paramus Reformed Church in Ridgewood, NJ
Christmas services at the Paramus Reformed Church
The Paramus Reformed Church’s decorations by Route 17 are always tasteful
After services were over, I stayed and joined the other parishioners for Tea and snacks after the service and talked with other parishioners. It was nice to sit back after a long holiday season and just relax. After services were over, I went to pay respects to my father for his birthday (which is the reason why I come here for church as its on the way home). The cemetery was filled to the brim with wreaths and grave blankets so even though it was a cemetery, there was still a festive feel to the fact that so many people paid their respects to their families.
My aunt took me out on the last day of the Epiphany weekend for my combination birthday/Christmas present dinner to the Ivy Inn. What a nice evening we had and it was the perfect way to end the holiday season. The Chef/ Owner was not there that day but we were able to discuss with the staff the paper I wrote on the Metaverse. They seemed amused by it all (see my review on dinner on my TripAdvisor review above by the Metaverse paper story).
The Ivy Inn decorated for Christmas
The beauty of the dining room decorated for the holidays
The delicious salad I started with
The delicious Penne with Sundried Tomatoes and Sweet Sausage that I had that evening
My aunt and I shared this wonderful Zeppoles with Chocolate and Raspberry sauces
It was a magical evening with good food and company in a festive environment. I really needed this with all the running around with school, work, blogging and research that I had done from Thanksgiving to the Epiphany. It was a lot for one person to pull off and somehow I managed it all. I am lucky that I have supportive friends and family.
I had the entire month of January to relax before the whole thing began again for Spring Semester and that is all I wanted to do. It didn’t quite happen that way but I finally got time to myself which I needed.
My work for my blogs took me all over New York and New Jersey, visiting small towns, admiring Christmas decorations and supporting many community events. Please visit my other blogs DiningonaShoeStringin NYC@Wordpress.com, LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com and VisitingaMuseum.com to see all the updates, more detailed stories on the mansions and events and all my updated pictures.
I got my final grades by the end of the semester and it was straight “A”‘s. This was the first time in my life I ever did that! Don’t even ask me how I pulled this all off!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
The Empire State Building from the NoMAD section of Manhattan just off Broadway
The entrance to the Art & Design Gallery at FIT at 227 West 27th Street
The exhibition space showcases the work of students, faculty, and distinguished alumni, as well as invited guest artists. This new gallery space is located at the entrance of the Pomerantz main building and the back room exhibition space. This features smallers theme shows and showcases the talents of the FIT professors, professionals and Alumni. The shows are constantly rotating offering a fresh approach to contemporary art.
The Current Exhibition:
Creative Industry: The Alumni Journey Lobby and Gallery
Diverse in medium, this exhibition spotlights the career trajectories of several illustrious FIT alumni, highlighting their innovations and interesting journeys through the creative industries. Co-curated by Troy Richards…
Do you know how horrible it is to lose to Columbia University in football? It’s when you lose to them by over twenty points. Both of our teams were 5-4 and the team that won not only won the Empire State Award (big deal) but had a winning record. I knew that we were in trouble when we fell behind 21-0.
Getting ready for the game
It was finally jubilant when we scored a touchdown and then it was 21-7. It was just meant to be as we fell behind again and again. The worst was toward the end of the game when we were at 38-22 and we kicked an onside kick. That is always a big mistake because it always ends with the other team getting a touchdown. Columbia got a touchdown immediately and the final score was 45-22. That was embarrassing.
The end of the game Columbia 45-Cornell 22 not our best game
It had been a nice afternoon in the stadium with clear blue skies and the weather was cool and crisp at between 48 to 50 degrees. I could not believe the crowd of alumni at the game. Even though Columbia is considered our rival I never took it much as a rivalry.
Cornell Alumni filling the stands at Columbia; we always outnumber them
Both of our teams in all the years that I have been coming to the game have not been that good. It’s just nice to go to a game and cheer someone on. It amazes me how every year no matter who wins we have more people in the stands than Columbia does.
It was beautiful in the stadium as long as the sun was out (then we got cold as darkness came)
Preparing to enter the stadium with great hopes of a blowout against Columbia
We came out so enthusiastic and ready to play ball, but it just did not look good when we could not score on the first play. We just did not look like we have a game plan. Then Columbia just kept scoring on us.
The start of the game
Even at half time, our band could not play on the field because one of the alumni said that they had a hazing problem at the Columbia band (which is so small I do not know what type of problems that they could have) and they banned them from campus. Then they banned other Ivy League teams from playing on their field as well. Let me put it this way, it was not the most exciting game. If it had not been for the group of alumni behind me cracking jokes and having fun, I would have been bored. The game became subdued when they left at the beginning of fourth quarter.
Going in for our first touchdown Columbia 21-Cornell 7
What also got to me was that it got dark in the stadium early. By the end of third quarter, the sun really moved across the sky, and it not only got dark, but it started to get cold in the stadium as well. For most of the game, it was clear, sunny and crisp and was pleasant in the stadium.
Going in for our third touchdown Columbia 38-Cornell 22
Then I noticed how fast the sun was moving in the sky and you could feel the evening chill. It must have dropped fifteen degrees by the time we left the stadium at the end of the game.
The last play of the game
After the game was over, I headed down to the Cornell Club on West 44th Street for the Annual Sy Katz Parade. In previous years, I had seen complete subway cars filled with alumni leaving the game. This time around there were only a handful of us on the Number One downtown. I thought that was strange.
Our teams are civil even after a loss
When I got to Rockefeller Center where the parade traditionally begins there was no one there. The two couples I came downtown with were there but then they disappeared. After waiting for about a half hour, I headed down to the Cornell Club on East 44th Street to see what was going on.
The end of the game
When I got to the club, I found out that they had to change the route of the parade due to permit problems and we started in front of One Vanderbilt Avenue between Grand Central Terminal and the office building in the plaza. It was funny to hear that somehow the two busses of band members and alumni heading back to campus got lost somewhere in New Jersey and had to head back into Manhattan. So, the rest of the alumni had to wait in Vanderbilt Plaza in the cold until they arrived about a half hour later. Then the fun began.
Preparing for the Sy Katz Parade in Vanderbilt plaza on Vanderbilt Avenue outside Grand Central Terminal
The Cornell Marching Band really got everyone revved up and the Cornell Cheerleaders and Dance Team really got everyone in the spirit (even though we got our asses kicked earlier in the day) and we had a good time as we made our way up Vanderbilt Avenue. We ended at the entrance of the Cornell Club on East 44th Street.
The Cornell Marching Band preparing for the parade from Vanderbilt Avenue
Cornell Alumni marching in the parade
Alumni marching to the Cornell Club where the pep rally is held every other year
The Band played all the school fight songs, the Alumna Mater and then traditional fight songs from the games. Since I was not an undergraduate at Cornell (I went for the PDP Graduate Program), I never learned the songs. I have to watch the YouTube videos on “On the Shores of Lake Cayuga” to learn the words. It has taken years to perfect it. Not like the Spartan songs from Michigan State (we were also having a bad football year) and I will do not know all the words to “MSU Shadows”.
Cornell School Song
‘Give my Regards to Davey’ (I never got this song)
The alumni were all excited and joined in the singing of the songs, watching the band hold their own traditions with marches and songs and then Sy Katz’s daughter, Alice, gave a speech in front of the club to wish everyone well. Her and her family were so happy that so many people came out to the parade. She and her family greeted the crowd so warmly that the alumni cheered her on as well. It was a nice crowd of enthusiastic people who sang and cheered.
Alice Katz welcoming the crowds at the Cornell Club on East 44th Street
Someone shot this at the parade in 2022
The Parade in 2018 pre-COVID
Our mascot also sang and danced at the parade
After the parade was over and most of the Alumni left for the evening, I joined everyone else in the Cayuga Room for a post-Alumni Tailgate dinner. It was really nice but I have to admit that the food tasted like it had been sitting for a bit.
The Hot Chicken Wings and the fresh salads were the best part of the tailgate
The Hamburger Sliders were hard and the buns crunched when you bit into them. The Chicken Fingers were good but tepid. The rest of the food was wonderful. They had two green salads, a Chili Bar with sides, a Meatball dish with a sweet sauce, a vegetarian sandwich and the best were the Hot Chicken Wings which were the best I have tasted in a while. We ended up going through two trays of those while I was in the room eating.
The sliders had been under the heat lamp or the warmer too long
For dessert, they had assorted cookies and brownies with tea, coffee and hot chocolate which was perfect when I was trying to warm up after it being so cool outside.
The desserts at the club are always wonderful
As I talked with other Alumni, I was amazed that I was the only one at my side of the table who went to the game. Everyone else had come in for the parade and tailgate. The one thing everyone said to me at the table when I discussed us getting our asses kicked was “You went to the Game?” I then replied, “Didn’t you?” and it was the same answer, “No, I do not go to that.” I took it as the alumni that went to the game were not the same ones that went to the parade. Oh well!
I had a wonderful time and it was so nice to have this event since the last time in 2018. So it will be until 2024 the next time I go again. I could not believe that I have been coming to this for over a decade.
This was the first year that “The Great Saunter Walk”, the 32-mile perimeter walk around the entire island took place since 2019. Since I had done the walk twice on my own, actually doing more of the walk than was required. This year I wanted to make it official.
I officially finished “The Great Saunter Walk” in May of 2022
The problem was by the time I wanted to sign up for the walk, it was completely sold out. So, I was put on a waiting list. With a prediction of rain all day (and it did rain all day!), many people dropped out before the event occurred, so I got to sign up. On a very gloomy Saturday morning, I got to the Frances Tavern at 7:30am to register and start the walk by the entrance of the Staten Island ferry.
Rather than rewrite the whole day, I updated the blog that I have written over the last two years and added to it. I hope you all enjoy my journey around the most famous island on earth on the gloomiest and rainy day ever. I hope you enjoy the journey!
My story of my walk around Manhattan island:
“The Great Saunter Walk”:
July 15th, 2022, independent walk:
I wanted to complete the walk again in the Summer to look at if from another perspective and walked the island perimeter again on July 15th. It took another three and a half hours to do the walk. This is due to meal breaks and just exhaustion due to the heat.
Normally I walk “The Great Saunter” in June around the time of either Father’s Day or the Summer Solstice, so that I have plenty of light. The problem was I was so busy in June that I had to push it back to July and the biggest problem was the heat. In the morning when I started the walk, it was cool and in the high 70’s due to the clouds. When they broke around 10:00am, it started to get hotter and went to the mid 80’s. It would not have been so bad, but the humidity plays a role in the walk. When I did the official walk in May, it was so cold and wet we never stopped for a long break as we all just wanted to get it done and go home.
In the warmer months, I like to stop and relax at various parks like Jefferson Park in East Harlem or Carl Schulz Park on the Upper East Side and let my legs relax. The reason why we finished the walk in May quicker is because the businessman who I was walking with in the last leg of the walk around Stuyvesant Cove just wanted to finish as well so we never stopped.
There were a lot more people in the parks that day, so it made maneuvering a bit harder and, in some cases, like in Jefferson Park, people were all over one another. I have noticed one thing and it is not just in New York City, people’s courtesy has gone way down. People were riding their electric bikes and motorcycles in the paths of the park and on the sidewalks practically knocking people down. One very over-weight woman rode a moped through the main path of Jefferson Park chasing her dog and nearly ran over two little girls who had just finished swimming. That was something!
The nice part of the walk in July was the clear sunny day it had been and being able to enjoy the breezes and the sunshine. It is much nicer to do the walk on a pleasant day than in the rain.
My first ‘Selfie” of myself at the start of “The Great Saunter” in May of 2023. I for the life of me can’t understand the thrill people have of doing this. I now know why people think I’m a Fed all the time!
The Second Official walk of “The Great Saunter” on May 6th, 2023:
I have to admit that I thought walking in the rain was an interesting way to do “The Great Saunter”. This year I had to add in a three-hour class that I had to take for my NYU graduate program for my upcoming trip for a class in Paris.
To make the walk easier this year, I decided to stay in the City so that I could get a good night’s sleep and be closer to the start point so that I could walk as much of the West Side of the Island before I had to leave for class at 9:00am.
I was in the middle of final exams for both my college and my graduate work at NYU so Friday night before the walk, I had to write my section of a research paper on tourism between Philadelphia and Boston, grade my students end of the semester papers, update some blogs that I was working on and work on other projects.
We had just finished my Business Communications class final at NYU and after lunch with my classmates and Professor, I headed downtown to get checked in at the Residence Inn in Lower Manhattan. The hotel is just a few blocks from Fraunces Tavern, which is the starting point for “The Great Saunter”. It would be an easier start for me since I had to stop and leave for class. I spent the rest of the afternoon at the hotel doing homework, reading and grading papers and working on updating my blogs. I ended up taking a long nap after all the work was done.
The Residence Inn Downtown Manhattan was our base for “The Great Saunter”:
Later that evening while I waited for my friend, Maricel to join me after work, I went to the Shake Shack in the Fulton Mall off Broadway for some dinner. I could not believe that a Shake Shack was so filthy, and the staff looked like they could care less about the food or decor. I could not believe how this restaurant was being run like there was no manager there. The Dining Room and tables needed a good cleaning and sweeping and the guy working there spent most of his time on his cell phone. I ate my dinner and left. Even though the food tasted good, visually speaking it was not up to the standards that I have seen at every other Shake Shack that I have eaten at over the years (See review on TripAdvisor).
The Chicken sandwich and French Fries at Shake Shack at the Fulton Mall
When Maricel arrived from work, we talked for about an hour and caught up. It had been a while since we could spend some time with each other. I think I lasted about an hour and then fell asleep. Later she told me that she was in the middle of talking to me and I went out like a light.
The next morning, I woke up and I had one of the best night’s sleeps in a long time. I had not felt that refreshed in a long time. I swear that the Marriott mattresses are worth their weight in gold. I had to get dressed and ready to go for the all day walk. Since I knew that I had to stop around 8:45am, I wanted to get started exactly at 7:00am.
While Maricel slept, I got shaved, showered and on my way. I stopped at Traders Express Deli at 22 Beaver Street which was the only place open at that time to get breakfast. All the fast food places were still closed, the hotel breakfast did not open until 7:00am on the weekends and all the coffee places just served coffee. This was an opportunity that Fraunces Tavern is losing to serve breakfast to a large crowd.
Trader’s Express Deli at 22 Beaver Street in Lower Manhattan
I ordered a Sausage, Egg and Cheese that I highly recommend. What I liked about the place was the friendliness of the staff and the fact that everyone seemed to be regulars. The sandwich was excellent and was the perfect breakfast to start the walk.
Eating my breakfast sandwich across from the start point
The Sausage, Egg and Cheese was yum!
After breakfast I got in the already growing line of about a hundred people and we got ready to go. At exactly 7:00am, off we went. We collected our hats and pins and were on our way up through Battery Park along the Hudson River West Side of the island. We lucked out this year as the weather was sunny, warm and just crisp enough in the morning to walk comfortably.
The start of “The Great Saunter” Fraunces Tavern in May 6th, 2023
Us lining up for “The Great Saunter” on May 6th, 2023
We lucked out this year versus last year when it rained all day. I had never been so drenched. This year it was so nice. It was bright, sunny and crisp in the morning, perfect to start the walk. When we began at 7:00am, I got my hat, pin and off I went. Since I had the new iPhone to take pictures, I was stopping by all the statuary so that I could update my older blogs on “The Great Saunter” and on walks in those neighborhoods. I got some really great shots in of sculptures along the West Side of the Island of Manhattan.
The start of “The Great Saunter” on May 6th, 2023
It was funny that another blogger said he recognized me on the walk from a previous walk and he sent me a copy of the video. It was me walking around Lower Manhattan.
Angel sent me this video of myself starting the walk right in front of him until I stopped to take a picture of lower Manhattan.
I was making excellent timing getting through the Battery, but I kept stopping to take pictures of all the sculptures that I had passed on previous walks, and I wanted better pictures this time. The day was sunny and blue, so it was perfect for taking pictures around the city. I could not believe the beautiful views that I saw of Liberty Island, Jersey City and Hoboken. Even the shots of lower Manhattan were amazing and so vivid.
Lower Manhattan that morning when I stopped to take a picture.
Passing Lady Liberty in the harbor that morning
For most of the walk until I hit 60th Street, I stopped every ten minutes to take pictures. At 8:45am though, I had to head back down to the NYU Campus to present my walking tour in Paris in three weeks (be on the lookout for “My walk in Paris” segment of this blog) and it went by really well. So well, that the professor wanted more from me so there will be some adjustments.
The view from the Battery at the riverfront of Jersey City, NJ in the background
I kept on track for walk through the Battery and kept pace with everyone else mostly passing people on my way up through Battery Park. I was making good time enjoying the warm weather and the beautiful sites that was a pleasure from the cold miserable weather from last year.
As I walked through Battery Park, I had to stop at each of the sculptures that I admired so much in all the walks that I have done in the past. It is an open-air museum in that part of the City. The first thing I passed was Castle Clinton, which once upon a time was the place immigrants registered when they came to this country before they went to Ellis Island. It also was once home to the New York Aquarium until Robert Moses dismantled it. Now it is used as a museum and a place where you buy your tickets to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island to the museums.
As we rounded the park in the Battery Park City, I saw a series of statues that I had seen many times on the walk. The first was the American Merchant Mariners’ Memorial. This is kind of a creepy statue as it stares at you from the bay. This was based on an incident from WWII.
The American Merchant Mariners’ Memorial at Battery Park
Ms. Escobar was born in Paris and raised in Venezuela and moved to New York in the 1950’s. She is known for her highly stylized boxy sculptures (NYCParks.org). She studied art at the Jepson Art Institute, the Ecole des Beaux Arts and Art Students League of New York (Wiki).
The signage for the statue
The next statue I remembered was the NY
Another sculpture I missed on my first two walks around the island was the New York Korean Memorial by artist Mac Adams.
The statue is one of the first monuments to the Korean conflict built in the United States and the void in the sculpture represents the absence and loss of the war and a metaphor for death (NYCParks.org).
Artist Mac Adams is a British born artist who now lives in the New York area. He holds an MFA from Rutgers University. He is known for his large public works and for the use of ‘space between images’ (Wiki/Artist Bio).
I left Battery Park and entered into the newer extension of Robert Wagner Jr. Park next to Battery Park City. In the front part of the park, I came across these unusual musical instrument sculptures that graced the entrance of the park.
The art entitled “Resonating Bodies” were created by British born artist Tony Cragg, whose work I had seen uptown many times. The sculptures resemble a lute and a tuba. The work is based on the concept that all physical bodies including we are constantly enveloped by various energy forms (NYCParks.org).
“Resonating Bodies” at Robert Wagner Jr. Park in Battery Park City
Mr. Cragg is a British born artist from Liverpool and studied at the Gloucestershire School of Art, received his BA from the Wimbledon School of Art and his MA from the Royal School of Art. He has been showing his works since 1977. He is best known for his contemporary sculptures (Artist Bio/Wiki).
Once I passed through Robert Wagner Jr. Park at Battery Park City, I continued up the West Side Promenade on my way up the west side of Manhattan making great time. I got a better view of downtown Jersey City, NJ and could not believe how beautiful the skyline is at that time of the day.
Downtown Jersey City, NJ in all its glory
Manhattan looks so vibrant at this time of the morning. There is not a lot of action at 7:30am in the morning so you can see the City at its best. As we walked though Battery Park City and the park on our way up the West Side, I had to keep taking shots of familiar sites and the famous skyline.
Battery Park City in all it “Oz” glory at 8:00am in the morning
Another piece of art that I came across that I missed in the last two trips is “Apple” by artist Stephen Weiss. The piece was part of the ‘Larger than Life” series of the artist and symbolized the heart and core of life in New York City (Hudson River Park).
“The Apple” by artist Stephen Weiss in Hudson River Park
Artist Stephen Weiss was a New York born artist who had attended the Pratt Institute. He had worked for his family company and was the husband of designer, Donna Karan. He was known for his family company and was the husband of designer, Donna Karan. He was known for his sculpture works (RoGallery).
As we were heading up the west side, I never noticed a sign that says “I want to Thank You” on the pier. I thought that was interesting in that I never noticed it before on my walks through Hudson River Park. I did not know if this was a piece of art work or just a message to someone.
The “I want to Thank You” sign in Hudson River Park
The last piece of art that stood out to me on this trip through Battery Park was entitled “Days End” by artist David Hammons. It looked like the shell of an empty building and struck a nerve as the sun started to set on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. It is an ‘Open Air’ sculpture that explores the history of the neighborhood (Whitney Museum).
Mr. Hammons is an American born artist who studied at the Chouinard Art Institute (CalArts) and at Otis Art Institute. He is known for his Body Prints and sculpture work (Wiki/Artnet.com).
I headed up the thin stretch of park along Hudson River Park, I passed all the piers again that had become such a familiar site for me for not just The Great Saunter but for the neighborhood walks. I was able to judge where I was by the artwork and by the part of the park I had walked through. Since I have covered the whole island to 23rd Street, many of these sites I had remembered at previous times.
While I was walking through the parks, a few pieces of park sculpture stood out to me as I reached Hudson River Park in Chelsea. The long trek up Joe DiMaggio Highway made me more aware of my surroundings as I had to stop again. I came across the ‘Serpentine Sculptures’, these large twisting metal concoctions that graced the riverfront walkway.