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having been designed for three independent railroad companies—with three separate waiting rooms—the terminal was badly outdated, crowded, and inefficient.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.
If you want to see some of the most beautiful sites in New York City during the Spring months when Mother Nature truly works her magic then I would suggest going to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to see Daffodil Hill and Magnolia Plaza.
The sign when entering Daffodil Hill in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
This is when everything is in full bloom during the early Spring. There is nothing like it and it is so breathtaking with a quiet elegance. On this clear and sunny Thursday afternoon, the gardens were quiet so I had plenty of time to take pictures and enjoy the beautiful views.
Daffodil Hill at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Hundreds of Trumpet Daffodils are in bloom on a hill just off the Japanese Gardens flanked by hundred-year-old trees and it just plays into the backdrop of the greens and browns of the trees and lawns. I can’t tell you on a beautiful sunny day how breathtaking it is just to sit and admire these elegant flowers. It really is a site to see.
Daffodil Hill in full bloom
I love the way these hundreds of flowers make such a beautiful statement and there is such a burst of colors between the yellows and oranges of the daffodil flowers. This only lasts for about two weeks and then the flowers hibernate again.
The side view of Daffodil Hill from the walkway
Daffodil Hill just off the Japanese Gardens
Daffodil Hill is right next to the Magnolia Plaza that was also in peak bloom when I was at the gardens. The trees of the Magnolia Plaza bloom the last week of March and these delicate trees petals do not last more than a week. When I got close enough to them to take pictures, I noticed that some of them were starting to curl already.
The area between Magnolia Plaza and Daffodil Hill
Not all the trees were in bloom yet but these delicate trees are very sensitive to the weather and I have noticed that the petals don’t last as long. Most of the trees were in full bloom but there was not much a smell to the trees. Still everyone was taking pictures in every direction between the Magnolia trees and Daffodil flowers.
The Magnolia Plaza in full bloom
The sign in the Magnolia Plaza
The edge of the Magnolia Plaza
The pathways in the afternoon
The Magnolia trees make such a bold and colorful statement
The array of colors in the Magnolia Plaza
The Magnolia Plaza facing Daffodil Hill in the distance
The Sundial in the middle of the Magnolia Plaza
After taking dozens of pictures of the Magnolia Plaza and Daffodil Hill, I walked over to the Rock Garden. There were not many flowers in bloom there yet as they come out later in the month. There was still an array of daffodils and a few crocuses still in bloom. The Rock Garden was quiet and perfect to walk around in as I had this part of the garden to myself.
The Rock Garden in the early Spring
The Rock Garden in the early afternoon
I headed to the northern part of the garden and visited the Japanese Gardens, where the cherry blooms started to bloom. These graciously landscaped gardens were created in the traditional Japanese form with a combination of trees and shrubs to balance the garden.
Entering the Japanese gardens from the path
The Japanese Gardens pool with traditional buildings
The Japanese Gardens in the early Spring
I came back about two weeks later to the Gardens and Daffodil Hill was starting to fade. The daffodils only have about two weeks until their season is done. The Magnolia blossoms were long gone as their season faded away too. There was only one tree blossoming when I came back.
Still other parts of the garden were coming into bloom and it was quite spectacular. The Cherry Blossoms were just coming into their peak period but not fully opened yet. The crowds started to get bigger in the gardens to see these.
The Cherry Blossoms were coming out in mid April
I walked along the pathways in the Cherry Blossom lawn area admiring all the buds that it shares with the Japanese Gardens. The trees bend gracefully and at this in this park I don’t see all the visitors climbing on the trees and pulling on the branches the way they did in Branch Brook Park in Newark or in Washington DC.
These beautiful pink trees were so colorful
People were taking wedding pictures along the paths and the trees made a glorious backdrop. I was so tired from all the running around from the previous week, I just stopped and sat under the trees myself and what a sight that was! It was so nice to just look up at all the flowering trees and see all the pink fluffy blossoms.
Along the Cherry Blossom tree path
People were snapping pictures left and right
What was also nice was the Bluebells were out in the gardens behind the Cherry trees. Their beautiful blue and violet hues were in full bloom as well and the gardens were awash with color.
The Bluebells were amazing this year
People were so busy looking at the Cherry Blossoms that they forgot to look at beautiful flowers. Their being planted by the Tulip tree made a nice backdrop.
The last thing I looked at before I left this part of the garden were the tulips that were in full bloom this time of year. This area of the park was really colorful with all the different hues of tulips.
The colors and the vibrance of the tulips were amazing
The colors and vibrance of the Tulip Tea at the gardens
Before I left the gardens for the afternoon, I stopped in the gift shop and looked around. They have some wonderful things to buy including a section of Brooklyn made products. There is also an array of plants, books and decorative products to buy.
The Gift Shop at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
The Brooklyn made products and book selection at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
After my visit to the gardens, I stopped at Bahn Mi Place at 824 Washington Avenue for lunch. I had one of their classic Bahn Mi sandwiches with ham and pate on a chewy hard roll. The food here is consistently good and their sandwiches are excellent.
You have to order the sandwich with a Medium spicy sauce. It adds to the complexity
The sandwiches are excellent. The flavors of the fresh vegetables and meats with the spicy sauce makes complex flavor. The bread is fresh and chewy and don’t be fooled by the size of the sandwich. It is larger than I thought and very filling. See my review on both TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com.
I took my lunch and ate on the steps near the Brooklyn Museum and just enjoyed the afternoon. I people watched and enjoyed the cool, sunny weather. It was nice to escape from classes for a couple of hours and just relax and not think about school or work. It has again become a bit stressful between the two but I will handle everything.
I look forward to this time in the gardens and is one of the reasons why I keep my membership. I love to look at the hundreds of daffodils in bloom and watching as they sway in the wind and just want to look beautiful. It is the most amazing site every Spring.
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!
(From the store website and an article by author Shira Telushkin, whom I credit this to):
The Window Display
Susan Korn, the designer and owner of the brand, moved to New York City in 2008 and worked at various retail establishments in her early career. In 2011, she started to create her own line of products.
The inside of the store is like an art gallery
In 2017, she started to work with manufacturer Lisa Deng, and this led to the creation of a partnership which produced her first big product, the ‘Watermelon’ handbag.
Susan Alexandra’s ‘Watermelon’ Bag is on the top right hand display
The other display of handmade handbags
These beautiful crystal keychains are made by hand and are $60.00 each
The Merchant House Museum, the former home to four generations of the Treadwell family, was built in 1832 and is designed in the late Federal style of brick and marble. When the house was built, elegant Greek Revival style rowhouses of red brick and white marble flanked the tree lined streets of this fashionable residential enclave, known then as the Bond Street Area.
The house was the home of wealthy merchant, Seabury Tredwell, his family and their four servants. Over the next 98 years, the family…
The Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site at 28 East 20th Street
History of the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site:
From Wiki/National Park Service Pamphlet):
The house is a replica of the birthplace and childhood home of the 26th President of the United States. The house originally stood on the site was built in 1848 and was bought by the Roosevelts in 1854. Theodore Roosevelt was born there on October 27th, 1858 and lived in the house with his family until 1872, when the neighborhood began to become more commercial, and the family moved uptown to 57th Street.
Admission: Adults $7.00/Seniors-Students with ID-Children 9-17 $4.00/Children 0-8 Free
My review on TripAdvisor:
The entrance of the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum
Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling building
The Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling is located on the first floor and basement level of 880 St. Nichols Avenue. This unique little museum caters to small children and their families with lots of interactive programs for the children.
The Children’s Gallery in the First Floor of the Museum with the gift shop.
Children’s Room Exhibition on the first floor
Children’s Room Exhibition on the first floor
My favorite piece in the Children’s Room exhibition
Children’s Room Exhibition
There were two exhibitions going on at the museum was I visited in…
When I started a new class at NYU, I came across this little deli/juice bar across the street from our new building on Mercer Street. The deli has been here for years and now that the new building has opened, it has become more popular with the students.
What I like about NoHo Juice Bar & Deli is that the prices are really reasonable, the hours fit into my schedule when I am attending classes and the food is really good. Their portion sizes are very generous which is perfect for starving college students.
The selection of sandwiches and desserts at NoHo Juice Bar & Deli
Their sandwiches are really good and nicely sized. Everything…
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 just started Spring Term at both of my colleges and classes are in full swing. Most everything I am able to handle but my Finance class is giving me a little concern. I still have to work on the formulas a bit more. Outside that, it is not the pressure cooker it was last semester. I still don’t know how I pulled off taking four classes, teaching three classes, three major projects in each and then the holidays and working on my blogs. Read “Day Two Hundred and Fifty-Six-Christmas Again” and you will think the same thing:
I never realized how close that Chinatown was to the New York University campus and now that I know, I will be sneaking down there a lot more before and after classes. I need my dumpling fix. Things are getting back to normal in New York City. It is still not the same as 2019 but it has gotten busier. Chinatown has gotten back to its ‘new normal’ with less restaurants and stores.
I have never seen so many ‘For Rent’ signs on buildings and buildings for sale. The outskirts of Chinatown are either being knocked down or gentrified and being replaced by art galleries, fusion restaurants, boutiques and businesses that have nothing to do with Chinatown. It is as if the East Village, SoHo and the Lower East Side are configuring on every corner of Chinatown. It is changing fast.
Chinese New Year is big in Manhattan’s Chinatown and where everyone comes to celebrate. It was too bad that this year the parade was on SuperBowl Sunday. The parade started at one and by three as the parade winded down, people were already leaving to watch the game. As the last of the parade ended with a parade of cars, the lines of people around the barriers were thinning. Even after the parade was over, a lot of restaurants on the fringes of Chinatown were emptying out or empty. I was really surprised by that.
The view of Chinatown before the parade is really spectacular
It was still a nice parade and very lively. I stood further down on the edge of Mott Street and East Broadway where I knew that the crowds would be thinner. We really did not have that big of a crowd by us as it was in the core of Mott Street by Bayard Street. I could see the parade with no problems.
Mott Street in Chinatown about an hour and a half before the parade started
I was starved by the time I got to Chinatown. I was thinking that there would be mobs and crowds so I left early and when I got downtown, it was just an average amount of people running around Chinatown. So I stopped off at Kamboat Bakery at 111 Bowery again on the Bowery for some buns. Now they were busy.
New Kamboat bakery at 111 Bowery
I bought myself a Roast Pork bun, a Cream filled bun and Croissant with a fried egg and sausage (I have been watching too many of those Fung Brothers videos. When I saw it I had to try it). Everything was so good just like the last time I was there.
The Roast pork buns are delicious
The filling is amazing
The food was so reasonable and delicious and the ladies that run the operation are really nice and get you in and out of there. I took my second breakfast to the park with me. The pork bun didn’t even make it there as I ate it along the way.
The Egg and Sausage on a bun at Kamboat Bakery in Chinatown
They doused it with mayo and tucked a little lettuce inside. The perfect breakfast sandwich
The Cream filled Bun was excellent and loaded with sweet cream
While I relaxed and at my second breakfast in Sara Delano Roosevelt Park, I just people watched. Families looked like they were getting ready to watch the parade as the younger generations looked antsy about watching the SuperBowl and the Hipsters were lining up at Wah Fung #1 for their roast meat fixes. I swear the line at the restaurant on Chrystie Street never goes down until they close. I bet the owners can’t figure out why the lines are so long to get in.
After my snack and a quick trip to the restrooms, it was off to watch the parade. Since I know the drill in Chinatown, I saw the parade route online and decided to go to the bend closer to the East Broadway turn where I would be able to see more and there are usually less crowds. Right on both accounts this year. The parade was well attended but not like in previous years. There would be plenty of room to maneuver around.
Mott Street when I got there before the parade started
What has shocked me are the number of businesses that have closed along Mott Street. Even at the end of Mott Street the old Hunan Gardens spot which had turned into a grocery store after it closed years later closed during COVID and now the location and the two businesses near it are now all closed. This was not just on Mott Street but on a lot of sides streets as well. So many grocery stores are gone and have been replaced by art galleries. It will be interesting to see where the future of this parade will go as the neighborhood changes.
The parade was a lot of fun. The NYPD started the parade with the Mounted Police, the NYPD Band and then followed by the Jade Society and the Auxiliary. There has been an increase in New York Police of Asian descendancy and it showed with the amount of officers marching in the parade this year. It was much smaller back in 2019.
The NYPD Mounted Police opened the parade
The parade passes by
The NYPD Band
The NYPD Band
The Jade Society-Organization of Police of Chinese descendancy
A big opening to the parade as the police passed by
The beginning of the Lion Dances
The beginnings of the parade
After the police band and officers passed by State Senator Chuck Schumer walked in the parade greeting the crowd. I swear the man would not stand still for a picture.
Senator Chuck Schumer looking down after addressing the crowd
We were then greeted by the contestants and the winner of the “Miss Chinatown” contest. All the ladies were so nicely dressed and everyone applauded them. They all looked a little cold to me as it was not the sunniest morning. They were all smiles and waves.
“Miss Chinatown” court
“Miss Chinatown” and the First Runner Up
The ladies were all smiles and waves and all the little kids were getting a kick out of it. I never saw so many people getting pictures of beauty queens. They were having fun.
The FDNY marched right behind them
The FDNY got the biggest applause from the crowd. The bagpipers were followed by the members of the Phoenix Society, a organization of fire fighters of Asian descent. Their group was smaller than the police but seemed more popular with the crowd especially to the little kids.
The Honor Guard
The local company of “Dragon Warriors” drove in the parade
The Lion Dancers and Dragons were my favorite part of the parade. The music and the spirit of the dance really got the crowd going. They were all over the place bobbing up and down. The dancers did a really good job of engaging the crowd.
The Lion Dancers
The Lion Dance
The Lion Dance up close
The Lion Dancers were in full force in this part of the parade almost vying for bragging rights of who could do it better. It really energized and engaged the crowds who were really getting into it. The music and the dancing were really fun. The music and drumming was fantastic.
The different clubs were performing their best
Have you come face to face with a Lion?
As the parade progressed, we were treated all all sorts of puppets, floats and dancers that bowed and waved to the music of the many bands in the parade. Everyone was setting off poppers so there were streamers everywhere. The sun was trying to peek out and at least it did not rain.
The procession of cars followed by the fan dancers
The Fan Dancers
The Bands lead the way for most of the floats
The School Associations marched in the parade
The bands really livened up the crowds
The floats were very lively that day
Dancers that day were very active that morning
The Dragon dancers were all over the crowds, waving up and down and engaging the crowds. It was a lively dance and people were popping off streamers.
The dragon was all over Mott Street
The Dancers had the Dragon chasing the ball
The next Dragon was leading the next wave of dancers
The next Dragon was so colorful and beautiful
The Families with Children from China was nice to see
The parade ended with a series of cars in a procession
The parade was a lot of fun and I noticed the crowds were a lot bigger in the center of Chinatown. The cars made a lot of noise and by the time they drove through at the end of the parade the crowds started to thin. People were off to the restaurants and snack shops. The Superbowl was in a couple of hours and I would watch the neighborhood empty out.
For dinner that evening, I went back to E Noodle which I had tried several months earlier for dinner. I was pretty shocked that I was the only one in the restaurant. People left Chinatown and went home to watch the game. This is considering that E Noodle is right off East Broadway where the parade passes by I thought I would be fighting the crowds. All the scaffolding is down from the building now and you can finally see the outside of the restaurant.
After the two other tables left for the afternoon, I was the only one eating there for about a half hour but still the service was wonderful and the gentleman working there could not have been nicer to me. The food was excellent. I had the Pork Soup Dumplings and the Flat Noodles with Chicken. Everything was made there and the Soup Dumplings tasted as if they were made just for me then.
The Soup Dumplings were excellent
The Flat Noodles with Chicken were freshly made at the restaurant
Everything for dinner was delicious. I believe that both the Soup Dumplings and the Flat Noodles were made by the women at the restaurant. They brought the food to my table with such price and everything was excellent. I really enjoyed my meal (See my review on TripAdvisor).
The Fung Brothers video on YouTube on E Noodle and Kamboat Bakery
After dinner was over, it started getting dark and I just walked around the neighborhood one more time before I left the City. It got so quiet in Chinatown. If it had not been the night of the Superbowl I am sure it would have been much busier around the neighborhood. Still some of the restaurants in the core of Chinatown were busy and the drink and pastry shops had their crowds. The side streets were rather quiet. Still it was a wonderful afternoon in Chinatown and it is nice to see people back.
Happy New Year!
The view from Chinatown at night of lower Manhattan is pretty amazing