Each neighborhood in New York City has its share of bodegas and delis that supply everything from grocery items, cleaning supplies and in some cases hardware items for last minute touch ups in apartments.
Where these stores differ from one another is their prepared food sections. This is where you can get your all day Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich on a hero roll to a Chopped Cheese (Two hamburgers chopped with spices and topped with American Cheese, chopped lettuce and chopped tomato) to the classic Bacon Cheese Burgers, Grilled Cheese and a variety of wraps.
I came across Catherine’s Deli & Bagels when touring Chinatown and I just stopped in to look around. I saw the sandwiches that were being made and what was on the grill…
It’s funny to return to a restaurant that had been part of your career twenty years earlier. In my years in the Macy’s Buying offices, Al’s Deli is entrenched in the memories of many Macy executives with early morning breakfasts before we had to be at the desk at 9:00am or in those late nights preparing for the holiday season after 8:00pm. Plus all those lunches being delivered when we were chained to our desks as the phones were ringing off the hook. Even when I visited the restaurant recently I still see their delivery people racing across the street delivering salads and sandwiches thinking nothing has changed over the years.
Al’s Deli has been serving the Garment District crowds since 1976 and its popularity is its…
I finally finished walking the NoMAD neighborhood the other day and it is getting confusing keeping up with all these neighborhood names. The Flatiron District, NoMAD (North of Madison Square Park), Kips Bay and Rose Hill (which crosses boundaries with Kips Bay at Lexington Avenue) all claim the same small section of neighborhood. It makes it confusing to know what neighborhood association to join.
I then discovered a nine block section of Midtown South that has no name to it. It is squeezed between Kips Bay and Koreatown from Fifth Avenue to Lexington Avenue from East 34th to East 30th Street. Technically it can be considered part of Koreatown since it has stretched from it’s traditional borders but the maps say differently.
In my research of the neighborhood maps of Manhattan, I discovered that this section of the island has no name to the neighborhood because it is not part of Kips Bay or Koreatown and saying Midtown South for this nine block region does not sound glamorous enough. So in the tradition of the realtors in Manhattan, I named it NoNaNe, No Name Neighborhood. I wonder if it will catch on?
This is a nine block section of Midtown South that borders Lexington Avenue to the East, Fifth Avenue to the West and from East 34th to 30th Streets. It lies next to Koreatown, which itself has grown from its traditional borders of 33rd to 31st Streets from Sixth Avenue to Fifth Avenue. Koreatown now stretches to East 35th Street to the north and to Park Avenue to the east. The restaurants and stores are pushing out even further from the core of the original neighborhood.
So after a wonderful afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art visiting the new “Goya” exhibition, I took the subway to Midtown at 34th Street just outside Macy’s Herald Square to start my walk. It got dark early the first day so I did not get the time in I thought I would.
The Goya Exhibition at the Met
The YouTube video on the Exhibition
The weather has also gotten so cold. From the mild December and January weeks that we had it has lead to one of the coldest February’s since the great Arctic Vortex that we had two years ago. I am still thawing out from the Marcal Factory fire of 2019 (see my blog from My Life as a Fireman on this blog).
It seems that the Vortex is back again and it will be just as cold. It is predicted to be 0 in New Orleans which must be some sort of record. Trust me it got cold when the sun went down around 5:15pm.
I started my walk this afternoon by looking at Macy’s window displays along Broadway to see if much had changed since Christmas. They never were the most exciting displays even when I was working there. Lord & Taylor and B. Altman’s had better windows. Long gone now. I am amazed at the change of the department store scene in New York City since I worked there in the 1990’s. I could see it from the corner of West 34th and Broadway.
I started my walk from the front door of Macy’s and walked down Sixth Avenue from West 34th to West 30th Street. Things have changed so much in thirty years. The whole area has gotten so much better. It was so run down when I worked there. Also the retail scene was so much different. Where the H & M is now used to be Herald Center, an upscale mall that never did well and the concept closed two years later when I returned to work in the buying offices. The only thing that survived was the food court on the top floor.
Before 1965, this was home to Saks 34th Street before its move to its current Fifth Avenue location. The store was founded by Andrew Saks and opened its doors in Herald Square in 1902 just five weeks before Macy’s opened their doors. The store was designed by architects Buchman & Fox in the Classical style. The store was bought by the Gimbel family in 1923 and that is when it was moved to its current location at 511 Fifth Avenue. The original store is now covered with new siding to give it its modern look for H & M (NYC Circa). The building stretches from West 34th to West 33rd Street along the Broadway corridor.
The Saks 34th Street Building on the corner of West 34th Street and Broadway
Next door to that was the old Gimbel’s Department Store building that closed in 1986, a year and a half before I started at Macy’s. Gimbel’s had always been considered our rival for years but I think because of the sheer size of Macy’s I have a feeling that we beat them in sales. Gimbel’s had come to New York City by way of Philadelphia by the Gimbel’s family. It was founded by Adam Gimbel in 1887. The store in Herald Square opened in 1910 in the classical style by architect Daniel Burnham (Wiki). The store stretches from West 33rd to West 32nd Streets along Broadway.
Gimbel’s Department Store at Sixth Avenue and 33rd Street
When the store closed in 1986, it was renovated and was called A & S Plaza when that store moved into the space. When A & S closed in the mid 1990’s when it merged with Macy’s, the store was renovated again and now is called Manhattan Mall. It is mostly office space now (Wiki).
In the middle of this former shopping district and just south of Herald Square is Greeley Square named after Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune. The square was acquired by New York City in 1846 and turned into the park. The statue that dominates the southern end of the park was designed by sculptor Alexander Doyle in 1890 (NYCParks.org).
Greeley Square was named after Horace Greeley, who published the first issue of The New Yorker magazine and established the New York Tribune. He was also a member of the Liberal Republican Party where he was a Congressman and ran for President of the United States after the Civil War.
Publisher and Politician Horace Greeley famous for his quote “Go West, young man, Go West”
The Horace Greeley statue is located in the park just south of Herald Square in Greeley Square.
The statue was created by artist Alexander Doyle. Alexander Doyle was an American born artist who studied in Italy with several artists. He is best known for his marbles and bronze sculptures of famous Americans including many famous Confederate figures that have come under fire recently.
Once you leave Greeley Square and walk south you will be entering what is left of the old Wholesale district where once buyers used to come into these stores to commercially buy goods for their businesses. Slowly all of these businesses as well as most of the Flower District is being gentrified out with new hotels, restaurants and bars replacing the businesses. It seems that most of the district is being rebuilt or renovated or gutted.
The Broadway side of the park opposite the old department stores starts some of the most beautiful architecture in South Midtown. This portion of Broadway until you reach the Battery has the most unique stonework and embellishments on the buildings that show the craftsmanship of another era when companies built headquarters that were meant to last.
One building that faces Greeley Square is 1270 Broadway at the corner of West 33rd Street.
1270 Broadway, known once as the Wilson Building, was built between 1912 and 1913 in the class Beaux Arts style. It now serves as an office building. You have to look up from the square to admire its beauty.
Next to the building is across the street at 1265 Broadway, the former Browning, King & Company building. The building was built in 1910 by developer William R.H. Martin for commercial use. The building was designed by architects Townsend, Steinle & Haskell in brick, stone and terra cotta. The interesting decorative top was designed for the Men’s retail company Browning, King & Company. You have to look up at the detail work and the eagle at the roof of the building (Daytonian).
1265 Broadway-The Browning, King & Company building
Another building that stands out and sadly boarded up at this time is the former Martinique Hotel at 49 West 32nd Street (1260-1266 Broadway). This was also built by William R. H. Martin in 1898 with the design by architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh in the French Renaissance style. The hotel had a notorious reputation in the 1970’s and 80’s as a welfare hotel that closed in 1988. It is now a Curio Hotel of Hilton Hotels (Wiki).
I remember this hotel well when I worked for Macy’s in the late 1980’s and all the people yelling and screaming outside the hotel with fire trucks all over the place. The hotel had been nothing but a problem for almost twenty years. It has since been bought by the Hilton Group and is now a historical luxury hotel.
1260 Broadway-49 West 32nd Street-The Martinique Hotel
A couple of buildings that stand out when walking down Broadway are 1234 Broadway on the corner of Broadway and West 31st Street, a elegant Victorian building with a standout mansard roof and elaborate details on the roof and windows. I did not realize that it was the Grand Hotel built in 1868 as a residential hotel. The hotel was commissioned by Elias Higgins, a carpet manufacturer and designed by Henry Engelbert. Currently it is being renovated into apartments (Daytonian). It shows how the City keeps morphing over time as this area has become fashionable again.
1234 Broadway in all its elegance, the former Grand Hotel
After rounding the southern part of Greeley Square, I headed back down Sixth Avenue to West 30th Street, the southern border of the neighborhood with the ever changing NoMAD (North of Madison Square Park). This southern section of South Midtown as I have mentioned in other blogs is being gutted, knocked down and rebuilt into a hip area of the City with trendy hotels, restaurants and stores. Even in the era of COVID, the streets were hopping and most of the hotels were still open. Broadway has even been closed off for outdoor dining.
In the middle of this new ‘hipness’ there is an old standby, Fresh Pizza & Deli at 876 Sixth Avenue (see my review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). I had a craving for a late breakfast and they had a $4.95 special for a Bacon, Egg & Cheese sandwich on the sandwich board outside and I ordered it. You have to make a special trip to this little hole in the wall.
Fresh Pizza & Deli at 867 Sixth Avenue
Not only is the their pizza really good but the Bacon, Egg & Cheese on a soft roll is outstanding. The way the flavors meshed in the sandwich and the perfect meal on a cool afternoon. After my snack and rounded the corner west down 30th Street. Here you are dodging construction sites and scaffolding in this ever-changing section of the neighborhood.
On a cold day there is nothing like a Bacon, Egg & Cheese on a roll from Fresh Pizza & Deli
Most of the buildings on 30th Street were non-descriptive until I reached the corner of West 30th Street and Fifth Avenue. At 284 Fifth Avenue is The Wilbraham Building, a beautiful Victorian building built between 1888-90 that was commissioned by jeweler William Moir. The building was designed by architect D.J . Jardine in the Romanesque Revival style. The building has been home to Shalom Brothers Rugs for many years (StreetEasy.com).
Fifth Avenue at East 30th Street-The Wilbraham
Another beautiful building that faces East 30th Street but is located on Madison Avenue is 105 Madison Avenue a beautiful former office building that has been converted to condo’s. The building was built in 1913 in the Gothic Revival style with a terra cotta facade.
105-117 Madison Avenue
When I reached the corner of East 30th Street and Lexington Avenue I reached the border of the neighborhood which it shares with Kips Bay and it was like visiting an old friend. I have walked this part of the City so many times I feel like I have moved in. I love walking down Lexington Avenue and visiting “Curry Hill” and all the Middle Eastern and Indian restaurants.
I took a little detour from the walk and headed down Lexington Avenue and enjoyed the sites and smells of the neighborhood. I stopped in at one store, Heritage India Fashions at 131 Lexington Avenue after looking over the display window. The window was filled with clothes with vibrant colors and glittering jewels and pictures of models in exotic places.
Heritage India Fashions at 131 Lexington Avenue
When you walk in the store is piled floor to ceiling with brilliant colors and interesting embellished clothing, shoes and accessories. There were also collections of jewelry and small gifts for the wedding season. The woman working there was very helpful and enthusiastic of explaining the clothes to me. It is worth the trip in.
I traveled back up Lexington Avenue and passed many places that stand out in the neighborhood. Turning the corner onto the bustling Lexington Avenue, you see that the border of the neighborhood is a bustling commercial district with a combination of office buildings and apartments and as you cross East 30th Street a restaurant district with an international flair to it. The avenue is also lined with interesting architecture where many buildings stand out. I walked up and down Lexington Avenue between East 30th Street until I turned the corner at East 34th Street.
The beautiful detail work carved into it is 160-164 Lexington Avenue and East 30th Street, The Dove Street Marketplace, which offers floor after floor of high end goods is just amazing.
The detail work is amazing on 160-164 Lexington Avenue-The Dove Street Market
The building has the most beautiful detail work on all sides. It was built in 1909 as the New York School for Applied Design for Women. It was designed by one of the school’s instructors, architect Wiley Corbett, to resemble a Greek Temple (Forgotten New York).
Across the street from the Dover Street Market at 154 Lexington Avenue is the First Moravian Church. The building was started in 1849 and finished in 1852 at the Rose Hill Baptist Church designed in the Lombardian Romanesque style. In 1869, the church was sold to the First Moravian Church which had been located at Sixth Avenue and 34th Street (Daytonian in Manhattan).
The First Moravian Church at 154 Lexington Avenue was built in 1854
Tucked to the residential side of the avenue is 170 Lexington Avenue an Italianate brownstone building that stands out for it yellow exterior. The brownstone was part of three building complex built in the early 1850’s. The house was owned by George and Elizabeth Youle, a wealthy couple with two married daughters. The address was originally 158 Lexington Avenue and then changed to 170 Lexington Avenue in 1866. Sometime in the 1940’s the yellow clapboard veneer was added in a renovation of the building (Daytonian 2020).
170 Lexington Avenue was built in the early 1850’s
The New York Design Center Building at 200 Lexington Avenue stands out for its detailed beauty and its embellishments that accent the outside of the building. It was built in 1926 and designed by architect Ely Jacques Khan as the New York Furniture Exchange. The building was to cater to furniture and department store buyers. It now caters to the full interior design experience with furniture, lighting and textiles.
200 Lexington Avenue-The New York Design Center
As I rounded East 34th Street and Lexington Avenue, I saw more life on the streets than I had in a while. The area near the NY Langone Hospital is always busy and when you head back in the other direction back towards Herald Square it always has traffic and people.
On my way down East 34th Street, I passed many of the interesting buildings that share the border with Murray Hill, the neighborhood to the north that I had visited over the summer. I reached Madison Avenue and walked past the grill work of another interesting office building. The Madison Belmont Building at 181 Madison Avenue was built in 1924 and designed by architects Warren & Wetmore in the Renaissance style with Art Deco details for the Cheney Brothers Silk Company.
“The Madison Belmont Building” at 181 Madison Avenue
Look up at the interesting grill work and details of the building
Reaching the border of Murray Hill to the south is the former B. Altman Department Store that closed in 1989 and in the other corner is the Empire State Building, once the tallest building in the world.
The B. Altman Building at 361 Fifth Avenue was built by Benjamin Altman for the new location for his ‘carriage trade’ store. The store was designed by architects Trowbridge & Livingston in the “Italian Renaissance Style” in 1906. The palatial store was home to couture clothing, fine furniture and expensive art work.
The former B. Altman Department Store at 361 Fifth Avenue
As the shopping district left Sixth Avenue below 23rd Street, the former “Ladies Shopping Mile” (read my Victorian Christmas Blog on the shopping district) gave way to stores opening between 34th Street to 42nd Street and eventually to the Fifth Avenue locations between 50th and 60th Streets where what is left of the great stores stand today.
My blog on the Ladies Shopping Mile and a “Victorian Christmas”:
Across the street from the old B. Altman’s building is another impressive building also under scaffolding 10 East 34th Street, The Ditson Building. The impressive building with it intricate details was built in 1906 and designed by architects Townsend, Steinle & Haskell in the Beaux-Arts style for Charles H. Ditson. Mr. Ditson ran the New York division of his family’s company, Charles H. Ditson & Company, a publisher and musical concern (Daytonian).
10 East 34th Street-The Ditson Building
Crossing Fifth Avenue, I continued to walk down West 34th Street once a major shopping district lined with shops and department stores. The most impressive and well known building in the neighborhood is the former tallest building in the world at 102 floors, the Empire State Building at 2-20 West 34th Street.
The Empire State Building is probably the most famous building in New York City outside of maybe Rockefeller Center and one of the most prominent. The building sits on the side of the former Astor Mansion and the first Waldorf-Astoria Hotel before the current one was built in the 1930’s on Park Avenue.
The Empire State Building was inspired during the “Race to the Sky” movement in New York City during the 1920’s prosperity with builders vying for the “World’s Tallest Building” title. This was going on in cities all over the US at a time of great innovation in building. The building was conceived in 1929 long before the Stock Market Crash of 1929 as 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building were being constructed (Wiki).
The building is known just by its appearance and is probably best known for the movie “King Kong” back in the 1930’s and most recently “Sleepless in Seattle” in the 1990’s. The movies don’t do the building justice from its sky decks with views of Manhattan and beautiful Art Deco details on the elevators and in the lobby. The 102 story building is one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Modern World’ and was the tallest building in the world until the World Trade Center opened in 1970 (Wiki). It is now the second tallest building in New York City.
The famous Empire State Building scene from “King Kong” in 1933
The building is a major tourist site and it was so strange to see no one in line for the now open sky ride to the sky decks where you can see across the whole City. The lines are usually really long down West 34th Street but there were just a few people talking to the guards the days I passed. If you get a chance to walk around the lobby it really is beautiful but that was pre-COVID. You have to have preassigned tickets to get into the building.
As I continued down West 34th Street, I saw the old Ohrbach’s Department Store building at 7 West 34th Street. The store was still open when I started to work at Macy’s in 1988 but it closed about a year later to be followed by B. Altman & Company in 1990. That left Macy’s alone on West 34th Street until a branch of the A & S opened in the Gimbel’s building in the 1990’s (that would close when A & S merged with Macy’s in 1995).
7 West 34th Street-McCreeyers/Ohrbach’s Department Store
What I did not know was the building has an older past by its original owner James McCreeyer & Company, a luxury department store that had started in the 1860’s and had closed this location in 1953 due to changing styles and business. Ohrbach’s bought the store in 1954 and ran it as a moderate department store until it closed in 1988 (Wiki and Defunct Department Stores).
Another impressive building on the this former shopping street is 19 West 34th Street, The Martin Building. The building was built and finished in 1907 for the Revillon Freres, a leading manufacturer of furs and accessories. The building was designed in the Italian Renaissance style with Beaux Arts features. The company moved out of the building and further uptown in 1918 and leased the building out (Daytonian). The building now serves as offices on top and retail on the bottom.
17-19 West 34th Street-The Martin Building/Revillon Freres Building
Another standout building I saw was 31 West 34th Street the former Oppenhiem, Collins & Company Department Store building. The store was built in 1907 for the Oppenhiem, Collins & Company wholesalers when they decided to open a retail store in the location. The former department store was designed by architects Buchman & Fox in the Beaux Arts style. The store existed until 1963 when it was merged by the owner of the store with Franklin Simon & Company Department Store and the name disappeared. The store closed in 1977 (Daytonian).
31 West 34th Street-The Oppenhiem, Collins & Company/Franklin Simon & Company building
The last building I noticed for its beauty was on the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 34th Street, 47 West 34th Street (1378 Broadway or 2 Herald Square) the Marbridge Building. The Marbridge Building was by architects Townsend, Steinle & Haskell in 1909 in the Classical Beaux Arts style and has been used as an office building since its opening (Wiki/Photo/Street).
47 West 34th Street-The Marbridge Building
It is funny that in all the years I had worked at Macy’s Herald Square, I either never noticed these buildings on all my walks along 34th Street or never gave them a lot of though. When you realize the rich architectural history of the neighborhood and the role it played in the retail history of New York it really amazed me how prominent a shopping area this once was between 1900-1960. This growth came about as the retail district moved further uptown from the Ladies Shopping Mile district on Sixth Avenue below West 21st Street.
I finished my walk of the borders of this neighborhood with a quick break by relaxing in Greeley Square again and using one of the few public bathrooms in the area (the other being Macy’s lower level Men’s Department) and just sat back and admired the Horace Greeley statue. I wondered how many people passed this statue and never gave it any thought. I wondered what he might of thought of the changes here in the last 100 years. The neighborhood is so rich in history of the development of the business sector in New York City.
I went to dinner that evening at my new favorite Dim Sum restaurant , AweSum Dim Sum at 160 East 23rd Street. I love the selection of items and everything is always so good there. The best part was that the Mayor finally opened the restaurants again for indoor dining on Chinese New Year/ Valentine’s Day weekend on February 12th and we dine inside finally. No more sitting outside in the cold.
AweSum Dim Sum at 160 East 23rd Street
I ended my day over small plates of Soup Dumplings, which were hot and juicy and burst in my mouth, crisp Spring Rolls with a nice crunch in every bite and the Baked Pork Buns with their crisp sweet exterior and rich meaty interior. It was just nice to sit back in a warm environment and see people again.
Don’t miss the Baked Pork Buns here
After a nice meal in a warm restaurant, I walked back up Lexington Avenue to admire the lights coming on in the City and the sights and smells of “Curry Hill” as I walked up through Kips Bay back to Port Authority. This is when you really experience New York.
I was writing a blog on the NoMAD neighborhood for my blog, MywalkinManhattan.com and I was in the need of a snack because I did not have time for lunch. I came across the sign at Fresh Pizza and Deli at 876 Sixth Avenue for a $1.00 slice of pizza and I had to go in and try it. What a nice surprise.
Fresh Pizza & Deli at 876 Sixth Avenue
I ordinarily don’t put much stock into a 99 cent slice place because the pizza is usually passable, somewhat soggy with no flavor and barely cooked on the bottom but here it was different. The pizza was well-cooked with a crisp bottom and a nice cheesy top. The sauce had nice flavor to it from all the…
I have been to Miss T’s Two several times when I needed a quick snack and was in the area. The deli is tucked in a residential neighborhood right near Hackensack High School so I know who their customer is when the school year is in session.
Miss T’s Two is primarily a deli/bodega selling some household items and snack foods to the locals who live in the area but they also have a small hot food area in the back of the store and this is where this unassuming place shines. Their hot food selection may be limited but everything I have tried is delicious and extremely reasonable and is always fresh.
The first two trips I made to the deli was by accident. I had passed the place…
I have never seen such a transformation of a neighborhood.
I finished Kips Bay right before the holidays and discovered the section between Lexington and Third Avenues was also considered part of “Rose Hill”, an old farming estate from Colonial times. The area had not been called “Rose Hill” since the mid-1800’s and was surprised why anyone would want to bring the name back. That’s the real estate market for you. Anything to sell an apartment in a neighborhood.
This area of the Manhattan is actually a cross section of three neighborhoods, the “Rose Hill” estate section, NoMAD (North of Madison Square Park) and the Flatiron District, dominated by the Flatiron Building located on the cross section of Broadway and Fifth Avenue. The area in question is between Fifth and Sixth Avenue from East and West 25th to 30th Street, which is part of both the Flatiron District and NoMAD with a block being in Rose Hill.
It must be very confusing for the residents to know where they live and what neighborhood association to join. That being said there is not much residential in this area as opposed to it being more of the start of the lower Midtown Business District. This is where a lot of your “hip” companies like to have their offices.
The neighborhood’s central point is Madison Square Park, a small oasis of green in the middle of what used to be the financial and retail district from the turn of the last century to about the Great Depression era. Most of the commercial buildings were built between 1890 to about 1930. This district shows that these companies believed in their businesses and built these spaces to last a lifetime. Many of the companies that built this district no longer exist. Still a few of the insurance companies and banks still own their buildings but in the era of COVID with everyone working at home, we will see what the future holds for them as well.
The upper portion of the neighborhood is what is left of the old “Wholesale” and “Flower District”, which are both starting to dwindle in relevance in this neighborhood. As the neighborhood slowly started to be knocked down in the early 90’s and replaced by high rises especially above 23rd Street along Sixth Avenue, it went from being an old commercial district to one that was middle to high end residential.
What is left of the old “Wholesale” district is now concentrated around the stretch from Fifth to Sixth Avenue along East 30th Street and a little along Broadway but little by little the stores are closing up.
All the department stores that the district used to cater to are long gone with the exception of Macy’s Herald Square and realtors have discovered that people really do love the old charm of these turn of the last century Victorian and Art Deco style architecture. These buildings are slowly are being converted back to their original use of hotels, stores and restaurants as they were in the early 1900’s.
Even the ‘Flower District’ is down to about a dozen stores. What was once lined with fresh flowers and decorative house plants as well as all sorts of gardening supplies have packed up and moved to Hunts Point in the Bronx along with the Fish Markets of South Street Seaport and the Meatpacking District in Chelsea. The buildings and land have just become too valuable and the areas are being zoned for residential.
During Mayor Bloomberg’s last term in office all of these and other areas of the City that were once commercial were rezoned for residential and have changed the complexity of these neighborhoods. Some for the better and some for the worse. In NoMAD, the area just keeps morphing even during the era of COVID.
I started my day walking down from Port Authority and touring through the first floor of Macy’s Herald Square. The changes in that store since I have worked there have been tremendous. The Christmas decorations are long gone (except from the Ninth Floor where the Christmas Shoppe was still going strong) and the store was preparing for Valentine’s Day like the rest of the retail industry. The store was pretty crowded for early afternoon and gave me faith that the industry was not dead.
Macy’s Herald Square facing Broadway
I exited through the back door into Herald Square and walked through both Herald and Greeley Squares where people were eating their lunches and socializing on the park chairs and tables (socially distanced of course). It is surprising how busy the parks were a cool cloudy morning. I then walked around Koreatown on my way to NoMAD and the restaurants were really busy again like they were on Christmas Day. People still enjoy eating outside even at this time of the year.
I started my walk of NoMAD on the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 30th Street. This was interesting because in all my years at Macy’s, this had been the Textiles and Handmade Rug showrooms during the late 80’s and through the 90’s. Now there was not much left. The few showrooms that were left in the handmade rug business were closed that afternoon and the commercial part of the block was really quiet. There were not too many people walking around so I could take my time and really admire the buildings.
Many of the wholesale businesses were open but they are becoming few and far between. Even in the Pandemic, I do not foresee them being here in the next two years. As the leases start to get broken or the buildings get renovated, they are slowly emptying out and there are many for rent signs on 30th Street.
Most of the buildings on 30th Street were non-descriptive until I reached the corner of West 30th Street and Fifth Avenue. At 284 Fifth Avenue is The Wilbraham Building, a beautiful Victorian building built between 1888-90 that was commissioned by jeweler William Moir. The building was designed by architect D. & J. Jardine in the Romanesque Revival style. The building has been home to Shalom Brothers Rugs for many years (StreetEasy.com).
284 Fifth Avenue at East 30th Street-The Wilbraham
Rounding the corner on East 30th Street to Madison Avenue, the border of the neighborhood is shared with the “Rose Hill” section of the neighborhood. Technically “Rose Hill” is the eastern section of the neighborhood by historical fact to the location of the original estate. Still on most maps, NoMAD stretches to the border of Kips Bay on Lexington Avenue. This is where the borders of all these neighborhoods got confusing.
So I walked around the block and walked up and down Madison Avenue, the main artery and border of the neighborhood to revisit some of the most beautiful and picturesque buildings on the avenue. This starts the border also of the residential and business district of the neighborhood.
Walking down East 25th Street, you realize as you start to border the Midtown area that the buildings take up more of the blocks and there are less smaller brownstones and tenements in the area. The dominate building on the block by Madison Square Park is 11-25 Madison Avenue, the Metropolitan Life Buildings. The building that lines this part of East 25th Street is the Metropolitan Life North Building (or 11 Madison Avenue).
Metropolitan Life North Building at 25 Madison Avenue
This beautiful building was the extension of the main headquarters next door on Madison Avenue. The building was designed by the architectural team of Harvey Wiley Corbett and D. Everett Waid in the Art Deco style in the late 1920’s as the tallest building in the world but the Great Depression changed the plans and it was built in three stages. The first finished in 1932, the second in 1940 and the third in 1950 (Wiki).
The archways ‘Loggias’ on each side of the building
What stands out about the building is the arched vaults on each corner of the structure called ‘loggias’ and the features were made in limestone and pink marble. When you stand under them you can see the colors and details of the marble carvings (Wiki). Just walking around the building the features are impressive and standout.
Across the street from the Metropolitan Life North Building at 27 Madison Avenue is the Appellate Division Courthouse of New York State and one of the most beautiful and detailed buildings I have seen on my walks. The building was designed by architect James Lord Brown in 1896 in the Beaux Arts Style and is adorned heavily in sculpture (Wiki). You really have to step back and walk across the street to see the details on the building.
27 Madison Avenue The Appellate Division Courthouse of New York State
Looking up close, you can see that the building resembles a Greek Temple and was considered one of the best examples of the “City Beautiful Movement” that occurred during the 1890’s and 1900’s to enhance cities with monumental grandeur and beauty (Wiki).
The historical beauty of the architecture continued up the border of the neighborhood as I walked up Madison Avenue towards East 30th Street. You have to walk both sides of Madison Avenue to appreciate the designs and details of the buildings that line the avenue.
You have to look close to the building or you will miss it is the sculpture by artist Harriet Feigenbaum. It is a memorial to victims of the Holocaust and is very powerful in its work showing the concentration camps.
“The Memorial to the Injustice of the Victims of the Holocaust”-“Indifference to Justice is the Road to Hell”
Harriet Feigenbaum is an American sculptor and environmentalist. Her works cover sculpture, film and drawings that are seen all over the world (Wiki and artist bio).
I passed 50 Madison Avenue and noticed how the buildings blended in design. The bottom level of the building was built in 1896 as the headquarters of the ASPCA (American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals). The building was designed by architects Renwick, Aspinwell & Owen and had a classic ‘club like’ design to it. The building was refitted and added to in 2005 by the firm of Samson Management with a six story addition to luxury condos (CityRealty.com).
50 Madison Avenue-The former ASPCA headquarters
Another ornamental building that stands out in the neighborhood is 51 Madison Avenue which is the home of New York Life Insurance Building. The building was designed by architect Cass Gilbert in 1926 in the Art Deco style with Gothic Revival details along the sides and was finished in 1928. The structure is topped with a gilded roof (Wiki & New York Life Insurance history). This is another building that you have to see from all sides.
51 Madison Avenue-The New York Life Insurance Building
Continuing my walk up Madison Avenue while admiring the architecture of the neighborhood is The James NoMAD Hotel, the former Seville Hotel, on the corner of East 29th Street at 88 Madison Avenue. This interesting hotel has gone through several name changes and renovations since it was built in 1904. The hotel was designed by architect Harry Alan Jacobs in the Beaux Arts style and the annex to the hotel was designed by Charles T. Mott in 1906 (Wiki).
88 Madison Avenue-The James NoMAD Hotel (formerly The Seville)
The outdoor dining was open for the restaurant the first afternoon I had visited the neighborhood even though I thought it was a little cool to eat outside. Even though you can’t go inside unless you are a guest, I could see the holiday decorations and lights from the street and it looked very elegant inside.
Across the street from this elegant hotel is 95 Madison Avenue the former Emmett Building. The structure was designed by architects John Stewart Barney and Stockton B. Colt of Barney & Colt for Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet in 1912 when the area was a wholesale district. The building is designed in the French Neo-Renaissance with Gothic style ornamentation (New York Landmark Preservation Commission and Wiki).
95 Madison Avenue-The Emmet Building
Turning the corner at East 25th Street and Madison Avenue is Madison Square Park, named after our forth President of the United States, James Madison. This well landscaped park is the gathering place of the residents of NoMAD and has a wonderful playground that has been busy the whole time I have spent in the neighborhood.
Madison Square Park is an interesting little oasis from all the traffic and office space. It has an interesting history since it was designated a public space in 1686 by British Royal Governor Thomas Dongan. It has served as a potters field, an arsenal and a home for delinquents. In 1847, the space was leveled, landscaped and enclosed as a park. It became part of the New York Park system in 1870. There are many historical figures featured in the park (NYCParks.org).
The park today is a major meeting spot for residents and tourists alike with a dog track and the original Shake Shack restaurant.
Madison Square Park in the Spring when I was walking the length of Broadway
When I walked into the park to take a break, it must have been the busiest section of the neighborhood between the playground and the original Shake Shack that were serving food to a crowd clung to their cellphones.
I stopped to look at the statue of our 21st President Chester A. Arthur, who had taken oath just two blocks away in his New York townhouse where the Kalustyan’s Specialty Foods is located at 123 Lexington Avenue (See My walk in Kips Bay below). I thought about what was going on in our government today and what they must have gone through with this transition.
The Statue of Chester A. Arthur in Madison Square Park
The statue of our 21st President was designed by artist George Edwin Bissell and the pedestal by architect James Brown Lord.
George Edwin Bissell was an American born artist from Connecticut whose father was a quarry-man and marble carver. He studied sculpture abroad in Paris in the late 1870’s and was known for his historical sculptures of important figures of the time (Wiki).
The Admiral David Farragut statue in Madison Square Park by artist Augustus St. Gaudens
Another interesting statue that stands out in Madison Square Park is the of Civil War Navy hero, Admiral David Farragut. Admiral Farragut commanded the Union Blockage of Southern cities and helped capture New Orleans. The statute was designed by sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens. This was the artist’s first major commission when it was dedicated in 1881 (NYCParks.org).
Augustus St. Gaudens was an Irish born American artist whose specialty during the Beaux-Arts era was monuments to Civil War heroes. He had created the statue the William Tecumseh Sherman in the Central Park Mall on Fifth Avenue along with this statue of Admiral Farragut. He had studied at the National Academy of Design, apprenticed in Paris and then studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts (Wiki).
Upon leaving Madison Square Park and proceeding across East to West 25th Street (Fifth Avenue separates the East Side from the West Side of Manhattan), I was traveling into what was once part of Midtown between the Civil War until WWI and then after that Midtown moved closer to Central Park during the 1920’s through the 1940’s. This leads to the former ‘Ladies Shopping Mile’, which I had covered the previous Christmas on a walking tour.
My blog on my Christmas Walking Tour of the Ladies Shopping Mile in 2018:
Most of the buildings in this section of NoMAD were built with decorative stone work and elaborate ornamentation. There are so many in this section of Manhattan I will highlight the ones that are the standouts. As I walked the border of the neighborhood, you could see many beautiful buildings lining 25th Street.
When walking down East 25th Street from Madison Square Park, the first interesting site you pass is the historic Worth Square, the Memorial to and burial site of General William Jenkins Worth.
William Jenkins Worth was a native New Yorker (Hudson, NY) and decorated Army officer who had served our country in the Battles of 1812, The Second Seminole War and the Mexican-American War. His series of campaigns shaped this Country to where it is today. He died working for the Department of Texas in 1849 (Wiki).
Army General William Jenkins Worth
The General’s remains are buried under the monument at Worth Square at the corner of Fifth Avenue, Broadway and East 24th and 25th Street. General Worth was interned here in November of 1857 on the anniversary of the British leaving the colonies (NYCParks.org).
The Worth Monument between East 24th and East 25th Street at Broadway and Fifth Avenue
The Worth Monument was designed by artist James Goodwin Batterson, whose main profession was one of the founders of the Travelers Insurance Company in Hartford, CT and helped design the Library of Congress Building in Washington DC. He had immersed himself in his father’s quarrying and stone importing business early in his career and traveled extensively to Europe and Egypt for the job. He designed this monument in 1857 (Wiki).
Passing Worth Square and continuing down West 25th Street, I was revisiting the edge of the former “Ladies Shopping Mile” and noticed the impressive architecture that lines the streets of this section of the neighborhood.
At 1123 Broadway is the detailed Townsend Building that was built between 1896-97 and was designed by New York architect Cyrus Lazelle Warner Eidlitz in the Classical style. The building is names for Isaac Townsend whose estate the building was built on (Flatiron Partnership).
1123 Broadway-The Townsend Building
The details on 1123 Broadway are amazing
Another beautiful building is the Heritage Hotel at 18-20 West Fifth Avenue. This detailed hotel was designed by the architectural firm of Israels & Harder in 1901 in the Beaux-Arts style.The hotel opened in 1902 as the Arlington Hotel, a residential hotel for well-heeled guests (Daytonian).
By the time I reached Sixth Avenue, named “The Avenue of the Americas” only to tourists and out of towners, I had seen a significant change in this part of Sixth Avenue in the last thirty years. At West 25th Street, the intersection is just above what had been “Department Store Row” that ends at West 23rd Street.
This had once been the heart of the “Flower District” and while there still are some wholesale flower businesses tucked here and there on Sixth Avenue and some of the side streets, that business has mostly moved on. What had once been lined with rows of smaller buildings housing flower shops selling their wares to people in the Tri-State area is now lined with new modern apartment buildings up to almost West 34th Street. The area is still being redeveloped.
As I ended my first day in the neighborhood, I walked back down West 30th Street back to Madison Avenue passing the familiar buildings back through Madison Square Park and just relaxed. It was fun watching people walk their dogs in the park and the dogs have a great time playing with one another.
I ended the evening with a slice of $1.00 pizza at my new ‘go to’ place in the neighborhood, Fresh Pizza & Deli at 876 Sixth Avenue, a little hole in the wall pizzeria and sandwich shop. The prices here are extremely fair both for the pizza and for the sandwiches that range from $5.00 to $7.00. The pizza here is pretty good and has a nice sauce that gives it some flavor. At night, it has some interesting characters hanging around.
Fresh Pizza & Deli at 876 Sixth Avenue
After my snack, I made one last walk around the northern border of the neighborhood to visit what was left of the wholesale businesses. Slowly these jewelry and accessory stores are giving way to boutiques, trendy restaurants and bars. Even in the era of COVID, the whole neighborhood is either being gutted and renovated or knocked down and being rebuilt. There is not one block in NoMAD that isn’t being transformed.
It will be interesting to see the results when all of this passes.
I love coming to Demarest Farms and visiting the farm store and the grounds. It is like a step back into time. When I was a young child, I used to come down to the old farm stand that was across the street and pick up corn and tomatoes with my aunt who lived around the corner from the stand. In the 1990’s, the family opened the farm store across the street which used to be the old cornfields right next to the Garden State Parkway and a new tradition was born.
In 1991, they build the big store across the street.
Sometimes you just come across a place that has the whole package. Good food at a fair price, a nice selection on the menu and good service. I was working in the the neighborhood where Pompeii Little Market is located and stopped in for a Coke.
What I found was a delightful little deli that is part grocery and part deli with a nice selection of wraps, hoagies and subs, salads and panini’s. There was a small selection of hot foods and specials of the day. They also have a small selection of breakfast items and sandwiches in the morning.
I went in for lunch another afternoon for one of their sandwich specials and had their Italian hoagie special which was $5.95 for this large sub that…
Well, Christmas is finally officially over for me. It was one for the books. The holiday season just came and went without much fanfare or activities. Nothing like last year which was a lot of running around visiting decorated homes or running to the next cocktail party or dinner. Those things just did not exist this year. This season was all about the outside walking tours and small get togethers.
The whole holiday season became a blur and I started to attend a lot of outdoor activities that became available. Anything to get out of the house and see people or go do something out of the ordinary. I really had to search things out.
They started closest to home. I was trying to split my time between places that were just a drive away, going back and forth to the Hudson River Valley, which gave me a change of scenery and walking the neighborhoods of Manhattan, which gave me a sense of purpose as I felt I was supporting the City by being a cheerleader for all it had to offer even in the era of COVID.
My holiday journey started with the delivery of 375 Christmas trees for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. It was a big undertaking for a major charity that supports graduating high school seniors with scholarship money for college. I sometimes wonder if these students know what we go through to get the funds.
The trees were really nice this year
I have never seen so many Christmas Trees fly off a lot so fast. The membership of the Men’s Association got there at 9:00am and the truck arrived at 10:15am. We sold our first tree at 11:30am as we were tagging them. I stayed the entire day from 9:00am to 10:00pm when we closed the lot down for the evening. In the three shifts that I was there with the other guys, we sold 45 trees which we have never done our first day of sales.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at set-up 2020
We were completely sold out by December 11th which I have never seen before. It seemed in the era of COVID everyone reverted back to the 1970’s and wanted a fresh Christmas tree for their home. I thought this was wonderful and people could not have been more supportive to our organization.
Please read my blog on “Christmas tree sales in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ”:
Please watch the commercial I did in 2015 to sell our trees
The first week of December means “Open Houses” at some of our merchants in Downtown Hasbrouck Heights. I look forward to seeing all the Christmas merchandise being offered, all the bouquets created for the event and the beautiful Christmas windows that our florists in town have done.
Bill O’Shea’s Florist at 231 Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ always has a nice gathering the weekend before Thanksgiving. This year was like no other but it did not keep a nice crowd of residents from coming out and looking over ideas for floral displays, house decorating ideas and listening to festive holiday music all while nibbling on prepackaged treats and bottled drinks.
Bill O’Shea’s has some of the nicest displays at the holidays
In a normal year, it would be hot chocolate and coffee with freshly baked goods but COVID has changed the way these businesses are run. Everything had to be prepackaged and most people at it outside as juggling and shopping with a mask on was tough.
The weekend after Thanksgiving, the same weekend we set up the Christmas Tree lot for the Men’s Association, Heights Flower Shoppe at 209 Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ had their Open House and that was equally as nice.
Heights Flower Shoppe is housed in a turn of the last century home that dates back to the original founding of our downtown and has a very classic boutique look to it. The store was stocked with all sorts of Christmas decorations, homemade candies, decorative household gifts and beautiful floral displays as well as outside had decorated wreathes and grave blankets.
The homemade candies and Christmas decorations adorn the store
Like Bill O’Shea’s, there was all sorts of packaged holiday treats to enjoy including Italian sodas, small bags of homemade Christmas cookies and candies. Last year they had a nice assortment of cookies and small sandwiches with coffee, tea and punch so there are always holiday treats to nibble on too here as well.
All of Downtown Hasbrouck Heights was beautifully decorated for the holidays with wreaths on all our lamp posts, Christmas lights on the trees, merchants display windows decorated to the hilt and Christmas music playing.
Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always so nicely decorated for the holidays
This year because of COVID, the Annual Holiday Parade and Christmas Tree Lighting were cancelled in town but they did have a small get together at the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights to light the town Christmas tree. It was lit from Thanksgiving until the Epiphany on January 6th. It is always a beautiful site when entering town from the west side of town.
The Christmas Tree on the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
Even the little Neil Parrot playhouse, a local landmark in Hasbrouck Heights, was decorated for the holidays and was lite up at night as well.
The Neil Parrot Playhouse on the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights awaiting Santa
There were several nights of my aunt and I exploring the town and driving block by block to see all the decorated homes. Hasbrouck Heights and the surrounding towns of Lodi and Wood Ridge always do a wonderful job decorating for the holidays but with everyone being home and COVID hitting the area hard, people wanted to really decorate and make this year even more festive. Between the merchants and home owners, they made this time of year in Hasbrouck Heights very festive.
Please read my blog on Visiting Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ:
I did not just celebrate Christmas in Hasbrouck Heights. I ventured into other parts of New Jersey, to New York City and my usual haunts in the Hudson River Valley but like New Jersey, New York State was on a lock down as well and all the decorated mansions and holiday gatherings were all cancelled as well. So everyone did their best to celebrate outdoors and have all sorts of tours and small get togethers. You had to move fast when reserving these events as they did fill up because everyone wanted to get out of the house and see things.
The Sinterklaas Parade that I have participated and volunteered at for so many years was cancelled because of COVID but like the Halloween Parade, the committee put together a video of the parade to share with the world. Still it did not compare to the excitement of walking down the hill with stars and music lighting up Downtown Rhinebeck, NY.
The noble Frog was to be our mascot for this year’s Sinterklaas Parade
It was not the same as the year before where the crowds kept getting larger and larger every year. The whole town came to life with activities, songs, lights and laughter but was silent that weekend except for people having dinner in town. I was able to sneak up during the week. The entire town was decorated with white lights and beautifully decorated store windows. Rhinebeck is one of those towns in the Hudson River Valley that looks straight out of a Currier & Ives woodcut.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas
Since all the Christmas parties and get togethers were cancelled, it gave me more time to look into other outdoor events. I went to a special “Historical walking tour at the Holidays” at the Bergen County Historical Society in River Edge, NJ. The tour was lead by Historical singer and lecturer, Linda Russell, who explained the traditions of the Dutch Christmas all while singing Colonial Christmas songs in between the talks at each historical house on the property.
The Steuben House at Christmas
Actors dressed in costumes (and masks of course-COVID is still going on) danced in the Steuben House ballroom as colonialists celebrating the holiday, Dutch housewives putting their children to bed while awaiting Sinterklaas. There was a Dutch wooden shoe with carrots for his horse outside the door and mistletoe on the ceiling.
Linda Russell performing and lecturing at the Bergen County Historical Society
There was a discussion on the Pagan traditions of bringing ‘greens’ from outside inside to have a bit of ‘live nature’ into the home. So mistletoe, pine and holly adorned homes during the winter months as these things were green and brought a bit of life into the dead of winter.
The last part of the lecture was done in front of the Campbell-Christie House with a visit from Sinterklaas himself. We had a short talk about who Sinterklaas was and his part in the holiday season. Then all the members of the tour enjoyed refreshments and got a goody bag when we left with holiday sweets. The lecture and songs were a nice way to enjoy the beginning of the holiday season.
My favorite song by Linda Russell “I saw Three Ships”
As I was finishing up the semester at the College, I was getting holiday preparations done at the house, having small gatherings of family and friends and trying to be COVID safe. I was also running in and out of the City finishing my blog on Kips Bay before the holidays started getting busier. I learned a lot of New York’s Colonial past from walking around this area of the City.
My blogs on the Walking the neighborhood of Kips Bay:
The next weekend I made my last trip of the season to Long Beach Island to visit Beach Haven and the tour the rest of the island one last time before winter set in. It had really closed down since Halloween. I expected it to be much busier with more people moving down there on a permanent basis. Driving up to the lighthouse, I saw more dark homes then lite ones.
I wanted to take one more tour of Long Beach Island to see how they celebrate Christmas at the shore. They do things very quietly in Beach Haven. I went to the Surflight Theater to see the only play I had seen since I attended Carnegie Hall last Christmas to see the play “We need a little Christmas” which I had seen advertised at the theater over the summer.
“We need a Little Christmas” at the Surflight Theater in Beach Haven, NJ
After the theater, it was surprisingly warm that afternoon hovering around 58 degrees so I walked to the beach one block away and walked on the Jersey shore for my only time that year and for the first time on Beach Haven beach since 1975. It has been a long journey since that time.
The Beach Haven beach was beautiful that afternoon
The town’s Christmas trees were across the street from the theater on the square just off the downtown. Even they had a subdued Christmas at the shore and the whole event welcoming in the season was done virtually.
Christmas in Beach Haven, NJ adapted like the rest of the world
My holiday dinner was spent at the Chicken or the Egg that evening and it was really good. The menu is so extensive and innovative. It was hard to make choices.
Cinnamon Bun Ice Cream sandwich at Chicken or the Egg
Their fried chicken sandwiches are really good and their Cinnamon Roll Ice Cream sandwich should not be missed.
The Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in Beach Haven
I was able to tour the whole island that afternoon before it got dark and even at twilight here and there were signs of Christmas in small trees lit in the shopping areas and decorated homes. It is an interesting place at the holidays with the waves crashing in the background.
My blog on “Exploring Downtown Beach Haven and Long Beach Island, NJ”:
The next week was finals week at the College and I had to give my final exam. The students also finished work on their case study, “Bud N’ Mud”, a simulated flower/coffee shop I had the students develop. It was interesting to see how a group of student entrepreneurs would create a store with their own ideas on how to grow the business. This project ended the Fall semester.
One of my favorite logo’s from the “Bud N’ Mud” project
With the Christmas trees selling out by December 11th, we held our annual Christmas party at the Christmas tree stand site for the Men’s Association. It was a cool not cold night and we all huddled around the fire taking alternate turns hitting the makeshift buffet table and enjoying good conversation. It was a great way to end the year successfully and there will lots of scholarships being given out at the end of the school year.
The last big event before Christmas came was the Sunday before Christmas with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department holding our Annual “Santa Around Town”. Because COVID was growing, the event was revamped from previous years and instead of stopping at sites all over town, we drove down each street in town slowly, having Santa wave and greet people who were on their lawns, driveways and porches. The residents of Hasbrouck Heights seemed touched by it and I could tell from the safety of the fire truck that the kids got a kick out of seeing Santa. People really needed the pick me up in holiday spirit at the time.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at “Santa Around Town” 2020
On the Tuesday before Christmas after I finished work with my other job I needed a break and wanted to go on a road trip to the Hudson River Valley again. I was nostalgic for Christmas’s past and decided to visit some of the towns Upstate.
I explored Downtown Woodstock first seeing their very unusual Christmas tree in the square. I have to say one thing about Woodstock, they do pick out the most interesting tree to sit in the square. It always looks more surreal than traditional. Their annual “Santa Parade” was cancelled this year as well and they did a drive by with Santa at the Woodstock Fire Department who runs the parade.
Downtown Kingston, NY was next on the list. Talk about a town in transition. In the almost three years since I have been visiting Kingston, I have never seen a downtown change so rapidly. The businesses there have gone from all this ‘hippie granola’ businesses to all these antique furniture stores and art galleries and some really expensive restaurants. One of the locals told me the new residents are “Brooklynizing” Kingston.
Still the downtown was nicely lit for the holidays and their Christmas Tree while small is nicely lit for the holidays on the edge of the downtown “Stockade” district. The Dutch Reformed Church on the other end of downtown was nicely lit with wreaths on the doors.
I crossed the river and drove to Red Hook, NY which I love. Their downtown looks like an old fashioned shopping district straight out of another Currier & Ives print. All the little stores were decorated with garland and white lights and the merchants decorated their windows to the hilt.
My last stop on my search for the perfect picturesque Hudson Valley River town was returning to Rhinebeck, NY for the day. Rhinebeck was quiet on this Tuesday evening as most of the restaurants were closed and the shops had closed for the evening. Still it was nice to walk around and admire the while lights on the trees and admire the display windows.
The Christmas lights and windows of Downtown Rhinebeck, NY
Even the way I celebrate Christmas changed this year. Instead of spending time with my family, I spent three days in Manhattan with my best friend, Maricel, at a hotel in Times Square. Neither of us had the time to travel and we both had to work in the City, her at her hotel and me working on my blogs so both of us needed the rest.
AC Hotel New York Times Square at 260 West 40th Street
We stayed at the AC Hotel New York Times Square at 260 West 40th Street. What the room lacked in size, it made up in the view and in the location. We were one block from Port Authority, two blocks from Times Square and within walking distance from all the Christmas attractions from Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas windows and the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
While Maricel worked on Christmas Eve, I walked around the City. I saw the tree at Rockefeller Center which was loaded with people not keeping socially distanced. I admired the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue which had a New York City theme with Christmas scenes from around the City “This is how we Celebrate”.
Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas Themed window “Over the East River and Through the Neighborhoods to Grandfather’s House We Go”
Rockefeller Center’s Christmas Tree was even more special this year
I thought the windows at Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf-Goodman really lacked in creativity. Bloomingdale’s was having a bad year and Bergdorf’s had just gotten sold again (forth time since I worked there in 2004) so I did not expect much. With Lord & Taylor declaring bankruptcy earlier in the year and closing the main store on Fifth Avenue and B. Altman’s long gone and Macy’s going mechanical for the last few years, the excitement of seeing the windows has been less than enthusiastic.
Still it was nice to walk around Midtown after leaving the Rockefeller Center area and just walking around Third, Park and Madison Avenues. By 7:00pm, everything had shut down for the night and the streets were really quiet. What was eerie was when walking down Park Avenue and looking up and seeing so many dark buildings. The area looked abandoned with so many apartment lights out. I wondered where everyone went?
When Maricel got off work, I brought in dinner 9th Avenue Deli at 769 Ninth Avenue. I brought in a juicy cheeseburger and chicken fingers which we shared and then dug into. The perfect comfort food on a cool night. Christmas Eve was a mild 59 degrees and it was nice to walk around.
9th Avenue Deli at 769 9th Avenue
We just hung out the whole night and watched movies in the hotel room. I went to bed early and sunk into the wonderful Marriott hotel bed. Marriott had the best hotel beds and every time I stay at one of their hotels, I slept like a log.
Christmas Day we just relaxed in the room and I called many members of my family to wish them a Merry Christmas. While Maricel went to work, I decided to start touring neighborhoods like Kips Bay, Rose Hill and NoMAD in preparation in my walks there. It started out being a cold, cloudy day and there was barely anyone on the street. I saw a few people walking their dogs and that was about it until about 3:00pm. It them cleared up and was a mild 55 degrees until it got dark and then cooled down.
What really shocked me about Times Square was how dirty it was on the streets. They had not picked up the garbage on Christmas Eve day and did not pick it up until after Christmas Day so between the theaters being boarded up and the ply boards filled with graffiti, hotels closed and restaurants shut, the whole Theater district looked like NYC circa 1975. It was creepy how the pandemic was affecting the business of this neighborhood.
Neighborhoods like Kips Bay, Murray Hill, Rose Hill, NoMAD and the Flatiron District were really quiet that morning and early afternoon. All the restaurants and stores were dark, three hotels had closed in the district and I saw just a few people milling around. Things changed as I got closer to Macy’s Herald Square.
When walking around Koreatown, which runs between Sixth and Fifth Avenues between 35th to 32nd Streets, the side streets were teeming with Korean couples and groups of family members dining in the outdoor restaurants and cafes. This neighborhood was really jumping and full of life.
As the day wore on by 5:00pm, the rest of the City came back to life and more restaurants and stores opened up. Christmas morning and afternoon were now over and I could tell that people wanted to get out of the house (probably to get away from the family celebrations). When Maricel returned, I ordered in dinner from Golden City Chinese Restaurant at 423 Ninth Avenue, one of the few neighborhood restaurants open and we our dinner in the room. The food was okay. It was nice to just eat in the room and relax.
Christmas dinner was Lemon Chicken and Fried Rice from Golden City Chinese Restaurant
We checked out at noon on the 26th and she left for work that afternoon, I headed into Brooklyn to visit the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Museum. Both were really quiet that day. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden was mostly dormant for the winter and most of the garden was closed off because of COVID. The “Studio 54” exhibition had long closed at the Brooklyn Museum so I just wondered the halls and looked at some of the changes in the permanent exhibitions that they had. I left the City for home early that evening.
The last week of the holiday, I entertained family at a Lasagna and Champagne dinner I had a the house. Since I was not able to spend time at home during the holidays, my aunts came over to my house and we had a three course meal with champagne and wine. We spent the whole night laughing and enjoying the evening.
New Year’s Eve was a quiet evening at home alone talking with other friends who were staying home alone as well. Times Square was empty that evening with the exception of the 350 first responders who were invited to the ball drop. When I watched it on TV it was eerie to see it so quiet. There was no one for blocks except police guarding Times Square.
I headed back up to the Hudson River Valley again on New Year’s Day to go on two walking tours in Staatsburgh, NY at the Mills Mansion. It was the Annual “First of the Year” walking tours and it was a cool, crisp morning for a walking tour of the property. There were two tours that morning, one was on “Winter Activities in Victorian Times” with us learning about all the winter activities that the residents here enjoyed like skating , sledding, ice boating and horse drawn sleigh rides.
Staatsburgh, the Mills Mansion in the winter
The other tour later that afternoon was on “Ice Harvesting in the Hudson River Valley” , where we learned about how the ice harvesting of the Hudson River was a big business before the advent of refrigeration. Large slabs of ice were cut from the river, floated down stream and then packed in straw awaiting sale over the metropolitan area for peoples ice boxes throughout the year. It just gave me anther excuse to visit the region I love so much.
My blog on the Mills Mansion on VisitingaMuseum.com:
Another local event that was COVID safe was a driving tour through the “Holiday Lightshow” at Demarest Farms in Hillsdale, NJ. This was the first time that the farm opened the apple and peach orchard across the street from the farm stand. I saw this display the last week it was open and even after the holidays, it was a special treat as we awaited the Epiphany.
Driving through the display only took about forty minutes but was a delight in the senses and sounds. I played the classical music station as I drove through and admired all the colorful lights on the now dormant trees while Santa’s and Snowmen winked and waved and toy soldiers lit the way through the dark field. Even the Demarest homestead was ablaze with lights.
Demarest Farms at 244 Werimus Drive in Hillsdale, NJ
My blog on “Visiting the Farms of Bergen County, NJ at Christmas”:
Don’t miss this holiday lights ride through the orchard in 2021
The holiday event I visited was the Bronx Zoo for their “Holiday Lights” event at the zoo. It was the last night of the event and I arranged for the tickets that afternoon. The zoo gave me a 30% discount to go that evening and I was on the subway ride up to the Bronx.
The Bronx Zoo Light Show
I was really impressed by the display. The entire park was decorated with white lights, with different sections of the park decorated with different themes such as jungle animals, aquatic mammals and all sorts of assorted elephants, seals, penguins, lions, tigers and bears (oh my haha). There were costumed characters to take pictures with and they even had the Bug Carousel open that evening. I got a kick out of riding this since I had not done this since I was a little kid.
The Bronx Zoo musical Christmas Tree in the old part of the zoo
In the older section of the park, they had zebras on stilts and a musical Christmas trees that had an interesting soundtrack of contemporary Christmas songs. Even though Christmas had been over now for almost two weeks, it me back into the Christmas spirit.
So there was the Christmas holidays in the era of COVID. Lots of outdoor activities in hot and cold weather. Many walking tours and more subdued events. Gone were the cocktail parties and big formal dinners and in their place were many more smaller outdoor events and communicating with nature.
Maybe we all needed to take a break from the more formal traditions and go back to the basics of family and friends. I think this was a reflective year and realizing what is important. It had not changed that much for me. I just adjusted to the times, wore a mask and got going. Staying safe and keeping others safe is what is all about.
Hours: Open Thursday-Sunday: 11:00am-5:00pm (the last tour is at 4:00pm)/Open Monday Holidays from April 19th to October 28th. The mansion then closes to prepare for the holiday season. Closed on Thanksgiving and Easter. There are special programs from January to April so please see the website.
Admission: $8.00 for adults/$6.00 for groups and Seniors/Children under 12 are free. Special events have separate fees and can run from $8.00 to $10.00 and above.
When you think of the words ‘rural’ and ‘farmland’ these are not terms you hear a lot in Bergen County, NJ, one of the heaviest populated counties to surround New York City. Yet the county has a rich history in farming and agriculture from the late 1600’s up into the 1970’s when development pressures got too strong and most of what was left of the farms of the area got plowed over for development.
Early in our county’s history, the Dutch and then the English supplied much of the fruits and vegetables for the New York City markets. Much did not change until the suburban expansion after WWII and many strawberry, celery and potato farms were plowed under for shopping malls and housing developments. Since that time and with the help of the Right to Farm Act, The Open Space Act and Farmland Preservation of the State of New Jersey, it is helping many small farmers in the state preserve their land for agriculture.
“From Revolution to Renewal” our Historical Bergen County project
This is why in Bergen County we revere our farms and our agricultural past. Last semester when I taught Marketing at Bergen Community College, I had my students create an extensive project describing and promoting our Colonial Heritage and our agricultural past. This included promoting many of our remaining farms.
Our small farms in Bergen County do more than just provide fruits and vegetables for our tables. They are open air classrooms to our agricultural past, places to buy fresh produce and baked goods to support local family farm stores and for interesting special events and outings for families. During the holiday season, some of these farms have haunted hayrides, turkey pardons and visits from Santa all while selling Christmas trees and wreaths.
This lead me to explore many of the small farms that make up the fabric of Bergen County all while seeing how the owners are reinventing the way they do business with today’s consumer. How do we react with nature and the great outdoors? So I walked through farm stands and fields and across parking lots looking for our rural past in the year 2020.
I drove to Closter, NJ on my first stop to Old Schraalenburgh Farm and Farm Stand at 40 Old Hook Road and the Abram Demaree Homestead at 110 Schraalenburgh Road on the corner of Schraalenburgh Road. For years I had passed this farm and never gave it much thought until two summers ago I noticed the sign for the ‘farm burger’ and had to stop to see what it was all about. What a burger! (see my review on TripAdvisor).
Old Schraalenburgh Farm in the warmer months of Spring
I have since have had lunch here many times mostly when the weather is warmer. What I love about the Old Schraalenburgh Farm is that it is under the radar from most of the commercial farms in the county like Abma and Demarest farms which have all the family activities like hayrides and pumpkin and apple picking events. Old Schraalenburgh has a smaller restaurant and bakery and in the summer months tables outside to eat breakfast and lunch while admiring the fields of flowers and the barns and chicken coops.
What I love about their restaurant is the quality of the food here. The ‘Farm Burger’ which they tout so much is much worth the ride here. This juicy burger loaded with cheese and fresh vegetables and a mayo type sauce and is a mouthful in each bite. Bring your appetite because this burger is large! (see review on TripAdvisor).
The “Farm Burger” at the Old Schraalenburgh Farm Stand restaurant
Their chicken pot pie is another lunch item I would recommend. They make them fresh here and bake them with a golden crust and when you let it cool is a mouthful of creamy sauce, hunks of chicken and fresh vegetables. You won’t need dinner after this entree.
I recently stopped at the Farm Cafe for breakfast after an appointment and their well known Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich ($5.95). It was amazing. The eggs used on the sandwich were fresh from their chicken coops and picked up daily. Topped with crisp bacon and American cheese on a toasted brioche bun it was heaven.
It was nice to just take my sandwich and eat it on one of the picnic tables overlooking the fields that were in the process of beginning to grow this seasons crops. On a sunny morning, there is nothing like this.
The Bacon, Egg and Cheese here is excellent
For dessert though, even with the options of their fresh brownies and homemade ice cream, you have to try their freshly baked fruit pies and pie cookies. The chocolate and fruit filled pie cookies resemble small fruit filled deep dish pies and are a delight in every bite.
The blueberry pie cookies
The bakery also has something called “Burnt Cookies” (.50 cents) that are in jars near the register. I thought someone made a mistake and overcooked them. The woman at the counter said “Oh no. People like a crisper cookie.” I still say they were selling a mistake but they were really good! I had the sugar, chocolate chip and an oatmeal cookies and they were really crisp. To tell you how popular they are I dropped a piece at the chicken pen and the chickens and roosters got all excited and ran out of their pen to eat the piece that had fallen on the ground. That’s an endorsement.
During the summer months, it is fun to walk through the fields and admire all the beautiful rows of flowers growing and visiting the barn and chicken coops. During the holiday months, the store and restaurant were decorated for Christmas and were stocked with handmade gifts and artwork. The bakery section had a selection of meat and fruit pies for the holidays.
The bakery case at the farm
Walking across the street to the Abram Demaree Homestead and Farm across the street from the farm stand, the main house and barn were also decorated for the holidays. All the tables, counters and shelves were stock with all sorts of decorative objects, antiques, furniture and artwork. These treasures can decorate any home contemporary or historical.
The antiques and holiday decorations at the Abram Demaree Homestead
Off to the side of the main building, they were selling Christmas trees and holiday decorations for the home. The buildings with Christmas retro items and tree ornaments really put me into the holiday spirit. The homestead is fun to walk around in to see how our Colonial past played a part in the growth of Bergen County.
History of the Old Schraalenburgh Farm and the Abram Demaree Homestead:
In 1677, David Des Marest, a French Huguenot, purchased a large tract of land from the Tappan Native American tribe. This land passed from Dutch control to British rule and through the American Revolution, which produced an uncertain concept that became the United States.
In 1769, Abram Demaree, David Des Marest’s grandson, bought the house and ran it as a General Store and Tavern at the crossroads of one of the busiest intersections of colonial roads in Bergen County. His son, David, added to the house in 1809. The conjoined Demaree house along with a colonial Dutch-style barn, servants house and blacksmith shop form the original Abram Demaree Homestead (Farm History website).
The Abram Demaree Homestead in the Summer months
In the 1970’s, the house and property was falling apart and a group of citizens fought to get the homestead on the National Register of Historic Places. Since then, the home and farm have been part of a non-profit, The Demaree Homestead & Farm, with all the proceeds going to restoring and maintaining the home and farm. The farm and farm stand cafe are open to the public and the profits go to maintenance of the property. The Farm Stand Cafe features in season items grown right on the farm (Farm History website).
Across Old Hook Road from the Demaree Homestead is their working farm, The Old Schraalenburg Farm, which has been continuously farmed since the 18th Century. Every Spring, the farm plants corn, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, apples, blueberries and pumpkins, among other fruits, vegetables and flowers (Farm History website).
Leaving the Old Schraalenburgh Farm, I headed down Old Hook Road on my way back to Westwood and stopped at the Old Hook Farm Stand for a look at their Christmas trees. The Old Hook Farm Stand is at 650 Old Hook Road in Emerson.
The Old Hook Farm at 650 Old Hook Road in the summer months
What I like about the Old Hook Farm is the selection of grocery products in their General store. They have an assortment of organic meats, dairy products, vegetables and baked goods that include delicious looking freshly baked pies, breads and cider doughnuts.
Their shelves are stocked with all sorts of jellies, jams and condiments along with dry and snack goods that are accented by antiques and farm paraphernalia. This gives the store a feel of a turn of the last century General store that used to dot the towns of rural Bergen County.
The Old Hook Farm grocery section of the General store
In the Spring and Summer, the greenhouse stocks all sorts of decorative plants, flowers and garden supplies and I am sure is better stocked in the summer months for lawn care and landscaping. In the Spring, the tables are stocked with all sorts of seedlings for gardens, decorative plants for the home and gardening supplies and landscaping decorations including stones and layerings.
During the holiday season, there were all sorts of wreaths, cemetery blankets and Christmas trees to choose from. The perfect assortment to ‘deck the halls’ for the holidays.
Like everyone else in the County, when I got there, there was only a few trees to choose from. They had sold out early in a year when everyone wanted a fresh tree. Still the atmosphere with the atmosphere of fresh pine and snow gave the farm that old fashioned ‘1970’s feel’ when I used to visit the farms in Bridgewater, NJ growing up. Things seemed a lot slower then and you could just relax and enjoy the sites and smells of a farm.
The Christmas trees were pretty much sold out when I visited
From a distance behind the greenhouse, you could see under the snow that had just fallen, the fields where the crops are grown in the warmer months. The old farmhouse on the property was decorated for Christmas as well and looked like a home out of a Currier & Ives print.
History of the Old Hook Farm:
The town of Emerson did not exist during the Native American origin. The name ‘Old Hook’ on the east side of the town came from the Dutch word ‘Hoek’ meaning ‘angle’ or ‘corner’. The angle of the land was created by the three connecting water ways, the Hackensack River, the Pascack Brook and the Musquapsink Brook. The first person to make their home here was William Rutan, who settled on a parcel of land just west of today’s ‘Old Hook Farm’ sometime around 1748 (Emerson Town History).
The current ‘Old Hook Farm’ was bought by current owner, Bruce Marek’s grandfather in 1925 as a weekend getaway. He rented the farm and the farm house to a local resident for 35 years and the family had a large garden on the property until about 1948. Then his father took over the land and cleared the fields and had Soil Conservation come in and do contours and started to grow in the greenhouse. When his father died in 1973, he took over the farm and within eight years, reopened the garden store and started to experiment and grow organic crops (Bruce Marek’s interview with ‘Bergen Save the Watershed Action Network’).
I next ventured to Hillsdale, NJ, two towns away to visit one of the most beloved farms in Bergen County, Demarest Farms at 244 Werimus Road, right off the Garden State Parkway. I have been visiting the farm since the early 1970’s when I used to visit my family who lived just two blocks away. Back then it was just a small farm stand just outside the family homestead. In 1991, they build the big store across the street.
The Demarest Farm Store at 244 Werimus Road
The farm stand building is always a buzz with people coming and going. People buying sandwiches, soups, hot entree items and baked goods for lunch and dinner. There is a large selection of in season produce (which is a little pricer than most supermarkets) as well as jams and jellies. Where the market really shines is their bakery filled with cookies, brownies, freshly baked pies and their well-known cider doughnuts. They also have great potato pancakes that taste good hot or cold (in the era of COVID the food has been toned back a little from the past).
Demarest Farm store carries an array of fruits and vegetables at all times of the year
The stand also has a nice garden section during the Spring and Summer seasons with everything you need for lawn care and for landscaping your home or decorating inside. During the Fall, there is all sorts of decorative items for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.
During every season, Demarest Farms is always full of activities. During the Summer months (Pre-COVID), there was the big barbecues that the farm sponsored that got so popular that they had to have the police direct traffic into the complex. These ‘All You Can Eat” affairs were so much fun. It was like a throw back to the 1970’s when families used to dine out together in the Summer months. You could listen to a local band play while chomping on endless hot dogs, barbecue chicken, fresh corn on the cob, baked beans, salad and watermelon for dessert. There were also be chests of ice full of Coke, Sprite and Bottled waters (see reviews on TripAdvisor).
During the Fall months, there would be Hayrides through the orchards, Pumpkin and Apple Picking that are so popular you need a reservation and Haunted Halloween events that have people driving from all over Northern New Jersey to attend.
This Christmas, in the era of COVID, the farm really outdid itself ringing in the holiday season. The farm stand sold an array of Christmas trees, wreaths and cemetery blankets, all sorts of holiday treats in the store including cookies, pies and jams and jellies. There was also a nice selection of holiday decorations. By the last week before Christmas, most everything was sold out.
What I thought was fun and it was the first time the farm had done this was the “Holiday Light Show” through the Demarest Farm orchard which is across the street from the farm stand. This show was sold out every night for almost three weeks ending on January 3rd.
Demarest Farm Store decorated for Christmas
The tour started at the farm stand where you could buy S’ mores to roast at the fire pit next to the nursery ($6.50). I thought it was a little expensive for two graham crackers, two marshmellows and a small bar of chocolate but people scooped them up and were roasting away. There were also cut outs from the holidays to take pictures and there was a small light show of singing reindeer performing all the classic Christmas songs.
Then it was time to take the drive through the orchard. We started the tour at farm stand and then drove across the street to the family homestead which was ablaze with colorful lights on the house and the surrounding trees. I took a slow drive through the orchard carefully following the cars in front of me to keep pace.
The apple and pear trees were decorated with multi color lights, Santa’s and Snowmen winked and greeted you at every turn. The barns were decorated with white lights and there was a tunnel of flashing lights to greet you and exit from. All along the way I listened to the Classical music channel to enhance the mood of the trip. It may have only been a half an hour but it was mesmerizing trip through a fantasy land of lights that put me back into the Christmas spirit. Demarest farms seems to have that effect at the holidays.
The History of Demarest Farms:
The Demarest family has been present in the New York area since David DeMarest arrived to New Amsterdam in 1663. The current farm has been in the Demarest family from Bergen County since 1886. In the 1970’s, Peter Demarest and his wife, Marsha introduced the pick your own apples and pumpkin business and eventually added peaches to the mix.
In 1991, the family opened the current farm store on what had once been corn fields. The store today has evolved into a selection of fresh produce, prepared foods, baked goods, apple cider, jams and jellies and homemade crafts (Demarest Farm website).
In 2014, Peter Demarest decided to retire and the sold the farm stand and farm to longtime employees Jason DeGise and Jim Spollen. The farmland had been preserved under the Farmland Preservation Fund and by the Open Space Trust Fund. The 27 acres are to be preserved as farmland and can only be used for agriculture (NJ.com).
Demarest Farms put out this wonderful promotional video on the event
Leaving Demarest Farms, I headed north taking the turns on Route 17 and Route 208 and headed up to Wyckoff. My first stop was the Goffle Road Poultry Farm at 549 Goffle Road. The farm which once must have taken up much more area has been reduced down to a few acres with chicken coops and hatcheries and the farm store.
The parking lot was a mob scene of people trying to get in and out of the driveway and being directed by one man in a mask. When I finally was able to get out of my car and park, I asked him if they were giving money away. He just laughed and said, “I wish”. He quickly said to me it was busier at Thanksgiving and they had lines going down Goffle Road.
Goffle Road Poultry Farm at 549 Goffle Road
I just walked in the store to look around passing all the people in line who were waiting to pick up their pre-orders. The store is stocked with all things poultry with fresh eggs. whole roasters and butchered chicken parts. In the freezer there were crab cakes, chicken nuggets and chicken and turkey pot pies, all of which they are known for and sought out.
Here there are no hayrides or special events although they told me Santa had already visited the farm. Just high quality food and excellent service done by a staff that looked very over-whelmed at the holidays.
History of Goffle Road Poultry Farm:
The Goffle Road Poultry Farm has been a family owned and operated business for four generations. Joseph and Rose Silvestri came over from Italy in 1920 and started Belmont Poultry in Paterson, NJ in the 1930’s. In 1948, Joseph and Rose’s son, Dominic, started Goffle Road Poultry Farm of Wyckoff, NJ. To this day, the Goffle Road Poultry Farm is operated as a family owned business by the current owner and grandson, Joseph Silvestri and great grandson, Brian Silvestri. The family has found it hard to keep up with demand on such a small plot and is now partnering with Amish farmers in Pennsylvania who share the same standards of raising animals (Goffle Road Poultry Farm website).
My last stop on this journey was the largest farm of them all, Abma’s Farm at 700 Lawlins Road in Wyckoff, NJ. Abma’s is an impressive working farm with many greenhouses, large fields, a gift shop, nursery, and a farm store. They also have a large petting zoo to amuse children and adults alike.
The Abma Farm at 700 Lawlins Road in Wyckoff
I have to admit that I have only visited the farm in the cooler months and with COVID going on, the petting zoo was closed the day I was there and it looked like you needed a reservation to get in. The price is $3.00 unless you join their Barnyard Loyalty Program by accumulating 30 points from their farm store and nursery.
The greenhouses were pretty empty the afternoon I visited. What was left of wreaths and Christmas trees dotted the the nursery area. I am sure it was totally stocked with all sorts of items to decorate the house. There was still a nice assortment of wreaths to choose from and garland to decorate the banisters and hallways with for Christmas. The Christmas tree selection was down to about ten trees and they were very sad looking. Being right before Christmas, the selection was limited.
In the Summer months, the greenhouses were full of flowers and decorative plants and the fields are ablaze with colors. It will be about four months before we see that again but Spring is not that far away.
The farm store was buzzing with people and it was hard to find a parking spot after the snow storm we had just had. Some of the drifts made parking tough but there was someone in the lot who made it easy to park.
The farm store at Abma Farm is full of fresh vegetables and fruits, a whole selection of bakery products including cookies, brownies, freshly baked pies and cider doughnuts. The prepared food section has all sorts of salads and sandwiches available and there is a selection of soups. There are also crafts available for sale.
The Abma Farm Store stocked with delicious foods
Though some of the special events on the farm have been cancelled because of COVID, they did have a socially distanced “Story with Santa” program and “You Pick” events for strawberries, potatoes, pumpkins and tomatoes during the different seasons. Events like pony rides and Easter themed events have been put on hold for the time.
What I really enjoy about visiting Abma Farm is just walking around the farm itself. I was able to walk through some of the greenhouses and see the trees and decorative items, look at the vast field and can’t wait to return in the Spring when we can see the fields of growing produce and greenhouses full of flowers and plants.
The History of Abma Farm:
First generation of the family, Barney Abma, was born on April 25th, 1901. He came to America for the first time in 1917 when he was 17 years old searching for a new beginning. After spending a few years out west, then a short stay in Pennsylvania, he went back to Holland to marry. Barney and his new wife, Anna, settled in Wyckoff at the present location of Abma’s Farm in the late 1920’s (Abma Farm History website).
The couple began working for the ‘Yeoman Farm’ and rented out part of the original farmhouse from owner, Daniel Yeoman. The farm was next passed on to Mr. and Mrs. George Fox (nee Yeoman). Barney Abma bought the farm from the couple in 1932 for $6,000. Part of the 50 acre farm was sold off and it is now the current 32 acre farm that it is today (Abma Farm History website).
The farm is now under the ownership of the forth and fifth generations of the Abma family under Barney and Anna’s son, James and his family.
I love this video on the family and about the farm.
There are also a few smaller farms in the County I was not able to visit before they closed for the season. Also most farm stands have closed for the Winter so there will be a lot to visit in the warmer months.
Still the holidays at the farms in Bergen County, NJ have a special place in our lives and have become part of the traditions of many families.
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and look forward to updates in the Spring!
Spring and Summer of 2021:
As the weather has gotten warmer, I have been revisiting the farms that were closed right after the holidays . As the warmer months have come upon us, April has ushered in warmer weather and the bounty of Spring has arrived. The greenhouses are starting to fill with plants and shrubs and the farm stands.
I made my first trip to Stokes Farm at 23 DeWolf Road in Old Tappan, NJ. The farm stand has just opened since it has closed up shop right after Christmas. The shelves of the farm were starting to fill with fresh produce from the warmer states and there were all sorts of colorful fruits and vegetables.
The farm stand also has a bakery that has pies, cookies and cider doughnuts. The problem is that because of COVID all the items were prepackaged in large packages and you could not buy individual pieces. The woman at the counter said things will go back to normal business once all of this passes.
The Stokes Farm Stand in Old Tappan, NJ
Still the refrigerator cases are lined with fresh eggs, Amish butter, honey and cheese from the Amish Country in Pennsylvania and the shelves are full of jellies, jams, salsas and pickles that are made for the farm. The farmstand is just opening and there will be more to come as we move into the warmer months.
I made my way out to the greenhouse in the back where plants are being grown for planting and for decorating the house. Most of the plants are still so small but as May and June arrive, these greenhouses will burst of all sorts of plants.
Though the part of the farm that you can visit is small, you can see that the farm is lined with greenhouses going back many acres and next to the stand is a farmhouse that was built in 1890. It is nice to just walk around and enjoy the fresh air at the farm.
The History of Stokes Farm:
In 1873, Isaiah Stokes headed out on a ship to America from his home in England. When he arrived, he purchased 40 acres of land in Old Tappan, NJ where he started a farm. He thought this would be a good location for selling produce, as Old Tappan is very close to New York City, as well as many established towns along the Hudson River.
His products included chickens, eggs, milk, hay, asparagus, beets and other assorted vegetables. As time went on, his son, Joseph Stokes took over the farming. The Stokes family continued sowing and growing into the early 1900’s. Joseph Stokes and his wife, Anna, worked very hard and soon developed a produce route through Piermont, Nyack and points further north along the river. They were one of the first farms to have a truck in the area when farms were still powered by men and horses.
Joseph Stokes had one child, Madeline, who married Ernie Binaghi in 1927. Madeline ran the farm and Ernie was a carpenter. The farm carried on through WWII. Madeline and Ernie had one child, Ronald, who after dropping out of NYU Music School in the early 1950’s , came home to help out with the chores. Ron married Jean and she moved into the farmhouse to become a farmer too.
In 1955, they opened a roadside farm stand, which was a four post open air shed. The stand did well, selling from the five acres of strawberries, five acres of tomatoes, in addition to peppers, eggplant and asparagus. As the years went on, Ron and Jean started selling produce at the Paterson Farmers Market. It was here that a farmer could sell his produce directly to the consumer or to wholesalers. The farm stand was rebuilt in 1966.
In the early 1970’s, the energy crunch started and the farm stand began to flounder. It was then that Bob Lewis came to visit Ron and Jean with a proposal. He asked them to participate in the first NYC Greenmarket at 59th and Second Avenue. So in 1976, Ron and his sixteen year old son, Ron Jr. ventured into the big city. Their lives changed that day. After the people bought everything on the truck, Ron Sr. was heard to say, “Is there a famine in this City?” Ron Jr., then sixteen started selling produce at the now famous Union Square market on 17th Street and it seemed that this type of market suited the farm quite well. Greenhouses were built in the 1980’s and the bedding plant business started to thrive.
High tech growing coupled with practical family values, helped the farm to grow steadily into the 1990’s. Ron Jr. and his wife, Jeanine, took over the day to day operations of the farm and the Greenmarket stands, while Ron Sr. and Jean continued to run the farm stand.
In 2000, Ron Jr. was named “Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year” for the State of New Jersey. This award is given to a farmer who has made his farm better over the years and also is active in his community. Ron went to Indiana to the national competition, where he placed fifth in the nation.
Ron Binaghi Jr. at Stokes Farm in Old Tappan, NJ
Today the farm is seventeen acres with 40,000 square feet of greenhouses. It is the goal of the farm to grow the best possible product to keep the customers healthy and happy and to keep the land as a farm for future generations.
(Stokes Farm website)
Another farm that I missed during the holiday season was Depiero’s Farm at 156 Summit Avenue in Montvale, NJ. I have been coming to Depiero’s Farm for years at the old farmstand where the current Wegmans Supermarket and mall now stands. Here used to be the large farm stand building that had everything from produce and baked goods to arts and crafts items and gardening equipment. That was torn down in the early 2000’s. I thought that they had closed for business until I rediscovered it again.
Depiero’s Farm Stand at 156 Summit Avenue
When I visited recently, I asked the woman who was working the counter about the history of the farm. She said that she had worked for the Depiero family for years and told me that this was the original farm stand until the family built the larger one down the road. When that was torn down to make way for the market strip mall, they moved the operations back to the original stand on the original farmland. I thought that was interesting.
The original farmstand building is currently being renovated and expanded. The tables around the store are ladened currently with fresh produce from the Hunts Market (until the summer when local produce will be offered), there is a small bakery area with fresh pies ($18.00-$20.00), fresh pickles and peanut butter from the Amish Country. The shelves are lined with honey and fresh jellies that are made for the farm.
Outside the farmstand, there is a large greenhouse with rows of tables lined with all sorts of flowering plants and small vegetable plants growing. The larger greenhouse is surrounded by smaller greenhouses growing more plants. It is a large operation.
What amazes me is how the farm has survived with all the suburban sprawl surrounding it. On land that was once the farm, all sorts of new condos are going up, the second farmstand is now a mall and office buildings surround the whole small patch of farm.
The History of DePiero’s Farm:
The DePiero Farm has been an owned and operated farm since 1924. The original farm was about 250 acres that stretched from Montvale, NY to New Paltz, NY. In 1987, the opened the original farm store that was popular for years. That facility closed in 2015 and has since been replaced with a new shopping complex anchored by a Wegmans.
The family has since reopened the original farmstand which is farmed on limited basis where they sell farm products, baked goods and Christmas items like wreaths and Christmas trees.
(NJ.com-Myles Mia 2015-“Longtime Montvale Farm closes its doors”)
My last farm that I did not have a chance to visit during the Christmas holidays but had opened on April 1st was Secor Farms at 85 Airmont Avenue in Mahwah, NJ. I would consider Secor Farms more like a giant nursery. Both on the outside and inside the greenhouses, you can walk around rows of flowers, decorative plants and seedlings for the vegetable gardens. The greenhouses are fun to walk in as you can see plantings at different stages of growth. It will be interesting to come back towards the summer to see how many of these plants progress to full form.
Secor Farms greenhouse is laden with flowers and plants
There is also a small shop to make your purchases. Here they sell gardening supplies, decorative objects for the home, hand creams and soaps, honey and candies and their homemade cider doughnuts that are unfortunately only packaged in bags of six ($5.95). Still they smell so good and the girl working the counter said that they are made fresh daily. I could see by the signs when the fresh produce starts to come in during the summer and fall that they sell this in the gift shop as well.
Outside the gift shop, the parking lot is laden with bags of mulch and soil for garden beds awaiting their Spring cleaning. The lot is well stocked as we are just starting the gardening season.
Secor Farms in Mahwah, NJ
All of these farms in Bergen County, NJ have their own attributes so try to visit them all when you are visiting the area.
The History of Secor Farms:
Begun by Darryl Secor’s great grandfather when he moved to the area from Paterson nearly 80 years ago, the farm originally consisted of 50 acres in Upper Saddle River. In 1973, the family expanded into Mahwah.
Secor Farms not only has been a famous landmark passed down through three generations: The Secors themselves have been extremely active in supporting the town (Mahwah-Ramsey Daily Voice 2017).
Fall at Secor Farms in Mahwah, NJ
Farms to Visit:
Old Schraalenburgh Farm Stand and Abram Demaree Homestead
177 Schraalenburgh Road
Closter, NJ 07624
Open: Farm Stand Cafe: Wednesday-Friday 11:00am-5:00pm/Saturday and Sunday 11:00am-7:00pm