I visited the Fort Lee Museum at the Judge Moor House today to see the exhibition on Palisades Park Amusement Park and to see the history of the early film industry. Silent films started in Fort Lee long before they moved Los Angeles.
It was interesting to see how many silent screen stars started in Fort Lee including Mae Marsh, Lillian and Dorothy Gish and Mabel Normad and wherethe movies were shot. The museum shows how the industry grew and the studios that were created in town.
Exhibitions at the museum
The Palisade Park exhibition was on the progression of the growth of the amusement industry in North Jersey and exhibited many artifacts from the old park. There…
I love this classic little Jersey food stand! Talk about character!
The one thing about Hudock’s Custard Stand is that it is a piece of New Jersey nostalgia to a time when things were just a little slower and when you visit, they still are. When people come here to dine, there is not a cellphone in site and people sit in the chairs or at the picnic tables and just talk to one another. Or admire the beautiful views of the surrounding farms. On a warm sunny day, there is nothing like a cup of ice cream or a footlong hot dog to make you forget your troubles.
Where you order food at Hudock’s
Hudock’s keeps things simple and friendly when you…
I really enjoy my trips to the Hudson River Valley to attend weekend events. When I read about the series of County Fairs that will be held during August upstate, I wanted to start visiting them. I have been to the Dutchess County Fair for many years, but I never ventured outside that fair. I have never really explored Ulster County, so I decided to head upstate and visit the Uster County Fair for the afternoon. It was an eye opener.
I found that the Ulster County Fair was about half the size of the Dutchess County Fair across the river. The fairgrounds are smaller than Dutchess County’s so you could tour the fair much quicker. There were lots to do at the fairgrounds and I explored the whole fair over the next three hours.
I first visited the Volunteer Fire Museum and the Police Museum that are only open when the fair is open. The Police Museum was stocked with equipment that law enforcement has used over the last hundred years that includes batons, handcuffs and how a police station works. They even had a small jail display. The Volunteer Fire Museum was stocked with equipment that volunteer fire departments had donated, pictures and patches of local departments and like The Police Museum staffed by volunteers from the departments who could describe the objects in the museum and what their position was in their departments.
It was a nice to talk to other volunteer fire fighters who face the issues we all face, changing ranks in the volunteers with a generation gap and trying to recruit new fire fighters. All of us still have the pride of being a fire fighter but the role seems to be changing. The museum reflected that with new ways of firefighting are being practiced but keeping the traditions alive. Both museums should be a bit more updated.
After I left the museums, I toured the 4H displays. There were barn pens filled with cows, horses, rabbits, pigs and chickens. The 4H members were taking care of their animals, washing them and feeding them and the animals seemed to know that they were on display. Some of them looked like they were showing off by the way they moved around in their pens. The kids showed their pride by the way they cared for them. The way they cleaned and brushed them and cared for their pens.
What I liked about the 4H stand was their food station. They had the most reasonable food at the fair. Their hot dogs were $2.00, their sodas were $1.00, and their milkshakes were $5.00 as opposed to the higher prices of the food vendors. I had a vanilla shake that the kids made, and I will tell you that there is nothing better than a fresh vanilla shake made with fresh milk and fresh ice cream made from their cows. I really enjoyed it.
I looked around at the food vendors and I could not believe the prices. Everything was so expensive. The hamburgers pulled pork sandwiches and cheesesteaks were between $12.00 to $15.00 and I thought that was too high. The zeppole and fried dough not only were $8.00 for six small zeppole but all the fried foods were sitting under heat lamps. If there were seventy or eighty people at the fair that afternoon, it was a lot. There was no reason for them to cook so much food in advance. I stopped at one pizza stand and had a slice of pizza for $6.00 and a Coke for $3.00 and it was a lot for a slice of pizza with no flavor.
I walked around all the booths that were selling local wares and there were people selling arts and crafts and food items. There were some interesting food stuffs like local honey, jellies, syrups and baked items but again they priced them so high that it was cheaper to buy them in a grocery store. Maple syrup should not be $14.00 for a small jar. I think these vendors priced out the customers that were coming to the fair.
I walked around the amusement area of the fair and that got busier by the end of the afternoon as families started to arrive during the early evening. As I walked around the rides, more and more kids were on the rides. Most of the rides were geared towards small children and I could see the teenagers watching their younger siblings enjoying themselves. They would go off with their friends as soon as the parents returned.
The Ulster County Fair Amusement area
After I had visited all the attractions, amusement areas and walked around the fair about four times, I ventured out of the fair to get dinner. The options were just too expensive, and the selection was not very good. I decided to head into downtown New Platz for dinner.
As I was leaving at 6:00pm, the crowds really started to come in as the entertainment was going to start at 8:00pm. Singer Allie Colleen was headlining that night and it looked like she was going to have a big crowd. What I did not realize until later is that she is Garth Brook’s daughter and a noted Country music singer.
Trying to leave the fair was an experience as the traffic started to increase and you had to leave the way you came in. I could not believe that the entrance was the exit as well.
The funny part of the Ulster County Fair Grounds is that it is in the middle of farmland as opposed to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds that are on the edge of Rhinebeck. Two different fairs with two different vibes. I really felt that I was among the locals at this fair whereas the Dutchess County Fair gets people from the City and from New Jersey as well. I really did feel like a visitor.
I parked up in Downtown New Platz and have to admit that it has not changed much since my first visit during Christmas of 2014. Parts of the downtown have attracted more expensive restaurants and there are some newer stores but the downtown still has that college vibe to it with a ‘New Age’ feel. It’s like a bigger version of Woodstock.
I walked all around the downtown area to see all the new places to eat and shop. I got into the downtown just before things started to close. Like many other towns, New Paltz has taken a hit in their businesses when the SUNY Campus closed but it looks like new businesses are starting to open in their place. What surprised me was the prices for meals. These restaurants were not catering to the artists or the college students but more to out-of-town visitors. I have this thing about $34.00 entrees in a college town.
I went to McGillicuddy’s restaurant at 84 Main Street for dinner that night. I had been there many times before when visiting New Paltz and I love the college vibe of the place. Plus, you can watch the games on the big screen TVs.
I ordered one of their Original Hamburgers with a side of Waffle fries and I have to tell you it was one of the best burgers that I had had in a long time. Their burgers are large and juicy and have a wonderful beefy taste (order it medium well to get a well-done burger) and it was accompanied by a large portion of waffle fries ($12.95). Everything was delicious and the service was great.
The burger and fries were delicious
What is nice about New Paltz is that it is on the opposite side of the river from all the places I normally visit like Rhinebeck and Red Hook and once out of town, you immediately get to the New York Thruway, and I was home in just over an hour.
It was a nice experience and fun visiting the fair. Now off to visit the Dutchess County Fair in two weeks!
My day at the Dutchess County Fair:
Day One Hundred and Nineteen-Visiting the Dutchess County Fair:
The one thing I refuse to do on Father’s Day is to spend the day at the cemetery. I know that is some people’s idea of honoring one’s family members but it is not mine. I went on Friday and paid my respects to my father (whom this blog is dedicated to) and spent time remembering some of the good times we had in past. I dropped some cut flowers from our gardens (some of which he planted) and said a small prayer. Then I left.
My idea of honoring my father and spending Father’s Day with him is to do something that we would have shared together. We were always running around somewhere and exploring something new and doing something fun. That is how I wanted to honor him. By being active and giving him a toast at Sunday dinner.
I had gotten a pamphlet on the historical sites of Salem, Cumberland and Cape May Counties last summer when I was visiting Cape May County and the Jersey Shore for the NJ Firemen’s Convention that is every September (See blogs on Trips to Cape May for the NJ Firemen’s Convention and for the Christmas Holidays-the other historical sites are noted there):
The Chalfonte Hotel at 301 Howard Street in Cape May, NJ
I thought what might be a nice trip is to explore the southern part of New Jersey and spend some time learning about the history of this part of the state. There were so many sites to visit and they spread from Pennsville, NJ in Salem County to Cape May in Cape May County. There would be too much to try to see in two days plus I wanted to take a trip to see Woodstown, NJ, a small town that had an interesting looking historical downtown when I visited it two or three years ago.
I had seen almost all the sites in Cape May County (The Cape May Firemen’s Museum, the Cape May Historical Society/Colonial House, the Cape May Lighthouse, the Cape May Zoo, Cold Spring Village, WWII Tower, Sunset Beach, The Emil Physick Estate and the Wildwood Aviation Museum) with the exception of a few smaller places and figured that I could see them during my time at this year’s NJ Firemen’s Convention after the meetings were over at 1:00pm.
So I planned the remainder of those for September. There were a few small historical societies with very limited hours that I just could not drive to with enough time. This covers a lot of area and the roads are mostly one or two lane highways in this part of the state.
Trying to find a hotel room for one night during the college graduation season was trying at best. Most of the chain hotels like Holiday Inn, Hampton Inn and Fairfield Inn by the Turnpike which I expected to choose from had gotten horrible reviews online as dated and dirty so those were out. There were no Airbnb rooms anywhere in south Jersey and the only two B & B’s in the immediate area were both booked for the weekend.
I was ready to give up until I Googled small hotels in South New Jersey and I found The Inn at Salem Country Club at 91 Country Club Road, a small inn that was just south of Downtown Salem, which was my starting point for the tour that weekend. I called the innkeeper, Yvonne that afternoon and was surprised that the room that I wanted, The Meadow Room, was open for Saturday night and was listed as $125.00 a night. I immediately booked the room and planned the trip.
The one catch was they were hosting a graduation party at the inn and could I check in on Friday morning. That was perfect for me as I wanted to start my trip visiting Woodstown, NJ and walk around the downtown. So, finishing all my projects at home, off I went at 7:00am in the morning for my trip to South Jersey.
I had decided to get off the New Jersey Turnpike earlier and head down the local Route 45 and take it down to Woodstown and drive through farm country. It was such a spectacular sunny and clear morning that I decided to make a few stops along the way with enough time to check in.
My first stop was at Rosie’s Farm Market Stand at 317 Swedesboro Road in Mullica Hill, NJ. This small farm stand has everything you need for the perfect picnic or to bring to someone’s home for a party. There are all sorts of fruits, vegetables and snacks and beverages to choose from. It has that classic “Jersey Market” look even though it is now surrounded by development.
After I walked around Rosie’s looking for something I could not find in our own farmstands in Bergen County (same items), I headed down the road, turned the corner and headed south down Route 45. I drove through the cute little town of Mullica Hill. I did not have time to stop and explore the town but noted to come back this way so that I could walk around the downtown.
Then I continued the drive down Route 45 on my way to Woodstown and then onto Salem. Route 45 is one of the most picturesque roads that I had been on with its rolling farms and lush landscapes. Things were just beginning to grow, and you could see the fields of corn and plants with an occasional winery popping up here and there. It shows that crops are changing in New Jersey farmland. With all the TV and movies, you see about New Jersey, this is the part of the state that they never show. You can forget sometimes how rural the state really an hour from my house.
I reached Downtown Woodstown, NJ by 9:00am and stopped to look around. I had driven through Woodstown when I went to visit mom after the Firemen’s Convention and thought it a unique and interesting little town with all the Victorian architecture. I walked around the downtown businesses and walked around the neighborhood admiring the care families have renovated these old homes.
I walked through some of the businesses that opened early like the flower shop and independent bookstore. The owners were super friendly, and they were explaining their businesses to me. I thought that was very nice of them. Most of the restaurants with the exception of the diner were closed. It was nice to see all the beautiful homes and cultural sites so close to the downtown.
On the edge of Downtown Woodstown, I saw the Pilesgrove-Woodstown Historical Society that sits on the very edge of the business district. It was closed when I visited in June and September when I visited the area both times but in September is opened up on the promised Saturday and I toured the house with Trudy, who was one of the board members of the historical society and she gave me a personal almost two hour tour of the home.
The Samuel Dickeson House
The Mission of the Pilesgrove-Woodstown Historical Society:
To preserve and advance interest in and awareness of the history and heritage of the Borough of Woodstown and Pilesgrove Township by properly procuring, preserving and maintaining the art, artifacts and documents that relate to the cultural, archaeological, civil, literary, genealogical and ecclesiastical history of the local community. We welcome researchers and provide them with any available material.
On the site is the 1840’s one room schoolhouse that was moved from Eldridge’s Hill in the 1970’s and is open for touring during museum hours. The organization hosts quarterly presentations and participates with the Candlelight Tour on the first Friday of December.
Touring the house is a wonderful experience and I got an excellent tour from a member of the Board of Directors who took me on a full tour of the house and grounds. She explained that the volunteers take a lot of pride in the home, the displays and the artifacts and antiques that make up the décor of the house. The tour starts in the Library which is to the right of the entrance. This is where people can research their families and the towns’ histories. The house was originally owned by the Dickerson family and had changed hands many times over the years.
This display has the portrait of John Fenwick and the family tree
The collection of books and manuscripts is held in the library of the home. Patrons can do their research on their family trees and on the local towns here.
The Living Room:
The Living Room:
The Living Room:
The Living Room:
In June when I visited, I planned on coming back later that weekend, so my next stop was downtown Salem. Again you go from a downtown area to farmland again and it is so scenic along the highway with the large fields and watching cows’ feed. Here and there you see new construction but for the most part the area has not changed much since my initial visit six years ago.
The funny part of Downtown Salem is that it just jumps out at you when you cross the bridge. It goes from farmland to the small city of Salem. When you drive it, you start to see all the beautiful historical homes and architecture that reflex the city’s past. Most of the homes are either Victorian or Federalist in design but as you drive past City Hall and the government buildings, you see how run down the city really is now.
The last time I had been here was about four years ago on my way to see my mother and it is still rundown. If Salem was located in Bergen County, you could not touch these homes or any of these buildings for under a million dollars. People all over town assured me that this was not true here.
Downtown Salem, NJ by the Salem County Historical Society is the nicest section of the Downtown
I could not believe that the town still looked this bad when I drove through it to get to the inn which was located by the Delaware Bay. When you drove through the south side of the downtown, the further you got away from the downtown core, the better the neighborhoods got until you hit farmland and marshes closer to the bay. Off a very obscure road I found the Inn at the Salem Country Club at 91 Salem Country Club Road.
The Inn at the Salem Country Club at 91 Salem Country Club Road
I have to say that I was impressed by the entire stay at the Inn from the check in to the check out. My host, Yvonne, could not have been more welcoming and friendly and made the early morning check in easy. I got the key, got my luggage into the room, let her know that I would return after the party planned that evening was over and went on my way for the afternoon. It would an afternoon of a lot of running around. The one piece of advice she gave me was NOT to eat in Downtown Salem. She recommended either Pennsville or Woodstown for dinner that evening. I would discover later that evening what she was talking about.
The view from the porch of the hotel at breakfast time
After settling everything in at the Inn, I headed back up to Downtown Salem to my first three sites that I wanted to visit on the historical listing, The Friends Burial Ground and the Oak Trees, The Salem County Historical Society and the Salem Fire Museum plus I wanted to walk around the downtown area to see any progress in gentrification (there was none).
What surprised me was the Internet was wrong about all the hours and days. All the sites were supposed to be open by 9:00am and they were all open that day. The Salem Fire Museum which I had looked forward to seeing was not open that day, the Burial Ground’s gate was locked but I was able to walk in on the side of the cemetery and the Salem Historical Society did not open until noon. At this point it was 10:30am.
The Salem Fire Museum never seems to be open
Since the cemetery I could access by the side of an old house, I was able to spend the first part of the morning walking amongst the historic tombstone and graves of the ‘first families” of Salem, NJ. As I walked amongst the headstones of each row, I began to recognize the names of the families with the names of homes in the area and streets I had just traveled down in Salem.
Friends Burial Ground at West Broadway in Downtown Salem
The family names of Reeves, Thompson, Abbotts, Wister, Bacon, Griscom, Waddington, Sickler, Lippencott, Goodwin, Bullock, Woodnutt and Bassett were arranged by family plots and neatly buried in rows. Many families were buried by generation so that you could the transition from father to son and mother to daughter. It was sad to see so many children who passed before their parents.
The Salem Oak Cemetery in the Fall
The old Oak Tree that once dominated this cemetery fell in 2019 and all that was left of it was a stump where it once stood. Smaller offshoots of the tree that are now about 200 years old still line parts of the cemetery and hold their own natural elegance in its place.
The Salem Oak before it fell
I finished walking through the cemetery and walking through this part of the downtown (Downtown Salem is so impressive but totally falling apart), I still had an hour before the other museums opened. Having not eaten since 6:00am that morning, I needed another breakfast.
The family tombstones at the Salem Oak Cemetery
I stopped in the Salem Oak Diner at 113 West Broadway is a small diner across the street from the cemetery. I thought it looked a little dumpy from the outside, but it is the traditional diner experience when you go inside with the loud waitresses and the big menu.
The menu was reasonable, and the waitress was really nice. I ordered the French Toast and Scrambled eggs which was delicious. The eggs were scrambled in clarified butter and had that rich flavor to them. They gave me three big slices of French Toast which was loaded with Cinnamon and caramelized perfectly and served with plenty of butter and syrup. God, it hit the spot and I devoured the whole thing. I think the waitress was impressed on how fast I ate it.
After breakfast was over, I worked off the second breakfast walking this part of downtown. It was really quiet in the downtown area, and I could see why. There were no stores or other restaurants either open or there. So many store fronts in this downtown are empty which is so sad because not only is it a county seat but such a beautiful downtown.
My next stop was the Salem Fire Museum at 166 East Broadway, but it was still closed. I found out later that the museum was only open once a month on the first Saturday of the month. I confirmed this when I went to the Salem County Historical Society down the road, and they called for me. I guess for the next time.
My next stop when it opened at noon was the Salem County Historical Society at 83 Market Street which I had visited a few years before. This is such a wonderful historical society and one of the best I have ever seen. Their displays are so well put together and such interesting exhibitions. When I had visited it the first time, I have about a half hour to run around. I had plenty of time to visit on this trip.
The Salem County Historical Society at 83 Market Street
The Society is housed in two connecting homes with an interesting core of the house that was originally built in the early 1700’s. The Society has two floors of displays and an extensive library that people use in search of town and family history (See reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com).
The dress Sarah Hancock Sinnickson wore to George Washington’s Inaugural Ball
What I found impressive about the Society is the extensive number of important artifacts that the museum houses. I took a highlights tour with one of the members and he really pointed out some interesting items to look at in the collection that was on display.
They have an impressive collection of Revolutionary War items including belt and shoe buckles and a ring with a lock of George Washington’s hair. They were several artifacts from the locally prominent Hancock family including the dress that Sarah Hancock Sinnickson wore to the ball of George Washington’s inauguration.
There was an exhibition of local ice cream companies including an early Bassett family display of the family that still runs their ice cream company out of Philadelphia.
Salem Historical Society Ice Cream display
There was an early cylinder phonograph of Edison’s that still had all the cylinders.
Edison Cylinder Phonograph was an interesting addition to the museum
Upstairs there was an interesting clock display where I learned the meaning of why the Roman numerals were created for the clocks the way they were (they wanted the four to be IIII instead of IV because it looked symmetrical).
“The Keeping Room” at the Salem County Historical Society
Downstairs I toured “The Keeping Room” which was the original section of the house from the early 1700’s. This is where all the cooking and work was done for the house as it was not just the heat source for the home but the light as well during the darkest months of winter. When I had been there at Christmas a few years earlier, this was decorated for the holidays with a tree and garland.
I am just impressed with the work that the Society did during the lockdown to make this such an interesting museum. They really put a lot of effort into the displays and explanations of the artifacts.
The Revolutionary War artifact room
For Halloween 2022, I returned to Salem for the Salem Historical Society’s Annual “Haunted Halloween Walk”. The ‘Annual Salem Walking Ghost Tour’ which tours the historic homes of the Salem Historic District and the church cemeteries of the downtown.
At each stop, we got to hear tales of the haunted houses of the district and the owners in the afterlife still are involved in their current owners lives.
We started the night with a concert at St. John’s Episcopal Church with organist Erik Meyer, who played music that we relate to Halloween.
St. John’s Episcopal Church on Market Street the day of the concert.
The concert highlights:
Traditional spooky music associated with Halloween
The “Tunes from the Crypt” concert was right before the walking tour.
The concert featured five musical numbers that are classic to all horror films. The music being played is what you might hear in a popular horror film or something to do with Halloween. It seemed a little strange to be in a church but the organist told us that a lot of churches are using this for a fundraiser.
Erik Meyer who was the organist at the concert before the walk
He dressed like a vampire which I thought was strange for a church. These concerts have brought people back to these churches and even the priest said that he had not seen crowds like this on Sundays. The church was packed that evening.
The inside of the St. John’s Episcopal Church for the concert
The beautiful stained glass windows the night of the concert
After the concert, we walked down the antique store where the tour started. We stopped at various parts of the historic district to tales of woes, travels and ghosts still haunting the homes they loved so much.
One of the decorated porches on the Haunted Walking Tour
The Historic District of Market Street
A resident of the house talking about his haunted home the night of the walking tour
No walking tour is complete with a trip to the cemetery
The cemetery during the day
The cemetery looks less creepy during the day
The walking tour really was interesting and residents talked about their experiences in their homes that they say are haunted. The tour was about an hour but is really worth the trip. It was interesting to see how Salem, NJ developed over the years. The tour takes place before Halloween every year and tickets do sell out fast. This was one of the highlights of the Halloween season.
In the summer of 2022, after I visited the three sites in town, I went down Route 49 to my next stop driving through the outskirts of Salem, the city. I could not believe how run down the homes were in the neighborhoods. Such beautiful Victorian and Federalist homes just rotting away. The whole city looks so sad.
Just when you think you have seen everything, you cross this one road, and you are out in the farming community again. Then its rows and rows of fields and farmhouses. Talk about extremes.
Just after the turnoff to the Hancock House Museum that I was going to visit next, I stopped at the historical site of the old Quinton’s Bridge. The bridge had held an important place in transportation of goods for the area and into Philadelphia. The patriots had to hold this bridge to cut off supplies to the British. As small as the creek is today, you did not have the modern transportation of today back in the late 1700’s so controlling this bridge was important. We lost many people, but we held the bridge (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com).
Today it is just a modern bridge in an isolated place in the middle of nowhere. There is a small town just south of the bridge, but you have to use your imagination back to a time when this was the only road in the area and the major hub of transportation in a vibrant farming community.
Video on the Battle of Quinton’s Bridge
I doubled back down a few country roads and visited the Hancock House at 3 Front Street in the small community of Hancocks Bridge. The town consists of a few roads of small turn of the century homes and surprisingly no businesses in what was once downtown.
The Hancock House used to sit on the busiest road in the area as it made its way through towns like Greenwich and Bridgeton. I assume before Route 49 was built; this was the only way to travel through this area as part of the home was a tavern for travelers.
The tavern part of the house faces the road and the home itself is across the street from the old Hancock Bridge. This once vibrant home and farm was an important part of the Revolutionary War history as the family played a big role in business and politics in the area.
The house itself needs a lot of work. The State of New Jersey runs the park and it needs a good painting and plastering. It also needs someone to come in and work with the decor and displays. There are some rooms that have period pieces and the furniture matches what would have been in the house but some of the rooms are barely furnished.
There are no family heirlooms in the house and the tour could have been a little more interesting as the state tour guide could not answer my questions. When another couple came in to take the tour, I took a guidebook and walked the grounds myself. I learned more about the family this way.
The Hancock House at 3 Front Street in Hancocks Bridge, NJ
I walked the grounds of the house and could see why this road was so important. Like any other area of the state, when a new highway is built, the old one and what was located on it become part of the past.
Halloween events at the Hancock House in October 2022
Outside the tourists and the people that live in the town, I am sure that no one ventures here. There was not even a restaurant in the area to eat at in town.
The Halloween Pumpkin Patch at the Hancock House at Halloween
After visiting the Hancock House, I took the small country backroads that were once a major part of transportation in the area down to Greenwich, NJ, a small town south to visit their treasure trove of historical sites and homes. There were a lot of twists and turns down these quiet roads before you get to Greenwich, a town of an interesting mix of historical homes.
I took my chances to see if the Nicholas Gibbon House would be open and I lucked out in that it had just reopened for tours that month (See reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). There was just myself and the tour guide, so I got a personalized tour of this statuesque home. Not only did Nicolas Gibbon and his wife live here but after them members of the Wood family moved in and were the family that founded the WaWa chain of stores.
Nicholas Gibbon moved to the area in 1730 when he inherited some 300 acres of land in the area and built his house here. According to the tour guide, he stayed until 1760 when he was trying to get a church built here and the local Quakers discouraged it. He and his wife moved from the area and the Wood family moved in and stayed in the house until the 1920’s.
Each room in the home is beautifully decorated with period pieces including portraits of Nicolas Gibbon’s nephew and his wife and silver from the Hershey family. The downstairs kitchen with the hearth and cooking materials was very interesting. Upstairs there is a “Everything Room” with clothing, hats, shoes, Civil War weapons and quilts. I took my time to tour the house and then the grounds before the home closed for the day. I was next off to the Greenwich Tea Burning Monument down the road.
Greenwich Tea Burning Monument at Ye Greate Street and Market Lane
The Greenwich Tea Burning Monument was fascinating in that I never knew this existed or even happened. About a year after the Boston Tea Party, a small handful of citizens, including a future Governor of New Jersey from Greenwich burned a shipment of tea that was being stored in the town. I had come to find out that there were five instances of this radicalism on the East Coast.
The dignified sculpture was dedicated in 1908 in honor of this heroic act before the start of the Revolutionary War. I took my time to study what happened and never realized what New Jersey’s role was in trade before the war. I opened the small gate and paid my respects to these brave men who risked a lot to protest the “Tea Tax”.
Just down the road from the monument is the Museum of Prehistory at 1461 Bridgeton Road, which I had a small amount of time to visit before it closed for the evening. This little museum was a real surprise because it was not even on my list of places to visit.
I just made it to the Museum of Prehistorical History after visiting the Nicolas Gibbon House. This small but unique museum is housed in one big room of the building and each section has a different artifact featured.
The was an extensive display of Lenape and Native American artifacts in one case line showing off the collection of arrowheads, spear tips and fishing and stone cooking equipment. There was a collection of fossils of fish, bone and plants and a selection of pottery. There were even fossils of dinosaur eggs.
The gentleman working there that day let me stay extra before closing and was a student studying paleontology, so he was able to give me an explanation on the specimens. From what he was telling me that the museum was looking for more space and may be moving in the future.
The Old Presbyterian Church and Cemetery at 54 West Avenue South in Bridgeton, NJ
Visiting the Old Presbyterian Church and Cemetery was an interesting experience. Trying to get from Greenwich to Bridgeton should have been a straight run but there were no names on the signs, and you just had to figure it out. I found the right road and it led me right to the cemetery.
The Presbyterian Church is only used now for special occasions and events but is an elegant building that sits on top of a bluff overlooking the downtown area. During the daylight hours you are allowed to roam around the cemetery looking at the gravesites (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). So many famous politicians, war heroes, founding fathers of the City of Bridgeton and entrepreneurs at the turn of the last century are buried here.
What I found interesting about the cemetery was the family plots with the generations of people buried next to one another and their stories. It was sad when the parents buried their children and then died a few years later. Trying to figure the narrative of these families can be heartbreaking.
The really sad part of such a historic cemetery is that it is so overgrown. I was walking through in some parts a foot of weeds. I know that taking care of a cemetery this size must be hard, but I would think there would be more care of the dead considering this is a destination for historians.
When I finished touring the church grounds, I took a tour of the Bridgeton Historical Downtown. It was such a waste to see a bunch of old buildings falling apart and most of the businesses closed or small run-down businesses located in them. A block away was a more modern downtown with newer buildings. The shopping district caters to the very large Hispanic population that lives here and is great if you are looking for provisions for a picnic.
After I left Bridgeton, it was almost 6:00pm and I headed back up Route 49 to head back to Salem. I was trying to figure out where to go for dinner and taking the advice of the Inn, I planned on heading back up Route 45 to Woodstown to find a place.
On the ride back up the highway, I passed Hudock’s Frozen Custard stand and saw all the people outside enjoying hot dogs and ice cream and I had to stop. It was so classic Jersey that I had to see what it was all about and trust me, it is worth the stop. Their food is delicious and extremely reasonable.
I just wanted a snack to tide me over as I was traveling around and had no lunch. So, I ordered a foot long hot dog and a Coke. Trust me, when they said foot long, they meant it. The hot dog was really big, split down the middle and grilled and they topped it with mustard and relish. It was out of this world and just what I needed after a long day.
At Hudock’s Custard Stand, a foot long hot dog is A FOOT LONG!
I took my hot dog and Coke and sat outside with all the families enjoying their meals and just sat and watched the field sway by and enjoyed the sunshine. Talk about a perfect early evening treat. The hot dog was perfectly grilled and crisp when I bit into it.
When I went back again in September, the weather was just as nice, and I stopped again for lunch on my way to Pennsville to visit Church Landing Farm. This time I had a hamburger and French Fries with a Coke ($8.55). That hit the spot after a long day of driving. The burger was cooked fresh for me, and the fries just came out of the fryer and still sizzled. I just sat at one of the picnic benches and relaxed under the shade of a tree.
Relaxing and eating your lunch under the trees on the picnic tables at Hudock’s is wonderful!
It was nice watching the few cars drive by and admiring the farm that surrounded the hot dog stand. The restaurant is the perfect outdoor restaurant to just relax and watch the world go by. It takes you back to a time when you just stopped, ate and enjoyed the view.
The views of the farm across the street
Later that afternoon, I stopped back at the Custard stand they have and had two scoops of their homemade Peach Ice Cream. For $3.85, I thought that was very fair. You got two very large scoops of ice cream in a paper cup made with homemade peaches that were still in season. Yum! Hurry quick because Hudock’s closes the first week of October for the season.
The ice cream stand part of Hudock’s is a real treat. Don’t miss their homemade ice creams!
It was nice to just relax and watch the other people having such a nice time talking and eating. For a moment I felt like it was 1975 again and I was a teenager. This is how nostalgic the place makes you feel. When you see a free showing of “Jaws” coming soon I felt like I was stepping back in time. It was nice to just sit for an hour and just relax.
I agreed with the Innkeeper when I got back into Salem a little after 7:00pm. It was still sunny and bright but the crowds outside both the only Chinese take-out place and pizzeria in downtown Salem looked pretty shady so off I went back up Route 45 to Woodstown and decided on Papa Luigi’s at 39 North Main Street for dinner.
I was surprised on how both the restaurant and the downtown were so quiet that night. I know it was Father’s Day weekend, but it was not like a major holiday, and I would have thought people would have been out and about.
Papa Luigi’s at 39 North Main Street in Woodstown, NJ
I was the only one eating at the restaurant that evening and the waitress could not have been nicer. It was the two of us and the delivery person and one other person outside the two cooks that evening. I ordered a Cheesesteak with Cheese Wiz and one of the best I have had outside of Philly. They really loaded in the meat for me, and the Wiz is the best way of topping it. I just sat there reviewing my notes of the day and planning the next morning starting with my first lighthouse visit.
Papa Luigi’s makes an excellent cheesesteak with Wiz
As I was driving back from Woodstown to Salem at 8:30pm, the sun started to go down and I wanted to see it before it totally set on the Delaware Bay. What was breathtaking was as I drove down Route 45, I could see the sun starting its descent over the fields of corn and wheat and the sunshine against the farmhouses. I made it back into Salem and then driving south to the bay area, I got the last glimpses of the sun as the party was cleaning up.
I stood on the lawn of the Inn watching the last of the sun peek under the horizon of the Delaware and the dazzling colors that it made. The sun fully set around 9:00pm (God, I love the Summer Solstice time) and watched as the stars started to come out. What a view! With all the craziness in the world and all the radical strife, this is what should get people to think about how Mother Nature can still surprise us with her magic.
The dazzling Delaware Bay view from the Inn’s lawn
I did not stay up too long after that driving so much during the day and slept soundly all night. I could not believe it the next morning when I had slept over eight hours which I never do. I was showered, shaved and up and adman by 9:00am and got packed and ready for breakfast. That was another wonderful part of the stay.
After I was packed up, I stopped downstairs for breakfast. Since there are no cooking facilities on the property and events are catered, they ordered in breakfast for me from the Diamond Grill at 534 Salem Quinton Road, a diner located down the highway from Salem. The order came in pretty quickly and I ate on the patio of the Inn overlooking the bay. Since there were only three rooms at the Inn and everyone else was gone, I had the patio to myself that morning.
I just had a simple breakfast of pancakes and fresh fruit with some orange juice (Yvonne lets you order what you wish off the menu provided in your room the night before) and had the table set up for me on the corner of the patio. The food was delicious, and the pancakes were large and had that nice, malted flavor.
While I ate, I got to watch the boats pass by and birds sway over the bay. I did not leave until the check-out time of 11:00am because it was so relaxing to enjoy breakfast and not have to rush anywhere.
My first stop the second morning was a trip down both Route 49 to Route 41 for my first stop, The East Point Lighthouse in Heislerville, NJ at the edge of Cumberland County. The lighthouse was located on the westernmost part of the natural preserve on the shoreline. Getting to it took a lot of twists and turns down the road but at the end of the road it offered the most amazing views of the ocean.
This little lighthouse is one of the best I have seen in a long time. There is so much care put into this historical site. When I parked at the end of the street, I noticed on all sides of the lighthouse were barriers protecting it on all sides from the advancing bay.
After you buy your tickets at the Gift Shop, you walk along the dunes that protect the lighthouse that are nicely landscaped with sea grass, tiger lily’s and black-eyed Susan’s. The gardens are really beautiful at the beginning of the summer. It is a short walk to the lighthouse from here.
The lighthouse itself is nicely furnished with period furniture and antiques and each room reflects what the family’s role was in the lighthouse function. There was a lighthouse keepers office, a complete kitchen with pot belly stove and a living room on the first floor
The second floor is the bedrooms where you can see where the family slept, and the children conducted themselves with their own social life. The rooms contained a lot of period furniture and clothing, and the children’s bedroom was loaded with all sorts of toys from different eras. There was even a handmade dollhouse with homemade furniture that decorated it and a picture of the man who made it.
In real life, no child would have this many toys in this era, but the tour guide explained to me that after they finished renovating the lighthouse, they put out the word for donations for furnishings for the lighthouse. They were over-whelmed with donations. People must have been downsizing their family heirlooms.
Each room in the lighthouse was nicely decorated and reflected the times. On the top floors were the functions of the lighthouse and an explanation of how the lighting worked. This is still a functioning lighthouse so educational to see how it worked and how it functioned today. The tour guides are really good at explaining how everything worked.
After the tour of the lighthouse and walking the grounds (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com), I left as the site was getting busier and headed up the highway to Mauricetown (pronounced “Morristown” like its northern counterpart) and headed up to visit the Mauricetown Historical Society.
The Mauricetown Historical Society like many of the spots on the historical listing is only open for a few hours twice a month so you have to plan your trip here accordingly. Make sure to take the hour-long tour as they cover not just the history of the house but how it was furnished, decorated and the story of the people who lived here. It really makes the house come to life.
What is interesting about the town and the neighborhood is that it was an old fishing, shipping and trade village and all the homes on this side of town that faced the Maurice River were the Ship Captain’s so the homes are bigger and more elaborate than the ones further in town. Still after driving through the town, it is a picturesque and quaint looking town with rows of historical homes and colorful landscaping.
The Mauricetown Historical Society at 1229 Front Street
The tour of the Mauricetown Historical Society was very informative on the life of a sea captain and his family and the history of Mauricetown and its business functions for the area. This town was a big shipping area during and after the Revolutionary War and its location made it perfect for restocking and ship building. Sea Captains made their fortunes here and their homes reflected that affluence. This was the home of Captain Edward Compton.
When you enter the Mauricetown Historical Society, you are greeted into the parlor area of the home and a display of military items including uniforms, weapons, and equipment used for battle. They even had one of the earliest artifacts with a pair of sharpshooter glasses that had just been developed.
The Military display at the Mauricetown Historical Society
The living room had been redecorated to reflex the time after the Revolutionary War and its changes at the start of the Victorian era. Early wallpaper had been found underneath the paneling that had been placed on top and new one had been recreated to match the original. Period furnishings and instruments decorated the room.
The upstairs had bedrooms that were decorated to reflex the Victorian era with heavy furniture and a collection of quilts. Their collection of quilts was really interesting in that they had one they displayed with the names of the sea captains and their family members. Genealogists used the quilt so that families could trace their ancestors back to that time. They also had another quilt of all things found in nature.
There was a display to Captain Bacon, a local resident and his wife, Carolyn and their life together in town. There was another display of pictures of the town through the years and how it developed. There was a display of period clothing from the Victorian era to the 1920’s. I could see that even though it was a bit more formal, times have not changed that much.
They displayed the Oyster and Fishing Industry, and they had all sorts of equipment on display including the rakes and even had the bridge key for the old Maurice River Bridge to show how they turned the bridge to let the boats through. The last display was a wonderful collection of children’s toys and dolls (all of these homes have big displays of toys) and you could tell by the quality how lucky some of these children were because these playthings were not cheap even then.
In the backyard was a cookhouse that was kept separate from the house that was built in the 1880’s. A modern kitchen was not added until the 1940’s. Also in the backyard is the Abraham and Anna Hoy House, a small house that was considered an example of the average person’s home in the early 1800’s. Over the years it has been added to but the Society brought it back to its original early 1800’s design. You can see where the cooking facility was located and the loft sleeping space above it for the children of the house who used it in the cold months of the year.
The tour gave a very detailed explanation of life at that period and the tour guide gave a wonderful description of the time and life in the house. After the tour, I took time to explore the grounds around the house and of the surrounding neighborhood to admire the other old homes. It is an interesting town to explore.
On the first day of my trip in September, I stopped at the Dennisville Township Historical Society Old School House at 681 Petersburg Road in the town of Woodbine, NJ. This small one room schoolhouse is packed with all sorts of artifacts.
The Dennisville Township Historical Society Old School House at 681 Petersburg Road
There are displays on businesses that used to be in the area such as the Mason Basket Company, who used to make all the baskets for apples and peaches for the local farms, the local shingle factory that prided itself on making the shingles for Congress Hall in Philadelphia and the local cranberry blogs.
There are pictures of the historic Methodist Camp that was located here, a display on local Veterans and their artifacts, pictures of home management on the farm and in rural New Jersey, an antique pipe organ and pictures of the local renovation of the Ludlam family cemetery. There is a little bit of this and a little bit of that displayed at the museum and well organized in this former one room schoolhouse. The docents were also really nice.
The Museum of Cape May County at 504 North Route 9
The Museum of Cape May County changed their hours the week before and now it is only open on Wednesday and Friday afternoon, so I had to plan to visit it another time when I was in the area. I was a little bummed because it had nice grounds that I took a moment to walk. That is when I went back to the Cape May Zoo (see above) which was a madhouse that afternoon on a beautiful sunny day.
On my way back up Route 41, I debated stopping in Millville but there was no time if I wanted to get back to Pennsville to see the Church Landing Farm. I had tried twice to stop in to see the Potters Taven in Bridgeton but then double checked the guide and found out that it is only open on Sundays in July from 1:00pm-4:00pm so I will not be visiting it this summer, so I continued from Downtown Bridgeton to Pennsville.
Potters Taven at 49-51 West Broad Street in Bridgeton, NJ
Between the traffic and the distance and not being able to find the cross street, I did not get to the Pennsville Township Historical Society until ten minutes to 4:00pm and no one would answer the door. I knocked on both with four cars outside hoping that I would catch someone to give me a tour of the home but to no avail. I was able to see inside at some of the antique furnishings but that was it.
I was able to walk the grounds of the farm and it was spectacular. You really have to see the views of Delaware Bay and the fantastic views. The grounds have all the separate buildings on it that were closed as well but at least I got to view everything. For the next trip.
The Pennsville Township Historical Society-Church Landing Farm at 86 Church Landing Road
When I visited in September, I made it a priority to visit the museum and arranged my Sunday schedule so that the Church Landing Farm was my last stop on the way home. After lunch at Hudock’s, I made my way up Route 49 to the museum. What was nice was I was the only visitor at the time, so it was just me and the two docents touring the house and grounds.
What an interesting tour of the house and of the displays in the sheds that are on the property. The farmhouse was built by the Garrison family between 1840-1845 and was the home of lawyer and gentleman farmer, Donald Garrison. The house was lived in by generations of Garrisons until 1973 when the last living member of the family, Anna Locuson died. At this point, the house was in disarray.
In 1991, with the help of Atlantic City Electric, the Pennsville Township Historical Society was formed and has maintained the house since. The artifacts in the house are all donations and are of the period that the family lived in the house over the years with the exception of family portraits on the first floor. The upper floors are displays of a children’s room and the room of an adult. They also have a nice research library on town and family history.
On the grounds there is a series of sheds with different themes and displays to see. As they unlock each shed, they show you the magic of their artifacts. There is one shed with a Floating Fishing Cabin, one with artifacts from the fire and police departments and the military, another of high school memorabilia, another is a wash house and my favorite, one of the Pennsville Beach Park, a former amusement park that was located in the current park until 1969. It has all sorts of signs, rides and former parts of rides and attractions. These sheds were the highlight of the trip. Everything is so well maintained and displayed on the property.
I also walked the grounds again and admired the view of the Delaware Bay and the Delaware Memorial Bridge. It must have been something before all these things were built and it just had a view of the bay.
I needed to stop for a quick snack, and I noticed that on this Father’s Day Sunday not much was opened around the area. I came across Four Seasons Doughnuts, an old-fashioned doughnut shop on Route 49 and stopped in. I got the most delicious sugar topped jelly doughnut ($1.50) and devoured it quickly. The doughnut selection that time of the day was not as big, but it was enough to tide me over until dinner. I was ready to see my last site of the day.
Four Seasons Doughnuts at 275 North Broadway in Pennsville, NJ
In September, I doubled back to Hudock’s to the custard stand for ice cream. It was only fifteen minutes away from the site. I ordered some homemade peach ice cream and just relaxed on the picnic tables again. It was such a beautiful day, and I did not want to leave that spot. Looking at the farms was just so nice (see prices and pictures above).
Hudock’s for ice cream is so nostalgic
I got to Fort Mott State Park by 5:00pm and it was still bright and sunny outside. I love these long summer days when it is light out until 9:00pm. By the time I got to the Finn’s Point Lighthouse, the Visitors Center was closed but it looked like it had not been open. The stairs were overgrown, the sign on the door was dated 2019 and the fence around the lighthouse had a lock that looked rusty. So, I only got to admire it from a distance. It really is an interesting lighthouse as it slender and further away from the water than the other lighthouses that I had seen before. I read that you cannot walk in if it is too cold outside or too hot. I traveled further into the park.
Finn’s Point Lighthouse at Fort Mott and Lighthouse Road
Fort Mott State Park was a real treat. I never knew this place even existed. I had never heard of the fort before today. Fort Mott State Park is interesting in that it was designed after the Civil War facing the State of Delaware across the bay and was designed to protect Delaware Bay. Most of the construction happened after 1897 and gun emplacements were located the below concrete and earthen embankment.
There is also a fire tower, guard house, former warehouses and battery’s protecting the fort. By the end of WWI, the fort was considered obsolete and by 1943 was decommissioned. The State of New Jersey bought the land in 1947 and by 1951 it was opened as a park.
I was able to tour through the gun embankments and climb the stairs to see where the guns were once based on. The views were amazing of the bay, and it was a clear shot if boats tried to come into the bay. I passed the fire tower that was closed for tours that day and I visited what was the Ordnance Warehouse which is now the gift shop and a small museum of artifacts from the old fort. This includes equipment, pictures and photos of when the fort was in service. This part of the park should not be missed as it is fascinating to see how the fort was run and its role during the war.
The best part of the park is to just stroll along the long grass lawn that leads to the views of the Delaware Bay. The views are spectacular and on a sunny day, it is just a please to look out at the bay and enjoy the views. There are also nice picnic grounds that were full of families enjoying the early evening of Father’s Day. I spent time here relaxing before my long trip home soaking up the sunshine.
After my trip to Fort Mott State Park, since the sun was still high in the sky and it would not get dark until almost 9:00pm, I decided to double back through Salem, go back up to Woodstown to have dinner and see the farmland one last time before leaving the area. It is such a scenic trip home and I wanted to see all of it one more time before leaving the area.
I stopped in Woodstown and walked around the downtown one last time. A lot was closed on Sunday, and I was surprised that more restaurants were not open. I decided on a quick slice of pizza at Gus’s Pizzeria at 14 Main Street. It was okay but I would not make a special trip to go there. There are other places to eat.
My last stop of the trip back up was stopping in Millica Hill, the quaint little town I first encountered when I got off Swedesboro Road to go down Route 45. I stopped and looked at all the old buildings and restaurants that they had. Most everything was closed for the day and only one restaurant was open and there was only one couple there. They also had a Historical Society in the downtown area that I noted for my next trip to the area.
As I finally got to the New Jersey Turnpike, the sun was setting in the distance. As I said before, it is so nice to have these long days to drive and explore. It was an eye-opening trip and I saw so many interesting places and got a better grasp of our state’s history and its place in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
I was an interesting and relaxing weekend and the best way to spend Father’s Day. It was a trip that my dad would have enjoyed.
After all the running around of the holiday season (and I ran from one part of the state to another), I finally got back into New York City to resume my walk of the Garment District. With a new variant spreading around the City, you would think the Manhattan would be quiet but that did not stop the tourists from coming to the museums and seeing the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree that was still up into the first week of January. It was business as usual just more people wearing masks outside.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was still packing them in after Christmas was over
Manhattan is resilient when it comes time for the pandemic. More restaurants, stores and businesses have opened up and like everyone else, you wear your mask to stay safe. I don’t mind showing my ID and my vaccination card if it means I can still enjoy doing the things I want to do, stay safe and support New York City businesses that desperately need the money.
I have to say one thing, everyone from stores to streets took down their Christmas decorations in record time. When I was in the City at the MoMA for a “The Contender’s Night” movie, I saw department store display windows being changed, the decorations outside Cartier being taken down on Fifth Avenue and most outdoor decorations gone even before the Epiphany. I thought that was strange but I guess it is time to move to Valentine’s Day and to Chinese New Year. Hope fully things will get better as it gets warmer in three months.
When I started my walk of the Avenues of the Garment District, some streets were busier than others. The core of the Garment District is still so quiet with most of the manufacturing that still goes on in the area shut down and even some of the hotels that have now been built in the area had a lack of guests. When I moved to the side streets in the afternoon, talk about no people and this is in the afternoon.
The thing about this part of Manhattan is that these buildings were built in post-war years and replaced most of the turn of the century buildings that I saw when you walk below 34th Street. These were built for the growing clothing businesses for manufacturing and showrooms which are now being refitted for offices of Tech and Advertising firms with most of the manufacturing being zoned out of the area during the Bloomberg Administration.
Even so some of these buildings have been torn down for new office and apartment buildings that are changing the whole Times Square/Garment District area. It is more of an extension of Midtown stretching down to 34th Street and then the historic older Midtown section begins with NoMAD (North of Madison Square Park) and the Flatiron District. Still here and there tucked into corner of the streets and avenues, there are architectural gems and interesting artwork.
Another thing that the Garment District is known for is the bevy of reasonable restaurants that cater to the garment and office workers in the area. This has really been affected by COVID and several have closed for business, while others have finally reopened from their months of slumber. It is nice to see these businesses reopen and bring vibrance back to the area again.
I started my walk on Eighth Avenue exiting the Port Authority onto a crowded street with cars and cabs all over the place. For all the problems with COVID, New York City still seems very alive to me. From walking down Broadway to visiting the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center, there are tourists all over the place.
The Port Authority Bus Terminal is the main artery for people from New Jersey and Pennsylvania at 625 Eighth Avenue
As I was exiting the building to West 40th Street, I took a long look at the Ralph Kramden statute that sits just outside the Port Authority. I passed this sculpture many times over the years but when you really stop and admire it, you can see the detail work of the statute. The statue was dedicated in August of 2000 and was a gift from TV Land to the City of New York. It was thought at the time this would be the perfect spot as the character was a bus driver (CBS News 2000).
The “TV Land” sculpture of Jackie Gleason as ‘Ralph Kramden’ by artist Lawrence Nowland
Lawrence Nowland is an American born artist from Philadelphia, PA and was a graduate of Millersville University in Pennsylvania and did his graduate work at the New York Academy of Art School of Figurative Art and was known as a Figurative artist.
Walking down the block from the Port Authority, you will find one of the only branches of the Philipine based Jollibee fast food restaurant at 609 Eighth Avenue, one of five in the tri-state area. You can hooked on their Fried Chicken sandwiches and their peach/mango pie. The place has been crowded since its opening and made one of the quickest comebacks after everything opened up last June.
Walking down Eighth Avenue is a little gloomy during the week since COVID hit. This used to be such a bustling area with the manufacturers and showrooms in full swing. Now most of the streets are quiet from the offices being closed down. I can see how it is affecting the small clothing and fabric shops that still dot the side streets. Even with Fashion Institute of Technology reopening, it is still quiet.
Although not architecturally exciting, there are still a few gems located in the corners of the block. There are many small buildings in the neighborhood that I have passed for years on my way to work at Macy’s and I never really looked at them closely. You might miss them if you don’t look up and look at the details.
The first one is 301 West 37th Street which has the most unusual carvings of gargoyles all over the sides and inside the window ledges. It gives the building almost a creepy, demonist look to it. The building was built in 1915 and is currently going under a gut renovation.
Just off Eighth Avenue is Non Solo Piado, a wonderful little Italian restaurant that specializes in Roman street food. Every time I have eaten here the food is terrific. The restaurant specializes in a type of calzone/turnover called a “Cassoni” and crisp pizzas called a “Piadizze”. I have tried the Cassoni Napolento filled with sausage and potatoes in a pastry crust and the Piadizze Margherita with fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella. The food and service are excellent and so reasonable.
The other building that is grand in detail but has been sadly neglected over the years is 557 Eighth Avenue. The Beaux-arts’ designed building was built in 1903 by architect Emery Roth who was part of Stein, Cohen & Roth. It was run as a residential hotel for most of its history and now houses commercial space in the upper floors and fast-food restaurants on the bottom (DaytonianinManhattan.blogspot/Loopnet.com).
At the end of the block stands the Hotel New Yorker like a Grande Dame guarding the Garment District. The Hotel New Yorker on the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 34th Street at 481 Eighth Avenue. The hotel was designed by architects Sugarman and Berger and designed in the Art Deco style. The hotel was constructed in 1928 and opened in 1930. The hotel now managed by Wyndam Hotels put the hotel through a full renovation in 2006 to bring it back to its glory years now reflected the resurgence of the neighborhood (Hotel New Yorker History website/Wiki).
This is where I am noticing that the neighborhood is changing during COVID. They are knocking down a lot of the West 34th corridor and rebuilding it especially around Madison Square Garden. This area really needed it. When I was working at Macy’s, this was not the safest area to walk around in. This was an area of cut-rate stores and depressing office buildings. It still amazes me how the City reinvents itself and the area is now a desirable for office workers and residential living. Being right near the subways, LIRR and shopping, it is showing the changes in the old Midtown district.
Walking back up Eighth Avenue, the architecture is mostly older loft buildings that are still used for light manufacturing and showrooms but on this avenue is a stretch of great restaurants that cater to the workers that are so reasonable.
Grilled Chicken at 230 West 36th Street is a great little hole in the wall that caters to many of the Garment workers and the delivery guys speeding all over the City with other restaurants orders. The food is plentiful and reasonable. They make the best Fried Shrimp and rice and their Banh Ma sandwiches with Fried Shrimp and Grilled Pork are just excellent. This places really surprises you when you dine here.
Grilled Chicken House at 230 West 36th Street (Closed December 2022)
Another great place to eat is the original Upside Pizza at 598 Eighth Avenue. On many a cold night I have been warmed up by their Pepperoni Detroit pan pizza and their regular cheese slices are so rich and flavorful. They really loaded on the cheese and the pepperoni on to their slices and then bake them to a gooey delight.
COVID has really changed this part of Eighth Avenue around where the New York Times building is located and Times Square since the shutdown. Many restaurants and stores have closed but slowly new ones are opening or reopening. Traffic in this area is pretty consistent so businesses change hands a lot now.
As the movie theaters slowly open again and Broadway is opened on a limited basis show by show, the area is beginning to get busy again but not to the levels pre-Pandemic. During the week when I am walking these blocks, I see a difference in the number of tourists and residents walking around the Port Authority area.
Seventh Avenue is still always busy. This area has changed a lot in the twenty-five years since I worked in the area. When I worked on 34th Street, the buildings were filled with showrooms and designer headquarters. It is a more diverse group of businesses today and I swear much better restaurants and stores. It has gotten more upscale.
Sitting at the top of Seventh Avenue like a guardian is the Times Square Building at 1 Times Square or 1475 Broadway. This building is known to many New Year’s Eve revelers as where the ball drops.
One building that stands tall in Times Square is One Times Square known as 1475 Broadway. Once the home headquarters for the New York Times was opened in 1904. The building was designed by architect Cyrus L.W. Eidlitz. The original façade was of stone and terra cotta but this has been mostly stripped and is now home for mostly advertising. The ball still drops from the top of the building every New Year (Wiki).
It is amazing to see the radical changes in this area of Manhattan since I started to work there in 1988. It is almost night and day in its appearance of not just the buildings but the parks and businesses that line Seventh Avenue. When I had worked there twenty-five years ago, you really did not choose to walk on Seventh Avenue after 8:00pm when most office workers went home. It was not the safest or well-lit avenue especially below Times Square. How thirty years and a whole development of the area change things.
When I walked down Seventh Avenue today, it is like walking through a haunted house that is less scary. I remember my years as a young executive in the City trying to maneuver around the area and sometimes feeling safer walking down the old 42nd Street with the porn theaters and head shops. At least I knew there were police milling around. Today, there has been such an improvement in the cleanliness of the area and the more expensive stores and restaurants that has spread to Broadway as well but even this is being upended by COVID. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Again, most of the buildings in this area were built after the WWII for the Garment industry and have that loft-box look to them but like Eighth Avenue, there are still a few standouts that have survived the wrecking ball or renovation. One being the elegant 488 Seventh Avenue.
488 Seventh Avenue was built as the Hotel York in 1903 by brothers James and David Todd, who had an interest in building luxury hotels. They commissioned architect Harry B. Mulliken, who had designed the Hotel Aberdeen on West 32nd Street for the brothers, with his new partner, Edger J. Moeller, who formed the firm of Mulliken & Moeller. The York Hotel was their first commission together. The hotel was designed in the Beaux-Arts style with elaborate carved decorations (Daytonian in Manhattan).
The Hotel York was a residential and transient for most of its existence attracting the theater crowd when 34th Street was the Theater District of the time. As this moved uptown, the hotel was bought in 1986 and was renovated for residential and commercial use (Dayton in Manhattan). The Tokian Group now owns the building and it is luxury apartments.
Towards the edge of the neighborhood is one of my favorite deli’s and known to thousands of Macy’s Alumni, Al’s Deli at 458 Seventh Avenue. I have been eating at Al’s Deli since 1988 and only recently in the last two years since exploring this section of Manhattan again have come back.
Al’s Deli at 458 Seventh Avenue is a Macy’s favorite
It still makes some of the best hamburgers and cheeseburgers in the City and their breakfast sandwiches are still oversized and delicious. Their Bacon, Egg and Cheese on a hoagie is still something that warms and fills me up in the mornings. Don’t miss their Chicken Parmesan Sandwich as well.
Across the street from Al’s Deli on the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 34th Street is the Grande Dame of the department store industry and my home away from home for seven years in the beginning of my career, R.H. Macy at 151 West 34th Street. When I started working at the store in 1988 it was funny but the locker rooms and cafeteria featured in the movie “Miracle on 34th Street” had not changed one bit, at least as I remembered it.
Macy’s New York on the Seventh Avenue side of the store in Art Deco Style (Wiki)
The Seventh Avenue side of the building was added in 1931 making Macy’s the world’s largest store. The building was designed by architect Robert D. Kohn in the Art Deco style that was popular in the day (Wiki). The entrance is still iconic to shopping enthusiasts who are looking for the perfect gift.
Walking up Seventh Avenue, also known as the Fashion Mile to many in the retail industry, is the Fashion Walk of Fame plaques that line the avenue from 35th Street above Macy’s up to 42nd Street. You have to look at the sidewalk to see some 30 plaques honoring some America’s most celebrated designers including Halston, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.
The honor was started by the Fashion Center Business Improvement District and these are chosen by a group of fashion panelist each year since 2000 (The Vintage Traveler.Wordpress.com).
I stopped at Zeppola Bakery at 499 Seventh Avenue for a quick snack. Everything looks so inviting from the fluffy doughnuts to the stuffed sandwiches. The bakery for all its visuals is on the expensive side and a small heart doughnut filled with raspberry jelly cost $3.95. Delicious but a little pricey.
When arriving at the corner of West 39th Street and Seventh Avenue in front of the Chase Bank at 551 Seventh Avenue is the very iconic sculpture of the Needle Threading the Button that is part of the Welcome Booth on Seventh Avenue.
The Button and Needle Sculpture is actually part of the information booth (NYPL.org)
According to the New York Public Library, the sculpture of the needle and button is actually part of the Fashion Center Information Kiosk that has been closed for a few years. The sculpture was designed by Pentagram Architectural Services in 1996 and was inspired by artist Claes Oldenburg’s sculptures. The district is currently looking into replacing this kiosk (New York Public Library Research Department).
Artist Claes Oldenburg was a Swedish born American artist. He was born in Stockholm and moved to the United States with his parents. His father was a Swedish Diplomat who was stationed in Chicago and he studied art at Yale University and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was known for his large art installments. Even though this was not designed by him, the work was inspired by his sculptures (Wiki).
The other sculpture next to the kiosk is of a garment employee working on a sewing machine. This sculpture by artist Judith Weller was of her father who worked in the Garment Industry entitled “Garment Worker”. The sculpture was created by the artist in honor of her father, a machinist in the garment trade and to Jewish garment workers who were the backbone of the community. It was created in 1984-85 for the Public Art Fund (Public Art Fund).
The “Garment Worker” by artist Judith Weller
The Mission of the Public Art fund that was funded in 1977, is to bring dynamic contemporary art to a broad audience in New York City and offer powerful public experiences in art (Public Art Fund).
Artist Judith Weller is an Israel born New York artist who is known for her genre of work dedicated to the laboring people all over the United States (Ask Art.com).
Crossing over to Broadway from the busy 42nd Street Mall I was greeted by the recently reopened Knickerbocker Hotel at 6 Times Square. For most of the recent history of this property it had been falling apart and was offices in the times I worked in Manhattan.
The Knickerbocker Hotel was built by John Jacob Astor IV and it opened in 1906. The hotel was designed by the firm of Marvin & Davis in the Beaux-Arts style. The outside of the hotel was built in red brick with terra cotta details. The hotel was fully renovated in 2015 (Wiki).
In front of the Chase Bank at 1411 Broadway is Golda Meir Square with an open plaza. Tucked into a garden almost hidden from view by the plants is a bust of Golda Meir by artist Beatrice Goldfine. It looked like from old pictures the original pedestal is now beneath the planter. It was unveiled in 1984 (Wiki).
The bust of Golda Meir by artist Beatrice Goldfine in Golda Meir Square is now hidden in a garden.
Artist Beatrice Goldfine is an American artist born in Philadelphia and studied at the Barnes Foundation and the Pennsylvania Institute of Fine Arts.
Walking down Broadway most of the buildings are relatively new or been built after WWII but two really do stand out. One being the Haier Building at 1356 Broadway. The Haier Building was built by architects from York & Sawyer in the Neo-Classical Revival style. The building was completed in 1924 and was the headquarters for Greenwich Savings Bank. The building is built with limestone and polished granite and features Roman Corinthian Columns (Wiki).
1352 Broadway-The Haier Building (Former Greenwich Savings Bank-Wiki)
The Haier Building stretches from Broadway to Sixth Avenue and is impressive on both sides of the building. The building was used by Greenwich Savings Bank from 1924 until 1981 when the bank went out of business (Wiki).
The other impressive building on this side of Broadway is the Macy’s New York Broadway building facing Herald Square. The store was built between 1901-1902 by architects Theodore de Lemos and A. W. Cordes of the firm of De Lemos & Cordes in the Palladian style a form of classic Roman and Greek temple style (Wiki).
Macy’s New York at 151 West 34th Street on the Broadway side of the building
Herald Square has dramatically improved since I worked at Macy’s. When I worked at Macy’s in the early 1990’s, Herald and Greeley Squares were places to avoid until about 1994 when the parks were renovated and new plantings and French metal café tables were added. Now it is hard at lunch time to find a table.
In the process of the renovations, the City also restored the statues dedicated to James Gordon Bennett and Horace Greeley.
The statue dedicated to James Gordon Bennett and his son James Gordon Bennett II
The statue is to Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom and Invention and two blacksmiths who flank a bell that once topped the Herald Building where the New York Herald, which was founded by James Gordon Bennett in 1835. The statue was dedicated in the park in 1895 (NYCParks.org).
Antonin Jean Carles was born in France and was a student of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Toulouse. He was known for his monument sculptures.
Walking back up Broadway, it started to get colder as the afternoon went on but I came across an unusual sculpture that had just been put up entitled “Passage” by artist Serge Maheu. This interesting piece of street art you could actually walk through and as you walked through it, the colors changed.
“Passages” by Artist Serge Maheu (Artist’s bio)
It was like walking through a tunnel of hula hoops. The artist was going for a “transformative, playful experience” during an otherwise gloomy time in winter (Patch.com).
According to the artist, “Passage” explores the emotional connections between light and sound (Serge Maheu bio).
Artist Serge Maheu
Artist Serge Maheu is from Quebec, Canada and graduated with a degree in Computer Engineer, he has taken a path down the creative route to become a multimedia director. He specializes in film, animation, photography, sound and music (Serge Maheu bio).
By the time I reached Bryant Park, the sun started to come out again and it cleared up slightly. The park was filled with people ice skating or eating. The tables were mostly filled on this cool day which I was surprised at considering the weather. It does not take long to see how the changes in the park have led to change in the building here.
Standing guard at the edge of the neighborhood is the new Bank of America building. This innovative building was designed by architect Rick Cook from the firm of Cookfox Adamson Associates. The building was designed with a clear ‘Curtin wall’ and several diagonal planes for wind resistance. The building was also awarded a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for sustainable ‘green’ architecture (Wiki/Durst website).
Bryant Park is another interesting park. In 1988, you would never go into this park unless you wanted drugs or wanted to get mugged. The park was surrounded by bushes and it was in extremely bad shape. When the New York Public Library was going through a renovation, money was allocated to fix the park. It is night and day from when I passed the park in the early 1990’s. Talk about a difference that twenty-five years makes.
Bryant Park in all its glory
The original park opened in 1870 as Reservoir Square after the Croton Distributing Reservoir that was once located on the eastern side of the park. In 1884, the park was renamed for New York Evening Post Editor William Cullan Bryant (Wiki).
The park has suffered from neglect in the past including times in the 1930’s and the 1960’s and 70’s and had been through past renovations but in 1980 the Bryant Park Restoration Group was founded and took over park services. Since then, the park was fully renovated in 1992 and continues to improve with continued maintenance. Now there are events like ‘Movies in the Park’ and ‘Winter Village’ with a skating rink, rows of boutiques and the Christmas tree (Wiki).
Bryant Park in Christmas past
Lining the park on Sixth Avenue side of the park is a series of interesting statuary that I think most people miss when walking by the park. The first one is the statue called the “Andrada Monument” or also known as the statue of Jose Bonifacio de Andrada e Silva, the Brazilian statesman. Every September, the Consulate General of Brazil commemorates Andrada and Brazilian Independence Day by hosting a small ceremony at the monument (Wiki).
The statue was created by artist Jose Otavio Correia Lima. The artist was born in Brazil and attended the National School of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro. He taught and ran the college until 1930 (Wiki).
Jose Bonifacio de Andrada was a Brazilian Statesman who was also a college professor and naturalist who was one of the most important mentors of Brazilian independence (Wiki/Britannica).
The other statue on the opposite side of the park is of Benito Juarez, the former President of Mexico and its first indigenous President serving twice. The statue was created by artist Moises Cabrea Orozco and is the first Mexican to be commemorated in the park system.
Benito Juarez was a lawyer and statesman who served as the President of Mexico twice. He also served on the Mexican Supreme Court.
In between these two statues at the western side of the park as you walk up the steps to enter the park is the Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain, one of the most beautiful pieces of art in Bryant Park. This fountain is one of the nicest places to sit by on a sunny warm day and there is not a time that I do not make a wish in the fountain.
Artist Charles A. Platt was born in New York City and studied at the National Academy of Design and the Students Art League. He was known as a landscape designer, artist and architect of the American Renaissance Movement (Wiki).
The fountain was designed by architect Charles A. Platt in granite and bronze and has the most interesting details to it. It is the first major memorial dedicated to a woman in New York City. The fountain was dedicated to activist Josephine Shaw Lowell (Wiki).
Josephine Shaw Lowell was born in Massachusetts and moved to New York with her family in the 1840’s. She was committed to social charities and was named the Commissioner of New York State Board of Charities, the first woman to hold the position. She also founded many charities (Wiki).
This time of the year Bryant Park is taken up by the skating rink and the restaurants that surround it. Most of the Christmas Village was closed and it looked they were going to take it down. The Christmas tree was surprisingly still up and lit and at night makes the park festive.
Across from Bryant Park to its south are a grouping of beautifully designed buildings. On the corner of West 40th Street and Sixth Avenue is 80 West 40th Street, ‘The Bryant Park Studios’. The building was built in 1910 as showrooms for artists. The building was designed in the Beaux-Arts style by architect Charles A. Rich (Daytonian in Manhattan).
Further down Sixth Avenue is where one of the first Chick-fil-A in Manhattan opened at 1000 Sixth Avenue in 2015. It was also their largest outlet at the time with three floors. The place had lines wrapped around the block during its first several months until more outlets opened around the City. I hate to say it but for all the controversy about the restaurant, I really do love their chicken sandwiches.
Another interesting building that stands out is an old home at 966 Sixth Avenue which is the former J. E. Winterbottom Funeral Home. The business moved in 1885. Before that the post-Civil War house was constructed in the Second Empire style with a Mansard roof. It was once a private home before the business moved in (Daytonian in Manhattan). According to current records, it is going to be Manhattan’s first Sonic restaurant. It will be the first urban Sonic to open outside the one on Staten Island (Patch.com).
At the very edge of the neighborhood on the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 35th Street is the most interesting piece of artwork on a building that once housed the Desigual flagship store. The work is by Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel and entitled “Multicultural Freedom Statue” and was created in 2019. It is a tribute to multiculturalism in New York City (Artist Bio). The store has since closed.
The painting at Sixth Avenue at West 35th Street by artist Okuda San Miguel (painted over December 2022)
Artist Okuda San Miguel was born in Spain and known for his colorful geometric styles in painting. He graduated from the Complutense University of Madrid with a BFA and has shown his work all over the world (Wiki).
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).
For dinner on the way back up Sixth Avenue, I ate at the Kyoto Spot Mochinut at 1011 Sixth Avenue. They had the most unusual combination of a Potato Half and Half ($7.95), which was half a hot dog and half a mozzarella stick rolled in rice flour and chopped potatoes and then deep fried and they served it with a spicy type of duck sauce. I also had one of their Ume Mochinut doughnuts which were made out of rice flour but tasted like a funnel cake. It was utterly amazing.
On my second trip exploring the avenues, I had dinner at Main Noodle House at 1011 Sixth Avenue. The food and the service were excellent. I had a traditional eggroll and it was one of the best I have had in a long time. For the entree, I had the Cantonese Wonton Soup ($10.95) with roast pork, wontons and lo mien noodles. It was the perfect meal on a cool winter night. It was a meal within itself.
It was late when I finally arrived back at Bryant Park in time to see the Christmas tree in full blaze and hear the music and laughter of the skating rink. Across the street I saw the green and red lights blinking of the new Bank of China building at 1045 Sixth Avenue (or 7 Bryant Park). This building is interesting for its shape and its ongoing light show.
The building was completed in 2016 and was designed by architects Henry N. Cobb and Yvonne Szeto from the firm of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners and it was interesting on why they designed the building in an ‘hourglass’ design. The firm stated that “they wanted to enrich the experience of the park while at the same time make its relationship to the park a clear expression of its identity (Pei Cobb Freed & Partners). The building is the New York home of the Bank of China.
Bank of China Building at 1045 Sixth Avenue (7 Bryant Park)
Being right across the street from the Bryant Park Studios at 80 West 40th Street shows the contrast that this neighborhood is going through now with a combination of the old and the new and showcasing its beauty. These buildings are adding character to an area of Manhattan that was not so nice just twenty years ago.
This part of the Garment District is the reason why we are seeing less of a Garment District but more of a commercial core that surrounds Times Square and promotes how a City can change for the better with a game plan. All around the core of a park that you would not dare set foot in for almost thirty years.
Talk about transformation!
Check out my other blogs on the Garment District:
Day Two Hundred and Three: Walking the Borders of the Garment District:
I cannot believe that another Christmas has come and gone and COVID is still raging around. Talk about having to adapt to a new world a lot wiser and more aware. I have just become more careful over the last year and kept my activities to a minimum (yeh right, I still run all over the place for work and keeping people informed about happenings all over the place). I just try to stay safe. I put my walk of the Garment District on hold for the Christmas holidays and all that came with it.
Christmas started right after I came home from Thanksgiving dinner in Lambertville when the next morning, I had to wake up at 6:00am to get ready to go to the Christmas tree lot for the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Drop Off of the trees. We had 390 trees being delivered and it was all hands-on deck.
Setting up the Christmas trees
Who knew that the truck would arrive at 8:00am and we got caught off guard. No one expected it to come until at least 10:30am. So, at 9:00am, over thirty members and their children emptied all 390 Christmas trees off the truck (they shorted us ten trees), got them tagged and ready to sell. We had not even finished tagging the trees and our first tree sold at 10:30am.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at Christmas tree set up 2021
I stayed on the site until 4:30pm and we had already sold the first twenty-one trees. I could not believe how fast the trees sold that day. The only reason why I left is that I had to help with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department on the town’s Annual Holiday Parade. God did it get cold that night.
The night after Thanksgiving, the Hasbrouck Heights Chamber of Commerce holds the Annual Holiday Parade and the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department is always a participant from helping Santa enter town in the Parade to setting up the sound system for the Tree Lighting Ceremony. I swear it got so cold that night by the time the town lit the tree it must have gone down to 35 degrees. Thank God we bundled up!
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Holiday Parade
After the tree was lit, I never saw a place empty out so fast. People were so cold! Even with all our layers, we were cold too.
I did an about face and the next morning left for Beach Haven, NJ to attend some of Long Beach Island’s Christmas activities. The day ended up being much nicer and was a bit warmer. It is a two-hour trip to the shore and you would think that a beach community is not the place to spend an early Christmas weekend but you would be amazed at the activities they had planned all over the island that day.
I left the house around 8:30am on what started out as a gloomy morning that turned sunny and clear by the time I reached Long Beach Island. I decided to visit the Barnegat Lighthouse first to see if it was decorated with lights like the lighthouse at Montauk Point. That was always impressive the years I went out to visit my friend, Lillian.
The lighthouse was not decorated for the holidays but was finally open to walk in and climb the stairs. It was over a hundred steps up and back down. What a view all the way up. There were small stops on the way up with views on each level landing. By the time I reached the top of the stairs there were only three of us up there and God was it windy. I only lasted at the top of the lighthouse a few minutes before I almost blew off. What views of the waves coming in!
The Barnegat Lighthouse at the tip of Long Beach Island
Before I made the journey to the southern part of the island on my November trip, I stopped by the “Santa’s Viking Christmas Village” to see the arts and crafts festival at Viking Village at 19th and the Bay Barnegat Light. It was a sunny but cool afternoon but the winds had calmed down and I was able to walk the booths with no problems. I was in search of homemade Santa’s for my mother’s upcoming birthday. I found them in two different booths, one made of a conch shell and another made of wood.
The local seafood restaurant was open for takeout and you could smell the fried fish in the distance along with the horrible singing by a guitarist who could not carry a note. Thank God he took a break in time for the Barnegat Light Fire Department to bring Mr. and Mrs. Claus to the Village for a visit to the local children.
Santa’s Viking Christmas Village at dusk at closing
After touring the Village, I made my way back down Long Beach Boulevard to the LBI Foundation of The Arts & Sciences Holiday Market 2021, which was mostly full of more expensive artwork and home decor products. It was not as festive as the Village Market and all our mask wearing steamed up everyone’s glasses which was a big complaint.
My next stop was the Long Beach Island Historical Society which sponsored an “Elves Workshop” for kids and their parents with all sorts of arts and crafts happening at twelve different tables lining the front room of the museum. There was cookie decorating and Christmas tree creation with beads and cloth and gingerbread house making. To end the evening, they had Smores and Marshmallows roasting over open firepits in the park across the street.
The Elves Workshop at the Long Beach Island Historical Society
The museum knows how to welcome in the holiday season.
The Christmas display at the front of the Long Beach Island Historical Society
After my visit to the Historical Society, I went down the road and revisited the NJ Maritime Museum 528 Dock Road right by the water. I had read so much at the shark attacks in New Jersey back in 1916 and wanted to see the exhibition again. I also wanted to see the exhibition on shipwrecks again so I spent the rest of the afternoon at the museum and then walking down to the harbor to watch the sun set. The sun sets on that island are amazing.
For dinner that night, I went back to the Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in the Beach Haven downtown. The food and the selection here is just excellent and the perfect place for comfort foods on a cool night. My waiter could not have been nicer and recommended the White Clam Chowder, which was so thick and rich and you could taste the cream and fresh clams in every bite. God the seafood was so sweet.
The Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in Beach Haven, NJ
For dinner, I started with the New England Clam Chowder and did it hit the spot. Loaded with clams and potatoes in a rich cream soup. It warmed me up inside. I ordered the Chicken Pot Pie for the entree, which was delicious as well. Chunks of chicken and fresh vegetables in a flaky crust and a rich gravy. On a cool night by the shore, there is nothing like it to warm you up. Talk about making the perfect choices for dinner.
After dinner on my visit in November of 2021 at the Chicken or the Egg, I finished dessert at The Woo Hoo and walked up through the downtown to see the last of the people roasting marshmallows in the park and walked to Kapler’s Pharmacy at 1 South Bay Street. The drug store was sponsoring horse drawn carriage rides around the neighborhood. I thought what a nice way to end the evening with a twilight view of the sun setting and watching the Christmas lights going on at houses around the neighborhood. The Jersey Shore at Christmas can really surprise you.
Kapler’s Pharmacy event at 1 South Bay Avenue in 2021
I thought it was a nice group of visits to get my mind off what is going on in the world. What’s better than the Jersey Shore in warm weather? Visiting at all times of the year in warm weather and then returning for the Christmas holiday events. Who says the Shore closes at Labor Day?
Later that day I found out that Michigan State beat Penn State 30-27. What a way to end the day on my November trip!
After a short trip down to my mom’s for her birthday and two Private Member Nights in New York City at The Met and the Museum of the City of New York (see blog below):
Day Two Hundred and Eight: Private Members Nights in NYC:
it was back to Rhinebeck, NY for the Sinterklaas Parade and Celebration on Saturday, December 4th. I swear I was running from one place to another the whole week but was looking forward to the parade that had been cancelled last year because of COVID.
I travelled back up to Rhinebeck again for the festivities and got there by 10:00am in time to help unload the truck at the Starr Library. That brought back a lot of memories from parades past and it was so nice to walk around the cool air of Upstate New York. What started off as a very gloomy morning cleared up and it ended up being a clear, sunny and mild day in Rhinebeck.
We unpacked the familiar floats and puppets from years past and put together the bees, owls, geese, knights and dragons, horses that would lead Sinterklaas down his route and Children’s puppets that had children hoping for better times ahead. I always enjoy the comradery of the morning of putting the puppets together for the parade. Our theme this year was “Miss Mouse and Mr. Toad get married” so our events were based on the two characters getting hitched.
(I wanted to thank volunteer Jonathan Green for these pictures)
Me (in the jacket and khakis at the set up for the ‘Sinterklaas Parade’ in Rhinebeck, NY
Setting up the puppets for the parade is interesting
All the latest puppets ready to enter the parade
Mr. Toad preparing for his marriage to Miss Mouse
Miss Mouse preparing for her marriage to Mr. Toad in the Sinterklaas Parade
The Dragon is preparing for his duel with the knights of the parade
The puppets were set up in record time and we were finished by 11:45am
After we were done with the puppets, I drove down to Downtown Rhinebeck and parked a few blocks away and walked over to Main Street and joined in the opening festivities at the Beekman Arms. The restaurant was already packed with customers when I got there and the banquet room was full of visitors at the Opening Ceremony.
I had already checked in to my hotel, so I did not have to come back to the hotel until later that evening. This time I stayed at the Marriott Poughkeepsie which was much closer to Rhinebeck than staying at the one in Fishkill. I have to say that both hotels were wonderful when I was visiting the area.
The Marriott Poughkeepsie at 2641 South Road/Route 9
The Opening Ceremony at the Beekman Arms is always a lot of fun. All the costumed characters are introduced like the Pocket Lady, Mother Holly (who is always feeling jolly), the Queen Bee and the Snow King and Queen. They also introduced the Mayor of Rhinebeck and his wife, who portrayed Mr. Toad and Miss Mouse and reconfirmed their wedding vows in real life in front of the whole crowd. I thought that was very touching and I told her this later when I ran into her at another event.
After the marriage ceremony and the traditional Polar Bear Dance, Jonathan Kruk, a well-known storyteller, told the story of Sinterklaas. Mr. Kruk is a wonderful speaker and knows how to tell a story. He always captivates a crowd. Even though I have heard the same stories for years, I still enjoy listening to him speak.
No one is better at storytelling then Jonathan Kruk at Sinterklaas
Because I said that I would help with the checking in with the volunteers for the parade, I had to be back to the library by 4:00pm so that only gave me about a little over two and a half hours this time to enjoy the festivities.
What was nice was the policy blocked off the Downtown area so that everyone could walk in the streets and watch the performers do their thing. There were bands on stilts performing rag time music and holiday classics, the Polar Bear danced around and greeted visits with a quick spin on the street and I visited the Toad Stool where Mr. Toad and Miss Mouse greeted each visitor with a bundle of ribbons so that you could give them to strangers for good luck. I had never heard of that tradition before but it was interesting to walk through a giant toadstool.
I also walked around the businesses that were open and admired the store window displays. It was as if each store was trying to outdo the other for creativity and beauty of the Christmas season. My favorite was Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street in Downtown Rhinebeck.
I watched the Grumpuses, Sinterklaas’s helpers do their traditional dance, singing groups entertain the outdoor crowds (Keeping COVID safe) and performers with sticks doing their routine. What I liked about Sinterklaas this year is that there were a lot of outdoor venues, so people were not cooped up inside wearing masks.
By 3:00pm I was starved and knowing that I would not be able to eat until way after the parade was over, I stopped at Pete’s Famous at 34 East Market Street. I love dining here and like their generous portions and the friendly service. I had my favorite Turkey Club sandwich with French Fries which is always good. They roast their own fresh turkey every day for their sandwiches.
The day started to fall into dusk and the whole town was being lit up. This is when Rhinebeck shows its true beauty as a Christmas village. All the trees in the Downtown are lit with white lights and adorned with paintings of the Sinterklaas Festival and ribbons. Also, all the stores light their windows and it makes the whole town look like a Currier & Ives woodprint.
Downtown Rhinebeck at dusk
Downtown Rhinebeck at night when its magic comes to life
I got back to the library at 4:00pm and assisted the staff in getting everyone ready for the parade, explaining how to work the puppets and hold them and making sure that everyone knew to listen to the marshals who were running the parade when it started.
It had been two years since we had a parade but it felt like time had not even passed by. I love to watch the parade come to life. As everyone lines up, the lights go on at each puppet and the bands get into high gear. Then there is the excitement of walking down the hill into Downtown Rhinebeck to the adoring crowds of the parade.
The crowds have tripled in the decade that I have been volunteering for the parade. The first time that I volunteered it was in 2010 with my father on my first trip up to Rhinebeck since being at the Culinary Institute and then I started volunteering again in 2014 when I started working on the Halloween Parade in the City. Just like that parade, excitement builds as the parade starts.
Walking down that hill is an amazing thing as people get so excited to see the floats and hear the music especially at this time with COVID raging on. Things seemed more festive as this is an outdoor event and it was two weeks before the omicron outbreak raged the country. It was a night of revelry and welcoming in the holiday season.
Sinterklaas is a magically evening in Downtown Rhinebeck
Opening Ceremonies at The Beekman Arms
Because the positions in the parade and the puppets were all filling myself and the other person, I worked with on checking people in took the “Follow the Banner in the Parade” banner down the hill to get everyone to the staging area for the conclusion of the parade. We were right behind the drumline of women who concluded the parade and whipped spectators into a dancing frenzy. I watched as people literally danced in the streets happy to be outside enjoying this evening. It was so nice to see families have such a good time.
This wonderful view of the parade that was posted online of ‘Sinterklaas 2021’
The parade ended in the community parking lot with all the characters are introduced and the well wishes to Sinterklaas and his entourage. There was music and the fire eaters showing their talents off to the large crowd who were looking towards a much happier holiday season. It was just nice to see everyone having a festive evening.
After the ceremony was over, I just walked around Downtown Rhinebeck, admiring the beautifully decorated windows and admiring the white lights adorning the trees. I love this downtown at Christmas.
The Downtown Rhinebeck Christmas Tree near the Community parking lot.
I stopped at Village Pizza for dinner and it was nice to just warm up. God is their pizza delicious.
After dinner, it was another quiet walk around downtown Rhinebeck to admire the lights and the window displays. I love walking around this town.
Downtown Rhinebeck before dusk
Downtown Rhinebeck’s merchants go all out for the holidays
The next morning, I was off early to join some of the other members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association for a modified Christmas hello to all our retired firefighters living in the NJ State Firemen’s Association.
Since our party was cancelled for the residents due to COVID, we gave our gift to the residents the week before (we got each resident a long-sleeved shirt that was monogramed with their name on it which I heard they all loved) and we also had a special Jersey Mike’s lunch for the residents the month before to ring in the holiday season.
Because of COVID regulations, we could only have a few members come but myself and the President of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association talked with our fellow firefighters during ‘Holiday Bingo’ or walked around to greet them and wish them a ‘Merry Christmas’.
Santa greeting guests at the NJ Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ in 2019 in better times
It was just for a short time that we were allowed to stay but the members of the home appreciated it. We wanted to let our fellow firefighters know that we did not forget them during the holidays.
Members of the NJ State Firemen’s Home enjoying the Jersey Mike’s dinner we sponsored
Classes took up most of next week for me as we prepared for my Introduction to Business class to make their big presentation to me for their final grade. So, I was running around most of the week working with both my online class and my live class as we were getting ready for final exams.
On Thursday, December 9th, I took a break from all of my grading and went to see the production of “A Christmas Pudding” at Bergen Community College where I work. The students were putting on a Christmas retrospect of songs and readings which was a very nice performance.
The Theater students sang many traditional and contemporary songs from the American songbook with one student singing a very emotional version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis”. Considering everything that was going on with COVID, I thought it was very touching. The students did a good job with the production and it really put me into the Christmas spirit.
The Play “A Christmas Pudding” at Ciccone Theater at Bergen Community College on December 9th
Another thing that put me into the Christmas spirit was all the new songs coming out this year. Did we need some Christmas cheer this year! I wanted to share two of my favorites that came to me via YouTube.
These two songs appeared on the Internet when I was writing this blog and I thought they were very symbolic of what is going on right now during the holidays as we try to resume to a new normal. I wanted to share them with all of you.
John Legend’s new Christmas song: “You Deserve it All”
Nora Jones new Christmas song: “Christmas Calling”
Kohmi Hirose did this great version of “Sleigh Ride” in English
On December 10th, my students presented their Class Group Project entitled “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022” and the students did a terrific job with the project.
The students logo to “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022”.
Here is the presentation with all the commercials:
Day Two Hundred and Nine on my “MywalkinManhattan.com” blog:
This “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory themed project was inspired by the 50th Anniversary of the film. I had the students watch the film for inspiration and ideas, then put the framework for the project together and they took it from there.
There is a message from me their CEO as well:
A welcome from CEO/Co-Founder of Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.
I could not have been prouder of my students both in my live class and in my online class who created the individual Class Project, “Market Street Candy & Confections”, reopening a 100-year-old candy store with a modern twist.
Here is the project with all the graphics that the students created:
Day Two Hundred and Ten on “MywalkinManhattan.com”:
With the major class projects over with, I prepared the students final exams and emailed off my online students their exam first. While they came in, I was able to grade along the way. Taking a break from that over the weekend, I visited Hope, NJ for a Lantern Walking Tour of the town and then a Candlelight Church Service at the Methodist church.
The Hope Annual Moravian Christmas Tour and Church service in Hope, NJ
I discovered this tour when I was traveling out to the Delaware Water Gap when I was updating my blog on “Visiting Budd Lake” and I stopped in Hope before heading to Blairstown, where I had wanted to visit the Blairstown Museum at the end of the day (it had closed by then). I saw this flyer when one of the shopkeepers in town handed it to me and I thought it would be an interesting event. What an eye opener!
I never heard of the history of the Moravian religion before and how they founded the town. We toured all the former factories and homes that had been built around the turn of the last century and then heard actors talk about that time during Christmas. Life just seemed slower then.
This is also where the opening scenes of the cult film “Friday the 13th” were shot. The initial scene where Annie arrives in Crystal Lake for her journey to the camp. I included the clip from the opening scene and the what the current locations look like now.
“Friday the 13th” from 1980 filmed in Hope, NJ
The famous opening scene from the film “Friday the 13th”
The inside of the Hope Junction Antiques with one of kind artwork and antiques.
This unique store carries an array of local and regional artists work, the owner’s personal art pieces and a selection of decorative items and antique pieces. It had an interesting selection of holiday items when I visited the town both on my journey through Budd Lake and Route 46 and when I took the walking tour on December 11th. The store was open still right before the tour.
Burgdorff Realty at 2 Walnut Street where Annie enters the truck
The cemetery is the ‘crossroads’ but is actually right down the block from the antique store and the realty company. This is now part of the St. John’s Methodist Church. This is where the Candlelight Services were held.
But I was not there for a movie tour but a cheerful Christmas tour of Moravian history. I met my tour group at the Hope Community Center which was beautifully decorated for Christmas. Before the tour started, the Hope Historical Society who was running the tour was selling food and Christmas items as a fundraiser. We started the Lantern Tour from this location.
The Hope Community Center at 5 Walnut Street decorated for Christmas
When we finished visiting some of the old factories, we visited ‘Trout Alley’, where people used to travel to get around the toll booth when they arrived in Hope. The path is now used to get to the antique store at the end of the path.
The Hope Historical Society was the sponsor of this program and was open the evening of the tour. We got to walk inside and look at old pictures of the town, old maps and artifacts that have been donated over the years by local residents that are part of the history of the town. The small one room building also houses vintage furniture and household and dress items. Please look at my blog at VisitingaMuseum.com above.
Looking down the street from Downtown Hope, NJ to the Inn at Millrace Pond where the Festival of Trees was located.
The house on High Street where we heard about Moravian Christmas traditions
Costumed characters sat on the porch that evening and reminisced about life at the turn of the last century as they prepared for the Christmas holidays. They talked about the hours needed to prepare the decorations and food for the legions of relatives and friends that would be visiting.
It was more spectacular at dusk when it was lit for Christmas
The First Hope Bank and Moravian homes that are now private residences
The bank was called the Gemeinhaus, which was the church/community center of the village. It was built in 1781. The house next door which is part of the bank is the Caleb Swayze House that was built in 1832.
Moravian Residences by the bank
The Caleb Swayze is the house towards the right and it was built in 1832. It is now part of the bank.
The homes and the current bank at dusk lit for Christmas
The Toy Chest Toy Store at 335 High Street a former Moravian home
I have been to the Toy Chest Toy Store many times on my journey to Hope, NJ and it has the most amazing selection of toys, games and collectibles in the area.
Moravian home where the Manger program was performed and after it was over, we visited many local homes of prominent residents from the area. To end the tour, we visited the back of someone’s garage where there was a live nativity scene performed that evening with actors reading from the Bible.
This interesting little barn/garage is across from the church and I thought looked quite festive
St. John’s Methodist Church at 354 High Street and the former Moravian Church where the Candlelight services were held. The service is posted on their Facebook page below.
I attended the Candlelight Christmas services at St. John’s Methodist Church which had once served as the Moravian Church and the service was followed as it would have been at the turn of the last century. The visiting priest had once been head of the church here and gave a very inspirational talk on the holidays that was followed by the lights being dimmed and caroling by candlelight which gave the whole church an interesting glow (you can see the whole service on the church’s Facebook page attached).
Afterwards I took one last walk around Hope to admire all the lights and decorations. After a quick slice of pizza at Hope Pizzeria at 435 Hope Blairstown Road, I was on my way home through the darkness. It really does get dark on these back roads until you hit Route 80. The little pizzeria is tucked into a small strip mall on the side of the road and has great pizza. It really was a festive and interesting evening.
Hope Pizza and Catering at 435 Hope Blairstown Road
For my Christmas present to myself every year, I go to Carnegie Hall for the NY Pops Christmas Concert but it ended up being on the night of my final exam and there was no way to cancel it, so I had to miss it again this year (COVID cancelled it last year).
When I visited the City the Sunday before for the “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, I walked back to Port Authority through Lincoln Center and I wanted to see what was going on this Holiday season and I saw that Kristin Chenoweth was performing a one woman show to promote her new Christmas album that Monday night. I was on the Internet that night to see if there were tickets left for the show.
The “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History at Central Park West at 79th Street
The next night I had tickets in hand and off I went to Lincoln Center which I had not been to in two years since I had seen “Whipped Cream” in December of 2019 for the holidays. It was so nice be dressed up and going to the Met again. The theater was packed with people with the same idea. The City was ablaze with Christmas colors and lights.
Lincoln Center in all its glory at Lincoln Center Plaza
What a concert! Talk about being in sync with the holidays and just what the doctor ordered after a long semester. I needed a good concert and this really put me into the holiday spirit. Ms. Chenoweth was really in great spirits that night and brought the house down with these two songs from her album plus playing from Broadway shows and the Great American Songbook. It was a great Christmas concert and I left humming down Eighth Avenue.
This song opened the show at the Metropolitan Opera House on December 13th, 2021
I was starved when I left for the theater since I was in a rush to get into the City that afternoon with enough time to make the concert and still grade quizzes that were coming in from my online class at the Cornell Club.
I had a sudden craving for Linguini in White Clam Sauce so off I went to Amore Pizza Cafe at 370 West 58th Street which I had visited over the summer. I ordered their Linguini in White Clam sauce which ended up being a piping hot almost pound of pasta with a quarter pound of clams on top ($10.95) with a Coke. Talk about excellent and the perfect dinner on a cool night. The sauce was so flavorful and the clams were so sweet and fresh. I ate contently and the manager was so happy when I told her the food was excellent. Talk about an end to a wonderful evening.
The Linguini with White Clam Sauce was just superb that night at Amore Pizza Cafe
For the rest of the week, I had visited the Met and the Museum of the City of New York for private events and while seeing the new “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, I went to see the “Origami Tree”, that has been a staple of the museum for years. All of these events really put me in the Christmas spirit and put the ghosts of last Christmas behind me. It was not too last.
The Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History
I wanted to visit the Hudson River Valley again before the holiday season was over and I saw on the Dutchess County Tourism site that Mount Gulian, a mansion near Beacon, NY was being decorated for the holidays and December 15th was the first day it would be open for touring.
I grabbed my aunt and we decided to spend the day visiting decorated homes and towns for the Christmas season. Our first stop was Beacon, NY to visit some of the stores on my website, LittleShoponMainStreet@wordpress.com, Colorant and Flora a Good Time both located in the downtown area and then off to Mount Gulian, a decorated mansion up Route 9.
Downtown Beacon, NY at Christmas
Mount Gulian was the home of the Verplanck’s for generations, the original house burned to the ground in 1938 and this house is a replica of the original sitting on the original home’s foundation. The house is decorated in many of the Verplanck’s family heirlooms donated by branches of the family over the years.
The main rooms on the first floor of the home including the former living room, dining room, sitting room and library were all decorated for the Victorian Christmas holidays. The hallways and doorways were also adorned with garland and bows and lights giving a festive and warm appearance to the house.
The tour took about an hour (see my blog on VisitingaMuseum.com) and the history of the house was discussed at various times and how family members called it home. Our tour guide also gave us interesting facts on the family and their connection with the house today. It is so nice to hear that various members of the Verplanck family still take an interest in the home.
Mount Gulian’s Dining Room decorated for Christmas Dinner
The sitting room at Mount Gulian
After the tour was over, the tour guide invited us to enjoy refreshments of hot cider and home baked goodies. Since there were only three of us on our tour, it gave us a chance to discuss the history of the families in the Hudson River Valley, the status of these famous homes and the future of historic sites of the region. It was really an engaging and interesting afternoon and the tour guide could not have been nicer. The whole event really represented what the Christmas experience is in the Hudson River Valley.
Between the Sinterklaas Parade in the beginning of the month, visiting the decorated homes of the region and walking the festive downtowns of the area giving them a “Currier & Ives” look about them. Dutchess, Ulster, Greene and Columbia counties really know how to convey the holiday spirit.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas
Our next stop was visiting Rhinebeck, NY which we arrived before dusk. The town was just lighting the trees and all the storefront windows were beautifully decorated for the holidays as they were on the night of the Sinterklaas Parade. The only town I know that can compete with Rhinebeck for the title of ‘Christmas Village’ is Cape May, NJ.
Rhinebeck has a magical look at nightfall
Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street gets into that spirit every year
I love the way they merchandise the store for the holidays and their prices are very fair on their candies and desserts. You have to try their doughnuts.
The delicious candies and baked goods at Samuel’s Sweet Shop
Our next stop after leaving Rhinebeck was downtown Red Hook, NY which to me represents the best in small towns in the Hudson River Valley with excellent reasonable restaurants, creative store owners and a blend of old and new in architecture. Plus, everyone is so friendly when you shop and dine there.
Downtown Red Hook, NY at Christmas
I have written about my many trips to Red Hook in my blog “MywalkinManhattan.com” and discussed visiting the downtown and its proprietors.
The Red Hook town Christmas tree is such a great addition to the downtown and it more amazing at night as is the rest of the town when it is lit. When it gets dark in town, Red Hook gets that classic Americana feel to it.
Downtown Red Hook’s Christmas Tree
Downtown Red Hook, NY at dusk is so beautiful
After the walk around Red Hook (most of the stores closed early that night), my aunt and I crossed the Kingston Bridge and visited the ‘Stockade District”, the historical and shopping district of Downtown Kingston, to see how the town prepared itself for the holidays. It really was beautiful even with the light rain.
Downtown Kingston, NY at Christmas
The businesses had garland and beautiful white lights adorning them and the windows were very festive as in the other towns. Large snowflakes decorated the main streets which were lit brilliantly.
Downtown Kingston, NY Christmas tree
The Kingston, NY Christmas tree is right in the middle of the downtown shopping district and gives off such a holiday vibe. It is also so beautifully decorated. It really brightens up this stretch of the street.
Our last stop that evening was visiting Woodstock, NY, where I had spent three wonderful Christmases and is a place that I highly recommend spending the holidays. The Christmas Parade every year is so festive and well organized. The town is also so nicely decorated for Christmas and the square always has the most unconventional Christmas tree. They are usually oddly shaped and decorated and that’s their charm.
By the time we got to town that evening, all the stores were closed for the night and we dined for our early Christmas dinner at Shindig at 1 Tinker Street.
The love the Christmas tree in Downtown Woodstock, NY. It always looks so unusual.
Downtown Woodstock, NY square and Christmas tree
My visits to Woodstock, NY during Christmas meant a lot to me and I always loved going to the town’s Christmas Parade on Christmas Eve night. Santa always makes such interesting entrances.
Shindig has the best hamburgers and some of the most delicious mac & cheese. Talk about great comfort food on a cool misty night in the Catskills. We were the last customers to dine there that night, so they did not rush us as they were cleaning up for the night. Don’t miss their Cowboy burger. I highly recommend it.
Shindig at 1 Tinker Street in Woodstock, NY (Closed June 2022)
We had such a wonderful time visiting all the towns with their Christmas decorations and beautiful window displays. The Hudson River Valley is a wonderful place to get into the Christmas spirit. Who knew with all this Christmas cheer that all hell would break loose two days later.
Thank God I did all these events when I did because by Friday, December 17th, the night of my final exam, there was panic all over the country with the spread of a new variant of COVID, Omicron. All of a sudden, this new variant from South Africa started to move like wildfire all over the country and New York City was inundated by it.
I had to stay home all weekend and grade final exams because grades had to be posted by Tuesday. All I heard on the Internet and on TV was the rapid spread and the almost panic mode that everyone went into. I hauled up in the house and concentrated on school and getting the students emailed with their grades so that they could relax and enjoy their Christmas break.
I posted all my grades by Monday night and had to drop off all the paperwork on Tuesday at the college. I was just glad that they had not cancelled classes on Friday night when I was giving my exam. That would have been too much on me scrambling to get the exams done. Since I was the only one teaching on a Friday night, I was hoping they just forgot about me and the class would just happen which it did. Thank God!
Tuesday afternoon, we had a sparsely attended Faculty Party which I thought was very nice considering what was going on all over the country. We kept our masks on while we were walking around the room and enjoyed a lot of finger foods made by our Culinary Department and soft drinks. It was nice to just talk to people through our masks and catch up with people I had not seen all semester.
On the Sunday, December 19th, the Sunday before Christmas, the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department held its Annual “Santa Around Town”, one of the highlights of the holiday season for both the town and the department. Last year because of COVID rules, we could only drive down each street slowly waving at residents.
This year we were able to go back to making stops and greeting each resident and taking pictures with children and their families. Even a family dog decked out in its Christmas jacket joined in the fun. It was nice to see people outside and engaging with their neighbors.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s ‘Annual Santa Around Town’
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s “Santa Around Town” 2021
By Monday, December 20th, it seemed that the whole country was going crazy with the new COVID variant. Flights were being cancelled, people were putting get togethers on hold and families were abandoning their plans for the holidays. Our family seemed fine until one by one, things kept happening the whole week and everything was derailed by Christmas Eve.
First my brother’s flight was cancelled and he could not get another flight until late Christmas Day so he nixed coming to Delaware for Christmas. Then a family member got sick so my mother cancelled all Christmas plans including our family dinner. She did not want anyone at the house who was not vaccinated. This derailed the plans even more as family members and friends were not vaccinated so no one was going to visit her house that day.
So when my mother called me to tell me that everything was being cancelled, I immediately looked into going back to Woodstock, NY where I had spent many happy Christmases. These plans were abandoned when my other brother’s flight was fine and he was coming for Christmas and he did not want to spend it alone in Rehoboth Beach.
So, I changed my plans again and booked a room at the Chalfonte Hotel’s Southern Quarters and Thank God was able to book the last room at the resort. The main hotel was closed for the season but the Southern Quarters is the small B & B concept they have next door, which serves guests all throughout the winter months (the main hotel will not reopen until May).
This was the weird part about the eve before Christmas Eve, it snowed overnight which it was not in the forecast and it looked like we would have a white Christmas. Since it was supposed to rain all day on Christmas, I looked at the weather and thought ‘great having to walk around with wet weather on Christmas’ but like the rest of the holiday season, Christmas Day brought its own surprises. After paying my respects at the cemeteries, it was off to Cape May to start the holidays.
My Christmas Eve was spent as it had three years earlier, going to dinner at the Boiler Room at The Congress Hotel for dinner. I love their coal-burning oven pizzas and their fresh salads. The dinner was really amazing and the restaurant was pretty busy all things considered. I guess some people were not going to be spooked by everything going on around us, myself included. I figured I was fully vaccinated and if I wore my mask every place, I needed to I would be fine.
The Boiler Room Pizzeria at The Congress Hotel in Cape May, NJ at 200 Congress Place
I had the most wonderful dinner. I started with a Mixed Green salad with Balsamic dressing and chopped strawberries which had the most complex flavor with the sweetness of the strawberries playing off the Balsamic vinegar. The greens were so fresh that they crunched when I bit into them. For the entree, I had the Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza with fresh mozzarella. Talk about a crisp pizza and the sauce could not have been more delicious with the fresh tomatoes and olive oil.
After dinner was over, I walked all over The Congress Hotel which is always so beautifully decorated for the Christmas holidays. The halls are lined with white lights and garlands and a fire roaring in the fireplace in the main hall. Outside on the lawn, there a colorfully decorated tree and decorated tables with pool heaters for people to sit under.
Seeing the casual and engaging conversations the other guests were having you would have never known that there was a major outbreak going on. Most people walking around the hotel were not even wearing masks.
After walking through the grounds and through all the gift shops to see what was for sale (their gift shops are really nice and they have an interesting bakery), I walked the Washington Mall which serves as the Cape May downtown. All the stores were closed by this point but I got to admire all the beautiful window displays and the white lights adorning the trees. The only town that can rival Cape May at Christmas is Rhinebeck, NY. Both have that Christmas feel to them.
The Gazebo in Downtown Cape May
After my walk around Downtown Cape May, I went to 9:00pm Christmas Eve mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Downtown Cape May at 525 Washington Street. I needed some spiritual guidance at this time of the year as well as the rest of the congregation did as well. What really surprise me again was that 95% of the parishioners did not wear masks. I guess people in Cape May thought they were away from the danger (I wore mine through the whole service, hey you never know).
Our Lady Star of the Sea Church at 525 Washington Street in Cape May, NJ
It was a beautiful service with the choir singing and a very inspirational Christmas talk from the priest. The service could not have been more perfect and the church was so beautifully decorated with Christmas trees with white lights and poinsettias all over the place. Very secular but still in the spirit of the holidays.
Christmas services at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church
The next morning, I had to be on the Cape May ferry at 10:15am and there was literally nothing open for breakfast without going to one of the hotels and there was no time for that. There was no food service at the ferry and the woman at the ferry was unsure if food was going to be available on the boat (it was we both found out later), so I left the ferry and had to go to the local WaWa around the corner at 3719 Bayshore Road.
If there was ever a meeting place on Christmas Day that everyone congregated at it was the local Wawa. The place was mobbed with people socializing with one another and wishing everyone else a Merry Christmas. You would have thought I was at City Hall or a Town Square. Everyone knew everyone else in the store and they were all ordering their breakfasts, getting coffee or their takeout orders or filling up on gas for a trip somewhere. I felt like I was in Mayberry.
The surprising part was I ordered a Bacon, Egg and Cheese omelet on a fresh hoagie and it was really good! I was amazed. The All-Berry Smoothie that I ordered with it was also terrific. I was blown away on my Christmas breakfast which I ate on the back of my car since there was no place to sit down.
After breakfast, I noticed the gloomy morning was starting to clear up and by the time the ferry left Cape May for Lewes, DE, it was becoming sunny and bright. When we got to Lewis by noon, it was sunny, clear and going up into the 60’s. It ended up being 65 degrees and sunny the whole day. God answered my prayers for a warm Christmas!
By the time I got off the ferry at noon in Lewes, De, it was a bright sunny and warm day. This is when the forecasters predicted rain all day. The entire afternoon was in the high 60’s, sunny and clear. It was the perfect day to be at the shore.
After dropping some presents off at my mom’s and wishing her a Merry Christmas, my brother, niece, my brother’s girlfriend and I went to Dos Locos in Downtown Rehoboth Beach for Christmas lunch. Unusual choice but it was the only place open. I had the most delicious Shrimp Quesadilla for lunch and that was more than enough after the big breakfast I had two hours earlier.
Before we left the restaurant, we took a memorable group shot in front of their Christmas tree. As we were leaving, I was amazed by how many people had the same idea we had and the restaurant really started to fill up.
My family at Dos Locos for our Christmas Dinner
To work off lunch (and my earlier breakfast), we walked all over the boardwalk that afternoon. Being such a nice day, again everyone had the same idea and we were wishing other families a “Merry Christmas” as they walked on the beach and walked their dogs around the downtown area. It was also ideal to go window shopping. By 3:30pm, it had reached almost 67 degrees and we walked along the beach and watched as one brave soul took a Christmas swim in the ocean. I know it was warm but it was not that warm outside.
My family by Santa’s House on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk
We took a lot of family shots around the Rehoboth beach Christmas Tree and at Santa’s House. He had left for the North Pole, so he was not around at this point. Still, everyone on the boardwalk was taking pictures by the tree.
My brother and I by the Christmas tree in Downtown Rehoboth
My brother and I in the bandstand in Downtown Rehoboth Beach
Me at the holiday displays in the Bandstand in Rehoboth Beach
The Manger at the bandstand in Rehoboth Beach with Santa’s House in the background
It started to get dark by 5:45pm at that point (the days are starting to get longer) and we headed back to my brother’s hotel as they prepared for dinner and I had to head back to the ferry to go back to Cape May.
I was surprised on how well Christmas had turned out. For a day that started off as the original ‘Clusterfuck’, it is amazing how plans change and the day can still turn out to be pretty good. I got on the 7:45pm ferry back to Cape May and we were in by 9:00pm. Again, not much was open on Christmas Day for dinner and I refused to have dinner at WaWa.
When I got back into town, the only two restaurants were the Chinese restaurant in the mall but they were closing for the night. So, I went to the Ugly Mug at 426 Washington Street in the Washington Mall for a snack. It was the only place open besides going back to Congress Hall.
Talk about crowded for a Christmas night! All the locals either had tired from their families, tourists need to get out of their hotels or people had just gotten off their shifts from work, people lined the bar having a good time eating, drinking and laughing. The Christmas games were going on and the bar was in full swing.
With only five minutes left to order, the manager of the restaurant who was eating right next to me was eating a cheesesteak and highly recommended it. So, it was a cheesesteak and a Coke for me on Christmas night. It was nice to sit back and talk with the other patrons and bartenders in a relaxed environment.
The Cheesesteaks at The Ugly Mug are fantastic. Just like Philly!
I spent the rest of Christmas night walking along the shore, listening to the waves hoping to get a glimpse of Santa on his way back to the North Pole. For the craziest Christmas Day with twists and turns, it ended up being a really great day. Not at all what we had planned but sometimes things work out for a reason. I ended up getting the best night’s sleep.
The day after Christmas my plans changed when a friend of mine who came into town changed the plans again and I decided to go to the theater at the Cape May Stage at 405 Layfette Street. I saw the final show of the season “Adopt a Sailor: The Holiday Edition”, which was performed by the Theater Director and his wife who are professional actors.
The Cape May Stage: Adopt a Sailor: The Holiday Edition
It was a clever story about a Manhattan couple that ‘adopt’ a sailor from the deep south for Christmas Eve. I thought it was a bit predictable with the stereotype of the uptight Upper West Side couple and the ‘naive’ sailor from the South but it ended up being a very bittersweet story about the couple looking within on their own relationship with this sailor shipping out on Christmas to a dangerous part of the world. It made them think about how small their own problems were and what Christmas was all about.
After the show was over, I decided to spend my last night in Cape May watching the sunset at Sunset Beach in West Cape May at 502 Sunset Boulevard. If you ever want to see the most spectacular sunset in the world and I have literally seen them all over the world, this is the most fantastic location to see the sunset over the Delaware Bay.
I stayed until after 5:00pm to watch the sun dip below the bay in most spectacular fashion. It really does amaze the way it slowly disappears into the bay and then the whole sky is a brilliant variety of colors. People were literally applauding the sun setting. I left Cape May for home after this.
You have to see the sun set at Sunset Beach at least once
In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I spent the night in the City before the Ball dropped museum hopping between the Met and the MoMA trying to see the current exhibitions before they closed and taking the long ride up to Inwood to see the Cloisters decorated for Christmas and the current exhibition “Spain: 1000-1200” and taking a second look at the Christmas decorations all over the City.
I wanted to explore the neighborhood for changes since COVID and my last trip to the area since the summer, so I walked from The Cloisters to West 155th stopping for lunch and visiting stores and bakeries that I had written about in the past.
I stopped for lunch at the New Golden Star Chinese Restaurant at 4247 Broadway, a restaurant that I had passed many times on my walks down Broadway and had wanted to try. The food is excellent and the service could not have been nicer. I had a Chicken with Broccoli ($11.95) with Hot & Sour Soup and an eggroll.
New Golden Star Chinese Restaurant at 4247 Broadway
The Chicken with Broccoli was delicious and the sauce with a combination of Hunan and Soy really made the dish. The Hot & Sour Soup was one of the best I have had recently. The chili peppers added some kick to the soup and it was loaded with vegetables and sliced pork. The service could not have been nicer.
After lunch, I continued my walk down Broadway. I had originally planned had planned to go the Met on Fifth Avenue but it was too late for that and then I decided to walk down Broadway but by the time I got to West 155th Street near the cemetery I was pooped. I needed something sweet, so I stopped at one of my favorite bakeries uptown Five Star Estrella Bakery at 3861 Broadway for a snack.
I had the most amazing Vanilla and Strawberry Iced Doughnut ($2.00) and between the sweet thick icing on top and the rich dough, every bite was heaven. I was reenergized but my feet were beginning to kill me. I stopped at Ilka Tanya Payan Park and sat down to finish my doughnut and relax.
I just admired the Christmas tree in the park for a bit before taking the subway back to midtown. I never knew that the park was named after the actress and activist, Ilka Tanya Payan. I thought it was nice of community to set such a beautiful tree up for the holidays and it was nicely decorated. I was finished for the day.
Ilka Tanya Payan Park at Edward Morgan Place & Broadway
New Year’s Eve this year was a quiet evening at home watching the ball drop on TV. There was no way I was going back to the City with those crowds in that cold. Thank God that 2021 is now over and hopefully better days ahead!
This was not the Christmas I planned but things took so many twists and turns that I just went with the flow. This is why I am fully vaccinated. Life needs to go on as normal in these unnormal times.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
My three favorite Christmas songs: These are the songs that I wait to hear on the radio.
The Ronette’s: Sleigh Ride:
Ray Parker Jr.: Christmas Time is Here
The Waitresses: Christmas Wrapping
I also thought these Christmas songs in Chinese were interesting when I found them on YouTube:
I find it intriguing how other countries see Christmas and interpret it.
I have been coming to Hot Dog Johnny’s since 1975 when I made my first trip to the Delaware Water Gap with my family. My father always enjoyed taking the back roads and he remembered this hot dog stand that sold buttermilk with their hot dogs.
Hot Dog Johnny’s at 333 Route 46 West in Buttzville, NJ
Hot Dog Johnny’s has kept the same limited menu since it was founded in the 1940’s, hot dogs, fries and drinks. It has been CASH ONLY all this time as well so don’t come with the fancy credit cards and they post that they are cash only right when you order.
The sign is famous on its own
You place your order at the take-out window and there are picnic tables just outside the building and down by the tributary of the Pequest River. The views of the river and the surrounding mountains are breathtaking and on a nice day, it is a pleasure to eat outside on the picnic tables by the water. You could not ask for better views in the Spring and Fall.
The food is really good and very reasonable. The hot dogs are deep fried and they are served on soft buns with a limited number of toppings: mustard, ketchup, pickles and onions ($2.25). There is no chili or items like that to top them. They have a nice snap to them when you bite into hot dog.
The French Fries I believe are freshly cut and deep fried to perfection. They are always hot, crisp and golden brown ($1.80). They are lightly salted and you can get packs of ketchup for them (due to COVID).
There is a limited number of beverages including Buttermilk, Birch Beer, Coke, Diet Coke, and Lemon/Lime Soda. The small drinks are $1.00 with larger sizes available.
The whole meal cost me $5.72 for a hot dog with mustard and a pickle, French Fries and a small ice-cold Birch Beer (the meal I have always ordered here). It is a good deal to me.
I love the food here.
The History of Hot Dog Johnny’s:
(From their website)
Across the nation the words “Hot Dog Johnny’s” trigger visions of a nostalgic roadside stand known as much for its food as for its atmosphere. With the Pequest River flowing in the background, Hot Dog Johnny’s is a landmark to anyone having traveled Route 46 through Buttzville, NJ.
Family owned and operated since 1944, John Kovalsky founded Hot Dog Johnny’s thus earning himself the new nickname. John and his wife, Louise, ran Hot Dog Johnny’s in its early days from a small modest stand to its current state as a sixties independent roadside stand.
Although both John and Louise have passed on, their legacy lives on. A very hard working man, who believed the only way to make an honest living was to work hard for it, stood behind his words as he worked in the Dover mines in the day and the Hot Dog stand at night. He strongly believed anything was possible with the right kind of support which he always credited his wife Louise with.
Hot Dog Johnny’s opened its doors on Palm Sunday, 1944 sharing space with a gas station at the intersection of Route 46 and 31 in Warren County, NJ. It was not long before John Kovalsky knew he outgrew the space he occupied thus leading him to buy land along the Pequest River on Route 46 not far from the original location. A man with great vision, he built a hot dog stand not only to provide the best food services possible but also to provide an atmosphere for families to meet and enjoy for years to come.
The testimonies of customers over the years prove Hot Dog Johnny’s visions were on target as they tell stories of coming to the stand as kids with their parents and now come as parents themselves with their own children. It’s a meeting place for family and friends, a fun place for kids to ride on the swings and whether you’re having your meal at the tables on the patio or on the grass by the river one thing is for sure, your experience at Hot Dog Johnny’s will be a memorable on for years to come.
The original stand is still displayed with pride on the grounds of the present Hot Dog Johnny’s property.
Hot Dog Johnny’s original stand that is located to the back of the parking lot
The business is currently being operated by Hot Dog Johnny’s daughter, Patricia Fotopoulos, who has been involved with the business since it opened in 1944. At age 8, Pat stood on the crates handing out sodas. Today, she stands proudly handing out the best Hot Dog’s ever to the most loyal customers ever.
Hot Dog Johnny’s has been cited by the Travel Channel as being one of the most popular roadsides stands across the country and has also been featured in many major newspapers across the country.
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