Lucky Wang at 82 Seventh Avenue (Lucky Wang website)
I saw this unusual, patterned dress in the window of Lucky Wang, a delightful children’s store in Greenwich Village and I had to stop in and see it up close. This little dress is just one of the many beautiful and unique pieces of clothing that the store carries. Many of the clothing items have such vibrant colors and patterns.
I love walking around the store and wishing I was still a kid getting to pick out my own clothes for school. This is such a special little shop that dresses children so beautifully and prepares them for their first day at school or for a special holiday. There are so many interesting items to choose from the various tables and shelves.
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.
The Creation of the Case Study Project “Mother Goose’s Toy Chest”:
I have been teaching “Introduction to Business 101” at Bergen Community College for several years now and in the era of COVID, it has been especially difficult. With businesses shutting down never to reopen, I think some of my students thought it was an unusual time to open a business. This is when you need to test your entrepreneurship when times are tough.
In my live classes, I open my consulting company, “Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.”, for business and the whole class bands together and we have one big project. In the era of COVID and online learning, these projects become impossible to do as a group so each student got the opportunity to create their own store.
In the past, I have created these projects under the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. banner, the main consulting company, the Orion Malls banner, a Mall design company and the Buscomonzefi.com banner, my Tech Division. Each business does its best to be creative, forward thinking and have a thought producing presentations.
Professor Justin Watrel, CEO & Consultant Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.
While my other class worked on their case study project, “Scoops & Sundaes”, an artisan ice cream shop (Day One Hundred and Ninety-Five), I decided to have this group of students create a shop based on the increases we are seeing in the toy industry of traditional playthings. It seems in the era of COVID, people want puzzles, board games and dolls and stuffed animals again. I have watched my Mattel stock double and Hasbro has been increasing as well.
The “Scoops & Sundaes” case study project: Day One Hundred and Ninety-Five:
I created the concept of the toy store, “Mother Goose’s Toy Chest” based on the all the wonderful little artisan toy stores I have visited over the years, showcasing one of kind merchandise made by local artists and specialty manufactured goods by small companies. I also asked the students to think about imported goods handmade from other countries and add in supporting small manufactures here in the states. I wanted to promote American made products.
Using the textbook, “Understanding Business” by William Nickels and James and Susan McHugh, we studied and covered every chapter in the book. By Chapter Five “How to Start a Business”, I had the students start the project and introduced the store concept. I gave a WebEx lecture on starting a business and my expectations for the project. Then I assigned the first extra credit project for the assignment, creating a logo for the store.
Here are some of my favorites:
Logo One: Mother Goose’s Toy Chest
Logo Two: Mother Goose’s Toy Chest
Logo Three: Mother Goose’s Toy Chest
We then moved onto Chapter Six on “Entrepreneurship” and I asked the students what types of products they would like to sell in the store and how they might want the store designed. I then asked them create a ‘Mission Statement” to tell me as a consumer who they wanted to be in the marketplace.
Chapter Seven had the students thinking about ‘Management and Leadership’ skills. Who did they want to be as a business owner? What type of leadership skills would they need? Chapter Eight had the students studying about “Production and Operations Management” and I then had the students create their store layout.
We next moved on to who your staff would be in Chapter Ten “Motivating Employees” and Chapter Eleven “Human Resource Management” and how you would recruit them? I then had the students create a Job Description to find the perfect employee for the store that they needed when it got busy or during the holiday season.
I had the students thinking about merchandise for the store in Chapter Thirteen “Marketing: Helping Buyers Buy”. I asked the students to create a Birthday Party/Summer Camp Registry” for the store so that children could pick out things for their events and get the items they want for each.
In Chapter Sixteen “Using Effective Promotions” I had the students create a ‘Bundling Ad’ to promote a grouping of products for sale at the store. How could they use a grouping of products at a discounted price to promote the store.
To explain the concepts of “Sexual Harassment” on the job, I used the movies “9 to 5” and “How to Succeed in Business without even Trying” as examples of how to deal with and recognize these issues.
“A Secretary is not a Toy” is the clip that I like to use to explain this.
By the end of the class, I saw many different ways of looking at the business that was created as each student put their own touches on it. Some had their businesses in New York City, some in the New Jersey suburbs, some went to malls or strip malls and some opened in local downtowns. Others went out of town to places like Orlando and San Jose, CA.
Their selection of toys went from the classics such as board games, Barbies and puzzles to more upscale selections of handmade and one of kind objects. I had to remind them that they had to be realistic as they needed to make a profit to pay the bills.
On their final exam, I had them look at the famous scene from the movie “Big” to ask how the use of “Product Placement” of FAO Schwarz Toy Store in the famous film promoted the store. It got some interesting answers.
The famous “Piano” scene from the movie “Big”
I thought this scene would motivate the students.
Overall I was impressed by their projects but was surprised by how many students did not take advantage of the extra credit projects as I would like to have visually have seen what the students were thinking in their ideas.
It was another wonderful project under the independent “Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.” banner to promote Entrepreneurship and a sense of business creativity.
The Project “Mother Goose’s Toy Chest”:
The Class Participation Questions and Quizzes I used:
I have found that walking the Avenues of the Upper West Side to be much easier than the Upper East Side. There are less blocks to walk and this side of the island is smaller in space than the middle of the Upper East Side which begins to jut out on that part of the island.
Each Avenue on the Upper West Side has its own uniqueness to it. Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues are more of a shopping district with Amsterdam Avenue having most of the quirky restaurants and old-time stores. Broadway is rapidly changing was the stores of the 80’s and 90’s are quickly losing their leases and with the rents jacked up is home to more chains now more than ever. It seems that another new chain restaurant and store opens up every month. Even here, I have watched the chain stores lose their leases and go away.
West End Avenue is strictly residential and the blocks between it and Riverside Drive hold a treasure trove old stone townhouses, brownstones and marble mansions with the graceful cravings, ornate stairs and potted plants outside the homes. There is an immense pride in this part of the neighborhood, and I swear probably not much as changed since the turn of the last century.
I was walking up from Soup Kitchen that afternoon and after a long day on the Bread Station holding off questions of why we do not have any pastry (none was donated) and the lack of raisin bagels (again none were donated) and why we no longer use butter for the bread (the peanut butter was donated), it was off for a long walk to the Upper West Side. Being closer to midtown, I have been walking more often than using the subway.
I have walked Central Park West, both sides many times and the biggest changes I have seen in the buildings here is that most of them are being sandblasted back to life as new owners and residents have been rapidly converting the Upper West Side into the new Upper East Side. The new residents seem much richer, less liberal and a whole lot younger. I have never seen so many baby carriages and little dogs since walking the heart of the Upper East Side. At least here, the dogs seem less spoiled (with the multiple grooming places for dogs, the B & B for Dogs (upscale kennel) and places for doggies treats and clothes, dogs get better treated than the homeless).
As you walk up Central Park West, the first thing you see it the statue dedicated to the members of the U.S.S. Maine that was mysteriously bombed February 15th, 1898, which started the Spanish-American War. The War started on April 25th, 1898 and would last eight months. After a series of conflicts due to the War, the Philippines and Cuba gained their Independence and we got Guam and Puerto Rico as part of the deal.
The statue, designed by sculpture Attilio Piccirilli and Charles Keck, with the help of architect Harold Van Buren Magonigle and was dedicated on May 30th, 1913. The statue was dedicated to the 261 people lost when the U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana harbor in February of 1898. This started the Spanish-American War in April of 1898 (Wiki).
Really take time to look at this statue for its details, its plaques that line the base and the detail work. It unfortunately is now used as a bench for most people who attend the Christmas and Farmer’s Markets that now line the base of the statue. I don’t think most people today know what the Spanish-American War of 1898 was or its significance in our country’s history. If you say, “Remember the Maine” today, most people will go ‘huh’?
As I walked up Central Park West along the park side, you will see the landscape lined with trees, lawns, parks and massive rock formations which seem more prevalent ten blocks up. These formations are leftovers of the last Ice Age, and it is amazing to know that these will drag for hundreds of miles as the ice moved. I have noticed more of these rock formations on the Upper Upper West Side and in Washington Heights and it is interesting to see our connections still to the last Ice Age.
Being the time of year that it is, the whole park was winter hibernation but people using the park on a 46-degree day brings life to almost everything. The kids dominated the playgrounds after school and tourist and locals alike were walking dogs and chatting along the paths. Even in the colder months, Central Park is always busy.
When I reached the border of the neighborhood at West 72nd Street, I passed the famous Dakota Apartment Building that dominated the corner of West 72nd Street and Central Park West. Really look up at the detail work of this building. Built between 1880-1884, the building was designed by the firm of Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, the same firm that designed the Plaza Hotel. The name ‘The Dakota’ some feel came from the isolated location so far uptown at the time it was built in that the Dakota Territories were so isolated from the country at the time.
This video is on the Dakota Apartments and Rosemary’s Baby
The building is currently under renovation, but you can still peek into the side of the building to see the old courtyard where the carriages used to drop residents off and the apartments themselves were designed around the French layouts at the time with large ceilings and rooms that flowed into one another. The resident listing is a Who’s Who of the entertainment and arts industry and the filming of the movie ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ was done in the front of the building as well as the death of musician, John Lennon in the early 80’s.
As you pass the beauty of The Dakota, West 72nd Street has an array of architectural styles of brownstones and marble homes lining the street. The carving of the stone is work that you no longer see in design and so much of the neighborhood is under scaffolding as new owners are sandblasting these buildings back to their original beauty.
Continuing the walk-up Central Park West, you continue to pass many beautiful and graceful stone apartment buildings with beautiful views of the park that are going through their own renovations.
At West 77th Street, you are at the Museum Row of the Upper West Side with the New York Historical Society at 170 Central Park West and the American Museum of Natural History located on Central Park West and West 79th Street.
New York Historical Society at 170 Central Park West
If you are reading this blog post in 2018, please remember to stop by the museum to see both the ‘Unseen Ocean’ and the ‘Senses’ exhibitions that just opened. The ‘Unseen Ocean’ explores the unknown deep of our oceans and the new species that we are discovering in the deep. It takes a look at the new development of equipment where we can explore deeper than before and the new discoveries that pop up with every trip. The ‘Senses’ exhibition explores how we react to the environment around us. These can be seen with the museum day pass.
As you round West 84th Street and down the block to Columbus Avenue, really look up around you and see the faces following you down the block to the next Avenue. The carvings of faces on the buildings stare out into the abyss or look to one another. You won’t really notice it until you really look at the detail work of each building. You will be doing a lot of stopping and staring between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue.
Back in 1984 to 1987, during the first really big gentrification of the Upper West Side, Columbus Avenue was a big deal, everything from 59th Street to about 86th Street was being sandblasted back to life and all sorts of new restaurants and shops were opening up left and right around the American Museum of Natural History.
Stores like the DDL Food Show (Dino De Laurentis’s Gourmet Shop), Penny Whistle Toys and the infamous Museum Café (where the Shake Shack is located now) were the topic of conversation when they opened. After the crash of 1987, most of these places had closed or where long gone and by the mid-90’s, the whole block was changing again as all the expensive stores and restaurants started to leave.
Today Columbus Avenue between 72nd Street to 84th Street is starting to go through another change. Instead of all the expensive places kicking the reasonable places out, many store fronts have gone dark and sit empty. This is a plague that is going all not just all over the Upper West Side but all over the City. Many old-line businesses from the 70’s, 80’s and even the 90’s that I have seen for years, like Isabella’s Restaurant, on the corner of Columbus Avenue and 78th Street, where my dad and I had many a meal for his birthday and for Father’s Day, shut its doors about a year ago and now sits empty.
Columbus Avenue is now in a state of flux with newer more expensive places opening up here and there. I don’t think it has dawned on these landlords that not everyone wants a $16.00 hamburger. In the lower 70’s of Columbus Avenue, it is more and more chain stores and even they seem like they are struggling. You can have only so many stores selling the same merchandise that is currently on sale at Macy’s while the restaurants have similar menus. The rents are forcing, from my opinion, the merchants away from their creativity to what is safe.
All along stretches of Columbus Avenue, especially closer to the American Museum of Natural History, the store fronts are mostly empty and looking at the current prices to buy an apartment in the neighborhood, you can see the reason why. Apartments are going for what their East Side counterparts are going for (or maybe a little less depending on the street). The street is once again changing from more expensive fashion to I am not sure what, but I can’t wait to see what happens next on Columbus Avenue between West 72nd Street and West 84th Street.
With these changes comes the changes at the museum’s as well. The American Museum of Natural History is ever renovating displays or launching new shows. “Unseen Ocean’s”, the story of the newly explored deep, is resulting in long lines at the museum. New ways to explore the bottom of the ocean with nautical looking machines that even Jules Vern could not have thought of are finding new species and showing the food network of the bottom of the sea. This museum has woken up in the last ten years.
The American Museum of Natural History’s “Unseen Oceans” exhibition
The New York Historical Society is a far cry from what it was fifteen years ago when no one entered the musty halls of that relic. Today more and more innovative programs are opening, and they even have an upscale coffee whose prices are ridiculous even for a museum.
Both museums have been sandblasted back to their original glory, have been renovated and are showing innovative programming that rivals anything of their East Side counterparts.
Amsterdam Avenue I have always felt feels like real New York with the funky stores, small independent restaurants and pocket parks that line interwoven parts of the neighborhood.
I had lunch this afternoon at Harriet’s Kitchen at 502 Amsterdam Avenue for one of their famous ‘Fried Chicken Sandwiches” (now closed). Trust me, it lived up to the hype I saw online. The sandwich was $9.95 with hand cut French Fries and a Coke made a total of $11.95 and it was worth every bite.
Harriet’s Kitchen at 503 Amsterdam Avenue (Closed in 2019)
This sandwich was the perfect food item for my walk as I needed the protein. The sandwich was two large chicken breasts marinated in buttermilk and then dredged in a cornmeal crust and then fried golden crisp. It was crunchy and savory in every bite. It was one of the best chicken sandwiches I had ever eaten. The fries were good as well as they were cooked to a golden crisp as well. It was accompanied by a spicy remoulade sauce and sour pickles which added an extra kick to the sandwich. The service was really friendly and even though the place is a little dumpy, the food is no reflection of that. I have not eaten chicken this good since my tour of Harlem.
Harriet’s Kitchen Chicken Sandwich was delicious
Right next to Harriet’s Kitchen is West Side Kids at 498 Amsterdam Avenue, so I got a chance to tour the store again which was stocked to the gills with new toys. Across the street from Harriet’s Kitchen is the Urban Assembly Green Space Garden at 145 84th Street, that the students maintain on the corner of West 84th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.
This garden is used by the students for the growing season and at the height of the season they sell their fruits and vegetables to the public. Take some time to walk around this urban oasis when it is in season.
Amsterdam Avenue is like Lexington Avenue in that it is a nice mix of stores and restaurants that are more affordable to the average New Yorker. This is beginning to change in the low 70’s but like most of the neighborhood is a state of flux. I am beginning to see the same number of empty storefronts on this Avenue as well.
Broadway in this part of the island is designed as a French Boulevard with landscaping down an strip of island down the middle of the road with benches at each island stopover. As I had mentioned in my observation further uptown, this part of Broadway was designed for upscale living with grand apartment buildings.
The Ansonia Apartments at 2101-2119 Broadway was built in 1899 by architect Paul E.M. Duboy in the traditional Beaux Arts style in the Victorian Age was a residential hotel. The detail work on the outside is gorgeous with all sorts of statuary, carvings and iron work and topped with a mansard roof. The building has housed many famous people in the arts, music and politics. You can peek inside the courtyard to see where the carriages once let the residents off similar in design to The Dakota further west (Wiki).
The Apthorp Apartments at 2201-2219 Broadway was built between 1906-1908 by architects Clinton & Russell for William Waldorf Astor and takes up the whole block between Broadway and West End Avenue. The building was designed in the Italian Renaissance Revival style and when you peek inside the building you can see the courtyard where carriages once a upon a time used to drop the residents off. Over-sized limestone sculptures representing the Four Seasons stand above the ventral barrel-vaulted entrance with wrought iron gates feature a pair of gazelle heads (Wiki).
The Astor Apartments at 235 West 75th Street tops Broadway with the grand apartment buildings and is currently going under a major renovation and restoration. The building is currently under scaffolding (as seems the whole neighborhood) so it hides the beauty of the building. The stores below are changing as well as even Barney’s has moved out of the neighborhood.
The building was developed in 1909 for William Waldorf Astor II by architects Clinton & Russell for the two eight story wings and the firm of Peabody, Wilson & Brown did the taller tower. The beauty in this building is in the simplicity of its elegance and the detail work along the roof.
When walking up Broadway, note that this area was built at a time when the wealthy were scaling down their lives at the turn of the last century and this form of luxury was becoming the norm. By the 60’s and 70’s, these grand apartment buildings like the rest of the neighborhood got rundown but currently all are on the process of renovation, or their completion have led the apartments to be reconnected back to their four to five room layouts.
The stores along Broadway have given way to a commercial district of chain stores but still has lots of ‘gems’ lining Broadway. Rents have risen so much in the area that a lot of these stores and restaurants might face displacement in the future. Like the rest of the city, there is a cost of doing business in NYC.
Some of the most famous stores are the great purveyors of food the most well-known being Fairway at 2131 Broadway and Zabar’s at 2245 Broadway. These are more than just grocery stores; they are institutions in New York.
Fairway supermarket, which now has branches outside the city, is stocked from ceiling to floor with everything you need to fill a kitchen. When I walked through it, it seemed more like a traditional grocery store, fancy but functional loaded with every brand imaginable. It is fun to to walk around the tight aisles and look at the merchandise. They also have a nice, prepared food section with everything you need for a picnic in the park.
Zabar’s though, is a true New York institution. I have been coming here since the 1970’s when my mother’s bible for food was both Gourmet and New York Magazines. Anytime we went into the city, Zabar’s was a place we visited especially if she saw it one of those two magazines.
Zabar’s is broken down into sections each with their own mouthwatering smells and like Fairway, lined from top to bottom with delicacies. Their cheese department has the most wonderful aroma when walking through it and the bakery section always smells of croissant and chocolate. The prepared foods section is still one of the best in the city. They have enough for a full meal that you might make at home but ‘don’t have the time’. Just walking around is an experience. They also have a small restaurant off to the side of the building complex and it has specials during lunch (See review on TripAdvisor).
Westsider Rare & Used Books at 2246 Broadway across from Zabar’s and a little further down by West 81st Street and Broadway is piled high with used, antique and out of print books. This worn looking bookstore is what out-of-towners would say a New York bookstore should look like down to the literary looking woman who works there much like her counterpart at Westsider Records down at 233 West 72nd Street. The people the store has working there fit the stereotype of who would work there. These two stores are fun to wonder around in especially if you grew up in the late 60’s and the 70’s and early 80’s before the ‘Yuppie’ transformation of NYC. You never know what treasure you will find in the stacks of these stores.
Most of the rest of Upper Broadway is quite commercial but helpful in everyday needs of shopping and entertainment. The big AMC Theater attracts people from all over the neighborhood and this area is always busy.
During a break in the walking, I stopped by the West Side Cafe at 218 West 72nd Street for the noted Sausage, Egg and Cheese bagel ($3.95) that I ate in Riverside Park. I had seen someone eating it the other day and had to have it. It was well-worth the visit and the sandwich were big and warmed me up with every bite on this cool day.
West Side Cafe & Pizza at 218 West 72nd Street (Closed in 2020)
West End Avenue like the area’s uptown is lined with graceful apartment buildings and on the side streets elegant apartment buildings and brownstones. There are a lot of beautiful churches and schools in this area of the neighborhood.
When you walk down West 84th Street (named after Edgar Allen Poe), you walk into a residential area that time has not touched (except for the sandblasting of the buildings). Most of the apartment buildings are art themselves with all the stonework, carvings and ironwork decorating them. Really take time to look at the stonework of the apartments and the brownstones lining all the streets between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive.
The Mickey Mantle Elementary School P.S. M811 sits at the corner of West End Avenue and West 81st Street at 466 West End Avenue which was named after the famous Yankee Baseball Player. The school specializes in teaching children with learning disabilities and is one of the best of its kind in the City. The school was renamed after the famous player June 4th, 2002, and its academic excellence would have made Mr. Mantle proud.
You can see the back of the Antony Apartments between West 79th and 78th Streets and still you see the grandeur of this apartment building from all sides including the courtyard. The West End Collegiate Church at 245 West 77th Street can be seen for the entire block and it picturesque in its appearance.
Built in 1892 by architect Robert W. Gibson, this church was designed in the Gothic Dutch-Flemish Revival Renaissance design and is a noted landmark as headquarter to the church and the Collegiate School, one of the best prep schools in the City. Walk around the church to see the brick details and the Coats of Arms of past patrons lining their walls (Wiki/Church Website). The look of the church is different from all sides.
There is a small plaque at 440 West End Avenue dedicated to Charles Evans Hughes, the Republican Governor and great State Reformer. He had championed the eight-hour day, forty-eight-hour week for workers (under 16) and set up a Trades Act to protect workers much of what we work with today. He also served as Secretary of State under President Harding among his many accomplishments.
I finished my walk at the Eleanor Roosevelt statue at the end of Riverside Park and walked around this side of the park which on a cool day was relaxing. I just sat by the benches and looked at all the interesting buildings.
Eleanor Roosevelt Statue at Riverside Square Park
The statue was done by sculptor Penelope Jencks and Michael Middleton Dwyer and the architects on the project were Bruce Kelly and David Varnell. Ms. Jencks is an American artist who studied at Boston University and graduated with BFA.
The monument lies at the threshold of the Riverside Park and is one of a sequence of civic monuments along Riverside Drive honoring people of historical significance (NYC Parks.org). It’s a nice place to just relax and watch the world go by. This is also the end of Riverside Park which ends at West 72nd Street.
Just to add more walking in, I walked to West Place Chinese Restaurant at 1288 Amsterdam Avenue for dinner that night. I had a craving for Chinese food and still had a lot of energy left in me from the sandwich earlier and it had started to clear up, so I made the trek up Amsterdam Avenue to above the Columbia campus near West 110th Street.
I had a Chicken with Green Beans and pork fried rice combination platter dinner ($8.75) that was excellent and could have feed two people. The chicken was packed with flavor from the spicy garlic sauce and the fried rice had a decent amount of pork in it. The egg roll was pretty decent as well, filled with pork and shredded cabbage.
This local hole in the wall restaurant has now become a favorite not just of people living in the public and private housing complexes that line this part of the neighborhood above Columbia University but with the students as well. I have seen the place packed with Asian students on their lunch hour much to the surprise of everyone else.
After dinner, I walked from West 108th Street to West 42nd Street back to the Port Authority to go home. It had been a long day of walking but there is so much to see and if you really stop to look at everything closely in this neighborhood there is a lot of history packed into this part of the Upper West Side.
Please read my other Blogs on walking this part of the Upper West Side:
Day One Hundred and Five: Walking the Avenues of the Upper West Side from West 84th to West 72nd Streets:
It took a long time to finish the Upper East Side neighborhood above 72nd Street and I wanted to return to many of the historical spots to get more research in so it took longer than I thought.
After a long day in Soup Kitchen (I swear I should do these on separate days) in the Beverage Station, I left the Soup Kitchen exhausted again. I can not believe how demanding the homeless can be.
I took the Number One Subway up to 86th Street and walked down to West 84th Street and Central Park West to walk the ring of the neighborhood. Returning to West 84th Street was like visiting an old friend. I had not been on this side of town in months.
I have walked the length of Central Park West many times in this project from 110th Street past 59th Street back to the Port Authority many times on this project in various seasons and it is interesting to see the park at various times of the year. Still, not matter what season, Central Park is always busy. Whether it is people walking their dogs, people jogging on paths or kids playing in playgrounds, the park is always in use no matter what the weather is during the year.
As you walk Central Park West, take time out to really look at the architecture of the buildings and the beauty of the stone work and the carvings. You will not see this in modern buildings. From the sandblasted outsides of buildings to the redone gilded lobbies, you can see a change in the personality of the structure. People are bringing grace back to the apartment buildings and much care.
As I walked past the ‘Museum Mile” of the Upper West Side in the New York Historical Society at 170 Central Park West and the American Museum of Natural History at Central Park West and 79th Street both displayed their upcoming shows. If you get a chance, go see the “Unseen Oceans” and “Senses” exhibitions at the American Museum of Natural History. Both tell a different story and the new “Unseen Oceans” exhibition helps us discover what lurks a depths we have never been. There is a whole new world to discover here.
The New York Historical Society at 170 Central Park West
At Central Park West and 77th Street, check out the statue of Alexander Von Humboldt, the famous Prussian geographer, naturalist and explorer. Von Humboldt had explored South America to a great extent back in 1700’s as well as extensive exploration in Europe. The Humboldt Squid is named after him as well as he invented the safety lamp for exploration.
The statue by noted artist, Gustav Blaeser, was dedicated in 1869 and was moved to this location much later. Gustav Blaeser was a German born artist whose works can be seen all over the world. He started in the studio of Christian Daniel Rauch (Wiki).
From West 84th Street on Central Park West to Columbus Avenue, it is always a treasure trove of interesting brownstones. To believe that only 25 years ago, this place was almost abandoned, you should see the transformation now with all these old buildings being sandblasted back to life. There is a lot of TLC (tender loving care) going on in the West Side of Manhattan.
Really look at the architecture on West 84th Street from Central Park West to Columbus Avenue and watch the faces watch you starting with 239 Central Park West laden with faces of men and women surrounding it. The beautiful building was built in 1925 in the Neo-Renaissance style by architects Sugarman & Berger. Take time to look at this 16 story Upper West Side classic and watch as it ‘turns heads’. As you pass all the brownstones, really look at the carvings of the faces in all the archways and doorways. You never know who is watching from all angles.
Unlike the East Side, where every Avenue seems to being torn down for another apartment building or office tower, the West side of the island is keeping more of its charms. I just do not see the same changes going on in this part of the island as the zoning seems different. Here most of the streets are under scaffolding to sandblast these buildings back to their original glory with new owners. One thing is for sure, the ownership is changing. I have never seen so many kids running around after school.
Like the Upper East Side, this side of town has its share of schools and there are plenty of kids walking home in groups or with their parents. The conversations are very similar to the ones I heard cross town. Politics, relationships and problems with classmates. It is a amazing the conversations you hear in restaurants, bakeries and on the sidewalks.
The one thing that does not change on the streets of New York is how pampered their pets are. I have never seen so many well-groomed animals. Not to the extent of their East side counterparts (who have about six to eight upscale grooming places) but I can tell people love their dogs.
As I passed down West 84th Street, I visited many businesses I had been to so many months ago like West Side Kids at 498 Amsterdam Avenue, John Koch Antiques at 201 West 84th Street and Books of Wonder at 217 West 84th Street all of which have become some of my favorite stores on the West Side.
West Side Kids at 498 Amsterdam Avenue is one of the many nice stores in the area
When walking down West 84th Street I came across the plaque at 215 West 84th Street, Eagle Court which stands on what was once the home of Edgar Allan Poe’s farmhouse that was located between Broadway and 84th Street. The plaque noted that this is where he wrote the “The Raven” (HistoryHomes.com).
Also, when you reach West End Avenue, pause to look at the lines of brownstones surrounding the block and the beautiful stonework and carvings on each brownstone. The block as well as most of the blocks between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive are classic and detailed in their architecture.
Riverside Drive changes from block to block. Some of the blocks are protected under the Historic districts that they are part of and other blocks are high rise apartments. The West End Historical District runs from about West 80th Street to West 79th Street. Here you will find an array of artistically designed mansions with their large windows and whimsical turrets. These homes are tucked into and around the surrounding apartment buildings.
The West End Collegiate Historic District encompasses even a bigger area of this part of the neighborhood covering from West 79th Street to West 70th Street from Riverside Drive to parts of Broadway. This historic district contains many famous and prominent apartment buildings, brownstones and churches including the Collegiate Church on West End Avenue, the Ansonia and Astor Apartments on Broadway and the Chatsworth Apartments (which are under current renovations) at West 72nd Street.
The pre-war architecture and Victorian style of these buildings are unique to NYC now and should be protected. This type of structure is in danger of being knocked down and replaced with larger more modern construction. Note this in my writing of the Upper East Side which is going through so many changes right now.
Walking along Riverside Drive starting at West 84th Street is a treat. There is that juxtaposed mix of buildings with Victorian mansions tucked next to pre-war apartments with a few modern buildings thrown in. All of this is facing Riverside Park, which for most of the time I was walking the neighborhood was still in winter dormancy.
At West 81st Street and Riverside Drive inside the entrance to the park is the River Run Playground, your first source of public bathrooms. The park was quiet on a winter afternoon but after a few visits to the neighborhood and the weather getting warmer, the kids came out in droves with their parents tagging along.
The beauty of River Run Playground is in the details of the park. The bathrooms have the most beautiful monkey designs molded into the gates, so you have to look up for them. The park itself is oval in design filled with every whimsical plaything a child could want. What I liked about the park as it got warmer was the hill overlooking the park. The Riverside Park Conservatory and the local neighbors planted the hill with all sorts of Spring flowers which are now popping up. Crocuses, Tulips and Daffodils will line the hills overlooking the park and the river and already it is quite a site.
The beauty of Riverside Drive is that there are many parks within the park. At the entrance to the park at West 83rd Street is the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial Park and Gardens. The 12,000 square foot plaza, enclosed by gardens planters, crab-apple and locust trees and a polychrome granite wall, is part of the West Side Improvement.
The massive Riverside Park expansion directed by Parks Commissioner, Robert Moses and designed by Gilmore D. Clarke and Clinton Loyd was completed in 1937. In 1990, the perimeter gardens were designed and planted by David T. Goldstick. In 2001, the plaza was renovated by Mayor Rudy Giuliani in partnership with the Riverside Park Fund (NYC Parks.org).
The plaza and gardens have served as a place of contemplation and remembrance of the victims of Nazi brutality. The plaza takes its name from the modest granite plaque at its center and was one of the first Holocaust monuments in the United States, the plaque and its surroundings were dedicated on October 19, 1947, by Mayor William O’Dwyer. A crowd of 15,000 attended, including 100 survivors of the Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps. Each year on April 19th, people gather here in memory of the inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto, who rose up against their Nazi captors and the six million other Jews martyred during WWII. This plaza is a place a beauty and contemplation and is a nice place to just relax and think (NY Parks.org).
At Riverside Drive and 76th Street is the Neufeld Playground, a recently renovated park with two playgrounds for kids of various ages. The best part of the playground is the public bathrooms and like John Jay Park on the East Side, they are open until 5:00pm so this is a great place to make a pit stop and relax on the benches.
When you exit the Neufeld Playground, you will notice the Robert Ray Hamilton fountain, an empty fountain with an eagle statue topping it. The ornate, baroque styled marble fountain is named for Robert Ray Hamilton, the great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton, the great statesman, who was a prominent businessman, landowner and politician in his own right.
He bequeathed $9,000 to the city to create and install it. It is one of the finest and last surviving examples of the decorative horse troughs that once lined the city landscape. It was used for horses to drink in when they were making their way along Riverside Drive (NYC Parks.org).
At the corner of Riverside Drive and West 72nd Street, just inside the park is a statue dedicated to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Known for her many civic and charitable contributions to the government at the time one top of being a teacher, women’s rights activist and raising five children during the Presidency, she fought for the rights of people.
Eleanor Roosevelt Statue by artist Penelope Jencks in Riverside Park
The statue was done by sculptor Penelope Jencks and Michael Middleton Dwyer and the architects on the project were Bruce Kelly and David Varnell. Ms. Jencks is an American artist who studied at Boston University and graduated with BFA.
The monument lies at the threshold of the Riverside Park and is one of a sequence of civic monuments along Riverside Drive honoring people of historical significance (NYC Parks.org). It’s a nice place to just relax and watch the world go by. This is also the end of Riverside Park which ends at West 72nd Street.
One building that stands out right across the street from the beginning of Riverside Park is the Chadsworth Apartment Building at 344 West 72nd Street built in 1904 designed by architect John D. Scharsmith for owner George F. Johnson. It was designed to face the park in an English garden fashion. It was lavishly designed in detail to attract the wealthy patrons of Fifth Avenue, who had started to abandon their mansions after the turn of the 20th century (Wiki).
Done in a brick and limestone exterior, the detail work on the building is magnificent. Carved angels, faces and flowers line the building, and the iron work of the lamps and banisters are just breathtaking. You really have to look beyond the scaffolding to see the true beauty of this building. They just don’t build apartment buildings with this type of detail anymore.
Across the street from the statue of Eleanor Roosevelt sits an unusual twin mansion, one of the many you will see lining West 72nd Street until you hit Broadway. Most of these old homes are now office and shops but you can see the real beauty in them when at one time this part of the West Side by Riverside Park had been fashionable.
This ‘twin’ mansion was actually two homes with a courtyard created in between the two homes. The Beaux Arts home on West 72nd Street was owned by the Sutphen family, and the right plainer mansion was owned by the Prentiss family both designed by mansion architect C.P.H. Gilbert. Both descended from old colonial families, the Sutphen family were the first one to build their mansion and it was finished 1902 and the Prentiss Mansion was built in 1900. The architect built the courtyard to compliment both homes (Wiki).
West 72nd Street is a real hodge-podge of architecture and buildings as it looks like the shopping district is in a constant state of flux with stores and restaurants opening and closing at record speed due to the increases in rent. Still the street has a 70’s feel about it as there are still some holdouts stores from the ‘old days’.
One stands out restaurant/deli that fit the bill was the West Side Cafe & Pizza at 218 West 72nd Street between Broadway and West End Avenue (see Reviews on TripAdvisor and my blog, “DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com-Now Closed). The place is clean, the food is reasonable and delicious and the prices are more than fair. Their selection of items is also extensive. This is why I ate there four times on my trip to the Upper West Side.
West Side Cafe and Deli at 218 West 72nd Street (Closed in 2020)
My first trip there, I just wanted a slice of pizza just to have a snack. A slice here ($2.50) is pretty large and was delicious. They know how to make a marinara sauce. Even though it was warmed over, the quality was excellent. While I was ordering my slice, I saw someone ordering a sausage, egg and cheese on a buttered bagel and it looked so good that when I was walking the streets of the same neighborhood, I had to go back and order it.
The Bacon, Egg and Cheese on a Combination Bagel is excellent
So, I ordered it on a combination bagel ($4.99) and ate it in Riverside Park. I swear it was one of the best breakfast sandwiches I had ever eaten. The flavors combined beautifully. The sandwich was also huge! It really warmed me up on a cool afternoon.
Some of the merchants on West 72nd Street even had a 70’s feel to them. I stopped at Stationery & Toy World Store at 125 West 72nd Street. This is such a great store with floor to ceiling of toys, games, school supplies and anything a kid in the 70’s and 80’s would need for the beginning of the school year. I swear I felt I was in a time warp back thirty years. The best part about the store that it was busy with families so that was encouraging at a time.
Stationery & Toy World Store at 125 West 72nd Avenue
Another great store with a 70’s feel is Westsider Records at 233 West 72nd Street, which is lined from top to bottom with records. Even the guy who works the front counter looks like he works at a record store. There were records that I have not seen in thirty years. It even looks a record store that should be on the Upper West Side.
In the middle of the neighborhood is the famous Verdi Park and Sherman Square, the former ‘Needle Park’ from the movie, “Panic in Needle Park”. This is no ‘Needle Park’ anymore with a Bloomingdale’s Outlet Store and a Haagen Dazs right on the park. Sherman Square is just south of the neighborhood, but Verdi Square was just as bad.
Now Verdi Square is renovated and dedicated to opera composer, Giuseppe Verdi. The statue was designed by Pasquale Civietti in 1906 (NYC Parks.org). Mr. Civietti was an Italian born artist who had been trained under his brother, Benedetto.
The park itself is surrounding by some of the most beautiful Victorian architecture especially around Broadway with the Ansonia Apartments and the Apple Savings Bank, the former Central Savings Bank. Now the park is nicely landscaped with flowers and plantings with a fancy coffee stand.
Another great place is Malachy’s Donegal Inn at 103 West 72nd Street. I visited the restaurant twice while visiting the neighborhood and it is a real experience to get to know the locals who like to eat there. If you want to meet neighborhood locals, this is the place to come.
The last part of the walk on the way back to Central Park West was passing The Dakota Apartments. One of the most prestigious addresses in New York City and named for its isolation placement in the city at the time. The apartments were built between 1880 and 1884 designed by architect Henry J. Hardenbergh. Built in the Renaissance and English Victorian design, you can see the detail work all over the building (Wiki).
Even though the building in currently under scaffolding, you can see the detail work in the iron work of the fencing around the building with the face of Neptune (I think) facing everyone who walks by. You can also peak into the courtyard to see where carriages once arrived. It is an amazing building.
The borders of the Upper West Side are steeped in history and loaded with some of the most beautiful buildings and statuary and facing two of the most magnificent, landscaped parks in the city.
The residents here are very lucky.
Please read my other Blogs on walking this part of the Upper West Side:
Day One Hundred and Five: Walking the Avenues of the Upper West Side from West 84th to West 72nd Streets:
I finally finished the Avenues of the neighborhood and started walking the streets. It can be a tiring process since it is a nine-block walk in the lower parts of the neighborhood. My first day in the Yorkville/Carnegie Hill section I covered everything from 96th Street to 90th Street. It also rained part of the afternoon which is no fun.
As much as it was a gloomy day, watching the kids let out of school that day boosted my energy. I forgot what it is like when a long day of school is over. These kids come out of the building with so much pent-up energy. All the laughing and yelling brought back a lot of good memories.
I took the Q back up to 96th Street and made a roundabout down FDR Drive to 92nd Street to start the walk. I knew I would not have time to do the whole neighborhood and wanted to break it up into two parts doing the neighborhood above 90th Street first.
As I turned the corner, I could feel the energy from the students who were leaving MS114 on 92nd Street for the afternoon. There was so much noise and excitement after a long day at school. It seems that this neighborhood is loaded with excellent schools both for high school and the lower grades as well.
Yorkville is home to many public and private schools. While walking around between 90th and 92nd Streets, the neighborhood is home to some of the best schools in the city. Hunter High School, The Dalton School, Nightingale-Bramford, Spence School and Chapin School are all located closer to Central Park. All of these schools have had excellent reputations since I was in high school in the eighties. Even the public schools in the neighborhood such as MS-114 have some of the best reputations in the New York City.
No matter the kids, they are still excited and noisy when they leave school and all have their cliques. They fill the smaller neighborhood restaurants and bodegas after school and yell at each other when crossing the street. It is a very lively neighborhood after 2:00pm in the afternoon between the students and the parents picking some of them up. It is nice to see parents who still give that independence to their kids to walk alone in the neighborhood with their friends. They travel in packs anyway. Ten to one these kids know how to handle themselves.
There is a nice pocket park at 92nd Street and Second Avenue to sit and relax. Located between the buildings on 92nd Street, it still has traces of the summer left with flowers blooming and the trees are still green. It’s a nice place to take a breather and watch the neighborhood go by.
This is a neighborhood with a real family feel to it. Something I did not experience in the neighborhood before school started, when the streets were quiet as people were still on vacation but now that school is back in session, it has really changed. I can see by the number of parents, both men and women, talking time out to pick up their children from school and talk with them on the way home that they are very involved in their children’s lives. Some of the conversations I overheard were a little mature for kids that age, but I have always found the city kids to be a little more ‘hip’ to things than their suburban counterparts.
There are some great children’s stores in the area and loads of family friendly restaurants in the neighborhood. One store that I stopped at was La Librairie des Enfants at 163 East 92nd Street. This quirky little bookstore sells the most unique French language children’s picture books with a small selection of American books. It reminded me of ‘Shop Around the Corner’ in the movie, “You got Mail”.
Beautifully decorated with pretty displays and set up for the avid reader. The French salesman was very talkative to me and knows his merchandise. This is the perfect spot for local children and tourists looking for that unusual gift.
La Librairie des Enfants inside play area
Watch this interesting video on this store
Another store that is a neighborhood staple is Children’s General Store at 168 East 91st Street near Second Avenue (Closed as of 2019). This whimsical store is a hark back to when kids actually had an imagination and did not look at a cell phone all day. This is for the creative child who likes board games and arts & crafts, make believe castles and all the great little items that we as adults would call ‘stocking stuffers’. If I was a kid again, this is the first place I would visit. It has a great selection of toys for the young at heart.
As you walk the side streets of the neighborhood, you can see that on the Avenues of the neighborhood, brownstones are giving way to large newer apartment buildings but on the streets in between them are still elegant, graceful brownstones lining the streets of the upper 90’s some of the most beautiful between Lexington and Park Avenues.
There are some beautiful wooden homes lining the streets between Lexington and Park Avenue on 92nd and 91st Streets from a day long ago. To see these buildings still standing and in perfect shape is a testament of the care they receive and how well they were built in the early 1800’s. All four of these homes have special plaques on them and you should take the time to admire the work on them. Their owners have kept them in excellent shape.
As I walked around the high 90’s by 1st, 2nd and FDR Drive around the Isaacs Housing, the area is being knocked down and rebuilt with more luxurious apartment buildings and stores to match. Here and there, there is still a sprinkling of stores and restaurants that cater to people in the housing projects but this area around the housing projects just keeps changing and getting more expensive. Like the rest of uptown that I walked, many people don’t seem to have a problem living across the street from the projects.
The new plan for the Isaacs Houses with luxury buildings
What the neighborhood has that caters to everyone is the number of parks in the neighborhood. You have Central Park to the west, Carl Schurz Park to the East, Asphalt Green playground by York Avenue past 92nd Street as well as the Isaacs and the Seaburg playgrounds on 96th Street as well as a few pocket parks in the 90’s. There is plenty of places for kids to play sports or just hang out and enjoy the playgrounds. The public bathrooms do still need to be worked on in these parks.
Stanley Myer Isaacs was one of New York City’s great lawyer’s and civic leaders and was Borough President of Manhattan. He helped Robert Moses; the great Parks Director build East River Drive (now FDR Drive). Judge Seabury was descended from one of the original settlers of New York and the first Bishop of New York, Dr. Samuel Seabury III. As a public servant to the City, he helped fight corruption within Tammany Hall and lead many reforms in New York City (NYCParks.org).
The museum was originally started in 1904 as a gift from Judge Mayer Sulzberger to the Jewish Theological Society and has since moved to the Warburg Mansion in 1944 and the museum was opened in 1947 as The Jewish Museum. I went back into the neighborhood for a visit later in the year to visit the Leonard Cohen exhibition (See reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com).
The Leonard Cohen exhibition at The Jewish Museum
On the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 91st Street is the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum at 2 East 91st Street. This is housed in the old Andrew Carnegie Mansion, one of the few surviving Fifth Avenue mansions from the Gilded Age. The museum was founded in 1896 by granddaughters of Peter Cooper for the college and it fell under the Smithsonian in 1968.
The Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum at 2 East 91st Street
I went in recent to see the ‘Nature-Cooper-Hewitt Triennial’ exhibition and to walk around the grounds. The exhibition was excellent but the house itself is fun to walk around in. Take your time to visit all the floors (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com).
The Triennial was nice, but the house is amazing!
The evening of the first night walking the streets of Yorkville, I ate at Timmy’s Restaurant on 91st and York (See review on TripAdvisor-Closed in 2018). It is a wonderful little neighborhood restaurant with outdoor seating and an extensive American menu across the street from Asphalt Green playground. I could hear the kids across the street playing soccer and screaming as they played.
Timmy’s Restaurant in Yorkville (Closed in 2018)
The weather had finally cleared and it was a nice warm night out, perfect for sitting outside and enjoying the breeze. What had caught my eye on the menu was the fresh soft-shell sandwich that the restaurant was running as a special. It was excellent. A lightly breaded and fried soft-shell crab on a soft brioche roll with lettuce and tomato and fresh French fries and onion rings on the side made the perfect meal.
The crab was sweet with the crunchiness of the perfect sauté. The service is friendly and very welcoming, and I highly recommend the restaurant while it is still warm out. It is nice to just sit outside and watch the world go by.
I started my second day in the neighborhood by walking the streets between 90th and 84th Streets. The weather during these two weeks really changed. One day it was boiling hot at 90 degrees and the last day in the neighborhood, it went down into the 60’s as September moved into October. I have never seen such a drastic change in a week and a half.
After another day of working the Bread station at the Soup Kitchen, it was off to the lower section of Yorkville/Carnegie Hill. I walked the top part of 84th Street between Fifth Avenue and East End Avenue, admiring the brownstones and small parks along the way. It got to be that time of the day and school let out. I have never seen such a swarm of children before.
Walking this part of the neighborhood, I noticed more that there is a large concentration not just of private, public and religious schools but all of the seem to be the best of their categories. These are not just the best in their categories in the city but in the state and country as well. The neighborhood that stretches from 96th to 84th Streets has such a great variety of schools that would make the rest of the country envious.
As I have said on previous walks, the conversations between parents and kids are always interesting to hear. These school kids sound so much more mature than their age. These kids talk politics, sports and current events just as good as any adult.
Between East 89th and 88th Streets is the Guggenheim Museum at 1071 Fifth Avenue. This Frank Lloyd Wright designed building is a treasure trove of contemporary art. The museum has been closed for renovations.
The Solomon Guggenheim Museum at 1071 Fifth Avenue
The lower parts of the streets from about 85th to 87th Streets really show old New York at its best with rows and rows of majestic brownstones and old apartment houses. Some of these are starting to get decorated for the Fall holidays noting the change in weather and October approaching. Pumpkins and haystacks are starting to replace the summer wreaths and pots of flowers.
Brownstoners really decorate their homes nicely at the holidays
I started my tour of the neighborhood with a nice lunch at Arturo’s Pizza on the corner of York Avenue and 85th Street, 1610 York Avenue (See Review on TripAdvisor) for their lunch special. They have three really reasonable lunch specials until 3:30pm, one a meatball sub, another a sausage sub and the last being two slices with a Coke for $5.00. It was quite a deal.
Arturo’s Pizza at 1619 York Street is good for great lunch specials
The food is good but could be better. Yet they give you a nice size sub for $5.00. The meatball sub was loaded with fresh cut meatballs which were a nice size with tomato sauce on excellent fresh chewy bread. As big as it was it just did not have enough flavor. The sauce needed more spice and the meatballs more salt and cheese. It just did not taste like anything. It was the same two days later when finishing the walk of the neighborhood after a disastrous Chinese meal.
I had the two-slice special and found the pizza to have no flavor because there was no zing to the sauce. It was also oily and should have been heated up more. The food here should be better since they seem to take pride in it. It warrants a third trip as the portion is worth the money when you are hungry. They do need to concentrate on their tomato sauce though and add some spice to it.
There are more great stores for kids in the lower part of the neighborhood as well. I passed Baby Bubble at 240 88th Street, which specializes in cleaning anything kid from strollers to clothes. I was impressed by the one stop shopping. Another great little store for young women is Let’s Dress Up at 345 East 85th Street #1. This is a place where you can princess for day and be treated like royalty at your own catered birthday party. Another clear idea for the creative child within.
When walking through the side streets between 85th to 87th Streets between York and Third Avenue, you really see ‘old New York’. Rows and rows of beautiful, graceful brownstones line the street with their small outside gardens and potted plants. It is a step back in time to another era until you hit the Avenues and see the large modern apartment building.
I passed several fire stations along the way in the neighborhood. Engine 22; Ladder 13, Battalion 10 is located on 159 East 85th Street. The plaque on their fire station said that they had lost nine members on 9/11. These brave men sacrificed so much for us and still do every day making their neighborhood safe. Another old-fashioned non-functioning firehouse is Hook & Ladder 13 at 159 East 87th Street.
Founded in 1865 as a ‘suburban’ firehouse, this is no longer the firehouse for the company which has been moved. The company’s fame comes from being involved in the deadly explosion on Park Place in 1891. Kudos to these brave members of the FDNY.
Hook & Ladder 13 in Yorkville at 159 East 87th Street
As you continue down 87th Street, there is a creepy set of brownstones between 337-339 East 87th Street. The motifs on the outside of the building look like devils or ghouls and do give you the chills. It looks like a place where ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ lived when it grew up. I would love to pass these building on Friday the 13th or Halloween night.
This creepy looking brownstone was built between 1886-1887 by architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh for the Rhinelander estate and what is interesting about the story is that the 329-335 were knocked down for the apartment building next store and the motif of this devil looking motif is carved out of 337 East 87th Street (Starts and Fits). Very interesting.
337-339 East 87th Street (The Rosemary’s Baby House)
Don’t miss the ghoul like carving at 439 East 87th Street. I don’t think that one is as old. This menacing face adorns that archway of the brownstone of this two-unit home that was built in 1901.
I had to stop at Milano Market at 1582 Third Avenue on the corner of 87th Street and 3rd Avenue to cool down. The place is so beautifully set up and the prepared food section is picturesque. It is a nice place to just stand and take a breath. The place is heavily air conditioned and on a humid day, it is a great place to just walk around. The online reviews are not too pleasant for as good as their food is most of the reviews talk about rude service. I will have to go back and try it out to be fair on them.
Another place to chill out and relax on a hot day is the Church of the Holy Trinity Garden at 316 East 88th Street near Second Avenue. This beautifully landscaped garden surrounded by shade trees is the perfect place to relax on a long day. It really does offer solitude from the city and is an escape from the rest of the landscape. It was still warm, so the flowers were out and the trees offered a lot of shade.
Ruppert Park is the same located at Second Avenue between 90th and 91st Street. Named after the famous German Brewer Jacob Ruppert, the park is part of the tower complex that surrounds it. Mr. Ruppert was one of the first co-owners of the Yankees and co-owned Yankee Stadium.
This is a wonderful park to watch the dog walkers pass by and converse with one another. This is a true neighborhood park where neighbors talk and swap stories and debate politic, seniors come to relax and watch the neighbors go by and the dogs engage with one another. It is a great park for the dog walking set. I have never seen so many small, pampered dogs walking around one neighborhood.
Another great place to visit is Henderson Place at East End Avenue across from Carl Schurz Park and between 86th and 87th Streets. This is part of the Henderson Place Historical District located facing the park is what is left of the original 32 houses (24 survive today) that were built between 1881-82. They were built for people of ‘moderate means’ meanwhile now these rare little townhouses with their arched hallways and small gardens and rare parking lots are now worth about $4.6 million when one went on sale recently. They were built in the Queen Ann style of architecture and look so elegant at night when walking on the park side of the street.
Henderson Place Historic District at 535 East 86th Street
I stopped at Glaser’s Bakery at 1670 First Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC-Closed in 2018) and all I have to say is YUM! I love discovering new bakeries around the city especially one that has been around since 1902. Everything here is delicious and very reasonable. In this hyper-gentrifying City, it is nice to see a piece of ‘old New York’ alive and well. Both afternoons I came here the place was mobbed.
Glaser’s Bake Shop (Closed in 2018) at 1670 First Avenue
The pastries are mind blowingly good! The first time I went I had to get one of their black and white cookies ($2.25) are the rage of the internet. Everyone was not kidding. They are excellent. Not the usual fondant icing but more of a butter cream frosting they literally melt in your mouth. They have this Danish called a Crumb Cookie ($3.25) that is loaded on top with sweet cinnamon crumbs and lots of icing on top. It is so big I had to bring the rest home. Their doughnuts ($1.50) are worth the trip alone. The jelly doughnuts are filled with a sweet currant type jelly and their sugar doughnuts are loaded with a layer of cinnamon sugar. Do not miss this bakery when visiting New York City.
On the opposite note, I ate dinner that day at Five Luck Chinese restaurant on 1834 Second Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor-Now Closed) right near the new Q subway line (Closed in January 2020). It was the worst Chinese meal I had ever eaten! I had no idea that food cooked by Chinese could be this bad. First the place is old and depressing to eat in and I have eaten at loads of these little hole in the wall restaurants all over the city. If anyone from China ate here, they would laugh and then cry it is that bad.
I ordered a Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce with fried rice with a pork Egg Roll. Now when I think of Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce, I think of sliced pork loin sautéed with brown Hunan Sauce with garlic and ginger. I got this gloppy roast pork with a pile of uncooked vegetables with a side of yellow rice with a ton of bean sprouts in them. I had no clue what I was eating. I ate the egg roll, and it was barely passable as a frozen egg roll.
The dish was worse than any middle school cafeteria version of Chinese food. I ate three bites on it and handed it back to them and said to the owner that it was inedible. Rather than fight over a dish that cost $4.85 or ask for anything else, I walked out and never looked back. Avoid this place like the plague. I went back to Arturo’s for their pizza.
Rounding the corner at Fifth Avenue and East 86th Street is the Neue Museum at 1048 Fifth Avenue. Neue Galerie New York is a museum devoted to early twentieth-century German and Austrian art and design. Located in a landmark mansion built in 1914 by the architectural firm of Carrere & Hastings, the museum offers a diverse program of exhibitions, lectures, films, concerts and other events.
It was that afternoon I finally got to see the famous painting, “The Woman in Gold” made famous by the movie. The museum specializes in German and Austrian art (See reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com).
The famous “Woman in Gold” by Gustav Klimt
Sitting quietly in the middle of East 84th Street is the tiny NYU Institute of Study of Ancient Art at 15 East 84th Street. This branch of the New York University Art Department specializes in Ancient Art and offers a scholarly approach to the ancient arts of European and Middle Eastern Art.
Don’t miss the NYU Institute of Study of Ancient Art at 15 East 84th Street near the Met
When I last visited, they were showing the “A Wonder to Behold: Craftsmanship and Creation of Babylon’s Ishtar Gate” exhibition on Ancient Mesopotamian art.
They were showing Ancient Middle Eastern art when I visited
I finished my last day of my three-day trip relaxing in Carl Schurz Park. Carl Schurz was a very interesting man who did a lot for his country. Born in Prussia, he fought during the Revolution and escaped the country to immigrate to Paris when he was on the losing side. He and his wife immigrated to the United States in 1852. Here he served as a Brigadier General in the Civil War, after the War he served as a U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Interior under President Hayes working to fight corruption in the Office of Indian Affairs and after his stint in the government, went back to his newspaper work (Wiki).
Mayor de Blasio must have been having a party because everyone in the park could hear the band. On this warm night every dog walker and child with a parent must have been in the park. Even at twilight, the place was mobbed as well as the river walk with people admiring the river views. It is still summer and I got a nice taste of it today. The park is beautiful anytime of the year (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com).
Open: Sunday 11:00am-5:00pm/Monday 11:00am-6:00pm/ Tuesday and Wednesday Closed/Thursday-Saturday 11:00am-6:00pm
Café and Shops have various hours. Please check the website for these.
Fee: General $22.00/Seniors (65 and Older) $16.00/Students and Educators $12.00/Children under 12 are not admitted and Children under 16 years old must be accompanied by an adult. The museum is open on First Fridays from 6:00pm-9:00pm. Please visit the website for more information.