Category Archives: MywalkinManhattan on Groundhog’s Day

Staten Island Chuck

Day One Hundred and Thirty One: Meeting Staten Island Chuck at the Staten Island Zoo on Groundhog’s Day, February 2nd, 2019 (Revisited February 2nd, 2020)

I had planned to go out to Punxsutawney, PA again for Groundhog’s Day but the weather really turned this year. There was an Arctic Vortex (or whatever they are calling it this week) and the weather plunged in Pennsylvania. It was going to be 20 degrees on Groundhog’s Day (that meant 0 degrees that night) and raining when I would drive home on Sunday and I thought that would be over doing it for me.

I later saw that it did go up to 38 degrees that day in Punxsutawney, higher than expected but the overnight Friday night into Saturday was 4 degrees and sorry but the thought of standing in Gobbler’s Knob for five and a half hours in that weather was too much. I did that in 2016 in 30 degrees and that was bad enough. I will wait until next year.

I then remembered that we have our own Groundhog Festival here in the New York City area at the Staten Island Zoo with ‘Groundhog Chuck’, an event I had heard of in the past. So when I knew that driving to PA was out (I was assisting with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at the Marcel Paper Factory fire on Wednesday night January 30th, 2019-See The Brothers of Engine One Blog site on WordPress.com that I write), I went online and looked at the festival that they had at the Staten Island Zoo.

So on a cold morning, I got up at 3:30am in the morning to get ready to go to Staten Island. It was not too much better on an early Saturday morning here as well. It was 19 degrees (versus 4 in PA) in Staten Island but off I drove into the darkness. The trip to the Staten Island Zoo was not that bad. I got to the zoo in forty minutes and there was plenty of parking. I guess not as many people had the same idea that I had. There were only about six other cars in the lot when I arrived.

A group of about ten of us were waiting outside the back gate when someone finally came to the gate and told us we were at the wrong gate. It would have been nice if some zoo personal was directing people to the parking lot (which was dark with not a lot of signage to see) and had a sign to go to the front gate.

When the ten of us got to the front gate we were lucky in that the TV crews had already set up and there were only about ten other people there at the time so we got great views of the stage.

Trust me this is WAY smaller than the festival in Punxsutawney, PA. There were about a hundred and fifty people there that I could see and that included the staff, the politicians, the choir from P.S. 29 and their parents and the crowd of us but that made it more intimate. You were not elbow to elbow with people and did not have to camp out for the night. The Staten Island Zoo did a nice job. I still think they should move it to a bigger area of the zoo so that the kids could see it. Also, it would have been nice to put the choir and the dancing Groundhog (a staff member dressed in a Groundhog costume) on the stage so that more people could have seen them.

The Zoo staff introduced some of the local politicians to the event. Some of them kept it short and sweet and a few others had to make it about themselves and bring up things in Washington DC, which I think at an event like this has no place for it. It is a family event.

Still one of the local politicians made a good MC for the event and then introduced a student from P.S. 29,  who played the “Star-Spangled Banner” for us on her violin and that was followed by the P.S. 29 choir, who sang a song about Groundhog’s Day. It was really cute and the kids did a nice job entertaining the crowd (See the video below).

Groundhog’s Day 2019

The Groundhog Ceremony at the Staten Island Zoo 2019 (that’s me in the Spartan knit hat)

Then the band, “Rock a Silly” played their song for Staten Chuck and it was quite clever. (See the band’s video on YouTube below).

 

The Rock-A-Silly Band with their original song for “Staten Island Chuck” (I give the band full credit for this video-very clever guys!)

The band got the crowd really moving on this cold morning.

After all the entertainment, it was time to hear the report from Chuck and the handlers took him out. There was a little of a commotion and then the report came. In the middle of this ‘deep freeze vortex’ Chuck’s prediction was SPRING IS COMING! Everyone cheered loudly at that. With that, there was a little more entertainment, then I was off to tour the zoo.

Staten Island Chuck 2019 II

The Staten Island Zoo is very nice even in the cold weather. I was able to go into the main building and see the monkey, the reptile and the aquarium exhibits, which were nicely displayed and labeled so that you knew what animals were what. The only problem with the zoo is the space is very limited and surrounded by houses so there is no room to expand, so the living space for the animals is small. Still they look happy and content.

I stopped at the Zoo Cafe for a doughnut ($1.00) and to look at the gift shop. They had an interesting ‘Staten Island Chuck’ stuffed groundhog ($12.00) that I had to keep myself from buying. The zoo gift shop is stocked with all sorts of ‘Chuck’ coloring books, tee shirts and little do-dads as well as plush animals, pencils, shirts and hats.  The zoo cafe has the usual hamburgers, chicken fingers and fries on the menu that will appeal to any child.

I walked around the zoo as it started to warm up (now 25 degrees) and went to the outside pens to see the pigs, donkey’s, kangaroos, emus, geese and ducks. The poor emus looked so cold that they were chasing after me with a look in their eyes like either I had food or was going to take them inside. I really felt for the animals in this cold.

By the time I left the zoo, it was 9:45am and the zoo still had not opened. There was myself and two other families left in the early hours zoo and by the time I got back to the parking lot, there were only six cars left.

Even though it was not the crowds of the event in Punxsutawney, PA, it was still a cute event that you should not miss on future Groundhog’s Day when you are visiting New York City. The Staten Island Zoo puts on a good show!

Groundhog’s Day 2020:

In 2020, the ceremony was much toned down from the year before. First, the weather was much nicer than last year. I got up this year at 5:00am and was out the door by 6:15am. The zoo I found out last year is only thirty-five minutes from my house and I did not need to rush. The zoo does not have the crowds of Punxsutawney. Again there were about a hundred or so people at the zoo this morning and when the sun rose, it was warm and sunny about 43 degrees.

The ceremony was only twenty minutes this year. There was no band and no kids choir at the service. Being Super Bowl Sunday, it seemed to me that everyone wanted to get our of there and rushed the whole thing. There were the same politicians with the same lame jokes and it seemed that Speaker Corey Johnson is running for Mayor of New York City (Good Choice!). At least he admitted the jokes were lame and just wished everyone a Happy Groundhog’s Day.

Then they could not even get Chuck out of his Plexiglas pen to hold him up (the Groundhog kept running away. He probably didn’t like the jokes either), so they just announced the weather prediction of an early Spring and then they played a recording of the children’s choir singing and that was the program. We were done in about thirty minutes. It was so quick that a woman walked in with her son at 7:45am and asked if this was the ceremony. The guy standing next to me said that it was already over and they were packing up. She was a little pissed because she said to the guy that she just got dropped off with her son and her husband was parking the car. So much for pomp and circumstance!

After the ceremony, I walked around the zoo again and visited with the monkey’s, kangaroos and sheep. The ostriches and Emu’s were rather friendly this year and seemed more chipper than last year but it was because it was not as cold. In fact, most of the animals were out this year. So I just enjoyed my time walking around the zoo and stopped into the Zoo Snack Shop and had another doughnut (Still $1.00) and just relaxes. This year I did buy the stuffed Chuck from the gift shop (he now sits prominently near my Dayton’s Santa Bear, Hamley’s Bear, Macy’s Snoopy and Brooks Brother’s Brooks Bear (I love retail stuffed animals).

After the zoo, it was such a nice morning that I once again walked along the retail stretch of Forest Avenue near the zoo and zig-zagged through some of the stores that were open. People were getting ready for the Super Bowl so a lot of the food stores were busy with take out orders. Most of the restaurants were quiet.

I did stop into an old line Italian bakery, Moretti’s Bakery at 640 Forest Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor) and have another doughnut. This time a creme filled powered doughnut ($1.25) and God was that good. They have a very nice selection of baked goods at very fair prices and good service.

Moretti's Bakery Staten Island

Moretti’s Bakery at 640 Forest Avenue

After that I just walked through the local park and drove home. The whole thing was done this year in about an hour and a half. Oh well, off to the firehouse for the Super Bowl game.

Moretti's Bakery Staten Island II

The doughnuts at Moretti’s Bakery are delicious!

 

Here’s the ceremony in 2020!

 

I thought this commercial with Bill Murray and reuniting the cast from the film for this commercial:

This is very clever!

This interview with Bill Murray:

This is very clever!

The Groundhog Day trailer-Excellent film

 

Ground Hogs Day Staten Island III

Very clever cartoon when the Mayor dropped the Groundhog in Staten Island

 

Happy Groundhog’s Day!!

 

Places to Visit:

The Staten Island Zoo

614 Broadway

Staten Island, NY  10310

(718) 442-3100

http://www.statenislandzoo.org/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 10:00am-4:45pm

Admission:  Adults (15 and over) $10.00/Seniors (60 and over) $7.00/Children (3-16) $6.00/Wednesdays after 2:00pm is free to everyone. Free with membership. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.

The Cafe and the Gift shop are open when the zoo is open.

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g48682-d110278-Reviews-Staten_Island_Zoo-Staten_Island_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2732

 

Places to eat:

 

Zoo Cafe (Inside the Zoo-hours are when the zoo is open)

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g48682-d110278-Reviews-Staten_Island_Zoo-Staten_Island_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2732

 

McDonald’s

803 Forest Avenue

Staten Island, NY  10310

(718) 876-6088

Open: 24 hours

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48682-d13807873-Reviews-McDonald_s-Staten_Island_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Moretti’s Bakery

640 Forest Avenue

Staten Island, NY  10310

(718) 815-0252

https://www.facebook.com/Moretti-Bakery-203491506382798/

Open: Sunday 7:00am-3:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Saturday 7:00am-7:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48682-d5046253-Reviews-Moretti_Bakery-Staten_Island_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Historic Stone Street

Day One Hundred and Thirteen: Tour of Historic Pubs and Bars in Lower Manhattan with the Cornell Club May 9th, 2018

I took some time out of my regular touring and took a historic tour of the pubs and bars of lower Manhattan with the Cornell Club. The club had arranged this tour through one of the local historical tour companies in the City in which we would be touring sections of local historic watering holes. This included the Frances Tavern, Delmonico’s and India House.

We met on the stairs of the National Museum of the American Indian which once upon a time was the U.S. Customs House. Here we met our tour guide and we started our discussion on historic bars and restaurants and their place in lower Manhattan.

The tour started with a talk on the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House building located at 1 Bowling Green. The building was designed by architect Cass Gilbert, who also designed the Woolworth Building  with construction beginning in 1902 and was finished in 1907 and considered a masterpiece in Beaux-Arts style (Wiki).

The interesting part of the building is when you look up to the roof to see the statuary of ‘The Continents’, also called the ‘Four Continents’ of Asia, America, Europe and Africa. Located on the main cornice are standing sculptures representing the great seafaring nations, representing American seagoing commerce (Wiki and tour guide).

U.S. Custom House.jpg

U.S. Custom House at 1 Bowling Green

The interesting part of the discussion was that the U.S. Custom House sits on the site of Fort Amsterdam, the fortification constructed by the Dutch West Indian Company to defend their operations in the Hudson Valley. It was the center of the settlement (Wiki and tour guide).

Our next stop on the tour was walking around Bowling Green Park across the street from the U.S. Custom House. The park is the oldest public park in New York City and is one of the two rumored places that Peter Minuit ‘bought’ the island of Manhattan from the Native Americans in 1626 (the other being in Inwood Park) and had once served as the Council grounds for the local Native American tribes (NYC Parks.org).

Bowling Green Park.jpg

Bowling Green Park

The park was first designated a park in 1733 when it was offered for rent at the cost of one peppercorn per year. There had been a gilded statue of King George III erected there in 1770 and an iron fence (still there and a New York landmark) installed in 1771. On July 9, 1776 at the first public hearing of the Declaration of Independence, the statue was toppled by angry citizens and melted down for ammunition (NYC Parks & Tour Guide). The crowns that used to line the fence had been sawed off and you can still see traces of it on the fences.

The area surrounding the park became a fashionable residence in the late 18th century and mid-19th century, the area gave way to business and manufacturing. The park has since gone through many renovations, including the most recent 2004 which re-landscaped the park and added new bluestone sidewalks, plantings, gas lamps and hoof benches (NYC Parks & Tour guide).

Just north of the Bowling Green Park is the 7,100 pound statue of the ‘Charging Bull’ by artist Arturo DiModica. Mr. DiModica is a self taught Italian artist who had once worked in the foundries and then immigrated to New York City in the 1970’s. He became part of the 80’s art scene in lower Manhattan.

Arturo Di Modica artist

Arturo DiModica artist

http://www.artnet.com/artists/arturo-di-modica/

DiModica states that “Bronze figure of the bull represents the strength, power and hope of the American people for the future.” This was dealing after the Crash of the Market in 1987. Considered ‘guerrilla’ art when it was illegally installed in front of the New York Stock Exchange during the Christmas holiday season in 1989, the statue was moved to its current location in the Spring of 1989 and been there since.

Fearless Girl

Fearless Girl

Next to the statute, another statue has been cast and placed near the bull. “Fearless Girl” was installed in 2017 the night before International Women’s Day and was created by artist Kristen Visbal and was commissioner by State Street Global Advisers as a marketing campaign for their index fund. Ms. Visbal is a graduate from Salisbury State University with a BFA and currently runs the Visbal Fine Arts Sculpture in Lewes, DE (Wiki).

Kristen Visbal artist

Kristen Visbal artist

http://www.visbalsculpture.com/

The artist says that the statue of the young girl shows her as being “brave, proud and strong.” There has been criticism between the two artists on the meaning of the statutes (Wiki).

Charging Bull.jpg

Charging Bull

The first historic bar we visited was the Fraunces Tavern at 54 Pearl Street (See review on TripAdvisor). The restaurant has played a prominent role in history before, during and after the American Revolution,  serving as a headquarters for George Washington, a venue for peace negotiations with the British and housing federal offices in the Early Republic. It is owned by the Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York Inc. and claim it is Manhattan’s oldest surviving buildings with the current being built by Stephen DeLancey, the son in law of New York Mayor Stephanus van Cortlandt in 1719 (Wiki).

Francus Tavern.jpg

Fraunces Tavern at 54 Pearl Street

We only stayed at the bar for a short time, looking at the period furniture and some of the museum quality artifacts before some of the members of our group ordered a drink. I have to tell you one thing, they get very testy if you sit a table and don’t order anything. Check out their website at http://www.francestavern.com for the menu’s and full history.

Great Fire of 1835

The Great Fire of 1835 in Lower Manhattan

https://www.history.com/news/great-fire-new-york-1835

Our next stop on the tour was historic Stone Street, a cluster of historic buildings along Stone, South William and Pearl Streets and Coenties Alley. The street’s stores and lofts were built for dry-goods merchants and importers shortly after the Great Fire of 1835, which destroyed many remnants of New Amsterdam (Wiki).

stone street II

Stone Street

The street had been neglected for years but a partnership between the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission and other city agencies, the Alliance for Downtown New York and Stone Street business owners transformed the area into the lively entertainment area that contains several restaurants and bars (Wiki & the Tour Guide).

The middle of Stone Street now is lined with tables used by all the restaurants for seating and is a very active area during lunch and Happy Hour time. We walked among the busy tables and looked at the menus but didn’t stop here. I had stopped earlier at Justino’s Pizzeria at 77 Pearl Street for a snack (See review on TripAdvisor). Their pizza is quite good although I think that Pranzo at 34 Water Street is better. They give you a better slice and the sauce is much spicier.

Justino's Pizza Lower Manhattan

Justino’s Pizza at 77 Pearl Street

After we left the Stone Street Historic area, we walked up Broad Street to see the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Hall District. This is the seat of the financial center and the capital of the financial world.

The New York Stock Exchange at 8-18 Broad Street was built in 1903 replacing the original Victorian structure which had been built in 1865. The building was designed by architect George Browne Post, who was a native New Yorker who studied architecture and civil engineering at NYU. He designed it in Second Empire design (Wiki and the Tour Guide).

Standing on Wall Street, you can see the 1903 building rise ten stories above the sidewalk. Six Corinthian columns steadily rise from a seven-bay-wide podium set between two rectangular pilasters. He complimented the six columns with symmetry of seven with a center flat arched doorway with three more on either side. The podium symmetry continues to the second store, where directly above each street-level doorway is a contrasting round-arched opening. Balustraded balconies between floors provide the classic ornamentation as do lintels with carved fruit and flowers (Architecture of New York Stock Exchange Building & Tour Guide).

new york stock exchange.jpg

New York Stock Exchange at 8-18  Broad Street

We passed the now closed Stock Exchange building and continued on to Federal Hall at 26 Wall Street. We discovered that this is not the original building but its replacement that was built in 1842.

The original Federal Hall was a Greek Revival structure completed in 1703 and served as New York’s first City Hall. It was where the Stamp Act Congress met to draft a letter to King George on opposition to the Stamp Act and after the Revolution for the Congress of the Confederation held under the Articles of Confederation. It was renamed Federal Hall when it became the first Capital of the Newly created United States in 1789 and hosted the first United States Congress. On its steps, George Washington was sworn in as the first President. That building was demolished in 1812 (Wiki & the Tour Guide).

Federal Hall.jpg

Federal Hall at 26 Wall Street

The current structure, completed in 1842 and one of the best surviving examples of neoclassical architecture in New York, was built as the U.S. Custom House for the Port of New York. Later it served as a sub-Treasury building. It is operated today by the National Park Service as a national memorial and designated the Federal Hall National Memorial (Wiki and the Tour Guide).

The statue of George Washington was designed by John Quincy Adams Ward in 1882.  Mr. Quincy Adams is an American born artist from Ohio. He trained under known artist Henry Kirk Browne and is the brother of artist Edgar Melville Ward. He moved to New York City in 1861, was elected to the National Academy of Design and was a known sculpture of historical busts and monuments (Wiki).

John Quincy Adams Ward

John Quincy Adams Ward artist

http://generalthomas.com/JQA_Ward_biography.htm

It was erected on the front steps of the building, marking the approximate site where he was inaugurated as President of the United States. Part of the original railing and balcony floor where Washington was inaugurated are on display in the memorial (Wiki).

We also looked at the original J.P. Morgan Building at 23 Wall Street or known as ‘The Corner’. The building was designed by Trowbridge & Livingston and built in 1913. It was known as the ‘House of Morgan’ so there were no signs with the Morgan name. The building was designed in the classical architecture and Morgan made sure that it was designed only four feet high (Wiki). When I asked the tour guide why, he basically said everyone knew who J. P. Morgan was and he didn’t have to prove it.

jp morgan building

JP Morgan Building Wall Street 23 Wall Street

The foundation of the building is constructed deep and strong enough in order to support a forty foot tower if it needed to be built. The company moved its operations to 60 Wall Street and the company sold the building and it has had several owners. Our tour guide said that the building was rumored to be turned into condos (Wiki and the Tour Guide).

We moved down Beaver Street towards Wall Street and our second stop of the tour at Delmonico’s restaurant at 56 Beaver Street. The restaurant has moved and changed since it was founded in 1827. The restaurant has always been since it’s founding a place of society and influence. The restaurant was first operated by the Delmonico family as a small cafe and pastry shop at 23 William Street. Later it would be considered one of the nation’s top fine dining restaurants and the birthplace of such dishes as Baked Alaska, Lobster Newberg and famous Delmonico steak. It was the first restaurant to allow patrons to order from a menu a la carte as opposed to table d’hote. It also claimed to be the first to employ a separate wine list (Wiki & the Tour Guide).

The current location of Delmonico’s was opened in 1926 by restaurateur Oscar Tucci as a speakeasy and this restaurant would continue on until 1986. It has operated in this location at different times as Delmonico’s since and has currently been open since 1998 (Wiki, Delmonico’s History and the Tour Guide).

Delmonico's.jpg

Delmonico’s at 56 Beaver Street

I found the restaurant to be very formal and a little stuffy for a tour group to visit since we were not all dressed for the occasion. The restaurant patrons were all dressed up and I had to parade through the dining room in shorts, which are not allowed in the formal dining room. We had a drink at the bar and I found it to be excellent. The service at the busy bar was friendly and very inviting and I was ready to stay for some dinner.  The bar atmosphere was very engaging and we had a nice time there. It is expensive but well worth it once (See review on TripAdvisor).

We walked down the street to The Queen Elizabeth II September 11th Garden located across the street from Hanover Square. The land around this part has been in public used since 1637 and in 1730 became known as Hanover Square in tribute to the House of Hanover. It had been the center for commerce and printing in the beginnings of New York and was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1835. The small triangled parcel was not developed into a park until 1952 and was rededicated with new landscaping until the 1970’s. It has since been redesigned again with new plantings, benches and decorations (Wiki and the Tour Guide).

It was rededicated July 6, 2010 by Queen Elizabeth II as The Queen Elizabeth II September 11th Garden in memory of the 67 British citizens that lost their lives in the September 11th attacks. Originally named the ‘British Gardens’ it was again rededicated and renamed on May 2, 2012 and the ceremony led by the Dean of Westminster Abbey which included other members of the Commonwealth nations (Wiki). It is such a nice place to just relax and the plantings are beautiful. I told the tour guide that it is a very touching place to visit.

Queen Elizabeth II Park.jpg

Queen Elizabeth II Park at Hanover Square

Our last part of the tour was a visit to India House now called 1 Hanover Square, which is located at the very end of the Stone Street Historic district. Located at the southern end of Hanover Square and facing the Queen Elizabeth II September 11th garden across the street, the building was built in 1851 and was the site of the nation’s first commodity futures exchange, the New York Cotton Exchange and was designated a National Landmark in 1977 and a New York City Landmark in 1965 (Wiki & the Tour Guide).

India House

India House at 1 Hanover Square

The structure was built out of brownstone and designed in the Italian Renaissance style by builder, developer and merchant, Richard F. Carman. It had been the headquarters of Hanover Bank and then the Cotton Exchange. Since then it has operated as a private club since 1913 and now houses restaurants (Wiki).

The main facade of the building has eight bays wide, with the main entrance occupying two bays at the center. Windows on the ground floor are tall and set in openings flanked by paneled pilasters and topped by pediment segmental arches Second floor windows are smaller, set beneath gabled pediments and their floor windows are smaller still with simpler surrounds. The building is crowned by a modillioned cornice (Wiki).

We ended the tour at the restaurant on the bottom level where some of the group stayed for dinner. I headed off to the Wonton Noodle Garden at 56 Mott Street for dinner. After a long tour outdoors and the night getting cooler, a steaming bowl of Cantonese Wonton Soup ($8.95) with a side of pan-fried dumplings ($5.00).

Wonton Noodle Garden II

Wonton Noodle Garden at 56 Mott Street

This restaurant in the middle of the heart of Chinatown is my main standby when eating in the neighborhood. Like the rest of the Manhattan, I see the traces of gentrification creeping into the area. All you have to do is look at the buildings above.

Wonton Noodle Garden.jpg

Wonton Noodle Garden’s Cantonese Wonton Soup’s (Cure All)

My message to readers, please, get off the cell phones and look around you. You are missing a lot! I have walked this neighborhood dozens of times over the years and my eyes were open by all the changes and by the beauty of the surroundings. I will print more of my travels with the Cornell Club in future blogs.

They are very interesting and a detailed perspective of New York City.

 

Places to Visit:

 

New York Stock Exchange Building

8-18 Broad Street

New York, NY  10004

https://www.nyse.com/

 

Federal Hall

26 Wall Street

New York, NY  10004

https://www.nps.gov/feha/index.htm

 

23 Wall Street

23 Wall Street

New York, NY  10004

 

India House/1 Hanover Square

New York, NY  10004

http://www.indiahouseclub.org/

 

Bowling Green Park/Charging Bull Statue/Fearless Girl Statue

Broadway & Whitehall Street

New York, NY 10004

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charging_Bull

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d1605557-Reviews-Charging_Bull_Wall_Street_Bull-New_York_City_New_York.html

 

Stone Street

New York, NY  10004

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_Street_(Manhattan)

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d105043-Reviews-Stone_Street_Historic_District-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/13138

 

The Queen Elizabeth II September 11th Garden

Hanover Square

New York, NY  10004

https://queenelizabethgarden.org/

 

Places to Eat:

 

Justino’s Pizza

77 Pearl Street

New York, NY  10004

(212) 797-9692

http://www.justinospizzeria.com

Open: Monday-Saturday-10:00am-11:59pm/Sunday-11:00am-9:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d8743404-Reviews-Justino_s_Pizzeria-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Pranzo Pizza & Italian Specialties

34 Water Street

New York, NY  10014

http://www.pranzopizzapasta.com

Phone: (212) 344-8068

Fax: (212) 344-0191

Open: Monday-Thursday-8:00am-8:00pm/Friday-8:00am-7:00pm/Saturday-10:00am-5:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d426152-Reviews-Pranzo-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/880

 

Delmonico’s

56 Beaver Street

New York, NY  10004

(212) 519-1144

http://www.delmonicos.com

https://delmonicos.com/

Open: Monday-Friday: 11:30am-10:00pm

Saturday:  5:00pm-10:00pm

Sunday: Closed

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d459628-Reviews-Delmonico_s-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Fraunces Tavern

54 Pearl Street

New York, NY 10004

(212) 425-1778

Open: Monday-Friday-12:00pm-5:00pm/Saturday & Sunday-11:00am-5:00pm

http://www.francestavern.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d426153-Reviews-Fraunces_Tavern_Restaurant-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

India House/1 Hanover Square

1 Hanover Square

New York, NY  10004

(212) 269-2323

Open: Monday-Friday-9:00am-10:00pm/Saturday & Sunday-Closed

http://www.indiahouseclub.org

 

Wonton Noodle Garden

56 Mott Street

New York, NY 10013

(212) 966-4033

http://www.wontonnoodlegarden.com

Open: Sunday-Thursday-10:00am-2:00am/Friday-9:00am-4:00am/Saturday-9:00am-4:00am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d2370537-Reviews-Wonton_Noodle_Garden-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

 

Groundhog's Day

Day Thirty-Seven: Happy Groundhog’s Day in Punxsutawney, PA February 2nd, 2016

I was working on a new project for the Lodi Memorial Library to have a Groundhog’s Day celebration but try to find a groundhog in New Jersey. No zoo or natural group had one so we revamped the event for the first day of Spring and will have a rabbit (See Lodi Larry comes to the Library Day: Day Forty MywalkinManhattan). When the event fell through and all this talk of Groundhog’s Day I decided to go to the source and off I went to celebrate Groundhog’s Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

Punxsutawney is about five hours from my house so it was not the quickest trip but it is all straight highway down Route 80 until you get to Route 219 and then a turn off onto Route 119 South where you twist and turn until you get to Punxsutawney, a sleepy little former coal mining and coke town.

punsutawney, pa

Downtown Punxsutawney, PA

I will let all readers know that Punxsutawney is not the town in the movie, ‘Groundhog’s Day’. That movie was shot on location in Woodstock, IL. Punxsutawney in real life is somewhat rundown and in need of a much refurbishing in the downtown area. Several buildings in the downtown area have burned down over the years and have not been replaced by the nicest buildings. A lot of storefronts are empty and many of the buildings could use a paint job. On the positive note, there are a lot of good restaurants, try Punxsy Pizza at 115 N. Findley Street and Frank’s 115 West Mahoney Street at downtown, and a nice green square in the  middle of town and a wonderful historical society.

The history of Groundhog’s Day Punxsutawney was founded in the traditions of the Romans, who carried the myth to the Germans during the Roman invasions many centuries ago. The story was also based on a Scottish couplet:

‘If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, There’ll be two winters in the year.’

Candlemas Day is celebrated on February 2nd. It was determined that if any animal came forth from its underground hibernation on that day and the sun were out, there would be six more weeks of winter. Thus was born the tradition of the ‘two winters’ or the ‘second winter’.

What began as a tale from ancient times was translated into action in the early 1880’s when a few Pennsylvania residents living in Punxsutawney decided to celebrate Candlemas Day each year by taking themselves into the woods in search of a groundhog.

By 1886, the group had the volunteer efforts of a local newspaper making their forest foray more official and the “Punxsutawney Groundhog Club” was formed with the express purpose of making sure that their groundhog was the official weather forecaster.

For many years, the actual location where the groundhog was observed always known as “Gobblers Knob” was kept a secret. About 20 years ago it was agreed that keeping it a secret had no further purpose and reports of the Punxsutawney Groundhog known as Phil, were spread far and wide.

In 1907, the hill for the weather works was referred to as “Groundhog Knob” in printed news accounts in Punxsutawney of Groundhog Day. A few years later a news story began referring to it as ‘Gobbler’s Knob’ “the woodchuck saw his shadow…with the sun striking a tangent with the lighting rod on Miller Stoops’ barn…the shadow shone with remarkable distinctness against the snow clad side of Gobbler’s Knob.”

In the summer of 1966, with the inauguration of the first Punxsutawney Groundhog Festival, the town’s famous groundhog settled into a permanent home at a site near what was then the Sportsmen’s Club Park.

Gobbler’s Knob has been transformed from a place of imagination, from a pile of stones to a stage area raised high to provide better viewing for the crowds who arrive for the ceremony. Following the release of the film “Groundhog’s Day” with Bill Murray in 1993, there was a record crowd of 30,000 people who attended the Groundhog Day ceremony on the weekend of 1997.

Today, Phil lives in more sedate quarters. He is no longer forced to hibernate in the wilds of his hometown. Today in a normal habitat for his lifestyle, he lives in a specially created environment in the Punxsutawney Library.

While Phil is living the ‘good life’, his presence has made life good for other including humans-those other animals. Human interest in Phil has resulted in a continuous supply of groundhog souvenirs such as cookbooks and t-shirts. While groundhogs abound in other parts of the world and are known also as woodchucks and marmots, it is felt at least in Punxsutawney, PA tat their ‘Phil’ is the only true prophet of the weather.

(By the Punxsutawney Are Historical and Genealogical Society)

It took me about five hours to get to Punxsutawney from home and I was exhausted by the time I got there at 4:00pm. I had stopped by Punxsy Phil’s Famous Restaurant at 116 Indiana Street on the way to the hotel at the recommendation of reviews on TripAdvisor (see restaurant reviews on TripAdvisor). I thought the food was okay, lots of breakfast items and entrees with thick gravies. I had a chicken fried steak with a sausage gravy and mashed potatoes. Very homey and filling and the service is very good. The food was good but not great.

I stayed at the Cobblestone Hotel at 188 Alliance Drive, just outside of town which was nice because I was away from all the hubbub of the event and it was very quiet. The hotel is really nice, brand new only about a year old and the rooms are roomy and clean. (Note that the hotel closes down breakfast at 9:00am).

Cobblestone Inn Punx

The Cobblestone Inn

My first night there I did not get much sleep. I got into the room around 5:00pm and took an hour nap. Then it was off to activities in town. By the time I arrived in town most everything was over for the day with the exception of the open house at the Punxsutawney Area Historical and Genealogical Society at 400-401 West Mahoney Street. That was interesting as I toured the Bennis  and Lattimer Houses, which are right across the street from one another. The museum gave an interesting history of both the families and the town. The Bennis Mansion was part of Millionaires Row back when Punxsutawney was a Coke manufacturer (not the drug) of the area. You could tell by the homes on the street that there was serious money in town from about the Civil War until the Depression. The docents were really interesting and explained the history of the families that lived here.

punxsutawney-historical-society-lattimer-house

Punsutawney Historical Society

After the house tours were over, I went back downtown to Punxsy Pizza at 115 North Findley Avenue, which I highly recommend when visiting Punxsutawney. Their sauce is really good and very flavorful and I had one of their 13″ Calzones (see the review on TripAdvisor). It was more than a meal and the service was really good plus they were open late but even with the ceremony that morning, it was not that full.

Punsxy Pizza

Punxsy Pizza at 115 North Findley Avenue

Then off to the Civic Center two blocks away for the 11:00pm showing of “Groundhog’s Day” with Bill Murray. I have seen this movie about 100 times and saw it when it first came out in 1993 but I still enjoy watching it. It was when I was watching the film that I realized that the film was not shot in Punxsutawney. It was shot in Woodstock, Illinois. I never knew that because I just assumed from the film that it was shot there but when I looked at the downtown where the scenes were shot, that was a much more vibrant and nicer downtown and I did not recognize any of the buildings and I walked the downtown five times. Also, you will notice in the film that Gobbler’s Knob is located in the downtown square and in real life Gobbler’s Knob is about a mile and a half outside the city.

Groundhog’s Day Trailer

I went back to the room at the hotel for about two hours to relax and take a nap. I began to think the people who were spending the night at the Civic Center had a better idea. For $8.00, you can bring your sleeping bag and a pillow and spend the night there sleeping on the floor. Frankly, with the amount of time that I spend in the room the first night and that it cost $375.00 for the room the first night versus $65.00 the second night, I would have preferred to spend the night at the Civic Center. They looked like they were having fun.

I left for the ‘Knob’ at 3:30am and you would be surprised how many people were already there. The VIP area was already filled. There was entertainment the whole night. Our two hosts were two of Phil’s handlers and they did there best to keep us entertained all morning. There were bands, disco music and singing to keep us pepped up. The time flew by.

Gobblers Knob

Gobbler’s Knob

By 6:00am, the place started to fill up more and there was more excitement in the air. My advice to people who want to come is if you want the full experience, then come at 3:00am when the event starts. If you want to just see the fireworks and see Phil, come at 6:00am. Don’t miss the fireworks display, that was a nice display.

By 7:30am, the handlers arrived in their formal wear and top hats and started the ceremony. Trust me, those of us who had been there all morning just wanted to know the report and get out of there. The handlers kept dragging it on and most of us feet were frozen by this point. Even though it was about 20 degrees, it was not windy and did not seem cold. Still we were all tired and wanted the ceremony to be over.

groundhog's day 2016

Well, Phil did not see his shadow and they said it will be an early Spring (it did not make much sense as it snowed as soon as I came home). By the time the event was over it started to head up to the 30’s. By the afternoon it went to 52 degrees and was sunny and bright.

Groundhog’s Day 2016

They really had the place organized as there were about 15 buses waiting to pick everyone up. We got back to downtown Punxsutawney in about a half hour. This is when the event got strange. There were over 7000 people in the Knob that morning and while about 4000 went back home or back to work, there were a lot of people milling around downtown looking for something to eat and something to do after the ceremony.

I went to the Elks Club for a buffet breakfast fundraiser and it was mobbed! There must have been about 100 people ahead of me and about another 75 people behind me. The kitchen looked overwhelmed and could not keep up with the food. For $9.50 it was really nice. You had scrambled eggs, pancakes, bacon, potatoes, biscuits and gravy and coffee/tea and orange juice. Everyone was moving as fast as they could especially the woman collecting money who looked very happy.

After breakfast, there was a bunch of vendors on the Green who also got over-whelmed with customers and there was a historical hayride that the Historical Society sponsored that I swear people where fighting to get tickets for the ride. It was really nice as they took you around town and told you the history of the area. There was another showing of the movie and then that was it by noon. Everything shut down. All the souvenir shops were hopping and I asked one of the ladies how they were doing and she said they had a great day better than expected. I don’t think the town expected so many people on a Tuesday morning and for the weather to be 52 degrees and sunny this late into winter. People were looking for things to do and places to eat. Even the McDonald’s was over-whelmed for breakfast.

This is where the town failed the tourists. There was not enough to keep everyone occupied and by noon everything was closing on the Green and even the Historical Society had to run an extra hayride for the people that wanted to go on it. People just left town after lunch. Maybe the town wanted it that way but I think they really lost an opportunity to make more money for the town had they kept the activities until into the early evening. Bad marketing!

I went back to my room for the rest of the day and relaxed. By the time I went out for gas and something to eat by 8:15pm, the place was dead and back to being the sleepy little town it had been before. I went to McDonald’s for a snack because that was all that was open by 9:00pm. Even the next morning when I left, it was a really sleepy town.

Overall it was an interesting event and you should experience it once. It is more exciting than the movie even though Punxsutawney could use some sprucing up. Still it is a classic American event where TV does not capture the fun of it.

One of my favorite scenes of the film:

 

Places to Stay:

Cobblestone Hotel & Suites

188 Alliance Drive

Punxsutawney, PA  15767

(814) 938-5144

https://www.googleadservices.com/pagead/aclk?sa=L&ai=DChcSEwj0hsGk9p7nAhUFpLMKHVJOCDIYABAAGgJxbg&ohost=www.google.com&cid=CAASEuRoXed09ZuQzTedr3bD7-62Kw&sig=AOD64_2KIId6btr-9lnqc60D6nsKtlFrhA&q=&ved=2ahUKEwi_g7mk9p7nAhVrmuAKHVIBA0cQ0Qx6BAgVEAE&adurl=

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g53500-d7148979-Reviews-Cobblestone_Hotel_and_Suites_Punxsutawney-Punxsutawney_Pennsylvania.html?=19905

 

Places to Eat:

Punxy Phil’s Family Restaurant

116 Indiana Street

Punxsutawney, PA  15767

(814) 938-1221

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/American-Restaurant/Punxy-Phils-Family-Restaurant-108126792562048/

Open: Varies

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g53500-d3242250-Reviews-Punxy_Phil_s_Family_Restaurant-Punxsutawney_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

 

Punxsy Pizza

115 North Findley Street

Punxsutawney, PA  15767

(814) 938-8132

http://www.punxsypizza.com/

Open: Sunday 11:00am-10:00pm/Monday-Thursday 10:00am-10:00pm/Friday-Saturday 10:00am-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g53500-d6418364-Reviews-Punxsy_Pizza-Punxsutawney_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

 

Lilly’s Bakery

535 West Mahoning Street

Punxsutawney, PA  15767

(814) 938-9419

https://www.facebook.com/Lilys-Bakery-Deli-Restaurant-209587555723756/

Open: Sunday 6:30am-7:00pm/Monday-Saturday 5:00am-8:00pm

My Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g53500-d2552178-Reviews-Lily_s-Punxsutawney_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

 

McDonald’s

102 Findley Street

Punxsutawney, PA 15767

(814) 938-5277

Open: 5:00am-12:00am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g53500-d4887467-Reviews-McDonald_s-Punxsutawney_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

 

Gobbler’s Knob

1548 Woodland Avenue

Punxsutawaney, PA  15767

http://www.groundhog.org/

Admission: Free

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g53500-d106564-Reviews-Gobbler_s_Knob-Punxsutawney_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

 

Phil’s Burrow

Mahoney Towers

Punxsutawaney, PA 15767

http://www.groundhog.org/visit-us/phils-burrow/

Admission: Free

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g53500-d8494902-Reviews-Phil_s_Burrow-Punxsutawney_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

 

Punxsutawney Area Historical & Genealogical Society

(Bennis & Lattimer Houses)

400-401 W. Mahoney Street

Punxsutawney, PA  15767

(814) 938-2555

https://www.punxsyhistory.org/

Open: Closed Monday-Wednesday/Thursday and Saturday 10:00am-4:00pm/Friday and Sunday 1:00pm-4:00pm

Admission: Donation