Category Archives: Uncategorized

Day One Hundred and Thirty Four: Walking Sutton Place from East 59th Street to East 48th Street from Second Avenue to FDR Drive and the East River March 29th, 2019-June 7th, 2019

The bitter winter finally gave way to some warmer weather and I was finally able to continue walking the streets of Manhattan again. It had been almost three months since I finished the Upper West Side but the holidays were particularly busy and full of activities that had me running from the Hudson River Valley to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for Christmas plus a host of holiday activities, fundraisers, dinners at the house with my  family, parties, selling Christmas trees and generally a lot of running around. On the first warm (at this point 48 degrees) and sunny day, off I went to continue my walk starting on the Upper East Side and revisiting East 59th Street.

After a long day at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen serving up breads and pastries to the guests, I walked up to the Upper East Side to start my walk of Sutton and Beekman Places by the East River, neighborhoods steeped in history and beautiful architecture.  It was a beautiful warm day with the sun shining and that was a plus.

I started the afternoon with lunch at Flip, the restaurant inside the main Bloomingdale’s store on Lexington Avenue and 59th Street (see my review on TripAdvisor). I had been here a few times before when walking the lower part of the Upper East Side. It is located in the lower level of the store and has the most wonderful hamburgers and sandwiches. I had the Bavarian Burger ($18.00), which was delicious and the perfect pick me up after a long day serving other people.

The burger was made with a combination of ground meat and short ribs and was topped with caramelized onions, apple smoked bacon, Brooklyn lager cheese sauce and homemade bread and butter pickles on a pretzel roll served with a side a steak fries. It tasted as good as the description. I highly recommend a trip to Flip when visiting Bloomingdale’s main store. You will find it in the downstairs Men’s Department.

I started my walk at 24 Sycamores Park on East 60th Street. I needed to take a quick rest after that big lunch and it was such a nice day to just relax on the benches and watch the kids play with their nannies.  It is such a great little pocket park with an interesting history. It was one of the parks developed for the Upper East Side residents who complained to Robert Moses that there was no greenery on their side of the City. Here I planned my walk around Sutton Place, Beekman Place and Sutton East (between First & Second Avenues), which some people consider part of the Turtle Bay neighborhood.

24 sycamores park.jpg

24 Sycamores Park in the Upper East Side

After relaxing in the park for a half hour and catching my breath from the Soup Kitchen and lunch, I started my walk along First Avenue. This is lined with elegant apartment buildings and a combination of old brownstones and mansions. It depends on what part of the Avenue you live on. The area around Sutton Place and Beekman Place is pretty much self contained and off to itself. You really have to walk through the side streets and the parks to see the real beauty of the neighborhood and the little gems that make the neighborhood special.

The one thing I have noticed in the this part of the neighborhood is that a lot of the stores on East 59th Street from Second to First Avenue have closed down and have joined the rest of the epidemic of empty store fronts in the City. Since I finished the walk of the Upper East Side in December, in just three months about a half dozen businesses have closed down. It will be interesting to see what replaces them.

I started the day walking down from East 59th Street and walked the perimeter of the neighborhood from FDR Drive to Second Avenue from East 48th Street where the United Nations is located to East 59th Street, the border of Sutton Place with the Upper East Side. Here and there lots of buildings and restaurants stand out.

I walked down Sutton Place from Sycamore Park down to the United Nations Building. This official border of Sutton Place is lined with pre-war apartment buildings, modern co-ops and a few brownstones and mansions tucked here  and there.

Sutton Place is named after Effingham B. Sutton (1817-1891), a shipping magnate and entrepreneur, who made a fortune during the Gold Rush. He developed a series of brownstones between East 58th and 57th Streets in hopes of reestablishing the neighborhood for residential purposes from its then current state of small factories and commercial purposes. The Sutton Place Parks at the end of each street from East 59th through East 54th Street were established in 1938 when the FDR Drive was built taking away the access to the river. There are a series of five parks now along the East River at the end of each block (NYCParks.org).

At the corner of East 59th Street and Sutton Place starts the series of mansions that line this part of the street. In 1883, this little stretch of roadway had been renamed Sutton Place, a nod to Mr. Sutton, who had constructed that row of brownstone residences  in 1875 (Daytonian in Manhattan).

Vanderbilt and Morgan Mansion Sutton Place

The Vanderbilt and Morgan Mansions on Sutton Place

The beautiful old mansion at 2 Sutton Place was renovated by Anne Vanderbilt, the widow of William K. Vanderbilt. She sold the Vanderbilt mansion on Fifth Avenue that had been built by her husband’s family and bought the Effingham Sutton House. She  hired architect Mott B. Schmidt to renovate the home into a 13 room Georgian mansion.

Vanderbilt Mansion Sutton Place.JPG

Anne Vanderbilt Mansion at 2 Sutton Place; next door is the Anne Morgan Mansion

Anne Tracy Morgan bought the 3 Sutton Place, the house on the corner of Sutton Place and East 57th Street and merged it with the home at 5 Sutton Place. Mott Schmidt filed revised plans for Anne Morgan’s house at 3 Sutton Place when she bought 5 Sutton Place and had the homes merged. The plans called for the rebuilding of the two structures into a four story dwelling in American Colonial style with a roof garden and Morgan and Vanderbilt would share a common garden. To create the illusion of a vintage home, Mott reused the bricks from  the old buildings on the site. The house was completed in 1922 (Daytonian Manhattan).

Vanderbilt Mansion Sutton Place II.JPG

The entrance to the Vanderbilt Mansion at 2 Sutton Place

As you walk the side streets between East 58th through East 48th Street, these dead end blocks offer magnificent views of Roosevelt Island and the Queens-Brooklyn waterfront which is quickly changing from old warehouses to luxury high-rises and waterfront parks. Each has its own unique view of Roosevelt Island.

At the end of Sutton Place at the corner of East 53rd Street there is a small park, Sutton Place Park South, overlooking the tip of Roosevelt Island and FDR Park with its beautiful landscaping and stone work. It is a nice place to just relax and enjoy the cool breezes and hear the racket of FDR Drive zooming by.

Sutton Place Park South.jpg

Sutton Place Park South at the tip of Sutton Place

This wonderful park should be visited by everyone who visits Manhattan. It has the most spectacular views of Roosevelt Island and the Queens/Brooklyn Waterfront and on a sunny warm day, it is one of the most relaxing parks I have visited since MywalkinManhattan.com started.

Sutton Place Park South II

Sutton Place Park South

It is nice to sit amongst the cool breezes of the river by small gardens and shade trees. There were two dedications in the park that stood out to me. One was to Clara Coffey and the other was to Bronka Norak.

Clara Stimson Coffey was a landscape architect who in 1936 accepted the role of Chief of Tree Plantings for the NYCParks system and helped design several parks including the Clement Clark Moore Park in Chelsea which I recently visited on my Victorian Christmas Tour (Day One Hundred & Twenty Eight).

Bronka Novak was a long time Sutton Place resident and upon her death, her husband, the late Adam Novak, left an endowment for the maintenance of the flowers, trees and shrubs in the park.

On the west side of Sutton Place is lined with pre and post war apartment buildings each with a doorman that will look you over if you walk around the neighborhood too much as I did. You would think that they would have better things to do.

As I crossed back over East 59th Street, my next part of the walk took me to First Avenue which itself is going through a transition. Many of the old buildings and store fronts are giving way to new apartment buildings. As with the rest of Manhattan, this area is going through a make over to upscale housing.

On my next trip to Sutton Place after another long day at the Soup Kitchen (the Bread Station is beginning to get to me. Every time we have desserts available, the guests pound on me), I walked from Ninth Avenue and West 28th Street to First Avenue and East 59th Streets. On top of all the exercise from running around the Soup Kitchen, I got even more walking in but on a sunny, warm day it does not make much a difference.

I stopped into Jimbo’s Hamburger Place at 991 First Avenue (See reviews on TripAdvisor) and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for lunch. This small hole in the wall diner has been there for years and is a favorite for many of the older neighborhood residents who seem to know the owners quite well. The food is here is wonderful and the whole menu is very reasonable for this neighborhood.

I had a cheeseburger with fries ($8.50) that tasted as if the meat had just been ground and cooked perfectly with a nice carmelization on the meat. The fries were cooked to order and the whole meal was delicious and hit the spot. What was nice was to talk to people who had lived in Sutton Place. The restaurant has a nice neighborhood feel to it and the patrons had obviously been eating here for years. One woman who sat next to me eats here everyday. I guess as you get older and are single you don’t want to cook for yourself anymore.

Jimbo's II

Jimbo’s Cheeseburger and fries

After lunch, I continued the walk down First Avenue, I stopped at 931 First Avenue which had once been an old elementary school that had been built in 1892 in the Romanesque style. Instead of knocking the school down, the builder incorporated the school into the office tower above and around it. It gives the building a modern twist. As I was looking over the current renovation, I noticed a plaque on the corner wall.

Beekman Place School

The former P.S. 135 now the Beekman Regent Building

The school sat on the site of patriot James Beekman’s estate, Mount Pleasant, that had once been the British headquarters during the Revolutionary War. James Beekman (1732-1807) was a prominent New York City merchant and came from a family of merchants, lawyers and politicians. His ancestors had been Mayors of New York City and Albany and held positions as Governors of New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania. His grandfather, Gerardus Beekman, had been the acting Governor of New York under British rule (Wiki).

James Beekman

James Beekman whose name is given to Beekman Place

His estate and mansion, Mount Pleasant, had been used by the British as their headquarters during the war. The estate covering what is currently now both Sutton and Beekman Place. This was also the site for the trial of Patriot Nathan Hale.

Nathan Hale had volunteered to go behind enemy lines during the war and was recognized in a tavern by Major Robert Rangers of the Queen’s Rangers. Another story was he was turned in by his own cousin, Samual Hale, who was a loyalist. Either way, Hale was questioned at the Beekman mansion by British General William Howe and was lead to gallows on September 22nd, 1776 (See MywalkinManhattan on the Upper East Side. He was hung where there is a Pier One store at present).

James Beekman Estate Mansion

Mount Pleasant, the home of James Beekman and his family

The house was moved once to a buff at First Avenue and East 50th Street when the street grid was put into effect and the house was torn down in 1874 at the start of the real estate boom after the Civil War (Untapped Cities).

I continued walking down First Avenue until I reached East 48th and 49th Streets where the road forks into First Avenue and United Nations Plaza. This area is filled with Embassies and offices for the United Nations and Trump World Tower is at end of the neighborhood at 845 United Nations Plaza so traffic here is rough and the security all around the place is tight.

Peter Detmold Park

The Bridge leading to the East River Walk

When I reached the east side of First Avenue and at 51st Street, I took a turn down the road to the river and I went over the pedestrian bridge at the end of the block. This leads into the enclave of Beekman Place, the former estate of James Beekman. As you cross the bridge, you will enter Peter Detmold Park and its extension leading down FDR Drive, General Douglas MacArthur Park.

Peter Detmold Park III.jpg

The entrance to Peter Detmold Park

Peter Detmold (1923-1972) was once a tenant of the Turtle Bay Gardens. He was a veteran of World War II, serving under General George Patton in the Battle of the Bulge in France. Upon his return to civilian life, he was a Cornell graduate and when he moved to the City, became the one of the founders and President of the Turtle Bay Association and the founded the Turtle Bay Gazette. He along with other residents fought to keep the are residential and away from the commercial districts that were creeping into the area. On the night of January 6, 1972 after returning home from a meeting of the East Side Residential Association, he was murdered inside his building. The murder still has not been solved and the park was named after him later that year (NYCParks.com).

Peter Detmold

Activist, Veteran, Resident of Turtle Bay and fellow Cornell Alumnus Peter Detmold

Before I walked the bridge to the overpass, I walked down the steep stone steps down to the park area. It is a really hidden park. The area is surrounded by stone walls and apartment buildings above. To the left is a dog walk park that is extremely popular with residents and pooches alike. It is always busy.

To the right is a series of garden beds and benches to sit down and relax. There are tables where people were eating their lunches or playing with their dogs and being the beginning of spring, lots of flowers are in bloom. I walked around the area and watched as groups of residents talked and ate their meals or played games. The parks trees were just budding so the park had a canopy covering the top. When you walk through the gate at the end corner of the park, it leads to the General Douglas MacArthur Park and playground. Here you will find the much needed public bathrooms and they are in good shape.

Peter Detmold Park IV

The General Douglas MacArthur Park and Playground was named for General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), who had a illustrious military career that spanned four wars and five decades. Having served in the Philippine Islands and Mexico, he served in France during WWWI. He was called back into service for WWII serving as the Supreme Allied Commander in the Pacific and developed the strategy of “island hopping” that turned the tide of the war. He also served in the Korean War as well. After serving as an unofficial advisor to two presidents before retiring in 1951. After that, he retired at the Waldorf Towers in NYC (NYCParks.com).

General MacArthur III

General MacArthur

The park was originally built as part of the UN Plaza then was ceded to the City by Alcoa Associates and became part of the NYC Parks system in 1966. The small playground has a several swings, jungle gyms and tables to play chess along with bed of flowers and shade trees. It is right around the corner from some of the United Nations buildings so the outside can be busy with cars coming and going. The best part is the bathrooms are nice and open until 5:00pm (NYCParks.com)

MacArthur Park

After visiting both parks, I went back to Peter Detmold Park and went back up the narrow stone stairs and walked over the crosswalk to the riverfront promenade that lines the East River from East 51st to East 54th Streets offering breathtaking views of Governors Island and the Queens Riverfront. On a sunny day, the whole riverfront gleams.

East River View II

View from the Riverfront Promenade

After walking the Promenade to East 54th Street and walking back, its hard to believe that changes in the riverfront areas in both Queens and Brooklyn in the last fifteen years. The whole coast is lined with luxury housing, boast slips and parks offering excellent views of the East Side of Manhattan.

Once you exit the park, you will notice a small tree lined street with brownstones and pre-war apartment buildings. You have just entered Beekman Place, a tiny enclave of older homes and an assortment of embassies.

Beekman Place II.jpg

I glanced down a small road lined with small brownstones, townhouses and pre-war apartment buildings and proceeded to detour down Beekman Place to tour the road and the side streets, each leading back out to First Avenue from East 51st Street to Mitchell Place.

As you walk down this quiet enclave of majestic architecture, there is a lot to admire in the surrounding buildings and the serene side streets of 50th Street and Mitchell Place. Each block is lined with unique buildings all decorated with plantings.

Beekman Place III

21 & 23 Beekman Place

Many famous people have lived in this neighborhood. At 23 Beekman Place, stage actress Katharine Cornell and her husband, Guthrie McClintic lived. Ms. Cornell was once considered one of the greatest American actresses on stage, best know for her roles in ‘The Barretts of Wimpole Street’ and her Tony award winning role in ‘Anthony and Cleopatra’. Her husband was a famous theater and film director whose production company produced all of his wife’s plays (Wiki).

Kathine Cornell

Kathrine Cornell and Guthrie McClintic

At 21 Beekman Place, Ellen Biddle Shipman, one of the most famous and best regarded landscape architects in the United States know for her formal gardens with a lush planting style. A Radcliffe graduate, she is best known for her work on the Longue Vue Gardens in New Orleans and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University, considered her finest work (Wiki).

Ellen Biddle Shipman

Ellen Biddle Shipman

As you walk to the end of these streets facing the river, you get the most spectacular views of the Queens waterfront and Roosevelt Island. Along East 51st, East 50th and Mitchell Place you will find an assortment of embassies from countries I am not too sure people might know.

I exited down Mitchell Place at the edge of the neighborhood and passed the Beekman Tower at 31 Mitchell Place.  Originally called ‘The Panhellenic’, the tower was built between 1927 and 1928 in the Art Deco style by architect John Mead Howells. It was opened as a residence for women of the Greek sororities who were entering the workforce in New York City but by 1934, the building had male residents. Today this graceful building is being used as a corporate apartment building.

Beekman Tower

The Art Deco Beekman Tower at 31 Mitchell Place & First Avenue

I walked back up First Avenue, I looked across the street and saw the most beautiful floral displays and flowers for sale outside of Zeze Flowers  at 938 First Avenue (See review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). This is more than a store it is more like a museum of flowers. Everything from the window displays with the ‘Man in Moon’ to the exotic flowers enticing you inside you will be taken by the beauty of store.

Zeze Flowers II

Zeze Flowers Shop

Once inside Zeze Flower Shop you will admire the beauty of the displays, statuary and the gorgeous orchids that line the shelves and tables. All the tables are lined with all sorts of decorative objects and the walls with vases to hold their carefully cut flowers. The store itself is a work of art and the bouquets and arrangements look like something out of a painting. There is a lot of care in this store and the staff is attentive and friendly.

Zeze Flowers

The beautiful flowers and gift ideas of Zeze Flower Shop

On the way back up First Avenue, I passed the spot of the Beekman Mansion again at First and East 51st Street and admired the renovation of the building which was once a school. The building, The Beekman Regent at 351 East 51st Street, had been designed and built in 1892 by George W. Debevoise, who was the Superintendent  of Board of Education at the time as P.S. 135. Later it had became the United Nations School. It now serves as a luxury apartment building that won the 2002 Mercedes Benz Property Award for the ‘finest new redevelopment in the world’ (Beekman Regent history).

Beekman Place School

The Beekman Regent building at 351 East 51st Street

I continued up First Avenue past a long line of restaurants. I have noticed just in the two weeks that I have been walking the Sutton Place neighborhood, two businesses have closed and the storefronts are empty.

Another restaurant I ate at when walking the Upper East Side at another time was Go Noodle at 1069 First Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor). There combination platter at lunch are reasonable and I had a chicken with string beans and an eggroll ($8.50) that was delicious.

I made it back to East 59th Street in time to see the traffic building up on the Queensboro Bridge. The lights from the waterfront started to come on and when I walked back to 24 Sycamores Park, the place was still filled with families. I was exhausted and saved the rest of the walk for another day.

I came back to the neighborhood a week later on a beautiful sunny day after a long day working the Bread Station at Holy Apostles again. These guests love their bread and we were busy again so it was another long walk up to Sutton Place. Here I started at East 59th and Second Avenue. Technically this area is known as Turtle Bay but some creative people in the real estate industry have called the area between First and Second Avenues between East 59th and 49th “Sutton East” as I saw on some of the buildings. So down Second Avenue I went to visit ‘Sutton East’.

Second Avenue between East 59th and East 48th Streets has become a real hodge-podge of buildings as the area closer to Midtown, between East 48th and 50th Streets have given way to larger office and apartment buildings. Once above East 51st Street, there still is a mixture of older brownstone and smaller apartment buildings that house the mom & pop stores and restaurants that keep the borders of Sutton Place and Turtle Bay unique.

I started my day with lunch at Mee’s Noodle Shop at 930 Second Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor) which I had passed a few times when walking back to Port Authority. The menu and the write ups on the restaurant had been very good and there is a lot of creativity to the selection. Since it was Good Friday when I visited I stuck to all seafood dishes which was a nice choice. The restaurant’s specialty is dumplings and noodles that are made fresh on premise and you can see them being made as you walk in.

I ordered the steamed seafood dumplings ($6.50) which were a combination of crab, shrimp and scallop. They were really light and had a nice taste to them with the soy dipping sauce. For my main part of the meal, I ordered the Shrimp Lo Mein (Small $7.35/Large $9.20). This was especially good because all the noodles were being made in front of me and were fresh and cooked to perfection. The dish was studded with nice size shrimp and an array of vegetables including a very well cooked bok choy.  The service could not have been nicer especially during the lunch rush.

After lunch I walked the distance of Second Avenue, looking over all the menus on the restaurants that lined the Avenue. There is a lot to choose from. There are coffee shops, Italian restaurants, Continental, German, Thai and several very good pizzerias. What I like about Second Avenue in this stretch of the Avenue is the juxtaposed look of the buildings that give it character.  The most action at night seems to be between East 50th and 51st Streets where a lot of the bars are located. This part of the neighborhood I read that the residents here worked hard to fight the city on new construction to keep the character of the neighborhood the way it has been.

A nice place to sit and relax is the Katherine Hepburn Place by Sterling Plaza at Second Avenue and East 49th Street. This little park named after the actress who lived and advocated for the neighborhood is a small area of trees and benches that is nice to rest for a bit. It is nice to people watch here especially the dog walkers who all seem to converge here.

Sterling Plaza Park

Sterling Plaza Park

As I walked back up to East 59th Street, I began to notice that again smaller businesses between that and East 57th were beginning to close. It seems that the fringes of the Upper East Side are beginning to blend into this neighborhood. When you reach the top of the block at East 59th Street, you are greeted with the traffic going into the Queensboro Bridge, the tram going back and forth to Roosevelt Island and the sheer movement of people.

On the way back down Second Avenue, I visited La Vera Pizza at 922 Second Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor) for a quick slice. The pizza is really good and they make a delicious Sicilian slice ($3.00). The slice was pillowy and crisp and their sauce has a lot of flavor to it.

There is a distinct difference when you cross East 48th Street from the neighborhood as all the brownstones disappear and you see more office and apartment buildings on that part of Second Avenue. From East 58th to East 49th Streets, you will see a transition and change block by block. Some blocks will be all brownstones and small mom & pop businesses and others it will be a new building with a combination of businesses at street level.

From here, I walked block by block and explored the side streets of the neighborhood and there are many hidden gems in way of restaurants, stores and historic architecture to explore.

Starting on East 59th Street a lot has changed since I walked the neighborhood since before the holidays. A lot of the stores that I had passed were gone and the stores were empty. Either to changing times or higher rents, these businesses disappeared right after the New Year so I turned the corner at Second Avenue and walked down East 58th Street and was surprised by the trove of stores and restaurants on the street. There are still a lot of antique stores and florists on the street as well many restaurants. You will also see the most amazing views of the Queensboro Bridge as it extends from Manhattan to the shores of Queens in the distance.

Queensboro Bridge II

The Queensboro Bridge on East 59th Street

When you turn the corner and enter 58th Street towards the entrance to the Queensboro Bridge, you will see two small brownstones, 311 and 313 East 58 Street. The were built between 1856-57 by Hiram G. Disbrow for his own use. They were built in the Greek Revival-Italianate style with a porch with a picket fence (Streeteasy). 311 is now the home of Philip Colleck Ltd., an antique furniture store where they carry beautiful classic furniture for the home. 315 is still a private home right next to the ramp on the entrance to the Queensboro Bridge. These two interesting little brownstone homes stand out against the modern high rises that dot the rest of East 58th Street.

311 & 313 East 58th Street

311 and 313 East 58th Street brick structures

This pretty much dominates East 57th Street as well until you get to the Morgan and Vanderbilt Mansions at 2 & 3 Sutton Place with the amazing view of Roosevelt Island and the Queens Waterfront. There is a real beauty in the line of old mansions and brownstones between East 58th and 57th on Sutton Place.

Sutton Place

The mansions on Sutton Place

East 56th Street is lined with an array of pre and post war buildings as well with more great views of the river at the end of street of the East River on Sutton Place. East 55th Street is about the same but there is a stand out with A La Mode, an ice cream shop at 360 East 55th Street.

A La Mode.jpg

A La Mode

A La Mode (see my review on TripAdvisor) is a very cute and engaging ice cream shop that caters to the locals. The selection of homemade ice creams offers a few unusual flavors. I enjoyed a double scoop of Pink Sprinkle (Strawberry with colored sprinkles) and Partly Cloudy (Cotton Candy with baby marshmellows) both of which were colorful and delicious. They also carry an assortment of gifts and clothes for that lucky child. I must have enjoyed eating it because everyone smiled at me on my walk down to Sutton Place Park to enjoy it and the views.

A La Mode II.jpg

As I rounded the corner onto East 54th Street, I stopped by both Sofia Pizza and Marinara Pizza many times when touring the neighborhood. Sofia Pizza Shoppe at 989 First Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor) has been noted as being one of the best slices in the City by several magazines. I would bypass the traditional slice as it was okay ($3.25) but the Sicilian slice ($4.50) was delicious. It had a nice pillowy consistency and the sauce is loaded with flavor of fresh tomatoes.

Marinara Pizza at 985 First Avenue and the corner of East 54th Street (see my review on TripAdvisor) is a beautiful open restaurant that allows you to look in at all the pizzas. I had a slice from a pizza that just came out of oven and it was excellent. Their sauce is delicious and well spiced and the cheese was nice and gooey. Between the slice of pizza here and the sundae at A La Mode while looking at the view at Sutton Place Park at East 54th Street it was the perfect afternoon. People were smiling back at me that I seemed so happy to indulge in my ice cream while walking down the street.

When you get to the end of East 54th by Sutton Place, there is a small set up stairs that will take you to the first part of Sutton Place Park, Sutton Place Park North,  with benches that overlook the skyline of Queens and Roosevelt Island. On a nice day, it is the perfect place to soak up the sunshine and relax while looking at soaring skyline.

Walking down East 54th Street  from the park you will find the Recreation Center 54 at 348 East 54th Street with the Neighborhood  Playhouse School of Theater next door at 350 East 54th Street. The Neo-Classical building was built in 1911 as a recreation facility for the working classes and has many of the original details inside such as wrought iron staircases and marble baths. Originally called the 54th Street Baths and Gymnasium, the facility has now morphed into complete gaming experience with basketball, volleyball and swimming (NYCParks.org). Really look up to see the beauty of the building.

Recreation 54.jpg

Recreation 54 Building on East 54th Street

On the outside of the Neighborhood Playhouse School next door, there is a  plaque for Sanford Meisner, one of its most famous faculty. He developed the ‘Meisner Technique’, which is a self-investigation for the actor.

Sanford Meisner Plaque

The Sanford Meisner Plaque at the Neighborhood Playhouse School

Mr. Meisner, who had wanted to be an actor since he was a child has studied under Lee Strasberg at the Theater Guild for Acting. In 1935, he joined the faculty of The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater which had been founded in 1928. He had served at the Director of the Acting Department until his retirement in 1990.

At the other end of East 54th Street by Second Avenue, there is an interesting and relaxing little public space that is part of the apartment complex, The Connaught Tower. This is the perfect place to relax and unwind after a long walk with benches, small gardens and shade trees. In the front of this public space is the artwork by artist Alexander Liberman, ‘POPS209: Accord’, a large geometric sculpture

.Alexander Liberman statue Accord

POPS209: Accord by Alexander Liberman

Mr. Liberman’s, Russian born immigrant as way of France, career as an artist covered many different forms of art including photography, painting, sculpture and retiring as an Editorial Director at Conde Nast. In his sculpture work, he was noted for his use of industrial objects like steel drums and I beams and then painting them in uniform bright colors. POPS209: Accord is example of that but you almost miss it as the trees are growing all around it.

After several breaks in this public space, it was off to explore East 53rd Street. As I made my way back to the river passing the southern part of Sutton Place Park and rounding Sutton Place South onto East 53rd. Be careful when walking in this area. You are blind to cars coming on street from Sutton Place South and they may not stop.

What stands here is this small red brownstone at 413 East 53rd Street that sits like a poor sole amongst the large apartment buildings that surround it.

413 East 53rd Street

This little building doesn’t look as good as this now on the outside but it does have a colorful history in the transformation of this neighborhood several times. The property was once part of the Beekman estate in an area of summer homes and estates of wealthy downtown Manhattanites.

After the Civil War and the land boom that pretty much doomed the Beekman’s estate, this area was built up with tenement housing for the working class who worked in the nearby factories and this little house must have built somewhere in the late 1880’s. It has been lived in by several interesting characters.

The house was once lived in by corrupt politicians who were once slum lords in other parts of the neighborhood, then by a prostitute and her pimp and after that to an insurance company which dealt with cremations. After that it became a sheet metal shop and was fought over and sold by the slum lord’s estate (Daytonian in Manhattan).

By the time that Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Morgan built their homes up the road, the little brick building became a clock shop and then for the next several years was an antique reproduction store. It’s last incarnation was as a dentist office and the upper two floors was renovated into a luxury home. Now it sits empty and boarded up waiting for the next stage of its history. So much history for such a small building.

As you pass the corner of East 53rd Street and First Avenue, take a peak inside the doorway to 400-402 East 53rd and look at the secret garden behind the locked door. If you glare to the back, you will see the garden that is hidden behind all the buildings on this part of First Avenue between East 53rd and 52nd Streets. If you could only sneak inside to take a peek.

400 East 53rd Street

The secret garden hides behind this entrance

Walking further down East 53rd Street, two small wooden homes that stood out among all the luxury buildings and commercial shops on the street. These two little wooden homes are two of the last remaining in Manhattan and are currently landmarked.

312 & 314 East 53rd Street

312 & 314 East 53rd Street

The homes were built in 1866 by Robert and James Cunningham, two returning Civil War veterans who returned to an ever changing City. The area had once been the farm of David Devore and now contained slaughter houses and factories and was considered ‘sketchy’. The brothers built the two twin wooden homes right before the City changed the building codes banning wooden homes due to fires destroying the City like the ‘Great Fire of 1835, which destroyed most of downtown (Daytonian in Manhattan).

The two homes are built in the French Second Empire Style and have mansard roofs and brick basements and a shared garden in the back of both homes. The brothers leased the homes out until 1870. In the 1920’s 312 East 53rd was leased to Lincoln Kitsten, who founded the New York City Ballet and then to Society Hostess Muriel Draper and her dancer son, John. The homes were landmarked in 1968 and 2000 respectively (Daytonian in Manhattan).

As you cross the street at Second Avenue and walk down the other side of the street heading back to the river, you will pass Eclair Bakery at 305 East 53rd Street (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com), which I consider one the best independent bakeries I have tried on my walk since Estreda Bakery in Washington Heights and the now closed Glaser’s Bakery on the Upper East Side.

Eclair Bakery III

Eclair Bakery’s delicious desserts

Eclair Bakery has some of the most delicious pastries, quiches and sandwiches at what I consider very reasonable prices for this part of the city. The Strawberry and Nutrella mini-doughnuts ($2.50) are pillowy and coated with sugar filled with fresh strawberry jelly and chocolaty Nutella and are three bite wonders.

The eclair’s ($5.75) come in various flavors and are arranged in the case like jewels. The Hazelnut was my favorite. The Quiche with ham and cheese  ($5.75) when warmed up has a nice custard like texture and a sharpness due to the cheese. Everything here is delicious and the service is really friendly.

East 52nd Street between the river and Second Avenue is filled with mostly pre and post-war buildings and filled with many embassies and consulates. As you walk toward the United Nations, you will notice that a lot of the smaller apartment buildings and brownstones between East 52nd and East 48th Street have many foreign signs.

Turning the corner onto East 51st Street on Second Avenue, you will see a change in the neighborhood again. Second Avenue is the border between  Turtle Bay and Sutton Place East neighborhoods and you will notice as you get further down the avenue block by block you will see a change between new modern apartment buildings and the smaller brownstone buildings that house the locally owned restaurants. It still is a neighborhood in this section between East 51st and East 49th Streets.

Again on the corner of East 51st Street and First Avenue, you will pass the site of the Beekman Mansion on the way back to the East River. At the end of street, you will return to Peter Detmold Park. On a beautiful sunny day, take another walk across the bridge to take in the views of the East River and Roosevelt Island or just sit on the benches in the park and watch people playing with their dogs.

There is one little standout building on the Street at 328 East 51st Street. This beautiful little yellow townhouse was built in 1861 and was the home of actress Katharine Cornell when she moved back to the City in 1965. The two tiny sculptures that sit above the doorway are of Julia and Comfort Tiffany, the twin daughters of Louis Comfort Tiffany who were born in 1887. Ms. Cornell commissioned sculpture to artist, Mary Lawrence Tonetti, who was a good friend of her’s and whose son-in-law, Eric Gugler and architect, had designed the actress’s homes in Martha’s Vineyard and Sneden’s Landing (New York Times). Really look at the stonework and grill work of this home.

328 East 51st Street

328 East 51st Street has a beauty of something in the French Quarter

When you turn the corner again to East 50th Street, the are around Beekman Place closer to the East River by the park has more classic brownstones and prewar apartment buildings and the area between First Avenue and the river is its own little enclave. Here the brownstones on the side streets are filled with many consulates. As you walked down to Second Avenue, the streets are lined with pre and post war buildings. Take the time though to walk Beekman Place and Mitchell Place near the Beekman Tower. It is like its own neighborhood.

Walking back and forth down East 49th Street, you will notice this lower part of the neighborhood is changing to more modern buildings and businesses catering to the United Nations around the corner and the same with East 48th Street which is more modern buildings and parking garages for the UN. The classic brownstones give way to the modern buildings of Midtown.

Still you have two great restaurants between East 49th and 50th Streets, Mee’s Noodles for those wonderful dumplings and noodles at 930 Second Avenue and La Vera Pizzera on the corner of East 49th Street and Second Avenue at 922 Second Avenue (see reviews on TripAdvisor). My last trip into the neighborhood I made another trip to La Vera Pizzeria and the place was crowded with people getting off work from Midtown. Their pizza is very good and the service is friendly.

You can see how this part of the City like all others is in a state of transition as the brownstone buildings with their independent businesses are giving way to the more modern structures of today changing it to an extension of Midtown. Still many parts of the blocks have a ‘neighborhood’ feel to it and the area is loaded with interesting buildings, wonderful restaurants, small pocket parks and amazing views of the East River and the outer boroughs changing skyline. It is a wonderful place to just walk around and enjoy!

 

Steve Tyrell and Neil Sedaka “Laughter in the Rain”

 

I don’t know why but I kept humming this the entire time I walked Sutton Place.

 

 

Places to Eat:

Flip-Bloomingdales

1000 Third Avenue

New York, NY  10022

(212) 705-2993

https://www.bloomingdales.com/buy/flip

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d2315278-Reviews-Flip-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d3293428-Reviews-Flip-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Jimbo’s Hamburger Place

991 First Avenue

New York, NY 10022

(212) 355-6123

Fax: (212) 355-7068

http://www.jimboshamburgerplace.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d425756-Reviews-Jimbos_Hamburger_Place-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/2019/04/13/jimbos-hamburger-palace-991-first-avenue-between-54th-53rd-streets-new-york-ny-10022/

 

Mee’s Noodle Shop

930 Second Avenue

New York, NY  10022

(212) 888-0027/0138/0234

Open: Sunday-Saturday 11:00am-10:30pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d502666-Reviews-Mee_Noodle_Shop-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Go Noodle Chinese Restaurant

1069 First Avenue

New York, NY  10022

(212) 888-6366/5995/fax-4244

http://www.gonoodleninemoon.com/

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4369518-Reviews-Go_Noodle-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

La Vera Pizza

922 Second Avenue

New York, NY 10017

(212) 826-8777

http://www.laverapizzanyc.com

Open: Sunday-Wednesday 9:45am-1:45am/9:45am-3:45am/Friday-Saturday 9:45am-4:45am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12192135-Reviews-La_Vera_Pizzeria-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Marinara Pizza

985 First Avenue

New York, NY

(917) 261-2147

https://www.marinarapizza.com/

Open:  Sunday 11:00am-10:00pm/Monday  9:00am-2:00pm & 2:00pm-5:00pm/Tuesday-Saturday 11:00am-10:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d17522229-Reviews-Marinara_Pizza-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Sofia Pizza

989 First Avenue

New York, NY  10022

(212) 888-8816

http://www.sofiapizzashoppe.com

Open:  Sunday 12:00pm-9:00pm/Monday-Saturday 11:00am-10:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d11882563-Reviews-Sofia_Pizza_Shoppe-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

A La Mode

350 East 55th Street

New York, NY  10022

(917) 639-3401

home

Open: Sunday 11:00am-8:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Saturday 11:00am-8:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d8412143-Reviews-A_la_Mode_Shoppe-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Eclair Bakery

305 East 53rd Street

New York, NY 10022

(212) 371-3459

http://www.eclairbakery-nyc.com

Open: Sunday 8:00am-8:00pm/Monday-Thursday 7:00am-9:00pm/Friday-Saturday 7:00am-10:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d6438250-Reviews-Eclair_Bakery-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/1068

 

Places to Visit:

 

24 Sycamores Park

501 East 60th Street

New York, NY  10065

(212) 639-9675

Open: 6:00am-9:00pm

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/twenty-four-sycamores-park/history

 

Peter Detmold Park

454 East 51st Street

New York, NY 10022

(212) 639-9675

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-8:00pm

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/peter-detmold-park/history

 

General MacArthur Park

East 48th to East  49th Streets & FDR Drive

New York, NY  10022

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/macarthur-park

 

Sutton Place Park North and South

Between East 54th and East 53rd Street and FDR Drive

New York, NY  10022

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/sutton-place-park

https://suttonplaceparks.org/

 

Places to Shop:

The Philip Colleck Ltd.

311 East 58th Street

New York, NY  10022

(212) 486-7600

info@philipcolleck.com

http://www.philipcolleck.com

 

Zeze Flowers

938 First Avenue

New York, NY  10022

(212) 753-7767

http://www.zezeflowers.com

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/229

 

 

Advertisements

Day One Hundred and Twenty Eight-The Victorian Christmas Walking Tour of the Ladies Shopping Mile with the Cornell Club December 15th, 2018

On Saturday, December 15th, I met with other members of the Cornell Club to travel back to the Victorian Era and learn about the traditions of the Christmas past. We explored the Gramercy Park, Union Square and lower Sixth Avenue sections of the City to visit where a New York Victorian Christmas would be celebrated and honored.

We would be walking the old “Ladies Shopping Mile” that had been built up right after the Civil War when the disposable income  for Middle and Upper Middle Class residents had increased after the Civil War and people wanted to spend their money at the newly built department stores, shops and restaurants.  The Industrial Revolution was in full swing and shopping had changed with the development of the department store.

The tour took us past brownstones, parks, restaurants and old department stores that line the streets of Manhattan between East and West 21st Street to 23rd Street and along that stretch of Sixth Avenue which is lined with the old buildings that once housed some of New York City’s great department stores.

The tour started on a sunny morning in Gramercy Park just off East 21st Street right near the Gramercy Park Hotel at the Cyrus Field House at One Lexington Avenue. The plaque was laid on the side of the old home dedicated to the man who laid out the first Atlantic cable in 1858.  Cyrus West Field was a self-made man who founded his own business and retired at 33 with a fortune of $250,000 (about 6 million today). He and his brother, David, an attorney had built twin mansions side by side facing Gramercy Park which was then being developed into a private park for the neighborhood in 1844 by Samuel Ruggles.

 

Cyrus West Field along with Fredrick Newton Gisborne, a Canadian inventor and electrician had laid out the first undersea cables. Partnering up, they laid the first successful cable line to Europe in 1866 after two other failed tries. Even with his successes, when his wife, Mary died in 1891 and his son’s banking business failed and his partner’s daughter in law was his sister, Grace who took ill and died later that year. Cyrus Field was vacationing in his summer home when he died as well (Wiki & the tour guide).

Field Mansion

The Field Mansion before it was torn down

Both his and his brother’s house were purchased by another banker who renovated them into one mansion. His business would later fail and he also was forced into bankruptcy. The houses were part of an ever changing New York neighborhood and were demolished and replaced by the Italian Renaissance apartment building that sits there today with the plaque neatly presented on the side of the building. A very interesting place for a colorful family history.

After we left the site of the Field Mansion, we toured the sides of Gramercy Park, which was created in 1844 by Samuel Ruggles, who developed the area as an exclusive enclave. The 22 acre site was once a swamp and the farm of James Duane, the son of the Mayor of New York and a direct descendant of Peter Stuyvesant, called ‘Gramercy Farm’.  The park was enclosed by a fence in 1833 and the parcels surrounding it were developed in 1840. The park’s landscaping was done by James Virtue and the park was surrounded by 39 lots whose owners had access to the private park. Today only those people residing in the 39 lots surrounding the park can have a key to it and help in the maintenance of the park (Wiki).

As we passed the park which looked a little sparse due to the time of the year with the exception of the pines and the Christmas Tree in the center of the park. Still you can see the elegance of the park and the constant upkeep of the landscaping. Behind the locked doors, it is almost a secret garden almost waiting to be discovered. Even today, you still need that key to open the door to the park and you have to live in the area to get in.

Christmas in Gramercy Park

Christmas Tree in Gramercy Park today

While we were at the park, the tour guide gave us a little history of a Victorian Christmas and the rules and etiquette of the holidays under the rule of Queen Victoria and her marriage to Prince Albert who was from Germany.

When the marriage took place, Prince Albert had brought many of his traditions with him and introduced the Pagan tradition of bringing evergreen trees into the house. Since it was the only tree that was green during the long winter months, the Pagans brought it into the warmth as a sign of life. It was later decorated with sweets and small gifts then got more elaborate with candles and ornaments. Ornaments started to appear in 1853.

The idea of the Christmas card came in 1843 when Henry Cole created the first card with a simple message. By the 1880’s, the Victorians were sending out the cards in great numbers due to the advancement of the postal services, many of them handmade by the children of the house. Decorating the house got more and more elaborate. What had started with a simple tree and garland to decorate the doors and windows became more detailed with decorations.

Gift giving was once relegated to New Year’s Day but as Christmas became the more predominate holiday, gifts were given either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Initial gifts were things like small handmade trinkets and sweets and then moved to store bought gifts from the developing department stores that could be placed under the tree.

The Christmas Dinner had its roots in Medieval times but became more elaborate after the Civil War. During the Revolutionary War, Christmas Day meal was a family affair after church services but by the 1880’s as the Industrial Revolution started to change the way we lived, it became the feast we celebrate today.

Roasted meats like goose and duck were some of the things served but later turkey became a favorite for dinner. It became predominate on a middle class family table because the average turkey could feed a family nicely for dinner. Even Christmas crackers, which were invented by Thomas Smith in 1848 on an idea he saw in Paris on the way bon-bons were wrapped. He perfected them to ‘pop’ when they opened and were then filled with candies and small toys. This became part of the place setting.

Since the holiday was now being based around the family, things like parlor games and Christmas carols became family favorites.  Carols had started during Medieval times and had been brought back by the Victorians. The family was the center of the holiday and a family was only restricted by their budget.

There were also strict rules on visits during the preparation for the holiday. Our guide pointed out that when you visited a home leading up to the holidays, etiquette stated you stayed for about ten minutes and you only partook in the food that was laid out, such as a plate of Christmas cookies and you did not linger. The host had lots to do to prepare for the holiday and she did not want you stay and take up her time.

As we rounded the corner and the tour guide discussed the attributes of the park, he also talked about the history of the architecture that surrounds it. Many structures have a long and very interesting history.

James Harper House

4 Gramercy Park West

At 4 Gramercy Park West is the James Harper House, which almost resembles something you would see in New Orleans with its decorative iron work and graceful porches. The homes were built in 1846 for the James Harper, the Mayor of New York and one of the founders of Harper-Collins Publishing. The house was a Greek Revival design with an iron lace terrace with a mirror image of the home next to it with the exception of the lamps outside the house.

History has said that the lanterns in front of the home are a throw back to the Dutch era when lantern bearers accustomed to escort the Burgomaster home with the proper dignity from the city tavern or another place of entertainment. The Dutch custom of placing special lamps at the mayor’s door was an aid to finding his house at night but by Harper’s day, it was just ceremonial. The customer ended with the establishment of Gracie Mansion as the Mayor’s residence(Ephemeral New York).

 

James Harper House II

3 & 4 Gramercy Park

Harper died in 1869 and the house stayed in the family until 1923. It was known also for being the rumored home townhouse for the book “Stuart Little” and again achieved fame for being on the cover of Bob Dylan’s 1965 album cover for ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ (Ephemeral New York & the tour guide).

From the Harper House , we visited the Samuel Tildon House at 15& 16 Gramercy Park South around the corner from the Harper House.  This historic townhouse was built in 1845 and the home of former New York Governor Samuel J. Tilden who was a fierce opponent of the Tweed Ring and the losing Presidential candidate in the 1876 election. He lived in the house until his death in 1886 (Wiki & tour guide).

Samuel Tilden House

The Samuel Tilden House

The house was combined and redesigned by Calvert Vaux with the row house next door to make the building it is today. The brownstone was considered the height of Victorian Gothic in residential architecture with Italian Renaissance style elements. Since 1906,  it now serves at the National Arts Club (Wiki & tour guide).

Samuel Tilden House II

The home at 16 Gramercy Park South, now the home of the Players Club has an interesting past as well. The home was bought by Edwin Booth, one of the great Shakespearean actors of the 19th Century and one of the founders of The Players Club. He was the brother of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln. He turned over the deed to the house in 1888 to the club (Wiki & tour guide).

The Players Club.jpg

The Players Club which was owned by Edwin Booth

From the square of scandals and shame we moved to look inside the park where a statue of Edwin Booth stands. It was an interesting twist of events that he landed in New York City. The whole area was designated as the Gramercy Park Historical District in 1966 (Wiki & the tour guide).

Our next place to visit was the famous Pete’s Tavern at Irving Place at 129 East 18th Street. This famous bar/restaurant has been around since 1864 and has been a major watering hall for the neighborhood.  The building was originally known as the Portman Hotel and was built in 1829. It was known as a ‘grocery & grog” store and may have been serving alcohol since 1852 (Wiki).

Pete's Tavern

Pete’s Tavern is now an Italian restaurant

The writer O. Henry lived down the block at 55 Irving Place from 1903 to 1907 when the place was called Healy’s after Tom and John Healy,  who bought the restaurant in 1899. The famous writer included the name of the bar in a short story entitled “The Lost Blend” under the name “Kenealy’s”. It has been rumored that he wrote the well-known story “The Gift of the Magi” in the second booth from the front but it can not be proved (Wiki & the tour guide).

 

Washington Irving House III

The Irving House

Around the corner from Pete’s Tavern is 11 Commerce Street, the Irving House, the former home of Washington Irving’s sister. The Federalist style home was built in 1826 and was rumored to be where he wrote part of the book “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. No one was too sure where Washington Irving Jr. came from because Washington Irving did not have any children.

Washington Irving House.jpg

The Irving House at 11 Commerce Street

We left the Gramercy Park District which is slowly changing on the fringes of the Historic District from residential to modern hotels and apartments refigured into the older buildings of the neighborhood to the very modern and updated and hip Union Square Park.

Union Square Park was once the cross-roads from the old commercial part of Manhattan to the residential part of the island. When Manhattan was surveyed by John Randel for the Commissioner’ Plan of 1811 to create the grid of the island, Broadway angled away from the Bowery that would have been awkward to build on and it was decided to create a square at the union of the two streets. Samuel Ruggles, who had created Gramercy Park renamed the are ‘Union Square’ from its former name, ‘Union Place’. It was Ruggles who developed the area with streets and plantings at the park (Wiki & the tour guide).

At first the area was a fashionable residential area surrounded by brownstones and mansions but after the Civil War, the area gave way to a commercial shopping district that included Tiffany & Company and FAO Schwarz Toy Store. The area is now home to many upscale merchants and restaurants once again. It also has one of the biggest Farmer’s Markets in the City.

Union Square.jpg

Union Square today facing the once fashionable shopping district

From Union Square, our group walked to Sixth Avenue down West 17th Street to the start of the Ladies Mile Historic Shopping District. Today the area is still going through changes from discount superstores to advertising and communications companies but between the Civil War and World War I, the district was home to some of the most famous department and specialty stores of the time, places of worship and performance venues like the Academy of Music and Steinway Hall (Wiki & the tour guide). It is here where Victorian Christmas roots began.

We started the tour on West 17th Street and walked our way up Sixth Avenue while admiring the old department store buildings. One point that the tour guide wanted us to all note was the big windows on the second and sometimes third floor of the buildings. This was done when the old ‘Sixth Avenue El’ subway line used to travel down the avenue before the war so that people could see the clothes and fashions from the elevated subway cars. We walked up Sixth Avenue and we noted all the stores we passed and a little on the history of each store.

The old B. Altman & Company building located at 625 Sixth Avenue between West 18th and 19th Streets was once a luxury department store that catered to the strictly ‘carriage trade’ clientele of the time. It had been founded in 1865 by the Altman family on the lower East Side and progressed uptown to this location in 1877. It was originally designed by David and John Jardine, a New York architectural firm.

The store had been known for couture merchandise and fine furniture. As the clientele changed and moved uptown after World War I, the company moved the new store to Fifth Avenue and East 34th Street in 1906. The company went bankrupt in 1990 (Wiki, History of Department Stores & the tour guide).

B. Altman & Co.

B. Altman & Company store at 625 Sixth Avenue & West 18th Street

Our next stop was at the old Siegel-Cooper Company Department store at 620 Sixth Avenue at 18th Street. The company was founded in 1887 by Henry Siegel, Frank Cooper and Isaac Keim in Chicago and opened their store on State Street.

Their second store opened in New York City in 1896 at 620 Sixth Avenue between West 18th and West 19th Streets. The store used innovative steel-framing, the first department store in New York to use this construction, to create the world’s largest store at the time (to be surpassed by Macy’s Herald Square). The offered a wide variety of dry-goods and shops including a art gallery, conservatory selling plants, a photo studio and a 350 seat restaurant . The store was designed by the firm of DeLemos & Cordes in the Beaux-Arts style (Wiki & the tour guide).

 

Seigal-Cooper Department Store

The Siegel-Cooper Company store at 620 Sixth Avenue

The main floor featured a copy of David Chester French’s statue, The Republic inside a marble enclosed fountain on the first floor which the phase “Meet me at the Fountain” became the store slogan (Wiki & the tour guide).

Siegel-Cooper Department Store.jpg

The fountain that was at Siegel-Cooper

Yet by 1902, Henry Siegel sold the store and the company went bankrupt in 1915 and the store closed in 1917 and became a military hospital during World War I. Today the store is home to Marshall’s and TJ Maxx. It’s ornate outside is really hidden now.

We next moved on to the Simpson-Crawford Department Store at 641 Sixth Avenue between West 19th and 20th Streets, which once catered to the wealthy elite of Manhattan and beyond. The store was established in 1878 by Richard Meares and William Crawford as Richard Meares & Company. Meares left the firm a year later and William Crawford then partnered with Thomas and James Simpson to create Simpson, Crawford and Simpson. When Thomas Simpson died in 1885, the store became known as Simpson-Crawford (Daytonian in Manhattan).

Simpson-Crawford Department Store.jpg

Simpson-Crawford Store today at Sixth Avenue between West 19th and 20th Streets

When James Simpson died in 1894, William Crawford became the sole owner and in 1899 with the rise of the great stores on Sixth Avenue, Crawford designed a new store of marble designed by William H. Hume & Son. The exterior of the store shined with polished marble and granite (Daytonian in Manhattan & the tour guide).

The store had many innovations at the time. It had the first escalator in the city, the first display windows with mannequins and large display windows that had to be created for the store. The store was stocked with the finest imported clothes, furs and laces and on the top floor was a restaurant that catered to 1200 guests (Daytonian in Manhattan & the tour guide).

Before the store opened, William Simpson retired and sold the store to Henry Siegel across the street who kept the tradition of the store going. When Siegel-Cooper Company collapsed in 1914, Simpson-Crawford was kept closed for three weeks and then reopened. Both stores closed one year later and the store was converted to mail order warehouse. Today it holds various stores (Daytonian in Manhattan).

Our next stop was in front of Hugh O’Neill’s Dry Goods Store at 655 Sixth Avenue between West 20th and 21st Streets. It was built by the firm of Mortimer C. Merritt in the neo-Grec style who built the four stages of the building between 1887-1890 (Wiki & the tour guide).

Hugh O'Neill II.jpg

The Hugh O’Neill Store when it opened in 1890

Hugh O’Neill had started a small dry goods business right after the Civil War in 1865 with a small store around Union Square. In 1870, he decided to build a trade on the middle market customer and offered discounts on goods. The four floors of merchandise contained laces, ribbons, clocks and on the upper floors women’s and children’s clothing (Wiki).

When O’Neill died in 1902, the shopping area had just began its decline and in 1906 it merged with Adams Dry Goods up the block.  A year later they both went out of business as the area gave way to manufacturing. The building today has been converted into condos.

Hugh O'Neill.jpg

The Hugh O’Neill store today

Our last store that we looked at and discussed was the former Adams Dry Goods Store at 675 Sixth Avenue between West 21st and 22nd Street.

Samuel Adams, a merchant who had been selling upscale clothing and furnishing to customers in the area decided to open a store on Sixth Avenue. He used the architectural firm of DeLemos & Cordes, who had designed the Seigel-Cooper Department Store and the six story building opened in 1902. The store was the first in New York City to use the new Pneumatic tubes to transport money and messages throughout the store (Wiki).

Adams Dry Goods Store II.jpg

Adam’s Dry Goods Store when it opened in 1902

The problem with the store was its location. He built the store at the very edge of the neighborhood as the business changed. As the shopping area started to decline in the early 1900’s, Adams sold the store to Hugh O’Neill Dry Goods Store and they merged the two companies together, converting three floors of the Adams Dry Goods store to furniture. This concept was not popular as well and the businesses failed and the store closed in 1913 (Wiki & the tour guide).

Adams Dry Goods Store.jpg

Adams Dry Goods Store today at Sixth Avenue between West 21st and 22nd Streets

The store has gone through a manufacturing stage and in the 80’s became part of the change to large box retailing. The building now houses eBay and several stores including Trader Joe’s and Michael’s. As we could see on the tour, the old department stores are finding new life in retailing.

The last part of our tour discussed one of the most famous Christmas poems, “A Visit from St. Nicolas” or known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas” , which was one of the first mentionings of Santa Claus in a modern form,  written in 1822 and published in 1823 anonymously. Some saw the poem as a social satire on the ‘Victorianization’ of Christmas (Wiki & the tour guide). Our tour guide said you really have to read into the poem to see what it is really saying about the times that it was written in. He noted really read the line “Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap” as the stress of the holidays and child rearing was even back then.

Twas the night before christmas.jpg

“A visit from St. Nicholas”

It was in 1837 that poet Clement Clark Moore claimed to be the author. Even today there is a controversy of who really wrote the poem, Clement Clark Moore or Major Henry James Livingston Jr. This discussion is still being debated today (Wiki).

Clement Clarke Moore.jpg

Clement Clarke Moore poet

How the poem mixed well into the tour is that Clement Moore’s family owned an estate here on the area on West 23rd Street between Hudson River and Eighth Avenue from West 24th Street to West 19th Street. His home was at 348 West 23rd Street. He developed the area after donating a large portion of the estate to his church and created a residential neighborhood that still stands today.

 

Clement Moore Estate.jpg

The Clement Clarke Moore estate when he sold it into real estate parcels

I walked the entire neighborhood after we said our goodbyes on Ninth Avenue by the subway and discovered an ever gentrifying neighborhood of brownstones and small mansions. The one home that stood out amongst the brownstones was the James Wells Mansion at 400-412 West 27th Street.

James Wells Mansion III

 

The James Wells Mansion in Chelsea one of the most beautiful homes on the block

James N. Wells was a real estate broker and built the house in 1835 when Clement Clarke Moore developed this part of his estate. He built the grand house for his family. Sometime in 1866 after the Civil War, the house was renovated and a mansard roof was added to the house. It must have not stayed in the family too long after this as it was turned into a home for the aged in 1867 (Wiki). Today it has been restored by its owners to its grand glory.

The last part of the tour I visited the only spot that still carries the name of the family to know that the estate was located here and it was the Clement Moore Park at West 23rd to 22nd Streets on Tenth Avenue. The park was initiated by the West 400 Block Association to turn a neglected lot into a park and in 1965 it was opened to the public. When I visited the park that afternoon and others to complete the walk of the neighborhood, the park was closed for renovations.

Clement Moore Park.jpg

Clement Moore Park before the renovation

This is where I ended the tour that day. I walked this part of West 23rd Street from Sixth Avenue to Tenth Avenue on my own to see the development of the estate and how the gentrification of Chelsea was progressing. Let me put it this way, the Clement Clarke Moore brownstone was on the market in 2016 for 8.7 million dollars. I wonder how he would feel about that today?

Check out my Christmas blogs this year (2018) and my busy holiday season that stretched from the Hudson River Valley in New York State to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. I swear my feet never touched the ground the whole holiday season.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!

I want to add these two new Christmas songs by the late Jazz artist Al Jarreau and current up and coming artist Lindsey Webster for you all to enjoy. They got me through my Christmas Holiday season.

Christmas Morning by Al Jarreau:

 

It’s Gonna Snow on Christmas by Lindsey Webster:

 

 

Again everyone have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

 

Day One Hundred and Thirty-Five: “The Shops at Paramus Gardens Mall”-Introduction of Orion Malls Inc. newly created shopping concepts by my Introduction to Business 101 Class April 22, 2019

The reason why I have not been posting so much on “MywalkinManhattan.com” over the last few months has been tenfold. Work around the house, work at the fire department, concentration on building my caregiver blog, “BergenCountyCaregiver.com”, which is taking off all over the world (now in 45 countries) and work. At the last minute in the beginning of the semester, my boss offered for me to teach “Introduction to Business 101” at Bergen Community College. I jumped at the chance to teach a new class.

As with my Communications classes the last two semesters, I ended the class with a big group project that included the whole class. To match what we were learning in class, which was the whole gamut of the Business world, I decided that this semester we would renovate and remarket a Mall. Since Paramus, New Jersey is the Center of Mall construction in the country and one of the busiest shopping areas in the United States of America, I decided that we should locate the mall here.

Patterned after the Paramus Park Mall on Route 17 North in Paramus, NJ, we created a similar Mall named the “Paramus Garden Mall” (combination of names of Paramus Park Mall and Garden State Plaza Mall) and renovate and update it with the new name, “The Shops at Paramus Gardens Mall”.

I broke the class up in teams and as usual made the students work with total strangers. To top that each team had to work with the other teams to achieve their grade. This way the whole class gets to know one another and learn to communicate with the rest of the class. Projects like these are interesting not just for the research that the students come up with but how the students react to one another. I am never disappointed when I read the emails that are CCed to me as the CEO of the project.

I made myself as the Professor, the CEO of Orion Malls Inc., a large chain of Middle Class and Luxury Malls throughout the Northeastern part of the United States. Orion Malls Inc. had just bought the dowdy “Paramus Garden Mall”, a middle class mall in suburban Paramus, NJ. The mall, while successful and a money maker, was due for a huge makeover. With Malls surrounding it renovating and updating and just getting bigger, the Mall was falling behind its counterparts in the town by way of traffic and the diversity of stores.

Orion Malls Inc. Logo

Orion Malls Inc. logo

So I challenged the management team of the Mall with ideas for the new concept, “The Shops at Paramus Gardens”. This required a new logo, new signage, ways of reaching out to the community, new uses for the now closed “Bon-Ton Department” space for entertainment, a new restaurant concept in the food court area, outreach to Community organizations, a new marketing concept, making the mall more eco-friendly and greener and the updates in concepts and merchandising in the Sears and Lord & Taylor stores that still anchored the mall. We needed to update the Juniors, Children’s and Gift Departments. As usual the students did not disappoint me.

Mall Design

The former “Paramus Garden Mall”

I started with my design team and wanted them to come up with a concept of adding more green landscaping to the mall with trees, gardens, fountains and paths. I wanted them to convert the ‘open court’ in the middle of the mall that currently has four trees and a fountain and turn it into a village square with gardens, trees and tables. I also wanted them to figure out a way to make the mall more ‘eco-friendly’.

Greenery in Malls.jpg

Greenery in Malls

With my Food Court team, I wanted them to add new restaurants to the food court that reflected the changing demographics of Bergen County and New Jersey in general. Also I wanted them to find a way to make the food court more family friendly and ways of getting people from the surrounding office buildings to get out of the office and dine with us.

Jollie Bee

Adding Jollibee to the Food Court

The Community Service and Outreach Team was in charge of engaging in the surrounding communities and reaching out to local organizations about using the Mall for functions and charity events. I also wanted to see how we could utilize the Mall for functions for businesses within the Mall.

The Marketing & Advertising Team was in charge of reworking the old Mall logo from the 80’s and coming up with a whole new concept of shopping. We wanted to reach new markets with advertising campaigns and working with our Community Service team to present the Mall in a more ‘downtown’ aspect.

Our Entertainment Team was in charge of redesigning the former “Bon-Ton Department Store” space into a family friendly entertainment complex. I told them since they were presenting ideas to fill the space not to look at budgeting but look at what might attract families and business people coming off work. They had two floors of space and almost 180,00 square feet of space to fill.

Lastly, the last two anchor stores of the Mall needed an updating of merchandise and a refreshing of the stores so I challenged the Lord & Taylor and Sears stores to revamp their merchandise in the Juniors, Children’s and Gifts Departments to make the store more ‘family friendly’ and make it a shopping destination not just a place to shop. I also wanted them to work with the Community Outreach team to look at charity and special events that the stores could sponsor to promote the store and the Mall as well.

Attached below is the project and the ideas set forth by the teams. We also added the Power Point Presentation as well.

Links to the student’s project:

 

https://pgmcp.wordpress.com/about/

https://wordpress.com/post/wwwbergencountycaregiver.com/10403

Welcome to a new concept in shopping! Welcome to The Shops at Paramus Gardens Mall!

 

The Shops at Paramus Gardens Mall

The Shops at Paramus Gardens Mall 2019 Logo

Day One Hundred and Thirty-Two: Walking the Philadelphia Flower Show-‘Flower Power’ The Anniversary of Woodstock March 2019

I took some time out of ‘MywalkinManhattan” and decided to head down to Philadelphia to see the annual Philadelphia Flower Show. The gloom and cold of the winter was driving me crazy and I needed a change of scene. The trip was a spur of the moment decision with an excellent package deal with the tickets and hotel. I had not made my usual trip at Christmas and having a cheesesteak fix, off I went. The theme of the show this year was “Flower Power” for the anniversary of Woodstock. It was everything 60’s man.

Just packing for the overnight, I worked in the Soup Kitchen that morning. We had a busy day on the Bread station as usual and I was exhausted when I got to Penn Station. I could not check into the hotel until four that afternoon so I was in no rush. That is what I love about taking the Acela to Philly, you get there in record time and it is a smooth ride down with not many stops.

It was a little gloomy when I got down to Philly that afternoon but still I enjoy the walk from the train station to Center City. Penn Station is always cheerful though and it is nice to walk around the station and look at the architecture of the building and the ongoing renovations that preserve the structure. I walked around a little to see if any new restaurants had opened and then the long walk to Center City Philadelphia, which takes me a whopping twenty minutes to walk. It is a straight line right to the hotel.

When I visit Philly I like to stay in the downtown area to be close to the museums and Chinatown and this time I stayed at the Courtyard Hotel (See review on TripAdvisor) right across the street from City Hall and around the corner from Macy’s Center City (the old Wanamaker’s Department Store). What I like about the Courtyard is not just its location but the rooms are large and they have the best mattresses that are firm yet soft and you get the best night’s sleep on.

Dropping off my luggage, I made a bline to the Reading Market. The one thing I love about the Market is the wonderful food that you can get that you can’t find in New York City or in Northern New Jersey. What I mean by that is you can a cheesesteak in New Jersey but not the way you get one in Philly with the thin little steaks and Cheese Wiz at Carmine’s and you can get a good doughnut but not a Beiler’s Apple filled with cinnamon icing the way they make it. They are prepared for people from Philly not from New York. Every time I want a Cheesesteak in New York, they want to make some upscale Steak sandwich. I like the real thing.

Carmen's Cheesesteaks II.jpg

A real Philly cheesesteak

So off I went to start my lunch feast at the Reading Terminal Market (See review on TripAdvisor) at Carmine’s Famous Italian Hoagie’s and Cheesesteaks at 51 North 12th Street (See review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for my favorite sandwich, a cheesesteak loaded with Cheese Wiz ($8.00). I swear when you bite into that soft roll and keep going there is nothing like it. It is the combination of the caramelized meat and the sharp cheese is delicious and washed down with a Coke, it is the best.

Carmen's Cheesesteaks IV

Carmine’s

For dessert, I had two things. I went to Beiler’s Bakery and Bassett’s Ice Cream, both in the Reading Market around the corner from Carmine’s.  I had one of  Beiler’s apple filled jelly doughnuts with a thick cinnamon icing on it ($1.25) and it is delicious. Beiler’s fries all their doughnuts and then hand fill them with homemade fillings. The sweetness of the fresh apples and the thick glaze give it a fantastic taste.

Beilers Doughnuts II

Beiler’s Doughnuts

At Bassett’s Ice Cream, I had a craving for their homemade Cookies & Cream Ice Cream on a cone ($6.75) and even though it was my second dessert it was well worth it. The ice cream has a high count of butterfat which makes it creamer and they load it up with pieces of cookie in it. Everyone just looked at me with the big smile on my face walking out of Reading Market eating that cone. It was so rich and good!

Now that my cravings were fulfilled and I had walked all over the Market checking out the other foods, I decided it was time to walk off the lunch and I headed to the Philadelphia Art Museum (See review on TripAdvisor). Since I am a member of the Newark Museum (See my review on VisitingaMuseum.com and TripAdvisor), we have a reciprocal  program with the museum and I can get in for free.

I had not been to the museum since the previous Christmas I had wanted to see how the renovations were coming along and see two of the exhibitions at would be closing the next week, “Fabulous Fashions: From Dior’s New Look to Now” and “Little Ladies: Victorian Fashion Dolls and the the Feminine Ideal”. Both of which were excellent. The one thing I like about the Philadelphia Museum as opposed to the Met is that they don’t over-whelm you with the exhibition. The show is long enough to enjoy but not long enough where it over-loads you with information.

The “Fabulous Fashions” exhibition was really interesting in that it showed how fashion changed since the end of World War II. The exhibit covered fashions from the “A” look to more modern garments that show the comfort a woman expected from designers then and now. It was a series of dresses on mannequins that showed the progress of this over the years.

Philadelphia Art Museum Dior.jpg

Dior Show at the Philadelphia Art Museum

“Little Ladies: Victorian Fashion Dolls” exhibition was centered around the ideal of the Victorian woman that girls would see in their mothers and the women that surrounded them. The dolls represented the fashions and mood of the time and preparing young girls for marriage and motherhood and the ideal values of life. It is amazing to see the change of attitude in just a hundred years. It was not just what the dolls were it was what they represented in way of fashion and accessories but in the attitude of the times. Everyone knew their place and played the role as best they could in the values of the times.

Philadelphia Art Museum Victorian Ladies

Victorian Wedding Doll

Both were interesting to walk around and explore what the curators were trying to convey. The Philadelphia Art Museum does a nice job mounting their exhibitions and since they were not the huge over-whelming exhibitions of other museums, it gave me the rest of the evening to explore the museum.

On Friday nights, the museum has live entertainment and I sat on the stairs inside the courtyard of the museum and listened to the jazz combo while I watched everyone eating at the museum’s restaurant that surrounded the stairs. It was an evening of cocktails and music for most of the patrons. I was still stuffed from lunch so I just sat back and relaxed and listened to the music. I highly recommend Friday nights (they are open until 8:45pm) at the Philadelphia Art Museum with their late night music concerts. It is a relaxing way to spend the evening.

On the way back to the museum, I all of a sudden got hungry. It was getting colder out and I did not want to explore all around Chinatown at 8:30pm at night. I remembered this tiny noodle and dumpling restaurant by the bus terminal near the convention center and decided to stop there. It had been four years since I ate there so I was not sure if it was even there any more. Not only was it there but it had doubled in size over the years.

Tom’s Dim Sum at 59 North 11th Street (See review on TripAdvisor) in downtown Philly used to be this tiny hole in the wall restaurant but popularity of the place made it expand. Even this late at night the place was mobbed with people slurping noodle soups and soup dumplings. The TV crowd was going strong with the games.

I was still a little stuffed because of the cheesesteak so I ordered soup dumplings, roast pork buns and Wonton soup to warm it up. The food is just a good as I remembered. The soup dumplings ($5.95) were juicy filled with nicely spiced ground pork and it was fun slurping them down. The Roast Pork buns ($4.95) were filled with a sweet pork mixture and steamed perfectly. The Wonton Soup ($2.95)  finished off the meal nicely with the rich broth that was warming me up after the long walk.

What I liked best about the restaurant was the excitement of the games even though they were not my teams. The whole restaurant had a lot of energy and it does not come off as your average Chinese restaurant just off Chinatown.

By the time I got back to the room at 10:00pm, I was exhausted. Between both jobs, the Soup Kitchen, my writing and running around with the Fire Department, I was pooped. Thank God that the restaurant was so close to the hotel. Still it gave me a chance to admire the windows at Macy’s before heading back to the hotel room. This part of downtown Philadelphia rolls up its sleeves right after 5:00pm.

I did not get much done at the hotel even though I brought all my work. The moment that I took a shower and got changed and sat down to read a book, I decided to just shut the light off for a bit and relax. I woke up at eight in the morning the next day getting almost nine hours of sleep in. That’s how comfortable the bed was in the room.

The next morning, after I got ready, I packed up and checked my luggage and headed off to Reading Terminal Market again before I left for the Flower Show. I had breakfast at the Dutch Eating Place (See reviews on both TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com), where I love to go for breakfast and lunch when I visit Philadelphia. The place was mobbed and it seems that everyone wanted to eat there because the place was about ten deep. Everyone wanted to have breakfast before the show started.

Dutch Eating Place II

The Dutch Eating Place in the Reading Terminal Market

I was able to snag a seat immediately being one person and dove into breakfast, my favorite meal of the day. I had the Apple Cinnamon French Toast ($4.75) and a side of sausage ($2.75) and scrambled eggs ($1.25). It was one of those meals that transcend eating to a new place because it was so good I wanted to lick the plate.

The French Toast was made with freshly baked bread and freshly churned butter and the sausage was made from their own butchers and been spiced and smoked perfectly. It was one of the best breakfasts I had in a long time. The best part was that everyone who works there is so nice. It is so much fun to eat there that I highly recommend it when in Philly.

Dutch Eating Place Breakfast

Don’t miss the Apple Cinnamon French Toast

I got to the Flower Show just as it opened which was nice and the crowds moved quickly through security. It was the first day so people were very excited about it. Once inside, everyone headed left to see all the floral displays while I headed right and walked through the vendor booths. I swear there must have been a record number of people selling everything from  gardening supplies to maple syrup. There were even wine merchants sampling local wines. It thought it was a little much for the Flower Show.

Just as the crowds started to shift to the vendors, I made my way through the show and went through the Philadelphia Horticultural Plant Competition where an array of flowers were being displayed, from tulips and orchids bloomed and roses were on parade. They even had a Children’s section where the kids could compete and this was some contest. These gardeners took this very seriously and the blue ribbon meant something.

I finally made my way over to the flower displays which never stopped being crowded. I swear the crowds kept pouring in all day. I was most impressed by the 60’s commune display by Mark Cook Landscape & Nursery and Hunter Hayes Landscape and Design. They must have teamed up to put this display together because it was pretty detailed.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2019 III.jpg

The jeep in the display

Also on display in a spray of flowers and design was elegant bridge by Burke Brothers Landscape Design/Build that was multi layered with flowers and colors. It made quite the statement.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2019 V

The colorful bridge of flowers

Around the corner from the displays, there were many competitors who were working in teams creating flower design displays and you got to see first hand their creations. People had come from all over the world to compete in this contest so you got to see how the country culture shaped the design with more elaborate displays from the Americans to the simplistic elegance of the Japanese. Many different designs with a multitude of flowers.

Yet it was all about ‘Flower Power’ and I had to take several laps around the displays before the crowds got to me. I swear I spent so much time looking over the merchant vendors that I felt like the displays were being crowded out. There did not seem like as many of the big displays as before. Still I walked this section more slowly getting bumped around by the crowds of people entering the Convention Center that were getting larger.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2019 VI.jpg

Still it is about ‘Flower Power’

Tiring of the crowds and having a long trip home, I left the show after about four hours of touring the displays and contests. I went through the travel and tourist areas where a lot of Jersey shore towns were displaying their tour guides. I got some ideas for small trips down the shore before Memorial Day Weekend.

After touring the whole show, I left the convention center before I headed home. I really wanted some lunch. I had had Chinese food the night before and was not much interested about eating it again. There is one annoying fact about Philadelphia’s Chinatown, most restaurants don’t take credit cards and I hate using cash. So it was back to the Dutch Eating Place for lunch and a Hot Turkey Sandwich ($8.25).

That was delicious! It was layers of freshly cooked turkey on fresh white bread with a side of real mashed potatoes topped with a thick turkey gravy with a side of cranberry sauce and Cole slaw. The waiter and everyone around me could see the joy in my face and the ‘mmms’ I let out with each bite. Lunch there is a pleasure.

Dutch Eating Place Lunch

The hot turkey sandwich at the Dutch Eating Place

After a short walk around Chinatown again to work off lunch, it was time to go home. I had to stop back at the hotel and pick up my luggage. I made one last trip around the Reading Market and stopped at Miller’s Twist (51 North Street) for a fresh pretzel ($1.25). They are so soft and buttery and chewy with each bite. I don’t know where my appetite came from but in the end I think I was more excited about the food at Reading Terminal Market than I was about the Flower Show.

It was a nice overnight trip with great food, wonderful hospitality in the restaurants and lots of beautiful flowers showing their “Flower Power”. Philadelphia is a great walking city and there is lots to do and see in a small space of a few blocks. I will be back in a few months for the Cornell-Penn football game and then, oh darn, I will have to make my way over the Reading Terminal Market for breakfast again.

Sometimes the pleasure of life comes in the small things.

 

 

 

Places to Visit:

The Reading Terminal Market

51 North 12th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 922-2317

Home

Hours: Sunday-Saturday 8:00am-6:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60795-d104158-Reviews-Reading_Terminal_Market-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60795-d484853-Reviews-Reading_Terminal_Market-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

 

The Philadelphia Art Museum

2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Philadelphia, PA 19130

(215) 763-8100

https://philamuseum.org/

Hours: Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm/Wednesday & Friday 10:00am-8:45pm/closed Mondays

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60795-d10800264-Reviews-Philadelphia_Museum_of_Art-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

 

Places to Stay:

The Philadelphia Courtyard Hotel

21 North Juniper Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 496-3200

https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/phldc-courtyard-philadelphia-downtown/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g60795-d102463-Reviews-Courtyard_by_Marriott_Philadelphia_Downtown-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

 

Places to Eat:

At the Reading Terminal Market:

Beiler’s Bakery

51 North Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107

(267) 318-7480

Home

Hours: Sunday Closed/Monday-Saturday 8:00am-6:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60795-d3964520-Reviews-Beiler_s_Bakery-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/1033

 

Bassett’s Ice Cream

51 North Street

Philadelphia. PA 19107

(215) 925-4315

https://www.bassettsicecream.com/

Hours: Sunday 9:00am-5:00pm/Monday-Friday 9:00am-6:00pm/Saturday 8:00am-6:00pm

My review on Tripadvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60795-d2321510-Reviews-Bassetts_Ice_Cream-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

 

Carmine’s Famous Italian Hoagies & Cheesesteaks

51 North Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 592-7799

https://readingterminalmarket.org/merchant/carmens-famous-italian-hoagies-cheesesteaks/

Hours: Sunday-Saturday 8:00am-6:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60795-d3606272-Reviews-Carmen_s_Famous_Italian_Hoagies_Cheesesteaks-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/1042

 

Dutch Eating Place

1136 Arch Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 922-0425

Dutch Eating Place

Hours: Sunday-Monday Closed/Tuesday-Wednesday 8:00am-3:00pm/Thursday-Saturday 8:00am-5:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60795-d463036-Reviews-Dutch_Eating_Place-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/1015

 

Miller’s Twist

51 North 12th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 923-1723

http://www.millerstwist.com/

Hours: Sunday Closed/Monday-Wednesday 8:00am-3:30pm/Thursday-Saturday 8:00am-5:00pm

My review on Tripadvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60795-d4317975-Reviews-Miller_s_Twist-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

 

Outside Reading Terminal:

Tom’s Dim Sum

59 North 11th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 923-8880

http://tomsdimsum.com/

Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11:00am-10:30pm/Friday-Saturday 11:00am-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60795-d7993412-Reviews-Tom_s_Dim_Sum-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

 

 

Day One Hundred and Thirty-Three: Walking the New York Restaurant Show March 3rd-5th, 2019

I took time out of my walking project to take a detour to the Javis Center to the Annual New York Restaurant Show. I try to keep up with the latest trends in what kitchen equipment is new and innovative, how computers and apps are changing the way we order and have food delivered and new food stuffs that will be gracing the tables of banquet halls and restaurants not just in New York City but all over the country. What scares me the most of the Hospitality industry is how some people in the industry are trying to take the hospitality out of it by computerizing everything to the point where you don’t see people anymore.

By walking the entire show, I saw more things that will improve the industry and more money saving items will make cooking easier and better in design and sanitation. One of the best items that I saw in new kitchen equipment was the The Self Cooking Center by Rational USA from Rolling Meadows, Illinois. This oven does it all. With the combinations of heat and steam in one single appliance, it offers new possibilities when it comes to the professional preparation of food (Rationalusa.com (888)-320-7274).

The machine was interesting in that it could cook multiple items perfectly with just the touch of a button. Each of the cabinets were cooking something different. One time I stopped by the display they were cooking a pizza and another time they were cooking and cutting a roast. Each item was cooked perfectly and the unit looked like it was easy to clean.

The Food Section of the show has grown this year. About five years ago, the show had cut back on the number of food merchants and companies that carried lines for commercial restaurants. I guess they felt that people were eating their way through the show and just wanted lunch which is further from the truth. I think the restaurant food companies have a big place in the show as you are seeing the equipment, the computer programs and the merchandising. Now how do you tie the actual product into all that? By having the equipment not just cook the food but what types of foods for a commercial kitchen can be offered.

There were many commercial restaurant vendors at the show this time around and it was such a success with the customers walking the show, I am sure this area will get bigger again as more vendors know this is open to them. The visiting participants seemed to enjoy it and it got a lot of buzz amongst the buyers.

It seems that Brooklyn, NY is quickly becoming a hot-bed for new food start-ups and incubators. One vendor that I sampled were Brooklyn Patisserie (19 Fifth Street, Brooklyn, NY 718-852-1768) had the most delicious croissants and cinnamon danishes that I had sampled. They were light, buttery and had a wonderful sweetness to them.

Another area vendor that I sampled was Brooklyn Cured (www.brooklyncured.com Brooklyn, NY 917-282-2221) for deli meats and salami. I sampled both their pastrami and their maple bourbon ham both of which had a nice smoky taste to them. The ham had a hint of sweetness due to the maple syrup flavoring the meat. Another Brooklyn vendor was selling Middle Eastern Hors D’Oeuvres that were filled with meats and spinach. Rose Gourmet (1677 McDonald Avenue (718) 382-1226) had an interesting cheese filled puff pastry called a Burekas that had a nice bite to it and these savory tidbits were very popular with show goers.

A further standout from Brooklyn was Table 87 for their flash frozen coal oven pizzas (table87.com). They provide the whole package to the customer in way of the freezer, the oven, trays, cutter and the pizzas. The whole concept is sold to the restaurant. The pizzas are really of high quality and the tomato sauce, which I always think is the base of the pizza tasted of real tomatoes.

There were many options to choose from with high quality Asian products at the show. Walong Marketing Inc. http://www.AsianFoodsOnline.com (877-675-8899) offered many different vendors at the show.  Some of these were dumplings that had been steamed and fried for sampling at the show. They had a wonderful mixture of ground pork and spices. Another was  Mochidoki (wholesale@mochidoki.com (212) 684-0991) Mochi ice cream bites.

These sweet little desserts have a sweet rice flour wrapped on the outside and a delicious ice cream in the center. Two of them I was able to sample were the vanilla and mango. That was when I was able to get near the display as it was a very popular vendor at the show. TMI Trading Company (info@twinmarquis.com (718-386-6868) was sampling Lo Mein noodles by Twin Marquis, that were tender and flavorful and adhered to the sauce they served with them.

The ever popular Chef One also represented by TMI Trading Company was sampling dumplings and spring rolls that were steamed and fried and had a nice flavor with every bite. Their representative told me that the cost factor for these popular items was very fair and were extremely popular in non-Asian restaurants and bars. The company’s dumplings never last that long when they are displayed for sampling.

The show offered some interesting items in the Beverage area. Tractor Beverage Company (DrinkTractor.com) had some interesting non-carbonated and carbonated sodas and teas. The one that stood out to me was the Blood Orange Soda that had a nice hint of the fruit and a light flavor. There is a big difference in the all natural sodas and the ones that are artificially flavored and you could taste the difference. Plus these sodas are usually lighter in color.

Another beverage vendor that stood out was Fruit-n-Ice (Kanawati Enterprises 249 Lodi Street Hackensack, NJ 07601 (866) 265-9569), who sells the complete package of mixes and machines for a retail spot.  The mixes come in many fruit flavors that are mixed with ice, almost like a Slushy that you might get at a 7-11 but higher quality.  I sampled both the Passion Fruit and Mango and both were quite good. The appearance of the machine makes a colorful statement and the quality was very good.

There were some stand out desserts at the show that were interesting. A few that stood out were Little Red Kitchen’s (hello@littleredkitchenbakeshop.com (347) 815-4824) Blondies and Brownies that were being sampled. They were rich, dense and rich in flavor. Outrageous Baking (www.outrageousBaking.com (303) 449-4632) was sampling the most moist and flavorful Cinnamon Coffee Cake, You could the buttery taste and cinnamon in every bite.

Two unusual desserts I sampled were a Fruta Pop (www.frutapop.com) which makes a gourmet alcohol infused popsicles that were the perfect adult dessert. They were sweet, fruity and you could get a slight buzz from the pop. These were delicious as they had almost a fizzy mouthfeel to them. They are the perfect dessert for after a barbecue or dinner party.

Another delicious dessert was the Stroop Club (chantal@stroopclub (512) 400-8906) Stroopwafels, a Dutch dessert treat. These buttery delights are a light waffle like cookie filled with a sweet glaze that tastes like a cross between maple syrup and cinnamon. These little cookies are perfect with coffee or hot chocolate.

Two breakfast vendors sampling at the Restaurant Show stood out amongst the others.  New Hope Mills (181 York Street Auburn, NY  13021 (315) 252-2676) has the most delicious waffle mix that produces the lightest waffles.  They were being made fresh at the show and with a little maple syrup make the perfect breakfast.  Bosquet (bosquetgourmet.com) makes a gluten Buttermilk Waffle mix that is also very light and you would never know the waffles were gluten free.

Another product that I thought was unique and stood out was the Gourmet Fries Seasoning by Chef’s Fun Foods (www.ChefsFunFoods.com (977) 233-3007). The vendor deep fried French Fries and doused them with seasoning, giving each bite the spicy flavor of tomato ketchup or garlic salt. It is a nice spin on not using salt.

Another group of vendors that was interesting was the computer and tech companies stream lining how we order, budget and cost out recipes. The technology has changed so much in the last twenty years that we can now tie in building a recipe, costing it out, build in the retail cost and connect it to cooking it and setting up the inventory of the ingredients. So when you cook the dish, it is already setting up the inventory you will need in the future.

There was even a table that explained all the dishes on the menu and you could order them with the touch of button and a runner would bring the dish out to you and when you were ready to pay, you just put the credit card into the table and pay for it. The salesman got annoyed with me when I asked “doesn’t that take the whole purpose of going out to converse with other people and engage in conversation?” He moved onto the next customer.

So much more can be attached to the Smart Phones and companies like DiningEdge (www.diningedge.com (561) 260-4975) are bringing this straight to the customer with ordering and scanning products.

So much change in the Restaurant industry is going on with new products, new ways of looking at decor, security and staffing but the take away I got from the technological part was that they are taking out the human factor at the expense of saving money on staffing which I think is wrong. The whole point of going out is to meet people, have a good meal with nice conversation and to be social. Isn’t it what Hospitality is all about?

Walking the NY Restaurant Show is a couple of miles long but you see the innovation of the future and figure that everytime we go out to eat, it started by walking the isles of this show. Miles of show!

The New York Restaurant Show is every March.

 

 

Day One Hundred and Twenty Nine: Here comes Christmas: Part Two December 16th, 2018-January 10th, 2019

I swear it was full steam ahead for the rest of the holiday season. December for me just keeps getting busier. From the time we finished the Victorian Walking Tour to after the Epiphany my feet never touched the ground. Christmas tree sales kept me busy on the weekends, class finished up with my final exam night on the second week of December (I am very proud to say that I gave out 28 A’s, 2 Bt’s and 2 B’s) and then I really got busy with my volunteer work.

After the weekend with the Victorian Walking Tour and the Washington’s Crossing event, it was off to visit Lillian again. I had just seen her at Thanksgiving and here it was three weeks later, I was out on Long Island for another family event. The facility she lived in really does a lot of nice things for the families.

Lillian and I at Xmas 2018

Lillian and I with her Christmas present, Petula the Pup from FAO Schwarz

I had given Lillian a choice, would she like me to come out for the Family Dinner or the the Family Concert the next week? I unfortunately could not do both. Work was getting busy and I had two Christmas parties to plan. So we decided on the Family dinner. We really had a nice time.

We joined her roommate, Marie and her two daughters for dinner that night. The facility had a nice dinner for us with roast beef, mashed potatoes and broccoli that was surprising well cooked and seasoned for a nursing facility and they gave you plenty of it. We had a nice time chatting and getting to know one another when Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance and greeted all the residents and their families. The two staff members who played the roles did a marvelous job with it and made it extra festive.

After dinner and a tour around the building greeting other residents and their families I said my goodbyes to Lillian and her roommate and her family. I had a long trip ahead of me as well. I could tell that Lillian was a little sad by it but I said that I would see her at Valentine’s Day and we would see each other after the craziness of the holidays was over. That is when I surprised her with the small Petula the Pup that we both used to sell in both of our time in the Pre-School Department at FAO Schwarz. She was very surprised and touched by it. It must have triggered something because I saw her cry a little. It made her happy that someone remembered (Please see the blog on Day One Hundred & Thirty-Lillian passed away three weeks after our dinner together).

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/8120

The next morning myself and the volunteers who work with me at work had our Christmas party for the residents of the Maywood facility that I work with on my job with the County of Bergen for our Post-Stroke & Disabled Support Group. We had entertainment with Van Martin Productions and we decorated the tables with garland and candy and the room for the holidays. The whole affect was very festive.

The ladies who are part of the group that comes to our events had a wonderful time. Each one of us baked a special dessert for the event and at all the place settings were chocolate Santa’s and candy canes for each resident. We served desserts and coffee to everyone, handed out gifts to all and had a wonderful afternoon of good food and wonderful entertainment.

That evening, I hosted an Italian dinner at my home for the ladies who volunteer for me. Taking everyone to a restaurant gets expensive plus at the holidays everyone rushes you out so I found it more personal to have it at my house.

I cooked the entire meal and served it. We started the meal with homemade mini-meatballs that I made a few days before, sauted shrimp and cheeses for the appetizer and for dinner I made chicken cutlets, spaghetti with marinara sauce, garlic bread and a nice salad all with the accompanying wines. We had a wonderful time and did a lot of laughing that night.

As I was serving dessert which I made an assortment of cookies and cakes, the noise got louder. Other guests joined us later and there was a lot of catching up to do. It was a enjoyable way to spend our last day together before the holidays.

The next day I joined a friend that I had not seen for almost two years for lunch in Sanducci’s at 620 Kinderkamack Road in Paramus, NJ (see review on TripAdvisor). It was just nice to finally catch up as it had been a long time since we talked. We both agreed that our lives had us running in different directions. We spent our afternoon laughing at things from years ago and in our current lives. It is nice to spend time with friends at the holidays. I had not realized that Nancy and I had not seen one another in two years!

After lunch, I had to prepare another dinner as we held our annual Men’s Association Christmas Party at the tree-stand to end our season of selling. That Friday night, we had four trees on the lot and by the time the party was over we sold them out. We sold 338 trees (one was stolen and one was donated) during the holiday season and that was a new record for us.

I made a batch of stuffed shells for dinner and a batch of chocolate brownies for dessert. I never know what to make as it is a pot luck and all the guys bring something different but two years earlier three of us brought baked ziti. So I know shy away from that. That and I wanted something quick because I was still tired from cooking the night before.

It a fun evening of great food and conversation mostly dwelling on the success of this year’s sale. God, can some of these guys cook! Our former President, Mike, makes a venison chili that is always the highlight of the dinner especially on a cold night. The stuffed shells were put under the warmers and were a big hit. I never have to sell brownies to anyone. I was sure they were gone by the end of the evening.

The weather started to drop that night and after an hour at the party it went down to 35 degrees. Even sitting by the barrel fire, I could not take it anymore. I said my goodbyes by 9:00pm. I was exhausted  from a week of cooking and had still more to do over the weekend. I had to plan two menus for that Sunday and had to have back to back meals. One of the guys later on told me that a group of them were there until 2:00am. Not a night I would have been out.

I had to sleep in that Saturday morning because I was worn out from the running around that week but there was food to prepare, a house to clean and a table to set. I needed a break from it all to put me back into the spirit of the holiday so before I started all the prep work, I went to Ringwood Manor for  their celebration and to see the decorated house.

Ringwood Manor every year is beautifully decorated by a group of volunteers. The house was open for tours of life in the Victorian Age. Each of the rooms was decorated to the hilt with garland and plants and all sorts of decorations.

Ringwood Manor Christmas III

The Ringwood Manor Dining Room

Ringwood Manor has an interesting history. The area around Ringwood, NJ was the center for iron ore manufacturing and was a big player in munitions during the Revolutionary War because of both the amount of ore in the hills and the strategic location near New York City.

In 1807, the land was bought by Martin J. Ryerson who built the first home of the property which was a 10 room Federalist style home. In 1853, Peter Cooper bought the mines and the home and it became one of the biggest suppliers iron ore to the Civil War effort. Peter Cooper’s partners were his son, Edward and his future son-in-law, Abram S. Hewitt. The home became the summer estate for Mr. & Mrs. Hewitt and added on to the house in 1864, 1875, 1900 and 1910. The home then had 51 rooms and was designed in the Classic Victorian style with furnishings from all over the world. In 1938, the home, it contents and grounds of the estate was donated to the State of New Jersey (Ringwood Manor Park History).

The tour was self-guided and you could take as much time as you wanted seeing each room. There was a docent on hand to explain all the decorations and furnishings as well as the purpose of the room. One of the points that was made when I was visiting the decorated homes during the holiday season was that Victorians never decorated every room in the house like on the tours.

They decorated maybe the living room and dining room with a tree and garland. Only the wealthiest families would decorate more than that because they had servants to maintain it. Trees and garland were used after the Civil War because Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert was from Germany and brought the Pagan tradition of putting a tree inside the house with him to England (Victorian Christmas History).

After my visit to the manor, it was off to Auntie El’s Farm at 171 Route 17 South in Sloatsburg, NY (see my review on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) for some baked goods and a tour of the farm. I roamed through the farm stand who just like us were wiped out of Christmas trees. I bought cake truffles ($5.00 each) and a Caramel Apple Cake ($10.95) for my Christmas dinner and munched on Apple Turnovers ($3.50) and Cider Doughnuts ($1.00) while I was there looking around the bakery. In the farm stand area, they have to most delicious jellies and jams to choose from and other gourmet products.

AUntie El's II

Auntie El’s desserts!

When I got home, I spent the rest of the time cooking for our Engine One Brunch for Company members and families on Sunday morning and then for my Christmas dinner with my family on Sunday night. I never left the kitchen.

That Sunday was a busy day for me as I had to pull off two back to back meals. In the morning from 10:00am-1:00pm was the Engine One Brunch and after clean up and saying goodbye to everyone was the early Christmas dinner with my family from 4:30pm to 9:00pm. I had never done back to back meals before and don’t plan on doing it again. Way too much work!

I got to the firehouse at 8:30am that morning and had to deal with a major mess. The Department Christmas Party had been the night before and they did not clean it properly. So the first thing I had to do was clean all the tables, throw out the garbage and mop the floors. That took almost an hour.

Then I had to clean and set up the kitchen for Brunch. Once I got that done, I set the buffet table for the food and then put all the table clothes on the tables in the main room. Then I set up and started to cook and set the tables for breakfast. By the time I was done with all of that, the first guys started to arrived to help me.

Engine One Brunch 2018 III

Me setting up breakfast

I cooked an elaborate breakfast menu for the members of our company, our honorees and family members.

Engine One Brunch 2018 II

Me in front of the Brunch Buffet Table

It really was great meal. I prepared two egg casseroles, one with bacon and the other with Italian sausage, a French Toast Souffle, homemade waffles (I drag that waffle iron all over), fresh fruit salad and then I baked a cinnamon crunch coffee cake, blueberry muffins, a chocolate chip pound cake and brought in assorted bagels from Panera and doughnuts from Mills Bakery in Wood Ridge. There was something for everyone.

We had a wonderful time. About 54 people showed up for breakfast and did people come hungry. We did not have much left. Our Lieutenant, Bernie Valente, gave the welcoming speech and greeted everyone for brunch and wished everyone a happy and safe holiday season. It was a nice morning of good food and conversation.

Engine One Brunch 2018 IV

The Engine One Members at the Brunch

After the Brunch was over, I said my goodbyes to everyone and had to clean and mop the room again. That took some time but the place was spotless when I left.

https://wordpress.com/post/engineonehasbrouckheightsfiredepartmentnj.wordpress.com/334

I ran home and thank God, I had already cleaned the house, set the dining room table and prepared the house for guests. I was able to take a 45 minute break before my family showed up for a pre-Christmas dinner. I relaxed on the couch for about twenty minutes before my family showed up. I was so grateful they showed up late.

What a great time we had that night! My Aunt Dee and my cousins, Wayne and Bruce came to dinner and we had a wonderful time. Since I was joining my brothers at my Mom’s house for Christmas Eve and Day, I would not be seeing my aunts and cousins this year.

I cooked a four course meal that was my pride and joy. We started with an assortment of cheese and crackers, sauteed shrimp on toasts and mozzarella sticks with a bottle of bubbly to toast the holidays. We had a nice time just catching up with work and family events.

About an hour later, I served dinner. I kept it simple this year making chicken cutlets, a potato puff and string beans with butter. It was the perfect evening of good food and conversation. My cousins told me about work and what was going on in their lives and my aunt was telling me stories about her upcoming holiday events. We always have a nice time.

For dessert, I had the desserts from Aunt El’s. I served the caramel apple pie and the cake truffles. I have to admit that they were all a little sweet but still good. There was a layer of caramel and chocolate on the top of the apple pie. It was a nice way to end the evening.

After a week of cooking for five parties and dinners, I took a break from the kitchen and planned a couple of Christmas events. The first was I attended the Hasbrouck Heights High School Holiday concert. I had a nice time listening to the choir and jazz band. The school was packed with people filming the whole thing. I have never seen so many cells phones out.

The one event I had gone to last year was the holiday concert at Carnegie Hall and looked forward to seeing it again. The ‘Home Alone Concert’ with the New York Philharmonic had been sold out as was the ‘Holidays with Brass Concert’. So I scoured the internet to see if there were tickets left to the concert and I was in luck. It looked like someone had given up their two tickets and grabbed the second to last ticket for the concert and it was on the isle! What a concert!

First, I love going to Carnegie Hall during the holidays. It is so beautifully decorated for the holidays and everyone from the staff to the concert goers are in the festive spirit.  The concert was called “Under the Mistletoe” with the New York Pops with singer, Ashley Brown who had originated the role of “Mary Poppins” on Broadway.

Here is Ms. Brown preparing for the concert I saw on December 22nd.

 

What a wonderful concert! Ms. Brown was accompanied by Essential Voices USA which was a choir that sang during the concert. They opened with much excitement the songs “Deck the Halls” and “It’s the most wonderful time of the Year” and then introducing Ms. Brown singing “Jingle Bells” and “Winter Wonderland”. The rest of the concert was filled with traditional Christmas songs and a lot of holiday cheer.

In the middle of the second act, Santa came down the aisle near me and greeted the crowds. I swear I was having a somewhat rough holiday season missing my father and all and when I saw Santa, I really believed it was him. I was so happy to see him as was everyone else in the room. I could see how emotional people were and knew they felt the same way. It looked like everyone just wanted to believe that night and we are talking of a crowd of concert goers who were in their fifties, sixties and seventies. I guest you are never too old to believe in Santa. It has been a rough year for everyone.

The concert ended with a big sing-a-long with Santa, the Essential Voices USA and Ashley Brown leading the “Jingle Jangle Sing-Along” with the songs, “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “Here comes Santa Claus” and ending with “Jingle Bells”. Even Santa joined us singing! I swear, that whole concert hall rocked with people singing all the classics and it brought the house down. People were on the feet applauding at the end of the concert. I had never seen so many smiling faces in one spot in a long time.

Carnegie Hall Christmas

The Sing a Long with Santa

The next morning, was still singing the concert in the back of my mind as I was preparing breakfast at the firehouse for the Department’s Annual “Santa Around Town”. A group of us got to the firehouse early to wash the truck, so I cooked the traditional Engine One breakfast before we started the wash and decorating. I made a pancake and sausage breakfast for the guys. We had a ball eating, laughing and talking about upcoming holiday plans.

Santa Around Town 18

The Brothers of Engine One Hasbrouck Heights before ‘Santa Around Town’

We then got to work washing the whole truck and preparing it for the long trip around Hasbrouck Heights greeting residents with holiday cheer and assisting Santa handing out candy canes to all the kids. It is a long evening but we really lucked out with the weather. It was warmer than usual around 45 degrees and people really came out to see Santa. We had large families of kids and dogs taking group shots with Santa. It is nice to see that people still do believe (See my Blog: The Brothers of Engine One participate in “Santa Around Town” December 23rd, 2018). We had a great time that night.

https://wordpress.com/post/engineonehasbrouckheightsfiredepartmentnj.wordpress.com/340

The next morning it was off to visit my immediate family for Christmas. I know I have visited Woodstock, NY and Cape May, NJ in the past for the holidays (as you have seen in this blog) but it was time to join the family again on Christmas Day. I had not spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my mother and brothers since 1981 and the last time I had spent Christmas with my Mom was in 2010 so it was something I was looking forward to this year.

I spent my morning visiting cemeteries, paying my respect to my aunts, uncles, cousin. grand parents and finally my father, dropping off flowers and arrangements to all locations. I say a small prayer and send my wishes. I think this important at the holidays.

Then it was off for the four hour trip down to my mother’s in Delaware. It really was a wonderful Christmas with my family. We all had not been together for the holidays for such a long time. The last several years I would go down after the holidays and we would spend time together then. Since my father’s passing this is the first time the rest of us have been together as a family.

Christmas Eve was always a lot of fun in my family growing up. We would go over to my parents long time friend’s house from 1969-1981 until my parents divorce. Christmas Day was with my Aunt Elaine and my cousins from 1969-1990 right before my aunt passed away. Those were very special Christmas’s and I will always remember them. Since then it changed from year to year as was Christmas Day. All of us kids moved around the country and with school and jobs everything kept changing.

Somehow the stars aligned this year and we were all available. It really was a nice four days and it was fun connecting with everyone again. My younger brother came up with my niece and my older brother with his husband, so the extended family was all there.

We went to Confucius Chinese Restaurant at 57 Wilmington Road in Rehoboth Beach for Christmas Eve dinner (see review on TripAdvisor) and it was packed that night as if everyone in town had the same idea we did. We spent most of the evening either yelling over the table or saying hello to the dozens of people my mom knew in the community. The town was hopping for Christmas Eve and there were cars all over the place with people eating at restaurants up and down the downtown area.

When we got home after a wonderful dinner and tour of the downtown Christmas tree, we just relaxed in the living room and talked. It was nice to finally catch up with everyone in a peaceful environment. In the back of my mind, I still could not believe how Christmas creeped up on us this year or that it was actually Christmas Eve. I slept like a rock that night.

The next morning it was all hands on deck as I was helping my mother in the kitchen after breakfast. After a quick bowl of cereal and a shower, it was off to chopping, cutting and rolling in the kitchen. My mom said she would need my help in the kitchen helping with dinner which was a surprise as she never lets anyone in the kitchen when she is cooking.

I helped her make the breaded broccoli, the pigs in a blanket, making sure that she tied the crown roast the right way (it took some time) and stuff it and then arrange cookie trays for the dessert. Four of my mother’s friends joined us for dinner so there would be ten of us and did we eat that afternoon. My mother is an amazing cook and host and knows how to entertain at the holidays.

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach

Cooking in the kitchen with my family

We had a nice afternoon of reminiscing about family Christmases of the past, what my mother’s friends were up to and how all of our lives were going. It was a nice evening of good eating and wonderful conversation. My brothers and I even cleaned the whole kitchen for my mother so she could relax and enjoy her guests.

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach IIII

Christmas with my family

The next two days we spent at my mom’s house just catching up and relaxing and my brothers and I each hosted a meal for the other members of the family so that we could give my mom a break from cooking for a large group of house guests.

In the afternoons, pretty much everyone did their thing and then we would meet up for meals. My brother and my niece brought their little French Pug named “Boogie” up to my Mom’s so she would not be lonely. God, did we spoil that dog with attention and treats. She was the cutest most well behaved dog and what was funny was when I was lying on the floor watching a movie with my family, she plopped down next to me on the pillow and slept.

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach II

Boogie sleeping next to me

Our first afternoon after Christmas, our family met at “A Touch of Italy” restaurant at my mother’s recommendation. The food was excellent. The most delicious thin crusted pizzas I have had in a long time. The pizzas, pastas and sandwiches are delicious here. For dinner the next night, we went to ‘Big Fish’, a local seafood restaurant my mother wanted to try.

It was now two days after Christmas and people looked like they were having family dinners before everyone had to go back to work. The place was mobbed! Our waiter, Scott, really handled the table well with our ten people. “Big Fish” (see my review on TripAdvisor), is a local seafood restaurant whose most popular dishes is everything fried. A friend of my mother’s said that she always has the fried shrimp when she is dining there. So that is what I had for dinner.

They were like heaven in every bite, sweet and briny and the breading was cooked perfectly. The potatoes and vegetables were also perfectly cooked. Between the entree and appetizers, there was no room for dessert to the shock of my family. Me miss dessert?

Our last morning was tough. My brothers were leaving for home and I was heading up to Cape May that evening to go to the theater to see “The Actors Carol” at the Cape May Theater and spend the night at the Chalfonte Hotel. It was baby steps back into the family Christmas and I still wanted some time alone for the holidays.

My mother made a big family breakfast and then we said our goodbyes over a fritata and sweet rolls. It was nice being able to spend some time with my brothers who live in other parts of the country and my niece who was off from school. We chatted on about the holiday and what we were doing for New Years and then it was off to travelling for all of us.

For the first time, I took the Lewes-Cape May Ferry from Lewes, Delaware to Cape May, New Jersey (see review on TripAdvisor). It was about an hour and a half and had it been a warmer sunny day it would have been a beautiful trip. When I got there, I sat outside and watched dolphins swim by us. Of course, it had to be a cloudy day and then started to get cloudier and sprinkled so I spent the rest of the voyage inside watching a tourist film. I was able to watch the bay go by and it is quite a site. There is a beauty to the Delaware Bay.

I got into Cape May within the hour and settled at my hotel. I had just been at the Chalfonte in September for the Firemen’s Convention and the town was still hopping with tourists. It really has become a big destination for the holidays. It is funny though to see the main hotel closed for the season. It really does look haunted at night when only the spotlight is on it. The place was buzzing when I left nine weeks earlier.

Chalfonte Hotel II.jpg

I settled into the Southern Annex (see review on TripAdvisor) and took a nap before the show. It had been a long but fun four days. It was nice to just relax and be by myself now. It was funny what a year can bring to you and how different you can become. I guess I was no longer that person that needed Cape May or Woodstock anymore. They were perfect for their time in my life but even I felt it was time to step out in the world again.

The show was funny that night. “The Actor’s Carol” was a take on the classic “Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. The star of the show within a show was a Prima Donna whose best acting days were behind him and made everyone miserable in this small town production. He was in turn visited by three ghosts from his past to show him how he got to where he was in life. It was not the most original show but very clever in premise.

After the production was over, I looked for a place to eat but a lot of the popular places were either closed for the holidays or closing for the evening. Just wanting a snack after the show and before going to bed, I stopped at Dellas 5 & 10 at 501-503 Washington Mall (see review on TripAdvisor) in downtown Cape May for dinner. This small drugstore has a soda fountain and restaurant in the back like Woolworth’s did years ago. The food is very good and the burger I had was well prepared. I had fun as the only customer talking with the waiters.

I walked all over downtown Cape May that night as I had the year before. It just seemed different this year as the experience was surreal. It was still Christmas to me but I just felt changed by the last four days. Still downtown was beautiful with all the lights on the trees, the creative window displays and the bells from the church sounding in the back. The gazebo in the main square still had the Christmas lit up and that put me back into the Christmas mood.

Christmas in Cape May.jpg

The Gazebo in downtown Cape May

I got back to the hotel and slept like a log. All this driving and running around got to be too much on me. The hotel annex was really quiet even though it was full of guests. I did not hear or see anyone in my time at the hotel.

The next morning as I checked out, I was surprised to see Uncle Bill’s Pancake House at 261 Beach Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor and DiningonashoestringinNYC@Wordpress.com) open this year. It was locked shut last Christmas. I guess they figured the town was busy for the holidays and trust me, a smart choice as the restaurant was busy. They have the best breakfasts and their pancakes and scrambled eggs are cooked in butter so there is some extra caramelization to them. The service there is always so friendly and welcoming.

After breakfast, I walked the downtown again, walked all through the Congress Hall Hotel, where I stayed last year for Christmas (See Day One Hundred-This is Christmas) and then visited the Physick Mansion for another Christmas tour of the house (See TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.com). It is always a nice tour and the mansion is so nicely decorated for the holidays. The tour like everything else in Cape May was busy. It was sunny and around 48 degrees that morning.

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/7142

After the tour, I left Cape May, probably to see it later again in the Spring and then headed up the Jersey Shore line to visit Margate and the Lucy Elephant statue (see my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). I had not climbed the top of the elephant yet and since it was a nice day wanted to take the tour before the statue closed for the day. I drove up the shoreline to Margate, NJ and got there by 2:00pm.

Lucy the Elephant

The famous Lucy the Elephant in Margate, NJ

I got on the tour which was just about to leave and we climbed the whole statue and got to the top of the ‘howdah’, the transport on top of the elephant. That was the reason why I went the statue.  I had not been able to go to the top in 2015. It is the most beautiful view of the ocean and the best part is that it got warmer toward the afternoon. I was able to walk around the statue and by the beach and it must have gone up to 50 degrees.

I decided since it was early to double back to Ocean City, NJ and have some lunch before I drove home. What a spectacular afternoon walking in the Boardwalk. It was crowded because of the weather and surprisingly this late into the holiday week, a lot of the businesses were open.

I was able to go to Johnson’s Popcorn at 1360 Boardwalk (see review on TripAdvisor), which had a line ten deep, for caramel corn. They were making it in small batches and when I started eating it was still hot from the machine. There is nothing like warm caramelized corn on a cool day.

After that, I went to Manco & Manco Pizza at 8, 9 & 12th on the Boardwalk (see reviews on TripAdvisor) for lunch. Their slices were the best. They make a good sauce and it was so busy that the pies are coming constantly so it was fresh. This is a real Jersey Shore pizzeria and the attitude of the guys working there showed it. You have to visit the Jersey shore Boardwalks to know what I am talking about. As the sun started to go down, it was time to leave. It was getting cooler. I got home later that evening in good time because there was no traffic.

New Year’s Eve was just sitting at home relaxing and calling friends. It looked like everyone was bunking in this year and the fact it went down to 10 degrees on New Year’s Eve night I could not believe all those crazy tourists were sitting in Times Square. I went to bed right after Midnight.

Later that week, I did make a trip up to Woodstock, NY to see their Christmas tree before they took it down but it was down already.  The town just seemed depressed when I arrived. I had not been up here since Christmas of 2016 so it had been over a two years since I celebrated a holiday up in the mountains. First, it had a cool damp feel to the town but since you are in the mountains it can be that way. Also, since the holidays were over, a lot of decorations were already down and usually you would keep these up until the Epiphany on January 6th.

The worst was several of the restaurants and clothing businesses that I had remembered from a few years back had gone out of business so there were empty storefronts. It just did not seem like the magical place that I had enjoyed three separate, wonderful holiday season’s. I really wanted to see the tree in the square but you can’t have it all. Still I had lunch at Shindig  located at 1 Tinker Street (see review on TripAdvisor) and they have the best burgers and mac & cheese around. It was nice to sit by the window on this cold but sunny day and watch the world go by. I just walked around the town on this quiet afternoon.

The Epiphany brought my only church visit to Corpus Christi Church and the service was nice. The church was still decorated for Christmas so it was the last thing to keep me in the spirit of the holiday. We had our Installation Dinner at the fire department a week later but that is another story Check it out on my blog, The Brothers of Engine One HHFD below.

https://wordpress.com/post/engineonehasbrouckheightsfiredepartmentnj.wordpress.com/398

Overall, it was a nice Christmas. Different from the last five years since my father’s passing but it was time to move on and enjoy the new family traditions we are creating. I was ready for the change.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

Places to Stay:

The Chalfonte Hotel Annex

301 Howard Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-8409

https://www.chalfonte.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g46341-d79381-Reviews-The_Chalfonte_Hotel-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

Ringwood Manor

1304 Sloatsburg Road

Ringwood, NJ  07456

(973) 962-2240

http://www.ringwoodmanor.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46774-d9564482-Reviews-Ringwood_Manor-Ringwood_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2621

 

Auntie El’s Farm Market and Bakery

171 Route 17 South

Sloatsburg, NY  10974

(845) 753- 2122

https://auntieelsfarmmarket.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48625-d4557200-Reviews-Auntie_El_s_Farm_Market_and_Bakery-Sloatsburg_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/180

 

Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g34048-d268895-Reviews-Rehoboth_Beach_Boardwalk-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Ocean City Boardwalk:

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46696-d583375-Reviews-Ocean_City_Boardwalk-Ocean_City_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Lucy the Elephant

1900 Atlantic Avenue at Decater Avenue

Margate City, New Jersey 08402

(609) 823-6473

http://www.lucytheelephant.org/

Open: Hours are seasonal/only open on the weekends during the winter months 11:00am-4:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46600-d518065-Reviews-Lucy_the_Elephant-Margate_City_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/333

 

Emlen Physick Estate

1048 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-5404

Open: Sunday Closed/Monday-Friday 11:15am-4:00pm/Saturday 11:45am-4:00pm

Fee: Check with website/seasonal

https://www.capemaymac.org/emlen-physick-estate

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46341-d614851-Reviews-Emlen_Physick_Estate-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1756

 

Places to Eat:

Sanducci’s Trattoria

620 Kinderkamack Road

River Edge, NJ  07661

(201) 599-0600

https://www.sanduccis.com/

Open: Sunday 4:00pm-9:00pm/Monday-Thursday 11:30am-10:00pm/Saturday 4:00pm-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46776-d535253-Reviews-Sanducci_s_Trattoria-River_Edge_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Confucius Chinese Cuisine

57 Wilmington Road

Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971

(302) 227-3848

http://www.confuciusrb.com/

Open: Check the website for hours because of the seasonality of the beach

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34048-d555742-Reviews-Confucius_Chinese_Cuisine-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Big Fish Grill

20298 Coastal Highway

Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971

(302) 227-3474

https://bigfishgrill.com/rehoboth-beach-dining-menus/

Open: Sunday 11:00am-9:30pm/Monday-Thursday 11:30am-3:00pm & 5:00pm-9:00pm/Friday-Saturday 11:30am-9:30pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34048-d396017-Reviews-Big_Fish_Grill-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Touch of Italy

19724 Coastal Highway

Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971

(302) 703-3090

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

http://www.touchofitaly.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34048-d4606866-Reviews-Touch_of_Italy-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Uncle Bills Pancake House

261 Beach Avenue

Cape May, New Jersey 08204

(609) 884-7199

http://www.unclebillspancakehouse.com/cape-may.html

Open: Monday- Friday 7:00am-2:00pm/Saturday-Sunday 6:30am-2:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d393950-Reviews-Uncle_Bill_s_Pancake_House-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/906

 

Dellas 5 & 10

501-503 Washington Mall

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-4568

https://www.capemay.com/shops/dellas-5-10/

Open: Sunday-Thursday 9:00am-5:00pm/Friday-Saturday 9:00am-8:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d1067917-Reviews-Dellas_5_10-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Manco & Manco Pizza

8, 9 & 12th Boardwalk

Ocean City, New Jersey 08226

(609) 398-0720

Open: Sunday-Saturday 11:30am-10:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46696-d459222-Reviews-Manco_Manco_Pizza-Ocean_City_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Johnson’s Popcorn

8,9 & 12th Boardwalk

Ocean City, New Jersey 08226

(609) 398-5404

Open: Sunday-Friday 10:30am-5:00pm/Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm

http://www.johnsonspopcorn.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46696-d4762196-Reviews-Johnson_s_Popcorn-Ocean_City_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Shindig

1 Tinker Street

Woodstock, NY  12498

(845) 684-7901

http://www.woodstockshindig.com/

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48915-d7376319-Reviews-Shindig-Woodstock_Catskill_Region_New_York.html?m=19905

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach VI.jpg

My mother relaxing with the Boogie

 

 

Day One Hundred and Twenty Seven: Here Comes Christmas! Part One- November 30th-December 14th, 2018

I do not know how Christmas creeps up every year. It starts when Forth of July weekend ends and then we blink our eyes and there is Christmas. The years just keep getting faster and faster. Even though the holiday season snuck up on me the month of December was full of interesting events.

I had to put my walk around Manhattan on hold for most of the holiday season. Between classes, work, the Fire Department and selling Christmas trees (as you have seen in other blogs), the month of December was a busy one. There were different events to attend, activities to participate in and places to visit.

Christmas to me is not just the holiday itself but the time of the year to give back and help raise money for those in need. I really believe in giving back to the community during the holidays so there was a whole series of fundraisers that I attended. As my friends always say of me, you never sit still for one minute.

The holiday season started right after returning from seeing Lillian out in Kings Park, NY. We had such a nice time together having dinner with the other families and enjoying the entertainment that I promised her that I would see her in two weeks for the family Christmas dinner at her facility.

The next day, I got up early to the firehouse to help wash the truck as the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department was participating in the Annual Holiday Parade in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. Our Chamber of Commerce sponsors the parade and Christmas tree lighting every year on Thanksgiving weekend.

The Holiday Parade in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always a lot of fun. It gives all of us a chance to give back to the community as the procession of floats, decorated cars and organizations participate in the parade ending at the circle near the edge of town for the tree lighting ceremony.

Christmas Parade in HH

Engine One in the Hasbrouck Heights Holiday Parade

Before the parade, all of us met up at the firehouse to wash and decorate the trucks and then stage by the Boulevard before the parade. I always enjoy watching the little kids in awe when the trucks pass by. It was cold the night of the parade so the crowds were thinner than previous years but still people looked like they were having a nice time. After the parade was over, everyone met at the circle for the tree lighting ceremony which got the usual ohhs and ahhs.

I had to be up early the next day as we had to unload 340 Christmas trees from the truck for the Annual Christmas tree sales for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. This is our organization’s largest fundraiser and it is our job to sell all those trees for our scholarship program. We must have set a new record for emptying the truck and by the end of the season for selling them (See Day One Hundred & Twenty Six).

It is something for me as next year I will be going on my twentieth year on the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association.  I have seen the growth of the organization and the all the high school seniors that we have given a head start with our scholarship program.  I can’t believe I have served on the Executive Board for four years now as Director (Sargent of Arms). It has been quite the journey.

HHMA Christmas Tree Set Up 2017

The members of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association setting up the trees.

This starts the holiday season in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ with the Boulevard decorated for the holidays, fantastic window displays by our town merchants and everyone excited that Santa was coming.  The holiday season means holiday parties, tours of decorated mansions, hand writing Christmas cards and keeping everything in check. I went to a record thirteen Christmas parties and get togethers this year. I am the member so many organizations and with four jobs everyone wants to get together. I was a busy person this year.

Right after Thanksgiving Weekend with the endless activity and getting to work selling those trees, I had to go back to work and put my schedule together for the month of December.

My first weekend of December was busy with back to back activities with Sinterklaas Weekend ahead of me and the day after the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Christmas Party. This is always a busy weekend so I spend my weekend up in Rhinebeck at the Quality Inn (See review on TripAdvisor) while I run from one place to another. This was on top of the fact that my class would be presenting their final project for my Communications class the Monday I got back to work.

This was my sixth year participating in the parade. Rhinebeck, New York is a magical place at the holidays. The store windows are beautifully decorated with all sorts of merchandise that showcase the stores and the trees that line the downtown are layered with white lights that illuminate the downtown. Little wooden paintings line all the trees in the downtown area and garland accents a lot of buildings. It looks like a quaint little Christmas town straight out of a Currier & Ives print.

Rhinebeck at Christmas.jpg

Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas

I help with the set up at 10:00am at the Starr Library every year. This year the theme was the Butterfly. (At the cocktail party fundraiser before Thanksgiving, the Sinterklaas community was introduced to the Butterfly King & Queen and were given the traditional blessing before the start of the Sinterklaas season.) The committee created Butterfly puppets for the parade that we put together that morning. As I unpacked the truck with the other volunteers, I could not believe how fast the year went. I kept asking myself how did this go so fast.

The same group of volunteers I have worked with for four years and we all worked in tandem with each other, emptying out the truck, unloading all the puppets and then putting them all together and stacking them against the library for the night of the parade. I have done this for so many years, I know how to put most of them together in my sleep. We were done in about two hours and then I was able to enjoy the rest of the days activities.

I have been volunteering in the parade now since 2010 and I can definitely tell you that the number of people has tripled over the past four years alone. After the Opening Ceremony at the Beekman Arms Hotel (I get a kick out of Mother Holly’s ‘feeling Jolly’ speech every year), I got a copy of the day’s activities and then snuck up to Red Hook, NY right up Route 9 to visit a few stores and restaurants on my bucket list for my blogs (you will find Little Pickles Children’s Store on ‘LittleShoponMainStreet’ and Village Pizza II on ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC’ on my WordPress.com blog sites). Red Hook’s downtown was decorated for their Christmas event the next weekend. As one gallery owner explained “everyone is in Rhinebeck for Sinterklaas, so the town is quiet”.

I was able to visit businesses for my blogs that had not been open the weekend I visited President Van Buren’s home in Kinderhook, NY (see the Van Buren Homestead on my VisitingaMuseum.com site) and revisit old ones. I wanted to get a better feel for their downtown. (Please don’t miss the pizza at Village Pizza III at 7514 North Broadway. Their slices are excellent).

By the time I got back to Rhinebeck at about 1:30pm, I could not find a parking spot. The town was mobbed with people and almost every block around the downtown was lined with cars. I had to park almost five blocks away.

The rest of the afternoon was full of concerts, performances by the dancing polar bear and the grumpuses and lively singing at the churches. All four churches in town had either singing groups or bands. Lining the Main Street of Rhinebeck were all sorts of local charities selling Christmas cookies, hot chocolate, hot dogs and other snacks. Most were almost empty when I got back as people were snacking as they walked the streets to get from one activity to another.

Sinterklaas Parade III.jpg

The Grumpus singing and dancing in Downtown Rhinebeck, NY

I decided to relax and not run around for the afternoon as I have seen most of the shows and acts that were on the roster and pinpointed how I wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon.

I first visited the Butterfly nest that was located in the courtyard. The artists are very creative on the Sinterklaas staff. They built entire Butterfly cocoon that you could walk through. There was music going on in and around the cocoon and when I exited, the grumpuses were starting to do one of their dances in the courtyard. They had the whole crowd laughing and clapping along.

My stop on the event was the ‘Into the Light’ show at the Church of the Messiah. I have seen this show over the years of coming to Sinterklaas and I swear, the girl who plays the main character has not changed in the last five years. She is just getting older.

Sinterklaas Parade 2018 II.jpg

‘Into the Light’ Show

I spent the rest of the afternoon at the United Methodist Church listening to the Brass bands. I got to hear the Funkrust Brass Band and The Second Line Brass Band. It was nice to just sit back and relax and listen to the music. I had been running around the town the who afternoon.

After the bands, it was time to get ready for the parade. So back up to the Starr Library and my position in the parade as part of the “Star Forest” of puppets. We lucked out again that night as the weather was mild and it was in the high 40′ that night.

As the excitement of the parade started and we made our way down the hill, I noticed immediately that the crowds had really grown this year. They were five deep at the parade route on both sides and everyone had their cellphones out to record the parade. With all the white lights on the trees, all the decorated windows in full light and all the Sinterklaas stars that lined the route, it was a beautiful and festive night when coming into town.

Sinterklaas Parade 2018 III

Me in the Parade in the ‘Star Forrest; by the Mother Earth Float

People got so excited to see “Sinterklaas” (the Dutch word for ‘Santa Claus’) and the various characters in the parade as ‘Mother Holly’, ‘The Pocket Lady’, ‘The Dancing Polar Bear and his trainer”, ‘The Butterfly King and Queen’,  ‘The Grumpuses’ and ‘The Wild Women of Rhinebeck’ joined the brass bands, floats, puppets and singers, dancers, performers and animals who make the parade what is every year. It really is exciting to be part of this parade.

At the end of the parade route, we pass the stage with all the members of the Sinterklaas family to make our final goodbyes until next year and drop off the puppets. It was funny that the whole time I was walking in the parade I kept telling myself how fast the year had gone and I could not believe I was here again.

Watch me in the Sinterklaas Parade in the ‘Star Forrest’ on the right

I dropped off my puppet and went to watch the last of the parade before leaving for dinner. It was fun to watch the fire throwers perform at the end of the parade. It was a nice way to end the evening and after the performance was over, the crowds dispersed to go to dinner. Every restaurant in town was mobbed all evening.

I went to a barbecue restaurant that I had wanted to try for years, (See review on TripAdvisor). I had the buffet dinner ($20.00) that they had set up for the day and just ate. I had to admit as much as l liked the food, the waiter annoyed me when he charged me for the refills on the drinks (Noted in the review and in his tip).

As I walked back to my car, it started to mist and rain lightly. I did not realize how far I had packed away from town. I was four blocks away near the Duchess County Fairgrounds. That is how busy the town was that day. I just went back to the hotel and relaxed. I had an early trip the next morning.

The next morning after a big breakfast, it was off to the Boonton Firemen’s Home for the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Christmas Party for the residents that we throw every year. The facility was nicely decorated and we had some crowd that afternoon with all the residents present and their family members as well.

The band was a lot to be desired as they were off key most of the time and the lead singer could not sing a note. The place was really in the holiday spirit when member, Jerry Naylis and his family, who sing in their church choir and whose daughter in law sing opera, entertained the crowd. It really livened up the room and put us all in the holiday spirit. His little granddaughter stole the show when she sang ‘Jingle Bells’.

BCFHA XMAS 2018 III

The Naylis Family entertaining the residents at the Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ

During the intermission we gave the residents their Christmas presents, monogrammed sweatshirts with their names on them, as a gift which I still see them wearing everytime we come to the home for events (See blog, BCFHA@Wordpress.com-Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association below).

https://wordpress.com/post/tbcfha.wordpress.com/156

The residents look forward to this party every year and were very touched by the gifts and the holiday thoughts. It was a fun time for all.

BCFHA XMAS 2018 II

The members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association with the residents in December 2018

After the party was over, the members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association went to dinner at the Columbia Inn for our annual get together. We had a great time just catching up with one another and having a few laughs. The restaurants pizza is terrific too (See review on TripAdvisor).

With the weekend closing, it was back to work for me and another week of a round of holiday parties. First though, my students presented their project, “Bergecco-Park Consulting Inc. presents “Welcome Week 2019-Follow the Yellow Brick Road back to Bergen Community College”, their final exam project (See Day One Hundred & in ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’). The students gave a very professional presentation to a crowd of professors and administrators and members of the Athletic, Theater, Art, College Foundation, Alumni Association and Department of Special Services were on hand to view the presentation. It was well received by everyone and I could not have been prouder as a professor (please view that blog for the full project presentation).

bergecco logo yellow brick road final draft

Our logo for “Welcome Week 2019-Follow the Yellow Brick Road back to Bergen Community College”.

See the whole project presentation on my site, “MywalkinManhattan.com”

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/8022

After I finally had the presentation behind me, it was a series of holiday parties one after another between the school, the fire department and various organizations that I am involved in (and that number is high). I joined the faculty at the college for our annual holiday get together, which was really nice. They had a full Thanksgiving dinner for us and a lot of holiday cheer. The Administration got up and wished us all a happy holiday season and good luck with the remainder of classes. It was nice to talk to the other professors who had come to the presentation. They gave me nice feedback at the party.

The next night it was off to the Engine One Christmas Party at Segovia’s in Moonachie. It was a nice evening with the guys, toasting the year and the successes that we had as a company (See The Brothers of Engine One HHFD-Blog on WordPress.com). It had been a busy year for us activity and project wise accomplishing both getting the bell fixed and chromed and getting the tee-shirts finally ordered and out to everyone. It was nice to catch up with everyone in a relaxed environment.

On Friday night was the annual Friends of Mills Mansion Holiday Cocktail party and fundraiser. Normally this is the night before Sinterklaas but it seemed that no one was in the holiday spirit on November 30th so they held it the week after.

Mills Mansion Holiday Party

Me at the Mills Mansion Holiday Party with members of the Friends Executive Board and dancers from the Isabel Duncan Dance company.

We had a really nice time. The event for the first time was sold out and the mansion was packed with well dressed people. The food was excellent and the servers did a nice job passing appetizers to all the guests. One of the local wineries was sampling one of their new sweet ice wines as well as a Chenin Blanc. It was a perfect dessert wine for the holidays.

The rooms were fully decorated for a Victorian Christmas and the Jazz band they had performing were excellent. They were engaging and people cleared the floor for impromptu dancing. It was nice to see people get up and dance again. It was nice to just sit back and catch up with other members I had met over the years and listen to the music. After that I took a quick tour of the rooms before heading back to the main room to hear the holiday greetings from the Executive Board.

Mills Mansion Dining Room

The formal dining room at the Mills Mansion for Christmas

It was important that they sold out the event because the money will go to renovating both ceiling in the dining room and redoing the curtains that line the dining room windows. The mansion is slowly returning to its past glory and these events make this possible. The only problem was I was really tired after the event and it was a long ride home.

The weekend was coming up and there were two big events planned and I wanted to get enough rest to enjoy them. The first was on Saturday afternoon where I joined the Cornell Club as we we took a tour of the Ladies Shopping Mile and Gramercy Park with an event, the “Victorian Tour: Origin of Christmas Traditions” (See Day One Hundred & Twenty Eight). We literally walked this entire section of the City around Union and Gramercy Parks and walked up lower Sixth Avenue to visit the old department store buildings to know their history as part of the shopping area after the Civil War.

Ladies Shopping Mile

Ladies Shopping Mile on lower 6th Avenue

On Sunday was the dress rehearsal for the “Washington Crossing Reenactment” at Washington Crossing Historic Park. The event takes place every Christmas morning to remember when General Washington crossed the Delaware River and surprised the British. It was an interesting event that everyone should see once in life. It is very important to know how he crossed the river, in what type of boat and the conditions they were under that morning during a snow storm.

Washington Crossing Reenactment II.jpg

The Military Parade by the Delaware River

We started the morning with a Artillery Demonstration and then this lead to a Fife and Drum Parade in the historic village on the Pennsylvania side of the park. Then the troops had a Musket Firing Demo & Soldier’s Drill by the Delaware River. At noontime, the troops had their formation and the Reading of the Order of Battle.

See the parade of soldier’s before the Crossing December 2018

By 12:45pm when the troops made their trip, the event was narrated by Major General Walter Lord, U.S. Army (Retired). The troops had their parade movement and then they loaded the Durham boats, which were rebuilt for the event from the original designs that General Washington and the troops actually used.

Washington Crossing Reenactment.jpg

The Washington Crossing Reenactment 2018

What I found interesting about the event was that they used the same boats as General Washington used and even in normal conditions, it was hard to maneuver these boats in the river. One of the boats even had problems had with the crossing and it took them extra time to cross and they had rescue boats off to the side in case the boats lost control, Imagine doing this during an ice storm riding in boats with chunks of ice coming at you in the water. What these men did to save our freedom is commendable.

The reenactments have been going on at this site since 1838 where it was discussed the importance of this historic event. The first attempt at a proper crossing was done in 1844 but the crowd was so rowdy and drunk that it marred the event. When they tried the event again in 1876, it was so cold and the exposure to the weather and too much alcohol consumption by the crowd marred the event again and it was noted not to attempt is again for another hundred years (History of Washington Crossing-Park).

As part of a pledge project in 1947, a group of Rider College students attempted the crossing again and it received national attention. In 1953, a half-scale Durham boat was built and a proper ‘authentic’ using the same boats as used that day of the crossing and it was successful. Over 700 people came to the event and since then it has become an annual tradition (Washington Crossing Park History).

It was a busy first half of the holiday season and just kept getting busier as the holiday got closer. Between work and outside activities, I just kept running.

Please read about the Victorian Walking Tour on Day One Hundred & Twenty Eight.

 

Places to stay:

Quality Inn Rhinebeck

4142 Albany Post Road

Hyde Park, NY  12538

(845) 229-0088

https://www.googleadservices.com/pagead/aclk?sa=L&ai=DChcSEwjjlt6N7OvgAhWGhLMKHbcJBsgYABAAGgJxbg&ohost=www.google.com&cid=CAASE-RooTIxmc5SMBldM5FH_lmQddE&sig=AOD64_2mmL-hiEz3ZSdcMhSE1Dot8L-jQw&q=&ved=2ahUKEwiQnteN7OvgAhWkct8KHa-EB7wQ0Qx6BAgNEAE&adurl=

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g60801-d590312-Reviews-Quality_Inn_Hyde_Park-Hyde_Park_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Eat:

Columbia Inn

29 Main Road

Montville, NJ 07045

(973) 263-1300

https://www.thecolumbiainn.com/

Hours: Sunday 1:00pm-9:30pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Thursday 11:30am-10:00pm/Saturday 2:30pm-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46639-d639843-Reviews-Columbia_Inn_Restaurant-Montville_Morris_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

Smokey Rock BBQ

6367 Mill Street

Rhinebeck, NY  12572

(845) 876-5232

Hours: Sunday 12:00pm-10:00pm/Monday-Saturday 11:00am-10:00pm

https://www.smokyrockbbq.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48486-d6684399-Reviews-Smoky_Rock_BBQ-Rhinebeck_New_York.html?m=19905

Places to Visit:

Downtown Rhinebeck, NY

http://www.rhinebeckchamber.com/

 

Washington Crossing Historical Park

Washington Crossing PE Road

Titusville, NJ  08560

(609) 737-0623

https://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/washcros.html

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46869-d3440313-Reviews-Washington_Crossing_State_Historic_Park-Titusville_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

Washington Crossing Historical Park

1112 River Road

Washington Crossing, PA  18977

(215) 493-4076

https://www.washingtoncrossingpark.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g53924-d2522457-Reviews-Washington_Crossing_Historic_Park-Washington_Crossing_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

Have a great holiday season!!

Here’s the whole reenactment event on YouTube of the Washington Crossing Event 2018

 

 

Day One Hundred and Thirty: I dedicate this to my friends, Lillian Heckler and Helen Chao. I will miss you both!

It is never easy saying Goodbye to a close friend especially ones that you have known for thirty years. I know that the holidays are never easy but when you had to attend as many wakes, Memorial services and funerals as I did this year, it puts the holiday season into perspective.

The toughest is when you lose a friend who has seen you from everything from the beginnings of your career, to the loss of a family member and all your successes and failures in life and at the same time never judges you for it but still offers sound advice. That is what a real friend does.

I just lost two friends I have long mentioned in my blogs, Helen Chao and Lillian Heckler, who have know for thirty and twenty-five years respectively.

Helen I had met on my second day of work at R. H. Macy when our Executive Training Program class took our tour of the Herald Square store. We started at the bottom the store and worked our way up the eight floors of selling space. One of the stops was in the Visitors Center on the Mezzanine of the store. We were introduced to the people who worked there and took some time to look around.

One of my best friends was living in Singapore at the time and I wanted to get him a store directory in Chinese as a gift to show him where I was working. So on lunch hour I doubled back to the Visitors Center to find one. This is how I met Helen. I asked her where I could find one and at the time there was none in Chinese only Japanese. Since he spoke both French and English on top of Chinese, I got him the directories in English, French and Japanese as a gift.

We just got to talking and we ended up talking the whole lunch hour. Later on that week I stopped by again to say hello and that started the friendship between myself, Helen and another woman, Linda, who also worked in the Department. We just got along so well that I would stop by every once in while when I was in Training Squad classes.

That blossomed into a long friendship between the three of us that lasted until Linda left the company three years later. When I returned from a two year job experience in our New Haven store (now closed) as a manager and then was promoted back to the Herald Square store as an Assistant Buyer, Helen and I resumed our friendship. We would go out to lunch when the two of us had time and would visit the store for the Flower Show and for Christmas when we were both off from work.

Over the years, we exchanged laughs and lots of stories. Helen told me how her family had come to America after the Cultural Revolution and her father had been an educator and had to leave the county. Her mother was Japanese and I am sure that did not make it easier for the two of them in those difficult times. I always found the stories about her life fascinating. She would also give me the latest stories of her children and grandchildren and their doings.

After her retirement from Macy’s and her family’s move from Valley Stream, NY to Flushing, NY admittingly like a lot of friends the connection that bound us, Macy’s, was gone and she was not in the City as much. Still over the years we kept in touch and would meet to see the Macy’s Flower Show in the Spring and in Chinatown for Dim Sum when she was at a doctor’s appointment. As time went on though, these became less and less as work  and commitments took away our free time.

In the later years, we saw one another at least once a year and I always called her on her birthday (we were ten days apart), Chinese New Year and Christmas and I always sent cards out to her. I had seen her for the last time in 2015 when I read about a Dim Sum Palace in Flushing that was noted as the best in the City and we decided to meet there. It was nice to see her again but even I had to admit things had changed. We ended up talking about the past and she wasn’t as chatty as she used to be. We had a nice time but it did not seem the same. The sad part was one month after our lunch, Helen suffered a stroke. I found that out about four months later when I was finally able to reach her husband.

Having taken care of my own father after his stroke and being the primary caregiver (Visit my blog, ‘BergenCountyCaregiver.com’ on WordPress.com), I was Helen’s biggest cheerleader. I would call at the holidays and her birthday to encourage her, send her cards to cheer her up and just be a friend. I always got the impression she did not want me to visit her so I respected that.

The last time I talked to her was on her birthday on October 1st, 2018 and we had a nice conversation. I could tell she was tired but she was happy I called and told me she had gotten my birthday card. She thanked me for always remembering after all these years. I did not realize that she had turned 90.

My last phone to Helen was on December 22, 2018 right before Christmas. I would be visiting my mother and our family at the holidays and would not have time to make my traditional phone calls Christmas morning as I had done the previous four years. This is when her husband had told me that she had passed away the night before. We had a very heartfelt conversation that lasted almost an hour and I gave him my condolences. He said that she always appreciated all those years of phone calls and cards and how much it meant that I never forgot her at the holidays and her birthday.

As we said our goodbyes and I wished him and his family a happy holiday season in these difficult times, it was surreal to know that I would not be talking to her again after thirty years of friendship. The one impression I got was that in some small way I was cheering her up and encouraging her all those years and maybe that made a small difference in her life that a friend did not forget her. I was glad she was part of the my life.

My friendship with Lillian happened many years later when I was an Manager at FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue, the upscale toy store on Fifth Avenue. I had worked at the store as a manager from July of 1995 to February of 1996 right before I left to attend the Culinary Institute of America. I had casually met her and talked to her when I ran the Boy’s Action Department which was right next to the Pre-School Department where she worked.

How I got to know Lillian better is when I had to leave school in 1997 to earn money for my last semester and went back to FAO for seven months to work the holiday season as a full time manager. Management placed me in the Pre-School Department as a Manager as some of the other managers in the store said it was ‘difficult to work there’ because of all the long service employees that dominated the department. I ended up blossoming in the department and it was one of the best managerial experiences I had had in years.

Lillian greeted me in the Pre-School Department with “Hi Justin, I’m Lillian but you can just call me ‘Grandma’ if you like.” I told her I preferred to keep it professional and I would just call her ‘Lillian’. I loved her energy and the fact that she was 77 at the time and she could ring circles around most of the staff in the store. She and the other long service employees in the department Barbara, Clover and Shirley I found to be a real asset to the department in that they never called in sick, knew their merchandise, knew how to merchandise and could sell up a storm. We did a lot of laughing as well.

After I finished my holiday stint at FAO, I continued to stop in the store on my weekends home when I was in the City and would visit the ladies. We would still continue our conversations and I would regale my stores of what was happening in cooking school. Later on after graduation, I would work in the store again for another four months for the holiday season and would cover the department again. It was nice to work with that staff for the holidays.

After that, I moved on to Hawaii and California after graduation but I still kept in touch with Lillian and Barbara until they both retired from the company and eventually FAO would close the Fifth Avenue store after bankruptcy. Lillian, Barbara and I would continue to meet up in the City about four times a year for lunch and dinner and I would visit Lillian in Astoria, Queens when she got into her late 80’s and early 90’s. She lived by herself until she was 95.

A broken hip that year and some time in rehab led Lillian to an assisted living facility out in North Shore of Long Island near the fork of the North and South Shore of the Hamptons. I started to visit her again to catch up with her. After my own father passed (who this blog is dedicated to), I started to visit her more often especially close to her birthday and the holidays.

The last two years I had spent Easter, her birthday in June, Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas events and at least one day during the summer to visit her. I always brought out lunch for us (she liked to have Italian and Chinese because the facility did not serve the types she liked) and baked goods from the local bakery. In the warmer months, I would take her to the courtyard or patio and we would talk and converse with other caregivers and their families. We continued to have our long talks, our heart to hearts and laugh at old stories.

People at the facility that she was living at I could sometimes see could not understand why we were friends. This was considering the fact that I had known the woman for twenty four years and we had seen each other through the ups and downs of life. I never saw Lillian as being her age, I just saw her as being Lillian. I spent her 100th birthday with her on June 6th, 2018 (See Day One Hundred and Fourteen of “MywalkinManhattan.com”)and she had just as much pep that day as she always did. I drove her around the facility with balloons on her wheelchair and the staff and residents alike wish her a Happy Birthday. I could see the lives she touched there as well.

The last time I saw her was in December for the “Family Dinner” we had on her floor at the facility. I gave Lillian a choice when I came out to visit for Christmas, I could come to the dinner or to the concert the next week. It would be hard to do both with my work schedule and we chose the dinner. We had such a nice time (See Day One Hundred & Twenty Four of “MywalkinManhattan.com”) and did a lot of laughing and talking. My visits always cheered her up.

Something struck me though on my way to the facility. As I got closer and pulled off the highway, I had the sinking feeling that this was going to be the last time I would be visiting. It had really struck me hard.

I shook it off and decided to just have a good time. After the dinner was over, I headed home because I had to work the next day. Before I left, I talked with Lillian’s roommate’s daughters who joined us for dinner and gave them my number and my email address and asked them to contact me if anything were to happen to Lillian. It was them who told me that Lillian had passed.

I went to Northport for the wake and funeral and met Lillian’s grandchild and great grandchildren. We spent the night of the wake just sitting around talking. There were no other visitors besides myself and her family. We told our ‘Lillian’ stories. After the wake and her family left, I took a ride around Northport, NY and did not realize that such a pretty shore town existed.

Since Lillian had passed during the Epiphany, the town’s Christmas tree was still up at the harbor and I could not believe how beautiful and picturesque it was that night. I though “Lillian would have loved this”. I think that was the last gift she gave to me. They had a beautiful service for her and I said my goodbyes.

It was a tough time before and after Christmas but I am the one who was blessed with two wonderful friends who saw me through the beginnings of my career, my years in school and develop into the person I am now and was glad went through all the steps along the way.

So with much love, I dedicate this blog, One Hundred and Thirty and my midpoint of the island of Manhattan of my walk at 59th Street, to two very special “Ladies” in my life, Mrs. Helen Chao and Mrs. Lillian Heckler. Ladies, thank you for your love and friendship both for over twenty-five years. You are the best and I will not forget you!

With all my love, your friend, Justin!

 

 

Day One Hundred & Twenty Five: Walking the Streets of the lower part of the Upper West Side West 72nd Street to West 59th Street October 15th-December 3rd, 2018

It took a long time to finish the Upper West Side with classes and work going on and the beginning of the holiday season. I started walking the streets between West 59th Street in early October when the weather was still warm and the trees were still green then somehow along the way the leaves turned a golden brown and I started to see cobwebs and pumpkins all over the place. By the time I was finished, these would be replaced by garland, holly, wreathes and pine trees. I had never seen a neighborhood transform so fast or was it just me revisiting so many times over the period of three months. The holidays just creeped up on me and then overwhelmed me.

The lower part of the Upper West Side is much different from the rest of this side of town. As noted in earlier blogs of the neighborhood, pretty much everything below West 69th Street was leveled to make way for the Lincoln Center complex and only buildings around Central Park West, historic churches and some pre-war ‘gems’ survived the wrecking ball. Everything east of Broadway seemed to survive the wrecking ball but that has continued to change.

This ‘clearance’ made way for the performing arts center, many branches of college campuses, a hospital, new residential housing and new schools. There are very few traces of the old neighborhood once you cross West 70th Street until you get to about West 58th Street where some of the older buildings survived. If it did not have historic value or a certain charm, it got knocked down in the way of progress.

The charm of the neighborhood continued from West 72nd Street to West 70th Street. These was the edges of the old Upper West Side that had survived the 60’s wrecking ball.  West 72nd Street to me still represents the old New York with stores catering to the neighborhood residents and not to tourists. They are stores and restaurants for New Yorkers not New York places for tourists looking for a New York experience like walking around Times Square.

I started walking the streets of the Upper West Side from West 72nd Street to West 59th Street in early October and finishing a section here and a section there finishing closer to Thanksgiving. It was so weird to start this part of the walk when the trees still had green leaves on them to seeing Christmas decorations on the brownstone homes. Between work and the beginnings of the holidays and my hectic schedule it took a long time to see all the streets in the detail I wanted.

In the few months that I had been walking around, West 72nd Street has really started to change. I starting seeing a lot more scaffolding on the street and more restaurants opening and closing. I could not keep up the pace of the changes. Many older businesses started to close up shop due to the rent increases. All over the City rents that must have been negotiated in the mid to late 90’s were now coming due and business owners just can’t pay some of these rents. I am seeing more and more empty store fronts or restaurants replacing them with $20.00 hamburgers and $25.00 pasta dishes which are over-priced to the average person.

West 72nd Street is still worth the visit as they are many shops and restaurants that reasonably priced and are patronized by the neighborhood residents. There are many places that I like to revisit whenever I am in the neighborhood. As you round the corner onto West 72nd Street from Central Park West, you are greeted by the anchor of the neighborhood, the Dakota Apartments at 1 West 72nd Street, the famous home of John Lennon. During my time on the walk, there had been a memorial in the park on the date of his passing and many people were trying to take pictures there but the doorman are shooing people away. This is the private home to many people.

Walking down West 72nd is an array of well maintained apartment buildings and Coops but here and there on the street, there are still some pockets where you will find a brownstone here or there tucked into some corner of the street or look at the stone work on a apartment building.

Walking down West 72nd Street is a treasure trove of wonderful restaurants, interesting shops and historical architecture. It’s not just the Dakota and Olcott Apartments that are interesting. When looking up you notice so much. As you walk past the famous apartment buildings of Central Park West past Columbus Avenue, you pass an avenue of ever changing bars, restaurants and shops that continue to surprise residents and tourists alike.

One restaurant/bar I enjoy visiting is Malachy’s Donegal Inn at 103 West 72nd Street (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and Diningonashoestringinnyc@wordpress.com) just past Columbus Avenue. The bar has been there for years and a neighborhood staple for locals in the neighborhood. I had eaten here many times and I always felt like I was being watched, like people at the bar were trying to figure out whether I lived there or not. The food is really good. Their burgers, chicken fingers and hot turkey sandwiches ($8.95 each) are generous in size and their prices for food and drinks is very reasonable.It is a great place to sit back and talk to strangers about just about anything.

Malachy's.jpg

Just past Malachy’s is an unassuming store, Stationary & Toy World at 125 West 72nd Street (See my blog ‘LittleShoponMainStreet@wordpress.com) for a great selection of office supplies and toys for all ages.

stationary and toy world.jpg

Stationary & Toy World

The aisles are stacked top to bottom with popular games, crafts and building blocks while others with hard to find office supplies. Why order on Amazon when you can walk out your door and talk to people in the store who know their merchandise? It’s a throwback to a store in the 70’s that had it all. The people who work there are really nice and will help you find anything.

Verdi Square, part of the once infamous ‘Needle Park’ of the 70’s when this area got very run down has become a cornerstone of the this part of the neighborhood. There is no ‘Needle Park’ here anymore with fancy coffee vendors and musicians playing the park on a warm day. The park has been landscaped with flowers blooming each season and is a nice place to just relax and talk before taking the busy subway up or downtown.

What the neighborhood used to look like in the early 70’s

Just to tell you how much the neighborhood has changed there is a very popular Bloomingdale’s Outlet Store at 2085 Broadway with loads of merchandise from the popular chain and a 40 Carrots yogurt shop upstairs. You can get lost in the racks of clothing.

Just past Bloomingdale’s at 233 West 72nd Street is Westsider Records, another 70’s looking store for vinyl records and used books. If you are looking for the hard to find classics or for book or record that your mother threw out years ago, this is the store to start in. There is a wide variety of records here including original cast albums from musicals that I have not seen in years.

As you head down West 72nd Street, take a stop before arriving at West End Avenue and admire what is left of the old mansions that still peak out here and there on the street especially towards the very bottom of Riverside Park, when the neighborhood was an exclusive address. At the end of the block is Riverside Drive and the bottom of Riverside Park.

Across the street under all that scaffolding is The Chadsworth Apartment House that was designed in the late 1800’s (See Day One Hundred & Eight of MywalkinManhattan for full history of the apartment houses on West 72nd Street). Under all that piping if you look close, you can see the beauty and the detail work of the stone carvers. It will be something when the renovation is finished.

The Chadworth

The beauty of The Chadsworth with the lower part of Riverside Park

Before crossing back, take a look at the Eleanor Roosevelt Monument at the corner of Riverside Drive and West 72nd Street. The statue is dedicated to the former First Lady and is a nice place to sit and relax on a warm day. I have seen this part of the park in all seasons since starting to walk this part of the neighborhood and the Spring is best when the first set of flowers starts to peek out.

Walking back down West 72nd Street on the other side of the road is West Side Cafe at 218 West 72nd Street, my go to place in the neighborhood for reasonable meals and snacks (See my TripAdvisor reviews and review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). How I found this restaurant/deli was the sign that they had on the street with the prices of their meals and went in immediately for their pizza lunch special ($5.00). The pizza there is amazing as is all of their food and seems to be the place all the cabbies and doormen eat at as well. Large portions of well made food at a reasonable price.

If you are still hungry from all the walking, another place I like to stop for a snack is Gray’s Papaya at 2090 Broadway right across from the subway station. Their hot dogs are the best and since they are grilled, they snap when you bit into them (See review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).

The one thing I like about West 72nd Street on the West Side is that there is something for everyone from the fancy dining establishments heading toward Central Park West to the more reasonable hole in the wall restaurants that dot the street and those hidden stores stacked high with merchandise, this street was created for the New York customer and has not given into the tourists yet.

Rounding the corner of Central Park West, this trip around the neighborhood took so much time that I saw the four seasons occur in the park. Fall is most distinct with the colorful leaves with a touch of still warm weather. Morning or night, the park is always busy.

West 71st Street has a more residential feel to it and between the park and Broadway is lined with impressive brownstones and apartment buildings. Facing Central Park is the Majestic Apartments, which opened right before the stock market crash of 1929. The apartment building is an interesting example of Modern American Art Deco architecture and was considered quite innovative when it opened. The building was built by the firm of Chanin Construction Company by Irwin Chanin (StreetEasy 2019).

Take time to look at the buildings design from the other side of Central Park West. Its elegant design is in contrast to the more Victorian look of the Dakota right across the street. Just don’t stare too long or the building doormen will give you a funny look.

dakota.jpg

The Dakota Apartments

The beautiful row of brownstones and small apartment buildings on West 71st Street were decorated at all times of the holiday season. When I started the walk in early October with the leaves still green on the trees, people were preparing for the Halloween and the coming of the Fall. As I finished the walk, many people were putting up trees, garland and lights. With the care of these brownstones and their decorations, especially at night, made it look like a true neighborhood.

Further down West 71st Street is the Church of the Blessed Sacrament at 152 West 71st Street which was built in 1917. The first church was built in 1887 near West 72nd Street and the second church was built in 1900 on the site of the current church. This church was built by architect Gustav Steinbach, a Columbia graduate, who modeled it after a much smaller 14th century French Gothic Sainte Chapelle in Parish (Church History).

The church has a very engaging sermon and mass and if you are in the area during that time, take the time out to stay and enjoy it. It was a small crowd that afternoon that I was there but I only stayed for a short period of time. It would be nice to hear the whole mass sometime.

Once you reach Sherman Square, you will see the artist Kathy Ruttenberg’s statue, ‘In Sync’ which is part of her open air exhibition with the NYC Arts, ‘In Dreams Awake: Kathy Ruttenberg on Broadway exhibition (one of her other statues, ‘All the World’s a Stage’ is located in the neighborhood on West 64th near Lincoln Center). Take time to look at this interesting twist of nature by the Woodstock, NY based artist. She has four other statues up and down Broadway which means revisited the Upper West Side above West 84th Street.

In Sync

‘In Sync’ By Kathy Ruttenberg

kathy ruttenberg II

“All the World’s a Stage” by Kathy Ruttenberg

I have to say one thing is that she is very creative and looks at nature and art in an extremely unusual fashion. Her work takes on a different meaning showing nature in human form. The funny part is that the whole time I was looking over the statue everyone else just bumped into me passing it. No one stopped to look at the deer-man and tree walking in tandem like it was something you saw every day in New York City.

Two of my favorite and reasonable places to eat in this part of the Upper West Side are located right across the street on Broadway. The McDonald’s at 2049 Broadway and Little Italy Pizza at 2047 Broadway (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@wordpress.com).

The McDonald’s is one of the better ones in the City for food quality and cleanliness. I have many lunches and dinners here and it is fun to order a Sausage McMuffin and Egg and a cheeseburger at 9:00pm. When the weather was really hot at the beginning walk of this neighborhood I came here for one of their frozen lemonades.

Little Italy Pizza is one of the best places for slices in the City as their pizza actually has some flavor to it. When you have a slice ($2.95) here it is a decent sized piece of pizza and the sauce is nicely spiced. Their calzones are excellent ($6.50). They are almost the size of a small pizza and are loaded with ricotta and mozzarella cheese. Their marinara sauce is delicious and well spiced. If you have one for lunch, you will need no dinner. The service here is quick and the pizza makers are in a rush all the time so take your order and wait to be called.

As you continue down West 71st Street towards West End Avenue, there is a little slice of oasis in Septuagesimo Uno Park between Broadway and West End Avenue. The park was created in 1969 as part of Mayor Wagner’s ‘Vest Park Program’ to take vacant lots in neighborhoods at the time and turn them into a ‘small oasis’ for the neighborhood. The park was part of an effort between the Mayor, the NYC Parks and neighborhood groups who wanted to beautify the neighborhood. It is beautifully landscaped and in season you can see the flowers and scrubs in  full bloom. The only problem that I found with visiting the park is that the gate is always locked. Every time I wanted to visit, there was no one there.

As you walk to the end of the block, you will see the transition in the street from where it used to stop at the back of the Chadsworth Apartments and the new Heritage at Trump Place Apartment Building. This leads back to the extension of West 72nd Street and the new Riverside Boulevard. This is where you see old and new mix in both architecture and parks. When you reach Riverside Boulevard you will see all the new buildings that I described when walking the Avenues. It shows the ingenuity of the city planners of reclaiming land and redesigning the City into the 21st Century.

As you head back down West 71st Street, really look up and admire some of the architecture and details on the buildings along the street. Once you pass West End Avenue, look at the details of 260-266 West 71st Street with their large staircases and the elegance of the clean lines on these brownstones. These brownstones were built in 1899 and were to have a look ‘different from one another’ (NY Times Real Estate). 269 West 71st Street

269 West 71st Street

Lots of care has been taken to restore them to their glory and when the weather was warmer, were decorated outside with potted plants.

Move on to the brownstones from 248-250 West 71st Street that are across the street to see their details. These were build in 1892 and look up to see the weird faces staring back at you. Further down the street, sitting like a Grand Dame of the neighborhood and not part of the Moses chopping block is The Dorilton Apartments at 171 West 71st Street that were built in 1902. These were built at a time architects were trying to lure people off Fifth Avenue and onto Broadway which was modeled after a French Boulevard.

Dorlitan Apartment

The Dorilton Apartments

Heading back to Central Park West is the brownstones of 35-39 West 71st Street with their elegant staircases, curved windows and their lion keystones staring back at you. These brownstones were built in 1900 and show a grace and elegance  of ‘Old New York’.

35 West 71st Street

35-39 West 71st Street

I found West 71st Street  offers a lot in beautiful small parks, gorgeous architecture, wonderful restaurants and interesting shops. The people here must really love it.

I rounded Central Park West again looking at the Central Park as it transitioned seasons during the walk and walked onto West 70th Street.  This is where the neighborhood starts to change. Up to Columbus Avenue, you see the older part of the neighborhood that survived the wrecking ball and past Broadway is all new construction.

I traveled down West 70th Street to Riverside Boulevard and it is amazing how in just one block a neighborhood can change. You see how ‘urban renewal’ can change the character of a neighborhood.

Still there is a beauty to many buildings on the block. It may not have all the charismatic brownstones as West 71st Street but still here and there are buildings that stand out and you take notice of when walking around. At 135 West 70th Street there is a building that has an Egyptian style motif that decorates the entire frontage.

The Pythian was designed by architect Thomas Lamb and was built in 1926 for the Knights of the Pythians, who were a fraternal order founded in 1864. The building was constructed of buff brick and terra cotta. The outside decorations of the building are designed in ‘Egyptian Revival Art Deco’ and are some of the best examples of the use of polycrome terra cotta in the City. The building was converted to condos in 1983. Really look up and admire the details of ancient Gods and Goddesses, mythical animals and artwork that looks like the outside of an ancient temple. Admire the orb that sits atop the entrance with the Goddess Isis stand guard (StreetScapes & Wiki).

The Pythian

The Pythian at 135 West 70th Street

I stopped by P.S. 199 as they were letting out of school and it was sea of children and parents for the next hour. Next to the school is Matthew P. Sapolin Park, which is a great place to visit on a hot day. There are really nice public bathrooms that come in handy after a long walk and benches under shade trees to relax on. The parents are so busy watching their kids and the other parents no one noticed me walk in the many times I visited here. This was my go to place for the bathroom and to relax when walking this section of the neighborhood and they keep the park up really nicely.

The former Playground 70 was renamed in 2011 to Matthew P. Sapolin Park after the former Commission of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, who died of cancer in 2011. The park is fitted for children with disabilities with a children’s garden, a basketball court with backstops for children in wheel chairs and picnic table seating low enough to allow for disability access (NYCParks.com).

Matthew P. Sapolin has a very interesting life before dying at age 41. He had been mainstreamed in school on Long Island, was a drummer in a band he formed and the Co-Captain of his wrestling team at NYU. Many people had commented that he was an inspiration for many people who never let a disability define them and it is fitting that such a park available to so many be named after him (NY Obituary).

Walking back from a relaxing break at the park, I walked back to towards Central Park West. Tucked away near Columbus Avenue is an interesting little antique jewelry store called Icon Style by Lara Kornbluh at 104 West 70th Street (See review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). Do not miss this interesting little shop refitted in a turn of the last century pharmacy, if you like vintage and antique fine and costume jewelry.

It has some of the most unusual pieces in the shapes of animals and sunburst. I got to meet the owner, artist Lara Kornbluh, whose work had been shown in galleries in the 90’s. She had gotten interested in jewelry as a side business while working as an artist to make extra money. Her creativity as an artist shows in the one of kind selections she has bought for the store. No two pieces look alike. For jewelry lovers, it should not be missed.

Icon Style by Lara Kornbluh

Icon by Lara Kronbluh

After a long day in Soup Kitchen and walking all of West 72nd to West 70th Streets and rounding onto West 69th Street, I had had it. I wanted to relax and decided to end this part of the evening at the New York Historical Society at 170 Central Park West. I had not visited the museum in a long time and wanted to look around some of the exhibitions. What is nice about the museum is that on a Friday night it is ‘pay what you want’ and since I was broke, I just paid $5.00.

It was an busy evening for the museum with the ‘Harry Potter’ exhibition going on. I bypassed that and went upstairs to see the ‘Billy Jean King’ exhibition on her career as a tennis player, philanthropist and activist. I also got to see the permanent collection of objects in the collection. What was nice about that was I had the galleries pretty much to myself. I stayed until the museum closed at 8:00pm. I stopped for a quick snack on Broadway and then headed home. There would be more to see for another day.

My next trip to the neighborhood started at the Soup Kitchen again. Why I exhaust myself and walk the rest of the afternoon amazes even me. I have no idea where I get my energy from. I worked the busy bread station and after my four hour shift was over, I walked from 28th and Ninth Avenue to Harriet’s Kitchen (see review on TripAdvisor) at 502 Amsterdam Avenue, a small southern hole in the wall restaurant for lunch.

I had visited Harriet’s before and wanted to try more entrees on their menu.  I had a chicken pot pie with mashed potatoes for lunch ($12.95 plus $4.95 for the potatoes and gravy) which was the perfect lunch on a cool day and the calories would support an afternoon of walking around the neighborhood. Don’t miss this rich gravy loaded pie loaded with fresh white chicken.

After a full lunch, I walked down Central Park West tracing the park side. I really looked at the park as the joggers and walkers entered and wondered when I missed the leaves changing colors. It was the middle of October and the pumpkin decorations and mums started to appear on steps and porches of the brownstone blocks of the Upper West Side.

As I walked onto West 69th Street, I was greeted by a juxtaposed of brownstone and small apartment  house styles between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. The shopping area around Columbus Avenue has not changed much over the years but the stores are constantly in transition. In the three months that I visited and walked the neighborhood I had never seen so many restaurants change hands and even watched a few open and close while I was there. The rents must be skyrocketing in the neighborhood as the twenty and ten year leases that were negotiated after the last recession have given way to market rates. Again, I don’t think the Upper West Side needs another restaurant that serves a $20.00 hamburger.

One of the most beautiful and quintessential blocks of the neighborhood is West 69th Street from Columbus to Amsterdam Avenues. This row of brownstones on both sides is met in the middle by Christ & St. Stephens Church at 120 West 69th Street. This cute little church has a garden just a few steps up from the side walk with benches to relax on. When I was visited earlier in the month, I just saw the last of the flowers in bloom and the leaves change colors. The brownstones across the street were decorated with colorful pumpkins and potted plants and the whole effect was out of a movie. It is what you would think all of New York City should look like or probably did at one time.

129-135 W69th

129-135 West 69th Street

Take time to admire the brownstones from at 129-135 West 69th Street with the unique carvings, beautiful details and their curving stairs. Decorated for both Halloween and Christmas when I walked the neighborhood, this is truly picturesque.

Once you cross Broadway, you see where the changes of the 60’s come in and the neighborhood has given way to modern construction. Between Amsterdam and Broadway you will begin to see the final buildings as part of the Lincoln Center complex of buildings of schools, theaters and offices which leads to the modern apartment complex of Lincoln Towers that continues from West 69th Street to West 66th Street. They are not so keen about letting people walk around the grounds so I snuck in carefully and did not walk around where I wasn’t supposed.

Along West End Avenue to Freedom Place is the same. Lincoln Towers, a modern apartment complex stretches from West 70th Street to West 66th and there are guards all over the place at each entrance to the complex. It is mostly paths leading the the apartments. Between Freedom Place and Riverside Boulevard are all the sparkling new apartment buildings that line the extension of Riverside Park. This new modern look to the city stretches on the West Side from West 70th Street to West 59th where some new buildings are behind fencing waiting to appear this Summer.

Riverside Park South

The is the Riverside Park skyline

So to complete this part of the walk and it was such a nice day when I did it, I made a right turn up Amsterdam Avenue from West 69th Street and walked up to West 70th Street and walked the entire length around the Lincoln Towers Complex to West 66th Street and then back to see some of the garden and paths of the complex that I could see with the guards looking me over and then back around.

When I finished that, I made the turn once I returned to West 66th Street and West End Avenue and walked to Riverside Boulevard and re-walked all the side streets between West 66th to West 70th Streets between the park and Freedom Place and looked at all the new construction again. This part of the neighborhood is dissected from the rest of the Upper West Side and is almost its own self-contained neighborhood similar to Battery Park City. It has its own shops, stores and schools. It faces a beautiful sparkling new park where the sod had just been laid that Summer and it was in full use when I was there (See Days One Hundred and Twenty One and Two).

I crossed back over the street at West 70th and continued to walk down past this extensive neighborhood and in the corner of Freedom Place and West 70th Street saw the Freedom Place marker from the Freedom Summer of June 21, 1964 when volunteers went to Mississippi to register Black voters. The plaque was dedicated to the three volunteers who were killed, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney. They had been ambushed and killed that evening. A very somber plaque for such an interesting block of luxury housing.

I made the turn again and back down the other side of West 69th I went. Once you past Broadway, you pass from new to old again and it is the other side of the brownstone row until you get to Central Park West. When you turn the corner again at West 68th Street, you are pretty much looking at what is left of the old Upper West Side between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. After that the rest of the neighborhood is new construction especially around the boundaries of Broadway which is loaded with chain businesses.

West 67th Street is almost the same as the area contains many new buildings between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. Here you start to see more of the buildings that are part of Lincoln Center just to the south or are part of the commercial district that has developed over the last twenty five years. When you turn the corner again from Central Park West to West 66th Street, you see the neighborhood streetscape change again with differences in the buildings from Central Park to Riverside Park.

West 66th Street takes you right back over to Riverside Park and then back to Central Park as I stopped in the park to relax. It has a wonderful view of New Jersey of the cliffs facing the Hudson River. On a warm Summer day you have a choice of things to do in the park, admiring the artwork, walking, jogging or just lying by the grass.

A tiny triangle of grass greets you right across the street from Lincoln Center in the former Empire North Park now dubbed “Richard Tucker Park”.  This little park like its counterpart Verdi Square further uptown not only serves as a subway entrance but in the warmer months has a very popular Farmers Market, waffle stand and bookseller. Its a pleasant park to sit in the Summer and watch the world go by.

Richard Tucker had started off as a Cantor who in 1945 made his operatic debut with the Metropolitan Opera, where he stayed on with the company until his passing in 1975. The bust of him by artist Milton Hebald that graces the park was donated to the park system by his wife, Sarah, in 1975.

West 65th Street brings you to the heart of Lincoln Center. This is also where the neighborhood has its extremes. On one side of Amsterdam Avenue is Lincoln Center and on the other is the Amsterdam Houses. Still the neighborhood houses some of the best schools in the country. Julliard is housed between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue as well as the Fiorella H. La Guardia School of the Performing Arts, two of the nation’s finest performing arts schools in the US.

Making the rounds back to Central Park and back in to the heart of the neighborhood, you will walk through Lincoln Center with all it’s beauty and glory. It really is a stellar site with its fountains and walkways and art. In the evening after a performance, I have always enjoyed just sitting by the fountain in the middle of the theaters and just watched people walk by either afternoons or evenings. It brings back many memories of performances past.

The Lincoln Center complex stretches from West 65th to West 62nd Streets from Columbus to Amsterdam Avenue so it takes some time to walk the whole complex and admire the gardens and statuary.

I had an interesting walk behind Lincoln Center once I crossed Amsterdam Avenue into the Amsterdam Houses, which are currently under scaffolding and being renovated. The Amsterdam Houses stretch from West 64th to West 61st from Amsterdam to West End Avenues. It is an interesting set of paths to walk through all the scaffolding. With my progressive glasses and dark jacket,  I made most of the construction guys and residents a little nervous. I had a glass thrown from a third floor window at me, security guards look the other direction when I walked by and watched a few construction guys get nervous. It just seems out of the place with the rest of the neighborhood.

One bright spot of the complex is the Samuel N. Bennerson 2nd Playground located toward the back of the complex which has recently been renovated. It has new swings and a plastic climbing complex. The few afternoons that I entered the park, the kids seemed well-behaved  but there were a lot of adults there talking.

Samuel N. Bennerson 2nd was a local resident and activist, who was a third generation member of the ‘San Juan Hill’ community who served as a mentor to children in the neighborhood and a sports coach.

I continued by walk down West 64th Street and walk all around the Amsterdam Housing Complex which made me very popular with the construction crew who seemed to step of the pace everytime they saw me walking through taking notes. I walked down and around West 61st Street and covered all the area from West 59th Street to West 64th Street from Riverside Boulevard to Amsterdam Avenue. Amsterdam Houses are really an island on to themselves with the Lincoln Center complex to the east and the luxury apartments by Riverside Park South to the west.

As you head around West 59th and 60th Streets past Amsterdam Avenue you will see the John Jay College and Fordham College campuses just south of Lincoln Center. These and Mt. Sinai Hospital pretty dominate the very bottom of the Upper West Side.

There are two stand out buildings that you should not miss admiring on West 59th Street, the IRT Powerhouse between West End Avenue and the Henry Hudson Parkway and West 59th and 58th Streets. This historic building was built in 1904 by architect Stanford White for the Interborough Rapid Transit Company and is designed in ‘Renaissance Revival’ and was part of the City Beautiful Movement (Wiki). Note all the beautiful carvings and decor at the sides of the building.

irt building

IRT Building on West 59th Street

The other building not to miss is the Williams J. Syms Operating Theater at 338 West 59th Street right behind the Time-Warner Complex. It was built in 1892 as a medical hospital and is the last remaining piece of the old Roosevelt Hospital. Made with marble and mosaic floors as not to harbor bacteria, it was considered state of the art when it opened. It is now being renovated for a school.

William Syms Theater

William J. Syms Medical Theater

From West 59th Street, I walked around the back of the Columbus Circle complex and walked up Columbus Avenue back to West 64th Street and continued the walk back to Central Park West. Here you see the sparkling new Time-Warner complex with its luxury stores, hotels and restaurants. This has set the tone for the transformation of the Upper West Side.

Making the walk back onto West 63rd Street, I walked again through the Lincoln Center Complex again and then through the Amsterdam Houses again just to rile the builders who by this point just ignored me.  Towards the end of the block between West 63rd and 64th Streets and West End Avenue and Freedom Place there is another really nice park to relax in that does not have a formal name by the Parks system. It has a nice playground in the front and paths with benches to the back which is the perfect place to relax on a hot day. This park is always busy with kids.

Walking back to the commercial district of Columbus Avenue and right across from Lincoln Center is Dante Park, which in the summer is busy with vendors and book sellers and at the holidays has the most beautiful Christmas tree with an even nicer holiday event. Dante Park was originally part of Empire Park to the north but was renamed in 1921 for the Italian poet Dante Alighieri. There is a statue of him facing the park by artist Ettore Ximemes (Wiki).

Dante Park Christmas tree

Dante Park at Christmas

When walking back to West 63rd to Central Park and then back to Columbus Avenue the areas between West 62nd, 61st and 60th Streets are lined with commercial buildings, hotels and apartment buildings. The Empire Hotel which faces Dante Park and is always busy on theater night in its restaurants was built in 1923 by owner Herbert DePuy.

The last part of my walk that evening was exploring the artwork at Lincoln Center. As I looked over the signs for upcoming shows and watched the holiday decorations being placed on the inside of the opera house, I admired pieces of art tucked here and there in the complex. There was artist Henry Moore’s ‘Working Model for Reclining Figure’ in one part and Alexander Caulder’s “Le Guichet” that stand out. In all my times at the theater, I never noticed these two pieces of outdoor art. Taking time to walk around and needing to sit down you do notice them.

Henry Moore Art

Henry Moore’s “Working Model for Reclining Figure” at Lincoln Center

Henry Moore was a English artist who had graduated from the Royal College of Art in London and Leeds School of Art. He was known for his semi-abstract figures and his work in bronze. This work, “Working for Reclining Figure” was installed in 1965 and has been thought to be human figure in a reclining state.  One piece represents that head and the torso and the other the figures legs. You really have to walk around the piece to figure it out (Wiki).

Le Guichet II

 

Alexander Calder’s “Le Guichet”

Alexander Calder is an American artist who graduated from the Stephens Institute of Technology. He was known for his abstract mobiles with some known of the themes of the cosmos and nature (Wiki). The work, “Le Guichet” (the ticket window) was installed in Lincoln Center in 1963. Some say it represents a irregularly shaped hand reaching through a window.

My last night walking the streets of the Upper West Side was also the beginning of the holiday season. It had been a long day at the Soup Kitchen working the Social Services area and I just wanted to get out of there.

I walked back up Columbus Avenue to look at the store windows and took a short cut through West 69th Street between Columbus and Broadway again to look at all the lights along the brownstones again. People really decorated their homes with lights, garlands and trees. At nightfall, this is what New York is all about. The simple decorations that make the City so special.

I ended my evening with dinner at the West Side Cafe again at 218 West 72nd Street. I just needed a couple of slices of pizza and remembered how much I enjoyed it. I am beginning to feel like a regular here.

So here on the Upper West Side is a wonderful mixture of architecture, unusual art by interesting artists, great hole in the wall restaurants and a great mix of retail. Here and there a real ‘gem’ pops out but at the end of the day it is a great neighborhood to take a long walk in.

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

Places to Visit:

The Dakota Apartments

1 West 72nd Street

New York, NY  10023

Church of the Blessed Sacrament

152 West 71st Street

New York, NY 10023

Places to Eat:

Malachy’s Donegal Inn

103 West 72nd Street

New York, NY  10023

(212) 874-4268

TripAdvisor Review:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d527768-Reviews-Malachy_s_Donegal_Inn-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@worpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/683

McDonald’s

2049 Broadway

New York, NY  10023

(212) 724-0435

Open: 24 hours

http://www.mcdonalds.com

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d5101346-Reviews-McDonald_s-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Review Diningonashoestringinnyc@wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/541

Little Italy Pizza

2047 Broadway

New York, NY 10023

http://www.lipizzany.com/

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d3609300-Reviews-Little_Italy_Pizza-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com review:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/898

Gray’s Papaya

2090 Broadway

New York, NY  10023

(212) 799-0243

https://grayspapayanyc.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d423624-Reviews-Gray_s_Papaya-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/603

West Side Cafe

218 West 72nd Street

New York, NY  10023

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4959470-Reviews-West_Side_Cafe-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/599

Harriet’s Kitchen

502 Amsterdam Avenue

(212) 721-0045

http://www.harrietskitchen.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4657943-Reviews-Harriet_s_Kitchen-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Places to Shop:

Bloomingdale’s Outlet Store

2085 Broadway

New York, NY 10023

(212) 634-3190

http://www.bloomingdales.com

Stationary & Toy World

125 West 72nd Street

(212) 580-3922

http://stationeryandtoy.com/shop/

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/200

Westsider Records

233 West 72nd Street

New York, NY  10023

(212) 874-1588

http://westsiderbooks.com/recordstore.html

Open: Sunday 12:00pm-6:00pm/Monday-Thursday 11:00am-7:00pm/Friday & Saturday 11:00am-9:00pm.

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

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).

 

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!

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.

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

 

McDonalds

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