Walking the streets of Midtown East is very different from all the other neighborhoods that I have walked so far. The character of the neighborhood differs so much in that it is mostly commercial with hotels, specialty shops, office buildings and more residential on the upper parts of the neighborhood than any other part of the City. When you walk down the side streets of Midtown East, you are usually passing a building that stretches from one block to the other with nothing much in between but a loading dock or garage for the employees. Most of the smaller buildings and brownstones have been long knocked down and replaced with large office buildings some of which the character lacks in these giant ‘glass boxes’.
I know in the past few years that New York City has allowed more innovation in building design and there has been more original designs then the original 1980’s ‘glass boxes’ but even now there are a lot of makeovers that are happening all over the neighborhood and you will be dodging scaffolding that I have not seen since my days walking Harlem. From block to block especially as you get closer to Grand Central Station, there are many closed sidewalks and you can only walk on one side of the street.
Grand Central Station sits at the head of this neighborhood
With that said, there are still many hidden treasures to find if you just look up and across and they just jump out on you. It is surprising in this ever changing neighborhood of soaring towers and busy hotels that tucked here and there are public atriums with places to sit and tiny cafes inside them that cater to the busy lunch crowd. Small brownstones here and there around the neighborhood have survived the wrecking ball and now house small cottage businesses and some upscale boutiques. I even found a few waterfalls along the way. I started my walk on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, which is becoming like an old friend. East 59th Street with its luxury shops and hotels is going through a transition itself since the domination of the internet.
Many of the luxury stores from Steuben Glass to the old FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue have either disappeared or have moved to other parts of Midtown. Even the Barney’s New York on Madison Avenue on the edge of the Upper East Side neighborhood has filed for bankruptcy sighting changing tastes (people just don’t dress like that anymore) and the cost of doing business in a Brick & Mortar store which such high rents. I really don’t think honestly that people can afford these places anymore and if they can, will order it online not having to deal with the sometimes indifferent service you get now in stores (I experienced this feeling in Paul Stuart when I walked in twice with shorts). The result is a lot of empty retail space.
This is changing though with the remodeling of the older office buildings with new facelifts and newer foreign stores coming into the neighborhood. Even so, look again for the open-air museum of artwork all over the streets and in the lobbies of these soaring office buildings. When walking down East 58th Street, I came across the sculpture “Rondo” by artist Tony Rosenthal in 1969 in front of 127 East 58th Street. This interesting circular sculpture is made of welded bronze.
‘Rondo’ by artist Tony Rosenthal
Tony Rosenthal was known for his large ‘Monumental Public Art Sculptures’ that appeared in cities all over the United States. Mr. Rosenthal had studied at the Chicago Institute of Art and in the 1960’s concentrated on large Abstract Geometric Sculptures. With his “Rondo” series in the 1960’s, it is noted that “Tony Rosenthal finds, discovers and reports to us what we might not have seen without him” (Tony Rosenthal biography).
Artist Tony Rosenthal in New York City
Take a look at the detail work of 480 Park Avenue on the corner of Park Avenue and East 58th Street. Designed by architect Emery Roth in 1929, notice the terracotta detail work all over the building. It is one of the great residential buildings where each apartment had working fireplaces and high ceilings.
Look at the detail work at 480 Park Avenue
One building that stands out on the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 57th Street is the Cohen Building at 135 East 57th Street with its soaring floors and interesting entrance with a ringed pavilion. This 31 story commercial office building has a unique circular path for vehicles up from and pillared terrace entrance. The architect is Kohn Pederson Fox Associates and was built in 1987 in the ‘Post-Modern’ design with a plaza in the front of a concave tower. The building is right across the street from Bloomingdale’s Department Store (NewYorkitecture).
135 East 57th Street The Cohen Building
Walking past the IBM Building again, it was nice to finally discover that the sculpture outside the building was an Alexander Calder, the famous “Saurien”, that he created to emulate a reptile. This interesting and unusual sculpture deserved a second look. Other buildings that stand out in the neighborhood have been mentioned in Day One Hundred and Forty of MywalkinManhattan.com are the Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street and 465 Park Avenue. Look up and notice their detail and artworks that line the outside of these buildings.
Saurien by Alexander Calder
Alexander Calder artist
When walking around East 57th to East 56th Streets, please be careful of the security around Trump Tower. They watch everything you do and it is best to just walk around this part of the neighborhood between Fifth and Madison Avenues. Most of the buildings on this block stretch from one block to the next.
Trump Building at 725 Fifth Avenue is where the security is tight
When walking down East 55th Street from Fifth Avenue back to Lexington Avenue, stop and notice the building at 116 East 55th Street, home to the SUNY Global Center. The building was the former mansion to the Zeigler family and was built between 1926-1927. The house was designed by architect William L. Bottomley in the ‘Neo-Georgian style’ and features Flemish blond brickwork on the outside. William Zeigler Jr., who owned the house with his wife, Helen was a businessman, sportsman and philanthropist (Wiki).
Zeigler House SUNY at 116 East 55th Street
I finished the first day of the neighborhood at East 55th Street and had dinner at Tri Dim Shanghai Restaurant at 1378 Third Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor). Their food is excellent and you have to try their Soup Dumplings that they are noted for.
Tri Dim’s Soup Dumplings are excellent
They burst in your mouth with each bite and their Classic Chicken, which is cooked in what I figure is a honey, soy and plum sauce is just excellent.
Tri Dim’s Classic Chicken is excellent
Tri Dim Shanghai Restaurant at 1378 Third Avenue
For dessert, it was time to revisit Bon Vivant Bakery at 231 East 58th Street for dessert (See reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). I had one of their Rose Petit Fours ($4.00) and it was just excellent. A subtle sweetness with the accent of the rose extract that is used in the filling and the icing. These delightful cakes can be eaten in the two tier bakery and it is fun to watch the world go by.
Bon Vivant at 231 East 58th Street is wonderful for desserts
On my second day of walking the Streets of Midtown East I had just finished a busy day at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen working in the busy Bread Station and was exhausted by the time I got to East 55th Street. I stopped along the way for a Chicken Empanada at Empanada Suprema(see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) at the corner of East 38th Street and Broadway for a quick lunch. This little stand is open only during the week and had the most delicious chicken, beef and cheese empanadas for $2.00! I love his sign with the Caped Empanada.
Empanada Suprema at the corner of West 38th Street & Broadway
Don’t miss admiring the famous Friar’s Club at 57 East 57th Street. This beautiful building was built for Investment Banker Martin Erdman in 1908 by architect Alfredo S.G. Taylor and was designed in the ‘English Renaissance’ style.
The Friar’s Club at 57 East 55th Street
When walking the bottom of East 55th Street from Lexington Avenue, take time again to admire the former AT&T Building at 550 Madison Avenue and IBM Building at 590 Madison Avenue in the distance. These iconic buildings show the resilience and creativity of their corporate owners. They are such interesting designs (see Day One Hundred and Forty Walking the Borders of Midtown East).
Madison Avenue in the 50’s
One of the most interesting little pocket parks in the neighborhood I found when I rounded the corner at East 54th Street. It was right in front of the Christie’s at 535 Madison Avenue is the Christie’s Sculpture Garden with its small tables and chairs, trees covered with white lights and interesting public art. The artist Jonathan Prince is showing his work, “Shattered I, II and III’ in the garden courtyard.
Christie’s Sculpture Garden in front of 535 Madison Avenue with “Shattered Sculptures”
Artist Jonathan Prince is New York born and raised and holds degrees from Columbia University and the University of Southern California. Over the past twenty years, the artist has had a passion for form and material with the use of chaos in his works. His use of steel and CorTen is used in the ‘Shattered’ pieces and they have a reflective element against the white lights of the park (Artist website).
Jonathan Prince in front of his “Shattered Sculptures”
This public garden is one of the nicest I have seen in many blocks and it is nice that Christie’s gives us an opportunity to view Public Art on sale while sitting back on the chairs on a nice day and just admire the park and people passing by.
The Kiton Store at 4 East 54th Street is the former home William Earle Dodge Stokes and his former wife, Rita. Mr. Stokes bought the land and leveled the houses that were there and had architects McKim, Mead and White design the marble mansion in 1896. The couple never lived in the house and filed for divorce soon after. The house was then bought by William H. Moore, the founder of Nabisco and his wife, Ada who movements in New York Society were well known. After Mrs. Moore’s death in 1955, the mansion was used for retail purposes (Daytonia in Manhattan).
The Kiton Store Stokes/Moore House at 4 East 54th Store
The ironic part of the former Stokes/Moore house is that right behind it when rounding the corner to East 54th Street is the Paley Garden, another small public garden with a waterfall as its centerpiece at 3 East 54th Street. The park was designed by architects Zion Breen Richardson Associates and opened in 1967. CBS Head William Paley financed the park in honor of his father, Samuel Paley (Wiki). This pristine little park is also nice to just sit and relax and listen to the waterfall and drown out the sounds of the City. The rest of East 54th Street is lined with large office buildings and the rush of people walking from one block to the next.
Paley Garden at East 53rd Street
Rounding East 53rd Street make an effort to stop inside the lobby of 1 East 53rd Street to see the gallery display from the Studio in the School New York City. The works that line the wall of the lobby space of the building is from art students all over New York City.
The Studio in the School is the largest not for profit visual arts education organization in New York City with the mission to “foster the creative and intellectual development of youth through quality visual arts programs, directed by arts professionals. We also collaborate with and develop the ability of those who provide or support arts programming and creative development for youth both in and outside of schools. We fulfill our mission through two divisions; the New York City Schools Program and the Studio Institute” (Studio in the School mission statement).
The Studio in the School Gallery at East 53rd Street
Walking the rest of East 53rd and then onto East 52nd and East 51st is lined with large office buildings that stretch from one block to the other. Most of this part of the neighborhood was knocked down in the late 1960’s for commercial use.
When walking down East 50th Street there is a small gem of a public pocket park at the south side of East 50th Street between Madison and Park Avenues. Created by the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 2014, this little park called the “50th Street Commons” features a water feature ‘waterfall’ that turns colors from blue to green to yellow to fuchsia. This unique little park surrounded by exotic plants is another nice place to just sit and relax (Murray Hill, Gramercy and Midtown East Paper).
The “50th Street Commons” on East 50th Street
Across the street from the park and wedged between office buildings is the restaurant, Maloney & Porcelli, which was founded in 1996 and offers “clubby American cuisine” and harks back to an era when lunch time was taken seriously. It stands in contrast to the ever changing neighborhood.
The restaurant classic, Maloney & Porcelli at 37 East 50th Street
When rounding East 49th Street, stop at Tower 49 at 12 East 49th Street, the home of WeWork to see the art exhibition of artist Enrico Isamu Oyama exhibition “Inside Out”. This exhibition located on all side of the lobby. This contemporary and rather unusual exhibition starts with the pillars on both East 49th and 48th Streets to invite you inside (the security at the building is really cool and nice about people looking around). The Tower 49 Gallery offers exhibitions of art free of charge and is open to the public at street level.
Tower 49 Gallery at 12 East 49th Street
Artist Enrico Isamu Oyama
Mr. Oyama’s work is unique at best with a lot of lines and movement. His work “Quick Turn Structure” consists of interlocking intersections of black and white shapes and the unique style replaces letters with lines, highlighting their dynamic motion through the process of repetition that subsequently creates and abstract form with angular points and three-dimensional depth (Artist Press Release).
Tower 49 Gallery
Mr. Oyama is originally from Tokyo and is now based in New York City and likes to creat a visual art in various mediums that features Quick Turn Structure, the motif composed of spontaneous repetition and expansion of free flowing lines influenced by the aerosol writing of the 1970’s-1980’s New York and beyond (Artist Press Release).
Artist Enrico Isamu Oyama in front of the project
If you are in need of a public bathroom, try the fourth floor of Saks Fifth Avenue in the Men’s Department. When the store is open, this is one of the most convenient places to go to the bathroom in the area.
When proceeding down East 48th Street, take a stop in front of 4 East 48th Street, The Church of Sweden. This Neo-Gothic Church was built in 1921 for “The Bible House” and was sold to the Church in 1978. There is a library and cafe that are inside and open to the public. For the most part, the rest of East 48th Street is filled with large buildings that stretch from side to side.
Church of Sweden at 4 East 48th Street
There is one stand out piece of artwork in the lobby of 280 East 48th Street of four people hunched over in a circle. As hard as I tried though I don’t know who the brilliant artist is of the work.
The lobby sculpture at 280 East 48th Street
Rounding East 47th Street, take a trip back in time to Manhattan of the 1970’s inside of Phil’s Stationary at 9 East 47th Street. I was talking to the gentlemen who were running the store and told them I had not seen inventory like this on sale in a long time. Hard to find things like stationary, note pads, typing paper and ribbon and even recommendations to a place to fix the typewriter. This stationary store harks back to the days when people left the office to go shopping for things needed at the last minute. They still sell pens, pencils and even the old accounting ledger books. The nice part is that it still smells like a stationery store.
Phil’s Stationery at 9 East 47th Street
Most of the Streets between East 47th to East 46th Streets are lined with larger office buildings that stretch from block to block with a smattering of small businesses here and there. One standout at 556 Fifth Avenue at the entrance of East 46th Street is the Philippine Consulate General which services Philippine nationals in the Northeast states. This unique building is one of the last holdovers from the Country buildings that used to line this part of Fifth Avenue in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. The building was designed by Carrere & Hastings in 1912 for the Knoedler and Company Art Gallery.
The Philippine Consulate at 556 Fifth Avenue
On the edge of East 46th Street sits the famous Roosevelt Hotel and the Helmsley Building which sit as the old guards to the neighborhood once known as “Terminal City”. The Helmsley Building at 230 Park Avenue was originally built for the headquarters of the New York Central Building in 1929 by Warren & Wetmore in the Beaux-Arts style. These are also the architects of Grand Central Station behind it that stands guard of the neighborhood from Turtle Bay to Midtown East.
The Helmsley Building at 230 Park Avenue stands guard over this part of Park Avenue
The Roosevelt Hotel at 45 East 46 sits between East 46th and 45th Streets next to Grand Central Terminal. The hotel was designed by architect George C. Post & Son in 1924 and was once part of a series of hotels that made up “Terminal City” that stretched along both sides of Grand Central. The hotel was named for President Teddy Roosevelt and even had a child care service in ‘The Teddy Room’.
The Roosevelt Hotel at 45 East 46th Street
Take time to walk around these impressive buildings and look at the outside stone carvings and elaborate lobbies. The lobby of the Helmsley Building is impressive with its marble floors and impressive chandeliers.
On the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 46th Street tucked behind the Barnes & Noble bookstore I had lunch at a new branch of JoJu at 555 Fifth Avenue, which had just opened that afternoon with a soft opening. I had some of their Vietnamese spring rolls ($5.50) which were filled with ground pork and vegetables and were cooked to perfection.
On another occasion to visit the restaurant, I had the Vietnamese sandwich ($9.95) with Caramel Pork and fish sauce and a side plain double-fried French Fries and a Cold Brew Lemon tea ($3.96). Lunch did come to almost $19.00 but the sandwich can feed two and it is worth the indulge. The service there is really nice as well.
JoJu is a new addition to the Fifth Avenue restaurants at 555 Fifth Avenue
Tucked into the side of the Helmsley Building at the corner of East 45th Street and Vanderbilt Avenue is Urbanspace Vanderbilt, a indoor food court with some of the most hip and innovative local restaurants in New York City. These artisan and chef driven restaurants are outposts of the original neighborhood restaurants including well known names of Roberta’s Pizza and Dough Doughnuts.
Dough at the Urbanspace Vanderbilt
The company Urbanspace has been creating these experiences since 1993 since the company’s establishment in 1972 in Great Britain. Don’t miss the vibrancy of the atmosphere and the smells that waft through the hall at lunch time. I love going to Dough that occasional $4.00 doughnut that is well worth it.
Urbanspace food court in the corner of the Helmsley Building on East 49th Street
The rest of East 45th and 44th Streets are lined with small office buildings and stores and along Madison Avenue the headquarters of Brooks Brothers and Paul Stuart stores that cater to the City professionals and “preppie class”.
Brooks Brothers at 346 Madison Avenue
Midtown East is now mostly a commercial neighborhood lined with office buildings and retail businesses but as you walk the streets here and there things still pop out and amaze you. It really shows the complexity of the City at its best and how a little creativity and renewal can change a space from one use to another.
That shows the imagination of the people who keep making Manhattan a unique experience.
Don’t miss my other walks in MidTown East Manhattan:
Walking the Avenues on Day One Hundred & Forty-Five:
Walking the Borders on Day One Hundred & Forty-Three:
Places to Eat:
A Food Cart on the Corner of West 38th Street & Broadway
Not sure of hours
My review on TripAdvisor:
My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:
JoJu Fifth Avenue
555 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10036
Open: Sunday & Saturday 11:00am-5:00pm/Monday-Friday 11:00am-7:00pm
My review on TripAdvisor:
231 East 58th Street
New York, NY 10022
Open: Sunday-Monday Closed/Tuesday-Friday 9:30am-7:30pm/Saturday 9:30am-6:30pm
My review on TripAdvisor:
My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:
Tri Dim Shanghai Restaurant
1378 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10075
Open: Monday-Friday 11:45am-10:00pm/Sunday-Saturday 12:00pm-10:00pm
My review on TripAdvisor:
East 45th and Vanderbilt Avenue
New York, NY 10169
Open: Sunday & Saturday 9:00am-5:00pm/Monday-Tuesday 6:30am-9:00pm/Wednesday-Friday 6:30am-10:00pm
My review on TripAdvisor:
Places to visit:
Christie’s Sculpture Garden
66 East 55th Street
New York, NY 10022
Tower 49 Lobby Gallery
12 East 49th Street
New York, NY 10017
Studio in the School Gallery
1 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022
My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:
50th Street Commons
48 East 50th Street
New York, NY 10022
3 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022
Open: Sunday-Saturday 8:00am-8:00pm
Places to Shop:
9 East 47th Street
New York, NY 10017
Open: Sunday & Saturday Closed/Monday-Friday 9:00am-6:00pm
Saks Fifth Avenue
611 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10022
Open: Sunday 11:00am-7:00pm/Monday-Saturday 10:00am-8:30pm
(Great for their public restrooms during business hours)
All the buildings and street art that is mentioned in this walk is done by address and street to make it easy to find. Please note the buildings and pocket parks that you should not miss.