Tag Archives: Grand Central Terminal

Robert Murray Mansion

Day One Hundred and Seventy-One: Walking the Borders of Murray Hill from East 42nd to East 34th Streets from Fifth Avenue to FDR Drive August 13th, 2020

I can’t believe that with all this craziness with COVID-19 I was finally able to get back to walking the neighborhoods of Manhattan. I had not done this since I finished Central Park South before the holidays.

The whole City has morphed since March 13th. It is like a different world. Just like I saw on my recent Broadway walk through neighborhoods that I had seen in the past everything has changed so much. Restaurants and stores that had been part of the City fabric for years have disappeared. Interesting little hole in the wall restaurants that I had enjoyed so much in Turtle Bay and in Midtown are either shut or out of business. I have had to start revisiting neighborhoods just to see if things are still open.

The surprising part of today’s walk is how quiet the City was not just in Murray Hill but all over the place. I did not get into the City until noon and even Times Square at lunch hour was quiet. Port Authority looked like it had less than 50 people in it and it is surreal how quiet most of the restaurants that are open are to customers. This is what happens when there are not tourists. It was like looking at Manhattan through a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode.

Since Murray Hill’s northern border is East 42nd Street, it was an easy walk across town. I had not walked around the neighborhood in about seven months so I revisited a few places on the border of the neighborhood in Turtle Bay and Midtown East.  It was shocking how many places shut their doors for good. It is surreal in that seven months ago these places were going strong. It is almost like Christmas 2019 did not not exist where you could not walk on the sidewalks in Midtown.

I started my morning with a walk through Bryant Park which is right behind the New York Public Library and one of most beautiful small parks in Manhattan. It was one of those really nice Summer mornings and the park was surprisingly busy. The tables and chairs are ‘socially distanced’ and park patrons did their best to stay away from each other. It also has the nicest and cleanest public bathrooms in Manhattan.

Bryant Park in Manhattan

Bryant Park was busy that day

Years ago when I worked in Manhattan in the early 90’s, Bryant Park was only used for drug dealing and criminal activity and was best avoided. What twenty years and a major renovation can do to a park. Today you can walk along the flowering paths and think you are in Paris. In the past there have been concerts and movies in the park but because of COVID-19, you can just sit in the park on a chair or bench and enjoy the sunshine and admire the flowers.

Bryant Park Summer II

Just walking along the paths of Bryant Park can make you forget your troubles

I started my walk of the Murray Hill neighborhood at the New York Public Library admiring the stone carvings and statuary that is part of the entrance of the famous library. The library had just had a recent refreshing and looked magnificent with the fountains flowing and patrons filling the tables outside the building.

New York Public Library

The New York Public Guards the borders of Murray Hill from Fifth Avenue

This famous iconic building was designed by the firm of Carrere and Hastings in the Beaux-Arts style and opened its doors May 23, 1911. The founding for this important library came from patronage of the wealth members of society who believed in the value education and opened it to the people.

The famous lion statues that grace the entrance of the library were designed by American sculptor Edward Clark Potter and they were carved by the Piccirilli Brothers, American stone carvers whose business was based in the Bronx.

Edward Clark Potter is an American born artist who studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and at the Academie Julian in Paris where he studied ‘animalier’, animal sculpture.

Edward Clark Potter artist

Artist Edward Clark Potter

https://allfamous.org/people/edward-clark-potter-18571126.html

The Piccirilli Brothers were a family of stone carvers and artists in their own right who were from Massa, Italy and owned a business in the Bronx. There were responsible for many famous statues all over the City including the Maine Memorial in Columbus Circle and the Firemen’s Memorial in Riverside Park.

Artist Atillio Piccirilli

Artist Attilio Piccirillo , one of the most famous from the family

http://exquisites.org/exquisite-family/Piccirilli-Brothers-001.html

Another feature of the famous building and I had never noticed before was the elegant fountains that flank the entrance to the library. I did not realize that these fountains had just been restored in 2015 after thirty years of not functioning. They were restored with a grant from the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust (NYPL Site).

New York Public Library II

The fountain “Beauty”

New York Public Library III

The fountain “Truth”

These beautiful fountains were designed by artist Frederick MacMonnies, an American born artist who studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.

Frederick MacMonnies artist

Artist Frederick MacMonnies

https://americanart.si.edu/artist/frederick-macmonnies-3059

After having a snack at the tables in front of the library and throwing a few coins in the fountains for good luck, off I went to explore the borders of Murray Hill.

Enjoy the opening scene of “Ghostbusters” from 1984 shot at the NY Public Library:

 

 

Enjoy this scene from “Ghostbusters” from 1984 shot at the NY Public Library

 

 

 

Murray Hill is an interesting neighborhood with a fascinating past. The name “Murray Hill” comes from the Colonial Murray family, who were Quaker merchants and overseas traders. The family was presided by its patriarch, Robert Murray and his wife, Mary Lindley Murray, who raised a family in their home, Inclenberg, which is now the corner of Park Avenue and East 37th Street.

The Murray's home, Inclenberg

The Murray family mansion, Inclenberg, now the corner of Park Avenue and East 37th Street

Mrs. Murray was credited with delaying General William Howe and his army during General Washington’s retreat from New York following the British landing at Kip’s Bay on September 15,1776. According to the family lore, Mrs. Murray invited the officers to tea, treating them to cakes and wine with singing and poetry readings by her daughters, allowing a successful retreat by the Americans to the other side of the island to meet up with another branch of troops (Wiki and American History).

Murray Hill Mansion V

Mrs. Murray entertaining the British troops and hastening the American retreat

The plaque were the spot the house stood sits prominently on the corner of Park Avenue and East 37th Street.

Murray Hill Mansion II

The plaque dedicated to Mary Lindley Murray’s patriotism

I started my trip in exploring the neighborhood walking down East 42nd Street, the northern most border of Murray Hill with the Midtown East and Turtle Bay neighborhoods. East 42nd Street is host to many famous architectural gems of Manhattan starting as you cross Fifth Avenue and head to Grand Central Terminal, the crown jewel of Murray Hill to the north of the neighborhood.

Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal at 89 East 42nd Street

There are still many tourists around the building taking pictures but not like in pre-COVID-19 years where the place is crowds of people milling around. The look of the building is impressive inside and out. The building was designed by the team of Reed and Stem for the overall design and Warren and Wetmore for interior and exterior designs. The detailed sculptures on the exterior was created by the team of Jules Felix Coutan, Sylvain Salieres and Paul Cesar Helleu including the crown gem of sculpture “Glory of Commerce”.

Grand Central Terminal II

The “Glory of Commerce” sits proud above Park Avenue

Artist Jules-Felix Coutan was born in France and had studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. “The Glory of Commerce” was one of his most famous works.

Jules Coutan

Artist Jules-Felix Coutan

https://www.mutualart.com/Artist/Jules-Felix-Coutan/775AABEC87161551

I was not surprised that most of the buildings were now closed to touring. The Chrysler Building looked closed to walk ins, the Ford Building with its indoor gardens and small gallery was closed and walking around Grand Central Station was like an episode of the “Twilight Zone”. There were maybe hundred people milling around with some tourists taking pictures of the ceiling. The downstairs food court which was always nuts at lunch had about three restaurants open and a very bored police officer looking at either a book or a cell phone.

Grand Central Terminal Food Court

The Grand Central Terminal Food  Court is almost closed

The food court on the lower level usually bustling with people have lunch or snacks from the surrounding office buildings is down to about four or five open vendors and even they are no that busy. The only busy place in the food court was the public bathrooms as the few tourists in the City could not find a place to go. When I walked out of the food court to go back to 42nd Street, some guy looked at the famous Oyster Bar restaurant and said to me “I can’t believe this place is closed. It never closes.” The sign on the door of the restaurant said it was closing on March 16th by City order. It is amazing how time still stands still for parts of the City since the reopening. It’s the same in the subway system. There are still posters for things that say “March…”.

Grand Central Terminal IV COVID

The terminal is barely filled these days

Exiting the building’s main entrance, look up closely before you leave and you will see the sculpture of the railroad’s founder, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. I have missed this many times so you have to look on a angle for it. The statue used to sit at the Hudson River Freight Depot which has since been demolished (Wiki and Ernst Plassman bio).

Corne

The statue of Cornelius Vanderbilt the founder of the shipping and railroad empire

The statue was designed by artist Ernst Plassman a German born American artist who moved to New York in 1853. The artist studied under many famous artists in Europe before founding the “Plassman’s School of Art” in New York City in 1854.

Ernst Plassman

Artist Ernst Plassman

https://www.artprice.com/artist/197879/ernst-plassmann/biography

After leaving the surreal Grand Central Terminal with the empty main floor and quiet halls (I can’t wait to see what it looks like again when a vaccine is found), I walked out the main entrance towards East 42nd Street. Pershing Square across the street was busy with what office workers who work in the area and tourists filling the tables of the cafe that was open for business. People really like sitting outside and moving the concept of restaurants to outside dining has made it extremely popular in the nice weather for what restaurants can open under this concept. On a nice day, people don’t mind socially distancing in Murray Hill.

Across the street from Grand Central Station where the now closed Cipriani is the former headquarters of the Bowery Savings Bank. Don’t miss the beautiful details of the bank’s design. This became the new headquarters in 1920 in the move uptown from their former Stanford White designed headquarters in Chinatown. It was designed by York and Sawyer in the ‘Italian Romanesque Style’ with William Lewis Ayres as a partner in the project (Wiki).

Bowery Bank Headquarters Building 110 East 42nd Street

The former Bowery Savings Bank Building at 110 East 42nd Street

Another very interesting building with amazing details is the Chanin Building at 122 East 42nd Street. The building was named after it’s developer Irwin S. Chanin. You have to look close and then across the street again to see its details. The building was developed between 1927-29 and was designed by Sloan & Robertson in the “Art Deco Style” with a brick and terra cotta frontage.

122 East 42nd Street Chanin Building

The Chanin Building at 122 East 42nd Street

I then passed the now closed to tourists Chrysler Building with it Art Deco design and interesting sculptures jutting out. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the building does not encourage people to enter who don’t work there. Still you can read about my earlier visits there last year when walking the Turtle Bay neighborhood.

Chrysler Building in Manhattan

The Chrysler Building at 405 Lexington Avenue

The Chrysler Building was built in the ‘Art Deco’ style by architect William Van Alen for Walter Chrysler, the owner of the company. The building held the title of the “World’s Tallest Building” for 11 months until the completion of the Empire State Building. The building along with 40 Wall Street and the Empire State Building competed for the “Race to the Sky” in 1929 right before the Stock Market Crash of 1929. You really have to look up to see the details to the building and walk its lobby (closed to the public during the pandemic).

Soaring Details of the Chrysler Building

You have to look up high to see this

When the building is open don’t miss the ceiling in the lobby. It is really detailed and the security guards are really cool about letting you take pictures. In Post-COVID they do not want you to enter the building unless you work there. The work shows the ambitions and accomplishments of the business world (The Ornamentalist).

Chrysler Building Lobby

“Transport and Human Endeavor” by artist Edward Turnbull

As you walk down East 42nd Street towards the East River, you will pass The Daily News Building at 220 East 42nd Street. This interesting building was designed by architects Raymond Hood and John Mead Howells in the ‘Art Deco Style’ and built between 1928-1930 to house the Headquarters of the New York Daily News.

Their lobby was open when I was touring the Turtle Bay neighborhood (its now closed to the public) should not be missed with its interesting paintings on the walls and grillwork by the elevators all designed in the ‘Art Deco Style’.

Daily News Building at 220 East 42nd Street

The Daily News Building at 220 East 42nd Street

220 East 42nd Street Daily News Building

Going into their lobby (now closed Post-COVID) is really interesting to see the globe

The Ford Foundation Building is another interesting piece of architecture. The building was created by architects Kevin Roche and John Dinkleloo in the ‘Late Modernist Style”  and was completed in 1968.

Ford Foundation Building

The Ford Foundation Building at 320 East 43rd Street

It includes the most beautiful landscaped courtyard and gardens that are nice to sit in on a long day. The building is currently closed.

Fod Foundation Building

The courtyard at the Ford Foundation building is relaxing

It also contains the Ford Foundation Gallery that opened in March 2019 and offers art with a social justice emphasis.

Ford Foundation Gallery IV

The Ford Foundation Gallery has some interesting art

At the very end of East 42nd Street is Tudor City, one of the earliest examples of a planned middle class communities. Built on what was once a combination of manufacturing and residential area surrounding First Avenue and the East River, architect H. Douglas Ives created Tudor City, named after the ‘Tudor Style’ design of the buildings with gardens, paths, bay windows and arches that make up the details of the buildings. It opened in 1926.

Tudor City II

Tudor City is unique in its design

Its worth the trip up the stairs to the gardens and paths on both parts of the complex. Not part of the original plan of the complex, they were designed by landscape architect Sheffield A. Arnold designing the North Park (Wiki). These cool refuges from the hot sun are nice on a walk around the complex.

Tudor City Greens

The Tudor City Green spaces are nice on a hot day to relax

I also wanted to check out one of my favorite stores in Manhattan, Azalea & Oak, located at 5 Tudor Place but it was closed because of the COVID pandemic but open by appointment only or by internet. Don’t miss this unique children’s and accessory store. It has such interesting merchandise.

Azalea and Oak

Azalea & Oak at 5 Tudor City

When I finally passed all this creative architecture in the ‘open air museum’ of East 42nd Street I got to First Avenue where the United Nations complex is located to the left and Robert Moses Park to the right.

Ralph Bunche Park

Ralph Bunche Park

Before you cross the street, there is a Ralph Bunche Park & Garden, a small garden on the edge of the park named after the Nobel Prize winner, who played a role in many peacekeeping operations sponsored by the United Nations.

 

Ralph Bunche

Nobel Prize winner Diplomat Ralph Bunche

The gardens have gotten a little over grown since my last visit but still very colorful with flowers and plantings still crowding out all the weeds that are beginning to take over. Tucked in the park is a plaque to Bayard Rustin, a American leader of social movements  and who helped organize the ‘Freedom rides’  of the 1960’s (Wiki).

Bayard Rustin

Activist Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin Plaque

The Bayard Rustin Plaque in Ralph Bunche Park

As I crossed the street, I walked around the very sterile Robert Moses Park. For one of our great park system builders and who changed the highway system around New York City, they named one of the most unattractive parks after him. Though the man was far from perfect after reading the book “Power Broker” about his life, he changed the whole way New Yorkers lived. The park somewhat personifies him in the end of being sterile and aloof with the public.

Robert Moses

Robert Moses

Robert Moses Playground

The Robert Moses Playground is somewhat sterile and aloof

As I toured the parks the worst part is that the bathrooms here are closed to the public so I had to keep walking to find somewhere to go. The border of the East River with FDR Drive I would not suggest walking down. You will walk down a combination of First Avenue and FDR Drive until you get to the East River Esplanade at East 36th Street, then you get the cool breezes of the river and the beautiful views of the Brooklyn coast. Its nice on a hot day to sit back and enjoy the sunshine and cools breezes.

East River Esplanade

The East River Esplanade snakes from East 41st Street to East 34th Street

When I walked to East 34th Street, I came across another plaque that more to do with the history of Murray Hill, the Kips Bay (Keps Bay) landing of the British army to Manhattan. On September 15th, 1776,  the British landed their army here in an ambitious military landing in what the type was a deep water cover surrounded by a meadow. This lead to the retreat of the American militia to another part of the island  (Wiki). Today it is one of the boat landings for the New York ferry system and a start off point to walk the esplanade.

Kip's Bay landing by the British

The Kip’s Bay landing by the British on September 15th, 1776

I walked all along the esplanade, enjoying the views and watching people walk their dogs and jogging like nothing was happening around them. It also offers the most breathtaking views of the Brooklyn skyline that keeps changing.

I give New Yorkers credit for their resilience. There are some people who go about life like nothing is going on around them  but just doing it with a mask on. That does give me faith that things are getting somewhat back to normal.

When exiting the Esplanade and walking up the FDR extension, there is an interesting and very relaxing public square at 626 East 36th Street and FDR Drive next to the American Copper Buildings. It is a nice place to relax on the benches and just people come and go.

626 First Avenue Plaza

The little plaza by 626 First Avenue is a nice place to just sit and relax

I finally got to East 34th Street by the Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital later that afternoon and was surprised to find such a playful piece of art just outside. “Spot” is a dalmatian balancing a taxi on his nose is located just outside the Children’s Hospital’s doors. “I wanted to make something so astounding to distract to even those arriving with the most serious procedures” (Artist Bio) the artist was quoted as saying when the piece was unveiled. It sits four stories in front of the hospital. It is a very playful piece of art that stopped me in my tracks.

Dog balancing a taxi on his nose

“Spot” by artist Donald Lipski

Artist Donald Lipski is an American born artist who is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Cranbrook Academy of Art. He is best known for his large scale works in public places (Artist’s Bio).

Donald Lipski artist

Artist Donald Lipski

http://www.donaldlipski.net/

I reached East 34th Street by lunch hour and I have to say for around a hospital there is a limited choice of take out places around the facility. Most of the restaurants in the area are still closed or have gone out of business. Even before the pandemic, some parts of the neighborhood are being knocked down for new construction and work continued as I visited taking down many of the smaller buildings that used to house small restaurants.

I had lunch at Pizza & Pita at 344 East 34th Street right across the street from the small park that faces the hospital. I just wanted a slice of pizza and when I walked in a fresh pie had just come out. The pizza looked as good as it tasted.

Pizza & Pita Pizzeria at 344 East 34th Street

Pizza & Pita at 344 East 34th Street

The sauce has an amazing rich flavor and the loaded with cheese for a gooey consistency. I was so impressed by the pizza that I went back later that afternoon for a Chicken Parmesan sandwich that was just as good. Two large freshly fried chicken cutlets loaded with their delicious sauce and loads of cheese on a fresh roll. It was heaven in every bite.

Pizza Town USA III

The pizza here is great!

I just relaxed and ate my lunch in the small public plaza across the street from the hospital and watched as the hospital staff came out from their frustrating days and ate their lunches beside me. It seemed to do them well.

While at lunch I admired another interesting art piece entitled “Stemmer” by New York City born American artist David Fried.

Stemmer

“Stemmer” at the plaza at East 34th Street and First Avenue

The artist grew up in New York City and attended the School of Art & Music and was accepted into the Arts Students League of New York. The “Stemmers” sculptures is one of his trademark pieces.

Artist David Fried

Artist David Fried

http://www.davidfried.com/

After lunch, I continued my walk down East 34th Street to the border of Murray Hill at Fifth Avenue. The neighborhood is very ‘old New York’ especially between First and Madison Avenues with the small buildings and high rises from the 1960’s and 70’s. The area is currently going through a make over with new buildings but it still has that “Woody Allen” feel of New York. Everything is not gleaming and new.

Tucked here and there by buildings and courtyards on East 34th Street is a bevy of interesting street art. The statue “Thinking Big” which was formally in Central Park South on Sixth Avenue last year has found a home in front of 222 East 34th Street.

Thinking Big

“Thinking Big” by artist Jim Rennet

Artist Jim Rennet

Artist Jim Rennert with one of his works

https://www.jimrennert.com/

Jim Rennert is an American born artist known for his large bronze sculptures depicting the everyday man. Mostly self-taught, his works are seen all over the country and really do make a statement.

Walking further down East 34th Street just outside a little courtyard of one of the apartment buildings is artist John Sewart Johnson’s II sculpture “The Right Light”, a bronze sculpture of an artist and his easel. The sculpture is located just outside a building between Third and Lexington Avenues.

The Right Light

‘The Right Light’ by artist John Sewart Johnson II

John Seward Johnson II artist

Artist John Sewart Johnson II

https://www.groundsforsculpture.org/artists/j-seward-johnson/

Artist John Seward Johnson II was an American artist who attended the University of Maine and he is known for his ‘familiar man’ sculptures and icons paintings.

I reached Madison Avenue and walked past the grill work of another interesting office building. The Madison Belmont Building at 181 Madison Avenue was built in 1924 and designed by architects Warren & Wetmore in the Renaissance style with Art Deco details for the Cheney Brothers Silk Company.

Madison Belmont Building

“The Madison Belmont Building” at 181 Madison Avenue

Madison Belmont Building

Look up at the interesting grill work and details of the building

Reaching the border of Murray Hill to the south is the former B. Altman Department Store that closed in 1989 and in the other corner is the Empire State Building, once the tallest building in the world.

B. Altman & Co. II

The B. Altman Building at 361 Fifth Avenue was built by Benjamin Altman for the new location for his ‘carriage trade’ store. The store was designed by architects Trowbridge & Livingston in the “Italian Renaissance Style” in 1906. The palatial store was home to couture clothing, fine furniture and expensive art work.

The B. ALt

The former B. Altman Department Store at 361 Fifth Avenue

As the shopping district left Sixth Avenue below 23rd Street, the former “Ladies Shopping Mile” (read my Victorian Christmas Blog on the shopping district) gave way to stores opening between 34th Street to 42nd Street and eventually to the Fifth Avenue locations between 50th and 60th Streets where what is left of the great stores stand today.

My blog on the Ladies Shopping Mile and a “Victorian Christmas”:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/8117

As I walked up Fifth Avenue, the western border of the neighborhood, I was struck by all the other beautiful buildings that must have housed fine retail stores as the shopping district moved to this area.

At the corner of Fifth Avenue and West 36th Street is 390 Fifth Avenue that was designed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White for the Gorham Manufacturing Company of fine silver products in 1903. It was designed in the “Italian Renaissance Style” and was used for manufacturing and their showroom. It later became Russeks Department store and has now found other uses.

390 Fifth Avenue The Gorham Building

390 Fifth Avenue-The Gorham Manufacturing Building

Another standout building is 383 Fifth Avenue. These two interesting twin buildings were built in the mid-1800’s as private homes and then converted to office space in the 1890’s.

381-383 Fifth Avenue

381-383 Fifth Avenue

Further up is the dazzling 373 Fifth Avenue which was built in 1800’s for the home of Charles H. Russell when the area was dominated by great mansions. As one by one the mansions were razed for commercial use, the home was razed in 1906 and architects Hunt & Hunt built the current office building in 1906 for  Joseph Fahys & Company and for silversmiths Alvin Manufacturing Company (Daytonian).

373 Fifth Avenue

373 Fifth Avenue-The Alvin Building

Walking further up Fifth Avenue into the 400 block, more unique buildings fascinated me. The first that has always caught my eye is 401 Fifth Avenue, the old Tiffany & Company building. The building was designed for the company by Stamford White of McKim, Mead & White and was completed in 1905. The building was used by the jewelry store until 1940 when it moved to its new location further up Fifth Avenue. The building was inspired by the Palazzo Grimani de San Luca in Venice, Italy (Wiki).

401 Fifth Avenue-The Tiffany Building

401 Fifth Avenue-The Tiffany Building

Another standout building further up is 411 Fifth Avenue with its interesting trim and sculpture along the sides and top of the building. This building was built in 1915 again by the architectural firm of Warren & Wetmore with what was considered baroque trim  that included urns, flowers and heads with facial reliefs (Daytonian). The building was used for small luxury manufacturing for things like millinery, lace and silversmiths. Today it is used as an office building.

411 Fifth Avenue

411 Fifth Avenue

Approaching the New York Public Library again, I passed what were some of the great department stores along the Fifth Avenue retail corridor that once dominated between 34th and 42nd Streets.

The former Lord & Taylor headquarters store that opened in 1914 just recently closed with a sale to the now imploded WeWorks company and was just sold to Amazon for 985 million dollars. This former ‘grand carriage trade’ store replaced the former headquarters store at Broadway and 20th Street by Union Square and opened at this location at 424-434 Fifth Avenue. The 11 story building was designed by architects Starrett & Van Vleck in the ‘Italian Renaissance Revival’. The store closed for business in January of 2019 after over one hundred years in the location.

424-434 Fifth Avenue-Lord & Taylor

424-434 Fifth Avenue The Lord & Taylor Building

Lord & Taylor Department Store

Lord & Taylor was founded in New York City in 1826 and has moved around the City several times in its long history. I will miss walking around the store and wondering through the store at Christmas time which was always magical in the store’s heyday. I like everyone in the City will miss their Christmas windows.

Lord & Taylor Christmas Windows

I’m not sure if Amazon will continue this tradition

Another great retailer was at 452 Fifth Avenue, the former home to Knox Hat Company which was incorporated into the HSBC Tower in 1984. The glass tower was built around the Beaux Arts building for the HSBC and it was considered an architectural marvel when it opened. The Knox Building was built in 1902 and is considered on of the finest examples of ‘Beaux Arts style’ in Manhattan.

452 Fifth Avenue-The Knox Hat Company Building

452 Fifth Avenue-The Knox Hat Company Building part of the HSBC Building

The Knox Hat Company was considered one of the finest hat companies for men when it was founded in 1838. It once had 62 retail stores and was sold in all the finest stores. It did not survive the Great Depression and was merged with three other companies in 1932 to form Hat Corporation of American (Hat Co) (Bernard Hats history).

The last interesting building I saw before returning to the library to relax by the fountains again was 454 Fifth Avenue at 40th Street, the old Arnold Constable & Company department store.

Arnold Constable & Company building

Fifth Avenue at 40th Street-Arnold Constable & Company Department store

The building opened in 1915 and closed when the company went out of business in 1975. It is now part of the New York Public Library. Arnold Constable & Company was founded in 1825 and was considered one of the oldest stores in New York City. The building was created as the shopping district moved further uptown.

I finished my day back at the tables in front of the New York Public Library and then back in Bryant Park to relax under a tree. God did it pour that afternoon as I made my  way around the streets surrounding Murray Hill. I did not realize not just the rich history of the neighborhood and its role in the Revolutionary War but the treasure trove of street art and unique buildings that line its avenues.

You really do learn something new every day!

 

Don’t Miss my blogs on the Turtle Bay neighborhood just north as well:

Walking the Streets of Turtle Bay-Day One Hundred and Forty:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/9245

Walking the Borders of Turtle Bay-Day one Hundred and Thirty-Eight:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/9125

 

 

 

Places to Eat:

 

Pizza & Pita Halal Food

344 East 34th Street

New York, NY  10016

(212) 679-6161

https://www.pizzaandpita.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4727274-Reviews-Pizza_Pita-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

 

Places to Visit:

 

New York Public Library

476 Fifth Avenue

New York, NY  10018

(917) 275-6975

https://www.nypl.org/locations/schwarzman

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d116236-Reviews-New_York_Public_Library-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Bryant Park

Between Fifth and Sixth Avenues on West 42nd and West 40th Streets

New York, NY  10018

Open: Sunday-Saturday 7:00am-9:00pm

https://bryantpark.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d136347-Reviews-Bryant_Park-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Grand Central Terminal/Food Court

89 East 42nd Street

New York, NY  10017

(212) 464-8255 (tours)

Grand Central Terminal

Open: Sunday-Saturday During the hours of service 5:15am-2:00am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d103371-Reviews-Grand_Central_Terminal-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Ralph Bunche Park

First Avenue & East 42nd Street

New York, NY  10017

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/ralph-bunche-park

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-1:00am

 

Public Plaza at 626 First Avenue

New York, NY 10016

https://americancopper.nyc/

 

East River Esplanade

This part of the Esplanade is at East 34th Street

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/east-river-esplanade_36-to-38

 

Robert Moses Playground

East 42nd Street & First Avenue

New York, NY 10016

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/robert-moses-playground

Open: Sunday-Saturday 7:00am-6:00pm (please check website in Post-COVID times)

 

Ford Foundation Gallery at the Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice/Gardens

320 East 43rd Street

New York, NY  10017

(212) 573-5000

https://www.fordfoundation.org/about/the-ford-foundation-center-for-social-justice/ford-foundation-gallery/

Open:  Sunday Closed/Monday-Saturday 11:00am-6:00pm

Fee: Free to the public

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d615514-Reviews-Ford_Foundation_Building-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/visitingamuseum.com/2986

 

 

Places to Shop:

 

Azalea & Oak (Temporarily closed-please call their number for orders)

5 Tudor City

New York, NY  10017

(212) 922-0700

http://www.azaleaandoak.com

@azaleaoak

https://www.azaleaandoak.com/

Open: Sunday Closed/Monday-Saturday 11:00am-6:30pm

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/265

 

 

I left the addresses and locations of the buildings and street art that I found in the full body of the blog. Remember don’t miss looking up and admiring the ‘open air’ museum that is free when walking on the sidewalks.

 

 

 

The Helmsley Building Clock

Day One Hundred & Forty-Five: Walking the Avenues of Midtown East Park & Madison Avenues from East 43rd Street to East 59th Streets September 5th, 2019

I have been running in and out of the City since I started teaching classes again at the college and had a ‘bucket list’ of small museums that I wanted to visit for my blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com” and restaurants I wanted to try before the Summer was over. So there was a lot of running around the last several weeks. That’s why the blogs come out a little later than usual.

I got back to finishing my walk around ‘Midtown East’ by walking the only two Avenues inside the neighborhoods borders, Madison and Park Avenues from East 43rd Street (which hugs the Turtle Bay neighborhood) and East 59th Street (which hugs the Upper East Side & Sutton Place). On the Avenues in this part of the neighborhood is mostly residential and commercial spaces with rows glass boxes on some streets and limestone and marble residential buildings one the others. There is a lot of sameness in the architecture here but don’t let that fool you. There are a lot of interesting things to see and places to visit in this very much working modern neighborhood.

My walk started on Madison Avenue’s commercial district at the start of East 43rd Street where a giant new glass box is being created right next to Grand Central Station. Probably not Mr. Vanderbilt’s vision for the area but I think he would have been impressed by the progress the area has experienced in the last 100 years.

My first stop is admiring and walking into the headquarters of Brooks Brothers Clothing store at 346 Madison Avenue, one of the most American and famous clothing stores in the United States. Stepping into Brooks Brothers is like a step back into time when shopping was still experience and customer service actually meant something. Their displays are elegant without being stuffy.

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The elegant displays at Brooks Brothers main floor

The store was designed by architects La Farge & Morris in 1915 the Italian Renaissance design with prominent arched entrances, wrought iron arches and carved limestone details around the building. You can see the detail work in the cornices that line the top of the building.

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The Brooks Brothers headquarters at 346 Madison Avenue

Another great clothing store is Paul Stuart at Madison Avenue and East 45th Street. The store has been in business since 1938 and carries some of the most impressive clothing and accessories for Men and Women.

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Paul Stuart Specialty Store at Madison & East 45th Street

The store was a privately held family business until December of 2012 and then it was sold it’s long time partner, Mitsui. The store has changed a lot since the sale. It once had some of the best customer service in all the specialty stores in Manhattan but when I went to visit on this trip in my shorts and polo, the three sales people on the floor at the time ignored me. It’s not the same store with the orange carpet and older, more mature salespeople.

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The Men’s Department after the renovation

When you get to Madison and 55th Street, watch for the security as this is the back section of Trump Tower and East 55th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues is blocked off by barriers and armed NYPD detectives and police. Only one side of the street is open here so it is best to keep walking.

Another impressive building on Madison Avenue is at 550 Madison Avenue, the old AT&T Building with its signature ‘Chippendale’ roof. This building was considered radical and innovative at the same time when AT&T built it to house their world headquarters. The 37 story building was designed by famed architect Philip Johnson  in 1984 in the postmodern design. Critics called it ‘Chippendale’ after the famed furniture due to the ‘open pediment’ look of the top of the building based on English furniture design (Wiki). The building is currently have some lobby renovations that I passed.

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550 Madison Avenue

Next to the AT&T Building is the IBM Building at 590 Madison Avenue. This 41 story building was built in 1983 by architect Edward Larrabee Barnes & Associates and developed by IBM and designed in the post-modern design (Wiki).

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The IBM Building at 590 Madison Avenue & East 57th Street

Because of the zoning laws established in 1916, there is a beautiful and relaxing open atrium filled with food kiosis and art work for the public to enjoy on the ground level. It is a nice place to relax after a long walk. Take time to admire the art works that line the atrium.

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The Atrium at the IBM Building

One piece of art that stands out is the red geometric sculpture on the corner of Madison and East 57th Street is the great artist Alexander Calder “Saurien” (which is a large reptile), that was created by the artist in his studio in 1975. This is an example of Calder’s “Stoic”  work and were called ‘stabiles’ because these abstract works, unlike his floating works of art, stand strongly and firmly into the ground (Art Nerd 2018).

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The Alexander Calder sculpture, “Saurien”

Walk around this wonderful work by Calder and try to take a breath and understand what the artist was trying to say. It is almost like all the ‘legs’ on the sculpture are trying to show stability and contrast.

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American Artist Alexander Calder

http://www.calder.org/

Inside the atrium, there are two interesting pieces of artwork that standout. There are two colorful acrylic apples that are done in colorful motifs that you should not miss. The sculptures were created in 2004 for the “Big Apple Fest” to promote the City’s tourism. Companies paid $8,500.00 to sponsor  and $12,500 to keep the apples in which artists were allowed to decorate inside or outside.

One of them is entitled “A Day in the Big Apple” by an artist named Billy.

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‘A Day in the Big Apple’ by artist Billy

The other is of a colorful face by artist Romero Britto entitled “New York Future”.

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“New York Future” by artist Romero Britto

Romero Britto is a Brazilian born American artist whose colorful works elude the optimism the artist has on his view of the world. He uses bold and colorful patterns to enhance his works (Artist Bio).

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Brazilian Artist Romero Britto

Homepage

When you reach the edge of the neighborhood at East 59th Street, you are greeted by the former GM Building that stretches from Fifth to Madison Avenues.  This elegant 50 story building once represented the presence of GM in New York City. It was designed by the architectural firms of Edward Durell Stone & Associates and Emery Roth & Sons in 1968. It was designed in the “International Style” and stands guard at the end of the commercial district of Midtown East and the Upper East Side.

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The GM Building stands guard at 767 Fifth Avenue

As you cross back down Madison Avenue on East 59th Street, you will notice the ever changing retail landscape and all the empty storefronts on this part of Madison Avenue. Twenty years ago this would not have existed but it is a sign of the times.

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The details of the Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street

Another interesting building to admire is the Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street on the corner of Madison Avenue. The building was created for the Fuller Construction Company in 1929 by architects Walker & Gillette in the ‘Art Deco Style’. The buildings exterior sculptures were designed by architect Elie Nadelman. Look at the interesting details not just on the outside of the building but walk into the lobby to take a look around (Wiki).

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The Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street

One of the great hotels in New York City stands guard at 455 Madison Avenue and 50th Street, the New York Palace Hotel (formerly the Helmsley Palace Hotel) which is a combination of an old mansion and the modern building behind it. The front of the building facing Madison Avenue is the former Villard Mansion.

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New York Palace Hotel at 455 Madison Avenue

The front of the hotel is the “Villard Houses” created in 1882 for Henry Villard, a railroad financier, who worked with the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White to create a series of six brownstone townhouses facing a courtyard in the ‘Italian Neo-Renaissance style’. Developer Harry Hemsley leased the houses and hired Emery Roth & Sons to create the 55 story modern hotel in the back of the houses.

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The Villard Houses part of the New York Palace Hotel

The hotel opened in 1981 as the notorious ‘Helmsley Palace Hotel’ with hotelier Leona Helmsley in charge. Considered one of the best hotels at the time, it was a five star/five diamond hotel (with one of the most nervous staffs in New York City). The hotel has been owned by Lotte Hotels & Resorts since 2015.

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The inside of the New York Palace Hotel, the Villard Houses

Take time to walk through the hotel from the East 50th Street entrance to the East 49th Street exit and walk around the public rooms and admire the architectural details from the Gilded Age. There are elegant features from staircases to marble fireplaces and the most beautiful views on Madison Avenue.

 

I found this pardony of the Helmsley Hotel on YouTube. It is very clever.

 

Another older hotel that stands out is the Roosevelt Hotel at 45 East 45th Street at the corner of Madison Avenue and East 45th Street. It stands guard next to Grand Central Station.  The hotel opened in 1924 and was designed by the architectural firm of George P. Post & Son for businessman, Frank A. Dudley and it was ran by United Hotels Company from a leased agreement with the New York Central Railroad. Like the other hotels that line Lexington Avenue, there used to be a separate passageway from the railroad to the hotel (Wiki).

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The Roosevelt Hotel at 45 East 45th Street

This is similar hotel to take the time to walk through the lobby and look at the vaulted ceilings and the Gilded Age details of the hotels with its thick carpets and elegant staircases. The hotel has a somewhat dark, more European feel to it. There is a lobby restaurant when open that looks pretty interesting.

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The entrance to the lobby at the Roosevelt Hotel

As you walk around Grand Central Terminal and through the archway pedestrian tunnels that lead to Park Avenue from East 45th to East 46th Streets, you will be traveling under the Helmsley Building at 230 Park Avenue that stands guard at the beginning to the business and residential neighborhood of Park Avenue.

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The Helmsley Building at 230 Park Avenue

The Helmsley Building was built in 1929 as the New York Central Building for the rail company and was designed by architects Warren & Wetmore, who also designed Grand Central Terminal, in the ‘Beaux-Arts style’. Take time to admire the statuary around the clock that dominates its front and the beautiful stone detail work of the exterior of the building.

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The beautiful details of the Helmsley Building on Park Avenue

The New York Central used the building as its starting point of “Terminal City”, a series of buildings and hotels that the railroad developed on the top of the rail line (Wiki). The true beauty of The Helmsley Building is at night when the owners put on a light show illuminating the building with colorful spotlights.

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The Helmsley Building light show after dark

All along Park Avenue is a series of ‘glass boxes’ for office buildings and residential towers that line the Avenue all the way up to East 96th Street at the exit of the rail line. Along the way, there are some interesting examples of architecture that line Park Avenue.

The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel  at 301 Park Avenue is currently closed and under scaffolding awaiting its new life as a small hotel and condo complex. The hotel, as mentioned in previous blogs in ‘MywalkinManhattan’, was built and opened in 1931. It was designed by the architectural firm of Schultz & Weaver in the ‘Art Deco style’ and is probably one of the most famous and talked about hotels in New York City outside the Plaza Hotel (Wiki). There have been so many movies and TV shows filmed and written about the hotel to count and the restaurants inside the hotel were some of the better ones in New York City. The building will open sometime in the future.

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The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at 301 Park Avenue

St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church at 325 Park Avenue is one of the older buildings on Park Avenue and stands alone amongst the bigger buildings on this part of Avenue.  Though the congregation was started in 1835, this structure was built between 1916-17 and designed by Bertram Goodhue, who had designed the St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue (See Walking the Border of Midtown East-MywalkinManhattan). The church was designed in the ‘Byzantine Revival Design’ and he was required by the congregation to retain the old church portal from the former church on Madison Avenue and East 44th Street in the new church design (Wiki).

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‘St. Bart’s’ Church at 325 Park Avenue

Look at the details of the old church and the stained glass windows. In the Summer months, there is a wonderful (yet somewhat over-priced) restaurant in the courtyard of the church and there are art markets during the Summer and Christmas holiday season that you should visit. There is also afternoon music at certain times of the year.

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St. Bart’s restaurant and terrace during the summer

One standout, innovative building on Park Avenue sits between East 52nd and 53rd Streets is the Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue. The building and its exterior designs was created by German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with the interior Four Seasons Restaurant designed by American architect Philip Johnson.

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The Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue

This 38 story building of wonder was innovative in its time. Finished in 1958 as the corporate headquarters of Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, the building was noted for its ‘functional aesthetics’ and a prominent example of ‘corporate modern architecture’. Keeping up with modern building codes, the architect used ‘non-structural bronze I-beams and large glass windows’ to create the cool and well toned exterior structure of the building (Wiki).

Also utilizing the 1916 building code and the new use of open public spaces, the building was one of the first in New York City to embrace the open air plaza that was prevalent in the 1980’s and early 90’s design. It was an extremely innovative design at the time and still sets the standard for the modern ‘glass box’.

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Seagram Building plaza, innovative to its time

One of the last stand out buildings that I saw on Park Avenue before my walk back down the Avenue was at 465 Park Avenue, The Ritz Tower, an apartment hotel. This elegant residential building stands out because of its details on the exterior of the building and I later learned it was once home to the famous French restaurant, La Pavilion.

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The Ritz Plaza at 465 Park Avenue

This elegant building was designed by architects Emory Roth and Thomas Hastings for journalist Arthur Brisbane, who was the developer. The apartment hotel was managed by the Ritz-Carlton Company. The exterior of the building has many carved stone features so look closely from the other side of Park Avenue to admire the detail work. Don’t stare too long because the doorman gets a suspicious look if you look too long. He kept looking me over as I admired the building and the read the plaques.

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Look at the elegant details of the Ritz Tower

Up and down the Park Avenue Mall is the work of artist Alex Katz “Park Avenue Departure”, of which it looks like the back of a woman who is walking away from some place. The work is a depiction of the artist’s wife, Ada. Each of the works along the mall is changed slightly to show the sculpture in motion as if it is walking down the mall. This street art exhibition will run through November 2019 (The Fund for Park Avenue).

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Alex Katz’s Park Avenue Mall exhibit “Park Avenue Departure”

Alex Katz is an American artist

https://www.alexkatz.com/

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American artist Alex Katz who was born in Brooklyn, NY and is a graduate of Cooper Union Art College. His long career has seen many changes in art form and today some of his concentrations are in landscape and portraiture. His work can be seen in museums all over the world.

For lunch and dinner that afternoon, I ate at Hop Won Chinese Noodle Shop at 139 East 45th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues (See reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). After a long day of walking, I treated myself to a plate of mixed roasted meats, duck and pork, with a side of rice ($9.00) and an egg roll ($1.38). Their roasted meats are a laquered delight with the rich, crackling skin of the duck worth every bite. The food here is delicious and so reasonable for Midtown East.

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Don’t miss Hop Won at 139 East 45th Street

By the end of the evening, I got a chance to double back around the Helmsley Building and look at the detail work of that structure as well and then walked up and down the tiny Vanderbilt Avenue between East 45th and 47th Streets that line next to Grand Central Terminal. The most notable building on this block is the Yale Club at 50 Vanderbilt Avenue. The famous clubhouse was designed by Yale Alumnus and architect James Gramble Rodgers and it opened in 1915.

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The Yale Club at 50 Vanderbilt Avenue; notice the plaque to Nathan Hale on the bottom left

The most notable item outside the club is the historical mark where supposedly Patriot Nathan Hale was hung. There is a conflict to where it actually took place and there is another site on the Upper East Side (See Walking the Upper East Side Streets in MywalkinManhattan), where that plaque is outside the local Pier One. I personally like that theory better. Where else in American could a Patriot of the Revolutionary War be hung in that two hundred years later would house a retailer that sells Christmas chukkas made in China?

That’s what I love about Manhattan!

 

I have enclosed all the addresses to the interesting buildings you should visit above to make it easier then doing them one by one.

 

Things to see:

Alex Katz “Park Avenue Departure”

http://www.alexkatz.com/

https://fundforparkavenue.org/pages/sculpture

A little video on Alex Katz’s work

 

Places to Eat:

Hop Won Chinese Noodle Shop

139 East 45th Street

New York, NY  10017

(212) 867-4996

https://hopwonrestaurant.netwaiter.com/

http://www.wohopchinese.com/

Open: Sunday Closed/Monday-Friday 10:00am-8:45pm/Saturday 11:00am-7:30pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4760804-Reviews-Hop_Won_Restaurant-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/2019/08/10/hop-won-chinese-noodle-shop-139-east-45th-street-new-york-ny-10017/

My review in MywalkinManhattan.com:

https://mywalkinmanhattan.com/tag/hop-won-chinese-noodle-shop/