Tag Archives: Grant’s Tomb

Day Seventy-Nine: Walking the border of Manhattan Valley from West 110th Street to West 96th Street from Riverside Drive to Central Park West July 16, 2017

I walked a tremendous amount of miles today. I had wanted to see three cultural sites before I left the Harlem area. I wanted to visit the Museum of Arts & Letters, The Studio Art Museum of Harlem and Grant’s Tomb. So my trip on this hot Sunday started at the 157th Street One Subway station. I had wanted to start at the Museum of Arts & Letters.

The whole campus that the museum shares with the Hispanic Society was closed for renovation,  so I walked from 155th Street to 122nd Street to tour the Grants Tomb National Memorial. The tomb is open only at certain times so I wanted to get to the park early.

It has only been three months since I left this part of Harlem and a lot has changed. Even I can’t keep up with all the changes as I was walking down Broadway. Many of the businesses that I passed have since closed. Many of the storefronts as you get closer to the SUNY campus around 140th Street to about 132nd Street have converted to small trendy restaurants and clothing stores. Many of the older businesses that had catered to the neighborhood Hispanic customer now have ‘For Rent’ signs or are being updated for a more diverse customer.  I had seen this happen in the short time I was walking Inwood in upper Manhattan.

When I got to Grant’s Tomb at 122nd Street (See TripAdvisor review and story on my blog ‘VisitingaMuseum’), there were already a couple parties going on around the park area. On a nice day, there are always birthday parties for kids in the park around the tomb. People in the neighborhood love to spend time with their families here and in the other parts that surround the area.

There were not that many people touring the tomb and the building itself so it was nice to take my time. Designed by architect John Hemenway Duncan in 1883 and the tomb was dedicated on April, 1897 on the 75th Anniversary of President Grant’s birth. The President’s remains were placed here right before the dedication and his wife was buried here in 1902 (Wiki/NYC Parks).

The vaults are amazing with paintings on the ceiling of scenes of his life that were put up in recent years. The crypts of him and his wife, Julia,  are on the bottom level of the tomb surrounded by the busts of generals that fought in the Civil War with him. It does not take that long to tour the tomb or the gift shop. I learned a lot about our 18th President Grant by watching a film on him. I never knew at the end that he died broke and what saved the family were his memoirs. Amazing the things that happen in peoples lives in the end.

After the tour of the tomb, I walked down to the Studio Art Museum of Harlem and toured several of the exhibitions.  The museum is located at 144 West 125th Street (See review on TripAdvisor and on my blog “Visitingamuseum”) and is open for viewing for free on Sundays with the support of Target Stores. The museum is small and only take about an hour to two hours to see all the exhibitions which is nice. Some museums the exhibitions are endless and it takes hours to see and absorb everything. The Studio Art Museum exhibitions are detailed but on a smaller scale.

I was able to see artist Rico Gatson’s exhibition on 70’s influenced art, Jamel Shabazz’s exhibition of photo’s around 125th Street, which I don’t know if you could do today without releases and the “Regard the Figure” exhibition, which is in the front of the gallery on figures that influenced the curator. All were very interesting and had their own unique perspective of the culture. I was able to get through all three exhibitions in less than two hours. After viewing the exhibits, I sat on their outside patio to relax for awhile. It was a hot day and I just needed to cool off in the shade. There had been a nice crowd in the museum that afternoon.

After the Art Studio of Harlem, I walked down to the business district of 116th Street and went for some lunch. Like the rest of Harlem, things are opening and closing so fast you can’t keep up with them. Half the customers on 116th Street are White and Asian. A lot of people from Columbia University and the Upper West Side who are starting to come to this area to eat. There are many innovative restaurants opening up on the 116th Street row.

I had lunch at Harlem Pizza Company, 135th West 116th Street, a restaurant that I had passed and had read online that was very good (See review on TripAdvisor). The pizza was wonderful and the service was very friendly and welcoming. I sat in the outdoor seating area and it had cooled down a bit since it was later in the afternoon.

The restaurant is excellent and I highly recommend it. I had a personal 12 inch pizza with sausage and soppressata that was perfectly cooked, the meats and sauce were highly spiced and was gooey and delicious. It was nice to just eat and watch the world walk by. It is a very relaxing that afternoon.

My next stage of the walk included walking Manhattan Valley, another name for the Upper Upper West Side. This area includes from West 110th Street from Riverside Drive to the West and Central Park North to the East and West 96th Street to the South. I was able to ring the neighborhood and work off breakfast and lunch at the same time.

I started the later part of the afternoon walking from Morningside Park to Central Park West. God, was the park busy. There must have been four birthday parties, two barbecues, five basketball games, a soccer game and a softball league playing in various areas of the park.

A lot has changed in this side of town in the last 25 years. It is a major change from the mid-80’s when most of this area was abandoned. I remember seeing pictures of this area in the late 80’s and all through the 90’s and it was not such a nice area. Most of the housing was run down, Riverside Park was over-grown and sensible people did not travel above 86th Street.

I had dinner with a vendor my last year at Macy’s in 1995 on 92nd Street and the vendors and my boss at the time said to take the subway to 86th and walk up. I took it to 96th and walked down and even then I could see what they were talking about. It was run down but didn’t seem dangerous. Two weekends later I got adventurous and walked up to Columbia University. Those were the years where fences were put on the entrances to Morningside Park.  A lot of the buildings were abandoned and boarded up by 100th and the further you got from Central Park the worse it got. I had even overheard two Columbia students talking about the fires in buildings across Morningside Park the evening before. You would not see any of that today.

I was not surprised on how nice it was to walk around now. This area has improved so much in the last thirty years and keeps getting nicer and more expensive. Pretty much everything until the 130’s on this side of the island is getting a facelift. The east side of the island over 100th is more juxtaposed. All along Fredrick Douglas Boulevard, Malcolm X Boulevard and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard new restaurants, cafe’s and shops have opened catering to a diverse group of New Yorkers.

I started my walk down Central Park West, walking past the apartments on the other side of the park. Everything has changed so much up here. Almost all the apartments facing the Central Park now are luxury homes and apartment buildings sandblasted back to their original elegance. Each building has its own unique style. The best part of them is there view of the park must be amazing.

I passed some unusual historical sites and art work along the way. At the entrance of the subway station at Broadway and 96th Street is a statue of a woman holding her child by the artist, Joy Brown. This very whimsical statue is part of a collection of statues that line Broadway and a map is provided at each site to find them. Some of the people thought it might be the Madonna and child. I guess everyone has their interpretation of it. There were a lot of families taking pictures by it when I was there.

At the corner of 96th Street and West End Avenue is a plaque to Teresa Carseno, a famous pianist who lived at the Delha Robbins Apartments back at the turn of the last century. I had no clue how famous she was but she had travelled over the world performing and had interesting relationships that spread to four husbands. She was quite the character at the turn of the last century.

When I made the turn around at 96th Street, there is no exit so be prepared to walk down to 95th Street and go under the tunnel by Riverside Park. Go under and around and take some time to walk through Riverside Park and take in the view.  I had walked through this area last summer on my way up to 155th Street after some time at the American Museum of Natural History. It is nice to see the park in full bloom again.

I passed the Firemen’s Memorial at Riverside Drive at 100th Street and the Shiron Shonia Memorial at 105th Street. I have seen these before and the Firemen’s Memorial means a lot to me being a fireman. Its nice to see the memorial being visited and flowers being left. The Shonin memorial was dedicated to Buddhism.

Along Riverside Drive between 107th and 108th Street, there is a majestic set of mansions that line Riverside Park. These are going under renovation but still the detail work on these homes is very elegant and must have been something when they were built at the turn of the last century. They stand out amongst all the apartment buildings that line the park.

As I turned around at 110th Street and walked back around the same route on the other side of the street. One of the most beautiful spots along Riverside Avenue is between 96th and 97th Streets with a line of shade trees that must be over 100 years old. It is just so graceful and humbling to see these huge trees and the way they shade and lead the path down this part of the sidewalk. Its nature at its best.

I passed Central Park on the park side of Central Park West and when you reach around 100th Street, you see the rock formations that line the avenue.  This is a result of the last Ice Age and I had seen similar formations uptown. Again this is when you realize that Manhattan is not flat. Nature takes over when you see the trees and plants growing through the cracks. This picturesque part of the park with trees, bushes and flowers sticking out here and there through the formations. Its wall is what separates the park from the street.

When reaching 110th Street at the corner of that and Central Park West, several new buildings are built around the circle of the two streets. Modern architecture dominates this part of the street and ushers in a new beginning to this once destitute section of the neighborhood as a gateway to a new beginning for the neighborhood. The lines of the Upper West Side and Harlem on this side of the island are beginning to blur.

We’ll see more as we visit more of the neighborhood on a tour of the streets and avenues. I ended the day with a trip to McDonalds just off 96th Street and Amsterdam Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor). That McDouble and fries tasted so good as they were freshly cooked for me. The best is their frozen Strawberry Lemonade which cooled me down inside and out. It is one of the best things recently added to the McDonalds menu and a perfect drink for a hot summer day.

Places to Eat:

Harlem Pizza Company

135 West 116th Street

New York, NY  10026

(212) 222-9889 http://www.harlempizzaco.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

 

McDonald’s

2459 Broadway

New York, NY  10025

(212) 864-8138

http://www.mcdonalds.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

 

Places to Visit:

 

Grant’s Tomb

West 122nd Street & Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10027

http://www.grantstomb.org

Open: Monday & Tuesday Closed/Sunday, Wednesday-Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

 

Studio Art Museum of Harlem

144 West 125th Street

New York, NY  10027

(212) 864-4500

Open: Currently closed for renovation

http://www.studiomuseum.org

My review on TripAdvisor:

My review on VisitingaMuseum:

 

Firemen’s Memorial

West 100th Street & Riverside Drive

New York, NY 10025

(212) 639-9675

http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/memorial

 

 

 

 

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Day Forty-Nine: Walking Riverside Drive from 86th Street to 155th Streets July 10, 2016

I went to the Museum of Natural History this morning for a walking tour called “The History of Sharks” that took us through several galleries as the tour guide explained the history of sharks from pre-historic times to present day. How we live with sharks, how their DNA developed over the years and a discussion on the famous attacks on the New Jersey shore in 1916 to the movie ‘Jaws’. The museum runs these special tours for members and it was nice to explore the museum as a small group. Their volunteers do a wonderful job explaining things and the museum, in anticipation of a major rainstorm that never happened, was packed to the gills. I never see it that busy.

After my visit to the museum, I decided to take a walk up Riverside Drive. It was such a beautiful day with no sign of rain coming, I walked the length of Riverside Drive from 86th Street to 155th Street, crossed over 155th Street to St. Nicholas Avenue and walked down the street to 145th Street to get a better look at the brownstones and mansions and then back up to 155th Street and back down the other side of Riverside Drive to 110th Street and across to the subway station the corner of Central Park. This part of the walk took me past many historical sites and statues, past pocket parks and mansions and the beauty of Riverside Park.

First there is nothing like walking around the west side of Manhattan along Riverside Park. It is a truly wonderful park with people jogging, biking, sunbathing and picnicking. Everyone was really enjoying this clear, sunny Summer afternoon. On a quiet Sunday, the park is mostly yours depending on where you are walking.

All along the way uptown, Riverside Park and Drive are lined with many memorials and statues. I was amazed on many were in the area of the drive. My first stop along the way was the Soldiers’ & Sailors’Monument at West 89th Street that was dedicated to the Union Army soldiers and sailors who contributed in the American Civil War. This structure was completed in 1902 and President Theodore Roosevelt presided over the opening. A very impressive structure that I can see most people miss.  Part of the structure is still in disrepair but you can still walk around the pillared structure and gaze at its beauty.

Soldier and Sailor Monument.png

Soldier’s & Sailors Monument

I took a turn and swung into Riverside Park to visit a small playground and a very lively birthday party. I dropped into Hippo Park at 91st Street, a lively little playground with tons of kids running around, climbing on playground structures and actually acting like kids. I see far too many children obsessed with the cell phones not paying attention to what is going on around them. The kids were obviously having fun while the parents handed out food and gossiped amongst themselves.

Hippo Park is part of the Riverside Park Conservatory and run by volunteers in the neighborhood that also provides entertainment during the summer with outdoor concerts and a newly renovated playhouse for parties. Check out their website for details.

Hippo Park

Hippo Park

The next monument that I passed was the Firemen’s Memorial at 100th Street and Riverside Drive. This is a very quiet and relaxing sculpture that is dedicated to the members of the Fire Department who have lost their lives in the line of duty. This sculpture was dedicated in 1913 and has been renovated a few times since. During the tragedy of 9/11 in 2001, this became a vigil site for those morning the loss of so many members of the FDNY. This stop is a must for all fire fighters.

Firemen's Memorial Riverside Park

Firemen’s Memorial

My next stop was at the Franz Sigel Statue at West 106th Street. The majestic statue of a Major General in the Union Army during the Civil War. He encouraged many then German-Americans to fight for the Union. After the war, he became a proud New Yorker. This small park faced Riverside Drive on the other side of the street.

Franz Sigel Statue

Franz Sigel Statue

As I continued the walk up further, the monuments continued with the statue of Samuel Tilden, a former Governor of New York located at West 112th Street. Tilden’s career was illustrious with fights  against the Tweed stronghold in NYC and some saying that he had the Presidential election stolen from him with the Electoral College by Rutherford Hayes. His large estate and book collection helped found the New York Public Library.

Samuel Tilden Statue.jpg

Samuel Tilden Statue

I finally made it to one of my goals for the day, Grant’s Tomb (see the reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com), the final resting place of our 18th President Ulysses Grant and his wife, Julia. This monument has had a love-hate relationship with the city. The President died of throat cancer in 1885 and his wife recommended that his burial place be in New York City over West Point and Washington DC as President Grant and his wife made this their home for the last years of their life.

Grant's Tomb.png

Grant’s Tomb

The monument was finished in 1897 and the President’s remains were moved here before the dedication. His wife died in 1902 and was buried along side her husband.  In 1958, the National Park Service took the monument over and was given a small budget to oversee it.  In the 70’s and 80’s as the city had declined, this part of the park was a mess and the monument was vandalized to the hilt. It had gotten so bad at one point where the descendants of the family threatened to pull the bodies out of the tomb because of neglect. Since the 90’s, the monument and the park have been restored and it is open to the public for limited times during the week.

The park now is used for picnicking and parties as many were going on as I walked through the park. The tomb itself was closed for the day and was fenced off to the public. Not a good sign for the parks system for such an important piece of the city’s history.

Off to the side of the monument,  inside Riverside Park next to the path, is the Amiable Child Memorial (See review on VisitingaMuseum.com), the resting place to St. Clair Pollock. This touching little monument is dedicated to a child who died in 1797 in the fifth year of his life from a fall from the cliffs somewhere in the current park. It is one of the private graves located on public land. This small stone funeral urn is on a pedestal marking the grave. It is a very touching grave to a small child. I left a coin there as many have in the past.

Tomb of the Amiable Child

Tomb of the Amicable Child

I continued the walk up through the park until I hit Riverbank Park on 145th Street, one of the unique parks I have ever seen. The 28 acre park is built on the top of a water treatment plant that was inspired by parks built on roof tops in Japan. This park has everything. It has a pool, basketball courts, tennis courts, soccer field, baseball field, a cool off fountain and ice skating rink. It has it all and has the neighborhood embraced this park. The place was packed in all venues. It was a truly democratic park as all races play here.

I was most impressed by the number of families having parties and barbecues in the park. There must have been about a dozen birthday parties going on at once. The smells of barbecue meats and vegetables wafted in the air and the sounds of laughter and singing was all over the place. Even on a hot day, nothing stops people from having a good time.

I was most impressed by the Snack Bar located in the park’s main building. For $6.00, I got a cheeseburger, fries and a Coke and for a park snack bar they were really good. The portion size was generous and I can tell you for fact that the fries are excellent. Even if you don’t like sports make a special trip to snack bar and you won’t be disappointed. (See review on TripAdvisor)

After a 45 minute detour of this amazing park, I walked the rest of the way through Riverside Park until I hit Trinity Cemetery again and crossed 155th Street to St. Nichols Avenue again. I wanted to take a better look at the mansions at 150th Street in Sugar Hill. This section of Sugar Hill I did not have time to take a good look at the last time I was walking St. Nichols Avenue.

Sugar Hill.jpg

Sugar Hill Brownstones

The homes and brownstones in this area are just gorgeous and give you a totally different prospective of Harlem. Most of these buildings have been sandblasted and restored or in the process of being done. The mansions on the corner of 150th Street and Edgecomb Avenue hark back to a time when this was a very fashionable avenue and don’t miss the Bailey House that is fully restored.

I took a pit stop and stopped for a quick slice of pizza on 145th Street at Victorio’s Pizza Plus at 348 West 145th Street and one of the best slices of pizza I have ever had for $1.00. The pie had just come out of the oven and it was a thin crust made with fresh mozzarella and it was heavenly. Flavorful sauce and the right amount of cheese that was cooked perfectly at any price the pizza was delicious. This is a must for all the CUNY students. (See TripAdvisor review)

The walk took me back across 155th Street and back down Riverside Drive. The park, even at twilight is busy. There were so many bikers, joggers and walkers that you had to move a lot on the sidewalks. My last structure I saw as I walked down Riverside Drive was the Ralph Ellison art piece “Invisible Man” (the picture above) done by sculpture Elizabeth Catlett at 150th Street. It was dedicated to the novelist work on his book “The Invisible Man” about his experience as a Black man during the Civil Rights Movement in NYC. Ralph Ellison lived in the area before he died in 1994. It really is quite the statue.

Invisible Man

Invisible Man Sculpture Riverside Park

As I passed Grant’s Tomb, there were about three parties going on in the park. I don’t think the President even partied that much in one evening when he lived in the city. I could not believe that the park around the tomb would be this busy at eight at night. There were colorful lights all over the trees and a grill going.

I got to 110th Street around 8:30pm and as I rounded Riverside Drive to 110th Street the neighborhood which had been on the fringe for many years has completely changed. The area by Riverside Park had always been nice but as I walked further down the street this area has been sandblasted and rebuilt. Many parts of uptown that had been ignored for years look more like the Upper East Side.

I even saw people walking into Morningside Park which when I was working in the city in the 90’s was a death trap that you would not walk anywhere near but like the rest of the parks like Tompkins Square in the Lower East Side and Bryant Park behind the main library time has passed and they have been fixed up, cleaned up and the area around them now is priced higher.

Morningside Park

Morningside Park

My last stop of the evening was Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too at 366 West 110 Street. This neighborhood staple has been around for years and in a much gentrifying neighborhood that seems to be getting away from its Harlem roots. I hope owns the building. The food and service were just excellent. The biggest problem I had with the restaurant is that I over thought how hungry I was that night. After a big lunch at 5:00pm and a slice of pizza by the time the food came I was barely hungry.

Miss Mamie’s is not to be missed. They had a dinner special that was $19.99 for a salad that was one of the best restaurant salads I had had in years. It was crisp with fresh lettuce and tomatoes with a light dressing, for the entrée was freshly fried chicken that was crisp on the outside and moist on the inside and the chicken had so much flavor to it. I had it with mac and cheese and candied yams, not the most healthy choices but after a five mile walk I figured I had burned off a few calories. It was so much food that I had to take half of it home with me along with the Peach Cobbler dessert that was included in the meal (See the review on TripAdvisor).

Miss Mamie's Spoonbread

Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too

The service was friendly with out being overwhelming. I must give off certain vibes in this neighborhood because the waitress asked me if I was a lecturer for Columbia. I laughed at the one and asked why. She said I looked smart. I don’t know what looking smart is but I took it as a compliment. Usually above 110th Street every assumes that I am either a cop or DEA. Amazing what being tall is to people.

I ended the evening totally exhausted and took the subway from the 110th Street and Central Park West. Another sign of changes in the neighborhood is that I saw people jogging into the northern park of Central Park at 9:30pm. Things have really changed up here.

Places to Visit:

Hippo Park Conservatory

West 91st and Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10025

(212) 870-3070

https://riversideparknyc.org/groups/hippo-playground/

Riverbank Park

679 Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10031

(212) 694-3600

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

https://parks.ny.gov/parks/93/details.aspx

Reviews on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d565030-Reviews-Riverbank_State_Park-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

General Grant’s National Memorial (Grant’s Tomb)

122nd Street & Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10027

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d105812-Reviews-General_Grant_National_Memorial-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My Review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1354

Tomb of the Amicable Child

524 Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10027

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/riversidepark/monuments/1206

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/630

Various Statues along Riverside Drive

See Riverside Park Memorials NYCParks.com

 

Places to Eat:

Victorio’s Pizza Plus

348 West 145th Street

New York, NY  10039

(212) 283-2100

https://www.victoriospizzaplusmenu.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d10539122-Reviews-Victorio_s_Pizza_Plus-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread

366 West 110th Street

New York, NY  10039

https://spoonbreadinc.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d426019-Reviews-Miss_Mamie_s_Spoonbread_Too-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Riverbank Park Snack Bar

679 Riverside Drive

Riverbank Park at West 145th Street

New York, NY  10031