Tag Archives: Ladies Shopping Mile

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!

Check out my other blogs on Murray Hill as well:

Walking the Avenues of Murray Hill on August 14th, 2020:

https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/14465

Walking the Streets of Murray Hill from September 4th-6th, 2020:

https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/14568

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 Ladies Shopping Mile

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

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

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

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

The tour started on a sunny morning in Gramercy Park just off East 21st Street right near the Gramercy Park Hotel at the Cyrus Field House at One Lexington Avenue. The plaque was laid on the side of the old home dedicated to the man who laid out the first Atlantic cable in 1858.  Cyrus West Field was a self-made man who founded his own business and retired at 33 with a fortune of $250,000 (about 6 million today).

Cyrus West Field

Cyrus West Field

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Cyrus-W-Field

He and his brother, David, an attorney had built twin mansions side by side facing Gramercy Park which was then being developed into a private park for the neighborhood in 1844 by Samuel Ruggles.

Samuel Ruggles

Samuel Ruggles, the creator of Gramercy Park

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_B._Ruggles

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

Field Mansion

The Field Mansion before it was torn down

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

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

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

Christmas in Gramercy Park

Christmas Tree in Gramercy Park today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Harper House

4 Gramercy Park West

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

James Harper

James Harper, Mayor and Publisher

James Harper, Mayor Of New York City

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

 

James Harper House II

3 & 4 Gramercy Park

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

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

Samuel Tilden House

The Samuel Tilden House

Samuel Tilden

Samuel Tilden Politician

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Samuel-J-Tilden

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

Samuel Tilden House II

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

The Players Club.jpg

The Players Club which was owned by Edwin Booth

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

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

Pete's Tavern

Pete’s Tavern is now an Italian restaurant

Welcome to Pete’s Tavern….the Tavern O. Henry made famous!

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

 

Washington Irving House III

The Irving House

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

Washington Irving House.jpg

The Irving House at 11 Commerce Street

Washington Irving

Washington Irving Author

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Washington-Irving

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

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

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

Union Square.jpg

Union Square today facing the once fashionable shopping district

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

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

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

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

B. Altman & Co.

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

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

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

 

Seigal-Cooper Department Store

The Siegel-Cooper Company store at 620 Sixth Avenue

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

Siegel-Cooper Department Store.jpg

The fountain that was at Siegel-Cooper

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

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

Simpson-Crawford Department Store.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

Hugh O'Neill II.jpg

The Hugh O’Neill Store when it opened in 1890

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

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

Hugh O'Neill.jpg

The Hugh O’Neill store today

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

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

Adams Dry Goods Store II.jpg

Adam’s Dry Goods Store when it opened in 1902

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

Adams Dry Goods Store.jpg

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

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

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

Twas the night before christmas.jpg

“A visit from St. Nicholas”

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

Clement Clarke Moore.jpg

Clement Clarke Moore poet

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/clement-clarke-moore

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43171/a-visit-from-st-nicholas

Henry Livingston Jr.

Henry James Livingston Jr. Writer

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/henry-livingston

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

 

Clement Moore Estate.jpg

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

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

James Wells Mansion III

 

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

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

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

Clement Moore Park.jpg

Clement Moore Park before the renovation

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

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

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!

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

Christmas Morning by Al Jarreau:

 

It’s Gonna Snow on Christmas by Lindsey Webster:

 

 

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

 

 

The Sinterklaas Parade in Downtown Rhinebeck, NY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas Parade in HH

Engine One in the Hasbrouck Heights Holiday Parade

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

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

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

HHMA Christmas Tree Set Up 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Rhinebeck at Christmas.jpg

Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas

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

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

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

Little Pickles II

Little Pickles in Red Hook, NY

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

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

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

Sinterklaas Parade III.jpg

The Grumpus singing and dancing in Downtown Rhinebeck, NY

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

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

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

Sinterklaas Parade 2018 II.jpg

‘Into the Light’ Show

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

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

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

Sinterklaas Parade 2018 III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BCFHA XMAS 2018 III

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

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

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

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

BCFHA XMAS 2018 II

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

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

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

bergecco logo yellow brick road final draft

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mills Mansion Holiday Party

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

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

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

Mills Mansion Dining Room

The formal dining room at the Mills Mansion for Christmas

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

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

Ladies Shopping Mile

Ladies Shopping Mile on lower 6th Avenue

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

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

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The Military Parade by the Delaware River

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

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

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

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The Washington Crossing Reenactment 2018

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

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

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

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

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

 

Places to stay:

 

Quality Inn Rhinebeck

4142 Albany Post Road

Hyde Park, NY  12538

(845) 229-0088

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Places to Eat:

 

Columbia Inn

29 Main Road

Montville, NJ 07045

(973) 263-1300

https://www.thecolumbiainn.com/

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Smokey Rock BBQ

6367 Mill Street

Rhinebeck, NY  12572

(845) 876-5232

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

https://www.smokyrockbbq.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Segovia’s Steakhouse

217 Main Street

Little Ferry, NJ  07643

(201) 814-1110

Open: Sunday-Thursday 12:00pm-10:00pm/Friday-Saturday 12:00pm-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46575-d3700411-Reviews-Segovia_Steakhouse-Little_Ferry_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

 

Downtown Rhinebeck, NY

http://www.rhinebeckchamber.com/

 

Washington Crossing Historical Park

Washington Crossing PE Road

Titusville, NJ  08560

(609) 737-0623

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Washington Crossing Historical Park

1112 River Road

Washington Crossing, PA  18977

(215) 493-4076

https://www.washingtoncrossingpark.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

Have a great holiday season!!

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