There are some stores in New York City that just stand out for their uniqueness because of the product they sell or their history with the City or both. Little Pie Company is one of those stores.
I had heard of the store since its opening years ago and had never visited it. When I was walking the Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton neighborhood for my blog, “MywalkinManhattan.com”, I finally came across this friendly little pie shop just off the Theater District. Since I remembered that the founder was a actor who was trying to earn money while he was in between jobs I thought it was fitting for its location.
Since COVID, the pies are now individually wrapped for purchase and did not come just out…
With classes finally behind me for the term and the Summer break here, it is time to start exploring the West side of Manhattan. I had started the borders of Midtown West/ Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen before Final exams and just finished before we ended the semester (See Day One Hundred and Ninety-Four) and it took time.
The neighborhood which is located next to the Theater District on the other said of Eighth Avenue is a mess. That part of the neighborhood is loaded with closed theaters, hotels and restaurants and loaded with graffiti. You would think the City would have had these business owners clean their buildings on a regular basis.
Day One Hundred and Ninety-Four: Walking the Borders of Midtown West/Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen:
I swear sometimes I never realize the ground I have to cover for this project. I have been walking the streets of Hell’s Kitchen for three days and I am only doing half of the area. That stretch of walking back and forth through the neighborhood from Eighth to Tenth Avenues can be exhausting. This neighborhood is much different from the others I have walked in the past as most of the housing is low level former tenement buildings with a few small apartment buildings on the edges of the neighborhood. It looked like Mayor Bloomberg did not zone this area for much development.
Still block by block each is unique in its own way. Here and there tucked in a corner or on a wall is an interesting piece of street art, a pocket park, a small restaurant or an interesting quirky store and occasionally face stares at you from a building. This part of Midtown West/Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen has what we call ‘character’. Even though it still has that rough look about it, the area has pretty much been fully gentrified.
Those small tenement buildings have been sandblasting back into pristine form and many have small gardens, plantings and artwork incorporated to their entrances. A newer much younger resident has replaced the people who used to call this place “Hell’s Kitchen” and use the more historical name of “Clinton” after the family estate that used to dominate this area of the island before the Civil War. Governor George Clinton called this place home just until after the Civil War when the real changes in the neighborhood happened.
I started my walk on West 43rd Street around the corner from Eighth Avenue. This area has been going through a transition since the Bloomberg Administration rezoned the area and parts of Eighth Avenue have been rebuilt with larger hotels and office buildings. Even though COVID has emptied these areas out for the time being, the whole district around the Port Authority building has become home to more company offices and has started already to return the workers that crowded the streets here.
As I walked each street, they are pretty much lined with older tenement buildings that have been renovated and sandblasted back into more luxurious homes. I can see this in the details such as the fancier gates, the ornate door knobs, the flowering pots and small gardens that are surrounding each home. Here and there are small treasures such as interesting street art and small pocket parks and community gardens. Each block has it own attributes.
As you walk down West 43rd Street from Eighth Avenue you will pass the Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center building for the Health Care Worker Association the 1199SEIU at 314 West 43rd Street. On the side of the building is the tile art by artist Anton Refregier that was created in 1970.
The Anton Refregier mosaic at 314 West 43rd Street. This will be demolished soon.
It captures the ideals of the labor movement with the wording saying “If there is no struggle, there is not progress”. Unfortunately this well-known mosaic can’t be moved and the building is scheduled for demolition this year. A copy is being created in the new headquarters to replace it (W42nd Street.nyc , O’Brien 2021).
Artist Anton Refregier was born in Moscow and moved to Paris as a teenager. He immigrated to the United States in 1920. He graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and worked for the WPA/FPA as an artist through the Depression and was known for many of his works.
Venturing further down West 43rd Street, I stopped in front of 421 West 43rd Street and admired the embellishments and decorative carvings on the building. The front of the entrance has interesting details around the entrance. The elegant building was built in 1910 (Realty.net).
421 West 43rd Street stands out amongst the smaller tenements
Reaching Tenth Avenue, I travelled back down West 43rd Street and stopped in McCaffrey Playground at 341 West 43rd Street, where groups of families were chasing their small children around the park. I needed to take a break and relax so I sat towards the back of the playground. I must have stood out at 6: 4 with tinted glasses because many of the parents gave me a funny look.
The little oasis of green was named after Monsignor Joseph A. McCaffrey, known as the ‘Bishop of Times Square’, who fought against crime in Times Square. It was at his urging of the City that the land was bought for a park to be developed for neighborhood children. It was one of the many parks built during the Robert Moses era (NYCParks.org). The playground has been renovated many times with modern play equipment and many shade trees for the weary traveller like myself.
Monsignor Joseph A. McCaffrey who the park is named after
I had read online that the Little Pie Company was on this block and I made a B-line to the bakery. The bakery is known for their small five inch individual pies and I wanted to try one.
Little Pie Company is at 424 West 43rd Street
Little Pie Company is located at 424 West 43rd Street and was founded in 1985 by actor Arnold Wilkerson who was inspired by his grandmother’s baking. I have to tell you that the Three Berry pie was delicious (see my review on TripAdvisor) and was reasonable at $9.95.
THe Three Berry Pie at Little Pie Company is terrific
I stopped at the little park down the block and ate my little pie with gusto and ‘MMM ing’ the whole time at the tart sweet taste. Even the pigeons stared at me to get a taste.
After about fifteen minutes of relaxing and getting more stares, I moved on down West 43rd Street and turned the corner of West 44th Street. Much of the block around Eighth Avenue has been rebuilt with modern buildings but still there are many gems tucked here and there.
Being so close to the theater district, I passed two famous studios for actors. First was the New Dramatists building at 424 West 44th Street. The organization is located in the former All People’s Church which was built in the 1880’s in the Gothic Revival style for St. Matthews German Lutheran Church. The New Dramatists are an organization of playwrights founded in 1949. Playwrights serve a seven year residence here as they hone their skills (Wiki).
Further down the street is The Actor’s Studio at 432 West 44th Street, which is world renown as a place for actors to ‘hone their craft’. Founded in 1947 by Elia Kazan, Cheryl Crawford and Bobby Lewis and it known as the home for ‘method acting’ (The Actors Studio History Website).
I was not sure if either organization was open at the time I was in the neighborhood because they both looked so quiet. With the theaters scheduled to open at the end of September (some say closer to December), this will become a much busier block.
Walking back down from Tenth Avenue, I passed a tiny gift shop, Domus-unaffected living at 413 West 44th Street. This quirky little store was closed on my first tour of the neighborhood and I made this my first place to visit when I came the second day (see my review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com and on TripAdvisor).
Domus-unaffected living is an interesting little gift and home furnishing store that carries many unique items from handmade throw pillows and table runners to toys, books and games for some lucky child. They carry porcelain from a local artist in the neighborhood to handmade jewelry. The store also supports small female owned manufactures and artists both here in the States and abroad and I thought that was important direction the store was taking. The owner is really nice and spent time with me explaining her business.
There is a little something for everyone at Domus-unaffected living
Walking down West 45th Street was interesting at the blocks between renovated tenements and small restaurants along the Avenue corridors. I was entering the core of the residential section of the neighborhood and was impressed by the pride people took in caring for their homes. Even in the pandemic, people took time to tend to their gardens and showcase their flowers which were blooming all over the neighborhood.
I stopped at Mathews-Palmer Playground at 445 West 45th Street for a quick rest. I am not sure what I am doing when I enter a park but I could see those little stares again as a single man walking into a playground to take a rest. This busy little park stretches from West 45th to West 46th and is extremely busy in the afternoons with families. Kids were running all over the place chasing one another while parents chatted.
The Mathews-Palmer Playground at 445 West 45th Street
The park has all sorts of interesting equipment to play on and the shade trees are really nice as the weather is getting warmer. It is just fun to watch the families interacting with one another even as COVID rolls on.
The park is named after two neighborhood activists May Mathews, who worked and lived in the neighborhood eventually working at the Hartley House as the head social worker until 1954. Alexandra Palmer was a long time resident of West 46th Street who worked tirelessly to maintain the park and work with its upkeep (NYCParks.org).
Behind scaffolding in the park is a well known mural “Against Domestic Colonialism” by artist Arnold Belkin. You could not see it from the park side so I had to look up. The work was finished in 1972 during the time the artist was living in New York City between the late 60’s and early 70’s. It has been deteriorated over the last few decades (Boston.com).
The Arnold Belkin mural “Against Domestic Colonialism” before the scaffolding
Mr. Belkin was born in Canada and started his training at the Vancouver School of Art and continued his training later at the Banff School of Fine Arts. The artist is known for his murals large and small and his work with plastic.
Artist Denise Penizzotto, who is handling the restoration
Ms. Penizzotto is a professional artist with experience in project and arts management both here and abroad. She is currently attending and working at Hunter College in New York and has studied at St. Cloud University.
Another interesting mural in the park that you can see from the playground is the “Kids Project 1991” mural at the front of the park.
The “Kids Project 1991” in Mathew-Palmer Playground
When I entered West 46th Street, most of the street was barricaded off for outdoor dining for “Restaurant Row”, a well-known group of eating establishments that cater to the theater crowd. Many of these were closed at the time I made my first visit to the neighborhood when it was colder but as the weather has gotten nicer the tables have been set up and people are enjoying outdoor dining again. The closed off block is only between Eight and Ninth Avenue.
As I passed through, I stopped to admire the plaque at the Hartley House located at 413 West 46th Street. This important establishment has been helping neighborhood residents since 1897 founded on providing education, volunteerism and charity (Hartley House History).
Tucked behind an alleyway and gate is the only remainder of the old Clinton estate, the old carriage house which is now a private home. You really have to look for this hidden entrance as it is in the middle of two buildings down a narrow alley. It is like a hidden kingdom.
The Clinton Court gate leading back to the old carriage house
The carriage house is said to date back to the 1820’s and may be the last reminder of the old estates that used to be part of this neighborhood before the Civil War. The Clinton family had owned most of the land in this neighborhood (Untapped Cities/Emphemeralnewyork@Wordpress.com). As several bloggers mentioned, you can’t see the carriage house from the street and it is private property.
The old Clinton Carriage House at 420-422 West 46th Street
I finished up the first day of walking the neighborhood exhausted. It had been a hot day and it was a lot walking from West 43rd to West 46th from Eighth to Tenth Avenues after a long day of running around. It was also still getting dark early so I finished the evening here.
I returned a few days later to finish the rest of the streets and this time left plenty of time to really look things over that I might have missed. I started my afternoon by revisiting a restaurant that had been closed for a while in Murray Hill, Hop Won at 149 East 45th Street. It was so nice that the restaurant reopened. I was scared that it had closed permanently.
The family that runs the restaurant looked like they happy to see me on that late afternoon. I had the Combination Roast Duck and Pork plate with white rice with an egg roll (see my review on TripAdvisor) and it was so good. I munched down on that for lunch and that got me through the rest of the afternoon of walking.
Don’t miss Hop Won Express at 149 East 45th Street in Midtown East
I walked from the east side to the west side after lunch and revisited some of the spots that I needed more time at like rewalking restaurant row (it was much busier on this warmer day) and Mathew-Palmer park to take a better look at the restoration after reading up on it.
I then turned the corner onto West 47th Street and came upon another painting outside the restaurant Anejo, a Mexican and Tequila Bar at 668 10th Avenue. It seems that a lot of the restaurants in the City are using artists to decorate the side walls of their restaurants.
As I walked down the street I came across the Actors Temple at 339 West 47th Street. This interesting building was built in 1917 as the West Side Hebrew Association. Because of a dwindling membership, the synagogue now rents out the space for dance, music performances and religious services (The Actors Temple NYCArts.org).
I took a moment to relax and finish my notes at Ramon Aponte Park at 343 West 47th Street, a small pocket park in the middle of the neighborhood. This busy little park had kids running all over the place like many of the parks in the neighborhood while the parents talked amongst themselves.
This wonderful little park was named after Ramon Aponte, who was the former President of the 47th/48th Street Association. When the Police Station that once stood in this spot was knocked down the spot became a vacant lot and stood empty during the high crime years of the City. He and many concerned residents of the Association thought it would make a nice green space for the neighborhood. The park opened in 1979 and it was transferred to the New York Parks system in 1987 (NYCParks.com).
I picked up the pace a bit when I got to West 48th Street. I wanted to make it to West 58th Street before dark and I was spending too much time looking at every building carefully. I was amazed for small tenement buildings that people had done such a nice job fixing them up. I wonder what the residents from thirty and forty years ago who lived in the neighborhood would think of this.
On West 48th Street, I passed the Clinton Community Garden which was closed for visitors because of COVID but I could see the volunteers working inside. The garden was not in full bloom yet from what I could see but it looked very impressive and I will have to revisit it in the future.
The Clinton Community Garden at 434 West 48th Street
When the Clinton Community Garden was started over thirty years ago, it was vacant lot with a lot of illegal activity in a time when the City was falling apart. Volunteers cleaned the plot up and planted the area. When the lot was threatened to be sold, the volunteers from the neighborhood appealed to the City to buy it. It was transferred to the Parks system in 1984 and now is run along with the Clinton Garden non profit. Many special events happen in the Garden during the warmer months (NYCParks.org).
When I reached Tenth Avenue again, I relaxed in Hell’s Kitchen Park which lines Tenth Avenue between West 47th and 48th Streets. This restful park was always busy when I walked in the neighborhood and was a nice place to bring my lunch on several afternoons when I want to rest from a long day under the shade.
Hell’s Kitchen Park is on Tenth Avenue between West 47th and 48th Street
Hell’s Kitchen Park has an interesting history in that it had once been a parking lot. Since there was not a lot of green space in this area of the City since it was developed, the City bought this land which had been condemned at the time and developed into the current park that opened in 1979. Today it is one of the hubs for the neighborhood (NYCParks.org).
When I visited, there was always a pickup game of basketball and the kids populated the park after school. I enjoyed eating my lunch here and watching the families enter the park and have a nice time. It is nice to relax on the benches below the shade trees and nod off.
After my break at the park, I turned the corner again and walked down West 49th Street from Tenth Avenue. As I passed the Mather Building Arts and Craftsmanship HIgh School at 439 West 49th Street. On the side of the building, there was another interesting piece of outdoor art by artist Hans Hofmann called ‘Untitled’. The mosaic was created in 1957.
Artist Hans Hofmann was born in Germany and started his career in public service but always leaned towards the creative arts. On encouragement, his studied at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere and the Academie Colarossi in Paris and immersed himself in the Avante-Garde scene. He moved to the States in the thirties to teach and remained in the United States for the rest of his life becoming a citizen in 1941 (Wiki).
Next to the high school was the closed and probably much needed Gutenberg Playground at 420 West 49th Street named after Johann Gutenberg, the inventor of moveable type in printing and was noted for creating the ‘Mazarin Bible’ also known as the ‘Gutenberg Bible’. The playground was built next to the high school in 1958 and was transferred to the NYC Parks Department in 1959. The playground is currently getting an update (NYCParks.org).
Walking back to Eighth Avenue, I had to make another rest stop in the courtyard of the World Wide Plaza Residence at 350 West 50th Street which stretches from West 49th to 50th Streets. It is a nice place to take a break and just relax from the traffic of the City.
In the middle of the courtyard of the building that is open to the public, is the most unusual and beautiful fountain. The fountain called “The Four Seasons” was designed by artist Sidney Simon and each of the four female statutes holds up a globe and represents the four seasons. The statutes were modeled by Molly Ackerman (Wiki).
The World Wide Plaza Fountain “The Four Seasons” by artist Sidney Simon
Sidney Simon was an American born artist from Pennsylvania. He was educated at Carnegie-Mellon and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Fine Arts and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Known as a sculpturist, the fountain at World Wide Plaza was considered one of his most noted works (Wiki).
When I turned the corner onto West 50th Street and walked down the street, I passed the Stella Tower at 425 West 50th Street which was an elegant building in the middle of a neighborhood of small structures. The apartment house was built in 1927 and designed by architect Ralph Walker and was named after his wife, Stella. It is considered a prime example of Pre-War architecture with art deco details (StreetEasy.com/CityRealty.com)
I walked down the rest of the street admiring the small buildings and the array of restaurants that lined the Avenues.
When I started my walk down West 51st Street, I came across the most intriguing and colorful paintings outside ‘ritas Restaurant at 756 Ninth Avenue. The colors are so vibrant and the skull in the middle of the mural is pretty powerful. The reviews on online say that the food is excellent.
The Mural at ‘ritas Restaurant at 756 Ninth Avenue should not be missed
As I walked towards Tenth Avenue, I noticed the beautiful Sacred Heart of Jesus Church at 457 West 51st Street. What an interesting little church. Even though the cornerstone was laid in 1884, there is some debate on when the church was finished and designed by who. The church says it was finished in 1885 and the AIA Guide to New York said it was finished in 1901 and designed by the architects at Napoleon DeBrun & Sons. The church is designed in red brick and terra cotta (Wiki).
Sacred Heart of Jesus Church at 457 West 51st Street
Walking back down the street, I noticed to beautifully detailed buildings that stood out amongst all the others. One was at 330 West 51st and the other was at 306 West 51st Street. They stood out amongst the smaller tenements buildings on the block.
The stone work and carvings of 330-332 West 51st Street was built in 1920 and has interesting archway entrances. The building is an SRO and was just renovated. There is an elegant beauty to it with its faded stone work.
There were also two interesting restaurants that I popped my head into when I was walking around. The Hudson Market Place Deli at 755 Ninth Avenue and another small restaurant that just opened Seguidilla Empanadas at 455 West 51st Street. Both look really nice and are pretty popular in the neighborhood.
Seguidilla Empanada just opened their doors and did this video on YouTube:
The owner welcomes you to his business.
When I walked the neighborhood another afternoon and was traveling the border of the neighborhood I stopped in for a snack. I tried the Chicken Empanada ($2.99) and they were really good. The empanadas were filled with chicken and served it with a pink sauce. They also carry a Dominican soda called ‘Country Club’ and the orange really hit the spot. They have a nice menu.
Turning the corner onto West 52nd, there was a lot to see. At 348 West 52nd Street is an empty carriage house that was in the process of being renovated. The carriage house was built somewhere in the 1870’s by owner, John Newcomb, who ran an auction business. He used this carriage house for his stables for delivery. Since his ownership, the building has had many incarnations up until recently when it was a trendy bar called ‘Therapy’ (Daytonian 2019).
348 West 52nd Street-The John Newcomb Stable now “Therapy”
Outside Crispin’s Restaurant at 764 Tenth Avenue off West 52nd Street is an unusual mural outside the restaurant that I thought was very amusing. This wonderful Italian restaurant I have read has excellent food.
Crispin’s Restaurant mural on West 52nd Street and Tenth Avenue
By this point, I needed a break for dinner myself and I was dying for a hamburger. Lucky for me that I found Lucky’s Famous Burger restaurant at 370 West 52nd Street. This little hole in the wall burger place is excellent. They are also very reasonable. For $12.95, I had one of their combination meals of a Cheeseburger with fries and a large coke. The amount of food I got was a lot.
The cheeseburger was incredibly juicy and the fresh toppings really made the burger and the fries were cooked to perfection and the portion size was more than generous (please read my review on Tripadvisor).
After dinner was over, I was done for the day. It was getting dark out and I could not see much in the dark. I just could not believe how fast these days went.
When I returned a few days later, the weather finally broke and it was nice outside. It was a breathtaking beautiful sunny afternoon when I arrived in Midtown West/ Hell’s Kitchen again. It was the perfect day to walk around.
I started by walk on the top of West 52rd Street, passing the many businesses I had just visited the other day and then rounded the corner to West 53th Street. Most of the block was non-descrip with the exception of an unusual mural someone spray painted behind a fence at 333 West 53rd Street.
As I rounded the corner onto West 54th Street off Eighth Avenue, I was struck by the beauty of the Saint George Greek Orthodox Church at 307 West 54th Street. This beautiful church was constructed in 1886 and has served many purposes over the years. In the 1950’s, the church took over this spot (Saint George Greek Orthodox Church history)
307 West 54th Street-Saint George Greek Orthodox Church
Further down the block, when I passed 341 West 54th Street, I saw a series of faces staring back at me. I love these buildings with faces all over them. I was in need of something sweet to keep me going with all the walking that I had to do this afternoon, so I stopped at Huascar & Company Bakery at 453 West 54th Street. This tiny bakery is tucked into a corner near a building that is being renovated so it is easy to miss.
Not wanting to have the usual cupcakes and cookies, I saw in a jar a small cookie that the woman behind the counter said was a traditional South American cookie, a Alfagar, a type of sugar cookie with a caramel filling and powdered sugar on top. It was a little expensive at $3.50 but it was delicious and worth the price.
The ‘Alfagar cookie’ at Huascar & Company bakery
After having some refreshments inside me, I walked down West 55th Street and noticed the elegance of the Sherwood Apartments at 340 West 55th Street. The Sherwood was built in 1925 and is a combination of stone and brick and has some stand out balconies. It stands out from the other residences on the blocks between Eighth and Tenth Avenues (StreetEasy.com). It even has a planted roof deck.
When walking down West 56th Street, I noticed that the block had some interesting artwork all along the block in places you would never think. In front of 424 West 56th Street, you are greeted by a purple figure smiling at you. I figured a local artist lives here.
They must have also decorated the fence across the street which has all this unusual stuff attached to the webbing of the fence. It will be hard to keep up when the construction finishes on the site.
This is a portion of the fencing at 310 West 56th Street
Tucked into the public plaza at 330 West 56th Street, there was an unusual bird sculpture located near the entrance but I did not know who made it. It had the strangest shape to it.
Walking through the courtyard of The Sheffield at 322 West 57th Street from the West 56th Street side, I came across the unusual sculpture ‘IKON’ by artist David Hostetler. This strange portrait of a woman made an impression on everyone relaxing in the garden. The sculpture has an unique form and stands out in the courtyard.
The sculpture “IKON” by artist David Hostetler at between West 56th and 57th courtyard of The Sheffield complex
Artist David Hostetler
Artist David Hostetler is an American born artist from Ohio. He graduated with a BA from Indiana University and a MFA from Ohio University. He specialty was wooden and bronze sculpture and known for his ‘feminine’ works (Artist Bio).
When I rounded West 57th Street from Eighth Avenue passing the The Sheffield again I passed another building at 309 West 57th Street. On the outside of the building was a plaque to the composer Bela Bartok.
The plaque dedicated to Hungarian composer Bela Bartok, one most influential composers of the 20th Century. Mr. Bartok was born in Hungary and studied at Royal Academy of Music in Budapest and studied under many well known composers. He migrated to the United States in 1940 with his wife when he refused to recognize the Nazi regime. He remained in New York for the rest of his life working for Columbia University
When I walked along West 58th Street again, I noticed that a lot of the restaurants and stores had closed during the era of COVID. This part of the City has really taken a hit with the lack of tourists and office workers. There is only so much the local residents can support. I walked towards the back of the Time Warner Building and walked past the back entrance to the Time Warner Building and I noticed a piece of street art that I had not noticed on my last few trips in the neighborhood. That statue is called “Asaf and Yo’oh” by artist Boaz Vaadia and is tucked into the entrance of the building at 25 Columbus Circle-1 Central Park West.
The artist was born in Israel and came from a farming background. He studied at the Avni Institute of Fine Arts in Tel Aviv and was sent to the United States on a grant from the American-Israel Cultural Foundation and then studied at Pratt. His works are made of varies mediums of stone (Artist Bio).
It was surprising how quiet the hotel looked as the Mandarin Hotel was one of the few uptown hotels that are still open during the pandemic. No one was around so it gave me a chance to peak inside the building which looked empty. With most people still working from home I did not expect to see a lot but the area is getting busier.
I ended my walk on the last afternoon at 57 Taco Express for lunch. I was in the mood for a Cheese and Chicken Quesadilla ($5.99) and ordered one and took it down to Hell’s Kitchen Park for lunch. It was nice to just sit back and relax and watch the world go by. The quesadilla was pretty good. It was nice to eat it in a sunny park under the trees watching everyone have a great time around me. Some people have not let the pandemic totally control their life.
Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen offers so much so take time to stroll each street and take it all in.
With the College in Summer recess, its full steam ahead!
Check out the other walks of Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton/Midtown West on the blog:
Walking the Border and Avenues of Hell’s Kitchen Day One Hundred and Ninety Four: