I finished Kips Bay right before the holidays and the comings and goings of the holidays took up a lot of time. I still can’t believe the Christmas holiday season is over. It was so surreal from previous holidays. In the era of COVID, it has really been a crazy time in history. I told my students before we finished the semester, that they were living through a Business case study in which people will be talking about for years.
I have had a chance since the City reopened in June through the holidays to revisit many of the neighborhoods that I have walked previously and it is shocking the number of places that have gone out of business since just Christmas. In just two weeks, I have seen more storefronts empty out than since the end of the summer. Many restaurants especially have not been able to survive the Christmas holiday season with them being closed to indoor dining and then the colder weather setting in earlier. I see more people eating outside huddled next to a lone pool heater. At least Christmas Eve and Day were really warm and the restaurants were able to keep busy outside.
I was finally able to visit the MoMA this morning. It was the first time since March 10th that I was able to visit the museum. The last time I had been there was to see the ‘Jack Lemon Retrospect’ and saw the film “The Odd Couple”. Than just a few days later everything closed. I was able to see the ‘Judd Exhibition’, with its colorful large sculpture installments and then explored the new extension of the museum that had opened up since the COVID pandemic. It was strange to see so few people in the museum.
The “Judd Exhibition” at the MoMA
Donald Judd artist
Donald Judd was an American born artist who studied art and phlosophy at Columbia University and had been an art critic for years while dabbling in paining. In the 1960’s, he started he started to create three dimensional works of art and known for his wide scale installations (Artist bio).
After the visit to the museum, I traveled down Fifth Avenue to East 42nd Street and then crossed over to Lexington Avenue and this is where the shocking part was to see how many businesses have closed since Christmas alone. There were so many small stores that just were open and many more restaurants and delis that are now empty or closed until further notice. Even when entering Rose Hill, there were at least three more hotels that are now boarded up for closure. These neighborhoods look from the outskirts seem vibrant but walking on the streets tells another story.
Even the streets on a Friday afternoon seemed quiet. It had been busier closer to Rockefeller Center to see the tree and Saks Fifth Avenue’s windows but all those things are now gone. I would have expected to see the Christmas tree still up until at least this Sunday but everything was gone. The Epiphany was on January 6th and I would have thought to keep it up with a little holiday cheer until the weekend.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in 2020
I got to Kips Bay by 1:00pm and started the walk by visiting Curry Express again at 130 East 29th Street for some more of their Curry Chicken Patties ($3.00). I needed a quick snack and these are really good. The ground well seasoned chicken is filled with the aroma of curry and spices and accented with fresh peas in a puff pastry. They are truly delicious and have a nice crunch in every bite.
Curry Express at 130 East 29th Street has the most delicious Chicken Curry Patties
“Rose Hill” is the name of a farm that used to sit on the site of this neighborhood. Like “Murray Hill” and “Kips Bay”, this name is rooted in the Colonial Period of Manhattan and New York City. The neighborhood is now part of two other neighborhoods, “Kips Bay” extends from East 34th to 23rd Streets and from Lexington Avenue to the East River and “NoMAD” (North of Madison Square Park) extends from Lexington to Sixth Avenue from East 30th to East 25th Street.
That with the “Flatiron District” extending from Sixth to Lexington Avenue from West to East 26th to West and East 20th Street, so there is a lot of overlapping neighborhoods especially between West to East 26th to 25th Streets. Even with “Kips Bay”, part of Rose Hill extends into that from Lexington to Third Avenues from East 30th to 25th Streets. Confused yet? It must be interesting for people who want to be part of one neighborhood association.
“Rose Hill Farm” has an interesting history. According to a historical genealogical source, the first “Rose Hill” was a farm acquired from James DeLancey, a prominent New Yorker who was also a Loyalist (Loyal to the Crown of England during the Colonial Period) in November 1747. John Watts Sr. was married to Ann DeLancey, the youngest daughter of Stephen DeLancey (Wiki).
John Watts Sr.
Ann DeLancey Watts
The Honorable John Watts, who represented the City for many years in the Colonial Assembly bought the farm that contained over 130 acres which lay on the East River between what were to become East 21st to 30th Streets between the future 4th Avenue and the river. Watt’s residence at the time was at 3 Broadway facing the Bowling Green Park, which itself at the time was one of the most fashionable neighborhoods in Downtown Manhattan. This area above Wall Street was still mostly rural (Wiki).
The main house on the farm burned during the British occupancy in 1779 and the couple left for England after the war. Parts of the property were sold off between 1780 and 1790 and the rest of the farm was inherited by their son, John Watts Jr. The farm went on the market again in 1790 (Wiki).
John Watts Jr.
Revolutionary War General, Horatio Gates, acquired the farm in 1790 and established an country seat in the mansion at the present corner of Second Avenue and East 22nd Street. He and his wife, Mary Valens Gates lived here are were part of New York Society until his death on the estate in 1806. After the planning of the ‘Commissioner’ Plan of 1811′, the site was divided into building parcels and streets following the Manhattan grid (Wiki).
General Horatio Gates
The southwest corner of the estate became Gramercy Park. Nothing exists of the farm today but just the name and is considered to be part of the NoMAD neighborhood (North of Madison Square Park), that was coined in the late 1990’s (Wiki).
Gramercy Park is all that is left of the original Rose Hill Estate
I started my walk of the neighborhood on a rather cold and gloomy afternoon. The sun would peak out at different times but it got colder as it got dark. My trip to “Curry Hill” warmed me up though. Between the smells of the neighborhood of cumin and curry and the warmth of the chicken patty, it boosted me up.
I walked past the now closed restaurants on the stretch between East 29th to East 26th Streets. The closing of indoor dining in New York City restaurants was really killing business for everyone. A few had ‘for rent’ signs on them now. Others had altered their hours. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out as the next three months get colder.
I turned the corner at East 25th Street and headed towards Madison Avenue. I passed one of my favorite buildings that I saw when I was walking around Kips Bay 130 East 25th Street. The building is covered with snakes, skulls and dragons carved along the side of it.
Someone had a warped sense of humor
The former B. W. Mayer Building which now houses the Friends House in Rosehall was built in 1916 by architect Herman Lee Meader (Wiki). You really have to walk around the building to see all the unusual carvings that line the building.
130 East 25th Street, the former B. W. Mayer Building
The doorway arch really stands out
Across the street at 68 Lexington Avenue is the 69th Regiment Building. The building had a little action going on when I passed by with an ambulance outside and guys in their uniforms running around. This beautiful building is the home to the New York Army National Guard’s 69th Infantry Regiment, known as the “Fighting Irish” since the Civil War (Wiki).
69th Regiment Building at 68 Lexington Avenue
The building was designed by architects Hunt & Hunt in the Beaux Arts style and was completed in 1906. It has been home to many events and show including the controversial 1913 Armory Show of contemporary art (Wiki). You really have to walk around the building to admire its beauty and history. The building stretches from East 25th to East 26th Street and back towards Park Avenue. You really have to walk around the building to admire its beauty.
Walking down East 25th Street, you realize as you start to border the Midtown area that the buildings take up more of the blocks and there are less smaller brownstones and tenements in the area. The dominate building on the block by Madison Square Park is 11-25 Madison Avenue, the Metropolitan Life Buildings. The building that lines this part of East 25th Street is the Metropolitan Life North Building (or 11 Madison Avenue).
Metropolitan Life North Building at 25 Madison Avenue
This beautiful building was the extension of the main headquarters next door on Madison Avenue. The building was designed by the architectural team of Harvey Wiley Corbett and D. Everett Waid in the Art Deco style in the late 1920’s as the tallest building in the world but the Great Depression changed the plans and it was built in three stages. The first finished in 1932, the second in 1940 and the third in 1950 (Wiki).
The archways ‘Loggias’ on each side of the building
What stands out about the building is the arched vaults on each corner of the structure called ‘loggias’ and the features were made in limestone and pink marble. When you stand under them you can see the colors and details of the marble carvings (Wiki). Just walking around the building the features are impressive and standout.
Across the street from the Metropolitan Life North Building at 27 Madison Avenue is the Appellate Division Courthouse of New York State and one of the most beautiful and detailed buildings I have seen on my walks. The building was designed by architect James Lord Brown in 1896 in the Beaux Arts Style and is adorned heavily in sculpture (Wiki). You really have to step back and walk across the street to see the details on the building.
27 Madison Avenue The Appellate Division Courthouse of New York State
Looking up close, you can see that the building resembles a Greek Temple and was considered one of the best examples of the “City Beautiful Movement” that occurred during the 1890’s and 1900’s to enhance cities with monumental grandeur and beauty (Wiki).
The historical beauty of the architecture continued up the border of the neighborhood as I walked up Madison Avenue towards East 30th Street. You have to walk both sides of Madison Avenue to appreciate the designs and details of the buildings that line the avenue.
You have to look close to the building or you will miss it is the sculpture by artist Harriet Feigenbaum. It is a memorial to victims of the Holocaust and is very powerful in its work showing the concentration camps.
“The Memorial to the Injustice of the Victims of the Holocaust”-“Indifference to Justice is the Road to Hell”
Harriet Feigenbaum Artist
Harriet Feigenbaum is an American sculptor and environmentalist. Her works cover sculpture, film and drawings that are seen all over the world (Wiki and artist bio).
I passed 50 Madison Avenue and noticed how the buildings blended in design. The bottom level of the building was built in 1896 as the headquarters of the ASPCA (American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals). The building was designed by architects Renwick, Aspinwell & Owen and had a classic ‘club like’ design to it. The building was refitted and added to in 2005 by the firm of Samson Management with a six story addition to luxury condos (CityRealty.com).
50 Madison Avenue-The former ASPCA headquarters
Another ornamental building that stands out in the neighborhood is 51 Madison Avenue which is the home of New York Life Insurance Building. The building was designed by architect Cass Gilbert in 1926 in the Art Deco style with Gothic Revival details along the sides and was finished in 1928. The structure is topped with a gilded roof (Wiki & New York Life Insurance history). This is another building that you have to see from all sides.
51 Madison Avenue-The New York Life Insurance Building
Continuing my walk up Madison Avenue while admiring the architecture of the neighborhood is The James NoMAD Hotel, the former Seville Hotel, on the corner of East 29th Street at 88 Madison Avenue. This interesting hotel has gone through several name changes and renovations since it was built in 1904. The hotel was designed by architect Harry Alan Jacobs in the Beaux Arts style and the annex to the hotel was designed by Charles T. Mott in 1906 (Wiki).
88 Madison Avenue-The James NoMAD Hotel (formerly The Seville)
The outdoor dining was open for the restaurant the first afternoon I had visited the neighborhood even though I thought it was a little cool to eat outside. Even though you can’t go inside unless you are a guest, I could see the holiday decorations and lights from the street and it looked very elegant inside.
Across the street from this elegant hotel is 95 Madison Avenue the former Emmett Building. The structure was designed by architects John Stewart Barney and Stockton B. Colt of Barney & Colt for Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet in 1912 when the area was a wholesale district. The building is designed in the French Neo-Renaissance with Gothic style ornamentation (New York Landmark Preservation Commission and Wiki).
95 Madison Avenue-The Emmet Building
Another building that had beautiful detail work carved into it is 160-164 Lexington Avenue at the corner of East 29th Street and Lexington Avenue, The Dove Street Marketplace, which offers floor after floor of high end goods.
The detail work is amazing on 160-164 Lexington Avenue-The Dove Street Market
The building has the most beautiful detail work on all sides. It was built in 1909 as the New York School for Applied Design for Women. It was designed by one of the school’s instructors, architect Wiley Corbett, to resemble a Greek Temple (Forgotten New York).
160-164 Lexington Avenue
Across the street from the Dover Street Market at 154 Lexington Avenue is the First Moravian Church. The building was started in 1849 and finished in 1852 at the Rose Hill Baptist Church designed in the Lombardian Romanesque style. In 1869, the church was sold to the First Moravian Church which had been located at Sixth Avenue and 34th Street (Daytonian in Manhattan).
The First Moravian Church at 154 Lexington Avenue was built in 1854
As I walked past both these elegant buildings, I was stuck by how quiet the neighborhood was that afternoon. There was no one else but myself walking around and there was very little road activity. As I rounded the corner to walk down East 30th Street (the border of the neighborhood with Koreatown and Midtown), not just how empty the sidewalks were but the there was barely any traffic for a weekday. The City has really quieted down since the holidays.
The only section of the neighborhood that still looked residential at this point was a small section of East 30th Street towards Lexington Avenue where some small townhouses and brownstones are located. Many of the doorways and railings were still decorated for the holidays and it did have that festive feel as it got darker and residents turned their lights on.
As I walked back down Madison Avenue and was able to take a full look of the buildings on both sides of the street, I was stuck by the beauty and elegance of the once ‘race to the skies’ by trying to build these buildings taller and taller with the advent of elevators. In their quest to the top, these architects never lost site that not only should a building be functional but have a detail in design that should make it distinct.
I decided to walk up the only Avenue that dissects the neighborhood which is Park Avenue and it was a very eerie trip from East 25th to East 30th. You could see the back section of most of the above buildings from their Madison Avenue homes but tucked here and there were closed hotels, restaurants and stores lined with for rent signs. The Royalton Hotel, Blue Smoke and Sarabeth’s Restaurant were just three of the well-known names that were either boarded up or had ‘for rent’ signs on their windows.
For dinner, I traveled back to the edge of Kips Bay to try Kips Bay Deli at 545 Second Avenue. This small little deli seems very popular with the locals and I have to say has the best sandwiches. I had an Italian hero sandwich ($8.95) that was loaded with cold cuts and fresh lettuce and tomatoes and just a splash of vinegar and oil. I ate it in the park watching the sun set. There is nothing better.
Kips Bay Deli at 545 Second Avenue
I had time that Sunday to complete walking the Streets of the neighborhood as well from East 30th to East 24th Streets. Because of the commercial nature of the area, most of the buildings stretch the entire block and you can see more of the details of the buildings on the side streets. Between Madison and Park, many newer buildings have gone up and the historic character of Madison Avenue changes.
Another scary point when walking around this part of Madison Avenue is how many businesses have closed. There are more ‘for rent’ signs on the side streets than I have seen in other neighborhoods. This has probably been a result of the closing of the office buildings in the neighborhood and the loss of foot traffic.
The result of the COVID pandemic and the lack of office workers working in the area is the result of parts of this neighborhood being a ghost town. Like walking in Times Square and the Theater District when I was in Manhattan for Christmas, these businesses are on hold until people start traveling and working in the area again. Being more commercial of a neighborhood, I could see the results of the lack of foot traffic and closed indoor dining.
The only standout I saw on the side streets was the building at 29 East 28th Street which looked like an old home tucked in between several new office buildings. The building was the former clubhouse of the Delta Psi Society fraternity. It was built in 1879 by reknown architect at the time James Renwick Jr. The building was built with cream colored brick and terra cotta details with a mansard roof. It was later renamed the St. Anthony’s Club in 1889. Today it is an apartment complex (Daytonian).
29 East 28th Street
Still when I got back to Madison Square Park, which runs from East 23rd to East 26th Streets. there was a lot of action in the playground with kids yelling and screaming and playing on the jungle gyms and swings while parents who looked cold talked amongst themselves.
When I walked into the park to take a break, it must have been the busiest section of the neighborhood between the playground and the original Shake Shack that were serving food to a crowd clung to their cellphones.
I stopped to look at the statue of our 21st President Chester A. Arthur, who had taken oath just two blocks away in his New York townhouse where the Kalustyan’s Specialty Foods is located at 123 Lexington Avenue. I thought about what was going on in our government today and what they must have gone through with this transition.
The Statue of Chester A. Arthur in Madison Square Park
The statue of our 21st President was designed by artist George Edwin Bissell and the pedestal by architect James Brown Lord.
Artist George Edwin Bissell
George Edwin Bissell was an American born artist from Connecticut whose father was a quarry-man and marble carver. He studied sculpture abroad in Paris in the late 1870’s and was known for his historical sculptures of important figures of the time (Wiki).
Madison Square Park is an interesting little oasis from all the traffic and office space. It has an interesting history since it was designated a public space in 1686 by British Royal Governor Thomas Dongan. It has served as a potters field, an arsenal and a home for delinquents. In 1847, the space was leveled, landscaped and enclosed as a park. It became part of the New York Park system in 1870. There are many historical figures featured in the park (NYCParks.org).
The park today is a major meeting spot for residents and tourists alike with a dog track and the original Shake Shack restaurant.
Madison Square Park in the Summer months
As I left the neighborhood, I thought of what Rose Hill Farm had become and if its owners could see what it looked like today. I think they would flabbergasted by the growth and change and even into today with what the COVID era has done to the neighborhood currently.
Even I am shocked at the changed in barely a year and what a pandemic can do to a City. Still the Christmas tree in the park cheered me up.
The Madison Square Park Christmas tree was still up on my last visit
That evening to continue keeping Christmas going I visited the “Holiday Lights” event at the Bronx Zoo and spent the evening walk along the paths admiring the lights and displays. It gives me hope that the City has fallen somewhat but not totally out.
The musical Christmas tree at the Bronx Zoo
My write up on that event:
Places to Visit:
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street
New York, NY 10019
Open: Sunday-Saturday 10:30am-5:30pm
My review on TripAdvisor:
Madison Square Park
11 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10010
Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-11:00pm
My review on TripAdvisor:
“Curry Hill” section of Kips Bay
Lexington Avenue from East 29th to East 26th Streets
The Bronx Zoo
2300 Southern Boulevard
The Bronx, NY 10460
Open: Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm/Saturday & Sunday 10:00am-5:30pm
Fee: Members Free/Adults-Full Experience $39.95/Senior Full Experience $34.99/Child (3-12) $29.99/Child (under 3) Free
My review on TripAdvisor:
My review on TripAdvisor for the “Holiday Lights Festival”:
My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:
Places to eat:
130 East 29th Street
New York, NY 10016
Open: Sunday 10:00am-12:00am/Monday-Friday 10:00am-2:00am/Saturday 10:00am-3:00am
My review on TripAdvisor:
Kips Bay Deli
545 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Open: 24 hours a day
My review on TripAdvisor:
*Special Note: I wanted to give a special thanks to Wiki, StreetEasy, Daytonian and NYCParks.org for all the historical information and facts. There was so much to know and cover in this neighborhood).