I finally entered the core of the tourist area of Manhattan with Central Park South, some of the the most expensive real estate in the world and some of the most spectacular views of Central Park. It is also on of the most iconic neighborhoods and most photographed in New York City. It is the neighborhood that is anchored by The Plaza Hotel in one corner, the Time-Warner Building Complex in another, the New York Hilton in another and the newly reopened Museum of Modern Art in the last corner. This are some of the most famous modern landmarks in Manhattan.
This neighborhood is also one of the smaller I have walked but packed with famous landmarks, lots of street art, many beautifully designed buildings and here and there remainders of the ‘old’ New York of the 70’s and 80’s that is being ushered aside by new buildings with new ideas.
It was a rather gloomy day when I started the walk and after a busy day working the Bread station at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. With the weather getting cooler, the Soup Kitchen’s needs begin to change and we are starting to see the affects of the Fall upon us with people needing warm weather outfits and more places to sleep than ever. It looks like it is going to be a very cold winter!
I started my walk in front of one of the most famous hotels in the world, The Plaza Hotel at 768 Fifth Avenue. This iconic masterpiece is more cult figure than a hotel. The 20 story hotel opened in 1907, replacing a smaller version of the hotel and was designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh in the ‘French Renaissance inspired chateau style’ design (Wiki). The hotel is famous for its restaurants, The Oak Room and the Palm Court for Afternoon Tea and has been used in countless TV shows and movies.
The Plaza Hotel at 768 Fifth Avenue
Home Alone 2: Check in at The Plaza Hotel
The problem with walking around the hotel these days is that hotel security is really tight and since the recent renovation of the hotel, most the hotel is now closed off. You can still visit the Plaza Hotel Food Hall (which is wildly expensive) and the Palm Court for meals. Since the renovation that turned most of the hotel into condos, the hotel just does not have the same zing it once did. Everything now seemed so over-priced. The famous Afternoon Tea is now $86.00 (US) and even the burger which I enjoyed as a teenager is now $32.00 (US). I thought that was a bit much.
The Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel is a New York Institution
Don’t miss this fun scene of The Plaza Hotel in Home Alone 2 with now President Trump
Another iconic hotel and once part of the Helmsely Hotel Empire is the Park Lane Hotel at 36 Central Park South. The hotel was constructed in 1971 and designed by Emery Roth and Sons for financier Harry Helmsely. The hotel was designed in the post-modernism design. The hotel was once noted when run by Hotelier Leona Helmsely for ‘Harry’s Bar’ named after her husband. It was noted for its drinks and complimentary appetizers. The hotel itself may be replaced by a super tall building in the near future.
The Park Lane Hotel at 36 Central Park South
While walking down West 59th Street, look across the street into Central Park as the leaves are starting to change colors and the signs of autumn are in the air. They don’t call this Central Park South for no reason as you will see some the best and safest views of the Park here.
On the Park side of West 59th Street, you will notice the Monumento to General Jose de San Martin, the liberator of Peru just past the entrance to Sixth Avenue. This statue which sits at the entrance to Central Park South, makes a pretty bold statement. General Jose de San Martin helped liberate Argentina, Chile and Peru from Spain in the early part of the 19th century. The statute was created by French Sculptor Louis Joseph Daumas and the statue was given to New York City by the City of Buenos Aires in exchange for a statue of General George Washington that we sent to their country. The statue was dedicated in 1951 (NYCParks.org).
General Jose de San Martin Statue on West 59th Street
Continuing the walk down West 59th Street, you will next pass the JW Marriott Essex House New York Hotel at 160 Central Park West. This iconic hotel was designed to be a condominium hotel complex and construction started on the hotel one day after the Stock Market Crash of 1929.
The JW Marriott Essex House Hotel
The hotel opened during the Depression in 1931. In 1969, it was acquired by Marriott hotels and since then has has several owners and management groups. Take a good look at the hotel as its details are an excellent example of Art Deco style architecture.
The Essex House details are a fine example of Art Deco style art
Walking further down West 59th Street, you will pass the famous NY Athletic Club at 180 Central Park South. This private club was founded in 1868 and has some of the best sporting facilities in New York City. This interesting building was designed by architect Charles W. Clinton and was built in the early twentieth century. Really look up to see the interesting details of the building.
The New York Athletic Club at 180 Central Park South
As I continued walking down West 59th Street towards Columbus Circle I saw the familiar sites of that statue of Christopher Columbus and the Time-Warner Complex in the background. It has been a long time since I finished the Upper West Side of Manhattan and even as I walk those streets again I always feel like I missed something.
Columbus Circle has changed over the last twenty years
Columbus Circle is always busy day and night with street vendors, bicyclists, performers and just people sitting and reading or enjoying the weather and people watching on a warm day.
The 76 foot statue was designed by Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo as part of a plan to honor Columbus’s discovery of the Americas as part of the 1892 commemoration of the 400 year anniversary of the event. If you look closely at the pillar, you will see the reliefs of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria ships on the memorial (Columbus Memorial and Wiki).
Columbus Circle itself was part of the great plan of Central Park in 1857 by Fredrick Law Olmstead, the designer of many parks in New York City as having four rotary entrances to the park. The other rotary in the neighborhood is Grand Army Plaza by The Plaza Hotel.
The Time Warner Center on the other side of the circle represents the massive change in the Upper West Side from a liberal working class area to the new luxury of Manhattan. The Time Warner Center is a mixed use building containing office space, the Mandarin Hotel, many exclusive restaurants and shops and entertainment. The building was designed by David Childs and Mustafa Kemel Abadan of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. This modern palace of luxury replaced the old New York Coliseum and opened in 2003 (Wiki). Don’t miss just wondering around the building.
On the other side of the Circle is the new Museum of Art & Design that opened in 2008. The building was the former home of the Gallery of Modern Art designed by Edward Durell Stone in 1969. The building was modernized by architect Brad Cloepfil (Wiki) and the museum shows interesting aspects of art from media, video, painting and photography. I just recently saw the “Post Punk New Wave” exhibition at the museum.
Museum of Art and Design at 2 Columbus Circle
The Post Punk New Wave Exhibition at the Museum of Art and Design
As I rounded the corner, the neighborhood is full of Post War architecture but one building stands out with its modern twist. The Hearst Tower at 300 West 57th Street.
The Hearst Tower at 300 West 57th Street
The first six floors of the original Hearst Tower were built in 1928 by architect Joseph Urban for the headquarters of the Hearst publishing empire. The building was originally supposed to have an office tower on top but the Great Depression put a stop to the construction. Take a look at the statuary, stone work and details of the original building before admiring the new addition (Wiki).
Admire the detail work of the original 1928 building
Architect Norman Foster designed the 46 story addition to the building which was completed in 2006. The addition of glass and steel is designed in the ‘Diagrid’ pattern and was the first ‘green building’ with environmental features in New York City (Wiki).
As I walked the border of the neighborhood on West 54th Street from Eighth Avenue, you can see the traces of Old Residential New York side by side with the new office towers, hotels and the extension of the Museum of Modern Art on the corner of West 54th and Fifth Avenue.
The first building that popped out to me was The Albermarle at 205 West 54th Street. This 12 story Beaux-Arts building was built in 1903 and was once known as the Hotel Harding and then the Alba. Actress Mae West once living in the building. The hotel at one time was home to the notorious “Club Intime” run by Texas Guinan. This was a well-known Speakeasy during Prohibition (City Realty).
Take time to look at the detailed stone work and carvings along the building. It really stands out amongst its more modern neighbors.
The Albemerle Building 205 West 54th Street
Walking further down the street, you will realize that this part of the neighborhood is home to many of the most famous ‘old line’ hotels in Manhattan. At 65 West 54th Street is the luxury Warwick Hotel.
The 36 story hotel was built by William Randolph Hearst in 1926 with the help of architect Emery Roth with the firm of George B. Post & Sons. The outside of the hotel is done with brick, granite and limestone giving it it’s unusual color scheme. Take time to look at the hotel’s detail work and old world charm in the lobby (Wiki).
The Warwick Hotel at 65 West 54th Street
As you continue to walk the border of West 54th Street closer to Fifth Avenue, you will see the back of the Museum of Modern Art which just reopened after its renovation and expansion. On the northern side of West 54th Street is a series of historical mansions each with its distinctive look.
James Gordon House at 9-11 West 54th Street
The James Gordon House at 9-11 West 54th Street really stands out. James J. Gordon was the owner of the Erie Railroad and two insurance companies and was a cousin of J.P.Morgan, the banker. The house was designed by McKim, Meed & White in the Colonial American style. Mr. Gordon’s family had come to the United States in the 17th century and was from an old line Connecticut family. Look at the classic look of the mansion and its elegant stone and grill work. The house is now on the market for 65 million dollars (Curbed New York).
The William Murray House 13-15 West 54th Street
Another mansion that stands out along West 54th Street is the William Murray House at 13-15 West 54th Street. These twin mansions were built for Larchmont businessman William Murray by architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh in the ‘Renaissance style’. This section of fashionable mansions is what is left of the Gilded Age residences in the neighborhood.
Seed54 Sculpture at the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 54th Street
On the corner is the an unusual sculpture that I first noticed when walking past a hot dog vendor on the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 54th Street in front of 1330 Sixth Avenue building. This strange looking piece of artwork resembles an open air egg is by artist Haresh Lalvani. This unusual sculpture can be interpreted many different ways. The only problem is that the hot dog vendor on the corner distracts from even looking at it and I have passed it without even noticing it over the times I have been in the neighborhood.
Mr. Lalvani is a professional artist and Professor at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. His emphasis in the work is his study of morphology into nature and its affects on art. ‘Seed54′ is part of his HyperSurface’ series. Mr. Lalvani is a graduate of the Pratt Institute of Architecture (Pratt Institute).
Artist Haresh Lalvani in front of one of his “HyperSurface” works
At the very edge of the neighborhood is 254 West 54th Street now the home of a theater but in the late 70’s was home to the famous ‘Studio 54’ nightclub and epicenter of the Disco era. There has never been a club before and after that can compare to it.
The club was opened in 1977 by club owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schager who had once opened clubs out on Long Island and to much fanfare and the party did not end until the club was raided for tax evasion and closed February of 1980. The party was over! The club continued to open over the years but the original magic was gone as the Disco era faded away in the early 80’s.
254 West 54th Street The famous former “Studio 54”
The history of the Rise and Fall of Studio 54
So Central Park South keeps morphing. From fashionable residential area to commercial properties and hotels now back to residential properties. The buildings get renovated or gutted, knocked down and then rebuilt or a bit of both. But you can see by the architecture, stores, new hotels and progressive office buildings the area just keeps changing. From the added Nordstrom’s (let’s see how long it lasts in this retail environment) to the converting hotels to condos back to hotels it is a never ending change.
I ended the day eating at the food court below the Time Warner Building right off the subway station under Columbus Circle (it is amazing where they put this stuff). The Turnstyle Underground Market is located at the West 59th Street entrance at the Time-Warner Building. Just take the escalator down.
Among the independent vendors that I passed, one stood out and it was one I had read about in the WestSider newspaper, Daa! Dumpling (See review on TripAdvisor) at 1000 South 8th Avenue.
Daa! Dumpling is so good!
This little Russian Dumplings are delicious. Perfectly boiled and seasoned I had the combination chicken and pork dumplings with sour cream and pickles and each bite was a pleasure. The woman even kept it open for me when I ordered and closed as soon I started to devour my dumplings. For $8.00, they were so good and dipping them into the sour cream made them extra rich.
It was the perfect meal to end the day.
To see my write up on the border of Fifth Avenue with Midtown East, see MywalkinManhattan.com below:
Day One Hundred & Forty Six: Walking the Streets of Midtown East:
Day One Hundred & Forty Five: Walking the Avenues of Midtown East:
Day One Hundred & Forty Three: Walking the Borders of Midtown East:
Places to Eat:
1000 South Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10019
Open: Sunday 10:00am-9:00pm/Monday-Saturday 10:00am-10:00pm
My review on TripAdvisor:
Tri Dim Shanghi
1378 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10075
Open: Sunday & Saturday 12:00pm-10:00pm/Monday-Friday 11:45am-10:00pm
My review on TripAdvisor:
Places to Visit:
The Museum of Art & Design
2 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019
Open: Sunday 10:00am-6:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday & Wednesday 10:00am-6:00pm/Thursday 10:00am-9:00pm/Friday & Saturday 10:00am-6:00pm
Fee: Adults $18.00/Seniors $14.00/Students $12.00/Members & Children 18 & Under Free/Thursdays after 6:00pm pay as you wish.
My review on TripAdvisor:
My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:
To see the historic buildings and hotels I provided all the addresses to see them on your own. Just look for the plaques on the outsides of these buildings.