Walks in New York and elsewhere

My comments on buildings, shops, restaurants that catch my eye as I wander around New York City and other places.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

Sunday, September 18, 2005

From 6th Avenue to 5th Avenue

The building going up, the excavation for which was shown in the previous entry, will have the formal address of One Bryant Park. (No one will ever use it, I can assure you, any more than anyone says "Avenue of the Americas" rather than 6th Avenue.)

The real Bryant Park is diagonally across the street from the hole in the ground. The park has been there since 1871, but has undergone some redesign over the years, the last one in 1992 by landscape architects Hannai Olin and Hardy Holzman Pfeifer. It is named in honor of William Cullen Bryant, poet and editor of the Post, who called for the creation of what later became Central Park. Bryant Park has had it ups and downs, and those seeing it for the first time now might find it hard to imagine as a drug dealers haven. It is now one of the most pleasant open spaces in Manhattan and the only large-ish spot of green in midtown. There is a fairly serious restaurant in the par, the Bryant Park Grill. Snack stations are brances of 'wichcraft. An added attraction is the fact that the park is a free WiFi zone.

Library stacks are underneath the ground. New York's version of London's Crystal Palace stood here from 1853 until 1858, when it was destroyed by a fire.

Bryant Park is a designated scenic landmark.

Looking downtown through the park, you can see Raymond Hood's 1924 American Radiator Building, converted to a hotel a few years ago.

If any building can be called passionate, it's this one. The black and gold Art Deco cum Gothic building suggests coal and fire, appropriately, for the company that commissioned it.

On the north side of the street is the sloping-fronted W. R. Grace Building, designed by
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. We've had since 1974 to get used to it.

Much more pleasing is 11 West 42nd Street, whose Art Deco/Romanesque entry is graced by bas-reliefs and a Guastavino tile ceiling.

Not pictured is the State University College of Optometry, originally Aeolian Hall, designed by Warren and Wetmore in 1912 and redesigned in 1970 by Carl. J. Petrilli and Associates. Its marquee is a heavy presence on the street.

Coliseum Books, a beloved independent bookstore, was forced by rising rents to move from its original location near Columbus Circle to 42nd Street.

If Coliseum doesn't have enough books for you, the building across the street will. It's the New York Public Library, designed in 1911 by Carrere and Hastings in the Romanesque Revival style and magnificently restored and renovated recently by Davis Brody Bond. Of course it is a designated landmark, including some of the most important interiors. The main reading room on the third floor is worth a detour. Be sure to look up at the fluffy clouds.

New York City's reservoir once occupied this site.
The lions who guard the library were named Patience and Fortitude by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. They were sculpted by E.C. Potter. Every year around Christmas, Patience and Fortitude wear wreaths. This is Patience, on the south side.

The library is a popular spot for the film and tv shoots. Here's Carson Kressley and the crew of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy on the steps. I think he's giving the crowd his impersonation of the lions.


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