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

Monday, October 31, 2005

Walking westward

Wherever there is a place to sit, people will be sitting. This is a little triangle near the place where East Broadway intersects with Grand Street. These people have probably lived in the nearby Seward Park development since the beginning.

On East Broadway, across the way, is a very impressive building that was designed in 1904 by Sass & Smallheiser as a settlement house along the lines of the YMCA, although, to be sure, not with a Christian program in this heavily Jewish neighborhood. It is now a mikveh, (the sign on the door says "Ritualarium") a place where ritual baths are taken by Orthodox Jews. It is a sign that there are also young Orthodox Jewish families in the neighborhood.

Take a detour to the right, onto Willett Street, to see the Bialystoker Synagogue.

This fieldstone building, dating from 1826, was originally the Willett Street Methodist Episcopal Church. The style and character of the building suggest the kind of quiet, upscale neighborhood this was immediately following the Revolutionary War. The church became a synagogue in 1878, when a group of Jewish emigres from the town of Bialystok, Poland bought it for that purpose. The synagogue is still very active. This is not the only federal era building we will see on Grand Street, but it is the one in the best condition. The building is a New York City designated landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sources for Grand Street

For dates, names of architects and occasionally, other tidbits of information, I consulted the following: As always, any opinions exressed are my own.

The Lower East Side, Joyce Mendelsohn
New York, A Guide to the Metropolis, Gerard R. Wolfe
AIA Guide, White and Willensky
Cast-Iron Architecture in New York, Margot Gayle and Edmumd V. Gillon Jr.

NYC Department of Buildings

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Grand Street, starting from East River Drive

Grand Street was laid out in 1766 by James de Lancey Jr. as the road between Corlears Hook, a piece of land that juts out into the East River between the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges and what was then de Lancey Square or the Great Square (now Essex Street). It was named for its great width relative to other streets of the period. Grand Street runs from the East River Drive to Varick Street, not quite river to river.

The street begins at the East River (aka FDR) Drive. To the north is the Williamsburg Bridge

This part of Manhattan Island was owned by the de Lancey family, who were fervent loyalists during the American Revolution. At the end of the war, the de Lancey land was sold and the area was developed in a few decades for low-income housing, i.e., tenements primarily for new immigrants.

By the 1930s, the old tenements had become uninhabitable and block upon block of them and the streets on which they were located, were razed for the superblocks and high-rise, high-density buildings that one sees at the eastern end of Grand Street. These buildings were orginally sponsored by clothing workers unions for union members.

Some of the buildings are named after prominent figures connected to the lives of the people who lived in the area, usually with a leftist slant

...although it's not "this land is your land..."

There is attractive brickwork on some of the older buildings.

One of the most famous of the co-ops is Seward Park. Its lobby has some murals dating from 1959 that the buildings' owners tried to paint over at the time a few years ago when they decided to attract market-rate buyers. An effort by the NYC Municipal Art Society and others saved the murals. The artist who painted the pictures of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein was Hugo Gellert, who had been far more prominent a generation earlier. See the murals at http://newdeal.feri.org/gellert/murals.htm

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Along the Appalachian Trail in Tyringham

Along Main Road

Union Church, Tyringham

Historic Union Church, a Greek Revival building, was built in 1844.

Walk in Tyringham, MA.

Tyringham is my favorite town in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Almost completely devoid of tourist attractions, it offers a taste of what the Berkshires used to be even before the area became a resort for the rich a hundred years ago and the summer home of the Boston Symphony some years after that. I've taken many photographs of the town over the years, but last summer was the first time I visited with a digital camera. Until I am able to scan slides, I can't post pictures of the Cobble, the ruins of Ashintully (one of the great "cottages," destroyed by fire), or what is left of an interesting Shaker settlement. Maybe next year.

We stay in the Cobble View Inn, an unpretentious bed and breakfast in the heart of town, near the corner of Main Road and Jerusalem Road. The front part of the inn is the original house, over 200 years old. Over the years, there have been many alterations and additions, none of which are entirely sympathetic and some of which are downright awful (through the narrow lens of historic preservation) but the place is comfortable.

The name of the bed and breakfast refers to Tyringham Cobble. http://www.thetrustees.org/pages/370_tyringham_cobble.cfm

Across Main Road is the post office.

On Jerusalem Road is my favorite little gingerbread house.

Farther up the street is a garage that looks as if it shoud
be in a painting.

Friday, October 07, 2005

East of First

Below Tudor City, 42nd Street continues to First Avenue and beyond. Just to the south is the United Nations headquarters. That is the Secretariat building pictured to the right. The UN buildings are located on a sizable, parklike plot of land donated by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. A international team of architects, including Le Corbusier were responsible for the planning and design of the complex, under the chairmanship of Wallace K. Harrison.

Visiting the UN is a very touristy but worthwhile activity for anyone who is interested in art and architecture.

On the south side of the street is the rather desolate Robert Moses Playground, named in 1982 for an active and notorious parks commissioner (although that title does not begin to describe his activities) although the park opened in 1941. A good chunk of its space is taken up by the Queens-Midtown tunnel's ventilating tower.

The fence at the far eastern side of the park lists the names of some of Moses's achievements. A plaque at the entrance provides a paean to his accomplishments. Robert Caro's tome, The Power Broker, tells a rather different tale.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Between Second and First

The Ford Foundation building caused a sensation when it was built, in 1967, designed by Kevine Roche John Dinkeloo & Assocs. This was the first planted atrium and remains the best. It is still open to the public, although it must be entered from the 43rd Street entry. The building is a designated landmark.

Across the street is a little church that is probably the oldest building on the entire street, the Tudor Revival Church of the Covenant, designed by J.C. Cady, and standing here since 1871.
I like to think it was the inspiration for Tudor City.

Walk up the stairs at this point, take a look around Tudor City and see if you agree.

There are two little private parks on the Tudor City level.

This entire complex is a designated historic district. It was a urban renewal effort by the Fred R. French Co. and H. Douglas Ives and was conceived as middle-class housing at the time it was built between 1925-28. The 12 original building exteriors are lavishly ornamented in a fanciful interpretation of the Tudor style. Tudor City remains desirable, if not fashionable, and a quiet enclave (literally) above the urban fray.

L'Impero, a high-end Italian restaurant is located here.

This is the door to the local pre-school program. You get the idea.

The rear facades of the buildings were left plain and relatively windowless, to allow the new tenants to avert their eyes from the slaughterhouses, power plants and nondescript tenements below. New windows were added in recent years.

Between Third Avenue and Second Avenue

At 202 East 42nd street is this remnant of the past, a five-story
Romanesque Revival building.

Another Raymond Hood Art Deco beauty is at 220 E. 42, the Daily News Building, complete with the revolving globe in the lobby. It was built in 1930. Both the exterior and the lobby are designated landmarks. The newspaper has moved elsewhere.