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

Friday, March 31, 2006

From 6th Avenue to 8th Avenue

The next block is mostly a continuation of typical low-end shopping, but with local stores rather than chain stores. It's possible to make a detour here to Hoboken, Jersey City and Newark, N.J. by taking the PATH train, reachable through the subway station at 14th and 6th. Round-trip fare: $3.00

From 6th to 7th Avenue it's mostly low-priced shopping, local stores rather than chains. But there are a couple of interesting buildings. The Salvation Army has a sizable complex on the south side of the block. Here's the entrance to the Centennial Memorial Temple at 120 West 14th. IMG_1145 (Small) The whole Art Deco shebang was designed by Voorhees, Gmelin & Walker in 1929.

At 144 West 14th, Brooklyn-based Pratt Institute has its Manhattan outpost in an impressive Roman Revival building dating from 1899. IMG_1149 (Small)

You can't miss the terra cotta frosting on the southeast corner of Seventh Avenue. The building dates from 1913, designed by Herman Lee Meader. It uses both Art Nouveau and Art Deco vocabulary. IMG_1150 (Small)

Across the street is an old row, altered often and badly. How much longer will this last?

At the s.e. corner of Seventh Avenue is a Papaya King. I can attest to the fact that the ambiance and quality of the food are identical to the original location at 86th street. IMG_1153 (Small)

While crossing Seventh Avenue to get to Papaya King, if you look downtown you'll see the former building of the National Maritime Union, now a part of St. Vincent's Medical Center. It's idiosyncratic design, undeniably nautical, although as appropriate for the nursery as it was for a rather radical union, was designed in 1964 by Ledner & Associates. IMG_1151 (Small) It shouts "1960s."

At the uptown corner, 201 and 203 West 14th, 6-story buildings with mansard roofs that were probably added at the time they became smart. One of them retains its cresting, the lacy ironwork that is supposed to be the crowning glory of the mansard roof, but which has not usually survived. IMG_1154 (Small)

The building at 203 still sports a stained glass window (in very bad condition, to be sure.) IMG_1186 (Small)

There is an alterations permit from the buildings department on the doorway, so it may not be here for long.

Across the street, at 200 W. 14th, is a red brick tenement with an odd classical statue on the facade. IMG_1155 (Small)

On the north side of the block is a residential row from the mid-19th century, with much altered ground floors. IMG_1158 (Small)

The building at 229 West 14th was Our Lady of Guadelupe, a Spanish-speaking Roman Catholic congregation. The Spanish-looking facade seems to have been applied to the brownstone-front house some time in the past, but what is that dollar sign under the topmost arch? Was this a bank before it became a church? Some research is necessary. IMG_1159 (Small)

A few doors away is the headquarters of the Spanish Benevolent Society. Clearly this was and still is, a largely Hispanic neighborhood.

At 241 West 14th, between two similar, but not quite as nice buildings is a true historic structure, the Andrew Norwood House. IMG_1160 (Small) For $10.9 million, you can own the 21-room Greek Revival row house with 13 fireplaces that banker and developer Norwood built in 1845. The house was restored 30 thirty years ago, and it is a designated individual NYC landmark that is also listed on the State and National registers of historic places. This house and the two adjacent ones were the first masonry houses on the block. Regretably, the contents of the house, including neo-classical and Regency furniture fro 1770-1856 were auctioned in June, 2005.

There's another grand house across the street, this one Italianate, attesting that this block was fashionable at one time. IMG_1161 (Small)

At 249 there's an interesting cornice. IMG_1163 (Small)

Such is the luster of the "Village" that the owner of this deli has made up his own neighborhood, that exists only in the mind of the owner. IMG_1179 (Small)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Union Square to Sixth Avenue

Walking westward, we are now at the northern edge of Greenwich Village. Just to the north is an edge of the Ladies Mile Historic District. Farther west we will be on the southern boundary of Chelsea. (The neighborhoods extend beyond the technical boundaries of the designated historic districts.) West of Ninth Avenue, 14th Street goes through the Gansevoort Historic District.

14th Street, at Union Square and for the next block or two, has long been a destination discount shopping area. Only the names change. Old-tmers will remember S. Klein's On the Square (where Zeckendorf Tower is now), Ohrbach's and May's. Today they have been supplanted by newer stores Filene's Basement and others.

On the northwest corner of Union Square West stands the Lincoln Building, constructed in 1890, designed by H. R. Robertson. IMG_0880 (Small)

This part of 14th Street was home to a number of retail dry-good stores toward the end of the 19th century, in the wake of the construction of the 6th Avenue El.

Across the street is an impressive cast-iron building designed by D. and J. Jardine in 1880 for the Bauman's Carpet store. IMG_0881 (Small) Think of the impression these windows must have made in 1880.


If Trader Joe's, the Greenmarket or Whole Foods don't have what you want, maybe the Garden of Eden will. IMG_0883 (Small)

My favorite building on the block is this one: IMG_1136 (Small) It was built in 1896, designed by William Schickel, for Macy's, which occupied a group of buildings in this neighborhood before moving to 34th Street.

There are a number of union headquarters in the neighborhood. This building this union is in has a unique decorative scheme (The Little Prince,) that regrettably has been overlaid with graffiti. IMG_1134 (Small)

On the s. e. corner of 14th and 6th is a building now housing an Urban Outfitters store on the ground floor that was built in 1904 by Henry Siegel as a low-to mid-price department store. It was designed by Cady, Berg & See. IMG_1142 (Small) Siegel was a partner in the more upscale Siegel-Cooper department store a few blocks north in the Ladies Mile Historic District.

Across the street, on the s.e. corner is a sign that always brings The Great Gatsby to mind.IMG_1143 (Small)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

From Third Avenue to Union Square

NYU began making over this area with dormitories (at least one built notoriously, in this neighborhood, with non-union labor.) NYC's very first Trader Joe's has opened on the ground floor of one of them, on the south side of the street. IMG_1133 (Small)

There are times when there is a line not just to pay, but just to get in to shop. The next few blocks are mecca to foodies, with a new (but not well-liked) Whole Foods, IMG_0860 (Small)

a Garden of Eden store,
and the Union Square Greenmarket, IMG_1128 (Small)

the flagship of the Council on the Envionment's initiative to support local farmers while supplying high-quality, often organically-produced fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products to New Yorkers. These cheeses are from Cato Corners, my favorite.

The NYU dorms were designed by Davis, Brody, Bond, who were also responsible for the nearby Zeckendorf Towers (1987),
the reddish brick building in the foreground. IMG_0864 (Small)

The clock tower in the background is an addition to the massive Con Ed building on the north side of the street. It was designed by Warren & Wetmore, better known for Grand Central Terminal, the Heckscher Building, Steinway Hall and many others, but those are buildings I've commented on earlier, on the 57th Street and 42nd Street walks. The earlier part of the building dates from 1915 and was designed by Henry Hardenbergh, best known perhaps for the Dakota apartment house and the Plaza Hotel. (Warren & Wetmore also designed an addition to the Plaza.)

The Con Ed clocktower is built on the site of the Academy of Music, an early and significant cultural institution, later supplanted by the Metropolitan Opera.

Union Square is a park named for the junction of streets that meet and would cross in the area were it not for the decision of the city fathers when they were laying out the grid to leave open space here and name it "Union Square." It has long been a place for political gatherings, protest, and expression. IMG_0878 (Small)

New Yorkers spontaneously converged on the square to express their shock and mourn collectively immediately after 9/11.

In between political protests, and sometimes during them, the southern end of the square is often used by skateboarders. (note sign) IMG_0872 (Small)

A subway kiosk is not old, but part of the restoration and renovation of the park in the late 1980s. IMG_0857 (Small)

Across the street, visible in the background of the subway kiosk photo, is the upper part of a sculpture on the facade of one of the new buildings. I've yet to find anyone who has a good word for it. It seems to me to be an abstract and pretentious version of the fondly remembered Camel billboard in Times Square that puffed out cigarette smoke. Maybe that's not a bad thing, after all. The sculpture dates from 1999, by Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel.
IMG_0865 (Small)

More traditionally, a statue of Gandhi by Gautam Pal, strides into the Square. IMG_1125 (Small)

Looking north, one can see the finest mansard roof in New York, on what is now the W Hotel. (This is really a variation of a true mansard roof, which more often is associated with the French Second Empire style, popular during the 1860-1880s. A true mansard roof has a double slope on all four sides, the lower sloped being steeper than the upper. This roof seems to have only one slope, but everyone refers to it as a mansard.) It was the Guardian Life building, originally the Germania Life Insurance Company, built in 1910-11, designed by D'Oench & Yost. The name of the company was changed at the time of WWI to something less inflammatory that re-used as many letters as possible. The building is a designated landmark and the landmarks commission insisted that the W sign retain the character of the original. IMG_0859 (Small)