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

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I'm trying to decide what my next walk should be. I'm thinking about 125th Street, Museum Mile, or, more ambitiously, the periphery of Central Park. I'd be happy to consider any suggestions.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

9th Avenue to the River

At Ninth Avenue, we enter the precincts of the Gansevoort Market historic district. The designation report is available on-line on the LPC website. For substantive detail, paste this address into your browser: http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/html/forms/reports_man.shtml. In the blog, I just comment on what I see and what I think about it. If I can very quickly look up a date or a name, I include that, too, but not more than that. It's a walk...

This area was originally developed for mixed uses in the mid-19th century. Before the current wave of gentrification it was largely a wholesale meatpacking district. There were four waves of development over the course of about a century. Tremendous change has occurred over the past few years. Landmark designation, one hopes, will preserve a bit of the gritty traditional character while permitting appropriate development. The area was in danger of becoming a high-rise residential neighborhood.

At the confluence of Ninth Avenue, Hudson Street 14th Street is a triangular building, sometimes called the "Little Flatiron," that was built in 1849 for the Herring Safe & Lock Company. It is the oldest purpose-built industrial structure in the area, dating from the time of the earliest development of the district. There are a couple of restaurants in the building as well as some other businesses on the upper floors, all rather tame compared to the notorious clubs, gay and straight that used to be located here. IMG_1240 (Small)
The cornice is being restored.

Currently the area is fashionable, even chic, with restaurants and shops catering to all segments of the hip, would-be hip and used-to-be hip communities.

IMG_1211 (Small) The Old Homestead Resaurant, sharing the ground floor with a diner, has been serving steaks in this building since 1868.

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Much newer is Markt, for moules frites and Belgian beer. The building itself dates from the 1920s.

IMG_1212 (Small) Western Beef is a supermarket in an old meat-packing plant. Marquees like this one

IMG_1236 (Small) and this one are an important physical feature of this district and the LPC encourages references to them in new design.

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Well, I guess it's a marquee.

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Here and there are buildings that have not yet been restored or renovated and convey the character of the old market.


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But, change is inevitable. Here's the Little Pie Company

To say nothing of chic stores like
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Alexander McQueen

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and Jeffrey.

There are many other equally fashionable shops on the block, includng La Perla and Stella McCartney. A flagship store for Diane von Furstenburg looks as if it will open soon.


Another remnant of the industrial past is the above-the-street High Line railroad that used to run --sometimes through buildings --from 35th Street to near the Holland Tunnel. It remained in use until the 1960s, when part of it was torn down. The remainder stayed up, and became a beloved ruin and attractive nuisance. It is soon to be turned into an aboveground park, similar to one in Paris created from a similar rail line. I can't wait.
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Outisde the western boundary of the history district is a playground and sitting area. In the background is a new high rise building that shows what might have happened if the Gansevoort Market historic district had not been established.
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The Hudson River Park's walking and bicyle paths are here
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adjacent to what remains of a pier in the Hudson River.
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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

From Eighth Avenue to Ninth Avenue

Two classical revival former bank buildings, both landmarks, flank 14th Street at Eighth Avenue. On the n.w. corner is the former New York Savings Bank, designed by R.H. Robertson, 1896-7, a designated interior as well as exterior NYC landmark. It underwent a major renovation in 1994, prior to housing Central Carpets, with a touch-up last year before it became, more or less, Balducci's. Balducci's was a highly-regarded food emporium in Greenwich Village whose illustrious name was bought by a much larger corporation. They are trying to live up to the new name. The interior of this building is spectacular, with columns, stained glass windows and a coffered ceiling under the dome.

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IMG_1177 (Small)The symbol of the bank, not of Balducci's, although not inappropriate, was a beehive.


On the south side of 14th Street is the former New York County National Bank, by DeLemos & Cordes, 1906-7. A very visible addition, containing a theater and apartments was designed by Hudson River Studios and John Reimnitz in 1999.
IMG_1204 (Small) I did not hear the discussion at the LPC when this project was reviewed, but I find it difficult to reconcile what I see with the typical LPC demand that a rooftop addition be "minimally visible." Most of the the addition is to the south of the main part of the building and is therefore, possibly, not strictly a rooftop addition, although it appears to be. That being said, the glass and metal are not incompatible. I am reminded of I.M. Pei's glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre.

IMG_1167 (Small) Here's where Our Lady of Guadelupe moved. This brownstone Gothic Revival church was built in 1875 for The Church of St. Bernard, designed by Patrick Charles Keely.

Most of the buildings on the block are four and five-story walk-ups, similar to those on the block between Seventh and Eighth avenues, but these two, IMG_1206 (Small) 315 W. 14th, with some art deco details


IMG_1207 (Small) and 317 West 14th, seem to be trying harder. Someone should tell the owner of 317 that shutters, even if they are purely decorative, should look as if they would, in fact, cover the entire window as if they were functional.