Meet 25th Street
Walking 25th Street, I felt the neighborhoods from the East Side to the West Side shift into contrasting communities, with different residents, commercial markets and physical landscapes. On the East Side, the quiet, intimate Gramercy neighborhood turned into Kips Bay, another residential district defined by bigger buildings and busier streets and avenues. The Flatiron District, marked by the distinctive architecture of the Flatiron Building, interior design shops and great restaurants, transitioned above Madison Square Park into Midtown South – land of the 1960s-80s office building. Moving west into the Chelsea area, and the increasingly large numbers of galleries between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues, the tree-lined stretches of brick and brownstone townhouses were replaced by densely packed thrift and antique stores, and quite a few mannequin display companies. As usual, however, I discovered a number of unexpected places that stuck out from this rather homogenous pathway.
All the way East, I stopped by the American Academy of Pet Grooming, which trains many of the groomers and dog stylists at pet shops around the city. Half a block away, I discovered Ye Olde Carlton Arms Hotel, a brightly lit, colorfully designed hotel filled with noteworthy sculptures, antiques and artifacts. I was astounded when I approached the NY State Appellate Division Courthouse, a grand stone building, constructed at the end of the 1800s and decorated with allegorically-themed wall murals and stained glass windows. Many famous New York court decisions have been made here, and every graduating class of New York State lawyers is sworn in under its gorgeous ceiling skylights.
The middle of 25th Street passes over the top of Madison Square Park and to its west, on the corner of Broadway, lies Hill Country Chicken, an old diner-style Southern food joint that has developed a big following since it opened. Across the Street is Jay-Z’s 40-40 Club, a massive sports bar and lounge. Noir et Blanc, a fashionable clothing store, offers personal stylist services and is run by Deborah Koenigsberger, a former model and stylist, herself. A few steps away, Deborah also owns the highly-curated thrift store, The Thrifty HoG, which donates money to help homeless mothers and children find jobs and housing. Next door is the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava, a beautifully designed building with a rich and diverse history.
Continuing west, I was pleased to discover the exceptional Blue Dog Kitchen Bar and Johny’s Grill and Luncheonette, a throwback to decades long ago. Fred Silberman not only has an impressive assortment of Italian furniture from the 1920s-1970s, but in chatting with the man, I found his travel stories and discoveries throughout Italy to be both educational and fascinating. Each of the flea markets had interesting finds, but it was the Showplace Antique Center that was the show-stopper for me. There are over 250 galleries tucked into this building, with extraordinary merchandise and engaging sellers. Shortly after exploring all four floors of the flea market, I discovered the tiny Henry Westpfal & Co, a shop that was established in 1874 and to this day continues to sharpen knives the “old fashioned way.” Next, I visited New York Vintage, known for its unrivaled collection of high-end vintage clothing and its impressive list of celebrity clients, including First Lady Michelle Obama. Other places that captured my attention were Senior Planet and Exploration Center, which teaches those over sixty-five how to use current technology, and The City Quilter, a colorful large space that houses thousands of bolts of fabric and holds numerous quilting classes throughout the year.
Down a few avenues, I took a few moments to gaze at the Jeff Dullea Intergenerational Community Garden, a surprisingly large outdoor green space teeming with fresh flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Towards the end of 25th Street, I found Auto Design NYC, a vibrant car enhancement workshop, and Tesla Motors, the well-known electric car company. Right below the entrance to the Highline on 25th is a virtual kaleidoscope, painted and signed by Eduardo Kobra, a Brazilian born artist. His version of the famous 1945 black and white photo, taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt, of the sailor kissing a girl, is rich with every color of the rainbow. This marked the beginning of a long stretch of top-tier art galleries and auction houses.
Though 25th Street may not be the most beautiful street that I have encountered, from river to river, the treasures that I stumbled upon gave reason to my continuous wandering and exploration of the side streets.