Meet 49th Street
Calm and distinguished, the east side of 49th Street begins in a line of ivy-clad brownstones, the homes of private practices and foreign consulates. As I moved into the heart of the city, 49th presented iconic New York destinations, led, of course, by the torchbearer, Rockefeller Center. Even farther west, the haze of this illustrious tower drifts away, succeeded by the luxury of the lesser known.
Discovering Masq, a multifaceted restaurant and lounge offering a New Orleans flavor with live music and a variety of rooms in which to spend time, was perfect as I began my trek across town. Coming out of this colorful haven, I found myself on the black and white tiles of the New York Shaving Company. Its vintage fashion exemplifies a respect for, and possible revival of, past trends in men’s grooming.
Few capture the elegant aspects of early twentieth century New York better than the Waldorf Astoria. Today, the decorative details of the hotel are still striking, and I suspect that they will carry on in their glamorous glory for years to come. In a word, the Waldorf is timeless. The sophisticated department store, Saks Fifth Avenue, standing the test of time since the early 1900s, is an additional example of what has endured on 49th. A heightened energy and a quickened pace drove me as I approached the Rockefeller Center area. I paused simply to reflect not only on how far I had come in my journey on the side streets of Manhattan, but also, once again, to appreciate the significance of what I was observing.
Surrounded by marvelous shops is the entrance to the headquarters of the legendary NBC Studios where tours are offered on a daily basis. Across the street, another venerable establishment appears. Phenomenal paintings dress the windows, but the entrance is relatively subtle. Proud letters read Christie’s, one of the foremost auction houses in the world. Although Rain does not have the benefit of the history of its Rockefeller Center neighbors, the spirit and dedication to humankind captured my heart. Specializing in soap and spa products, owner Hendrien Dewhurst explained that the present day company grew out of a job creation program in South Africa. Using only pure and organic ingredients, the Rain project continues to help people with needs that far surpass skincare.
Though it was a struggle to leave the splendid fragrances of Rain for the classic city fumes, I swiftly made my way to one more emblem of delicacy, La Maison du Chocolat. Here, I learned of the company’s rich history and high regard for chocolate. I left understanding that chocolate should be appreciated in the way many revere wine; it must be savored and contemplated.
Along with world-class chocolate, 49th Street offers fresh seafood and a vast selection of drinks at the impressive Oceana. Having met both the chef and the wine director, I realized how well the two work together, meticulously crafting the perfect combination of food and drink. Specializing in meat, Churrascaria Plataforma, the Brazilian steak house gets rid of all superfluous frills, continuously bringing the main meat course out on spears, complemented by possibly the largest salad bar in the city.
Back to the sidewalk, I approached another of Broadway’s grandest, the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, where the Book of Mormon has been experiencing a spectacular run. Alcone Company supplies many of the theater district’s performers with their stage makeup and everyday cosmetic products. And, within just a few steps, is a church with its own rich thespian history dating back to 1902, the beautiful St. Malachy’s – The Actors’ Chapel. Persevering west, but still connected to the stage world, I enjoyed spending time with David Masenheimer, the creative force behind Ramparts Productions. After years of working in various industries, David has finally found his calling. A gifted craftsmen, he has constructed set designs for numerous productions and is also sought after by event planners who are looking for unique pieces to adorn tables at various functions.
A calm certainly settled in as I moved closer to the Hudson River. My last discovery, quietly tucked away in a quintessential tiny New York space, is Fine and Dandy – a boutique filled with an array of timeless collections of men’s accessories and other antique gems.
My walk across 49th Street continued to remind me that New York is a city with an ongoing pattern of drastic change. The nature of a Manhattan neighborhood forms in individual layers, although each new aspect is bound to what has come before. Walking 49th, in particular, I realized that it was not the incredible history alone that made for its distinctive allure; it was the simultaneous celebration of what was then and what is now.