Opened on May 23, 1911 on the site of a former reservoir, this main branch of the New York Public Library is a true wonder of the city. Upon its completion, it was the largest marble structure in the United States, and the classical design elements ensure that it remains as breathtaking now as it was then. In 1965, it became a National Historic Landmark. The Main Reading Room is an enormous hall, with murals and intricate relief work lording overhead and large, open windows allowing for bright sunlight to pour across the books being huddled over. Small exhibitions to art and cultural histories pepper the halls. The entire structure is truly a pleasure to explore, one of the grandest and most wonderful buildings in the entire city, and we spent a pleasant afternoon wandering the halls in a book-drunk daze trying to absorb it all.
A psychological and cultural resource center combining a bookstore, libraries, training institutes, and continuing education, the C. G. Jung Center serves as a fulcrum for all things Jungian in midtown Manhattan. An air of learnedness wafts throughout the premises, awash in the smell of old books and older dreams. Carl Jung's wide-reaching areas of interest wind their ways through our unconscious, through dreams and myths and memories, and all are represented in the literature available here. The bookstore downstairs has readings on these and more from authors Jungian and otherwise, but the real treasure is the library on the fourth floor. We stopped in and chatted with Robin, a psychoanalyst-in-training who waxed historical on Jung's break with contemporary academics and with Freud, symbols, myths, and newer-age psychoanalytical practices. One of our writers, a once and future psychology student, spent quite a bit of time perusing the literary offerings, happily flipping through tomes from "The Presence of Siva, " to "Existential Psychotherapy" to "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female" and "Psychopathia Sexualis. " The reading room is carpeted with a large, worn, oriental rug and furnished with colorful squishy seating. Chairs sit in a pleasantly haphazard arrangement around a wooden table, giving the impression that the ghosts of scholars remembered and forgotten were sitting in the room reading just before browsers arrived. Certainly, they have not strayed far from this house of learning.
The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen predates even the U. S. Constitution, as it was founded two years before the document was signed. For well over two centuries, the organization has been a hub of skilled activity, and its Mechanics Institute offers tuition-free courses to help people learn an A to Z of trades within the construction and building fields. The building, with its elegant marble staircase, mosaic tiled floors and stained glass window, is yet another 44th Street New York City landmark listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, and serves as a museum to the long and storied past of the organization, where many of the traditions continue. Known to be the second oldest in the city, The General Society Library opened its doors in 1820. With a sky-lit high ceiling to let in natural light, I found it to be a beautiful room to browse through both the technical books and others selected for recreational reading. A lesser-known fact, however, is that the building houses the John M. Mossman Lock Museum, which boasts one of the world’s most complete collections of bank and vault locks. Visitors can meander through the assortment of over 370 rare locks and keys — some of which can be traced back to 4000 B. C. — and wonder at the treasures they have safeguarded. “The collection has grown in popularity as people have come to appreciate the exquisite craftsmanship of the lock mechanisms and the beauty of the keys, ” said Executive Director Victoria A. Dengel.
J. P. Morgan was more than one of the most influential financiers in American history – he was a collector of impeccable taste. While still a young businessman, he began to acquire quite an impressive set of books, manuscripts and drawings. Later in life, as his wealth grew, he amassed art and historic artifacts. When he died in 1913, his estate was valued at a then astronomical $60 million. A decade after his passing, his son ceded his fantastic collection to public stewardship. The museum, which has grown vastly from its original home, now covers half a city block with a smorgasbord of buildings and spaces representing distinct architectural schools and periods. The holdings of J. P. Morgan still represent the core of the collection, but new holdings are constantly being acquired and donated. In addition, the Library hosts many excellent and inspiring exhibitions. Over the years, I have appreciated a number of the shows, especially those related to children's literature, a passion of mine - Beatrix Potter: The Picture Letters; Where the Wild Things Are: Original Drawings by Maurice Sendak; Drawing Babar: Early Drafts and Watercolors; and, most recently, The Little Prince: A New York Story has opened. Special Note: Free admission is offered on Friday evenings from 7-9pm.
Manuel Uzhca's story reads like a fairytale. He came to New York from Ecuador when he was seventeen with absolutely nothing to his name and spent time as a dishwasher in a number of restaurants. He met Jean-Claude Baker when both were working at Pronto, an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side. In 2011, Jean-Claude offered Manuel the position of manager at Chez Josephine — little did Manuel know that only four years later, the restaurant would belong to him. Manuel still recalls the day that Jean-Claude asked him to bring in his passport. Confused by his request, Manuel chose not to comply. Jean-Claude teased Manuel by saying, “If you don't bring your passport, that means you don't want my restaurant. ” The next day, still perplexed, Manuel presented his passport. Jean-Claude marched the two of them to the bank and added Manuel's name to his account, giving him permission to sign checks for the restaurant. Shortly after, Jean-Claude announced that he was retiring, but Manuel did not take him seriously. Jean-Claude then told him that he was leaving and insisted, “I won't be back. ” Jean-Claude proceeded to his attorney's office, changed his will, and went off to the Hamptons. He called Manuel to make sure that everything was in order at the restaurant, and then, very sadly, Jean-Claude took his own life. “I did not believe I owned the place, not even when they showed me the will, ” Manuel declared. Jean-Claude was the last of the children adopted into singer-dancer Josephine Baker’s “Rainbow Tribe, ” created with a mission of racial harmony. He lived and performed with her for a time before making his way to New York and eventually opening this restaurant. It quickly became a haven for Broadway clientele, known for its charming and colorful ambiance as much as its haute cuisine. Since taking over in 2015, Manuel has continued running this famed French restaurant exactly how Jean-Claude left it — paying homage to Josephine Baker, who captured the Parisian imagination in the 1920s and did not let go for decades.
Known as the "Center for Social Change, " the Ford Foundation has been committed to helping the world be a better place since 1936. They work diligently to "protect human rights, reform governments, provide education opportunities and create space for artistic creativity and expression. " Without a doubt, one of Manhattan's finest atriums greets visitors. Entering the glass structure from either 42nd or 43rd Street, a world of green awaits. There are trees, plants, a fountain and short paths to wander through. The atrium is a hidden oasis in the middle of the city.
As part of the restoration of Grand Central Terminal in the late '90s, Pershing Square Cafe opened under the Park Avenue viaduct. The fare is American and straightforward, with burgers and chicken pot pies, steaks and fish. The pancakes, served all day, are a big crowd pleaser. Up front, commuters sipping coffee, reading, and chatting while awaiting the next train, inhabit a more cafe-esque area. When speaking with the manager one day, he was proud to tell me that both Friends with Benefits and the Avengers were filmed at Pershing.