Initially serving as a resting stop for Scandinavian sailors when they disembarked in lower Manhattan, the Swedish Seaman's Church opened its doors on Water Street in 1873. The neo-Gothic building in which the Church currently resides was constructed in 1921 for "The Bible House" before being sold to the Church of Sweden in 1978. The Church's nautical past is evidenced in the model boats placed among the large collection of Swedish books.
With a chapel, a library, and a coffee shop, the Church's doors are always open to Swedes. While tasting their delicious Swedish buns, I chatted with the staff who spoke enthusiastically about the function that the center plays in people's lives. For families, it provides a "wind" of Sweden whenever they miss their homeland. There are also multiple weddings conducted in the chapel each week, and people come from all over to celebrate holidays and shop at their Christmas Bazaar.
As a proud New Yorker for many years, I would always stop by St. Patrick's Cathedral while showing visitors the city. After walking all of the side streets on the Manhattan grid, I have discovered many magnificent churches in New York. I am still incredibly moved, however, every time I step inside St. Pat's. For me, it possesses all the grandeur of a Western European cathedral, yet it is right here in the heart of Midtown. Home to the seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, St. Patrick's Cathedral was built between 1858 and 1878 (construction was halted during the Civil War). A National Landmark, it was designed by James Renwick Jr. in the image of a thirteenth-century-style Gothic church with flying buttresses snaking up the walls, supporting the almost 340-foot structure, it boasts beautiful stained glass windows that softly diffuse the afternoon light. In the fall of 2014, the church is halfway through their multi-year renovation and cleaning. Although the interior and exterior are currently covered in scaffolding, the church maintains its majestic appearance and generates exhilaration as its restored marble facing is meticulously unveiled from the spires downward.
St. Bartholomew's, affectionately nicknamed St. Bart's, was built between 1916 and 1930 in the simplified Byzantine style. Sitting on an entire block amidst 50th and 51st Streets, the dramatic exterior has always caught my attention while traveling on Park Avenue. It was not until recently, while I was walking on the side streets, that I finally ventured indoors to appreciate the limestone walls, the magnificent stained glass windows, and the intricately designed dome. Designated as a landmark in 1967, St. Bart's is home to the largest organ in New York - and one of the ten largest in the world.
In 1823, a group of prominent men joined together to form a new Episcopal church in New York. St. Thomas had a troubling history of fire and destruction until the consecration of its current building on 53rd and Fifth Avenue in 1913. Designed by Lee Lawrie and Bertram Goodhue - the same architecture team that is responsible for Saint Bartholomew on 50th Street and Park Avenue - St. Thomas is as magnificent as many English cathedrals. An avid fan of its limestone exterior, sandstone interior, French High Gothic Style, and stained glass windows, I have never missed an opportunity to step indoors to admire and appreciate this incredible work of art.
Clinton Garden is a striking testament to the power of residential communities in New York. One of the earliest examples of urban agricultural reclamation, the garden was created in 1979 in a lot that had been abandoned for twenty-eight years. Seeing potential in the space and hoping to improve the area around the neighborhood, residents (with the help of Operation Green Thumb, which leased the lot from the city) transformed the VACANT property into a garden using reclaimed and salvaged bricks, concrete, and slate. Finding the gates open on a beautiful spring Saturday, I wandered in and strolled down the paths filled with magnificent flowers and shrubs. I also met committed people tending to their small plots of land, of which there are now over one hundred. I have since been back many times, as I think this is a magnificent retreat on those days that I am in a need of a place to rest while walking the side streets of Manhattan.
Tucked between a Swiss and an Italian restaurant, Scent Elate brings Eastern spirituality to the neighborhood. With the doors swung open, the aromas were an enticing trail that led me into this tiny boutique packed with an array of incense, candles, soaps, oils and lotions. Scent Elate also has books on meditation and yoga scattered among crystals, jewelry, chimes and hanging ornaments. In fact, it might just be "the" place to go when searching for sticks of incense - not only is there a vast selection, but Mo, the owner, makes a special effort to find the perfect scent to enhance each individual customer's environment.
Named after Bible verses in Isaiah (the wolf and the lamb shall feed together), this restaurant opened in Manhattan in 1998, and expanded to Brooklyn the following year. Initially a traditional kosher deli, it later reinvented itself as a steakhouse. The extensive menu ranges from matzo ball soup to salmon burgers, veal Bolognese gnocchi and, of course, includes a variety of steaks and chops. Drawing on influences as diverse as Vietnamese, Tex-Mex, and French-country, Wolf and Lamb adapts its more customary function to a cosmopolitan venue. "Just because you're keeping kosher doesn't mean you have to sacrifice on quality, " shared a waitress. And while we were told that the majority of customers keep kosher regularly, the crowded space was testament to Wolf and Lamb's broad culinary appeal.