Opened in 1973, the Kitano Hotel received a key from Mayor John Lindsay for being "the first Japanese-owned facility of its kind in New York." From 1991-1995, the hotel closed its doors for a complete overhaul of the exterior and interior. Stepping inside its doors, I could not help but have a feeling of calm settle over me as I received a warm reception from members of the staff. The simply decorated room with high-ceilings, clean lines, a magnificent floral display and beautiful art on the walls, immediately created an international and elegant appeal.Although the main entrance is on Park Avenue, Jazz at Kitano can be accessed either through the lobby or its own doors on 38th. Both the restaurant and hotel feature museum-quality art works including Fernando Botero, Paul Jenkins, Red Grooms, Ed Baynard and photographers Joel Greenberg and Henri Silberman. We found Jenkins' painting hanging above the bar, entitled Phenomena Seen Not Heard (2004), to be particularly stunning. What a wonderful atmosphere for live music and jazz rhythms, which are played almost every night of the week.
Originally known as the Manhattan Opera House, 311 West has had an interesting history. Oscar Hammerstein built the theater in 1906, but after a few short years, the Metropolitan Opera House came to him requesting that he not compete with them, and made him an offer that he could not refuse. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Hammerstein sold the building to the Shubert brothers where they continued to feature a variety of shows and concerts. In 1922, it was sold again, and this time a Grand Ballroom was added. Unbeknownst to the builders, they had created an outstanding acoustic setup where musicians from Harry Belafonte to the Grateful Dead have performed and recorded. Over the past twenty plus years, construction has been on-going as more multimedia studios have been added and a refurbishing done to the Hammerstein Ballroom to accommodate large private events.
With construction starting in 1958 and finishing ten years later, Saint Vartan Cathedral represents the first Armenian Apostolic cathedral built in North America. Named after a saint who was martyred a millennium and a half ago defending Armenian Christianity, Saint Vartan Cathedral had a memorable beginning. During its construction and immediately following its completion, the building was visited by the highest authority within the Church, His Holiness Vasken I, marking the first such visit by a Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians in the United States. For a people so persecuted throughout history, and especially by the recent Armenian genocide, the building and consecration of this holy house was a monumental event in the community. His Holiness Vasken I, looking out at an assembled audience soon after Saint Vartan's completion, spoke of "an admirable picture of spiritual grace - a rare moment of spiritual bliss - to which we are all witnesses." But far from being a relic, the church continues to thrive with the energy of the community it houses.I encourage any visitors to the church to walk through the intricately decorated doors and take some time to absorb the sheer size and depth of the church. Narrow strips of stained glass depicting biblical scenes and significant events in the history of the Armenian Church rise up to the impressive dome, which depicts Christian symbols in paint and stained glass, such as a human eye within a triangle (representing the omniscient Triune God), the wooden ship (representing the Church), and the white dove (representing the Holy Spirit). Closer to the altar, the “Head of Christ” is chiseled on a slate of stone in high relief. Silver and gold crosses decorate the distinctly Armenian altar. On the sides of the altar are paintings of St. Sahag and St. Mesrob, the two men credited with inventing the Armenian Alphabet, and a painting that seeks to honor the victims of the dreadful Armenian genocide.