An oasis in a concrete cityscape, this little church doubles as a place of worship and a serene garden in which to rest. The Episcopalian church was founded in 1848 by George Houghton to welcome any and all of the tired masses, in the spirit of inclusivity. Today, the church maintains that inclusive spirit by keeping its gates open all day to parishioners and non-parishioners alike. On any given day, one can find anyone from actors to businessmen seated among the bushes and fountains, chatting, eating or simply sitting in peace. “A lot of people just come in and meditate or chill,” parish administrator Bill Nave shared with us. “It is one of the most welcoming churches I have ever been to.” What a charming discovery in the midst of bustling Manhattan.
How is this for an architect’s resume: The Dakota (known today as the apartment building where John Lennon was shot), the original Waldorf and Astoria hotels, (subsequently torn down to make room for the Empire State Building), the Plaza Hotel, the Willard Hotel in DC and the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston. Henry Janeway Hardenbergh designed the Hotel Martinique in two phases: the first part opened in 1898, and was then completed in 1910, with 600 rooms in total. The intricate mosaic flooring remains intact, as does the winding staircase that climbs eighteen stories.
Adereth El is considered to be the oldest synagogue in New York that is still operating out of its original location. German Jewish immigrants founded the congregation in 1857, and the building was constructed in 1863. To this day, Orthodox Jews attend services on a daily basis. Until his passing in 2013, Rabbi Sidney Kleiman had been the head of the congregation for sixty years - the longest serving rabbi in the country. Not all of the original architecture remains, as the shul had to be renovated twice during the 1900s, but its old world charm is prevalent throughout. The stained glass windows, the wooden seating, and even the prayer books took us back in time.
Though we did not see anyone entering or leaving this mysterious, magnificent marble building, something about its high-columned entrance and grand, stone stairs made me walk up to the entrance and open the high front door. I could not have made a better decision – this is the New York State Appellate Division Courthouse, a historic landmark, architectural wonder, and site of many important rulings and government decisions. The limestone Beaux-Arts building was designed by James Brown Lord in 1896, and its exterior is surrounded by white marble sculptures, while the inside is painted with absolutely stunning allegorical murals by multiple American artists. All of the artwork and original furniture in the building have been restored to excellent condition. Equally stunning are the twenty-seven stained glass windows, including a massive ceiling dome consisting of sixteen radiating panels – the building resembles a sort of temple to the American justice system. This is the building where Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt cracked down on city corruption; where the development of New York’s railroads, subways, and famous libraries were decided; and where every graduating class of the New York Bar Association is sworn in. This building is bursting with history and beauty.
Originally the Aberdeen Hotel when it was built in 1902, this grand Beaux-arts edifice continues to stand out as it sits in the middle of Korea Town. Perhaps its best claim to fame was that, back in the 1920s, it allowed women to book a room without a gentleman on their arm. The Hotel at Fifth Avenue, formerly known as La Quinta, also boasts its own rooftop bar, Vu.
Completed in 1854, and housing a congregation that dates back to the 1600s, Marble Collegiate Church is one of the most prominent and stunning churches in New York. Its exterior stands out among the glimmering towers of Fifth Avenue – a breathtaking reminder of a smaller-scale New York of the nineteenth century. Several of us had the privilege of receiving a tour of Marble's magnificent space. Ashley Johnson, Marketing and Communications Manager, and our tour guide for the day, impressed us with her vast knowledge of the historic landmark. Pausing first at the exterior, Ashley explained the imposing iron fence surrounding the building – “It was originally to keep out cows, ” she laughed. “Our nearest neighbor was a dairy farmer. Back in the 1800s, this was considered the sticks! You would’ve taken a carriage up Fifth Avenue (then a dirt path) to get here. ” The blue and yellow ribbons hanging on the fence, she went on to say, are tributes to the soldiers and civilians injured or killed in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moving to the interior, we were struck by the lavishness of the sanctuary. One Manhattan Sideways team member exclaimed: “I’ve never seen a church with wallpaper before! ” Ashley clarified, “It’s actually not wallpaper – it’s stencil. ” The walls are painted a lush red, decorated with gold stencils of the fleur-de-lis. Complementing the deep color of the walls is the matching red upholstery covering the pews. After we had stared in awe for a considerable period of time, Ashley said: “The way you see this space now is how you would have seen it in 1891. This is High Victorian – not how it was originally conceived. ” The church’s sanctuary, then, is a living record of the aesthetic changes to Marble Church. “When it was originally built, it was very stark – true to its Calvinistic roots. ” There was clear glass in the windows at that time, she told us, and the interior was white and dominated by a central pulpit on the chancel. These features were later upgraded when Dr. David James Burrell became the senior minister of the church in the late 1800s. He removed the pulpit, “wanting to be closer to his congregation, ” and oversaw extensive renovations of the sanctuary, including replacing the clear glass windows with stained glass, which can still be seen in the front hall narthex of the church. In 1900 and 1901, the church began what was to become a century-long project of replacing all the plain stained glass windows with the multi-colored pictorial scenes you can view today. The first two pictorial stained glass windows, installed at the turn of the nineteenth century, were fabricated by the world-renowned Tiffany Studios, headed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Depicting Biblical stories, the church’s oldest windows are breathtakingly detailed, featuring hand-painted, colorful glass of diverse textures and thicknesses. It is certainly easy to get lost in their storytelling. After the windows were installed, there was a long hiatus before the next window was commissioned. Ashley suggested a number of reasons for the wait: the Great Depression, WWII, and stained glass falling out of vogue. “The church had all of these Victorian style stained glass windows without pictures, and then there were these two Tiffany windows sitting right in the middle; it was a beautiful oddity. ” In 1998, thanks to the generosity of church patrons Robert and Maria Ryneveld, Marble Collegiate Church set out to complete the vision that had begun 98 years earlier. As other patrons stepped forward, Marble began commissioning new windows, designed by talented artisans and created by some of the oldest, great stained glass fabricators in America: Rambusch, Lamb and Willet-Hauser. Today, the sanctuary window project is complete and houses 10 stunning stained glass windows, one after another. Standing close to many of them, we were able to observe each composition in dizzying detail. Continuing on our walk through the church, Ashley showed us the smaller, though no less beautiful, spaces Marble Church houses. Behind the sanctuary the children’s chapel is nestled. Decorated with beautiful frescos of scenery, it is a place for children and adults to find quiet. “It would be great for people to know about these spaces, ” Ashley pointed out, adding that the children’s chapel is also ideal for intimate weddings and other ceremonies. Moving on, we visited a smaller prayer chapel, as well as a parlor decorated with photos of Marble Collegiate Church at its various states of construction and renovation. Then we were led downstairs, to a large labyrinth in the basement. “This is one of the only inlaid labyrinths in the city, ” Ashley informed us. “It’s open to the public on Wednesday evenings and the first Sunday of the month. It’s a very relaxing place, ” she said. “Many people confuse this with a maze, but it's not – it’s a labyrinth, so there’s no way to get lost. ” As we were contemplating the winding pathways, the staff at Marble was preparing for one of their frequent walking events, lining the labyrinth with tea lights. We all agreed that it is rare for one to be able to have this kind of meditative experience in Manhattan. After visiting the basement chapel – a small, contemporary room outfitted with hardwood – we moved into the peaceful columbarium. “It’s very unusual to find places to put loved ones to rest in New York, ” Ashley mentioned. A somber note to end on, but we certainly appreciated the time spent inside Marble Collegiate Church.
Approaching almost fifty years, the American Bartender's School, owned by Joseph Bruno, has been teaching mixologists the ‘ology of mixing. Having moved in the ‘80s from their original location on Madison Avenue, the school offers forty-hour courses, with students leaving as certified bartenders with a license issued by the New York State Board of Education. Joseph contends that a bartender’s success is determined by conversation, “no matter how good the drink is. ” That being said, technical skill is far from lacking at this institution. Combining lectures and a “lab” portion, we witnessed students attentively toiling over drinks for phantom customers in a room designed to look like one giant bar. The difference, however, is that unlike a culinary school where one might sample their own creations, students do not imbibe here. In fact, there is no alcohol to be found at this bar. Everything is in the correct bottles and the colors all match their potent potable equivalent. What was explained to us is that everything is about measurements. Students are given a recipe to follow, and provided they do it correctly, they can rest assured that it will taste exactly right in the real world. After decades of experience bartending in and managing drinking establishments, Joseph has seen a new devotion to the craft of mixology. Up-and-coming bartenders have tested innovative flavors, homemade syrups, and the “farm-to-table” use of fresh ingredients. He has taken particular pleasure in the resurgence of drinks not popular since the Prohibition era. Perhaps it is a sign that we still have a chance to relive some of the best aspects of the Roaring Twenties.
There is a lot of space to have fun and be funny at Pioneer's, formerly named Comedy Bar. Well that makes sense, as it is owned by Ali Farahnakian, the man behind the PIT (People's Improv Theater) on 24th Street, which opened a new location just down the street in 2015. We found this place to have a little bit of everything. A fan of pinball? There are several machines; Love playing Jenga with giant size blocks? They have them; Want to dance? The music is playing and there are others who will join in; Like comedy? There are open mic nights; Want to simply drink? The selection is fine, with a variety of beers on tap... and the bartenders are ready to chat; Hungry? There is a menu to choose from and lots of popcorn to go around.
This tiny shop tucked away in Kips Bay has been the go-to spot for any and all of one’s footwear-related troubles since it opened in 2014. Manuel Muicela, the owner, came to New York from Nicaragua in 1987 and quickly joined the trade of shoe repair, enduring grueling six-day workweeks. After gaining thirty years of experience in the field, he was finally able to open his own business. “I learned how to repair shoes, and now I work for me, ” he remarked proudly. In this residential area, most of his regulars live in the neighborhood. On the loyalty of his customers, Manuel noted, “If you do a good job, people come back. ”A few things about Manuel’s shop set him apart from the rest. One of the first things that grabs the eye upon entering is the set of old-fashioned shoeshine chairs, where one can get a shoeshine for $5, cash only. He also has a unique machine in the back of the shop that stitches both the inside and the outside of the shoe. With a chuckle, Manuel warned our team, “You can stitch your finger if you’re not careful. ” This machine is so rare that many other shoe repair shop owners throughout the city come to Manuel to use it.
When I visited OCabanon in the summer of 2016, it was in the middle of the European Soccer Championship and the whole restaurant was decked out in French flags and each staff member sported a French jersey, including Armel Joly, one of the three brothers-in-law who own the restaurant - which they have dubbed a “cave à manger, ” a term that means “cellar to eat. ”Armel explained that he and the other owners, Alexandre Mur and Michael Faure, were vacationing together during the summer of 2011 with their respective wives/sisters when they came up with the idea of opening a restaurant. From there, the process accelerated and they signed a lease in Chelsea in December of the same year. As for the name, it comes from a piece of family history. Armel pointed to a picture of his grandmother-in-law on the wall, telling me that she had a house in the south of France in which the whole family has had many happy memories. In the house, the kitchen had a tiny pantry off to the side with a small refrigerator. Though “cabanon” is a word that directly translates to “shed, ” the grandmother used the word to describe her little pantry. Every time someone came to visit her, she would say something along the lines of, “It’s so good to see you! Let me see if there’s something to eat in my cabanon. ” In French, “in the cabanon, ” is “au Cabanon, ” which phonetically gave the brothers the name of their restaurant. The cabanon in the south of France often held delicious, fresh food including homemade risotto, mozzarella, and dorado. “She was crazy about fish, ” Armel informed me, adding that the restaurant always tries to have one type of fish on the menu in her honor. In addition to dorado, the restaurant does an excellent nicoise salad with fresh tuna. As for other popular plates, Cedric, the wait staff captain, mentioned that the burger, stuffed short ribs, and cherry tomato tarte tatin were frequently ordered. Armel pointed out that the wine is also a “very important focus, ” with most bottles coming from small producers. Armel, who was a banker in France before following his family’s dream in opening the restaurant, is very pleased with what he and his brothers have achieved. “We are very lucky, very happy about this, ” he said. “What we have received from the American people is something that surprises me everyday. ” Americans, I learned, make up 90% of OCabanon’s regulars. A large number of them discovered the restaurant from a surprising source: since Billy Joel began performing one concert each month in 2014 at nearby Madison Square Garden, OCabanon has been packed to the rafters on those specific evenings. The phenomenon, which Armel describes as “totally amazing, ” has allowed him to promote France and French cuisine to even more people... And, of course, soccer - for the space has a side room with a giant screen for watching the games. "We are combining the best of France and the best of New York, ” he stated.