“My only connection to chess is through my son,” confessed Noah Chasin, the unlikely leader of the Marshall Chess Club. Grandmaster Frank Marshall, a native New Yorker and longstanding U.S. Chess Champion, established the club as a haven for chess buffs. It relocated several times, beginning at Keens Steakhouse — featured in the first Walking Manhattan Sideways book — until it finally found its home on 10th Street in 1931. Perhaps the most famous chess club in the world, every champion has played a game here over the past century. “It’s essentially an obligation for all of the top players at some point.” This is also where the illustrious Bobby Fischer rose to prominence. Fittingly, parts of the film Searching for Bobby Fischer were later filmed on the Marshall’s premises. Though some might be intimidated by the Marshall’s storied reputation, Noah emphasized that the atmosphere is more welcoming than one might expect. The club’s regular tournaments are typically a fifty-fifty split between its members and those who simply possess a love for the pastime. Noah’s own son started visiting the Marshall when he was only eight years old and has since spent years attending some of the largest competitions around the globe, including the Philadelphia World Open. Though certainly no chess disciple himself, Noah was a devoted father, and as his son participated in workshops, camps, and matches at the Marshall, Noah was recruited to represent the parents of other scholastic members on the club’s board. In 2016, he became the president and is now “neck-deep in the chess world, which I never could have imagined before.” He is delighted to see players old and young, from New York and abroad, find their way to the Marshall. Better yet, he relishes the second-hand thrill of witnessing opponents face off over one of the club’s elegant boards. “It’s not the trajectory I would have imagined as a parent, but it’s been such a spectacular one.”
Although owned by New York University since the 1990s, it is the stunning wooden facade (created in 1879 by Lockwood De Forest after being inspired by a trip to India) that is worth noting on this historic building. Inside the Bronfman Center, today, there is a gallery, Jewish library and several comfortable spaces for students.
Perhaps not everyone today knows the name Emma Lazarus, but many New Yorkers can certainly recite the most famous lines from her sonnet, “The New Colossus”: "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free…" The poem is engraved on a bronze plaque inside the Statue of Liberty, where it has welcomed new Americans to New York since 1903. Lazarus lived at this apartment on English Terrace row, which has also been home to writer Dashiell Hammett of The Maltese Falcon fame, as well as columnist Franklin Adams, a member of the Algonquin Round Table.
The New York Studio School occupies a space rich in history. After being purchased by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1907, the now-landmarked building was home to art studios, important exhibitions, and later, in 1931, the Whitney Museum. Founded by American artist and educator Mercedes Matter, the New York Studio School saved the space from being demolished and now perpetuates the creative legacy that was born there. Matter and her peers created NYSS as a place for alternative arts education. It retains the “old-school” focus on studio-based practice, where drawing, painting, and sculpture are at the core of its Master of Fine Arts and certificate programs. However, rather than instructing students on attaining fame and fortune, its mission is a more enriching one. “We teach how to be a lifelong artist and how art can be in your future forever, ” said Director of Development Alex Williams. To this end, the school also features several options that are free of charge and are designed to bring art education to the public at large. Anyone interested may attend NYSS’ evening lecture series and gallery exhibitions, which highlight unknown New York artists or uncover neglected art from more prominent names. One can even take a tour of Whitney’s old art studio, which was designated a National Treasure in 2014. A particularly exciting feature is an elaborate, twenty-foot fireplace in the room depicting plaster serpentine and mythological figures climbing the walls and other fantastical scenes that extend onto the ceiling.
Nestled beside high brick residences is Manhattan’s smallest cemetery - easy to overlook, unless one knows it is there. From 1805 to 1830 it served as the graveyard to the oldest synagogue in the country. Congregation Shearith Israel (also known as the Spanish Portuguese Synagogue) was founded in 1654. In 1830, 11th Street was extended and much of the cemetery was left behind. There are approximately thirty graves and a single, moss-grown stone path remaining. Today these 200 year-old plots sit, hidden, stones barely legible.
Although privately owned today, this grand building at No. 17 has a rich history as a health clinic. Built in 1847 as a row of Greek Revival homes, this particular house had several residents until J. Noah Slee, Margaret Sanger's husband, purchased it in 1930 to house his wife's growing Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau. Over 10, 000 women were cared for in this clinic over the years, and contraceptive information was shared with all who entered. The clinic continued to function even after Ms. Sanger's death in 1966, and in 1993, under Bill Clinton's presidency, it was finally designated a National Historic Landmark.
This bright and colorful West Village thrift shop is just one of the many businesses run by Housing Works, one of New York's highly regarded non-profits. Housing Works was founded in 1990 by members of ACT UP, an AIDS activist group that is dedicated to fighting the joint issues of homelessness and the AIDS epidemic. Their first thrift shop opened in Chelsea in 1992 and thirteen more have opened throughout the city since then, as well as a bookstore café in SoHo. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, the social stigma associated with those living with the virus or simply being LGBTQ+ resulted in thousands of individuals being denied the foundation of a stable living: housing. Whether it was from familial rejection or housing discrimination, more and more HIV positive people found themselves on the streets, and poverty, queerness, and AIDS soon became intrinsically linked. Recognizing this often neglected connection, the founders of Housing Works sought to create an organization that addressed this crisis. The non-profit is committed to ending the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain their efforts. Luke, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, sat down with the 10th Street store manager, Lauren Guttenplan, to discuss the community atmosphere forged in their shop. She mentioned, “Community feels very central to the mission. We’re not too far from Christopher Street and Stonewall, so many of our customers and volunteers have lost someone or have a personal connection to the cause. They like to know that the money they’re spending is going to help towards something good. ” Guttenplan also noted that many of their regular customers come in as frequently as once or twice a day, and that the staff, the majority of whom are volunteers, often know customers’ names. Some patrons will even make a point to shop on a day where they know when a particular volunteer is working. Guttenplan credits much of the success of the operation to the devotion of the volunteers, whom she describes as “the face of the store. ” The shopping experience is truly unlike many other in that there are opportunities for customers to become volunteers or get involved in local activism and protests. With a retail background and a degree in social work, Lauren finds Housing Works to be a perfect blend of her passions. The organization provides the unique opportunity to run a business and actually make a difference. She appreciates that with programs like job training, it is particularly satisfying to witness the impact of her work first hand. Because all of the merchandise sold in the stores is donated, each of the Housing Works shops also serves as a reflection of the surrounding neighborhood. The West Village shop, with plenty of natural lighting and exposed brick, features not only fun and unique clothing selections, but also many household items, including kitchen items, home décor, and even furniture. The store hosts a number of events, the biggest of which are the Best of Fall and Best of Spring sales.
What started out as a couple of ice cream trucks in 2008, has since become a beloved collection of shops throughout Brooklyn and New York City. Van Leeuwen offers delicious fresh milk ice cream and vegan options made with only “coconut and cashew milk, raw cocoa butter, extra virgin olive oil, and organic sugar cane. ” These artisanal ice cream makers are extremely concerned with the quality of their product and the source of their ingredients - their vanilla flavor comes from organic bourban and Tahitian vanilla orchids, and their chocolate from a family-run French company concerned with quality and free trade practices, Michele Cluizel Chocolate. Van Leeuwen also offers sophisticated flavors like ginger, sweet sticky black rice, earl grey tea, Ceylon cinnamon, and salted caramel with buffalo trace bourbon. This is a must try ice cream spot for vegans, dairy-lovers, and everyone else.
When I walked into Clash City Tattoos, Baz was hunched over his station, completing a tattoo sketch. The space popped with bold red walls, brightly colored ink bottles, and large tattoo designs. One could not miss the almost human-sized bass in the corner if they tried – “some friends just like to come in and play the bass, ” Baz told me as he shrugged his shoulders. Music influences much more of this tattoo shop’s ideology than I could have anticipated. Named after Baz’s favorite band, the space encapsulates the idea that just as The Clash could play such a range of genres, so too could Baz’s tattoos encompass all kinds of people. “Lawyers and rockstars alike listen to The Clash, ” he elaborated, “and I want my tattoos to unite my customers, just as a single beat can unite different listeners. ”Baz first visited the United States in 1991 while working on a cruise ship and was immediately drawn to everything American – particularly the music, cars, and TV shows. Working in a comic bookstore, he was captivated by posters for Iron Man, Planet of the Apes, and an assortment of cartoon superheroes. He claimed it was the “solid black lines, bold colors, and clear forms” of comic art that lent it a unique and sophisticated artistic quality. Moreover, his mother’s admiration for surrealist painter Salvador Dali offered him an early penchant for the freedom of abstract art anchored in bold lines – the ideal forms for tattoo art. Clients coming into Clash City Tattoos have usually heard about the store and like to visit with an idea of what they want inked. While Baz and his team are exceptionally friendly, asserting that their store “is a place that you won’t have to be afraid to walk into, ” they are also honest with clients about which designs work and which simply do not. Equipped with a creative bent, the team mostly designs custom tattoos using clients’ ideas. However, when someone comes in asking for a "full bible verse on their little finger" or an arrangement of “a heart with four names in it, two wings on either side, and a crown on top in the size of a fist, ” the team knows when to say “this isn’t working; let’s fine-tune. ” What is more, they pay exceptionally close attention to each client’s pain tolerance. While some can manage three hours of inking in a go, others (like Baz’s wife, he laughs) only last ten minutes. I asked Baz about the most challenging tattoo he was tasked with designing. When the bass player of globally-renowned British band Muse, Chris, asked for a tattoo of his son’s name, Buster, in Disney font, Baz started thinking of ways to make the design more complex and unique. A few days later, Chris and Baz were hanging out with a group of friends, when Chris recounted a story about Buster. The young boy was playing with his toys at home when he ran straight into the corner of an table and cut his forehead. But he continued with his play as usual until Chris’ wife noticed a large gash on his head and rushed him to the hospital. Buster was unfazed. The story inspired Baz to draw up the tattoo that now decorates Chris’ right forearm – a smirking cartoon kid with boxing gloves over the name “Buster” in striking black font. Chris loved it. Looking at Baz’s journey thus far, it is easy to see how he has settled into a characteristic set of themes and motifs. Through space backgrounds, gypsy girls, cartoon superheroes, and more, Baz eventually reached a signature design – “pin-up girls with stuff in their hair, ” as he amusedly called it. I was thrilled to see his gorgeous side profiles of girls with complex forms – ships, octopuses, and more – wrapped in the locks of their hair. Baz’s artistic genius spans a wide range of imagery, fixed into his defining black lines and bold forms.
I had heard about these baths for years, believe it or not, from my grandmother who lived nearby on Avenue A as a child. Needless to say, I was eager to have a look inside this spa that has been around since 1892. Upon entering, clients are given a key to the locker room, then told to take some towels and select a sauna... be it a Russian one that has a rock filled oven or an electrically heated redwood sauna. In addition, there is an aromatherapy room, a steam room and a Turkish room complete with cold showers. Other amenities include an ice-cold pool, a Swedish shower with cold-water jets, a sun deck, and a small cafe that serves an authentic Russian menu. Some on the list of treatments include a Swedish/Russian massage, Thai/Sports massage, the Platza Oak Leaf Treatment that involves being whacked with a bundle of soapy oak leaves and oil, or a Dead Sea Salt Scrub. Although I did not chose to venture past my guided tour of the baths, I did experience an old world, warm community with many foreign speaking clients.
With its sharp corner spine, perpendicular window displays, and eye-catching red accents, the façade of Three Lives and Co. resembles an enticing book cover. Inside, caramel-colored shelves, a cozy patterned carpet, and warm lamps surround an assortment of handpicked reads. As the current owner, Toby Cox, put it, “just open the door and it’s a jewel box. ”Three Lives, which takes its name from the Gertrude Stein novel, was opened in 1978 by Jill Dunbar, Jenny Feder, and Helene Webb. Originally located on Seventh Avenue, the shop moved to the corner of 10th Street and Waverly in 1983. It has since remained a “small neighborhood bookstore, ” while the neighborhood has grown “to sort of become the world. ”Toby first stumbled upon the store on a visit from his home state of Rhode Island, where he sold books for ten years after graduating from Brown University. He was so in awe of the little shop that he sung its praises in the local Providence newsletter. Nine months later, he moved to New York to work as a book publisher, and for the next three years, he frequented Three Lives to “revel in the store. ”Then, “it all came together in a magical way. ” Toby asked Jill if she was interested in having him as an additional partner; Jill countered by offering Toby the business. In early 2001, Toby took over the store. Toby sees Three Lives as much more than a store selling books. To him, it is a vibrant community center — a place to “step off what’s going on outside those red doors, relax, unwind, have an easy chat with a staff member, and let go of all the pressure. ”
In the mid-twentieth century, Tibet — which is devoted to Buddhist practices and is led by the Dalai Lama — was invaded by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, sparking a decades-long dispute over Tibetan sovereignty. China’s Communist Party has since destroyed vital elements of Tibetan culture, including over 6, 000 monasteries. With so many cultural centers demolished by the Chinese forces, the rich, centuries-old Tibetan way of life risks extinction. For this reason, the fourteenth Dalai Lama asked to establish Tibet House U. S. to preserve the heritage of his people. Thus, the intriguing institution was founded by prominent American Buddhists: composer Philip Glass, author Robert Thurman, and actor Richard Gere. Since the 1990s, Executive Director Ganden Thurman has dedicated himself to Tibet House U. S. ’ mission of protecting and presenting Tibetan culture to society at large. Having spent time in India as a child while his father — a professor of Buddhist studies — did research, Thurman came to appreciate the “poise, humility, and perspective” of the Tibetan lamas and academics who frequented his family’s home. Though he considers himself more secular than religious, he clarified that Tibet House is neither a political nor religious organization. However, there are often times when they find themselves engaged in conversation on such topics. Through art exhibitions, lectures on subjects including medicine and mind sciences, and classes such as “Developing Compassion” that fuse Buddhist practices with Western psychology, Tibet House allows visitors to draw their own conclusions. With its library and permanent installation of Tibetan artifacts — open regularly to the public — this precious museum safe-guards the culture of the region within its walls. Since members of Tibet House are considered too political to attain travel visas by the Chinese authorities, the House does not have the ability to source artworks on its own. Instead, generous collectors donate the majority of the pieces on display. According to Thurman, such artists and art aficionados are the House's greatest supporters, as they tend to feel a personal connection to the fight for freedom of expression. This collaboration was evidenced by the prints we observed of the current Dalai Lama, donated by Richard Avedon, hanging above a printer, and musician Philip Glass' name listed on the roster of the Executive Officers. Thurman revealed to us that during the course of the Tibet-China conflict, over 100 Tibet nationals have resorted to self-immolation in order to catch the world’s attention and direct it towards their struggle. They are desperate to be seen - and through its efforts Tibet House US is providing them the right to be present in the narrative of world heritage.
At Manhattan Sideways, something that we strive to achieve through our exploration is getting the word out about Manhattan's side street communities. For this reason, we are especially impressed and intrigued by the Village Alliance. They “have been a leading advocate for the Village community for almost twenty years. ” Working with the local businesses, the alliance focuses on helping the district “grow and succeed. ”
Operated by the Salvation Army, this large pre-war apartment complex offers housing to women - ages 18 through 50 - who are either enrolled in school or are employed. There is someone at the desk 24/7, two meals a day are offered, and each simply furnished apartment has its own bathroom.
“I really want families to play together. That’s my goal in the store, ” said Christina Clark, who has been wowing parents, grandparents, and, most importantly, children for decades with her wonderland of toys and games. Christina worked in a toy store as a young mother and realized she had found her calling. She opened Kidding Around on Bleecker Street, followed by several other locations. Today, it is the 15th Street shop that has survived throughout the years. “I love going to work every day, so it was a good choice for me. ”In the shop’s beginnings, its selection of toys and games leaned toward the traditional — “no batteries, no remote controls, and everything that just uses your imagination. ” Over the years, however, Christina chose to grow with the times and introduce more modern, automated items into her inventory. Her own children later helped her bring new options into the store. Today, Christina feels lucky to work with her daughter, Kasey Coyle, who uses her background in applied behavioral analysis to stock plenty of books and toys for younger children and those with special needs. Interestingly, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Christina found that her clientele went back to the basics — the demand for puzzles and classic board games was revived. “I hope that trend continues, ” she said earnestly. “I hope that people remember how much fun they had playing games with their family so it brings us together and off our devices. ”
PLEASE CALL TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT“Flowers bring the innermost smiles out of people, this little moment of awe and wonderment. That’s what I try to give, ” said Bella Meyer, who runs fleursBELLA, an Edenic oasis on 11th Street. As the granddaughter of revered artist Marc Chagall, flowers have long been a part of Bella’s life. Chagall is known for his modernist depictions of vibrant blooms, and he always had a bouquet in his studio while he worked to remind him of the chemistry of colors. Bella, too, shared his passion for natural beauty. She initially meant to follow in the footsteps of her father, a “formidable art historian” and museum director in Switzerland. Bella was researching and writing her PhD in medieval art history while teaching at a university in Paris when she eventually gravitated toward other creative pursuits. She found herself spending more time decorating spaces, painting, and making puppets, masks, and theater costumes. Like her grandfather before her, “I wanted to color the whole world around me and beautify it, ” Bella shared, albeit through different mediums. When seeking a way to express her joy at a friend’s marriage, she took it upon herself to build a chuppah (a wedding canopy) out of flowers and birch branches. The project was an epiphany for Bella. “I was intrigued by the symbolism of the decor. To create meaningful things and spaces, I realized I needed flowers. ” She made arrangements for several events before deciding to open fleursBELLA as a retail business some twenty years later. She envisioned the studio as one “where people could just walk in and find a moment of peace. ” The space was designed to be deeply personal, and she brought in items from her childhood in France to achieve this. The bathtub that her mother bathed her in as a baby is now used to wash the daily flower deliveries, and the family’s old bookshelves are lined up like sentinels along the walls. “These things hold all the warmth of the best parts of my home and my mother, ” Bella believes, and they lend to the shop’s special atmosphere. Above all, fleursBELLA acts as a creative outlet, allowing Bella to convey her philosophy on life and beauty through the blooms she sells. Visitors are greeted by a serene woman made of moss, with foliage climbing the walls and flowers adorning every surface — entering the wild, wonderful shop feels like a sudden departure from the city. As Bella aptly describes it, fleursBELLA is “the perfect hidden place” for someone to get lost in.
Every time I am walking with someone new, I find myself winding past Breads Bakery to have us try yet another delicious bite of their freshly baked goods. I cannot call this a hidden gem, by any means, as the lines are sometimes out the door. In a matter of a few weeks from when Uri Scheft and Gadi Peleg opened, they have managed to be written up everywhere. They have even been cited as having the best rugelach and babka in different periodicals, but I must encourage all who visit to sample Breads' take on focaccia - the multigrain version. If it is not still warm from the oven, then take it home, heat it up, add a bit more olive oil and savor every bite. Another that I cannot resist are the flaky cheese straws. Direct from the oven, they are impeccable. In fact, fresh is king here, and the baked goods are often fresher than the vegetables around the corner. While most bakeries have their employees come in during the night to pump out a days worth of starchy creations, Uri's staff at Breads Bakery has fresh bread coming out just in time for each of the mealtime rushes. Uri was raised in Israel, but went back to his parent's roots in Denmark for his training in baking. He then traveled and worked in Europe before returning to his homeland to open up his first bakery in Tel Aviv. Many years later, Gadi was traveling in Israel and discovered Uri's Lehamim Bakery. It took several more years of persistence, but ultimately the timing was right and Uri made the huge decision to move to New York and partner with Gadi to open up shop near Union Square. The store itself feels modern and spacious, with one counter for bread and baked goods just as you enter on the left, and another further back with sandwiches and drinks. Extending further back another 75 feet are the kitchens. Customers can watch bakers ease proofed dough off rolls of canvas onto an adjustable conveyer belt, which feeds into the carefully regulated ovens. Unlike Sheft's locations in Israel, he got to design this one from the ground up so the technology involved is sometimes just as amazing as what comes out of the ovens.