Every year of my childhood, my parents would take my brothers and me into Manhattan to watch the Thanksgiving Parade. We would meet friends and relatives and congregate on the steps of what we referred to as the Spanish Portuguese Temple. This synagogue held a special meaning to us as my aunt and uncle were married there in 1949. When I entered through their side street door, and stepped inside the sanctuary in the summer of 2015, I turned to Hazzan-Rabbi Ira L. Rhode in awe. He simply looked at me, smiled and said, " Yes, even kids' jaws drop when they enter, and, amazingly, they remain quiet." Having been an integral part of the congregation since 1990, he had seen everyone - including three year olds - held speechless in this magnificent holy space.
Tiffany stained glass windows gentrified the walls with light accentuating their colorful geometric patterns. Original marble steps marbled with history, and the arc opened to crimson cloth-covered torahs, each topped by silver ornaments. On my visit, one was wrapped in black in honor of Tisha b'av.
According to the rabbi, the temple's name references its founders who were largely of Spanish and Portuguese origin and who fled to New Amsterdam from Brazil when it was taken over. In 1654, Congregation Shearith Israel became the first Jewish congregation to settle in North America. Since then, the congregation has occupied five different spaces, catering to a growing following. "They were all built from scratch," the rabbi explained.
In 1730, the Mill House on South William Street was the first, furnishings of which can still be found in the current building. In 1816-17, the congregation decided to rebuild in the same location, allowing for a much larger synagogue. In 1834, the temple moved to Crosby Street as the city flourished. When the Manhattan grid was formed everyone wanted to move uptown, so the next location became 19th Street in 1860 and then in 1897, when Central Park was created and the Dakota went up on West 72nd Street, the Jewish population wanted to be on the West side and found a site that had previously been a duck farm. Since then, this landmark building on Central Park West and 70th Street has stood with its beautiful neo-classical aesthetic. Although the steps are now protected by a gate, thus not allowing anyone to sit on them during the November parade, I continue to cherish my warm memories of years of sharing a seat next to so many special people in my life.
Sweet aromas lure one into this tiny coffee and tea shop on west 70th. Originally founded in 1976 across the street, the Sensuous Bean moved to its current location in 1990 and is now co-owned by partners in life and in business, Lucretia La Mora and Tom Wilson. "People follow their noses, " explained Tom of the cafe's success. And even horses cannot resist - he recalled one peeking its head through the door as an officer grabbed a cup. "We blend to taste, " Tom added. Each day, beans are grinded on site and brewed in three roasters for a hot cup. And although small, the place is stocked with a large selection of coffees and teas sourced from a variety of regions. The chai spice tea comes from India and the Mexican Vienna brew from Zimbabwe. The assortment of flavorful tisanes includes intriguing names like red velvet cupcake or bella coola lemon lime.
Amber Upper West relocated from Columbus Avenue to this dimly lighted, intimate side street enclave in 2015. A wood-beamed ceiling and whitewashed walls are organically accented with well-illuminated hanging plants and a graphic, black and white tree painting. With a menu featuring a large selection of rolls, grilled dishes, and sushi to be shared in either the conventional dining space or well-stocked bar, this side street gem offers more than just lovely decor.
When Henry Clay Frick passed away in 1919, he had placed in his will that his residence be turned into a museum forever open to public access, featuring the impressive collection he had assembled over a span of forty years. In addition, his will provided a fifteen million dollar endowment for maintenance. In 1935, the Frick Collection was opened in the expanded Gilded Age mansion originally designed by Thomas Hastings for residence, and initially transformed into the museum by John Russel Pope. The interior features spectacular selections of Old Master paintings and European sculptures in sixteen permanent collections that integrate Italian, French and Spanish works, allowing cohesive interactions from multiple regions and time periods - the way Henry enjoyed viewing art. In the center, the Garden Court, which had been Henry's driveway, is considered the museum's heart, ornamented by rushing water, a bounty of plant life, impressive sculptures, and an intriguing skylight. Today, it is the only room in which one is permitted to take photographs. I remember visiting the Frick for the first time as a teenager and declaring it my favorite museum in Manhattan. I can easily state that it remains so to this day. I never tire of introducing visitors from out of town to The Frick and I continue to appreciate each new exhibit. For me, it remains a tranquil setting to walk, contemplate and unwind as I am surrounded by art and beauty.
Established in 1904, The Explorers Club is centered on scientific discovery in all realms - land, sea, air and space. Its original headquarters were located at the Studio Building on West 67th Street, and it moved to this location in 1965. In 1918, a signature flag was introduced, capitalizing on historic routes and unabated curiosity. Since then, the flag has been proudly carried on hundreds of expeditions as members of the club were the first to make it to the North and South Poles, the summit of Mt. Everest, the deepest point in the ocean, and the surface of the moon. The club first allowed women in 1981. To this day, it is a meeting spot for all kinds of explorers, scientists and students.