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.
Established in 1874, Westpfal continues to provide premium knives and tools for leatherwork, as well as to sharpen high-end knives for restaurants across New York City. The leather tools available are of the same ilk as the 1930s tools available oh-so-many years ago and are used by fashion designers from Coach to Dooney & Burke. On any given day, one can stop by and find a regular New Yorker, or even folks from out of town, coming in to have their own knives and scissors sharpened by the highly regarded team of workers.When the Manhattan Sideways stopped in for a visit during the summer of 2017, we had the pleasure of meeting Carmilla Wigman, who has been working at Henry Westpfal for over sixty-five years. She was kind enough to share some of the history of the shop. Carmilla pointed out a display board of vintage cutlery from 1931, which she referred to as “her pride and joy.” She also showed us a pair of scissors that was previously owned by John F. Kennedy Jr. and were used in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the reopening of Grand Central Station in 1998. Westpfal now rents these scissors out for similar ceremonies.Unfortunately, one can no longer watch and wait as knives are put on the machines, as they have had to move their factory to New Jersey. It is an example of the age-old story: Rent became a factor on the side streets of Manhattan for Westpfal.Who are their biggest clients almost 150 years later? The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is, as students majoring in leather purchase tools for crafting handbags, belts, and shoes, and numerous chefs who frequent Westpfal to have their personal knives sharpened.
With all the centers we have discovered dedicated to children, pets, students, and shoppers, it was refreshing and intriguing to come upon Senior Planet – “the country’s first technology themed center for over-60s.” The center offers courses, skill-shares, workshops, special events and lecture series that help senior citizens deal with the ever-changing technological world. 22 computers, 3 Skype stations, a gaming area, a projector, mobile devices and a lounge create a space that one might think is fit for a youngster, but is, in fact, the perfect space for the senior folks. “Aging with attitude” is their motto. Computer basics, advanced computing, introduction to the iPad, digital photography, social networking and more are all taught in a welcoming environment. What a brilliant concept!