Built and consecrated in 1799, St Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery is Manhattan’s oldest site of continuous worship and the second oldest church building. It inspired the naming of nearby St. Mark’s Place and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, however, it might be better known as a community gathering place, thanks to the many plays, dances, poetry readings, avant-garde films and political events that have been taking place on the premises for decades. St. Mark’s Church also has a significant burial ground, housing the vault of Peter Stuyvesant along with other prominent founders of New York City. When visiting the Minthorne House on 1st Street, we learned that several members of the Minthorne family were also buried here.
Originally known as the Memorial Chapel of St. Mark’s Parish, this impressive orange brick building was designed by James Renwick Jr. (also known for St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Grace Church, also on 10th Street) and constructed in 1882-1883. It was not until 1937, when the Orthodox Christian congregation purchased the building, that it became St. Nicholas.
Beneath the Spanish Benevolent Society lies La Nacional, one of Manhattan’s most authentic Spanish restaurants and the most easily accessible part of the society. Just by walking down the steps into the dimly lit basement lounge, we felt the bustle of 14th street quickly recede and we were transported across the ocean. La Nacional has the same relaxed, no frills atmosphere as most tapas bars in Spain. We gazed at the old photographs from the society’s earlier years on the walls and then had the option of sipping a drink at the bar, sampling some classic simple Spanish tapas such as tortilla de patatas, croquetas or chorizo, or dining on a full meal of paella. Perhaps the most authentic option, though, was to simply have a seat by the television to watch the fútbol game - it is always on. For visitors from Spain who want a taste of home, those of us pining for the Spanish travels of our past, or New Yorkers simply curious about a new culture, La Nacional is the place to go.