The Flatiron Building is one of New York’s first, and most beautiful, skyscrapers. Originally named the Fuller Building, this terra cotta, brick and limestone structure was dubbed the Flatiron by locals for its wedge-shaped, triangular plan. The northern peak of the triangle divides Fifth Avenue from Broadway, and marks the base of 23rd street, a major downtown thoroughfare. Its landmark status, intricate façade, and central location contributed to the city renaming the neighborhood right below it – between 23rd Street and Union Square – the Flatiron District. Many of the buildings in this area are similarly designed with bold stone, cast iron, and terra cotta detailing, large windows and high ceilings. The Flatiron Building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989. Originally run by The Fuller Company, today it holds the headquarters of several publishing groups and houses retail and food stores on the ground floor facing Madison Square Park.
Having made his comeback as the namesake of electric cars, Nikola Tesla accomplished quite a bit in his lifetime, much of it while living in New York City. Living and working out of this very building, the father of alternating current electrical systems pioneered radio wave communication in 1896 - giving the building its current name. During Tesla’s time, it was known as the Gerlach Hotel, built in 1883. Now, it houses businesses rather than travelers, but it has not forgotten its past: Broadway Wireless Center (an intellectual descendant) occupies the first floor and decorates its windows with neon and fluorescent tubes - also inventions of Tesla. A plaque hangs on the front of the building, honoring the great inventor. Drury Event Group, where our very own Creative Director works his day job, is also a tenant.
The current Grand Lodge of the State of New York, built in 1875, rests on the site of the original Masonic Hall of New York that was built in 1782. GLoNY, as it is called, is the governing body of the over 60, 000 Freemasons that reside in the northeast. The towering limestone building, with its intricately carved mansard roof, columns of clerestory windows, and deeply grooved base, is impressive – tours of the interior can be scheduled by appointment. On one such tour, we learned that a lodge is both a local chapter of Masons and the physical space in which they meet and socialize. The inside of this nineteen-story structure contains the meeting quarters of three New York State lodges per floor – high-ceilinged, ornately painted and decorated rooms with seating, mailboxes, and office spaces for regular, monthly lodge meetings. An interesting history and find in the middle of such a busy commercial street.
While the digital age has allowed us to streamline many services, there are some art forms that must remain analog. One trip to Best Shoe and Bag Original Repair on W21st Street in Chelsea and you’ll be convinced that the time honored art of cobbling is one that can’t be replaced. It’s an art that has been passed down to owner Marcia Sailema from her father, who ran the shop for decades until he retired in 2015. Marcia said that in addition to helping her dad run the family business, she took classes at FIT to sharpen her skills in repairing luxury shoes and bags, which are the businesses specialty. “I learned so much industry vocabulary that I never knew before – like the way that the first part of a shoe design is called the last — and ‘the last comes first! ’” she laughed. She quickly acclimated to the delicate art of making much-loved, long-worn bags and shoes look like new by making delicate leather, paint and stitching matches to designers from Dior to Chanel and in fragile vintage pieces. The intricate work — which Marcia proudly showed us can make a nearly unusable bag or shoe look fresh off the shelf – has led to a loyal customer base. For Marcia, it’s a labor of love. “I really like working on the bags, ” she said, admiring a classic Louis Vuitton monogram bag that she’d recently completed repairs on. “Look at these zippers! ”
Merakia occupies the space that housed Kat & Theo from 2015-2017 - and while the restaurant maintains the same ownership as before, it also has a different mission. The modern Greek steakhouse prides itself on its meats and classic seafood items, while maintaining a classy, hip atmosphere in its cavernous space on 21st Street. “We built a new team… and a new vision, ” managing partner James Paloumbis shared with the Manhattan Sideways team when he spoke of the switch from Kat & Theo. He then went on to highlight Merakia’s differences from other Greek restaurants. “It’s not white and blue like every other place in New York City. Our menu is not the copy paste of any other place. ” The menu is heavy on steaks and seafood, boasting their signature lamb on the spit ("the only restaurant in the city to do so") while, surprisingly, offering some robust meat-free options as well. “Everything is farm to table, we use fresh ingredients, [and] we make everything from scratch on a daily basis. ” James told us that part of his mission is to bring back the adventure of going out to eat, a phenomenon he has noticed declining over the years. “People don’t like to go out anymore just to eat. You can eat at home, you can eat down the street, you can order your meal online. But to get an experience of nice service, some nice flavors, nice music, nice drinks - it’s worth your while to go out again. ” Husband and wife team behind Kat & Theo - Renee and Andreas Typaldos - seem to have orchestrated a smooth transition from their previous restaurant. As their past executive chef, Paras Shah, believed, "there should be a movie written about the couple's romantic backstory and that he “couldn’t have worked for better folks. ” Andy is originally from Greece, and the restaurant was named after his parents, Katerina and Theodosios. Andy came to New York on a scholarship from Columbia and met Renee, who is from the Bronx. He took her out on a first date “with holes in his shoes and with no winter jacket, ” according to Renee. She added, “The romantic, poetic way people get together. ” Today, they are paying homage to Andy's Greek heritage and according to James, “People have to trust their stomachs and their palates with a restaurant, so that’s what we’re trying to do here. Trust us - our food is fresh, our food is made with care, and we love what we do. ”
Calvary-St George’s church moved to Gramercy Park in 1832. It has a strong history of influential members and it was here that Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence was set. In addition to movie nights and summer programs for children, we witnessed a small, delightful concert performance along the sidewalk while walking one day.
Perhaps the attitude of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, ” works well at Society Billiards. They seem to know that sometimes a classic pool hall is just what people need. Extremely spacious and stocked with countless pool tables, anyone looking to get lost in the game will be sure to love this dimly lit, relaxed, yet classy spot.
As we peered behind the counter at Joe, we saw what looked like a machinist’s shop or a technological artist’s studio, and yet the rich aroma of coffee was unmistakable. Joe is a place for serious coffee, and they hope to make serious coffee-drinkers out of their customers. The front of the shop holds a regular coffee bar, with three stools, and a display with some useful coffee tools for at home brewing. The majority of the space, however, is filled by the coffee studio in back where customers can watch the machines whir and the experts work their magic. For those of us not as knowledgeable in the coffee arena, Joe offers regular classes on topics ranging from brewing technique to what they call “coffee theory. ” While they have several locations throughout Manhattan, Joe's on 21st street serves as the “pro shop” and headquarters.