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Eglise Francaise du Saint-Esprit

Opening Hours
Today: Closed
109 East 60th Street
Eglise Francaise du Saint Esprit 1 Churches Midtown Midtown East

The history of Saint-Esprit dates back to the 1600s when French Huguenots fled persecution in France and sought religious tolerance in New York. This makes it the second oldest French Huguenot church in North America. The church moved several times due to a variable following and property value changes. There were even periods of time when worship ceased altogether. In 1941, however, Saint-Esprit finally settled at 109 East 60th Street, expanding next door three years later.

When I visited the small chapel one afternoon, a staff member enthusiastically pointed out various historical relics to me, telling the stories of the crests that lined the walls and the works donated by French artists. Though weekly services are entirely in French, I was still warmly invited to attend and experience the heritage of the French Huguenots for myself.

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Eglise Francaise du Saint Esprit 1 Churches Midtown Midtown East
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Lost Gem
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Saint Peter's Church

Facing a dwindling congregation, increased costs, and an exterior in desperate need of renovation, Saint Peter's Church was razed in 1971. What rose from the ashes, however, was a structure that preserved all of the history and sanctity of the old church, built in 1905, while presenting an innovative, modern design. The new Saint Peter's is indeed a place of worship for the twenty-first century and beyond. The exterior looks nothing like a traditional church. In fact, if passers-by do not take the time to look closely at the lettering, they might not realize that St. Peter's houses one of New York's largest Lutheran congregations. The open, unadorned lobby gives few clues as to what lies beyond. The space is massive, beginning below ground and stretching up several stories to a soaring ceiling. It includes many rows of pews and even a full orchestra pit, where groups unaffiliated with the church are invited to practice and perform. In addition to the larger sanctuary, Saint Peter's second iteration offers a smaller private chapel designed by Louise Nevelson, the first American artist in the United States to have been chosen for this honor. My mother, an award-winning biographer, had the pleasure of interviewing and getting to know this grand woman of the twentieth century as she was writing Breaking Tradition: The Story of Louise Nevelson, published in 1984. To quote from Natalie S. Bober's biography on the Good Shepherd chapel: "the sculptures that suggest grapes and grain, the Trinity and the Apostles, the striking white and gold crucifix, the benches for meditation, even the priests' vestments, were all designed by Louise Nevelson. In the Chapel of the Good Shepherd she showed her tremendous versatility.... in the almost blindingly beautiful all-white chapel, an oasis of calm within the huge and bustling Citicorp Center. The tiny chapel, an oddly shaped five-sided room, seats only twenty-eight people in pews set herringbone fashion, instead of facing the altar. Each wall holds a typical Nevelson sculpture that manages to strike a delicate balance between religion and art. 'Why had a Russian-born Jewish artist been selected to design a Lutheran chapel in New York? ' the pastor of St. Peter's was asked. 'Because she's the greatest living American sculptor, ' was his reply. "A huge admirer of Dale Chihuly, I was exuberant when I discovered that St. Peter's also proudly displays original work by Mr. Chihuly, the American artist best known for his startling, brilliant glasswork. On permanent loan are two "Macchia" bowls safely placed in the senior pastor's office, as well as a striking painting that hangs in the outer office of the church for all to appreciate. The painting, done on the premises by Chihuly in 1994, is a study in vibrant reds and yellows. Apparently, he arranged a series of bowls ascending vertically in the church so that he could refer to them while sketching. Today, the only visual trace of the old St. Peter's is a large black and white photograph depicting the church as it stood in the early 1900s. The entire space, however, is suffused with its history. Though completely modern on the outside, its deep roots allow a continuity between New York's past and its present. The church has been in existence for over 150 years, and, no doubt, will continue to grow and adapt in the years to come.

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Lost Gem
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John Salibello

Although filled to the brim inside, the adventure begins simply by gazing through the impressive windows of John Salibello's three antique lighting shops on East 60th. The dazzling chandeliers hanging from the ceiling at No. 211 were only the beginning, for upon entering, I learned that the excitement extends back into an even more inspiring gilded maze where every inch of space is utilized to display the carefully curated collection, both upstairs and down a flight. Lori Gray, the store's manager, spoke to me about John Salibello's origins. It turns out that she is one of the best people to do so, as she has been by John's side for years - ever since he was working in the fashion industry. Lori followed John when he left Benetton, as he had become a close friend and she "deeply respected his taste. " I learned from Lori that John was one of the first people to deal in Mid-Century Modern design, "probably because he opened his business just as it was becoming temporarily distant enough to be desirable. " Breaking new ground, he found his stride and has stayed true to it ever since. John's knowledge of the period is extensive, but he makes a point of not being driven by a particular designer, despite their fame. As Lori explained, "He can "talk that talk, " but in the end, John travels the world searching for beautiful pieces, no matter what their origin. "This is why he has been so successful as a trend-setter, " Lori proudly stated. Most items are vintage, but there are some custom-made objects, such as a row or colorful glass boxes made by an artist from Murano. The employees chimed in during a conversation one day, sharing with me how they enjoyed having input into the color combinations for each one. The staff is a crucial part of this well-oiled machine. As one woman put it, they are in charge of the "visualization of the store - John does the buying and we set it up and then sell it. " They are also meticulous about maintaining the inventory, as every piece is always gleaming, a hard outcome to achieve in a store filled with so much glass. John Salibello's triumph in the furniture world also has a lot to do with its location. Because the store is in the design district, everything is in one place, making it easy for interior designers and their clients. When engaging in conversation with John, himself, one day, he expanded on his concept of three boutiques on one street. "We have a tremendous amount of inventory, as that is what our customers prefer. " He said that he loves 60th, but because he cannot house everything in one location, he has chosen to take over additional retail space, while remaining in the same neighborhood. John explained that just the shear size of the pieces he finds requires more room, and then went on to say that he is pleased that his shops are in demand, as people like what he carries and he is forever finding new things to add. As John expressed, "if you want to be spectacular, this is the only way to do it. "

Lost Gem
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Harmonie Club

In 1852, six men with similar interests formed a club and called themselves "Gesellschaft, " a word that means "community and society" in German. This group would grow and solidify into the Harmonie Club, the second oldest private club in New York after the Union Club. All six of them were German Jews, and therefore were denied access to the Union Club because of religious discrimination. Much has changed since the Club's founding: at the beginning, a qualification for membership was German ancestry, and communal singing and declamatory contests were popular. Today, one must still be invited to join; however, the emphasis on musical interests has been lost. The building is also different - in 1905, the Club moved from its original 42nd Street location to its current Beaux Arts residence, complete with a grand, elegant dining room that is still in service. Despite all these changes, the Harmonie Club remains a place where the leaders and achievers of the world can find companionship. The above is the history of Harmonie; however, it is not often that I get to offer my own personal note to places of such distinction. Therefore, I must mention that I was married at the Harmonie Club in 1979. From the moment I became engaged, there was no question in my mind, that this was where I wanted my wedding to be held. My father had been a member of the club for a number of years and I had grown up having the most elaborate Sunday brunches in their exquisite dining room. My husband and I chose not to have the traditional Saturday night affair and, instead, opted for a morning wedding with a brunch motif. Having everyone we adored gathered in this private sanctuary was sheer perfection.

Lost Gem
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Manhattan Movement & Art Center

Having been raised in New York, and involved in the performing arts since childhood, Rose Caiola went on to graduate from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and fantasized about establishing her own pre-professional ballet program. It was always her desire to provide top-tier instruction in a nurturing environment that discouraged unhealthy competition. In 1994, Rose's dream became a reality when she opened Studio Maestro on 68th Street as a non-profit organization and began Manhattan Youth Ballet. Her program has been recognized the world over with students moving on to dance professionally here in New York with both American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, as well as companies around the country and abroad. While spending time with Rose, she recounted that when the program outgrew its studio on 68th, she had difficulty finding a new space. She turned to her Italian immigrant, real estate mogul father, in the hopes that he could help her secure an appropriate location. After much negotiation, Rose and her father eventually found a beautiful space on 60th Street, and following three years of construction, the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center opened in 2008. Today, it is a multi-functional facility with bright dance studios streaming with sunlight and a 199 seat off-Broadway theater that efficiently transforms into two studios when not in use. Rose proudly told me that with enrollment reaching over 200 students, the center not only houses Ellison Ballet and Rose's Manhattan Youth Ballet, but that many consider MMAC as "home away from home. "Throughout the year, MMAC offers a number of workshops for adults including yoga classes, dance intensives by the Jerome Robbins Foundation, and martial arts training. The center also hosts an alternative preschool and offers children's dance classes. Rose told me that after a chance meeting with actress and author Julianne Moore, Rose wrote and workshopped a production of "Freckleface Strawberry the Musical" in one of the MMAC children's summer camps. The musical went on to premier off-Broadway at New World Stages and has now been performed around the world, launching Rose into a career as a Broadway producer. (Four shows that she recently produced, including "The Elephant Man" and "You Can't Take it With You, " are 2015 Tony Award hopefuls. )As new residential buildings are rising at an incredibly fast pace and surrounding the Center, Rose is looking forward to families and other artistic people finding a haven in MMAC. Rose's ultimate goal is to have more dance companies and Broadway productions utilize the space, which in turn could provide more scholarships to Manhattan Youth Ballet. Already there are organizations recognizing this oasis as Rose told me that Dodgers Theatrical, Alvin Ailey and Cirque du Soleil have been taking advantage of their remarkable facilities for auditions, castings, readings, and rehearsals.

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Sopra, located above Amali and owned by the same restaurant group, is a communal dining concept that creates the feeling of an upscale dinner party. In this elegant, high-ceilinged former apartment, up to twenty people can sit at a long table next to the open kitchen and eat a family-style meal. It allows Rachel Goulet, the chef for both Amali and Sopra, to serve up dishes that are impractical to prepare in single portions for a traditional restaurant. What has quickly become most popular are the porchetta (a classic Italian roast pig) and the Roman lamb, a recipe typically made during the Easter season using the whole animal. Sopra not only provides an unconventional style of dining where strangers are encouraged to socialize both with each other and with the chef, but it also provides an education in sustainable food. The meals served at Sopra are "super local and hyper-seasonal, " Steve Breslawski, the events coordinator for both restaurants, explained. Guests receive an interactive and informative lesson in how food can taste if you pay attention to what is available at different times of the year. The patrons that dine at Sopra are often more adventurous eaters, Steve said, than those who frequent Amali - they are eager to taste the unusual meats that are presented, such as wild boar, beef heart and sweet meats. (Note that vegetarians are welcome to order from Amali's menu if Sopra's offerings are too carnivorous)Sopra is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, but it is also available for private events. Large rolling bars separate the space from the "Fireplace Room, " a cozy smaller area that can be rented out separately or as part of Sopra. As I was admiring the photographs that line Sopra's walls, Steve told me that they are pictures of the staff's family, which indeed add to the warmth and comfort of this venue.