In 1747 John Watts, a British gentleman, purchased multiple acres of land and named it Rose Hill. Prior to the Revolutionary War, he was forced out of the country. It is unclear exactly when or where this white clapboard house was originally built, but there are certain indications that it could have been as early as the 1700s, and then moved to its present location at the northern end of Rose Hill some time in the 1800s. It was a small wonder to walk across 29th Street and discover this wooden structure with a brick carriage house next door. Always one to want to know more, I uncovered the name of the present owners of the building in my research and gave them a call. Harriet and Bill Lembeck were able to fill in a few of the missing pieces of information and invited our team for a visit. The couple purchased the house in 1989. Bill explained to me that "The area was a bit run down and not many people were interested in owning a home on East 29th Street. So when we saw it and fell in love, it easily became ours." They have never lived in it, but they were able to convert the downstairs into a wine education center, Wine & Spirits, and rent out the three floors above. They always had their eye on the carriage house next door, which was bought by separated owners from the farmhouse in 1979. Bill went on to tell me that he was able to buy it back again in 2005 when it went on the market. It had been totally gutted by a blind artist who lived there and made into a gallery. Today, Bill and Harriet rent this space as well, although it is their hope that one day, in the not-too-distant future, they will give up their home in Forest Hills and move into Manhattan and reside in both spaces, turning it back into what it was originally meant to be.
Adereth El is considered to be the oldest synagogue in New York that is still operating out of its original location. German Jewish immigrants founded the congregation in 1857, and the building was constructed in 1863. To this day, Orthodox Jews attend services on a daily basis. Until his passing in 2013, Rabbi Sidney Kleiman had been the head of the congregation for sixty years - the longest serving rabbi in the country. Not all of the original architecture remains, as the shul had to be renovated twice during the 1900s, but its old world charm is prevalent throughout. The stained glass windows, the wooden seating, and even the prayer books took us back in time.
While the red door is bright and unmistakable, it doesn’t even begin to speak of what is inside. Through a darkly lit and colorfully painted stairwell, we come upon the lobby of Ye Olde Carlton Arms Hotel. Wood paneled walls and colorful ceiling lights become the backdrop for the many painted murals. A dressed-up skeleton, a smiling Mona Lisa, and an old television transport this inn back in time, gesturing towards the long history that hides behind each door. Also known as the Artbreak Hotel, this 52-room building was once gas-lit, housing farmers and businessmen alike. The lobby was once a speakeasy during Prohibition, later a “hang out for drag queens, prostitutes, and drug addicts, ” and then, a single-room occupancy hotel for the poor in the 60s. In 1983, owner Ed Ryan chose to redirect its future, and brought masses of art into the building - soon enough each room was muraled, sculpted, designed, and transformed by different artists. Today, each room is unique and colorful – a true art exhibit that happens to also act as a bedroom.
Approaching almost fifty years, the American Bartender's School, owned by Joseph Bruno, has been teaching mixologists the ‘ology of mixing. Having moved in the ‘80s from their original location on Madison Avenue, the school offers forty-hour courses, with students leaving as certified bartenders with a license issued by the New York State Board of Education. Joseph contends that a bartender’s success is determined by conversation, “no matter how good the drink is. ” That being said, technical skill is far from lacking at this institution. Combining lectures and a “lab” portion, we witnessed students attentively toiling over drinks for phantom customers in a room designed to look like one giant bar. The difference, however, is that unlike a culinary school where one might sample their own creations, students do not imbibe here. In fact, there is no alcohol to be found at this bar. Everything is in the correct bottles and the colors all match their potent potable equivalent. What was explained to us is that everything is about measurements. Students are given a recipe to follow, and provided they do it correctly, they can rest assured that it will taste exactly right in the real world. After decades of experience bartending in and managing drinking establishments, Joseph has seen a new devotion to the craft of mixology. Up-and-coming bartenders have tested innovative flavors, homemade syrups, and the “farm-to-table” use of fresh ingredients. He has taken particular pleasure in the resurgence of drinks not popular since the Prohibition era. Perhaps it is a sign that we still have a chance to relive some of the best aspects of the Roaring Twenties.
There is a lot of space to have fun and be funny at Pioneer's, formerly named Comedy Bar. Well that makes sense, as it is owned by Ali Farahnakian, the man behind the PIT (People's Improv Theater) on 24th Street, which opened a new location just down the street in 2015. We found this place to have a little bit of everything. A fan of pinball? There are several machines; Love playing Jenga with giant size blocks? They have them; Want to dance? The music is playing and there are others who will join in; Like comedy? There are open mic nights; Want to simply drink? The selection is fine, with a variety of beers on tap... and the bartenders are ready to chat; Hungry? There is a menu to choose from and lots of popcorn to go around.
This tiny shop tucked away in Kips Bay has been the go-to spot for any and all of one’s footwear-related troubles since it opened in 2014. Manuel Muicela, the owner, came to New York from Nicaragua in 1987 and quickly joined the trade of shoe repair, enduring grueling six-day workweeks. After gaining thirty years of experience in the field, he was finally able to open his own business. “I learned how to repair shoes, and now I work for me, ” he remarked proudly. In this residential area, most of his regulars live in the neighborhood. On the loyalty of his customers, Manuel noted, “If you do a good job, people come back. ”A few things about Manuel’s shop set him apart from the rest. One of the first things that grabs the eye upon entering is the set of old-fashioned shoeshine chairs, where one can get a shoeshine for $5, cash only. He also has a unique machine in the back of the shop that stitches both the inside and the outside of the shoe. With a chuckle, Manuel warned our team, “You can stitch your finger if you’re not careful. ” This machine is so rare that many other shoe repair shop owners throughout the city come to Manuel to use it.
An oasis in a concrete cityscape, this little church doubles as a place of worship and a serene garden in which to rest. The Episcopalian church was founded in 1848 by George Houghton to welcome any and all of the tired masses, in the spirit of inclusivity. Today, the church maintains that inclusive spirit by keeping its gates open all day to parishioners and non-parishioners alike. On any given day, one can find anyone from actors to businessmen seated among the bushes and fountains, chatting, eating or simply sitting in peace. “A lot of people just come in and meditate or chill, ” parish administrator Bill Nave shared with us. “It is one of the most welcoming churches I have ever been to. ” What a charming discovery in the midst of bustling Manhattan.