This handsome example of art deco serves as a reminder of the grand and militant vision of vanquishing evil for which the Salvation Army used to be known. Set into the recessed archway, an enormous metal sigil trumpets the organization's motto: “blood and fire. ” Fitting then that this outpost of the institution houses a small army of office workers in charge of managing the logistics of providing social services to the greater New York area. Commissioned in 1930 by Eva Booth, granddaughter of Salvation Army founder William Booth, it actually served as the national headquarters until 1982. While the organization is most often associated with the sale of used goods for incredibly cheap prices at their family stores, this outpost offers disaster services, social services, and transitional or emergency housing for the homeless.
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.