Christopher Park traces its history back to 1633, when it was developed as a tobacco farm. This triangular plot of land became a park after overcrowding and a massive fire in 1835 caused the community to call for a small piece of open space. Two years later, Christopher Park, named after Charles Christopher Amos, land heir and also the namesake of Christopher Street — the oldest street in the West Village — was developed. In 1969, Christopher Park added to its storied past when the Stonewall Rebellion broke out as the public rioted and protested against police action taken at the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay establishment across the street. Today, the park is home to a snow-white sculpture of two couples lounging, entitled Gay Liberation. The sculpture distinguishes Christopher Park as a major player in the gay liberation movement. In the 1980s, the park underwent a restoration to beautify the grounds. It was given a new gate, benches, lampposts and landscaping, but the 130-year-old fence that surrounds this piece of history remains to this day.
Perhaps not everyone today knows the name Emma Lazarus, but many New Yorkers can certainly recite the most famous lines from her sonnet, “The New Colossus”: "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free…" The poem is engraved on a bronze plaque inside the Statue of Liberty, where it has welcomed new Americans to New York since 1903. Lazarus lived at this apartment on English Terrace row, which has also been home to writer Dashiell Hammett of The Maltese Falcon fame, as well as columnist Franklin Adams, a member of the Algonquin Round Table.
The New York Studio School occupies a space rich in history. After being purchased by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1907, the now-landmarked building was home to art studios, important exhibitions, and later, in 1931, the Whitney Museum. Founded by American artist and educator Mercedes Matter, the New York Studio School saved the space from being demolished and now perpetuates the creative legacy that was born there. Matter and her peers created NYSS as a place for alternative arts education. It retains the “old-school” focus on studio-based practice, where drawing, painting, and sculpture are at the core of its Master of Fine Arts and certificate programs. However, rather than instructing students on attaining fame and fortune, its mission is a more enriching one. “We teach how to be a lifelong artist and how art can be in your future forever, ” said Director of Development Alex Williams. To this end, the school also features several options that are free of charge and are designed to bring art education to the public at large. Anyone interested may attend NYSS’ evening lecture series and gallery exhibitions, which highlight unknown New York artists or uncover neglected art from more prominent names. One can even take a tour of Whitney’s old art studio, which was designated a National Treasure in 2014. A particularly exciting feature is an elaborate, twenty-foot fireplace in the room depicting plaster serpentine and mythological figures climbing the walls and other fantastical scenes that extend onto the ceiling.
“My only connection to chess is through my son, ” confessed Noah Chasin, the unlikely leader of the Marshall Chess Club. Grandmaster Frank Marshall, a native New Yorker and longstanding U. S. Chess Champion, established the club as a haven for chess buffs. It relocated several times, beginning at Keens Steakhouse — featured in the first Walking Manhattan Sideways book — until it finally found its home on 10th Street in 1931. Perhaps the most famous chess club in the world, every champion has played a game here over the past century. “It’s essentially an obligation for all of the top players at some point. ” This is also where the illustrious Bobby Fischer rose to prominence. Fittingly, parts of the film Searching for Bobby Fischer were later filmed on the Marshall’s premises. Though some might be intimidated by the Marshall’s storied reputation, Noah emphasized that the atmosphere is more welcoming than one might expect. The club’s regular tournaments are typically a fifty-fifty split between its members and those who simply possess a love for the pastime. Noah’s own son started visiting the Marshall when he was only eight years old and has since spent years attending some of the largest competitions around the globe, including the Philadelphia World Open. Though certainly no chess disciple himself, Noah was a devoted father, and as his son participated in workshops, camps, and matches at the Marshall, Noah was recruited to represent the parents of other scholastic members on the club’s board. In 2016, he became the president and is now “neck-deep in the chess world, which I never could have imagined before. ” He is delighted to see players old and young, from New York and abroad, find their way to the Marshall. Better yet, he relishes the second-hand thrill of witnessing opponents face off over one of the club’s elegant boards. “It’s not the trajectory I would have imagined as a parent, but it’s been such a spectacular one. ”
Claude-Noelle Toly came to the United States in 1982 after having received her master's degree in political science. Her original goal was to improve her English, but she could not help but fall in love with Manhattan. "Much to my mother's disappointment, I became a waitress in a tiny restaurant in the Village, ” Claude-Noelle confided. It was there, one day, that she met William Nuckel. They became fast friends and together shared a dream of traveling to the South of France on a regular basis to purchase items for a French shop. Shortly afterwards, a tiny little corner space in the West Village became available... that was also affordable. In 1987, they agreed that it was the perfect location and decided to give it a try. Built in the 1800s with three levels, the building is a perfect fit for the charming French boutique that houses antiques and collectibles. From traditional pottery and earthenware to folk art and colorful crystal chandeliers, everything about the shop is enchanting - and this includes the delightful partners. Over the years, during their trips abroad, the two have discovered many talented artisans who constantly remind Claude-Noelle of French farmers. She explained that "they are in their own little world working and producing special pieces, having very little communication with the outside world. " But, she continued, "They absolutely appreciate the fact that there is a shop in Manhattan that is selling their work. " I then learned that there is nowhere else in the States that carries their pottery. For that matter, the only other place in the world that does so is in France. In addition to the new pottery for which Le Fanion is known, the store also has a limited collection of both pottery and furniture that date back to the early and mid-1700s, alongside a larger number of items from the nineteenth century. When I revisited Claude-Noelle in 2016, she was still gushing about her longevity in the West Village and how she continues to love every minute of being on her special, quiet corner. She disclosed that there are two wonderful aspects of owning Le Fanion - traveling to the south of France several times a year, where she and William are able to interact with so many fascinating people "who have unexploited lifestyles, " and returning with new inventory to share with their customers. Claude-Noelle added that she finds it "kind of funny to think that we are a genuine organic store - we only sell wood and clay. " Who knew that they were so ahead of their time in the 1980s? "Today, everyone either tries or pretends to be organic... but we were doing it before many others, " Claude Noelle commented. After a pause, she said, "Wow, thirty years later, and we are still here - How can that be? " Claude-Noelle answered her own question: "What we sell attracts people who appreciate the quality and the stories behind the pieces. And, it continues to always be a nice moment. "
Nestled beside high brick residences is Manhattan’s smallest cemetery - easy to overlook, unless one knows it is there. From 1805 to 1830 it served as the graveyard to the oldest synagogue in the country. Congregation Shearith Israel (also known as the Spanish Portuguese Synagogue) was founded in 1654. In 1830, 11th Street was extended and much of the cemetery was left behind. There are approximately thirty graves and a single, moss-grown stone path remaining. Today these 200 year-old plots sit, hidden, stones barely legible.
As Hamlet would say, “This is one of the places you come to the village for. ” Walking through the door, a small white pooch runs up to greet you, then leads you back through the racks of coats, pants, hats, and other accessories. As the owner, Hamlet, emphasizes, the inventory here is vintage clothing (not a second-hand shop), that dates from the 1940s to the 80s. The selection is sourced through various vintage collectors from all over the world. Hamlet credits his eye for fashion to his mother, who, he says, was a fashion designer in his home country of Dominican Republic. He is very proud of his collection and iterates that the store is not for “80s party” accoutrement, rather it is a resource for historic elegance and style. And if you stop in, you may even get your picture taken, as Hamlet will often have his customers model his new acquisitions.
Every nook and cranny of this tiny storefront's space is full of an extensive and eclectic collection of musical instruments from around the world. Instruments hang from the ceiling just as haphazardly as they are stacked on top of one another from the floor. Located at this same address for over fifty years, Music Inn has an impressive sitar selection from the 1960's, a rare 100 year old sarinda from Afghanistan, as well as adorable little child guitars and mini pianos. I had a quick throwback moment when I spied an autoharp. Do you remember music class in elementary school back in the 60's?
62 East 4th Street has had a fascinating history. At its inception in 1889, it served as a social hall housing a musician's union known as Astoria Hall, as well as hosting meetings of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. In the 1930's, the ballroom was revamped as a theater and television studio and renamed Fortune Theater until Andy Warhol discovered it and left his legendary stamp here. In 1969, he rented it out to showcase a series of infamous porn films and called it Andy Warhol's Theater: Boys to Adore Galore. Over the years, the Yiddish theater had performances here, and many well known television shows used the space to film. Since 1987, the Duo Center has been here having raised the funds for renovations, and then remaining throughout construction to become home to what is now Duo Multicultural Arts Center and Rod Rogers Dance Company and Studio. Today the building is part of Fourth Arts Block (FAB) and operates as a center for film, dance, art, theater and music and is among New York's designated cultural districts.
Pageant Print Shop’s entirely glass storefront bordered by light blue is instantly eye-catching and proudly displays the treasure within. Inside its bright, buttercream interior, an immense assortment of old prints and maps line every wall and fill neatly-labeled display racks. This sanctuary of beautiful historical pieces was created by Sidney Solomon and Henry Chafetz in 1946. It was originally one of the many second-hand book stores on Fourth Avenue, an area that was then known as “Book Row. ” Now under the leadership of Sidney’s daughters, Shirley and Rebecca, Pageant Print Shop primarily sells old prints and is thriving at its current 4th Street location. Having worked with historic pieces her whole life, Shirley knows how to get the best prints. She has amassed her impressive collection from antique book auctions as well as other various sources that she has built up over the years. Roger, who has been working at Pageant Print Shop for over a decade, told Manhattan Sideways that “what we are looking for are old books with the bindings broken that are really not in very good shape on the outside, but still have good quality prints, maps, or illustrations on the inside. ” Although they search for old books based on the contents within, the shop also sells the old bindings for creatives looking to make decoupage and other fun art projects. Pageant Print Shop is definitely a fixture in the East Village, and in the words of Roger, is “one of those neighborhood jams. ” They enjoy “a loyal group of people that have been coming here for eons, " tourists looking for something authentically New York City, and neighborhood people walking by. He told us that newcomers are often “surprised that they are able to buy a piece of history, ” and return for more of their authentic, beautiful, and historic prints. Pageant Print Shop is unique in its extensive, high quality, and affordable selection. Roger affirmed that “It’s going to be hard for you to find someone who has this kind of a collection at these kinds of prices — it’s just true. ”
After moving to her current location from East 7th Street, Lalita Kumut is pleased with her new address for selling aromatherapy products. On one of our recent visits, we stood by while a delighted group of girls were creating their own fragrances. From the variety of custom blends, soaps, oils and other smell-good body products, to the lovely women who have been in this business for over twenty years, the Fragrance Shop offers a memorable experience for the senses.