The Synod of Bishops Russian Church is the base for the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in New York City. ROCOR, which was formed in response to the policies of the Bolsheviks in the early twentieth century, was a separate religious entity from the Russian Orthodox Church for ninety years. In 2007, however, the Act of Canonical Communion with the Moscow Patriarchate was signed, making ROCOR a semi-autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church. The administrative building on 93rd Street contains two churches within its structure: The Cathedral of the Icon of Our Lady of the Sign and St. Sergius Church. The building was presented to ROCOR in the mid-twentieth century by Serge Semenenko, a Russian banker. The mansion was built by the architect William A. Delano in the Georgian-Federal style in 1918.
The old wall that now forms one side of the Hunter College High School used to be part of the Squadron A Armory, built in 1895. Though the armory was demolished in the 1960’s to make way for the school, the grand façade remains. Squadron A was an elite cavalry that was formed in 1884 when a social club, the New-York Hussars, decided to begin military drills. In 1889, the group joined the New York State National Guard. They raised money for the armory, which was built to imitate a Norman castle with square towers and turrets. In what is now the Hunter College High School playground, the armory contained a riding ring. Squadron A took part in many World War I and World War II battles during which, they were incorporated into the 101st Cavalry. After the world wars, the Squadron became a social organization, hosting polo games on Saturday nights, until New York State abandoned the armory and decided to build a school. In 1966, however, right before workers were about to demolish it, the Madison Avenue side of the armory was declared a landmark. The school complex, therefore, built around the wall.
“We have a unique mission in this neighborhood, ” Judy Counts, the executive director of the House of the Redeemer, told me. It is true that the house was unlike anything else I had come across in over ninety side streets. The non-profit organization is under the umbrella of the Episcopal Church, but it is considered “a place apart for all faiths. ” The House serves many purposes for those in the neighborhood: it is a space for weddings, memorials, and other meaningful events; but it also offers housing. Judy made it very clear that the House of the Redeemer is “not a cheap hotel. ” The guest rooms in the house provide shelter for those who are in need. Over the years, they have offered lodging for religious retreats, not-for-profit art collectors, and traveling church officials. They also have rooms for those with family emergencies, such as people visiting relatives at the nearby hospitals. They particularly do a lot of work with Mount Sinai, providing a place for their cancer patients to recover from treatments. There is no online booking: instead, interested parties must call the House of the Redeemer and answer the questions of a House representative, at which point they may be invited to stay at the House for up to a week. The House is also home to a priest-in-residence from September to June. When I visited, the clergy-in-residence was a female bishop from the West Coast. Because the house is landmarked, it is not centrally air-conditioned, so many of its residents leave in the summer. Every weekday, there is a morning and evening prayer in the chapel at 8am and 5pm, which is “absolutely open to all. ” Additionally, the house offers yoga groups meditations, bible studies, and lectures. Beginning our tour of the house in the butler’s pantry, Judy showed me an ancient box filled with bells that had been used by people in upper rooms to call a servant. There is also a dumbwaiter and a safe that was used for the silverware (“It now holds wine and cereal, ” Judy informed me). Judy pointed to the upper level of the pantry, indicating that this was where the housekeeper’s office was so that she could keep an eye on the other servants through the partition. In the year 1920, the mansion was home to five family members and thirteen servants. The building has a fascinating history. It was completed in 1916 and housed a debutante ball in 1917. It was designed for Edith Shepard Fabbri, the granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Edith married Ernesto Fabbri, a wealthy Italian, which could explain why the house is designed with a very Italian eye. As I entered the dining room, with the vaulted, round stone of an Italian villa, Judy suggested that the House of the Redeemer may be the only building in New York designed in the style of an Italian Palazzo. The dining room, which is now called “the refectory”, is decorated with eighteenth century paintings that have each been appraised by Sotheby's. In 1949, after being inspired by a sermon, Edith Fabbri donated the house to the Episcopal Church to be used as a religious retreat house, giving it the name “House of the Redeemer. ” Nuns occupied the building from 1950 to 1980, until they were unable to handle the finances, and then a secular staff was brought in to take care of the building's affairs. One of the biggest ways in which the house has earned an income is by renting out the rooms to television and movie producers. Judy revealed that a wide variety of shows have shot scenes here, including Law and Order, The Good Wife, Burn After Reading, and the Nanny Diaries. The House is particularly attractive to PBS – the network has conducted many interviews in the historic rooms. Judy assured me that she takes each request very seriously and is always sure to show the house in a good light. Continuing our walk into another room, we entered the salon, which was set up for a bible study. The walls, I learned, had, at one time, been covered in red fabric. A large portrait of Edith Fabbri dominates the space, but the real centerpiece is the ceiling. Judy said that academics from the Frick, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Columbia University had all come to study the ceiling and had discovered that it came from the same exact part of Italy as the fixtures in their library. Judy then took me into the Chapel - originally the family’s living room. “The light in here at 3: 30 is unbelievable, ” Judy assured me, and I could see why, as the room was surrounded by large windows. As in the salon, the exquisite ceiling was transported from Italy. I was surprised to learn, however, that the triptych at the front of the room was not an antique, but was created by one of their board members. The library was our next stop, and I found it to be the most awe-inspiring part of the house. Not only is the two-tiered enclosure absolutely stunning, but it was also incredibly high-tech considering the year that it was built. The fixtures in the room had been dismantled from a castle on the outskirts of Urbino and shipped to New York in the middle of World War I. The pieces were sent on two boats, because if one boat was torpedoed, the artists would still have half the room from which to replicate the rest. The library is filled with hidden compartments, including one that leads to the servant’s elevator. Along the upper bookshelf, there is a hidden crawl space that some believe may have been where the family hid alcohol during Prohibition. Opening another secret panel, Judy announced, “I like to call this their stereo system. ” Inside were the rolls for a player organ, and the pipes for the organ are hidden behind the bookshelves. The clever engineering did not stop there: behind the main body of the organ is the original projector room. Early movies would be projected onto a sailcloth while someone played music on an organ. Music is still an important part of this room: the Fabbri concert series, which was started by board members as “a way of opening the house to others, since it was a very closed environment, ” takes place here every year. As we returned to the entrance, Judy pointed into the courtyard, showing us where there would have been a massive turntable to help turn around the motorcars, the early models of which only went forwards. I was shocked at how innovative the designs for the original house were. “This is a living museum, ” Judy agreed. She has worked at the House of the Redeemer since the early 2000s, so she has formed a fond attachment to the structure. “It is mostly a very peaceful place, ” and then reminded me that the House is always willing to give walking tours by appointment – something I highly recommend.
Tucked between just a few other small businesses on 97th I discovered a casual, yet festive restaurant. El Paso Taqueria - one of three of a small Upper East Side chain that began in the early 2000s - offers a variety of Mexican food and drinks, including tacos, enchiladas, huevos rancheros, and, of course, margaritas.
In an effort to cater to the growing Russian population in New York, St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral was founded as the Church of St. Nicholas in the early 1890's in rented rooms downtown. The congregation quickly grew and in 1902, the structure that currently sits on 97th Street was built. At the time, the location was in an inexpensive neighborhood, but the building itself was costly, erected thanks to funds from Czar Nicholas II, who was murdered sixteen years later.
St. Bernard's, an all-boys school, was founded in 1904 by John Card Jenkins, a graduate of Cambridge University. Jenkins remained as the headmaster until 1949. The school originally resided on Fifth Avenue until it relocated to 60th Street in 1910. In 1915, St. Bernard's moved into its current, imposing building, which was designed by architects Delano and Aldrich.
The way in which Table d’Hote changed hands demonstrates how tight-knit the New York culinary community is. The small restaurant, which seats twenty-six, was started by Vivick Bandhu and Lauri Gibson. Lauri’s niece, Liz Chapman, is married to Jonathan Benno, who is probably best known for opening Per Se. Long before establishing Per Se, however, Jonathan worked at Gramercy Tavern as a line cook with William Knapp. The two men became good friends to such an extent that Bill was Jonathan’s best man at his wedding. And, it was here that he met Lauri and Vivick. The founders of Table d’Hote asked if Bill wanted to take over their restaurant, but he declined their offer. A few years later, however, Bill found himself at the end of a long stint at Loeb’s Boathouse. “I was done doing banquets, ” he told me. When Lauri and Vivick repeated their offer in 2011, Bill took them up on it. After the change in ownership, the restaurant was only closed for a week before Bill reopened it with a proper POS (point of sale) system and a full liquor license. Bill was greatly influenced by his time at Gramercy Tavern, especially when it comes to fresh, seasonal cuisine. He considers his time at the restaurant as a turning point in his career. He explained that while the food at Table d’Hote is expensive, that is because the ingredients come from the same markets as the produce at Per Se and Gramercy Tavern. “It’s simple food and it’s excellent food, ” he asserted. Many neighbors appear to agree with Bill’s evaluation, since he estimated that about sixty percent of his customers are regulars. Although there are some people who remember the restaurant how it once was and are disappointed that they cannot come in for a soup and a sandwich, the amount of people who are excited by the new version of Table d’Hote greatly makes up for it. Bill affectionately described the original owners as “hippies who started the restaurant as a place for dinner parties. ” Lauri and Vivick worked at the UN and ran the restaurant part-time – they were not restaurateurs. They recognized that when Bill took over, he would turn the cuisine up a couple of notches. Many have certainly appreciated the change, including Eli Zabar, who lives a few doors down. One day, Eli decided to have a large dinner party at Table d’Hote. He came with a box of food and asked Bill to turn it into a delicious dinner for his friends and family. Needless to say, Eli was thrilled with the outcome. One element of the restaurant that has remained the same, however, is the décor. The tables and chairs are rustic pieces that the founders discovered at flea markets and yard sales. The space continues to have the cozy French charm that it had when it originally opened. The ambience has also recently benefitted from the artwork of a local artist, John Jay Gebhardt. John changes the paintings on the walls each season, and has even sold a few pieces to the restaurant’s patrons. Though the menu changes seasonally, there are some popular dishes that Bill serves throughout the year. “The crab cake and mussels are pretty consistent, ” he said, after telling me about the cavatelli, which is handmade downstairs. When I visited, the leg of lamb had also become a nightly staple. As for fish, Bill makes sure that he always has salmon available. “When I take salmon off the menu, people cry, ” he said, dryly. The Manhattan Sideways team was fortunate to sample the creamy mussels and the succulent Peking Duck Breast, served with asparagus. Despite Table d'Hote’s excellent cuisine, Bill seemed to be most proud of his staff, who have remained consistent. “Everyone’s been here for at least four years, ” Bill said, adding, “Everyone has a key to the restaurant. I couldn’t be happier with the honesty of my staff. ” I learned that on Bill’s days off, Jeffrey manages the restaurant. Jeffrey and Bill have been together since they worked at Patroon in 1996. Bill related to me a time when Jeffrey tried one of Table d’Hote’s salad, made with red and green watercress, apple vinaigrette, and almonds. Teasing him, Jeffrey asked, “Where’d you steal this recipe? ” to which Bill replied, “I made it up! ” I also met Juan, who moved to New York after working as a car mechanic in the Dominican Republic and whom Bill bumped up from dishwasher to chef. Possibly the most recognizable face at the restaurant, however, belongs to Angelo, who is the lunch waiter every day. “People come in just to see him, ” Bill exclaimed. There have been times when, just by using his charisma, Angelo has been single-handedly responsible for having customers seated at every table both indoors and out. “I’ve seen him fill seventeen espresso orders at once by himself, ” Bill stated proudly. Each member of the staff works to make Table d’Hote a relaxed, homey place that just happens to serve superb food, prepared to the guest’s specifications. Bill ended our conversation by sharing that perhaps it is his friend - who also happens to be a chef - who put it best, “Every time I come, it’s like my personal chef is cooking for me. ”
For a century and counting, The Diller-Quaile School of Music has worked to cultivate “the innate musicality in each individual and inspire participation for a lifetime, ” said Executive Director Kirsten Morgan. The school was founded by two remarkable women, Angela Diller and Elizabeth Quaile, who believed that “the capacity for understanding and creating music exists in everyone. ” The women toured the country to conduct classes — an unusual phenomenon at the time. They were also prolific writers, creating the abundance of materials used to instruct their students and teachers alike. Originally, the organization focused on three areas: developing musicians, offering piano study, and training music teachers. This three-pronged approach aims to produce individuals who are “musically sensitive” and can harness their deep understanding of the structure of music or a particular composition to play with “a special eloquence. ” Diller-Quaile starts instilling this knowledge from an early age through programs available for children as young as three months old and via in-school and community-wide partnerships. Of course, there are plenty of instrumental and vocal lessons for adults, as well as chamber workshops. “At our core, we’re a learning institution. This is a place where people come at all ages and levels to learn and grow through music, ” Kirsten emphasized. This includes the faculty, who are encouraged to continue pursuing their musical passions through creativity grants or new work commissioned by the school. In turn, they share their love for the beauty and joy of music with their students. “At the heart of it, music is made for us all. ”