4.17.2008

A Walk in NoLita, Sometimes Speaking French

To get to the New Museum of Contemporary Art on the Bowery from where I live in the Village I walk through the precious neighborhood of NoLita. I say "precious," because this neighborhood North of Little Italy is home to many attractive small boutiques and stylish bistros, and it feels like it could be bottled and sold for a large price. In fact, that's happening. The prices for several new condos in the neighborhood's attractive renovated Victorian-era buildings start in the six- and seven-million dollar range. And the proximity of the New Museum solidifies NoLita's stature as a hot neighborhood, with galleries, shoe boutiques and other art-friendly places popping up here and there.

Walking along Prince or Spring toward the museum, I have several old and new, ecclesiastical and secular, places to note along the way:

Buildings: The St. Patrick's Old Cathedral at Mott and Prince, served as the Roman Catholic Cathedral until the big St. Patrick's was built on Fifth Avenue; and The Fourteenth Ward Industrial School, a Victorian building designed in 1888 by Calvert Vaux and George Radford, on Mott, built by the Astors for the children of neighborhood immigrants;

Food: Chibi's Bar (devoted to sake) and Cafe Gitane on Mott, Ceci-Cela on Spring.

Edification: McNally Robinson Booksellers on Prince. I could name many more places I like.

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While walking in NoLita yesterday, it seemed like 83% of the people were speaking French. Places like Cafe Gitane and Ceci-Cela attract French visitors, or possibly, local Francophiles practicing their language skills.

NoLita is not gentrified on every square inch. Along another street it's possible to see long-time residents playing board games in a concrete fenced park and children playing ball. Not everyone there is an attractive young French-speaking person, although it often seems that way.

Image and Map of NoLita by Walking Off the Big Apple.

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