February 3, 2009

Walking Through the Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District and Beyond

The acronym "BFF" is my new name for the neighborhood that encompasses the Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District, a name too long to use in casual conversation, as well as the blocks west of Varick Street to the Hudson River. The general area I'm speaking of is south of West Houston Street and north of Canal Street. Many label this area the South Village, but it doesn't feel like the Village to me. I shall call it BFF, which stands for Beyond Film Forum (the cinema on West Houston). The place is just kind of way over there, remote and yonder, west and south. You know, beyond Film Forum. To prove my point, a bar in that neighborhood is called "Antarctica."

The Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District is bounded by Varick, Vandam, MacDougal and King Streets, and is characterized by the quality of its Federalist and Greek Revival architecture, especially the townhouses. I forgot to take pictures of them to show you. It's a quiet and peaceful neighborhood, and consequently when I walked through the area on Sunday, I saw almost no one. After passing by the Film Forum on West Houston (where I did see several people buying tickets), I wandered around Charlton, King, and Vandam Streets and looked at neat rows of well-kept houses.


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Leaving the historic district, I strolled west on King Street to Hudson Street, a major thoroughfare I always enjoy because I can usually find food. Jacques Torres Chocolates has an outpost on this corner, and stopping in to smell the chocolate is almost as good as consuming it. I said "almost." The store is located between the formidable Saatchi & Saatchi world headquarters to the north and Antarctica to the south. The lobby of Saatchi & Saatchi, the agency that created the "I Love New York" campaign, features large works by Frank Stella, and you can peer in the window and see these from the street.

Strolling back east I wound up at the intersection of Spring and Sixth Avenue near the Aquagrill. Spring Street looked quite amazing from the perspective of the BFF neighborhood. Just the simple act of approaching a familiar street from a different direction can seem like a revelation.

As solitary as I was on a sunny winter Sunday, but OK with that, I amused myself mostly by appreciating the light and shadows on the buildings. While looking at the light cast on a particular building on the corner of Varick and Vandam, the home of City Winery, and seeing the diners on the covered patio of Aquagrill, the feel of the light reminded me of the New York paintings of artist Edward Hopper.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from Sunday, February 1, 2009. Coming soon: The Light in Edward Hopper, a special themed walk.

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