December 3, 2011

Nighttime New York Glamour: Three Blocks of 59th Street

Walking just three blocks west along E. 59th Street - from Lexington to Park to Madison to Fifth Avenue - yields the glamorous essence that many visitors expect of New York City. While a few large upscale national retailers line these blocks, stores found in other cities such as Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, and Crate & Barrel, the presence of luxury European retailers and names from old New York (Argosy Bookstore is one comfortable reminder) kicks up the glamour quotient to a higher notch.

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Argosy Bookstore, founded in 1925
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lights along 59th Street near Park Avenue

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Sherry-Lehmann, wine store established in 1934

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Park Avenue

The backdrop of skyscrapers and holiday lights and taxis and hundreds of pedestrians along this stretch provide a distilled illusion of opulence and wealth. Items of luxury are on display in the store windows, the work of New York's creative class of store designers and other illusionists. We know how to do theater in New York, even for pedestrians passing by on the streets.

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Baccarat store

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Bally store

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Bottega del Vino

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Apple Store, 59th and Fifth Avenue

While walking 59th Street to traverse the avenues, glimpsing vignettes of windows, lit-up skyscrapers in the distance, and taxi jams, a sense of the present time fades into the city's astonishingly enduring ability to sustain the narrative of luxury, one found only in New York. The city demands exclusivity for this story.

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Fifth Avenue

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The Plaza Hotel

59th Street. Horse carriage, night
Horse carriage near The Plaza Hotel

Never mind many of us can't afford some of these items on display. Purchasing a little something allows access to the dream world projected by the illusionists. That's the idea behind the window shopping. And we need the theater.

59th Street & 5th Avenue, Apple Cube and Fountain, GE Building, New York
GE Fountain, Apple store. Crowds on Fifth Avenue.
Have a seat. The show is free.



View Three Blocks of 59th Street in a larger map

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from a recent evening walk.

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