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Showing posts from December, 2011

The New Year in New York City, 19th Century Style: Calling on New Year's Day

Before the 1890s, when New Year's Eve celebrations became the chief means to welcome the new year, New Yorkers spend most of their time, energy, and money on the traditional custom of visiting private homes on New Year's Day.* These extravagant all-day affairs involved the well-established men of New York City, or those with social aspirations, walking about the fashionable neighborhoods to pay courtly visits to fashionable well-heeled New York women. The women - wives, mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, and their staffs - spent days preparing for the visits, fixing themselves up and laying out vast spreads of food and spirits upon tables and sidebars. It wasn't unusual for a group of men to visit sixty or seventy places from morning to night. You can imagine their condition by the end of the day. I'd hate to host the last reception.


The pressure was on. If you didn't show up at a house on New Year's Day, it meant that you must not think much of the friendship. …

The Year in Review: Walking off the Big Apple's Top New York Stories from 2011

Walking around New York City often involves bearing witness to many headline news stories. As a pedestrian journalist, I often report on the everyday life in New York City, but on occasion I like to report, if not without the occasional bias of an opinionated blogger, on the bigger stories as they unfold. The following 10 events or developments from 2011 stood out from the pack.


10. East River Ferry

Back in the Gilded Age, ferry service was a regular thing on the East River, but the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 put many of the ferries out of service. Beginning in June of 2011, the NY Waterway's East River Ferry returned to the waters, inaugurating a commuter ferry service from Manhattan to stops in Brooklyn and one in Queens. The service is a testament to the need for alternative transportation in the city.


9.De Kooning Retrospective at MoMA

Two hundred works by the influential postwar artist, almost all breathtaking in ambition and color, made this critically accl…

From the Arch and Back Again: A Nighttime Stroll to See the Holiday Lights

Running around to complete holiday preparations is often so frantic that the idea of taking an extra leisurely walk for pleasure seems somewhat ridiculous, if not inefficient. Yet, taking this additional stroll, especially in a city known to produce stress, provides the means to walk off some of the excessive pressures of the holiday season. In addition to the benefits of unwinding an overly tight psyche, a restorative walk around the neighborhood can include the pleasures of the city draped in bright holiday colors. It's a nice change from our city uniform of browns, grays and blacks.

We begin at the Washington Square Arch, our little Paris-like monument in Greenwich Village's famous park. As a neighbor, I am proud of the Arch, the holiday tree, and the views of the Empire State Building, festooned in red and green, in the distance up Fifth Avenue at 34th Street.


Taxis veer south on Fifth Avenue toward its finale in the Village at the Arch.

Shopping Ladies' Mile in the Second Gilded Age: A Self-Guided Walk and Map

Ladies' Mile, the term for the historic shopping district of New York City's Gilded Age in the late 19th century, continues as an important neighborhood for shopping. The boundaries of the designated historic district stretch roughly from W. 15th to W. 23rd Street, the area northwest of Union Square up to Madison Square. The previous post on New York City Holiday Shopping in the Gilded Age seemed to invite this obvious follow-up post and self-guided walk.


Many of the Beaux-Arts style store palaces built for New York's wealthy class of the former century are now repurposed for contemporary needs. These blocks on Broadway are particularly rich with the fancier French 19th century architectural styles, but check out the extraordinary current locations for stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond (620 Sixth Avenue) and Home Depot (40 W. 23rd St.)

New York City Holiday Shopping: Online Artifacts from the Gilded Age

(revised 2015) Several commentators in the popular press compare our own time to the Gilded Age, a term for the late 19th century decades in the United States that were marked by rapid industrialization, economic development, financial havoc, and extreme inequality between the rich and the poor. New York City was one of the most important economic and social centers of the era, a city where the wealthy industrialists built their mansions in Beaux-Arts opulence while the newly-arrived immigrant families crowded together in confined tenement structures.

Between these two groups, an expanding middle class grew with the founding of new manufacturing, commercial, and retail businesses, enterprises that would depend upon consumer spending habits. The popularization and commercialization of the Christmas holiday also rapidly grew during the 1880s and 1890s, with an emphasis in the city on the festive presentation of store windows and special marketing. Here, then, are a few documents that p…

Imagining Christmas: Washington Irving's Solitary Walk, and a Stroll from Clement Clarke Moore's Chelsea to O. Henry's Irving Place

(The following post includes material previously published on Walking Off the Big Apple, now gathered together around the virtual holiday hearth. Events noted below are updated for 2012.- TT)

Many of the ways we think of Christmas, in its secular and most popular forms - the chubby Santa and his reindeer, the newly fallen snow, the warm hearth donned with Christmas stockings, family and friends celebrating in cheer - can trace its roots to the pens of two New York native sons, Washington Irving (1783-1859) and Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863), and to another popular storyteller who drifted to New York, William Sydney Porter (1862-1910), better known as O. Henry.
Washington Irving's Solitary Walk Through Christmas
"Stranger and sojourner as I am in the land,--though for me no social hearth may blaze, no hospitable roof throw open its doors, nor the warm grasp of friendship welcome me at the threshold,--yet I feel the influence of the season beaming into my soul from the happy l…

So, You've Arrived by Bus: Short Walks to NYC Attractions from the Port Authority Bus Terminal

(updated 2016) Due to its proximity to many of the city's well-known attractions and transit stations, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, located just a long block west of Times Square, is also one of the most convenient points of entry to the city.

In addition to the Theater District, many popular destinations are within easy walking distance, including Bryant Park, Madison Square Garden, Herald Square, Rockefeller Center, and more.

Even MoMA or the top of the High Line are only about a mile away, making for a pleasant walk on fair weather days. With 200,000 people making use of the facility every day, the equivalent of the population of a large city, the Port Authority Bus Terminal is not surprisingly the largest bus terminal in the world.


View Arriving by Bus in NYC: Short Walks from the Port Authority in a larger map

The Port Authority Bus Terminal opened December 15, 1950, amidst New York's postwar boom, largely to consolidate the chaos of multiple bus lines congesting the …

20 New York City Books: Gift Guide 2011, Non-Fiction Edition

2011's crop of New York-centered books yields fantastic stories, uncommon vistas, and (sorry for the cliché) something for everyone. Be sure to bookmark this page while out browsing your favorite bookstore.

High Line: The Inside Story of New York City's Park in the Sky by Joshua David and Robert Hammond. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2011. 352 pages. (paper) The two citizens who founded the city's sensational elevated park tell their story.

Guide to Contemporary New York City Architecture by John Hill. W. W. Norton & Company. 2011. 304 pages. (paper) It's about time we get a book that looks at the new New York architecture. Projects arranged by neighborhoods allow for self-guided adventures.

Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City by Leslie Day with illustrations by Trudy Smoke. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 2011. 295 pages. (paper) A guide to fifty trees that line New York streets. Let's be well-versed on our strolls through leafy neighborhood…

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.