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Strange Days: A Walk in Murray Hill

This 1.5-mile self-guided walk in Murray Hill, beginning and ending at Grand Central Terminal, includes a handful of interesting places in a small geographical area. Nestled between Bryant Park to the west and FDR Drive at the East River, the eclectic neighborhood includes a mishmash of architectural styles from the Gilded Age to the modern. Popular with young people beginning in the 1990s, especially in the more modern sections near the river, the area has mostly kept a low profile.   

A recent walk from The Morgan Library and Museum to a nearby diner (Sarge’s, as it turned out) turned up an assortment of architectural gems, including a small private court that was used for the cover of a classic rock album. Not every worthy facade or alleyway is mentioned here, so be on the lookout for additional treasures.

Consulate General of Poland, 233 Madison Ave. with sculpture of Jan Karski (1914 – 2000)

1. Consulate General of Poland, 233 Madison Ave. Originally Joseph R. De Lamar House, 1905-1906. Opulent mansion built for social aspirations, now home of the consulate. Out front is a seated statue of Jan Karski (1914 – 2000), a Polish resistance fighter in WWII and later a professor at Georgetown University.

The Morgan Library & Museum, 225 Madison Ave

2. The Morgan Library & Museum, 225 Madison Ave. The original building by Charles F. McKim and the airy additions by Renzo Piano are worth a visit, but please take time to explore the marvelous books, manuscripts and other works inside. Be sure also to walk around to the 36th street side of the museum to see sculptor Edward Clark Potter’s pair of female lions flanking the entrance to the library. You can’t pet them, as they are behind a gate. Potter is best known for Patience and Fortitude, the famous lions at the NYPL.

Sniffen Court, 150-158 E. 36th St.

3. Sniffen Court, 150-158 E. 36th St. between Lexington and Third Aves. 1863-1864. Ten carriage houses in the Romanesque Revival style line this secluded court. Brooklyn-born photographer Joel Brodsky (1939-2007) shot over 400 album covers and is best known for immortalizing the young Jim Morrison of The Doors. For their 1967 Strange Days album, Brodsky photographed street entertainers cavorting in the narrow mews of Sniffen Court. (more details on the feelnumb website).

Sprinkled cupcakes at Sarge's Delicatessen & Diner, 548 3rd Ave. 

4. Third Avenue. Once in the shadows of an elevated train, Third Avenue is a great place to find an old-school New York deli like Sarge's Delicatessen & Diner.

Originally the George S. Bowdoin Stable, 149 East 38th St. 1902.

5. Originally the George S. Bowdoin Stable, 149 East 38th St. 1902. Architect Ralph S. Townsend designed this fabulous Dutch Renaissance structure, a vision in limestone and brick with a fierce bulldog looking down from the top and two beautiful wreathed horses below. Just look at this wonder!

152 E 38th St.

6. 152 E 38th St. Across the street from the stable is another sweet little walled garden behind a fence. A three-story house with shutters stands at the back, accessible only through a covered walkway.

Church of Our Savior, 59 Park Avenue.

7. Church of Our Savior, 59 Park Avenue. A Catholic Church built in neo-Romanesque style is decorated with fanciful carvings on its many deep archway windows and doors. The Towne House, an Art Moderne apartment house from 1930, rises tall next door.

Scandinavia House, 56 Park Avenue

8. Scandinavia House, 56 Park Avenue. 2001. A work of sleek modern Scandinavian architecture, made of zinc and wood, this buildings houses the American-Scandinavian Foundation's cultural center. Go inside to shop for Scandinavian gifts or dine at Smörgås Chef Restaurant.

Subway entrance. The former headquarters of Bowery Savings Bank was built in 1921-1923

9. Cipriani's 42nd Street, 110 E. 42nd St. The former headquarters of Bowery Savings Bank was built in 1921-1923 and updated a decade later. In addition to the great main archway, look for the special subway entrance to Grand Central Terminal. What’s behind the golden door? All subway stops should look like this. Unfortunately, the glamour disappears quickly upon descent.


Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from the summer of 2018.

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