Archive for July 2008

Ankling Through Columbia University

July 21, 2008

This weekend was hot. Wowser, it was hot! And I decided to do my ankling about as far away from my home as you can get and still be in Manhattan: Columbia University.

I’ve been there a few times before, and every time I go; something drives me away. I don’t know why it happens, but it always does. This time it happened again; it was the heat and humidity that drove me back home. Maybe I only go there at times that something will go on and make me leave early.

But, I didn’t go away too quickly. I wandered over much of the campus, and was (as usual) impressed by it.

When you get off the 1 subway at 116th and get to the top; that’s where Columbia starts. Right across the street.

The entrance is pleasant, but one of the things that I always like is the little walkway right past the gates. It’s nicely tree-lined and very welcoming. The building on the left is, I believe, a theater/arts building while the building on the right is for journalism.

One thing that delights me is a little fake-out that they do. The next picture is of the Low Memorial Library. According to a plaque, it was donated in honor of Abiel Abbot Low and the first major building in this section (Morningside Heights) of Columbia. It was completed in 1897.

The fake-out? Well, it’s not a library. It’s an administrative and “ceremonial” building. The real library is well across the way. I had wondered why I never saw students flowing in and out of it until I discovered their dark little secret. Okay…it ain’t that dark of a secret and I’m sure Columbia has a whole bunch of genuine ones. But it’s the only one I’ve found in my wanderings.

Right in front of the “library” is a rather cool statue. It’s called “Alma Mater”. Very nicely done. I don’t know how old it is or the source of it (lots of their stuff has notations saying something like “donated by the Class of 1930”).

Oh, and Butler Library (the real library)? I mentioned it’s “across the way”. Here’s the view from the top of the Low Library’s steps. You can see “Alma Mater” down the way. The big building in the distance is the Butler Library (or so I’m told).

I wandered through Columbia for over an hour and took oodles of pics. But the day was hot and there were so few people around that nothing really happened. So, all I have to give you is a description and impressions. And I’ll do that over a number of posts; but I have to admit that my impression of Columbia is positive. Architecturally, it’s really nice. Academically, it’s top notch.

Oh, you might have noticed I categorized the place, at least in part, as Harlem. It likes to call itself Morningside Heights, but I view that as realtor-speak.


Bowling Green Subway Station

July 20, 2008

Every so often I visit an old familiar place and then find something new about it. Okay, virtually every time I think I know a place and then start looking for something new about it, I find something new about it. This time I was in Battery Park, the furthest southern point on Manhattan and as I was looking for the local subway station, I found it and got myself a new sight.

Ain’t it purty? In a way, it reminds me of the Alamo. I suspect Sam Houston and Santa Ana would beg to disagree, but its that little arch over the doorway. (Yes, for those history buffs, I’m aware that the popular impression of the Alamo, which is a church, was only one of the buildings in the area and that the other buildings may have been of far greater import during that battle.)

It’s a tiny little building, this Bowling Green subway station, but it’s a passageway down to a much larger area.

The Bowling Green station isn’t necessarily the further south station, although it is located at Battery Park, which is really the further south area of Manhattan. I believe the South Ferry station is just a hair further south.


Holy Rosary Church in Spanish Harlem

July 19, 2008

During my recent wanderings of Spanish Harlem, I saw a sight that I knew was special. On 119th Street, just outside of the “Italian Harlem” area, was a nice looking church. I took just one picture. I figured it would just be another picture in my Spanish Harlem posting.

Wrong. It’s the Holy Rosary Church and I found it interesting enough to give it a solo post.  It turns out that it wasn’t part of the Italian Harlem area at all, but was founded by German and Irish worshippers in 1884 and the present building was done in 1900. 

I found a number of interesting things about the place.  First, it is a wonderful and impressive structure.  Second, according to the article I found on it, as late as 1975 it was doing Masses in English, Spanish, and Italian.  (I just like that idea.  Unfortunately, now it is just English and Spanish.)  Third, the website of the Church is a dead link.  C’mon guys, get with the program.  [UPDATE 8/8/08:  the website is active again.]  And, fourth, the place was locked up as tight as can be on a Saturday afternoon.  That’s sad.


Another Chrysler Building Picture

July 18, 2008

Okay, I admit it: there’s lots of pictures of the Chrysler Building. Even on this blog. There’s really nothing new about this picture. Not even the framing with the American flags.

But I do love looking at that building. No excuses necessary. Ain’t it grand?


Italian Harlem on Pleasant Avenue

July 17, 2008

Yeah. “Italian Harlem”. I didn’t know it existed until recently and found a very small article on it. I knew I was headed to Spanish Harlem and thought I’d stop by. The article had mentioned the area was very small and confined to just a single street (Pleasant Avenue) from 114th Street to 119th. I had to check it out. If nothing else, I figured I could get some good Italian food.

I also wanted to see a better Manhattan home for the Italians than the rapidly vanishing Little Italy.  (It turned out that the next day I went to Brooklyn and saw a thriving Italian area where the Giglio festival was held.  But that’s not Manhattan.)

Folks, just from my eyeballing, there’s very, very little left of Italian Harlem.

And I couldn’t find any restaurants. There were a couple of little foodstores like everyplace in Manhattan. I saw a number of people who could have been Italian (they didn’t look particularly Spanish/Hispanic to me, at least; and I heard a few talking in idiomatic American accents). But the place is just…zip.

It has a couple of impressive areas. The first was the “Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics“. It’s a magnet high school for science and has a long history in the area.

So I wandered through the area. It was really, really empty. It had some nice buildings and the like, but nothing that made you want to move there or to renovate. If you go a little further to the north and west, in regular Harlem you’ll find lots of magnificent buildings (although many in sore need of some really heavy duty maintenance). Here, just okay stuff.

At the north end of Pleasant Avenue, there’s a huge expanse of an exercise area. Really, really big. And by big, I mean huge. All cemented flat and designed as a sports area. There was a cement baseball/softball area, there were a number of basketball hoops (I saw three or so just near the fence). But not a single person. The place, like most of Italian Harlem, just seemed to be…empty and locked up.

There are two major Churches in the area: Holy Rosary Church and Mt. Carmel. There’s even a small school in the area. Not unexpected and it was empty, too. Of course, I went on a Saturday and didn’t expect the kids to be hanging around there. But to have a huge exercise area just empty? I dunno. (It wasn’t in good repair, but seemed servicable for softball/kickball/whatever. The hoops were all bent out of shape, though.)

Pleasant Avenue is bounded by a park to the south (I’ll post on that separately) and what look like projects to the north. In between, it’s mostly just quiet. Now, in Manhattan that’s a good thing, but I had hoped for a little more.

For full disclosure, it did have one really nice feature. There were a number of community gardens scattered in the area. Regular readers know I love those community gardens and I did find one very unusual one (well, at least different) and I’ll post on those separately.