Although there are many wonderful parts of New York City, and I plan to be walking through many in upcoming posts, after describing parts of Yorkville, Carnegie Hill, and Upper Carnegie Hill into El Barrio (see previous blog entries), it made sense to complete my tour of the Upper East Side with a dérive in Lenox Hill. As a reminder, Wikipedia defines a dérive as “an unplanned journey through a landscape, usually urban, on which the subtle aesthetic contours of the surrounding architecture and geography subconsciously direct the travellers, with the ultimate goal of encountering an entirely new and authentic experience.” As mentioned in earlier posts, I find that walking through a neighborhood gives me the best instinct for what it would be like as a place to live .In addition, it allows me to connect with the city in a more tangible way, as a part of it rather than as an observer of it.
Lenox Hill is an area of the Upper East Side of Manhattan between 77th Street and 60th Street, and between Lexington and Fifth Avenues. Lenox Hill itself was at what is now Park Avenue and 70th Street, and named for Robert Lenox, who owned much of the land in this area in the early 19th century (interesting fact: he was the executor of Archibald Gracie’s will, the same Gracie who built the mansion now used as the New York City mayor’s residence in Carl Schurz Park).
Starting on Madison and 77th, you can see two classic Upper East Side hotels – the Mark on 77th between Fifth and Madison, and the Carlyle (known as “The New York White House” during President Kennedy’s term) on Madison between 77th and 76th Streets. Both have a few residences as well as hotel rooms, if a home with maid and room service is what you have always wanted! The Carlyle is also the home of Café Carlyle, the famous supper club where you can have dinner while hearing live cabaret or jazz performances. Walking south on Madison, you also run across two unique pharmacies: Zitomer’s, on Madison between 76th and 65th, and Clyde’s on Madison and 74th. Both are a far cry from the chain pharmacies that proliferate every few blocks – if you are looking for an obscure European skin care product or a scented candle from Santa Maria Novella in Italy, try one of these distinctive shops.
At Madison and 75th Street is the new home of the modern art collection of the Metropolitan Museum, in the brutalist building once occupied by the Whitney Museum before its move to the Meatpacking District at the southern end of the High Line Park.
Continuing south on Madison is an enjoyable stroll, with the window displays of the designer shops themselves providing an artistic experience. Looking right while heading south on Madison, you can see beautiful rows of townhouses lining the blocks, and Central Park beckoning just on the other side of Fifth Avenue. Looking left, you see quiet residential blocks and, just one block over, the majestic expanse of Park Avenue. Fairly unique to this neighborhood is the contrast between the densely packed shops and restaurants all along Madison and Lexington Avenues, and the primarily residential expanses on the cross streets and along Fifth and Park Avenues.