Upper West Side: Sober Version


Like I was saying . . . I spent a good chunk of the day on Wednesday exploring the Upper West Side. Forgive me while I sound pretentious, but I'm a sucker for architecture. I feel so snobby saying that, but I used the word "chunk" in my first sentence and "sucker" in the next, so I think it evens out. Fart. (Threw that in for good measure.)

I've always loved tall buildings every since I was a kid. My family has pictures of me as a toddler craning my neck ninety degrees backward to look upward at the skyscrapers of San Francisco. Before moseying on over to the buildings of Central Park West, I went to a residential area: Riverside Drive and the West End Historic District.  AKA: Brownstone heaven. If you don't know what a brownstone is (HINT: NOT A STONE THAT IS BROWN) you will by the end of this post.

Pockets of side streets in the UWS are lined with rows of brownstone houses that were favored by New York's 19-century middle classes (ironic, considering that now they're only inhabited by the richest of the rich). They were built using cheap, local brown sandstone, are usually about three or four stories high, and have short stoops leading up to the front door.

As far as Manhattan goes, West 88th Street is brownstone Mecca (for Brooklyn, it's Park Slope--post forthcoming!). It's very cool to walk down 88th and see  the different time periods that certain segments of brownstones were built. There are stark differences. For example, the brownstones to the right of the above picture were built in 1896--you can tell by their bow fronts.

These brownstones--on the opposite side of 88th--were built earlier (in the early 1890s). You can tell by their Roman brick and stepped gables (AKA: stair-steppy triangle thingy at the top).

This is the Yeshiva Ketana School--built in 1901 by Herts and Tallant. It's one of only two surviving mansions that once lined Riverside Drive.

After the West End Historic District, I took the subway back down to Columbus Circle to begin a self-guided walking tour of all the famous apartment buildings along Central Park West. On the way down, I made a quick stop at 71st Street to see the Dorilton: One of the most famboyant examples of the Beaux Arts era.

Isn't that breathtaking?! The vast, varying architectural styles of the city speak to so much history. I always feel like I'm wandering through an outdoor art gallery.

On to Central Park West, I made stops at the Dakota, Irwin Chanin's Century and Majestic, and Emery Roth's San Remo and El Dorado.

The Dakota is famous as the site where John Lennon was shot. Back in 1884, when it was built, it was thought to be so far west in the city that it might was well be in Dakota! Hence the name.

This is the Majestic (the Century looks almost exactly the same). I'm not a huge fan of Irwin Chanin's Art Deco (I think it looks boring) but to each his own!

Emery Roth's San Remo, built in 1930. You can see that it has some Renaissance influences near the top. The twin towers were actually built to hide water tanks! I like this interpretation of Art Deco better than Chanin's, but the Chrysler Building will always be my favorite!

I want to live in that house.

Roth's El Dorado, up Central Park West on 91st Street. It looks very similar to San Remo.
Marilyn Monroe and Groucho Marx once lived here!

Are you thoroughly bored yet? Hopefully not, because I've got a second architecture-ridden blog post coming at you later. AREN'T YOU EXCITED?!?!?!?

Between Anderson Cooper and all my goo-goo ga-ga'ing over buildings, my heart was happy on Tuesday. It must have shown because I was smiling like a fool the whole day. I love smiling in a big city because people don't expect it. A few days ago I decided to make a conscious effort to do this. I didn't want to be that girl  on the subway who gets fidgety when someone weird or scary gets on the car. People come off those ways for a variety of reasons--their size, their smell, their clothes, whatever. But--and I know this sounds corny--if you just look at that person and think "He/she is a child of God" you almost can't help but smile. You're not looking at a man in a turban, you're looking at a brother. You're not looking at a gothic teenager, you're looking at a sister. Seeing people smile back at me humanizes them. This little social challenge I put myself up to has been rewarding. It makes the big city feel small-town.

On the way home to Jersey, I picked up some cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery. They were, in a word, OVERRATED. Now, I know what you're thinking. Hahaha, oh Kristi. You idiot. You spend $3.50 on a cupcake and expect it NOT to be??

To which I respond: FOOLS!!  Have you ever BEEN to Sprinkles?! $3.50 a pop and worth every penny. Brock and I have decided that we're never going to buy cupcakes from anywhere other than Sprinkles again. We've tried a LOT of cupcakeries--famous, mom-and-pop, indie (oh yes, there are indie cupcakeries), you name it. Nothing even comes close to Sprinkles. People don't like to admit that Sprinkles is the best because it's a chain. WELL TOO BAD. Go ahead and delude yourself and eat your sucky cupcakes, you counter-culture hipster wannabe. When you get over the Mumford and Sons background music playing at whatever vintage-couched cupcakery you patronize, come on over to Sprinkles with all the cool kids. You won't be served confectionery goodness by the frontman of a local alternative rock band, but what those peppy Sprinkles employees lack in tattoo sleeves they make up for in LEGITIMATE BAKING SKILLS.

And that's all I have to say about that. 


  1. Those buildings are BEAUTIFUL. You are so lucky to be there!

    I have yet to eat a Sprinkles cupcake, but I have eaten from a few Seattle cupcakeries and I must say they were quite delish. But this post makes me that much more excited for the day that I can eat from Sprinkles :)

  2. Once again, living my life through you =). And if I find a gluten-free cupcake at sprinkles, I'll try it =P.


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