Midtown & Theater District
This is the area where most tourists stay, amongst the theatres, restaurants and shops, close to Central Park and the museums, and well served by public transport. Good transport links have also ensured that this is the high rise commercial hub of the city. It is Midtown that best fits the ‘The Big Apple’ image, a glitzy, lively, 24-hour city. So, why is New York called the ‘Big Apple’? There are several theories, but The Society for New York City History reckons that it all began with bordello owner Evelyn (Eve) Claudine de Saint-…vremond referring to her girls as Eve’s Apples. How did it become the ‘Big Apple’? Well, in the late 19th century New York had more houses of ill-repute than any other US city.
Times Square after New Year celebrations
Times Square is the hub of the Theater District . The definition of a square seems to be rather different here from in Europe. Europeans expect a square to be an open space that is generally roughly rectangular in shape. In New York a square need be only the oblique junction of two streets, in this case Broadway and 7th Avenue. Originally called Longacre Square it was renamed Times Square in 1904 after the newly built New York Times tower. The newspaper celebrated its new home with a New Years Eve fireworks display thereby creating the tradition of gathering in the square to see in the New Year. This picture was taken on New Years Day 2006 as the massive clean up operation was winding down. We did not go to see the ball being lowered to herald the New Year. Nowadays you need to get to the square by 6pm, go through security, then you are penned in with little access to toilets, food or water until midnight. Only for the very hardy, particularly if the weather is bad!
Chrysler Building from the Empire State
Probably the most familiar sight on the Midtown skyline is the Art Deco Chrysler Building, topped with arches and triangular windows. Completed in 1930, at 319 metres (1048 feet) high it was the tallest building in the world until the Empire State Building overtook it only months later. The race to capture the title of tallest building was so intense that architect William van Alen had the entire top section constructed in secret and lifted into position in under two hours.
Chrysler & United Nations Buildings
That Midtown is a high rise area is clearly visible in this picture from the East River, as the Chrysler building struggles to tower over its neighbours. The United Nations building has the advantage of being on the waterfront, away from the cluttered horizon. Built between 1947 and 1953 the UN building is 39 stories high and houses the UN secretariat. The UN General Assembly building is just out of the picture to the right. The buildings stand on international rather than US territory.
Ice Skaters at the Rockefeller Center
New Yorkers love to skate outdoors in winter and one of the best one of the best known rinks is at the Rockefeller Center. Millionaire John D. Rockefeller leased the land with plans to build a ‘city within a city’ comprising offices, an opera house and open spaces. The plans were scaled back after the 1929 stock market crash but building to the revised plans was completed by 1934. The main building is occupied by General Electric, but near the top is an observation deck and the famous ‘Rainbow Room’ restaurant. Four new towers were added in the 1960s and 1970s bringing the number of buildings up to 19.
Entrance hall, Radio City Music Hall
Although the opera house was dropped from the plans for the Rockefeller Center, a music hall was built. Radio City Music Hall is the largest indoor theatre in the world. Opening in December 1932, it was built in conjunction with RCA (Radio Corporation of America) and impresario S.L. "Roxy" Rothafel. It has nearly 6000 seats and the 44 metre (144 foot) wide stage is split into three sections each mounted on hydraulic-powered elevators. A wide range of entertainment is staged at Radio City, but it is best known for its Christmas Spectacular which stars the dance troupe the Radio City Rockettes who have been based there since it opened. Tours are available daily which include the auditorium and the Art Deco entrance hall shown here.
Grand Central Station
If you have been to Penn Station in New York you will really appreciate Grand Central. While Penn has been turned into an underground rabbit warren beneath a modern development, public outcry enabled Grand Central to avoid the same fate. Built by shipping and railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, the Grand Central Depot opened in 1871 but rapid growth meant that it was congested from the day it opened. An enlarged train shed constructed at the turn of the century failed to solve the problems, so in 1910 the old station was knocked down and in 1913 the new Grand Central Terminal was opened, designed for electric rather than steam trains. By the mid 20th century it was in decline and attempts began to redevelop the site. The Pan Am building was built at the rear, but other attempts were finally defeated in 1978. Work began to repair the decrepit building, then in the mid 1990s the station was completely renovated and spare space used for restaurants and shops plus a food market. One of our favourite restaurants is the Oyster Bar, which has been there since the terminal opened in 1913. Click Tab 2 to see a fish stall at Grand Central Market.
St Patrick's Cathedral
When the decision was taken in 1850 to build a cathedral here, this was a rural area. How the area has changed since then! It now sits amongst the smart shops of 5th Avenue and its 101 metre (330 foot) high spires are dwarfed by the surrounding office blocks. The main building was completed in 1879 but the spires were added in 1888. This is the largest Catholic cathedral in the USA, capable of seating around 2200 worshippers. St Patrick’s also boasts a Pieta that is three times larger than the Pieta in St. Peter's, Rome. Even in religion it seems that size matters. Click Tab 2 to see the interior of the cathedral.
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