Abandoned Buildings on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd (AKA 7th Avenue)


IMG_2529These are some pictures of two old, abandoned buildings we saw on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd (which is also Seventh Avenue). I have no idea what these buildings were originally built for, but the narrower one had been repurposed at least once. The arched openings had been sealed over with concrete blocks that had narrower doors set into them, equipped with drop-down security gates found on most stores in New York City that were built within the last twenty or thirty years. I got an approximation of an address (2341 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd) for the narrower building from Google Maps and then searched for property records, but all I found was a record listing the place as a “Theater/Performing Arts” venue. I couldn’t find any information on the other, larger building.


I like abandoned buildings. I always have. One of my earliest memories is of me and my brother exploring an abandoned building in a small town called Bell, in Germany, where we were living temporarily while waiting for on-base housing. I loved castle ruins too. It’s fun to see historical artifacts in a museum, but it’s a very different experience when you’re looking through a place where people used to live their lives, trying to put together an idea of what might have happened there.


As a bonus, I realized that in the background of some of my photographs is the Abyssinian Baptist Church. The congregation that eventually constructed the church at its current location, which was completed in 1923 at a cost of roughly $334k, was established in 1808 as a result of a walkout from the First Baptist Church in lower Manhattan, when black parishioners were told to adhere to segregated seating. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., who that portion of Seventh Avenue is named after, was a pastor at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, which was named in honor of the place of origin of most of the founding members: modern Ethiopia.

Holy Family Church’s Frozen Garden

On Sunday afternoon, my wife and I were by the United Nations to take advantage of a Groupon deal I got for the Indigo Indian Bistro on East 50th Street. We didn’t realize the place closed for a while after lunch and before dinner, so we found ourselves standing in the cold with an hour and a half to kill.

I thought about going to the United Nations for a tour, since we were right next to it, but it looked like it was closed too. There weren’t even flags up on the poles. So, we started walking around. First, we poked our heads in at the Japan Society to see if there was anything going on (and to warm up a bit), but they were just finishing up a New Year’s celebration for kids. Then we went next door to look in the Holy Family Church. The building is really weird looking from the outside.

Turns out it’s a Catholic church. It’s sort of nice inside. The giant Jesus on the wall above the priest leading the service was a little scary looking. It made me think about the conflict inherent in the concept of a trinity model of monotheism, and whether or not a distant and cold concept of God was being replaced by the warm and gentle spirit of a man, someone that people could understand and empathize with. That’s a subject for another post, though. I’ve been doing a lot of theological reading that I’ve been slowly digesting, mentally.

Sculpture of an angel (I think)
Sculpture of an angel (I think)

After warming up in the church foyer, we went back out to find our next opportunity for passing time. As we were walking away, I noticed a side path that led into a garden that was covered in snow and ice. We figured it was worth a few minutes to go in and look around.

Frozen waterfall in the Holy Family Church garden.
Frozen waterfall in the Holy Family Church garden.

What really peaked my interest was the fact that the garden pool was covered in a layer of ice and snow, and so was the artificial waterfall. I don’t suppose there’s anything unusual about a waterfall icing over in winter, but it’s not something I really expected to see in the middle of Manhattan; not even an artificial one. So, I think the unexpectedness of seeing what I didn’t expect to see made it more worth seeing, if that makes any sense. I’ve also always enjoyed religious settings and architecture, of a certain type. The more solemn and thoughtful type. I’ve always thought religion should be a solemn, thoughtful and meaningful thing.


St. Paul’s Chapel and Cemetary next to the World Trade Center Site

St. Paul's Chapel and Cemetary
St. Paul’s Chapel and Cemetery

Last Thursday my wife and I went downtown to the National September 11 Memorial site. To get to it, we had to walk past St. Paul’s Chapel and Cemetery and my wife was interested in having a look around, so we went in.  I’ve been there a few times before, but it was her first time. She remembered hearing about the chapel in the news and wanted to see it first-hand.

St. Paul's Cemetery
St. Paul’s Cemetery

We walked through the cemetery first. She was impressed by how old the headstones are. I am too. It’s weird to see gravestones still erect for people that died in the 1760s next to so many buildings of modern construction. It’s so out of place. It’s nice to see that the chapel and the cemetery survived and weren’t torn down to build something new, especially in considering the important role the chapel played during the September 11th tragedy, when rescue and aid workers used the sanctuary as a place to rest and recover for a few hours before going back out to look for survivors again.

Memorial to September 11 Victims in St. Paul's
Memorial to September 11 Victims in St. Paul’s
George Washington's Pew at St. Paul's
George Washington’s Pew at St. Paul’s
Oldest painted seal of the United States
Oldest painted seal of the United States

When you walk through the chapel, it’s hard to not be touched by the memorials set up around the outer edge, artifacts left behind by people looking for loved ones mixed in with older stuff, like George Washington’s pew and what is touted as the oldest painting of the seal of the United States, which looks more like a turkey than an eagle, probably due to influence from Benjamin Franklin, who wanted the national bird to be the turkey. On a side note, it’s good that he didn’t get his way, or else what would we eat on Thanksgiving? It would be a federal crime to roast our turkeys!

Rosaries on wooden hands in St. Paul's Chapel
Rosaries on wooden hands in St. Paul’s Chapel
Rosaries on wooden hands at St. Paul's Chapel
Rosaries on wooden hands at St. Paul’s Chapel

Seriously, though, on my previous trip I never really stopped to considering and think about the people in the photos set up on the alters, or the stuff that was moved inside from where it used to be posted on the fences around the church. It’s hard to stand there and think about the people, on an individual level, that died there that day. It’s easy when you’ve only got this vague idea in your head of some 3000 people. It’s harder when you look at the photos and wonder what their life was like and who they left behind. Who cried for them? What were there final moments like? How has the event changed the lives and world views of those closest to them?

Police and Search and Rescue unit patches left behind as symbols of solidarity
Police and Search and Rescue unit patches left behind as symbols of solidarity
Sanctuary of St. Paul's Chapel
Sanctuary of St. Paul’s Chapel

The informational plaques were nice. It helped tell the story of the place. It explained why there are no pews left in the center of the building, and where all the patches on the priest’s garment (I forget the actual name of it) came from.

Pilgrimage Altar at St. Paul's Chapel
Pilgrimage Altar at St. Paul’s Chapel

I thought the “Pilgrimage Altar” was especially interesting. Is St. Paul’s a site of pilgrimage now? It’s hard to think of it that way, in the same category as Canterbury, Santiago de Compostela, or Jerusalem. But perhaps it is a place of pilgrimage in a broader sense of the word. People were encouraged to leave behind thoughts and prayers for those who perished at the nearby Trade Center site, which they did, covering the altar in notes.

St. Paul’s is an important site of remembrance that has surpassed its role as a Christian church. It is now a site of tourism and pilgrimage for people of all faiths or no faith, to remember the loss suffered by so many on that day, to contemplate how the world changed, and maybe to hope for something better in the future.

The Limelight Market

The Limelight Market, New York City

The Limelight Market, New York City

The Limelight Market, located at the corner of 6th Avenue and 20th Street, is a pretty interesting place, but mostly because of the building it occupies.  As you can tell from the exterior, this building used to be a church.  When you get inside, you’ll see that the chapel has been converted into a series of small stores.

A yogurt shop, inside the Limelight Market, New York City.

This is a yogurt shop.  I didn’t try any, but there was a constant stream of people going to the counter, so it must be pretty good.  Around the corner to the right is Jezalin’s, where I got the kopi luwak arabica.

Inside the Limelight Market, New York City.

Turn around the other way and you see one of the boutiques.  I didn’t pay much attention to what was being sold in the boutiques.  It all looked a little too pricey and useless for my taste.  Through the door in the back there I think there was a pizza restaurant.

Inside the Limelight Market, New York City.

If, from where I was standing in the previous picture, you were to walk forward and go to the left you’d wind up in this area, which looks like it used to be the main sanctuary.  You can walk up onto the second level using stairs hidden away on the sides.  There were more display cases up there and what looked to be a coffee bar that had shut down.  I have a feeling the rent in this place is pretty high, which might be why Jezalin’s was trying to drum up more business by offering the Groupon discount on their kopi luwak.

Stained glass window in the Limelight Market, New York City.

I couldn’t get a straight on shot of the stained glass window because the area was blocked off by a register and some merchandise.  There were smaller stained glass windows in some of the stairwells, but they weren’t completely viewable.  The railing they’d built into the original structure to support the second level and the stairs blocked the windows partially.

Like I said, this isn’t the type of place I’d shop at for myself.  I’ll probably go back just to look around again, and maybe to get another cup of that coffee.  For me, the real fun was waiting outside:

The Rescue Rover, parked outside the Limelight Market.

I love when I see these vehicles, because it’s an opportunity to go inside and play with cats!

Rescued cat, looking for a new home.

Rescued cat, looking for a new home.

I wish I could take them all home…

Our Lady of Peace Cathedral in Antipolo

Exterior front of Antipolo Cathedral

I’m not sure if this cathedral is actually the center of town, but it certainly feels like it for me.  It’s where we usually get off the tricycle when riding into town from our neighborhood.  We catch the FX to Manila nearby.  The town hall is within sight of the front steps and the area is often host to a number of local celebrations and events like this ballroom style dancing that I saw and recorded a bit of in 2008:


Alter area of Antipolo Cathedral

The main cathedral is simple, by Catholic standards at least (compared to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City), but it still manages to convey a majestic, reverent atmosphere that reminded me to remove my cap when I passed through the doors.

Parishioners at Antipolo Cathedral

The pews inside are occupied by quite a few people at any given time of the day, but it’s especially jam packed on Saturday nights when mass is held.

Stained glass window at Antipolo Cathedral

Stained glass window at Antipolo Cathedral

These are some photos of the stained glass windows in the cathedral area.

Statues of Saints at Antipolo Cathedral

Statues of Saints at Antipolo Cathedral

And these are some of the statues of saints that are arrayed around the outer wall of the main chamber.  In the first image, you can see a woman laying her hand on one of the statues and praying.

People praying at a Jesus statue at Antipolo Cathedral

This is a very stylistic interpretation of Jesus carrying the cross, which people are laying hands on while offering prayers.

People lighting candles as offerings at Antipolo Cathedral

Burning candle offerings at Antipolo Cathedral

There are also areas where candles are lit.  I don’t understand the exact significance of these candles, except that they’re meant as symbolic offerings.  I suppose they’re used to ensure that the person’s prayers are heard?

This cathedral is known particularly as a place for travelers to pray for safe journey.  I was told by my wife, who grew up in the area, that it’s common for people to make a ‘pilgrimage’ there before embarking on international trips to pray for safety.

The thing I found most peculiar about the cathedral is this sign:

Antipolo Cathedral Car Blessing Sign

If you look towards the bottom right you’ll notice that there are services for car blessings.  My wife says that during this service the priest will sprinkle holy water on the car as a blessing against accidents.  Call me cynical, but this immediately brought to mind a time when the Catholic church would sell a blessing or an indulgence for just about anything, if you could pay the right price, especially with the name and logo of a bank at the bottom of the sign.