By Elissa Gilbert
The bland white-travertine buildings at Lincoln Center are squat and heavy, dominating their neighborhood. Technically, the Lincoln Square area—once called San Juan Hill—extends only from 62nd Street to 66th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenue, but for practical purposes it stretches from Columbus Circle/59th Street to 72nd Street between Central Park and the Hudson. If you have time before or after a performance, take a walk around the neighborhood and you’ll find many more interesting buildings.
Turn your back to Lincoln Center Plaza and catty-corner to it are the New York Mormon Temple and the American Folk Art Museum. It’s worth popping into the museum for a quick look; admission is free (donations requested) and the small galleries take less than an hour to explore.
Then walk down Broadway to Columbus Circle. Make your way to the statue, and now you can say you’ve been in the center of the city: officially, all distances in the city are measured from here.
For your next stop, you have a choice of art, culture, or commerce. The Shops at Time Warner Center will test your pocketbook, especially when it comes to dining. Choices include Whole Foods in the basement and the $400-plus tasting menu at Masa.
The renovated façade of 2 Columbus Circle isn’t as interesting as before its upgrade, when it was described as a “die-cut Venetian palazzo on lollipops.” Now the building houses the Museum of Arts and Design.
The Merchants’ Gate entrance to Central Park is here, with a bench-filled plaza and a gilded statue honoring sailors who died when the battleship Maine exploded back in 1898.
Walk north on Central Park West. At 63rd Street, you’ll spot the West Side YMCA. The brick building has towers and balconies, and looks vaguely displaced from an Italian hilltop.
Two blocks further on Central Park West, the building at 55 Central Park West had a starring role in the movie Ghostbusters, when the building was the antenna that opened the portal to demons and was scaled by the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Like so many performers, the building is shorter in real life than in the movies; several stories were added by the effects department.
Another two blocks ahead, the West 67th Street Artists’ Colony Historic District preserves a group of early 20th century buildings that had homes and studios for artists. Their purpose is stated in names like the Atelier and Hotel des Artistes. All the houses have Gothic details, except for one that adds Renaissance styles.
The oldest Jewish Congregation in America is on Central Park West at 70th Street. Congregation Shearith Israel was founded in 1624 by New York’s Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community. The current building doesn’t date back quite that far—it’s only from 1897—and it’s an elegant neoclassical structure with Tiffany glass windows.
Turn on West 70th Street to enjoy a block filled with 19th century brick and brownstone row houses. One of the most striking apartments in the city is further down the block. The Pythian Condo, once the Pythian Temple, has terracotta and near eastern figures decorating its exterior.
Continue walking down 70th Street to Broadway. From here, you can walk to West 72nd Street to admire the Dorilton apartment building, with a brick and limestone Beaux Arts exterior, and then board the subway to head home. Or walk back down Broadway to Lincoln Center in time for your show. Or continue walking down 70th Street to Riverside Park, and settle in to rest your feet at Pier i Café while you sip drinks and enjoy the river view.