Insider Tours

May 14, 2024

Vintage photos look back on the futuristic 1964 New York World’s Fair in Queens

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. Taking place just 25 years after the 1939 World’s Fair in the same location, the World’s Fair was the largest international exhibition ever constructed in the United States, with 140 pavilions representing 80 nations, 24 U.S. states, and more than 45 corporations across 656 acres. The event, which took place for two six-month seasons between April 1964 and October 1965, provided a sense of optimism for a country embroiled in unrest both at home and abroad. Led by "master-builder" Robert Moses, the fair embraced the Space Age era, which included a creative, futuristic aesthetic inspired by advancing technologies and innovative architecture. Ahead, explore the World’s Fair with historic photos and hear from World's Fair expert, Bill Cotter, on the lasting legacy of the event in New York and beyond.
SEE WHAT THE FAIR WAS LIKE
May 9, 2024

NYCxDESIGN 2024: What to see and do at New York City’s annual deep dive into design

The design universe lands in New York City every spring for the NYCxDESIGN Festival. This major international design event, now in its 12th year, will be in full swing from May 16 to May 22. Expect an influx of visitors seeking the latest creative offerings, fresh ideas, and inspiration from the world of design. Anchored by the major industry fair ICFF and its satellites like WantedDesign, the city-wide festival is awash in new talent showcases, exciting retail launches, open studios, and exhibitions. The week-long-plus event is a great opportunity to source the best new visions and trends in furniture, lighting, textiles, and accessories before they appear in your favorite magazines, blogs, and stores. Read on for a short list of highlights.
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April 1, 2024

See inside the Brooklyn Paramount as historic theater reopens after 60 years

Fort Greene's historic Brooklyn Paramount Theater, which once hosted legendary artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Duke Ellington, reopened last week for its first season in 60 years. A multi-million dollar restoration modernized the venue while preserving its opulent latticework ceiling, hand-crafted statues, and other Baroque features. For its first show in six decades, the Paramount hosted brothers Damian and Stephen Marley, who performed at the theater during their co-headlining Traffic Jam Tour.
see more
March 28, 2024

The Ellis Island Museum to be ‘reimagined’ in $100M makeover

New York City's Ellis Island Museum is getting a $100 million makeover. The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation on Thursday announced a revitalization project to upgrade the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration and reimagine it for the 21st century by improving exhibits, preserving its 19th-century landmarked building, and offering a more immersive experience with stories of the 12 million immigrants who arrived in the country via Ellis Island. The project, slated for completion in 2026, will also expand the museum's Records Discovery Center, allowing millions more to trace their heritage.
find out more
August 21, 2023

Inside the trendy Rockaway Hotel, a laid-back beach getaway in NYC

The lobby of The Rockaway Hotel and Spa has a distinct scent – fresh and perfumy. It’s reminiscent of walking into a posh hotel on Miami Beach. But Rockaway Beach is not Miami. It’s a true Queens neighborhood with bungalows lining the streets leading over to the boardwalk and expansive Atlantic Ocean-facing beach. Locals lugging sandy beach chairs or grocery bags to and from their houses greet each other by name. Directly across the street from The Rockaway is Happy Jack’s Burger Bar, serving pub food and named for a former NYPD police officer and Korean War veteran. Attached to the hotel is the Greenhouse Cafe selling matcha lattes and “rocket fuel” coffee. The hotel, by architect Morris Adjmi, is tall and modern but fits into the neighborhood well from the outside. The interior is much trendier than anything else on its block — or any of the nearby blocks for that matter.
see inside
December 30, 2021

How the Times Square Ball is made

When midnight hits this New Year's Eve, the Times Square Ball will dazzle people just the same from five feet away or on their television. Making this magic happen is no easy feat, though. To learn a bit more about how the nearly 12,000-pound ball was created, we chatted with principal designer Christine Hope of Focus Lighting, the architectural lighting design firm that conceptualized the current ball more than 10 years ago. From engineering a new system to make all 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles sparkle to dreaming up the magical light show that plays leading up to the ball drop, Focus Lighting shares the inside scoop on this world-famous tradition.
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February 12, 2020

Step into a ‘Kaleidoscope’ of color at this year’s New York Botanical Garden Orchid Show

The New York Botanical Garden's popular orchid show will return for its 18th season this Saturday with a special exhibit from "floral designer to the stars" Jeff Leatham. The Orchid Show: Jeff Leatham’s Kaleidoscope employs the artist's love of color, transforming various galleries with thousands of orchids and their own color schemes. Highlights of the very-Instagrammable show include a kaleidoscopic tunnel of lights, a 10-foot tall mirrored orchid sculpture set above a water fountain, and a series of yellow and orange orchid arches.
Take a tour of this year's show!
January 23, 2020

Go behind the scenes at Morningside Heights’ Riverside Church and its 400-foot-tall bell tower

After nearly 20 years, the iconic bell tower of the Riverside Church in Morningside Heights has officially reopened. The impressive Gothic-style cathedral is home to the 74-bell Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon, which includes a 40,000 pound Bourdon bell, the largest tuned bell in the world. The tower closed to the public almost two decades ago following 9/11 but reopened for public tours earlier this month. 6sqft recently took a tour of the stunning Riverside Church, known for its interdenominational services and dedication to social justice causes.
Take the tour
November 26, 2019

Take a tour of the NYBG’s Holiday Train Show, now with a new Central Park section

The New York Botanical Garden's 28th annual Holiday Train Show is back for the season, and this year it has an entirely new Central Park section, featuring iconic spots like Belvedere Castle, Bethesda Terrace, and the Bow Bridge--all made entirely from natural materials including bark, seeds, berries acorns, and cinnamon sticks. 6sqft took a special tour of the exhibit, which features a total of 175 New York landmarks, and went behind-the-scenes with Laura Busse Dolan, President and CEO of Applied Imagination, the design firm that works all year long to make this whimsical show a reality. From the exhibit's 2,000 plants to its 25,000 pounds of cedar bark and 200 boxes of moss, Laura fills us in on all the fun and little-known facts about the Holiday Train Show.
Take a tour
October 14, 2019

PHOTOS: Take a fall foray through the Union Square Greenmarket

When the Union Square Greenmarket opened in 1976 as GrowNYC's second-ever market, there were only seven farmers set up. At the time, the area was quite empty and crime-ridden, but the market, along with the opening of Danny Meyer's Union Square Cafe and a major renovation by the city in the '80s, is credited with turning Union Square into the vibrant hub that we now know. Today, there can be as many as 140 vendors, selling everything from produce to fish to meat to cheese to lavender, as well as 60,000 shoppers (and local chefs!) on a given day. And though every season is beautiful and fruitful at the market, fall is perhaps the most colorful, which is why photographers James and Karla Murray thought it would be the perfect time to capture the essence of the market and get to know some of the vendors personally.
Take a tour and watch a special video
April 9, 2019

PHOTOS: See Coney Island’s historic Wonder Wheel get ready for the season

Honoring a 60-year tradition of opening on Palm Sunday, Coney Island Amusement Park will be back in business this Sunday, April 14th. One of the many activities will be the annual blessing of the rides at Deno’s Wonder Wheel. The 150-foot-tall, 100-year-old structure is one of the most iconic pieces remaining at Coney Island. But there's a lot that goes into this seasonal opening than even the most well-versed New Yorker may not know. Each winter, the 200-ton ride is repainted, and all of its 24 cars are removed. But come spring, second-generation co-owner Steve Vourderis goes through the process of precisely reinstalling and aligning the cars. We were lucky enough to visit Steve and his brother Dennis on a recent frigid Sunday to watch the magic happen.
Go behind-the-scenes at the Wonder Wheel
March 28, 2019

Photos capture the historic glamour of the Waldorf Astoria before its renovation

To the dismay of many New Yorkers, the Waldorf Astoria closed its doors in 2017 for a huge renovation project that will ultimately create larger hotel rooms and add a new set of luxury condos. After the plans were announced, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the hotel's first three floors as an interior landmark, meaning the new owners will need to preserve the 1931 Art Deco spaces. But after a four-year hiatus (the hotel will reopen in 2021) and a completely new vibe, it's not clear if those interiors will have the same glamorous, old-school New York vibe that they were once famous for. Luckily, photographers James and Karla Murray captured the Waldorf in all its glory before it closed its doors. Ahead, take a tour of the old Waldorf, from its iconic, two-ton lobby clock to the three-tiered grand ballroom.
Take the tour
January 7, 2019

From Brooklyn’s biggest bank to its tallest building: Behind the scenes at the Dime Savings Bank

Since it opened in 1859, the Dime Savings Bank of Brooklyn has been integral to the history of the borough it calls home. True to its name, you could open a savings account with just a dime. The first person to make a deposit was a man named John Halsey who invested $50. Scores of Brooklynites followed suit, and by the end of the bank’s first business day, 90 people opened accounts; by the end of the first month, more than 1,000 people were depositing at Dime. But the bank cemented its prominent status in 1908 when the first subway tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn opened and Dime moved into its grand neo-classical building on Dekalb Avenue and Fleet Street. After the bank closed in 2002, the landmark still stood in all its former glory, operating as a special event space. Three years ago, JDS Development filed plans to build Brooklyn's tallest tower adjacent to Dime, incorporating its Beaux-Arts interior as retail space for the project. And with work now underway, 6sqft recently got a behind-the-scenes tour of Dime Savings Bank with Open House New York.
Explore the history and future of Dime Savings Bank
December 18, 2018

A behind-the-scenes look at Gracie Mansion’s colorfully festive holiday decorations

Gracie Mansion, the residence of Mayor Bill de Blasio, is officially in full holiday spirit. The historic home, which dates back to 1799, is showing off decorations that promote some of the mayor's top initiatives, plus the overall theme of togetherness. It's all the work of New York City's First Lady Chirlane McCray and renowned event planner Bryan Rafanelli, who have been refining the vision since this summer. This is Rafanelli's second year working with McCray to decorate the people's home of New York. For 2018, they selected jewel-toned colors, lots of ribbon, and even worked in some participation from New Yorkers. Keep reading to figure out how the pair made it happen, an effort that includes bringing a 17-foot-tall tree through a narrow French door into the mansion's ballroom. The images are sure to put you in a New York holiday spirit.
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November 16, 2018

Behind the scenes at Trinity Church’s $112M historic restoration

Hardhats aren’t your typical church-going attire, but they were necessary at Trinity Church when Vicar Rev. Philip Jackson led a behind-the-scenes tour of Trinity’s ongoing $112,000,000, two-year restoration. The project, officially known as a “rejuvenation” of the facilities, began on May 7, 2018, and is slated to be finished in the spring of 2020. Now six months underway, the meticulous work, headed by architect Jeff Murphy of Murphy Burnham and Buttrick, will preserve Trinity’s landmarked church building while "enhancing the overall worship experience," by making the church more accessible and welcoming. Weaving our way between scaffolding and rubble in one of New York’s most iconic naves, we saw the very foundation of Trinity Church’s past and got a glimpse of its future. From the finer points of organ-voicing to some of the first examples of American stained-glass, check out 10 of the most exciting behind-the-scenes secrets of the Trinity Church Restoration.
Check out the Church!
November 6, 2018

Behind the Scenes at Queens’ Loew’s Valencia, once the most successful Wonder Theatre in NYC

Earlier this year, 6sqft got an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour at the majestic Loew’s Jersey City Theatre, as well as the United Palace Theatre in Washington Heights. In 2016, we joined Untapped Cities and NYCEDC on a tour of Brooklyn Kings Theatre, and just last month, as part of Untapped Cities Insider’s Tours, we were lucky enough to tour and photograph the former Loew’s Valencia Theatre on Jamaica Avenue in Queens, which is now home to the Tabernacle of Prayer for All People church. The majestic Loew’s Valencia Theatre opened on Saturday, January 12, 1929, as the first, largest, and most famous of the five flagship Loew’s “Wonder” Theatres established in the New York City area from 1929-30. All of the grand movie palaces were built by Marcus Loew of the Loew’s Theatres chain to establish the firm as a leader in film exhibition and to simultaneously serve as a fantastical yet affordable escape for people of all classes from the tedium and anxieties of their daily lives. The Valencia most definitely did not shy away from this fantastical approach, with its Spanish/Mexican Baroque architecture, gilded ornamentation, rich jewel-tone colors, and elaborate carvings.
Take the grand tour
October 1, 2018

Ten secrets of the Eldridge Street Synagogue

As a media sponsor of Archtober–NYC’s annual month-long architecture and design festival of tours, lectures, films, and exhibitions–6sqft has teamed up with the Center for Architecture to explore some of their 70+ partner organizations. With stunning stained glass windows and a striking mix of Moorish, Gothic, and Romanesque features, the Eldridge Street Synagogue cuts an imposing figure on the Lower East Side. The Synagogue opened in 1887 as the first and finest Orthodox house of worship built by Eastern European Jews in America and served as a spiritual headquarters for millions of immigrants as they made new homes in New York. By the turn of the 20th century, over 4,000 congregants supported three daily services, and holiday crowds overwhelmed the building. But, by the 1940s, the congregation dwindled, and the doors of the great sanctuary were sealed; not to be reopened until the 1970s. When preservationists rallied to save the building on its 100th anniversary, they rediscovered the splendor of the sacred structure and spent 20 years restoring it. Following a meticulous restoration, the Synagogue reopened in 2007 as the Museum at Eldridge Street. Today, the museum welcomes visitors from around the world, and preserves city’s immigrant history as well as the structure’s sacred secrets.
Learn about these 10 secrets of the synagogue
August 28, 2018

Take a tour of Dead Horse Bay, Brooklyn’s hidden trove of trash and treasures

Dead Horse Bay is a small body of water in Brooklyn that got its name from the horse rendering plants that were on the former Barren Island in Jamaica Bay near the shoreline of Flatlands. In the late 1850s, Barren Island was the site of the largest dump in New York City, fed by barges carrying garbage and animal remains. Factories on the island used the carcasses of horses, which were put in large vats and boiled until the fat could be removed, for use in fertilizer, glue, and oils. The bones of the horses were then chopped up and dumped into the water. Starting in 1930, the island also became the site of the first municipal airport (Floyd Bennett) after the city filled in marshland to connect it to the mainland. The last horse rendering factory on the island closed in 1935 and in 1936, the island’s final 400 residents were evicted to make way for the creation of the Belt Parkway. The City continued using the area as a garbage dump until 1953 when the landfill was capped. Since 1972, the area surrounding Dead Horse Bay has been part of the Jamaica Bay Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area. We joined Robin Nagle, NYC Department of Sanitation’s Anthropologist-in-Residence for an exclusive exploration of Dead Horse Bay earlier this year with the City Reliquary Museum and had a chance to speak with her about this mysterious area, which is strewn with glass bottles, fragments of centuries-old horse bones, and mounds of trash.
Have a look around
August 27, 2018

Behind the scenes at Williamsburg’s abandoned Bayside Oil Depot, set to be NYC’s next public park

We first learned about the proposal to turn Williamsburg's former Bayside Oil Depot into a public park nearly two years ago. Since then, co-founders Karen Zabarsky and Stacey Anderson have been working tirelessly with a team of designers and environmentalists to refine their plans to be something both true to the site's history and representative of where the neighborhood is heading. Part of the larger Bushwick Inlet Park, a 28-acre open space along an unused waterfront industrial stretch, the plan is unique in that it plans to adaptively reuse the 10, 50-foot decommissioned fuel containers, transforming them into everything from performance spaces to greenhouses. With a fresh name--THE TANKS at Bushwick Inlet Park--Karen and Stacey recently took 6sqft on an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of the abandoned site, giving us a glimpse into how this incredible industrial relic is poised to become NYC's next anticipated park. Get a rare, up-close look at the tanks, hear what these powerhouse women have been up to, and learn what we can expect in the near future.
You won't believe these photos
May 16, 2018

Behind the scenes at the United Palace, Washington Heights’ opulent ‘Wonder Theatre’

Earlier this year, 6sqft got an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour at the Loew's Jersey City, one of the five opulent Loew’s Wonder Theatres built in 1929-30 around the NYC area. We've now gotten a tour of another, the United Palace in Washington Heights. Originally known as the Loew's 175th Street Theatre, the "Cambodian neo-Classical" landmark has served as a church and cultural center since it closed in 1969 and was purchased by televangelist Reverend Ike, who renamed it the Palace Cathedral. Today it's still owned by late Reverend's church but functions as a spiritual center and arts center. Thanks to Reverand Ike and his church's continued stewardship, Manhattan's fourth-largest theater remains virtually unchanged since architect Thomas W. Lamb completed it in 1930. 6sqft recently visited and saw everything from the insane ornamentation in the lobby to the former smoking lounge that recently caught the eye of Woody Allen. We also chatted with UPCA's executive director Mike Fitelson about why this space is truly one-of-a-kind.
Take the incredible digital tour
May 10, 2018

Inside the Ukrainian Institute of America, one of NYC’s best hidden architectural gems

Located on East 79th Street at the corner of Fifth Avenue and across from Central Park, sits one of New York City’s last turn-of-the-century, French-Gothic styled-structures. Designed by Gilded-Age architect Charles Pierrepont Henry Gilbert, the building was home to Isaac D. Fletcher and Harry F. Sinclair, giving it the fitting name of the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion. Now, the mansion is occupied by the Ukrainian Institute of America, a nonprofit organization that has promoted Ukrainian art, music and literature since 1948. Ahead, join 6sqft on a tour of the landmarked building and check out some of the unique features within this hidden-in-plain sight New York City architectural gem.
Take a tour
January 8, 2018

Behind the scenes at the Loew’s Jersey City: How a 1929 Wonder Theatre was brought back to life

"The wealthy rub elbows with the poor — and are better for this contact," said architect George Rapp of his Loew’s Jersey and Kings Theatres--two of the five Loew's Wonder Theatres built in 1929-30 around the NYC area. The over-the-top, opulent movie palaces were built by the Loew's Corporation not only to establish their stature in the film world but to be an escape for people from all walks of life. This held true during the Great Depression and World War II, but by the time the mid-60s hit and middle-class families began relocating to the suburbs where megaplexes were all the rage, the Wonder Theatres fell out of fashion. Amazingly, though, all five still stand today, each with their own unique preservation tale and evolution. The Loew's Jersey, located in the bustling Jersey City hub of Journal Square, has perhaps the most grassroots story. After closing in 1987, the building was slated for demolition, but a group of local residents banded together to save the historic theater. They collected 10,000 petition signatures and attended countless City Council meetings, and finally, in 1993, the city agreed to buy the theater for $325,000 and allow the newly formed Friends of the Loew’s to operate there as a nonprofit arts and entertainment center and embark on a restoration effort. Twenty-five years later, the theater is almost entirely returned to its original state and offers a robust roster of films, concerts, children's programs, and more. 6sqft recently had the chance to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Loew’s Jersey Theatre with executive director Colin Egan to learn about its amazing evolution and photograph its gilded beauty.
Take a tour of this one-of-a-kind historic gem
March 24, 2017

Behind the counter and into the caves at Murray’s Cheese

Murray's Cheese was founded in 1940 on Cornelia Street. When Rob Kaufelt bought the business in 1991, he grew the store into an internationally known food destination that now includes educational programs, a full-service restaurant, catering, and state-of-the-art cheese aging caves in Long Island City. Personally, our love affair with Murray’s Cheese began in 1994, when we were newlyweds on a budget, often buying cheese from the small Bleecker Street store to eat with some freshly baked bread purchased from the nearby Zito & Sons Bakery. Plus, with Murray’s being our namesake, we felt an immediate connection to the store. Just last month, the Kroger Company purchased the equity of Murray’s Cheese and its flagship Greenwich Village location to form a merger of the two companies. As this new era approaches, we decided to capture all the cheesy goodness of the store, restaurant, and caves, as well as chat with Rob, cavemaster PJ, and Murray's Cheese Bar's general manager Jake Goznikar to learn about Murray's history, unique contributions to local and world-wide food culture, and future.
Take the grand tour
January 27, 2017

Inside the Village East Cinema, one of NY’s last surviving ‘Yiddish Rialto’ theaters

Moviegoers at the Village East Cinema may be surprised to learn that they are visiting a recently restored New York City designated landmark. The Village East Cinema has a fascinating history as one of the last surviving “Yiddish Rialto” theaters along Second Avenue in the East Village. Today, the cinema is known for premiering many independent films and an eclectic mix of art and commercial releases. The theater’s most significant visual aspect, however, is its main auditorium’s ornate and colorful ceiling, which is regarded as having one of the most remarkable works of plaster craftsmanship in New York City.
explore the spectacular space here