by Kevin Walsh

Forgotten NY correspondent

THE single-block Diamond District of 47th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues seems to change slowly, in comparison to neighboring blocks. Many of its buildings are relatively short for this section of Midtown and while the jewelry shines behind the storefront windows, most of the walls are gray rather than glassy.

The western entrance to the district is marked by a pair of light fixtures topped by diamond-shaped lamp covers. They were designed by the firm Abel, Bainnson, Butz and installed in 1999 by the 47th Street Business Improvement District.

Plenty of jewelry shops here with famous clients to their names, and they don’t need to be mentioned by Forgotten-NY, because we have other interests. On the side wall of 73 West 47th Street is a hand-painted ad for Dyckman’s Jewelry, a firm founded by Jewish immigrant Moses Dyckman in 1928. In the 1940s, he was one of the first retailers who relocated to this Midtown block from the older Diamond District at Canal Street and the Bowery.

Capitalizing on the success of his business, Dyckman bought properties on the block, renting them to other jewelers. This store closed recently, but its mural ad remains. Can you name the font used by Dyckman? Its next door neighbor, Zoland Diamonds and Jewelry, was documented by Daytonian in Manhattan, so I don’t need to retell its story. This family-owned business also had its origins downtown and relocated to this storefront around 1960.

Decidedly unglamorous is the freight entrance for the addresses 62 to 72 on W. 47th Street, whose stenciled letters are becoming a rarity in our time. On the sidewalk outside, I heard Hasidic Jews speaking the slang of the Diamond District, which has many Yiddish words in it.

The former back entrance to the Hotel Wentworth at 58 W. 47th Street is covered up by tree jewelry retailers but looking up one can see the cartouches, balustrades, and cornices. It is a French-inspired Beaux Arts style that can also be seen in the landmarked Dorilton building on the Upper West Side. The main entrance to the Wentworth was at 57 W. 46th Street which is today’s Hotel @ Times Square, with the upper floor windows overlooking the Diamond District.

33 W. 47th Street is an architectural holdout with air rights above it assigned to its neighbors, which explains why they have side wall windows. The longer I look at this building, the more unique features I see. Instead of a cornice, the roof line is a balustrade marked by leaf-like designs. The middle window on the third floor has a small balcony and Gothic framing around it. On the second floor, the windows are decorated by geometric framing patterns. The Daytonian has been here too, noting that this building dates to 1868. In the 1930s it hosted an Italian restaurant. Recently, the third floor was rented to Pizza Professor, a kosher eatery, so now the public can go inside this former mansion, the last survivor from the block’s past as an upscale residential area.

37 W. 47th Street has a beautiful lunette floral pattern above its freight entrance that most people would likely not notice. Its next door neighbor is perhaps the most popular place for lunch in the district, Taam Tov, a Bukharian kosher restaurant with interior murals and windows overlooking the street. Its name translates from Hebrew as Good Taste. Bukharian Jews have a sizable presence in this district. One of them, Roman Malakov shares an interest in its history, documenting it in detail.

Above Taam Tov, on the third floor are three arched windows, all that remains from the original design of this building, as seen in this circa 1940 tax photo. The cornice, dormer windows, and framing are gone, but this is still the same building albeit with a simplified exterior.

As an alum of CCNY, I’ve seen dozens of grotesques on campus. Gargoyles are disfigured animals, while grotesques are caricatures of people. The sign to the right is for Kim’s Jewelry, founded in 1980 by Korean-born Nam Kim. The letters are a stylized font of the name written in Korean.

Some construction scaffolds in this city stay up for decades to the annoyance of the public. The high-end global brand Sephora has a fancy scaffolding outside of its building at the eastern end of the Diamond District. The company was established in France in 1970 but its name is relatable to many folks in the district. Sephora is the Greek adaptation of the biblical Tzipora, wife of the prophet Moses. The scaffolding hides the Gothic details between the first and second floors.

It is rare to find a sizable undeveloped parcel in Midtown. Across the street from Sephora, an entire block of ten old buildings between 46th and 47th Streets were demolished recently. Expect another glassy high-rise to grow on this spot. Among the architectural gems lost here were the French Empire-style 574 Fifth Avenue, and the Tudor castle at 564 Fifth Avenue that was mentioned in the New York Times when it closed in 2017, but alas, not Landmarks-worthy.

The blocks of Midtown between the avenues are notoriously long. Fortunately there are shortcuts such as 6 1/2 Avenue, and privately-owned midblock parks that are open to the public. It was once possible to walk from Rockefeller Center to the Diamond District without having to use an avenue. Plaza Arcade was a narrow passage lined by diamond dealers that connected 47th and 48th Streets. Recently it was also demolished and I hope that its successor will restore the walkway through the block. With Plaza Arcade and Rockefeller Plaza, it was possible to walk midblock from 47th to 51st Streets without touching an avenue.

I was in the Diamond District not to shop, but for a meeting inside the International Gem Tower, which was completed in 2014. At the time, it changed the reputation of the Diamond District, pushing it into the postmodern age of design.

I passed quickly through security and took a snapshot in the elevator bank, disappointed that the painting on the wall did not have a plaque next to it to name the artist, date, and title of the work.

My reward was in the conference room, looking to the southeast. The magnificent One Vanderbilt towers above everything else. I recently went there on a date and highly recommend it. It has interior and rooftop views. Ascending the escalators and then emerging outdoors near its pinnacle felt like being on a mountain. Best of all, we arrived on a subway from Queens and took the elevator to the top directly from the 42nd Street-Grand Central station.

Closer to the conference room, I was fascinated by the numerous air conditioning units sticking out of the back windows of buildings in the Diamond District. For now these windows have natural light and the same views as me, but tomorrow they could also be blocked by a new tower, or themselves demolished for something taller.

Sergey Kadinsky is the author of Hidden Waters of New York City: A History and Guide to 101 Forgotten Lakes, Ponds, Creeks, and Streams in the Five Boroughs (2016, Countryman Press), adjunct history professor at Touro University and the webmaster of Hidden Waters Blog

As always, “comment…as you see fit.” I earn a small payment when you click on any ad on the site.



Peter February 5, 2023 - 9:50 am

If Sephora was once high-end it definitely isn’t anymore. In addition to their mall stores they now have branded outlets in most Kohl’s stores. You can’t get much more Middle America than that.

Larry Prusak February 5, 2023 - 11:21 am

How could you not mention The Gotham Bookstore which was on this street for many decades? It had sign outside with some fishermen in a boat saying :”Wise Men Fish Here”. It was a wonderful and famous store among book lovers.

Kevin Walsh February 5, 2023 - 3:46 pm

Not there anymore; it was under the restarant

Chris F February 7, 2023 - 1:19 pm

Agreed. Andreas Brown was a class act!

christopher thomas brady February 5, 2023 - 5:53 pm

Taam Tov might have good taste in food but its exterior is simply bad taste

Anonymous February 5, 2023 - 10:55 pm

My father worked on 47th street for many years. I remember as a teen in the early to mid 60’s you could walk from 47th to 42nd through a series of arcades!

Kevin Walsh February 7, 2023 - 12:08 pm

I think you still can

Fran Coffey February 6, 2023 - 7:08 am

Thank you. I love NYC and am amazed to learn to learn the things I’ve never seen.

Michael Lagana February 6, 2023 - 10:39 pm

As always another interesting story,plus all the links for more information

Bill Tweeddale February 8, 2023 - 5:25 pm

Don’t know about the font, but I wish you had taken a closeup of the plaque. It looks like an interesting read…

Mitch45 February 9, 2023 - 11:57 am

There used to be a kosher restaurant called Diamond Dairy on West 47th between Fifth and Sixth. It opened in 1955 and closed in 2009.

Sergey Kadinsky February 9, 2023 - 9:26 pm

I miss Diamond Dairy.
When I worked at Times Square, that’s where I ate my lunch.

Mitch45 February 13, 2023 - 3:35 pm

I was never there. Before we were married, my wife worked at Bank Leumi in midtown and ate there all the time,.


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