Nooks and crannies are not only the obsession of urban jungle lovers and explorers. They are also big business - Thomas' has built a $500 million dollar business around the famed nooks and crannies of their English muffins. Chris Botticella is one of only seven people who knows the entire secret process to produce the legendary muffins with signature air pockets marketed as "nooks and crannies."*
Finding nooks and crannies in a city like New York is just as delightful as a Thomas' English muffin. However, unlike the muffin which can be found in any grocer, special pockets of the city are much harder to locate. I have explored many of these on this website.
The financial district is the oldest area of New York City, and remnants of Nieuw Amsterdam still exist amid the towering structures. In tandem with the areas, extremely narrow streets create a uniquely cavernous feel. The area is largely overlooked by visitors and residents, excepting for the more obvious spots such as South Street Seaport, Ground Zero and Battery Park.
It is remarkable that places like Mill Lane and Stone Street were completely unknown to me until Sunday, while combing the streets of the financial district in the rain. Temporary scaffolding on Mill Lane provided the necessary shelter and an opportunity to see a bit of this historic area in a deserted state. Mill Lane is one of the shortest alleys in New York City. It lies between South William and Stone Streets.
I love turning a corner to a pleasant vista like coming around a hairpin turn on a mountain precipice that opens to a jaw-dropping panorama. Looking around the corner at Stone Street from Mill Lane was a throwback in time. The restored street is a beauty, what the New York Times called "Turning an Alley into a Jewel."
Stone Street was originally known as Brewers Street by the early Dutch settlers. In 1655, when the street was paved with cobblestone, it became known as Stone Street. In the 1980s, the street was divided to make way for the Goldman Sachs building. The short historic block, "a back alley filled with graffiti, a garbage pit; used for low-level drug dealing", was completely restored with redone buildings, New York bluestone sidewalks, new Deer Isle granite paving blocks, and period street lights. Most of the buildings date to 1836, rebuilt following a fire in 1836. In 1996, the eastern portion of the street and surrounding buildings became protected by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission as the Stone Street Historic District. It is pedestrian-only.
I look forward to going back in better weather. I recommend taking a stroll down the narrow streets of the area, exploring the nooks and crannies, and looking for that surprise just around the corner :)
*Thomas' was purchased by Bimbo Bakeries USA in 2009. In January 2010, Botticella left the company to work for Hostess Brands, who had been trying to learn the secrets of Thomas' muffins. Bimbo, however, was successful in getting a court order barring Botticella from taking the new position. See the article here.