My meeting with Helene in 1994:
Helene's apartment building
When I had my first chance to visit New York in late 1994, I wrote to Helene to ask if we could meet. I was delighted when she invited me to meet her in the lobby of her apartment building at 305 East 72nd Street...

So on Monday morning 14th November 1994 I introduced myself to the doorman. He buzzed Helene in her apartment and she came down to the lobby, where we talked about my trip from England for about 35 to 40 minutes. She then gave me a list of places off-the-beaten-track in New York that I might like to see, including the church-and-neighbouring-mall housed at the foot of a skyscraper just off Lexington Avenue, and she encouraged me to call her if I ran out of things to do during my trip. I gave Helene some gifts from England - a copy of "Poets Corner - an Anthology" (of the various writers commemorated in Poets Corner in Westminster Abbey), a book about the history of Exeter (my then home town), and some photos which I'd taken that summer in and around Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral - including pictures from Poets Corner and one of John Donne's shroud. Helene seemed very pleased to be given these - and later referred to the Anthology in a postcard to me.

During the visit, two of Helene's neighbours passed us. Both feature in her book 'Letter from New York' - Nina (who used to own Duke, the German Shepherd, Helene's "true love" as she called him in one of her books) and Richard (who owned Chester the Sheepdog, and later Bentley, another sheepdog). Helene introduced me to them and it was lovely to meet these two people, who up until that point had been characters in a book. Nina took a photo of Helene and I, and stayed to chat for a few minutes, posing for a photo herself, whilst Helene dashed to her apartment to bring down a treasured photo of Nina's late German Shepherd dog, Duke... which I'm holding in the fourth photo (with Nina going to the elevator in the background). I left after about an hour, giving a heartfelt "goodbye and thank you" to Helene, and posed for a photo by the building's entrance, proudly holding up one of my signed books (Letter From New York) - not realising that Nina and Richard were just in view in the background!
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Fellow fan Ken Anderson also visited Helene the following year, and shared his photos with me for this site.
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In the 2000's, the building was renamed "Charing Cross House" in honour of Helene, complete with a commemorative painting in the lobby, which I posed with when I revisited in 2009.
Meeting Helene Hanff and the naming of "Charing Cross House"
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With Helene in the apartment building lobby
With Helene's neighbour Nina in the lobby
With Helene (I'm holding a photo of Duke the Shepherd dog)
Outside the
building - Nina and Richard inside the doorway
Revisiting the building in 2009:
The exterior of the apartment building
The plaque naming the building Charing Cross House
Standing by the commemorative painting in the lobby
Close-up view
Helpful doorman at Helene's building
The canopy at the building's entrance
Ken Anderson meeting with Helene in 1995:
Ken meeting Helene in the same lobby