Here now, writer Benjamin Waldman travels back in time to discuss what's become of the pieces of a historic Manhattan building.
Walking through the Times Square Subway Station, near the S Train, visitors come upon the outline of a door with the word Knickerbocker atop it. We've talked about this building's future, but what about its past?
The Knickerbocker Hotel, located at 6 Times Square, described itself as a “Fifth Avenue Hotel at Broadway Prices.” It possessed that old world charm and je ne sais quoi required by New York City’s elite. When the hotel opened in 1906, the Times printed a pictorial supplement illustrating the “the decorations [that] reach[ed] the limit of restlessness.” Those decorations, picked out by John Jacob Astor IV, included works by Fredrick Remington and Maxfield Parrish.
The advertising campaign worked wonders. On its second night open, the hotel turned away over 500 people from its dining hall. But even Broadway prices were not enough to keep the hotel in business. Astor’s son, Vincent, took over the hotel after Astor's death on the Titanic, but he kept it open only until 1921. Then, possibly due to prohibition, he closed the hotel and turned it into an office building. Most of its museum-quality interiors were lost.
But not all! The most famous furnishing that was saved was Maxfield Parrish’s “Old King Cole” mural. In 1935, after spending time at the Racquet Club, the mural was placed in the bar at the St. Regis Hotel. The St. Regis’s bar was later renamed after this famous mural, which is still hanging today. In addition to this physical remnant of the Knickerbocker, the hotel left another legacy; “I prefer mine shaken not stirred.” According to mixology legend, Martini di Arma di Tagga, the house bartender, mixed dry vermouth and gin creating the first martini in 1912.
· Knickerbocker Hotel coverage