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In Postcards, Remembering 10 NYC Hotels That Are Long Gone

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Over the course of Hotels Weeks, we've ogled old photos of glamorous, forgotten hotels and rounded up five that have continuously operated for more than a century. In another trip down memory lane, check out vintage postcards and accompanying mini-histories of 10 New York City hotels that are no more.

↑ Today, there's no evidence of the Claremont Inn, which once sat at 124th Street and Riverside Drive. There is a Parks Department plaque, though, detailing its history: first as a residence dating to 1788, and then a tavern before the Civil War. The city took it over in 1878 and operated it as a restaurant and hotel. It was apparently the place to be if you wanted to visit Grant's Tomb; a "fashionable place of resort for the pleasure-seekers." First beset by fire, it was totally demolished in 1950. The postcards above are dated from 1904 to 1935.

↑ Streetscapes writer Christopher Gray called Astor House the most famous hotel in America, when it was in its prime, so you know it's got to be true. Abraham Lincoln stayed there before his speech at Cooper Union in 1860. Built by John Jacob Astor in 1836, it had 309 rooms, a central courtyard, and a couple of Doric columns on one side. Located on Broadway between Vesey and Barclay, near City Hall Park, it had "new" gaslights, and a roster of storied guests that ranged from William James to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It had a pretty epic history despite its relatively short time in existence—it was torn down in 1913, "replaced with the Astor House Building, a small suite of office spaces that remains on that street corner to this day."

↑ Herald Square's Hotel McAlpin opened in 1912 to much fanfare, touting the superlative that it was the largest hotel in the world. (The postcards above are from 1912 and 1915.) Boasting a staff of 1,500, it could hold 2,500 guests. It was uber-advanced for its time, as Daytonian in Manhattan notes: "At a time when in-room telephones were essentially unheard of, the McAlpin would have 1,800 phones." A Turkish bath and a roof garden were among its amenities. It's now a rental apartment complex called Herald Towers. But some of its famed murals have been salvaged, and were placed in the Broadway-Nassau subway station in 2000.


↑ Up in the then-hinterlands of the Washington Heights sat Ben Riley's Arrowhead Inn. Located on 178th Street and Haven Avenue, its proprietor was its namesake: Ben Riley, who was originally from Saratoga. Starting at the turn of the last century, he brought delicacies like frogs legs to the New York City masses at his uptown location, which was strategic because of a nearby train station. In a trope that's all too familiar these days, RIley sold the inn to developers who razed it to build housing, which is now also gone.

↑ The Commodore Hotel was built as part of a cohort of hotels and offices that sprang up around Grand Central. The memory of its namesake, "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt, who ran the railroad, remains via a statue of him that sits by its modern-day replacement: a glassy Grand Hyatt. When it opened in 1919, as a sister hotel to the Biltmore, it had "the most beautiful lobby in the world" and a president with a penchant for showmanship: one time, John Bowman staged a circus, with elephants, in the ballroom after someone commented that the city was like one. It had 2,000 rooms and served alligator, and went bankrupt in the 1970s. The postcards above date back to the 1920s and 1940, when the hotel was in its heyday.


↑ Now a building with plenty of fame in its own right, the Upper West Side's Majestic sits on the site of what was once the Hotel Majestic, a 12-story, 600-room goliath that opened in 1894 and had a roof garden and bowling alleys. Composer Gustav Mahler and novelist Edna Ferber were among its famous guests. The postcards date from 1897 to 1911.

↑ The Art Deco tower on First Avenue and 49th Street, initially known as the Panhellenic House, has a long, interesting backstory. Initially opened in 1928, as the area's tallest building, it aimed to provide a safe place for women to lodge. Amenities included a solarium, pool, and roof garden. The hotel opened up to—gasp!—men in 1932 and subsequently changed its name to the Beekman Tower Hotel to make it clear that others besides sorority women could be guests. It was sold in 1964, and is now full of corporate apartments courtesy of Silverstein Properties.

↑ The Terra Marine Inn, at Huguenot Beach on the southern end of Staten Island, branded its waterfront as "The Most Famous Fishing Grounds around New York." The Inn boasted two long piers, providing plenty of space for anglers to launch; landlubbers could play tennis on one of its two courts or relax in its rathskeller, a Bavarian-style beer hall. Opened in 1908, the hotel rose from the ashes of a 1909 fire to find renown among the financial set: The Guaranty Trust Company of New York, a forerunner of the JPMorgan Chase conglomerate, held its company outing there. (The Times was ON IT, writing about the bankers' inter-office baseball game.) In fact, a 1917 map of the area lists the hotel as Guaranty Club Country House. But even financiers' cash couldn't save the hotel from closing just six years later. The site, at the end of Huguenot Avenue, is now part of Wolfe's Pond Park.—Keith Williams


↑ Once a luxurious midtown hotel, now an SRO. That's the story of the Hotel Woodstock, a 400-roomer that opened near Times Square in 1903, capitalized on the entertainment boom there, and welcomed "Diamond Jim" Brady, Lillian Russell, and then-future President Woodrow Wilson as guests. In the 1970s, though, as many hotels went bankrupt and the area became rather sketchy, it was converted into an SRO and counted among its visitors prostitutes, alcoholics, drug addicts, and panhandlers. Project FIND now runs and maintains 283 affordable rooms there for elderly New Yorkers.

↑ What's now 2 Fifth Avenue was built in 1956 on the site of the Brevoort Hotel, constructed over a century earlier. An early Dutch settler in Manhattan, Henrick Van Brevoort, bought much of what would become the lower Fifth Avenue area in 1714; over time, the family sold off pieces of its farm and invested the proceeds in the stock market. Things went well, and his descendants built a huge mansion in 1834 and, eleven years later, the hotel.

In 1902, the Brevoort was purchased by restaurateur Raymond Orteig, who brought his native French flair to the property, including sidewalk café seating, then a novelty on this side of the Atlantic. (Orteig is perhaps better known as the man who offered $25,000 to the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic, claimed by Charles Lindbergh in 1927.) The hotel attracted luminaries from Mark Twain to Margaret Sanger, who gave a speech in support of birth control the night before going on trial in 1916. The hotel was closed and demolished in 1954.—Keith Williams
· Remembering NYC's Grandest Forgotten Hotels In Photos [Curbed]
· Hotels Week 2014 [Curbed]