Urban archaeology: Banking on hotel's history
The New Yorker is one of those hotels that somehow manages to fly under the radar of many who call themselves New Yorkers, but it's always jammed with tourists. Navigating the packed sidewalk outside its Eighth Avenue entrance requires skill and some patience; it usually brings our quick city strut to a stop.
But slowing down outside this 1930 Art Deco hotel also offers an opportunity. The Eighth Avenue facade has a beautiful vestige of Manufacturers Trust bank. This golden door reeks of stolidity and wealth -- your money is safe here, it seems to be telling its Depression-chastened audience. The details are noteworthy -- check out the rays emanating from the female figure.This bank certainly invested in good architecture -- it's responsible for one of the city's finest modern buildings.
The New Yorker recently upgraded its Art Deco-style signage in a faithful way as part of an overhaul that includes a new restaurant, Cooper's Tavern, that has a bit of a Deco flair. Indeed, the management seems to have an appreciation for its history. When you're done marveling at the bank's door, be sure to check out an informative window display of New Yorker history, including a panel (visible after the jump) showing Muhammad Ali chilling in a New Yorker bed while he was at the height of his fame.You have to appreciate a place that understands fully its role in history -- big bands played here, the "Call for Philip Morris" bellhop worked here, Nikola Tesla lived and died here, one of the world's largest barber's shop existed here. It even had the largest private power plant in the country, and a high floor chock full of busy operators frantically fielding phone calls. There was even a tunnel (who doesn't love secret tunnels) that whisked guests to nearby Penn Station.
The New Yorker closed in 1972 and became offices for the Unification Church of Christ before re-emerging as a hotel in the 1990s, still under the church's ownership.
The Times had a piece on the New Yorker in November, and speaks to Joseph Kinney, its engineer and unofficial archivist, who has done a lot to protect the hotel's legacy. Sounds like our kind of guy. The hotel is right down the block from our office, so we'll be writing more about it. We took the picture, shown at bottom, of the redone but still iconic New Yorker sign from our 17th-floor office window.
It's a great skyline slice of 1930s Gotham.
-- Rolando Pujol