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Secrets of New York

The ultimate insider's guide to the best-kept secrets of NYC's must-see places and buzzed-about people.

The next time you watch 'The Bachelorette' or

The next time you watch 'The Bachelorette' or sip a martini, you'll think of the Knickerbocker. (Credit: The Knickerbocker)


Secrets of the Knickerbocker: The birth of the martini, more

6 Times Square, New York, 10036

Standing right in the heart of Times Square, the Knickerbocker quickly became a widely known meeting, dining and partying destination for New Yorkers in the early 1900s.

Opened in 1906 by John Jacob Astor IV, the hotel identifies itself as a popular hangout for the decade’s big names including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Enrico Caruso and John D. Rockefeller. It shut its doors in 1921 after Astor died during the sinking of the Titanic nine years prior. Astor's son had attempted to continue the hotel's success after his death and was ultimately unsuccessful.

During its lost years, it was used as various office and rental spaces, Liza Martin, the Knickerbocker's executive assistant, told amNewYork during a tour of the hotel. It was given landmark status in 1985 and reopened after extensive interior renovations in 2015.

Even though it has spent more years shuttered than it has open to the public, the Knickerbocker still has its secrets. If something big happened in New York in the early 1900s, chances are it was at the Knick, Martin said.

An old door to the Knickerbocker's

Credit: The Knickerbocker

The original ‘speakeasy’ subway entrance remains

An old door to the Knickerbocker's "speakeasy" bar still stands in a Times Square subway station; just don't expect it to open. The hotel's side of the door was blocked by bricks during its reopening renovations, Martin said.

To find it, you'll have to enter through the 42nd Street station and follow the Grand Central shuttle signs along what was known at the time as track No. 1.

Astor nabbed the private entrance while the Knickerbocker was under construction in 1901. A planned subway tunnel crossed over into his property, forcing the Rapid Transit Commission to get his permission to build, Martin said. He allowed the construction under one condition: The Knick would have to serve as a Times Square subway stop, forcing travelers to enter through the hotel to drum up business, Eric Enders wrote in his book "The Knickerbocker."

Here's the story: John D. Rockefeller, who was

Credit: The Knickerbocker

The gin martini was invented there, as the tale goes

Here's the story: John D. Rockefeller, who was a frequent guest of the hotel's bar in 1912, walked into the Knickerbocker with a thirst for a drink that wasn't yet on the menu, Martin said. A bartender by the name of Martini di Arma di Taggia shook up a new drink for Rockefeller using gin, dry vermouth and orange bitters -- known today as a gin martini.

The tale originated from a book written by John Doxat in 1972's "The World of Drinks and Drinking." It was debunked in 1991, though. The recipe di Taggia supposedly invented appeared in Harry Johnson's "Bartenders' Manual," published in 1888, before the Knickerbocker even opened. Legend or truth, the martini has remained connected to the Times Square hotel ever since.

On Dec. 29, 1904, 23-year-old Eva McCleary was

Credit: Molly Crabapple

More than one murder took place at the Knick

On Dec. 29, 1904, 23-year-old Eva McCleary was shot in the stomach by her lover, Sidney Kaufman, Enders wrote. He then turned the gun on himself.

It was the first murder at the Knickerbocker, but it wasn't the last. Martin said a famous violinist, Albert de Brahms, murdered his wife in his room. He then planned to seal her body in plaster of paris and ship her away, the New York Times reported in October 1897.

Pictured: Molly Crabapple's mural "The Saints and Sinners of the Knickerbocker" depicts de Brahms playing the violin as his wife's body spills out of a box.

The first New Year's Eve ball drop took

Credit: The Knickerbocker

It offers an amazing view of the NYE ball drop

The first New Year's Eve ball drop took place in 1907 atop the former location of the New York Times building, directly across from the Knickerbocker on 42nd Street. Between 1906 and 1914, the hotel became a popular spot for locals to ring in the New Year, Martin said.

The hotel's roof still offers one of the best outdoor views of the ball drop in Times Square, she said. Naturally, a view this close to the ball will cost you. Reserving one of the hotel's three corner sky pods, private areas of the roof, ranged from $70,000 to $110,000 during the 2015 celebration.

Does the interior of the Knickerbocker remind you

Credit: The Knickerbocker

It's designed to look like the subway

Does the interior of the Knickerbocker remind you of anything? It should.

The main floor has 16-foot hand-painted, curved ceilings and small tiles intended to give the feel of the subway, Martin said. Astor had a keen interest in the city's transit system, so the redesign kept his subway ties in mind, she added.

If you're looking for love, you may want

Credit: The Knickerbocker

ABC's eligible bachelors spent the night

If you're looking for love, you may want to meet your date on the rooftop of the Knickerbocker. It worked for "Bachelorette" star Kaitlyn Bristowe.

Season 11 of ABC's "The Bachelorette" filmed a special two-part episode in Manhattan in 2015. Bristowe and her 12 remaining eligible bachelors explored the city together and enjoyed drinks on the Knickerbocker's rooftop.

When they weren't filming, the cast also stayed in rooms at the Knick, Martin said.

The Knickerbocker's chef cooked up something in the

Credit: Molly Crabapple

Live chicks hatched on the tables during Easter celebrations

The Knickerbocker's chef cooked up something in the early 1900s that you'd probably never find on a restaurant table today.

"He put live chicks in sugar eggs on the tables for Easter," Martin said. "Then they'd peck their way out during the meal." Keep in mind, this was long before PETA was established in 1980.

Pictured: A scene in Crabapple's mural depicts a woman dining at the Knick as chicks hatch from shells on her table.

Whether you're waiting for a movie, or trying

Credit: iStock

Would the red velvet rope exist without the Knick?

Whether you're waiting for a movie, or trying to get into the club, an adaptation of the red velvet rope is most likely keeping you in line. Another legend of the Knickerbocker claims that using a rope to manage patrons was first thought up at the Times Square hotel.

The dinner crowd had become unmanageable during the height of the Knick's popularity between 1906 and 1921. So, staff strung a red rope outside to keep order, Martin said. They'd then hand out small plates to hungry, waiting guests, she added.


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