Hudson Street’s home for “working girls”

It’s 1906. You’re a young woman who has just arrived in New York City. Somehow you find yourself near Abingdon Square, and you need a place to stay. Your best bet: the new Trowmart Inn, a six-story “handsome hostelry” on Hudson and West 12th Streets.

For $4 a week, a girl could have a single room containing a bed, washstand, and table, plus breakfast and dinner. The ideal resident is the young lady who “is of the class who labors for a small wage, and whose parents have no home within the city,” according to a New York Times article about the Trowmart’s opening.

Here’s the Trowmart today, looking pretty much as it did in 1906, sans the young ladies. It’s been a nursing home for several decades and is reportedly slated to become a co-op.

villagenursinghome

So what set the Trowmart apart from other women’s hotels of the era? Well, it was built by a man named William Martin, who was convinced that girls of marrying age didn’t have a respectable place to be courted by “desirable young men,” and without such a place, they would never get married.

“[Mr. Martin] does not care for any return upon the capital he has invested,” the Times¬†reports. “He will be satisfied if the girls have a happy home, and if a number of marriages accrue each year from the Trowmart Inn.

“Girls of gentleness and refinement do not care to be courted upon the open highway, nor in public parks, and thus the world is filling with spinsters who, according to Mr. Martin, had they a proper place in which to entertain their admirers, would develop into happy, excellent wives and still happier mothers.”

It’s easy to poke fun at a place like this now. But the Trowmart was actually forward-thinking for its time in one way: It imposed no restrictions on the girls who lived there. As long as they worked and paid the bill, they could come and go as they pleased, with no curfew.

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6 Responses to “Hudson Street’s home for “working girls””

  1. Americans Just Don’t Understand - City Room Blog - NYTimes.com Says:

    [...] hummed to “Let the River Run,” New York had other “working girls.” Remembering when Hudson Street had a home for them. [Ephemeral New [...]

  2. Benjamin Feldman Says:

    I’ve wondered about this structure for 40 years of passing through Abindgon Square. Thank you so much for enlightening us all. Those of your readers who are interested in philanthropic congregate housing in NYC at the turn of the 20th century should acquaint themselves with the history of the Mills Hotels #s 1, 2 and 3, SROs built as such by the Hudson Valley’s Mills family for single men’s decent housing, with dining and activity rooms etc. The Village Gate sat in the ground floor of one of them on Bleecker Street for many years, and another of the two surviving structures sits on the NE corner of 7th Avenue and 36th Street, long ago turned into a fashion industry showroom building known as the Fashion Avenue Atrium by Bruce Berger et al.

  3. HomeGrown Brooklyn Says:

    Marian Tanner, the real-life mode for “Auntie Mame,” was a resident of the Village Nursing Home until her death at 94 in 1985

  4. “The Webster Apartments”: women only « Ephemeral New York Says:

    [...] In the defunct female hotel category, check out the Barbizon and the Trowmart. [...]

  5. Miranda Dempster Says:

    The top two floors just sold for 41 million, to be one apartment. IT was only a matte rof time before the old people were kicked out. That is amazing about Auntie Mame…

  6. A new co-op reveals a bit of old Hudson Street | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Spelman Hall, originally built in 1906 as a working woman’s residence called the Trowmart Inn, accommodated about 280 […]

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