Saving the murals from the Hotel McAlpin

Quite a beauty on Broadway and 34th Street: When it opened in 1912, the Hotel McAlpin was the largest hotel in the world.

hotelmcalpinpostcard Besides its 1,500 rooms and a spot in then-fashionable Herald Square, the McAlpin had a basement restaurant called the Marine Grill—with multicolor terra cotta ornaments decorating columns and vaulted ceilings. 

The Marine Grill also featured some pretty amazing murals that told the story of New York City’s maritime history. Sadly, in 1990, when the restaurant space was taken over by a Gap franchise (and the hotel became a rental building and eventually a co-op), those murals were headed for the trash bin.

But preservation groups stepped in and saved them, installing them in the Broadway-Nassau station in 2000.

Next time you’re downtown on the A train, take a few minutes to check ‘em out. Here’s one of the six salvaged murals.

marinegrillmural1The original iron entrance gate of the Marine Grill, also saved. Here, more photos and information on the murals.

marinegrillentrancegate

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20 Responses to “Saving the murals from the Hotel McAlpin”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    In the ’70s and ’80 on the corner of 34th Street there was a Chock Full ‘o Nuts coffee shop where I always stopped in for a cup of coffee and a donut. Though it was a shopping district, at night it was pretty dangerous being not too far from Madison Square Garden or the welfare Hotel Martinique on 31st and Broadway.

  2. neighborhood threat Says:

    thank you. i see these every morning and always wondered. i don’t understand what they’re doing downtown, but they’re nice to pass.

  3. What Would Gandhi Eat? - City Room Blog - NYTimes.com Says:

    [...] can see beautiful old murals from the old McAlpin Hotel in a downtown subway station. [Ephemeral New [...]

  4. amg Says:

    This is pretty amazing. The Marine Grill was called “The Alpine” during the early to mid 1980s. I was a regular there, it was part of the McAnn’s chain. In spite of the fact that I went into many a blackout there (ahem), I also remember the incredible terra cotta work. It was an amazing thing to see.

    I remember hearing about some of the terra cotta work ending up in dumpsters (now that is a crime), but I’m glad some of this go salvaged and repaired.

  5. granddaughter Says:

    My grandmother was married to Michael Lightcap while he was manager of the McAlpin Hotel. I have very little information about that period. Any onformation would be appreciated. Thank you.

  6. TOM Says:

    MY GREAT GRAND FATHER USED TO WORK THERE. I JUST CAME ACROSS HIS 5 YEAR SERVICE MEDAL

  7. Steve Says:

    I lived in the McAlpin from 1983-1987. I did not find the area to be unsafe at night, at least no less safe than the rest of NY back then.

    I remember being in awe of the food establishment/bar in the “basement.” It was beautiful.

    I also remember the chock full o’ nuts on the corner.

    The building was old and had problems back then – we were always going on rent strikes to get things repaired. I can’t believe it is a coop now – I’d be afraid to own a piece of such an old and not well maintained building.

  8. Knox Says:

    I live in Herald Towers (current name of the old Hotel McAlpin).

    One mistake in your article… It has never been co-ops.

    A few years ago, they tried converting the building to condos. A few floors were sold. However, it didn’t do very well. The vast majority of units in the building are still rentals from the owner of the building.

  9. Herald Square then and now « Ephemeral New York Says:

    [...] defunct since the 1980s, and Macy’s next door. Far off  on the right is the sign for the Hotel McAlpin, the largest hotel in the world when it opened in [...]

  10. MEL KARP Says:

    ALMOST EVERY SAT NIGHT FROM 1948 UNTIL THE 1950’S, MY FRIENDS & I WENT TO THE DANCES IN THE MARINE GRILL BASEMENT OF THE McALPIN. SOMETIMES, IN THE SUMMER, THE DANCE WAS HELD IN THE ROOFTOP PENTHOUSE. MANY OF US COURTED THE LADIES WHO CAME TO THE DANCES, & SEVERAL OF MY FRIENDS MARRIED GIRLS WE MET THERE. THE BAR & RESTAURANT ON THE LOBBY FLOOR WAS ALSO OUR HANGOUT. ON MY TRIPS BACK TO NY, I ALWAYS VISITED THE HOTEL TO REFRESH THOSE LOVELY MEMORIES.

  11. Clifton A Hughes Jr. Says:

    I stayed at the McAlpin for three weeks at a time in Nov. 1972 Feb
    1973 and July of 1973, I had lunch every day in the Marine
    Room. Had a good time.

  12. ray Says:

    Was watching the Macy’s TG Day parade and could not see the old McAlpin Hotel Marquee. Could the old Tad’s Steak House be gone too? What about the Riverboat Restaurant in the basement of the Empire State Building? The waiters there were the best tippers.

    From 1965 to 1968 I was a scruffy young shoe shine boy in front of the McAlpin Hotel which was then mostly the Sheraton Atlantic Hotel. It was about 1967 when the SA Hotel lease expired and it converted back to the McAlpin. I spent years with my shoe shine box on that corner watching, listening and learning about the world.

    Hy Greenberg ran the corner newspaper stand with James Manfredonia. Both lovable wise cracking New Yorkers, they helped me through some tough times and were like family to me. Hy was connected, he knew every one in the area and helped convince the police to not chase me away.

    There was a nice blind man who use to sell pencils on the same corner back then. I use to get him coffee from the Cock Full O Nuts on the corner. Wish I could recall his name.

    Once I watched a sudden gust of wind blow out a massive plate glass window on the 34th street side of that Chock Full O Nuts coffee shop. It cracked into two large horizontal pieces. The upper section of glass blew out towards the street and severed a passing womans neck, who was hugging the building as one does to avoid the wind. I ran back and forth to the Sheriton Atlantic Hotel frantically, grabbing towels to bring to the people who were trying to assist her.

    Summer, winter, spring or fall there I was with my shoe shine box. Now that I am reminiscing I realize I did a lot of growing up in front of the McAlpin Hotel.

  13. me Says:

    My last name is McAlpin nice to know someone cared

  14. Lynne Says:

    Back in 1976 our high school band stayed in the McAlpin Hotel. We came all the way from Wisconsin and were just amazed by the enormous size of the Hotel and all the wonderful murals inside. We ate most of our meals right there in the Hotel.

  15. The ships and boats of the Fulton Street subway « Ephemeral New York Says:

    [...] the hotel was being renovated into apartments in the 1990s, the murals were headed for a landfill. Preservationists rescued them at the last minute, and they were reassembled at Fulton Street by the MTA in [...]

  16. Clark C. Says:

    Stayed here in the 70’s when it was the cheapest hotel we could find in NYC – the McAlpin. We were 17 and didn’t realize the history of the place.

  17. rashidul haque Says:

    I lived one night in the year of 1975 and 3 nights 1976. It was nice,great hotel to me.

  18. Laurie Wellman Says:

    I have a Hotel McAlpin spoon. If someone would like it, email me and I’ll send it to you.

  19. History Lessons: In Postcards, Remembering 10 NYC Hotels That Are Long Gone – insiderater.com Says:

    […] 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 […]

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