The long history of the Milford (Plaza) Hotel

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHave you seen the renovated Milford Hotel? The building itself is mostly the same, but the lobby and interior on Eighth Avenue and 44th Street sport a sleek, minimalist look.

The modern renovation is hard to wrap your head around if you lived in New York in the 1980s.

Back then, the Milford was the cheapo, tourist-friendly Milford Plaza, known for its crazy-catchy 1980s commercials.

(Warning: view it, and the Milford Plaza song will be in your head in an endless loop for the rest of the day.)

And if your New York history goes back decades earlier, you might remember when the Milford Plaza was the Lincoln Hotel.

Opened in 1928, the Lincoln featured 1,300 rooms spread out across 27 floors. Over the next few decades, the hotel hosted salesmen, tourists, and people connected to the theater district. The restaurant and ballroom were packed with partygoers.  A few suicides were recorded too.

Hotel Lincoln, 44th to 45th Street at 8th Avenue New York CityBy the 1950s, the Lincoln was a shell of its former self—a rundown apartment hotel in out-of-fashion west Midtown. An 85 percent vacancy rent kept the number of residents low, the hallways ghostly.

Developer William Zeckendorf bought it in 1956 and got permission to kick the longtime rent-controlled tenants out. Yet they didn’t leave without a fight.

In 1956, the last of the holdout tenants—the Hotel Lincoln Seven, we’ll call them—faced eviction proceedings about the same time the hotel’s furnishings were scheduled to go up for auction.

“Within four hours of the sale’s opening bid, the restaurant, the barber shop, the coffee shop, and the beauty salon had been swept clean of fixtures,” wrote The New York Times.

ThemilfordmarqueeMeanwhile, the developers offered to relocate the holdout residents to similar hotel accommodations at the Knickerbocker on West 44th Street. They declined.

Finally, they ponied up cash payouts of $300o per tenant to promptly vacate. “The last to agree was Miss Edna King, a guest since 1929,” reported The New York Times.

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10 Responses to “The long history of the Milford (Plaza) Hotel”

  1. Deirdre Says:

    Zeckendorf, Sr and Jr, so glad you are gone. You did nothing for the city but so much for yourselves.

  2. Ross Says:

    I stayed in the Milford Plaza on my one and only (so far) trip to NYC from England in 2004. Quite surprised when I looked it up a couple of years later to find it had closed.

  3. Mary E.Lasar Says:

    The rooms are pretty much the same size but the lobby is quite lovely. We had a reunion of those of us who worked there during Martin Luther King weekend. It was a wonderful day with wonderful memories to share…

  4. kevin L bazur Says:

    It’s too bad the current owners turned off the wonderful neon signage. If you look at the Milford east to west on 46th or west45th you notice all the broadway theaters with their neon signs, then at the end is the Milford with lights off! Dumb move it looks like its closed. Bring back the neon, Americans love neon! KLBazur

  5. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I’m with you there. The neon sign was iconic!

  6. Ken Says:

    The old Milford Plaza tv commercial, borrowing heavily from ‘Lullabye of Broadway ‘ and a similar musical fantasy sequence from the tv show ‘Taxi’ are really entertaining and newyorky.

  7. Dave Says:

    I didn’t watch the YouTube video, but the jingle took hold anyway. “the lullabye of Broad-way…”

  8. Bernadette Clarke Says:

    With so many hotels up-styling to ’boutique hotels’, with very little ambience, I was delighted to have stayed in one of the older rooms at the Milford Plaza in 2012. I was fascinated with the elevator system and found it very efficient and safe. A lovely hotel and a wonderful experience.

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