Posts Tagged ‘Hotel Martinique’

The 1940s tourist attractions of the “Penn Zone”

October 29, 2012

If you think the streets around Penn Station are crowded with out-of-towners now, imagine how jammed they must have been in the 1940s.

Back then, this was the “Penn Zone,” according to this vintage postcard, a stretch of Midtown brimming with massive hotels and must-see sites for tourists.


Some are still here, of course, such as the Empire State Building and Macy’s (number 8). But the original Penn Station (2) bit the dust in 1963, and the Hotel McAlpin (4) is now called Herald Towers and is a rental apartment building.

Gimbel’s (10) and Sak’s 34th Street (9) are ghosts. The Hotel New Yorker (6) keeps packing them in, while the Hotel Martinique (3) endured a tortured history as a 1980s welfare hotel before reopening as a Radisson.

Herald Square in the 1950s and today

April 21, 2010

“One of the most popular shopping centers in the world” proclaims the back of this 1950s-era postcard.

It’s a nice look back at what would still be considered Herald Square’s department store glory days, before its decline into a more low-rent district.

There’s Gimbels, 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 1912.

On the right is the Hotel Martinique. Once a stately place to rent a room when Herald Square was the city’s theater district, it would become a disgusting welfare hotel in the 1970s and 1980s.

Herald Square today is spruced up, with a Bloomberg-era pedestrian plaza in front of the cleaned up Radisson Martinique.

Gimbels’ old building is covered in glass. Macy’s remains, of course, as does the McAlpin, now apartments.

Notorious welfare hotel: The Martinique

August 27, 2008

Welfare hotel—now that’s a term you don’t hear much anymore, unlike in the 1970s and 1980s; in response to a growing homeless crisis back then, the city put up thousands of families in shoddy, rundown hotels across the five boroughs. 

No hotel epitomized New York’s bad old days like the Martinique, on 32nd and Broadway. The 16-story building started out in 1910 as an elegant French Renaissance–style residence in what was then part of the theater district. But as the theater district moved north, the Martinique slid into decline. By 1974, the city was warehousing homeless families there.

Newspapers were always running stories about the harsh life in the Martinique: families cooking on hot plates, creepy characters in the halls, spray-painted numbers on the doors. Finally, by the late 80s, the city emptied out the Martinique and other welfare hotels for good.

Today it’s a much spiffier place, renamed the Radisson Martinique. The original building details and sign remain.


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