Posts Tagged ‘Times Square Hotels’

The long history of the Milford (Plaza) Hotel

February 17, 2014

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.

Ending it all at a popular midtown tourist hotel

December 10, 2012

Today, it’s the luxe Michelangelo Hotel. But from 1926 through the 1980s, it was the 2,000-room Hotel Taft, “one of the premier tourist hotels in the city,” a New York Times article recalls.

Over the years, that adds up to a lot of out-of-towners booking rooms to celebrate events and catch Broadway shows. But like any multistory hotel, the Taft has also had its share of suicides.

Tafthotelpostcard

“Woman Phones News of Her Own Suicide,” a headline from June 1933 reads. After calling the city desk at the Daily Mirror, 35-year-old phone operator Miss Catherine Mary Dietz told a staffer that she’d just taken “36 tablets of poison” and was about to leap to her death from her room on the 18th floor, which she did, a moment later.

HoteltaftadThat wasn’t the only suicide at the Taft in 1933. In February, 40-year-old artist Charles Schomburg jumped from his 14th-floor room, leaving a note that read “financial reverses have brought me to this point of despondency.” His body hit the roof of the adjoining Roxy Theater.

Seven years later, a Brooklyn surgeon registered under a fake name and overdosed. “The body was found in bed clad in pajamas with the covers pulled it,” the Times wrote.

“In a wastepaper basket near by was a brown bottle containing a few crystals.” He left his home phone number on a pad on the night table.

A TV and theater actor also ended his life at the Taft. Philip Loeb (he played the father on The Goldbergs) OD’d there on sleeping pills in 1955. His apparent motive: The show dropped him because he’d been blacklisted as a communist.


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