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.
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.