When the Hotel Martha Washington opened its respectable doors in Murray Hill in February 1903, it was the first women-only hotel in the city. And management took the women-only part seriously.
Not only were men prohibited in rooms, few could work there. Though the elevator operators, head waiter, and bell boys were male, the rest of the staff was female.
The place was a big hit. The wave of professional women moving to the city at the time—nurses, stenographers, teachers, doctors—thronged the waiting list for a $1.50 to $5 per day room.
Over the decades, as other women-only hotels opened, it remained a safe place for fresh-off-the-bus models, actresses, and students. 1920s actress Louise Brooks stayed there (she was asked to leave, according to this account). The hotel even scored a mention in Valley of the Dolls.
By the 1980s, the MR had become an SRO, home to long-term elderly tenants, shorter-term drug dealers, and, in 1998, men, according to the Village Voice.
On its 100th anniversary, this dowager of a hotel was rebranded Hotel Thirty Thirty and more recently Lola. I love the way copywriters put a 21st century spin on its single-gender past.
Tags: Hotel Lola, Hotel Martha Washington, hotels for women in New York City, Louise Brooks, New York in 1903, old hotels in NYC, SROs in New York, Valley of the Dolls, vintage New York postcards, Women-Only Hotels NYC