The reinvention of a deluxe Times Square hotel

As Times Square’s fortunes rose and fell over the last century, so did the opulent hotels created to accommodate its visitors.

Take the Hotel Woodstock. Built in 1903 on West 43rd Street a half-block east of Times Square, this Beaux-Arts luxury hotel boasted of 400 rooms, plus restaurants and a ballroom.


It opened right in time to catch the area’s transformation into a theater district, nightlife hub, and of course, the crossroads of the world. Diamond Jim Brady and Lillian Russell (below photo) were regulars.

Woodstockhotel2013By the early 1970s, it was carved up into a seedy SRO for low-income tenants.

“As late as about three years ago, the police would not venture into the lobby of the Woodstock Hotel on West 43rd Street in Manhattan without a backup team outside,” states a 1978 New York Times article.

“Prostitutes loitered in the hallways. Alcoholics and panhandlers gathered outside. Fires and break-ins were common.”

Thirty-plus years later, Times Square is a tourist mecca again, and the hotel, with a darker facade and unglamorous lobby, is across from the chic Conde Nast building.

But the Woodstock isn’t opening its doors to jet setters. It is now owned by Project FIND, a nonprofit that houses elderly New Yorkers.

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8 Responses to “The reinvention of a deluxe Times Square hotel”

  1. John Gulino Says:

    This is my favorite web site. Like a time machine. I eat sleep and dream ephemeral New York memories.

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    wow, thanks for reading!

  3. wendy Says:

    What is that photo near the bottom? It looks like Jackie Gleason (in his Reginald Van Gleason persona) and a dancer from his show.

  4. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    It was mislabeled as Diamond Jim Brady and Lillian Russell! I took it down.

  5. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Who remembers the Christmas Bar on 43rd Street, right across the street from Woodstock Hotel, the juke box had nothing but Christmas carols, you could hear Silent Night and Deck The Halls on hot July nights? But it didn’t last long.

  6. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Now that is a kitschy cool idea.

  7. P. Gavan Says:

    I am writing about the Brooklyn-Long Island Cat Club, which held at least one of its cat shows at the Hotel Woodstock in the mid-1940s (it also had shows at the Hotel St. George and the Hotel Granada in Brooklyn). I just came across a blurb that said the Woodstock featured a fountain pool with live alligators — would love to confirm that!

  8. Carol Says:

    I want to live here

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