Art Nouveau beauty on a gritty Midtown corner

Beloved in European cities such as Paris and Prague at the turn of the century, the naturalistic Art Nouveau style of architecture—with its curvy lines and showy ornaments—never caught on with New Yorkers.


But one lovely example from 1903 survives at the gritty Garment District corner of Eighth Avenue and 38th Street.

West38thstreet1926mcnyThis three-story holdout building, originally an actor’s hotel, is currently dwarfed by the 20-story loft towers that went up around in 1926 (at left).

It’s also partially hidden by garish store signs advertising $1 pizza and sex DVDs.

But its stunning beauty still comes through, and it can take your breath away.

 The copper roof and cornice, blond brick, bay windows, and lovely female faces decorated with shells and garlands staring down pedestrians on Eighth Avenue—taking it all in transports you to another era.

300 West 38th Street was designed by Emery Roth just before his career took off. Roth is the creative genius behind the Eldorado, the San Remo, and the Hotel Belclaire.

Unlike those luxury residences, however, 300 West 38th Street was intended for more modest use.


“The building application, signed by Roth, describes it as a ‘dwelling and office’ but later accounts call it a hotel,” states a New York Times piece from 2002.

300West38thstreetdecoration“The 1910 census lists 14 lodgers living on the second and third floors, among them the widower London McCormack, 49, an actor; Philip Blass, 44, a shoe salesman; and John and Phyllis Ellis, 48 and 30, actors.”

More than 100 years later, 300 West 38th Street remains a diamond in the rough.

It’s a perfect example of a holdout building that’s somehow survived the passage of time, a little European flair amid the Garment District’s cavernous loft buildings and office towers.

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One Response to “Art Nouveau beauty on a gritty Midtown corner”

  1. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    The building owner could greatly increase his income (as well as the value of the structure) by removing all the tawdry signs and enhancing the Nouveau aspects of the structure. New commercial renters (on the sidewalk-level) could be better chosen to compliment the fresh presentation. Similar European buildings are revered, like those in Spain, France and Belgium.

    The dingbat-like faces are more funky Victorian while those delightful whiplash swirls on the lower window cornices – Wow, those are pure Nouveau! The brazen advertisments make me cringe. How sad the beauty is overlooked. It’s like a precious Manhatten jewel box with wads of chewed gum mashed on it.

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