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.
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.
“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.