What remains of a 1930 Upper West Side automat

The first Horn & Hardart automat opened in New York City in 1912. Over the next decades, 40 automats popped up in the city.

One of them was at 2710 Broadway, between 103rd and 104th Streets, seen here in a 1942 photo.


Everyone who remembers these glass and chrome egalitarian eateries, with their walls of food compartments, recalls them with huge affection. Automats were the “Maxim’s of the disenfranchised,” said playwright Neil Simon.

Drop a nickel or two into the slot, and the compartment door opened, dispensing the object of your desire—like an egg salad sandwich, macaroni, baked beans, lemon meringue pie, or just black coffee.

Tables and chairs in the center of the tile room offered a place to sit and eat into the night. Behind the walls, employees restocked the compartment for the next hungry patron.


The last automat hung in there until 1991. But the era of the automat had started to end in the 1950s and 1960s, thanks to the rise of fast food.

The one at Broadway and 103rd Street (above in 1980) stuck around until 1955, according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.


Since then, 2710 Broadway has hosted a variety of businesses, like a supermarket and a Rite-Aid (above photo, 2015). It’s now a CityMD.

AutomatjeanarthurBut much of the facade hasn’t changed. It’s easy to visualize all the New Yorkers of decades past who nursed cups of coffee and slices of pie there, between auditions or jobs or on bad dates, or killing time, before continuing on their way.

A big thumbs up to the History Author Show for sharing these images and showing love for the city’s most iconic restaurant.

The automat made it into several movies shot in New York over the years. Watch Jean Arthur in 1931’s Easy Living, or Doris Day and Audrey Meadows in That Touch of Mink from 1962.

[Top photo: NYPL; Second photo: Landmarks Preservation Commission report]

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8 Responses to “What remains of a 1930 Upper West Side automat”

  1. Kenny Says:

    Patti Smith tells a funny story how she responded to Allan Ginsberg’s generosity at the Chelsea auto mat in her book ‘Just Kids’.

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Yes, I know that story, it’s a perfect 1970s Automat moment. Just Kids is a terrific book.

  3. David Litwin Says:

    I still miss the Automats, like crazy. Especially the ones in midtown.

  4. Timothy Grier Says:

    I remember my neighborhood had a Horn & Hardart store that sold food products to take home. It wasn’t an Automat. It was near the SW corner of 14th Street and Avenue A. My Mom would buy their rice pudding and tapioca. The only Automat where I recall eating was on 42nd Street near Grand Central Station.

  5. Peter Bennett Says:

    Funny, I still remember the knobs!

  6. Lisa Hurwitz Says:

    We are making a documentary film THE AUTOMAT. Like us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/THEAUTOMATthemovie

  7. Tom Hakala Says:

    Thanks for the pictures. My father first took me to an Automat in Downtown Manhattan when I was about 12 (around 1960). I have many memories, especially during my high school years, when I spent a lot of time in Manhattan (I’m originally a Brooklyn Boy – Sheepshead Bay) going to movies, museums, the planetarium, the library and on dates. The Automat was a favorite breakfast and lunch place.

  8. Reinaldo Cruz Says:

    Beautiful art deco terra cotta ornamentation along top of this building. The market (it later became a Sloan’s) was the competition when I worked at the Daitch-Shopwell on 102nd street. The pizza shop on the corner was good but Capri (1 block north on Bway) had the best pizza in this neighborhood.

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