A 21st Street building’s former life as a hotel

It may not have been the poshest hotel in the 19th century city. That honor could be bestowed on the nearby Fifth Avenue Hotel at Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street, where politicians and power brokers wined and dined.

But Bancroft House, the hotel that occupied the upper floors of the circa-1857 building that still exists at 922 Broadway, filled a niche.

The hotel, on the stretch of Broadway that would soon be known as Ladies Mile near fashionable Madison Square, billed itself as accommodations for “gentlemen” who desired “clean rooms and quiet night’s rest,” according to one 1894 ad in The World.

The price per night for cleanliness and rest: 50 to 75 cents, with weekly rates starting at $3.

Like any hotel, the Bancroft—with its enchanting slate mansard roof and rows of chimneys—has its darker stories. Newspaper archives cite suicides and a grisly 1887 murder-suicide, with a young porter stabbed to death by a guest, who then shot himself in the head.

“It was a crime with only one redeeming feature, from a police point of view,” stated the New-York Tribune, with characteristic bluntness. “The murderer had saved expense to the city by killing himself.”

By 1920, with Madison Square a lot less stylish, the Bancroft became the Hotel Courte. The American Express office on the ground floor remained, but not for long. The third photo above shows that it’s been replaced by a restaurant.

Today the lovely building with the mansard roof houses a deli and is described as a “boutique building” on Streeteasy. The rent for one recent one bedroom: $3495 per month.

[Top and second photo: NYPL; third photo: MCNY, 1920; x2010.18.90]

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6 Responses to “A 21st Street building’s former life as a hotel”

  1. Zoé Says:

    What a beautiful roofline. It always surprises me how journalists were allowed to editorialise in the body of the piece then (vs. off the page).

    • Tom B Says:

      Now they just lie or omit the facts to promote their agenda.

    • Zoé Says:

      *That New-York Tribune article was so sad but also such an interesting look into the time & places then. It seems so contemporary in so many ways.

      The trip to Florida of a 19 year old who then takes a job rather than borrow money from his well off family; the senseless workplace murder.

      Of course now it would be called that; a ‘workplace murder’ vs. “crazy” as this article stated. It’s also interesting that they both had guns – something to consider given the current gun violence – albeit different guns than now.

  2. Untapped Staff Reads: The Great Blizzard of 1888, Heartwarming Commutes | Untapped Cities Says:

    […] A 21st Street building’s former life as a hotel [Ephemeral New York]: It may not have been the poshest hotel in the 19th century city. That honor could be bestowed on the nearby Fifth Avenue Hotel at Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street, where politicians and power brokers wined and dined. […]

  3. David H Lippman Says:

    $3,495 a month! What’s in the apartment? Dang…I need to know where the remaining flophouses and SROs are for my retirement. With my lousy pension plan and no raises in 10 years, I’m screwed.

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