The faded ad that sent newcomers to the Hotel Harmony in Morningside Heights

So much of New York’s past can be gleaned from the faded ads on the sides of unglamorous brick buildings. Weathered by the elements but still somewhat legible, they featured a product, a place, or a service that offers a bit of insight into how city residents once lived.

Case in point is the wonderfully named Hotel Harmony. The color ad for this “permanent and transient” hotel can be seen on Broadway and West 114th Street.

Based on the ad, the Harmony sounds like a run-of-the-mill hostelry aiming to come off as a little high class, especially with that tagline, which is supposed to say “where living is a pleasure,” per faded ad sleuth Walter Grutchfield.

The Hotel Harmony in 1939-1941

The actual Hotel Harmony was a few blocks away at 544 West 110th Street. The tidy brick and limestone building first served as the headquarters of the Explorers Club, but by 1935 it was converted into a hotel, according to Landmark West!

What kind of people lived or stayed here? Based on how little activity from the hotel made it into newspapers of the era, I’m going to guess quiet types who blended into the neighborhood. Robbers held up the night manager in the 1950s and made off with cash; a resident described as a limo driver died at Knickerbocker Hospital, then on Convent Avenue in Harlem; his obituary stated.

The Hotel Harmony has been defunct since the 1960s, when Columbia University bought the building and converted it into a dormitory fittingly called Harmony Hall, Landmark West! reported. The repurposed hotel remains…and so does the spectacularly preserved sign that sent many visitors to the hotel’s doors for days, weeks, perhaps years.

[Second image: NYC Department of Records and Information Services; third image: BWOG Columbia Student News]

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9 Responses to “The faded ad that sent newcomers to the Hotel Harmony in Morningside Heights”

  1. countrypaul Says:

    Another building that, in another smaller city, would be a landmark, but here it just blends into the “New Yorkness” of New York. As a Columbia dorm, I guess it’s still serving it’s original purpose. Thanks for shedding light on this!

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      You’re welcome—yes, just another anonymous building with stories of transients and residents lost to the ages.

  2. Shayne Davidson Says:

    Maybe the ghosts of residents long past will whisper into the ears of the Columbia freshmen when Halloween rolls around!

  3. Greg Says:

    Strange that the Explorers Club has such a big building purpose-built and then occupied it for only 4 years. It must have been the Depression that scrambled their plans, I would imagine.

  4. Mykola Mick Dementiuk Says:

    I’m curious, what is the building to the right of the Harmony Hotel, does CU own it too?

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I’m not sure what that is, but it’s unusual, right? I did read that Columbia owns much of the block.

  5. tawpgk Says:

    My god 2 articles around Columbia this cycle. Just reading this now….

    The venerable Harmony hall was the first dorm I had at Columbia. It was such a dump. Just an 8’x10′ room with a wash basin. Toilet, etc down the hall.

    Steam heat that never went off and so hot you had to keep the windows open in the dead of winter.

    Pakistani student next door who had a foreign student id, something Barry said they never had, but they did. It wasn’t Obama next to me, but likely a would be terrorist in years to come. Like so many others, mainly the Chinese came to the school to take our knowledge and use it against us when they went home after graduation.

    The other article on the rock on 114tg is something I always ended up passing while jogging.

    40 years ago. Exactly. Oy vey!

    On October 18, 2021 1:18:30 AM Ephemeral New York

  6. Landious Travel Says:

    The Harmony Hotel has an interesting history. Thanks for sharing this information with us!

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