Posts Tagged ‘Hotel McAlpin’

The 1940s tourist attractions of the “Penn Zone”

October 29, 2012

If you think the streets around Penn Station are crowded with out-of-towners now, imagine how jammed they must have been in the 1940s.

Back then, this was the “Penn Zone,” according to this vintage postcard, a stretch of Midtown brimming with massive hotels and must-see sites for tourists.

Some are still here, of course, such as the Empire State Building and Macy’s (number 8). But the original Penn Station (2) bit the dust in 1963, and the Hotel McAlpin (4) is now called Herald Towers and is a rental apartment building.

Gimbel’s (10) and Sak’s 34th Street (9) are ghosts. The Hotel New Yorker (6) keeps packing them in, while the Hotel Martinique (3) endured a tortured history as a 1980s welfare hotel before reopening as a Radisson.

Herald Square in the 1950s and today

April 21, 2010

“One of the most popular shopping centers in the world” proclaims the back of this 1950s-era postcard.

It’s a nice look back at what would still be considered Herald Square’s department store glory days, before its decline into a more low-rent district.

There’s Gimbels, defunct since the 1980s, and Macy’s next door. Far off  on the right is the sign for the Hotel McAlpin, the largest hotel in the world when it opened in 1912.

On the right is the Hotel Martinique. Once a stately place to rent a room when Herald Square was the city’s theater district, it would become a disgusting welfare hotel in the 1970s and 1980s.

Herald Square today is spruced up, with a Bloomberg-era pedestrian plaza in front of the cleaned up Radisson Martinique.

Gimbels’ old building is covered in glass. Macy’s remains, of course, as does the McAlpin, now apartments.

Saving the murals from the Hotel McAlpin

February 25, 2009

Quite a beauty on Broadway and 34th Street: When it opened in 1912, the Hotel McAlpin was the largest hotel in the world.

hotelmcalpinpostcard Besides its 1,500 rooms and a spot in then-fashionable Herald Square, the McAlpin had a basement restaurant called the Marine Grill—with multicolor terra cotta ornaments decorating columns and vaulted ceilings. 

The Marine Grill also featured some pretty amazing murals that told the story of New York City’s maritime history. Sadly, in 1990, when the restaurant space was taken over by a Gap franchise (and the hotel became a rental building and eventually a co-op), those murals were headed for the trash bin.

But preservation groups stepped in and saved them, installing them in the Broadway-Nassau station in 2000.

Next time you’re downtown on the A train, take a few minutes to check ’em out. Here’s one of the six salvaged murals.

marinegrillmural1The original iron entrance gate of the Marine Grill, also saved. Here, more photos and information on the murals.