Posts Tagged ‘New York City in the 1940s’

The secret tragedies of a defunct midtown hotel

December 1, 2011

Ever hear of the Hotel Chesterfield? Probably not; it was a massive, unspectacular midcentury tourist and show folk favorite at 130 West 49th Street.

Built in the 1920s, it outlived its heyday and was demolished after the early 1960s. A sparkling office tower occupies its old location.

What major and minor tragedies occurred in each of the Chesterfield’s 900 rooms over the decades? A quick search through newspaper archives offers a glimpse.

First, a deadly fall out a window. In 1929, a young actress was sitting on her seventh floor window sill, waiting for her husband to come home so she could tell him about a job she’d landed.

When he arrived, she jumped up, only to lose her balance and plunge to an awning below.

A couple of French opera singers had their room robbed in 1947. While out at the theater one night, they returned to find the place ransacked. Items missing included a silver fox cape, jewelry, a portable radio, and two bottles of anti-seasickness pills.

And of course, suicide. In 1933 a 68-year-old retired salesman from Scranton shot and killed himself in his 10th-floor room. He had come to  New York, a brief article says, to visit his son.

A Chelsea hotel room for just $2.25 a night

November 24, 2010

“Modern accommodations at moderate rates” proclaims the back of this colorful postcard, circa the 1940s or 1950s.”One stop from Penn Station.”

It’s an ad for the Hotel Cornish Arms, on 23rd Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues.

I can’t find much on the hotel, but a reader comment from an earlier post explained that the hotel really did welcome new Cornish arrivals.

It certainly didn’t have the architectural charm and boho appeal of another hotel down 23rd Street, the Chelsea.

Here’s an older view of the Cornish Arms, from 1933, with the gorgeous but long-gone Grand Opera House on the corner. Today the building still stands; it’s now the Broadmoor Apartments.

The corner of Pell and Mott Streets in the 1940s

October 8, 2010

Or 1950s; it’s tough to tell. On one hand, the military presence on the lower left and parked cars on the right give this postcard a very World War II–era feel.

On the other, none of the men are wearing hats—as they routinely did in the 1940s.

And oddly, this is the historic heart of Chinatown: where are all the Chinese people?