Posts Tagged ‘Stanford White Evelyn Nesbit’

Madison Square Garden, luminous by moonlight

November 11, 2019

No, not today’s MSG in the gritty West 30s. This is the second of the four versions of Madison Square Garden, the Moorish-Beaux Arts arena designed by Stanford White on 26th Street and Madison Avenue in 1890.

At the time this postcard was made in roughly 1907, White’s Madison Square Garden was one of the most recognizable buildings in New York City, a palace of inspiration and excitement that hosted everything from boxing matches to the circus to the annual Westminster Dog Show.

By 1907, the heyday of the Garden was coming to an end.

A year earlier, White was murdered on the very rooftop garden he designed. He was shot by the jealous (and mentally ill, a jury eventually concluded) husband of Evelyn Nesbit—the young showgirl White sexually assaulted after lacing her drink years earlier at his East 24th Street hideaway across Fifth Avenue.

This Madison Square Garden became the center of the city’s first trial of the century. The story of the building and the scandal surrounding it (including new information about this most notorious murder) is detailed in the new book The Grandest Madison Square Garden, by Suzanne Hinman.

[Postcard: MCNY Collections Portal, F2011.33.1324]

The 1905 hotel named for a Gilded Age beauty

March 18, 2019

When it opened in 1905 at 7 East 27th Street, it was the Hotel Broztell: an elegant, 250-room Beaux Arts hotel with an entrance flanked by globe-like lamps and decorative touches on the limestone facade.

After a renovation in 2014 (at right), the hotel was rechristened the Evelyn.

The new name pays homage to Evelyn Nesbit, one of the most famous beauties of the Gilded Age.

Nesbit was a model and actress whose rise and fall in the city centered right here in this Madison Square Park neighborhood.

Born near Pittsburgh in 1884, her father’s death left Nesbit’s family penniless. After many stops and starts she, her younger brother, and her mother moved to Manhattan in 1901, taking rooms on East 22nd Street.

The teenager’s beauty caught the eye of artists and photographers. Soon Nesbit was a much sought-after model and chorus girl in the Broadway musical hit Florodora.

She also caught the eye of architect Stanford White. “Stanny,” as he was called, was famous for the buildings he designed, many of which were in the East 20s.

The middle-aged White was also famous for his interest in pretty young showgirls.

He was introduced to Nesbit by another chorus girl, who brought her to the apartment he kept at 22 West 24th Street.

Of the apartment, Nesbit later described being ushered into “the most gorgeous room I have ever seen….It was hung around with velvet; divans and great billowing cushions were everywhere, tiny little Oriental tables, all the impedimenta of luxury, were displayed on either hand.”

Soon Nesbit was visiting White here on her own. At first, their relationship was more paternal, she later wrote. But after White encouraged her mother to leave town one weekend, he invited Nesbit over and subsequently drugged and raped her, she later alleged.

The Evelyn hotel is also just down the street from where Madison Square Garden once stood. Designed by White, this second incarnation of the Garden had a breezy rooftop that was popular with the city’s movers and shakers.

It was here on the roof garden one warm night in June 1906 where Nesbit’s mentally ill and extremely jealous husband, Harry Thaw, approached White from behind and shot him dead.

The ensuing courtroom drama was considered the first “trial of the century” by city newspapers. (Thaw was ultimately found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.)

Little inside the Hotel Evelyn remains from the Gilded Age. The facade is preserved, and a hotel employee told me the original marble floor remains. (At left, the hotel in 1910 next to the once equally elegant Prince George Hotel.)

But how many guests know of the hotel’s namesake and that the events surrounding her fame and then scandal happened within five years right here in today’s Flatiron neighborhood?

(Second Photo: MCNY, 1906; 93.1.1.6019; fifth photo: New-York Historical Society)