I've been fascinated by this picture since I found it. The color of the car. Its remarkable prow, so gleaming and modern. The fellow standing by the car - how did he make his pile? Magazines? Art dealing? The male in the car is a passenger, not at the wheel. The house in the back is a Machine for Living, every detail - or lack of it - suggesting something about the opinions and convictions of its owner. But what? We know he's up on the latest, and has cast off tradition for an entirely new aesthetic. Does that mean he's open to World Government, rule by technocrats who approach all problems scientifically? Or he doesn't care about any of that, he just likes the modern, formless painting and statuary because it channels something raw from the id? Does his wife frankly have no time for anyone who doesn't realize that Vegetarian Socialism is the obvious choice for reorganizing society? Do their friends go home to their quaint, overstuffed living rooms and feel a sense of relief, or do they feel old and behind the times?

How many people looked at this picture and envied its occupants?

I have a whole series from this campaign, but this is the only one that looks like it's from an alternative future.

Well, today was what it was, and I've nothing to say about it that would be interesting in the least. The pizza was good. Got all my work in. Wrote some things. Solid nap. Then I got to thinking about enormous old hotels, and hence, you're going to have to endure some history.

But hey, can we give it a spin fit for the Wednesday Review? I think so.








Perhaps you saw this story about New York moving homeless people, or people experiencing homelessness in the new tidy locution, into the Row, a big Times Square hotel. You may have thought of our visit a few weeks ago to another large NYC hostel that’s shuttered, and wondered if that’s not its eventual fate. Or if that's the eventual fate of all the old hostels.

I had forgotten about the Row, as it’s now called, previously the Milford, previously the Manhattan, previously the Lincoln.

As I have said before and will say again: twenty-five stories of brick and stone looks bigger than thirty-five stories of glass.

Did it get a lot of hoopla in the papers when it opened? Not really. Newspaper searches for 1928 turn up a story about Juanita Hansen, actress, horribly scalded by the hotel shower. Oh, the things you learn:

Her life became a series of constant ups and downs fighting her addictions. Hansen and Anna Luther were named as two co-respondents in a divorce suit brought by Evelyn Nesbit against Jack Clifford.

Nesbit, of course, was the girl in the red velvet swing, the young model seduced by Stanford White, the great architect. Stanny, as his pals in the swell set called him, was shot to death at Madison Square Garden by the rich nutcase hubby of Nesbit. By "rich" I mean $40 million - in 1903 dollars, mind you.

More 1928 news: On the day before the hotel opened, the papers reported the death of “Lincoln’s Avenger,” Abe Snay. The last survivor of the group of men who captured Booth. That’s how new this country was. And is, I suppose.

Opening a studio in the hotel, on the 27th floor: WGBS, the radio station owned by the Gimbels Brothers. Hence the name. It would be renamed WINS in the 30s when Hearst bought it, and tied it to the International News Service. It's called WINS today.

That’s about it for the first year. The Brooklyn paper ran a big story about how all the furniture was from a Brooklyn store. There were so many huge hotels opening that it wasn’t a front page story, it seems. The same year as the Lincoln, you had the Paramount, which is now . . . the Paramount Hotel.

I stayed there a few times. Pretentious and dark with miniscule rooms. The New Yorker was under construction. The 28-story Beacon opened in 1928. And, of course, there was the Taft, opened by the Manger outfit, new in 1926, and fargin’ huge. (I have a website about an old brochure, in the NYC section.) Oh, right: the Waldorf Astoria, which, when completed in 1931, was the WORLD’S BIGGEST. Same year as the 26-story Edison, once a dump but supposedly 4-star now, opened.

They’ve all been rehabbed to a certain extent. Each has a fantastically rich history. But most have the limitations of a hundred-year old hostel, with small rooms. It is not difficult to imagine that they will all become homeless shelters some day.

Happened to the Martinique, during the nadir of New York.

From 1973 until the end of 1988, the Martinique was a welfare hotel. It housed over 1,400 children in December 1985 within 389 families; eighteen months later, there were 438 families. In 1986, the average length of stay at the Martinque by a resident was sixteen months. The Koch administration sought to empty the hotel by the end of 1988. Kozol's 1980's study of the homeless, Rachel and Her Children, was set at the Martinique.

I read that. Harrowing. I remember the place boarded up, a dark and malignant presence. Look at it now:

source: wikipedia

In the same area was the McAlpin, which was, of course, the LARGEST IN THE WORLD. In the “notable events” section:

On Christmas Eve 1916, Harry K. Thaw, former husband of Evelyn Nesbit and the murderer of Stanford White, attacked 19-year-old Fred Gump, Jr. in a large suite on the 18th Floor. Thaw had enticed Gump to New York with a promise of a job but instead sexually assaulted him and beat him repeatedly with a stocky whip until he was covered in blood.


According to the New York Times, Thaw had rented two rooms on either side of his suite to muffle the screams. The next day, Thaw's bodyguard took Gump to the aquarium and zoo before the boy managed to escape. Gump's father sued Thaw for $650,000 for the "gross indignities" that his son suffered. It was eventually settled out of court.

People were really sick of this guy.

Anyway, the McAlpin was spared the fate of the Martinique. It’s rentals now, not condos or transient, and will likely remain that way.

The others, well, there’s the Gresham’s Law of tenancy.





It’s 1924.

There’s a lot going on here. Ma Ferguson, who served two non-consecutive terms. You might recall the character from the Woody Harrelson / Kevin Costner movie about tracking down Bonnie and Clyde. I think she was played by Kathy Bates.


During her campaign, she made it clear she was a puppet candidate for her husband, saying voters would get "two for the price of one”. Her speeches at rallies consisted of introducing him and letting him take the platform. A common campaign slogan was, "Me for Ma, and I Ain't Got a Durned Thing Against Pa.” Patricia Bernstein of the Houston Chronicle stated "There was never a question in anyone’s mind as to who was really running things when Ma was governor.”

  Uh -
  Oh. Not exactly a visit.

  He took it on the lam:
  Ah, the old amnesia trick.

He finally proved his identity with an Elks membership card, but said he remembered nothing of the crime. In the end they found out he’d stolen over $100,000, a huge amount of money, and he lost it all playing the stock market.

He got 25 years.

Fine by the rest of us:

  Certainly fits their personalities, no?

The sentences were reduced to life, if you’re unfamiliar with the story. Loeb got shivved in the prison shower 12 years later. Leopold was paroled in 1958, married a florist, and became a lecturer at a university in Puerto Rico.

  The story makes it sound as if the park itself is singing. No, it was mostly kids, part of an annual park celebration that seems to have ended in 1940 when the Aquatennial replaced it.


That’s one chunky name. Horrible story, buried in the back pages. I wonder what became of the kids.

The house has vanished. Perhaps just as well.





That'll do! Enjoy your midweek moments. Old Golds await.





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