There’s a small hotel

One thing we love about New York City is the through line that connects those who once lived here with the eight million residing here currently.

In our hometown of Oklahoma City, this connection is tenuous at best. It’s not that easy to find recognizable locations, sites, and structures in old pictures of OKC—it’s just not that old a town. If somehow a Oklahoma Cityan of 1910 could time travel to the present day, we’re not sure he or she would find much that was recognizable.

But a New Yorker traveling to the present from 1910, while he’d still be amazed by all the changes that had taken place, could find plenty of recognizable landmarks: The Statue of Liberty, the Flatiron Building, City Hall, Bowling Green, the Great Hall at Cooper Union, Carnegie Hall, the city’s great parks—we could go on and on.

And there are thousands of small residential buildings still in use that were around 100 years ago, too.

We recently spent a little time browsing the photography collection at the Museum of the City of New York’s web site, and we were delighted to find a 1921 photograph of the old Allerton House at 22nd Street and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, which is right down the street from Cladrite HQ.

Allerton House, Southwest Corner of Eighth Avenue and 22nd Street. Byron Company (New York, NY). From the collections of the Museum of the City of New York.

When we moved to this neighborhood twenty-one years ago, the Allerton was what is often referred to as a welfare hotel. Folks who were down on their luck lived there under the auspices of the city’s social services organizations. We were unfamiliar with the hotel’s history, and we sometimes wondered how that once-proud structure had come to suffer its then-current fate, just as we often mused over how the folks who resided there found themselves down on their luck.

Years passed, and the hotel was sold. It’s since been spruced up (though, thankfully, the exterior has not been noticably changed) and is now a semi-fancy hotel called the Gem.

It’s perhaps a reflection of the current economic times that the two commercial spaces on the ground floor of the Gem have remained empty, except for an occasional pop-up art exhibit, over the two or three years the hotel’s been in operation. At least when it was still called the Allerton and served as something of a timeworn sanctuary for folks trying to get back on their feet, there was a Subway sandwich shop in the ground floor.

But what we really wish was still taking up the ground floor of the Gem was the haberdashery that occupied that space in 1920. If you go to the MCNY web site, you can see an enlarged version of the picture we’ve shared with you above, and, in that hi-res version, you’ll see what we mean. The windows of the clothing are filled with men’s shirts and suits and, best of all, literally dozens of men’s hats—fedoras, bowlers, derbies, you name it.

Oh, how we wish that shop were still in operation, but of course, when we say that, what we really mean is that we wish the still-operational shop would be selling the very wares in which they were trafficking in 1920, and that wouldn’t, of course, be the case, even if the shop had somehow managed to survived all these years.

Still, one can dream, no?

23 Skidoo!

We very much enjoyed Helene Stapinski’s NY Times profile of one of our favorite NYC buildings, the venerable Flatiron Building, which sits at 23rd Street, where Fifth Avenue and Broadway, criss-cross, and we think you will, too.

We learned a little something, too, reading the article. For instance, we didn’t know that the building’s 21st floor was an add-on, in 1905 — constructed three years after the building’s initial completion.

And while we had a vague notion that the Flatiron housed publishing concerns, we didn’t know that Macmillan Publishers and its various imprints take up the entire structure, save for the commercial spaces on the ground floor.

There’s also a slideshow, with contemporary and historical photos of the Flatiron (and a few of its tenants).

Here’s a tip not found in Ms. Stapinski’s story, for you out-of-towners who hope to one day visit NYC: Directly across the Fifth Avenue from the Flatiron, just a door or two north of 22nd Street, sits Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop, an old-school lunch counter of the type you just don’t fine anymore. It’s not quiet as old as the Flatiron, but any business that opened in the economically bleak year of 1929 and has managed to stick around for 81 years is doing something right.

Both the Flatiron and its culinary neighbor across the avenue are don’t-misses.