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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Hotel McAlpin: 1912

Hotel McAlpin: 1912

New York circa 1912. "Hotel McAlpin, Herald Square." 1,500 rooms with, the sign informs, "communicating baths." 8x10 inch glass negative. View full size.

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Smile for the camera!

Is our precarious friend on the awning having his picture taken?

There It Is

On the lower right side of the picture, our old friend, the United Cigar Store.

Communicating Baths

The hotel I grew up in was built around the turn of the 20th century. Though not as large or luxurious as this one, we did have some rooms with "communicating" baths. This was not exactly a private bathroom; rather the bathroom was shared between two adjoining rooms, with a lockable door on each side. We had no rooms with private baths, at least not until my dad did some remodeling. And most rooms had just a sink, with the toilet down the hall. The second floor public bathroom offered a shower, the only one in the building. In the '60s we rented a room with communicating bath for 5 dollars a night. Rooms with just a sink were 3 bucks nightly. Here's a picture:

The Marine Grill Then

The Marine Grill was a basement rathskeller, and its tile murals were only a fraction of the room's unusually rich terra cotta treatment. The walls, arched piers and vaulted ceilings of the room were completely covered in the colorfully glazed sculptural tiles, with inset light fixtures in the vault crossings. Here is a period postcard that recalls just how much was lost.

It's still there

stretching a full block along the east side of Broadway between 33rd and 34th Streets. No longer a hotel, it's now called Herald Towers and is mainly an apartment building. Buildings on each side are still standing as well.

A closer look

I tried the dizziness trick and it worked. Then I noticed the guys at the top of the building on the right side of the pic. That looked kinda scary until I saw a guy in a suit right over the sidewalk bottom right of the photo. That scared me more than the guys 20 floors above him.


Don't take another step.

Let us speak of the communicating bath

From what I'm able to glean, "communicating bath" means what we would call today a private bathroom, ie. one that is connected to the sleeping room. What a strange turn of phrase, though. It seems to persist abroad, if international hotel advertisements online are any communication - I mean, indication.


one of NY's original radio stations, first started broadcasting from the McAlpin in February 1925. Also, the McAlpin's neighbors to the north and south are still standing!

Sermons in Terra Cotta

The splendid Italian Renaissance-style terra cotta cladding on the hotel's exterior was surpassed only by a set of 20 custom terra cotta tile murals in its Marine Grill. Designed by the American illustrator Frederick Dana Marsh (1872-1961), the murals depicted the history of New York Harbor in six colorful scenes that were repeated throughout the large room. Threatened with demolition when the hotel was converted to a co-op in 1989, the murals were fortunately preserved and were eventually reinstalled in the Broadway/Nassau subway station in 2000. Here is one of the murals. All of the surviving murals can be seen here.


If you open the image to full-size and then scroll up and down quickly with your mouse, it is dizzifying!

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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