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Two-Bit Hotel: 1921

Two-Bit Hotel: 1921

New York, July 5, 1921. "Lanier Hotel -- Rooms 25 cents." From the clues provided in the photo, who can pinpoint the location of this fleabag hostelry? 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. View full size.


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Lanier Hotel, colorized.

I had a go at a colorized version.

Windsor Vaudeville

The Bowery
Located across the street from the landmark Bowery Theatre, this less prestigious house is best remembered as a home for the Yiddish theatre in the 1890s and early 1900s. David Kessler and Jacob Adler starred in numerous productions here. Musicals101 is seeking more information on this theatre, and will post it when available.

I'll take the sirloin, thank you

It is cheaper than the pig's feet!

A Male World

From the nomination to add "The Bowery Historic District" to the National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service:

[T]he entertainment district degenerated over the course of the second half of the nineteenth century, and saloons and beer dives proliferated, the Bowery attracted legions of rootless individuals, often afflicted with mental illness and addiction. In 1863-4, the songwriter Stephen Foster lived in a lodging house at 15 Bowery. He reportedly spent much of his time in the back of grocery at Chrystie & Hester Streets, composing songs mostly written for minstrel shows. A tragic figure, Foster’s alcoholism has been implicated in his death: found unconscious on the floor of the lodging house in mid-January, 1864, he died two days later at Bellevue Hospital. By 1890, it was estimated that 9,000 homeless men, many of them alcoholics or gambling addicts, found lodging on the Bowery and Park Row. Bowery flophouses were a male world.

A range of accommodations was available at a range of prices: At the turn of the twentieth century, a 25¢ hotel, with private room and clean sheets, was the top of the line; the more populated 15¢ lodging house might “provide little wooden cubicles about four feet by seven” and offer you dirty sheets; a 10¢ might be one of the “cheapest and most undesirable places lodg[ing] the men in dormitories; 7¢ could get you a squalid hammock in a windowless subcellar (as exposed by reformer Jacob Riis); and for 5¢, the literal flophouse offered no more than a person-sized spot to flop on a wooden floor, and a veritable guarantee of communicable disease and lice.

10 cent Pils

Pils is short for Pilsner, your basic light lager beer. How can beer be served during Prohibition? Is "Pils" a local shorthand for near-beer? Today Pils is a common beer style in Germany and elsewhere. Could 1921 off by a year or so?

[You've never heard of Prohibition beer? Below, a pilsener ad from 1925. - Dave]

Four Star Accommodations

For all that money I hope they offer free Wi-Fi.

Far from My Old Kentucky Home!

This was a flophouse even then -- 15 Bowery. Steven Foster lived here, and in 1864 was taken from here to die at Bellevue Hospital.

Now Confucius Plaza Apartments - Chinatown!

Above the opened windows

are faded letters that read WINDSOR VAUDEVILLE.

Price Differential

The 20-cent rooms faced onto the air shaft through which the aroma (stench?) of frying kidneys was vented.

That Is a Cheap Hotel

Even in today's debased currency, that would be only $3.25 (I'm assuming per day.)

It does make you wonder what extras you get for the additional nickel, though. A private room instead of a shared one?


Meals were cheap because they saved money not having to print menus. What do you get with a 25¢ room that you don't with the 20¢? A bed? Door? Valet service?

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