Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Then and Now: The New Yorker, NYC

The New Yorker Hotel at 8th Avenue and 34th Street, Manhattan

The New Yorker, 8th Avenue and 34th Street, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
The New Yorker, 8th Avenue at 34th Street, in 1979.
One of the things I like most about Manhattan is the old-time glamor that permeates certain sections of town. The most noticeable example of that is in midtown, around 34th Street, which was the heart of New York when art deco was at its height. The New Yorker Hotel is one of those unique New York institutions which has survived while others have fallen by the wayside. Now officially called the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel, it is located at 481 Eighth Avenue in New York City. It opened in 1930 during the height of the skyscraper building boom and, like the others that arose around the same time such as the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building, it is designed in the art deco style. When I saw the above photo of the New Yorker from 1979, I decided to see what the same scene looks like now. So, I did a comparison of the New Yorker from 1979 to 2017.

The New Yorker, 8th Avenue and 34th Street, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
Undated photo of the New Yorker, ca. 1940 (courtesy New Yorker Hotel).
For over 30 years, the New Yorker retained its original coal-fired steam boilers and generators capable of producing more than 2,200 kilowatts of direct current electric power. This, of course, ran counter to the general use of alternating current developed by Nikolai Tesla. Thus, it was somewhat ironic that Tesla chose to live in the New Yorker for the last decade of his life, from 1934 to 1943. He liked to sit in Central Park and feed the pigeons. After he passed away, MIT Professor John Trump was asked by the government to review his papers for anything significant. John Trump was the uncle of Donald Trump.

The New Yorker, 8th Avenue and 34th Street, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
The New Yorker Hotel ca. 1948.
The New Yorker went through a  number of weird detours over the years. In 1975, the Unification Church of the United States led by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon bought the then-vacant building for $5.6 million. Used for various religious purposes, the hotel acquired an almost mystical reputation. The Unification Church still owns the New Yorker Hotel and reopened it as a hotel in 1999 after spending five years upgrading it. The New Yorker Hotel joined the Wyndham Hotels chain in March 2014.

The most noticeable thing about the New Yorker from street level is probably the sign. The original sign stopped working in 1967 during the hotel's troubled times, and it was not replaced (with a new LED version) until 2005. Otherwise, except for some cosmetic improvements, the

The New Yorker, 8th Avenue and 34th Street, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
34th Street looking east toward 8th Avenue, NYC, November 2017 (Google Street View).
Getting the right street was a little tricky for the original view because the entrances of the New Yorker looks very similar on both the 8th Avenue and 34th Street sides. The original photo was taken on 34th Street looking east toward Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, and Macy's - all of which, of course, remain there. The Empire State Building was almost invisible in the original photo, which just goes to show how misty it can get in Manhattan when it rains. Otherwise, the scene hasn't changed very much, though the low building across the street at the northeast corner of 34th Street and 8th Avenue has been pretty well hidden behind signage.

The New Yorker, 8th Avenue and 34th Street, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
The New Yorker, looking up 8th Avenue from 34th Street, November 2017 (Google Street View).
If you peek around the corner to the left and look uptown on Eighth Avenue, the New Yorker looks very similar. While not as famous, the building just beyond the New Yorker on Eighth Avenue, 505 Eighth Avenue, also was built in 1930, and the one next to it, 519 Eighth Avenue, was built in 1927. They are perfectly functional buildings but don't have that distinctive art deco look, so nobody really pays them much mind as tourist attractions.

I hope you enjoyed this entry in our "the more things change, the more they stay the same" series. The massive piles in the center of Manhattan have had an enduring quality that retains the mystique of the 1930s while remaining very much in the here and now. Please visit some of our other pages in this series!

2019

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