Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Boring Postcards

[Posted by Callimachus]

A couple of New York City hotels; the Manger:

... and the Taft:

Notice anything? If you do, you're more observant than I am. It wasn't till I was scanning them in that I noticed they're the same building. Sure enough, the address is identical.

Here's an interesting short history of the place

The massive building on the east side of 7th Avenue between 50th and 51st turns 80 next year, but don't expect any birthday celebrations. For most New Yorkers, the boxy Spanish Renaissance structure barely registers, lost amidst sleek newcomers like Lehman Brothers' headquarters a block away. But the Hotel Taft, as this building was once known, has a long history that reflects all the frenzy of 20th-century Manhattan. When it opened as the Manger in November 1926 (on the site of a railway-car barn), it was the third-largest hotel in the city, with 20 stories, 1750 rooms and a special "key chute" on each floor that whisked lost items straight to the lobby desk.

Among other things I learned, Jimmie Rodgers died here, far from his country music roots, in town to make recordings in a desperate bid to raise money to pay off his medical bills. The line, "For much of its history, the Taft was a low-priced and dependable tourist hotel" explains why these postcards got into my family collection. That was their kind of place.

The grill was home base for Vincent Lopez and his dance band.

Among the stars that began their career with Lopez were Artie Shaw, Xavier Cugot, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Tony Pastor. Also vocalists Betty and Marion Hutton sang with his orchestra but on one occasion, part-time saxophonist Rudy Vallee was told by Lopez NOT to sing... an order he evaded the minute Lopez left the bandstand.

The hotel still operates under an upscale Italian chain as the Michelangelo, N.Y.

But I think my favorite aspect of the Taft is that tap room. That's what a beer bar should be: A bunch of little tables, big enough to hold three pitchers and about 20 mugs, that you can push together at will to form whatever arrangement you please as the night goes on. Some ashtrays. Chairs. Period.