Monday, February 13, 2012

The Elk Hotel

VANISHED

This weekend, we got the following note from an anonymous commenter: "Yesterday, a sign was posted on the front door of the Elk Hotel simply saying 'Hotel Closed.'"

I followed up with a phone call and spoke to a gentleman who confirmed it, saying, "We're closed. No more hotel no more." Closed for good? "For good."



We've been watching this one for awhile, waiting for the venerable old hot-sheets flop to fall, especially once the luxury glass towers started rising all around it at 42nd and 9th. Still, it always stings to get the news. And I regret never going inside--they rented rooms by the hour, after all--just for a look, to soak in the atmosphere. (I never went into the Shore Hotel, either.)

A New York Observer writer rented a room in 1999. He called the Elk "one of the few surviving remnants of 42nd Street’s seamy and seedy side, a barely living connection to the gray days when Times Square was the reigning kingdom of sex and sin."


Trip Advisor

Nothing much had changed by 2004 when the New York Times went in and asked a pair of sightseers how they liked the accommodations. ''Other than the mice, the hookers and the transvestites,'' said one, ''it's fine.''

And the same goes right up until now. Last summer, a commenter to my original post about the Elk wrote in situ: "I'm currently In the elk hotel As I write this . I've been coming here for the last 25 years, and this hotel hasnt changed much.there's a constant stream of prostitution and drugs flowing throughout the building."


my flickr

14 to 42 dates the Elk Hotel back to 1925. A grandchild of the long-ago owners, writing anonymously at my original post, provides a running historical narrative there, stating that George M. Cohan slept at the hotel and "Yes there is a STRONG FORCE up above in Heaven now keeping the ELK from the wrecking ball!"

But after 87 years, that heavenly force must have finally given up. The Elk has gone to the vanished New York--and that fantastic Pepsi-Cola sign, always reminding us that something seedy yet remains, will likely be going with it.


my flickr

24 comments:

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

I spent some time there in the 70s, when it was a sleazy drug addicted place. My girlfriend even slashed her wrists there, was sewn up in the hospital on 50th St and 8th Ave (I forget the name) and transferred to Bellevue. I wrote about it in Times Queer, more or less, but kept the name Elk Hotel in the story.

Eric Taub said...

Mykola, I think you mean St. Clare's, on 9th between 51st and 52nd? Its closing was a sad forerunner of the crime of closing St. Vincent's.

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

Sorry, yes you're right, St. Clair's. But does anyone remember the big Polyclinic Hospital on 50th between 8 & 9th? I can remember as a little kid I saw Marilyn Monroe being wheeled in there, I don't know what she was suffering from probably a belly ache ;)

EV Grieve said...

Wonder what will become of that Pepsi-Cola/Elk sign...

Marty Wombacher said...

I love that shot of the Pepsi sign. Sad to see the wrecking ball finally hitting this place, and I wish I had gone in and checked it out while it was still here.

Goggla said...

Sigh. The Elk brings back (unpleasant) memories of a rough time in my life when I was 'between homes' and had nowhere to go. Walking that stretch of 42nd still makes me uneasy, but I'm still sad to see it vanish. So much history...

Anonymous said...

I love this hotel more than I can even explain.

It fucking was New York for me.
I'm so fucking sad right now.

The Story of S said...

For fun and fantasy in the 80s, my girlfriend would dress like a tawdry whore and lead me by the wrist as I acted like an awkward john visiting for a trade show into another one of these hot-sheet, by-the-hour hotels: this one in Chelsea on 28th east of Sixth.

After she paid the South Asian clerk, we'd walk past the pimps and the ladies loitering in the lobby, up to a room on the second floor with a mirror on the ceiling above the bed.

It really added to the thrill of the sex as much as the coke did.

I miss NY.

laura said...

sorry folks, not down w/this one. this is a part of new york care less about. & would not go near this place. the only thing i do wonder is where will the girls go? people have to work, will they be priced out?

Ed said...

Now I'm curious. Though there is a long list of things wrong with them, these hotels did provide a service. Where will people who need to buy what these places were selling go? New Jersey?

One of the ways the United States has been unique is that until recently it was rich enough that children could leave home soon after they became adults and set up on their own, either with income from jobs they found right after leaving school or, more often more recently, with their parents' assistance. These days are pretty much over. But they never really got started in many other countries. In other places, since you have many generations living in close quarters, you often find "love hotels" that charged by hour that young adults use since they can't just go to each others' apartments to finish the evening. And since much of their clientele is made up of "normal", respectable, people, they are not really like hourly hotels in the U.S., many are actually pretty nice places, though the one my now-wife took me to in her country did have the mirrors in odd places.

Well, the multigenerational household is making a comeback in the U.S., but at least in New York the tawdry American version of the "love hotel" is disappearing. There is going to be a void that will be filled, but it looks like it won't be filled by the places that were already kinda sorta providing a similar function.

Anonymous said...

I "stayed" here once by the hour. I was a teen and coulden't go back home to have sex with this hot dude I had met. I think it was 35 for the hour. It was DIRTY. Roaches up the walls under the sheets. Needles strewn under the sheets and floors. This guy left me with a big mess and there were no towels to clean up with and I did not want to touch the sheets. I am actually glad I got a chance to be in this place to REMIND ME NEVER TO DO THAT AGAIN. I had also once been to the Longshoreman Hotel in Meatpacking Area that they now re-did. It was also seedy with slayed trannies and so forth but much better than this place.

Little Earthquake said...

Not exactly shedding a tear over this one, though I do find places like this fascinating from a distance.

esquared said...

I'm just going to re-post Gena's comment on this:

"What this is about is Character. For New York to maintain its character, it needs its seedy places. That doesn't mean I will go to them. That doesn't mean you will go to them. That means they need to be there.

"What is happening to New York is that all seedy places, and all mom-and-pop stores are being replaced by chain places, with prices designed for tourists. When all of New York becomes chain-store-a-fied, it ceases to be New York and becomes one giant mall."

Mark Schulte said...

Although they are no longer accepting customers, there are about a dozen legal rent-regulated tenants still residing there & I am one of them. Landlord Martin Sanders is engaging in all sorts of illegal tactics to get us out. He bought out most of the tenants with 5 Grand cash. This past Saturday at 8:30 AM a demolition crew came in, removed all the doors from unoccupied rooms & carted everything out but the sinks. Last night when I returned they had shut off the heat & hot water. Please pray for us that we can negotiate a decent relocation package.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Mark Schulte, i got your comment, thank you. i would like to hear more about your situation. would you please email me at jeremoss@yahoo.com?

Greek Girl from Queens said...

Reminds me of one of the more run-down hotels that Joe Buck (aka Jon Voight) stayed in or 'frequented' - probably because I just watched 'Midnight Cowboy' last night. An amazing film, a real historic timepiece about the way NYC looked in the 60's and 70's.

Mark Schulte said...

Yes, it looks like it's frozen in time. That's one of the reasons I've enjoyed living there all these years. Of course, the fact that the rents are also frozen in time doesn't hurt either. My legal rent, including utilities, is $320 a month. Another tenant was paying $180. She could pay her rent by panhandling alone. Where does Martin Sanders expect us to go?

Anonymous said...

How awful! All of my memories about that place involve me puking in the hallways.

It was inevitable, though.

The worst part is that that's where I started to get my ketamine lately...where am i going to get it now?!?!

Jonathan said...

I know I'm a bit late to the conversation but I found your blog doing a search on 'SRO Hotels' (single-room occupancy), as I've noticed so many are being torn down with boutique hotels or $4 million condos taking their place.
It's really a shame. I worked at the Duluth YWCA (Duluth, MN) hotel for ten years until it closed for good in 2009. It was the last hotel of it's kind in downtown; now the other 'seedy hotels' have closed as well, leaving people with two options: Section 8 waiting lists or a free Greyhound bus ticket paid for by the city. Unfortunately, any destination is certain to be more expensive than here, and my hunch is less of these hotels, and more condos. Where are the people who need these services going?

They're going to places like Grand Forks, ND or Niagara Falls, NY, maybe Brownsville, TX or Superior, WI. It's an ironic twist: the eccentric, sometimes artsy, often eclectic energy that these hotel residents bring was what made NYC so interesting - you saw a side of society that finally found a place to be comfortable, and that culture is what made New York and San Francisco interesting - people watching could take up a whole afternoon. So over the next 30 years you'll see that eclectic energy in these small to mid-size towns in the cheapest small/mid-size cities, while the NYC and SF type cities will be nothing but investment bankers, attorneys and systems analysts. It's great to see progress in the major cities in the US, but I don't see anything fun or interesting about the people who will be making up most of the population in the future in NYC. It's hard to believe that Grand Forks, North Dakota or Superior, Wisconsin will be the place to go to see street theater and starving artists.

There really needs to be a revival of low-cost housing similar to what the YMCA and YWCA used to provide to those just starting out in larger cities. As it stands, either you have to have rich parents, or live with 6 people and maybe get a bedroom to yourself, for an outrageous amount of money.

Joseph Shedd said...

Seedy hotels with hourly rates, peep shows, hookers, dirty streets…as a midwesterner in my mid-30′s, THIS is what I think of when I picture Times Square and New York City. It’s nice to know that it still exists, even if just in small pockets.

Anonymous said...

Is there anyone here who lived at the Elk back in the late 70s, early 80s? There was a girl in her 20s who lived there- from Detroit and I'm wondering if anyone knew of anyone like that?

Harry said...

Hi
It was up to all to choose which one of the two alternatives had a better offer.

David Butterini said...

Does anyone still live here? I have been trying to gain access for a photography project of mine.

Mark Schulte said...

No, David, it's totally empty now. I was the last hold-out legal tenant & was there alone months after the other tenants left. I moved out in mid-August 2012, nearly 11 months ago now, after receiving a fair compensation agreement with the landlord. I highly doubt that he would let you inside but you can always try. I also noticed that the Pepsi Cola/Hotel sign is now gone.