Tuesday, October 7, 2014

White House Flop

As Grieve reported yesterday, the White House hostel, nee flophouse, has closed forever on the Bowery. The building has been sold and it looks like the 97-year-old place will be demolished, replaced by a 9-story hotel.

Awhile back, I went in to take a look around before it vanished.

The old Bowery men were mostly gone, just a few "permanent" residents remained. The long, narrow corridors were quiet, except for some snoring.

In 2009, the Times visited the White House before it had been turned into a tourist hostel. They described the lobby: "Residents sit hunched over cans of soda or cups of coffee, eyes closed or staring, lost in silence. A man in a wheelchair whose left leg ends in a stump below the knee can often be found there, listening to music on earphones."

By the time I got there, the lobby was full of young foreign tourists clicking away on laptops. The Bowery men had been bought out for little money, sent away.

Signs still warned, "NO SPITTING."

Guest rooms remained claustrophobic flophouse cubicles, 4' x 6' of paper-thin walls and no ceilings. Inside, I could hear the next-door neighbor's raspy breathing.

The White House was opened in 1917 by a man named Euzebius Ghelardi. They still have a ledger dating back to 1918--hopefully, to be preserved. Maybe it'll end up in this rich guy's basement with the rest of the vanished Bowery.


Pete said...

I stayed there for a week back in 2006 on a trip from London - I decided to go all luxurious and rented myself a double cubicle. Perfectly nice place - if you put in decent earplugs - and it felt like an oasis of old Bowery life. Also a few doors away from Downtown Music Gallery (now forced out to Chinatown) where I was intending to spend most of my money. I think it was about $20 a night.

Even then the surroundings were getting too 'clean' and 'GAP' to be interesting.

Maybe in 30 years time the whole area will be back to how it was. Super-gentrification has got to collapse at some point surely?

Stuart Chamberlain said...

There was a time, before the Bowery went upscale, when the White House had the only cash machine in the neighborhood. I went there often when I was patronizing the local dive bars, all of which are also gone.

Anonymous said...

Jesus Christ..another HOTEL! I am so leaving this city as soon as I can. The greed in this city has ruined life and makes everyday a chore to walk the streets of this once great city.

Anonymous said...

The hotel is in the NoHo Historic District--hopefully LPC will keep it there....

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, You don't need to flee the city. Just downtown/midtown is a tourist trap Disneyland. Upper Manhattan (above Harlem) is real old school New York and the outer boroughs are mostly authentic as well.

Anonymous said...

the things in that "rich guys basement" only survived because for the last 20 years he was pulling them out of dumpsters and demo sites. rich or poor is irrelevant: while the bloggers bemoaned its gentrification and the NIMBYS petitioned for its protection he was actually ON the bowery sifting through 200 year old dust behind demolished walls archiving every historically telling scrap of minutia.
the 2nd african burial ground, the atlantic garden, the bull's head site and others were brought to light because of him. your dismissiveness is completely unwarranted.

having lived half my life on the bowery i feel pure gratitude and respect for that basements contents and hope youre fortunate enough to visit it someday.