Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Carlton Arms Hotel

You might not notice the Carlton Arms Hotel if you pass it walking down 3rd Avenue and 25th Street. The sign is nondescript and, from the outside, the hotel looks like a dive joint, which is what it used to be. But it's so much more. A constantly evolving work of art, the Carlton Arms is often forgotten, though it rivals the Chelsea when it comes to eccentricity.

It's been around for 100-some years. It once had a barn for horses and a speakeasy. In the 1950s, according to its informative website, it became "a hang out for drag queens, prostitutes and drug addicts."

Says a former manager, "By the early '80s, the Carlton Arms was full with madmen, junkies, comedians, ex-cons, pushers and hookers, transvestites, drunks and nuts of all kinds, women who beat you in exchange for your pay, a new generation of hippies and life's lost and lonely. It was a place to bed down and indulge."

At the same time, artists in the early '80s began painting and sculpting throughout the hotel.

Every inch of every wall, in the lobby, hallways, and communal bathrooms, is covered with art. Every room is uniquely bizarre. The people running the place are friendly, and they'll let you peek inside if you visit.

The Carlton Arms is a hidden gem inside the city, a reminder of what New York used to be--and could be again, if we only let it.


Anonymous said...

Great post. Did you check their website, and click on "The Rooms"? You can see the unique art in each of them, along with the room number.

Anonymous said...

Yep, it's amazing that this is still around. Especially after Baruch college pretty much levels most of the block between Lex and Third, which still had some old stables and horse auction building intact into the 90s.

Anonymous said...

(entries to most of the stables were on 24th, btw.)

From A NY Songline:

Among the buildings replaced by the Baruch's Vertical Campus were:

139: A stable built by Fiss, Doerr & Carroll Horse Company, which claimed to be the largest horse dealership in the world. Later was H. Kauffman & Sons Saddlery Co., which used to display Tom Thumb's tiny coach.

145: Was an 1887 stable taken over by Fiss, Doerr & Carroll.

147: Was Fiss, Doerr & Carroll's main horse auction mart--a splendid 1907 Beaux Art building that could seat a thousand customers around an enormous ring.

155: Was Fiss, Doerr & Carroll's seven-story stable, also built 1907. Later became RCA Victor Studios, where Elvis Presley recorded "Hound Dog" and "Don't Be Cruel" in 1956. Other musicians who used the recording facilities here include Marian Anderson, Harry Belafonte and Perry Como.

Anonymous said...

Baruch College is planning to take over that building to convert it into either a dormitories or faculty offices.

Signed D.C. said...

Friends of mine who have stayed there loved it, despite the fact that you've got to padlock the rooms when you leave and ask at the desk for fresh towels and TP. The art looks cool indeed, but I'm a bit of a wimp who needs some maid service myself, plus I'd be a little scared of bedbugs these days--but the place is regarded quite highly at

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post -- I thought the Carlton Arms was a goner, another victim of the Baruch complex that killed those historic buildings on 24th Street.

It's great to learn what REAL New York venues and locations are still left and thriving -- please keep this reportage (what little there may be of it) coming!!

Jeremiah Moss said...

all this baruch talk is scaring me, especially from Anon 12:43. can you say more? is this really happening?

Jeremiah Moss said...

stuytown, yes, i should have mentioned that. the website is great and loaded with pictures. thanks!

Anonymous said...

Who owns the building ? can you contact someone at the web site? The Baruch talk is scaring me too.

I'm tired of hearing of every inch of interesting space in NYC being demolished and glossed (glassed?) over by colleges and "luxury" housing.

thanks VNY! One thing: I do think we must hold Mayor Bloomberg accountable for many of these changes with his rezonings and the phenomenal giveaways to developers. (the statistics on building construction under Mayor Bloomberg and rezonings are through the roof. )

It is not a coincidence that this is happening NOW and so quickly.

Washington Sq Park Blog

Anonymous said...

One of the rooms in that place was painted by the wonderful artist Helen Oliver, whose brother Edgar Oliver is a downtown national treasure. He's doing a one man show at Axis theater later this month all about the rooming house on 10th street where he's lived for 30 years and still does, and where Helen lived for many years too. (Edgar is the last tenant left.) We interviewed the great beat poet Marty Matz in the Helen Oliver room at the Carlton Arms. There are a few good pictures of of that room, as well as one of another hotel kitty they had, in Marty Matz's Goodie.
We always tell our friends who come to town to stay there, and as for bed bugs, they have those at the five star joints too, so don't let that stop you from staying at the Carlton Arms.

steve said...

This is a great place to stay.