13 February 2008

History in a Starbucks: 1500 Broadway

The land on which this Starbucks now sits, at the southeast corner of Broadway and 43rd, once carried the Barrett House Hotel, where future playwright Eugene O'Neill was born on Oct. 16, 1888. If was only right he should be born in a Broadway hotel. His father was the actor James O'Neill, a once promising talent who became a hack, throwing away his career by performing the same money-making play, "The Count of Monte Cristo," across the nation, year after year. He was, in fact, playing the part in New York when Eugene was born.

The Barrett was only five years old when the O'Neills took a room. It was opened by two brothers, William C and Hooper C. Barrett. William died suddenly of blood poisoning following an operation in 1893. He was 46. By 1901, Hooper had lost control of the hotel and become a bankrupt. Hooper died in 1936.

The Barrett later became the Cadillac Hotel. There was a fire in its restaurant in 1937. The next year, there was a small fire of "undetermined origin" in a linen closet. Sounds like someone wanted to burn the hotel down. The eight-story building was finally razed in 1940. At the time, it was called "old" and a neighborhood "landmark." If Eugene O'Neill cared, he was still alive to see his birthplace come down.

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