Walking up Eighth Avenue in Hell's Kitchen the other night I noticed that the building I once referred to as William Waldorf Astor's Porn Palace was gone.
This was the building on the northwest corner of Eighth Avenue and 46th Street. One of the oldest structures left in the now-almost-completely-gentrified neighborhood, it had been girdled with a sidewalk shed for years, its windows all punched out and half-covered with plywood. For a time, I wondered if it would ever been taken down. Of course, it finally was.
The people who took it down probably only saw an eyesore. I doubt they had an inkling as to its history as a possession of the Astor family. From 1853 to 1921, the Astors owned this corner, as well as a number of properties on W. 46th. (The Astors once owned the building that now houses Barbetta.) They divested themselves of the area when it got a little too raffish for their tastes.
It was no architectural wonder, I know, but I'm sad to see an old brick-and-mortar number from the 19th century disappear nonetheless. My main concern now, though, is what will happen to the faded ad on the brick wall of the building to the north. It's a classic—one of the best left in the City. Layers one on top of the other are antique ads for cigars and "Furnished Rooms. 1 * 2 * 3. Steam Heat. Housekeeping. Hot and Cold Water." The building it's painted on, which is still a house of lodging, albeit not a very nice one.
Astor's Porn Palace was a fairly modest five-story affair, allowing for the old painted ad to be easily seen. A glittering silver tower is set to go up in its place. I fear it will cover up the cigar-rooms advertisement completely.