11 September 2008

Quite a Corner

This corner at 22nd Street and Broadway in the Flatiron District, now home to the faux-antique charms of Restoration Hardware, has seen its fair share of action in the past. The building is as old as hell without drawing too much attention to the fact. It was built in 1861 and soon after opened as the Glenham Hotel. Madison Square was hotel central back then, home to the grand Fifth Avenue and swank Hoffman House, which sat side by side on Fifth Avenue between 23rd and 25th, and entertained prominent Republicans and Democrats, respectively, as well as plenty of actors and sporting types.

Horace Greeley conducted his campaign for the Presidency from the Glenham in 1872. In the mid-1860s, Jerry Thomas, the most famous bartender of his day, and the first American to publish a guide to mixing cocktails (an American invention that Americans were throwing back with reckless abandon back then), opened up one of his last saloons at this address. It was damned popular, and Thomas did well, buying himself more diamond studs for his ascots. It's a good bet that the most famous men of the day spent a good amount of time here.

Thomas' tavern closed in the mid-1870s and soon after he went broke and died. After that, the fortunes of 935-937 Broadway grew darker. On April 2, 1882, Cornelius Jeremiah Vanderbilt Jr., son of shipping magnate Commodore Vanderbilt, shot himself at the Glenham after a night of drinking and gambling. The Commodore, a mean old bastard, has disowned all by one of his sons, William, upon his death in 1877. Cornelius Jeremiah and three daughters contested the will, but failed after a year of trying (though he did reportedly get a settlement of an extra million). Nothing like being disinherited by the richest man in American, who also just happens to be your daddy, to send your spirits spiraling to the gutter. Compounding Cornelius Jeremiah's troubles was the epileptic fits he had suffered for 25 years.


Anonymous said...

wow. walk by this one every day (6 train to 11 West 19th office) but had no idea it had the kind of history. will have to take a walk around and a closer look on the way home!

Anonymous said...

so i did. nothing really from the outside to tip off the building's history, that i could see. there is space available on the 2nd or 3rd floor. from the look of the inside that you can get from street level, it does look old and a bit run down in some windows. guess somewhat fitting to have a fake old stuff store in a old historic building.