- Historic Sites
II. On The Town
Where do you stay? What will it cost? How do you get a drink? Where to eat? What will that cost ? What’s playing? Is it a talkie? How many people live here, anyway? What kind of place is this? All the answers are here.
November 1988 | Volume 39, Issue 7
Then, as now, everyone came to New York sooner or later. One 1929 guide explained that “the equivalent in numbers of the entire population of the United States visits the City in less than three years. ” Guidebooks, magazines, and newspapers helped the throngs sort it all out. On the next dozen pages the editors have assembled a good deal of raw information from these guides, and marshaled it to let you move easily through Manhattan in its most glamorous era. Even though you can’t go there, we hope that this anthology may succeed in imparting something of the shimmering, elusive essence of the place.
Stop in at the U.S. Assay office…and exchange your gold in any form valued at not less than $100, for money.
There is no safer city in the world than New York. Newspaper headlines to the contrary are largely sensationalism, playing up crimes and accidents of the day generally out of all proportion to their number or real importance. Women alone, or accompanied by young children, may be assured of safety and comfort in New York.…
In small towns like “Gopher Prairie,” the visitor is spotted at once, either by speech or dress or manner, or by mere “newness,” as he steps from the train, as he treads the quiet streets.…In New York the most unfamiliar type is the New Yorker —that almost unknown, practically nonexistent specimen, the native born Manhattanite. It is he, rather than the visitor, who is curious; yet he, poor dear, claims no special distinction, moves in no separate aura, nor ventures criticism of the hordes of aliens which possess his city — looks askance at none, accepts all.
— How to Enjoy New York, Official Membership Publication of the New York Visitors’ Association Inc., 1925
New York may not be America but it is New York. And New York stands outside comparison. It is without doubt one of the most remarkable places existent now, and one of the most remarkable in history. It is a portent of this and the coming time, the towering apex of a growing pyramid of civilisation. At the same time it is not natural. In some respects it is grander than Nature, for there is more to marvel at in a skyscraper than in a mountain, and there is the illusion of more light flashing off its dynamos than from the revolving sun itself. It is a monument of human artifice.…
New York stands outside comparison. It is a portent of this and the coming time, the towering apex of a growing civilisation. At the same time it is not natural.
I walked the streets of New York a long while before I found poetry. There was majestic and glittering prose, but no glamour, no softness, no tenderness, no emotional relief even in the secret aftermidnight hours, sanctified by the sleeping, by the invincible stars and the quietude of the rivers.
Subway and elevated ride. 5 cents.
Taxicab. 50 cents first mile or fraction thereof; 20 cents each additional half mile.
Rental car. $2.50 per hour; $15.00 per day.
Garage parking. $1.00 per day; 50 cents to a dollar for cleaning and polishing.
“Large and Expensive Hotels of the Very First Rank”
AMBASSADOR. Single, $8.00 per night; suite, $16.00.
RTTZ-CARLTON. Single, $8.00; double, $10.00; suite, $20.00.
WALDORF-ASTORlA. Single, $6.00; double, $9.00; suite, $20.00.
BILTMORE. Single, $8.00; double, $12.00; suite, $25.00.
PLAZA. Single, $6.00; double, $8.00; suite, $15.00.
ASTOR. Single, $4.50; double, $7.00; suite, $15.00. Typical Midtown Hotel. Single with bath, $3.00; double with bath, $5.00.
Typical Downtown Hotel. Single with bath, $2.50; double with bath, $3.50.
Theater Tickets. Gallery, 50 cents to $1.00; orchestra, $3.50 to $4.00 (not including 10% War Tax).
Metropolitan Opera. $2.00 to $7.00.
Baseball tickets at Polo Grounds or Ebbets Field. Bleachers, 25 to 50 cents; grandstand, $1.00; box seats, $2.00.
Movies. Daytime, 15 to 25 cents; evenings, 25 to 40 cents.
Morning newspaper. 2 cents.
Evening newspaper. 3 cents.
Sunday newspaper. 5 cents.
Messenger. 30 cents per hour plus car fare.
Private room in St. Luke’s Hospital. $3.50 to $12.00 per day.
Rand McNally 1926 Guide to New York. 50 cents.
New York practically has no strictly American restaurants, with food cooked in the native manner and served in the simple home style. One of the hardest things to buy in New York is genuine American cooked and served foods. The few exceptions are some of the oyster houses, dairy lunch rooms and occasional tea rooms that specialize in southern dishes prepared by a negro cook.…In the leading houses the chef is French; in a considerable portion of the others, he is German, Viennese or Italian. The waiters are almost universally foreign. In fact, the main distinction between the American and the foreign restaurant is that the former professes to cater to the American taste, while the latter tends to exaggerate its foreign features and make the most of their advertising value.
— Rider’s New York City — a Guide-Book for Travellers, 1923
Nearly all Italian restaurants feature table d’hote dinners. Usually these include antipasto (the Italian hors d’oeuvre in which is included many small fish), minestrone or a thin consomme, spaghetti or ravioli (and with excellent sauces), chicken or steak, lettuce salad, and either caramel custard, spumoni, biscuit Tor- toni or apple cheese. The lunches are lighter versions of the dinners.
Among the Italian specialties that are excellent and not included on many table d’hotes are broccoli with browned butter and cheese or Hollandaise sauce, veal scallopine, gnocchi Romano, and zucchine.
Enrico & Paglierri — 66 W. llth St. Lunch, 85c; Dinner, $1.35 Week days: Saturday, Sunday and Holidays, $1.50 and a la carte.
Sardi’s, 234 W. 44th St. — Lunch, 8Oc to $1.25; Dinner, $1.50 and a Ia carte.
The French table d’hote is usually like the Italian. The a Ia carte is much better. Nearly all the food is good if the restaurant is good, and chicken cooked in any manner is always dependable. The best vegetables in the world are served at Longchamps.
Louis, 154 W. 50th St. — Lunch, 5Oc; Dinner, $1.10 Week days; Saturday, Sunday and Holidays, $1.25 and a la carte.
Longchamps, 19 W. 57th St., 55 5th Ave., 423 Madison Ave., 1015 Madison Ave., a la carte.
Charles, 138 6th Ave. — A la carte Dinner, Sunday, $1.75.
One of the hardest things to buy in New York is genuine American cooked and served foods. The few exceptions are some oyster houses and dairy lunch rooms.
Rich, heavy but grand meats and gravies are served at these restaurants. Luchow’s have apple pancakes that are really dreams of apple pancakes.
Luchow, 110 E. 14th St. —Ala carte.
A la carte dinners include more strange foods than ever Fanny Farmer dreamed. If you order sukiyaki you can cook it at your table, which is quite a lot of fun. This food is nothing like Chinese.
Daruma, 781 6th Ave. — Lunch, 60c; Dinner, $1 and $1.25 and a la carte.
Henry’s Smorgasbord is an adventure. Fast three days before attempting a Swedish table d’hote dinner.
Henry’s, 69 West 36th St. — Lunch, $1.25; Dinner, $2.00.
Curry is inevitable. Ditto rice. Ditto atmosphere.
Ceylon Indian Inn, 148 W. 49th St. — Dinner, 85c to $3.00 and a la carte.
— Gotham Guide, 1926
The Hearthstone, 174 West 4th Street. One of the few places in the Village where you are sure of having home cooking. You are never turned out to make room for others. And Mrs. Lyons offers second helpings!
The Pickwick Inn, 123 West 44th Street, is an eating place not to be missed, either for luncheon or dinner. Its customers say that they get more and better food for less money than anywhere else in town.
The Roosevelt, Madison Avenue at 45th Street. New York City’s newest and finest hotel with an unexcelled table in all its departments.
New York Exchange for Woman’s Work, 541 Madison Avenue. A choice restaurant for ladies, serving all meals. Cakes and fancy articles for sale.
Mary Elizabeth, Fifth Avenue and 36th Street. This dainty eating place is worth many visits by those who like discrimination in their choice.
Ye Cheshire Cheese, Seventh Avenue and 47th Street. Not a replica of Dr. Johnson’s old rendezvous in London, but serving a dainty meal worth trying.
Greenwich Village Inn, 5 Sheridan Square. Probably the smartest place in the village but with sufficient atmosphere.
Palais D’Or, Broadway and 49th Street. This institution is the old Palais Royal under new management. The old atmosphere remains, the music and cabaret is up to standard but prices are lower.
Little Hungary, 257 East Houston Street. Out of the beaten track but one of the downtown places that the traveler should not miss, particularly on New Year’s Eve.
— The Rand McNally New York Guide, 1926
Don Dickerman has…produced the Pirates’ Den [at 8 Christopher Street, where] the waiters are disguised as pirates of the 18th century, and except for their mild eyes and blameless mouths are a fearsome looking crowd. They stage scenes from “Treasure Island,” and ship brawls, they fire shots, break into outrageous talk, start old-fashioned disputes and clash cutlasses. The den is dark. It has its wonderful parrot. You drink cider from old mugs and stare at fullbodied sailors in cotton vests and corded breeches and knee boots with hanging leather flaps, at the walls of the smoky cellar hung with maps, toy-ships, fishes’ skeletons, whales’ vertebrae, picks from Cocos Island.…Suddenly there is a squall of thunder and lightning, and the band and its platform raised by pulleys begin to mount to the upper deck. The sound of a ship’s bell breaks through the noise of the mock storm. Voices are heard from various parts of the imaginary ship. “All quiet on the main deck, sir!”…“Forward light burning bright!”…“Prisoners safe in the brig!”
“Good kid stuff, don’t you think?” enquires Dickerman, admiring his own artifice.…
I think of the words of the poet “Come, be a child once more” as invisibly written over the portals of the Pirates’ Den. Not that New York people need the invitation.…
—Stephen Graham, New York Nights, 1927
…I knew the other clerks and young bond-salesmen by their first names, and lunched with them in dark, crowded restaurants on little pig sausages and mashed potatoes and coffee…
I took dinner at the Yale Club — for some reason it was the gloomiest event of my day — and then I went upstairs to the library and studied investments and securities for a conscientious hour.…After that, if the night was mellow, I strolled down Madison Avenue past the old Murray Hill Hotel, and over 33d Street to the Pennsylvania Station.
I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night, and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless eye.…At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others — poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner.…
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 1925