Van Cortlandt Hotel

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The Van Cortlandt Hotel is a 12-story brick hotel, measuring 64.4 ft. by 98 ft. located midblock on 49th St. east of 7th Avenue. Plans were filed with the New York City Dept. of Buildings in 1901, and construction was completed in 1903. The owner was Hallahan & Ahearn, 218 W. 112th St. Architects were Neville & Bagge, 217 W. 125th St. (Office for Metropolitan History, "Manhattan NB Database 1900-1986," (9 January 2015),

Directories list several names for the hotel prior to being called the Van Cortlandt. These included Cambridge Court Apartments (1904), Cambridge Court Hotel (1905-1907), Hotel Rand (1907-1908), Bayard Hotel (1908-1910), and St. Charles Hotel (1909).

The New York Times, 31 July 1903, reported, "The Cambridge Hotel Company, represented by Attorneys Kellog & Slosson, has taken a twenty-one years' lease of the new apartment hotel at 142 West Forty-ninth Street, at an annual rental of $36,000. The property is owned by Hallahan & Ahearn. It is expected that the building will be ready for occupancy in September."

By December things were in a bit of disarray at the Cambridge Court Hotel. The New York Times, 24 Dec. 1903, had the following, "If any of the guests in the Cambridge Court Hotel at 146 West Forty-ninth Street wanted more steam or any other favor yesterday they got it on the moment, for there were two separate and distinct sets of managers on the premises, each striving hard to please. The lessee, Dr. Wallace Clark, was not in a position to give his personal attention to the wants of his patrons on account of being barricaded in his room on the second floor during most of the day, but his henchmen stood about the office and divided the business with the representatives of Hallahan & Ahearn, contractors, of 218 West One Hundred and Tenth Street, the owners of the building, who claimed possession. ... In the afternoon the crisis in affairs was reached when a petition in bankruptcy was filed against the Cambridge Court Hotel Company, of which Dr. Clark is President, by creditors for several hundred dollars worth of meats, groceries, and oil. The company was incorporated in July 27 last with a capital stock of $15,000 and leased the newly completed building in Forty-ninth Street from Hollahan & Ahearn at a rental said to be $36,500 a year. The hotel was opened in October. Dr. Clark became President and Arthur Hickey Treasurer and manager. The trouble with the owners came to a crisis on Tuesday evening when the representatives of the owners appeared on the premises and claimed that the Clark Company did not have sufficient money on hand to run a hotel of that size, and demanded to be shown that the company was financially capable. Dr. Clark retreated to his rooms on the second floor and refused to be ousted. A state of siege was maintained nearly all day yesterday. When the case got to the United States District Court in bankruptcy proceedings Judge Holt appointed Frederick Wesson receiver of the assets with the power to carry on the business for ten days, and leave to apply for an extension of time. ..."

The ad for the Cambridge Court at 142-146 West 49th St. appeared in the New York Times in 1905.

In 1906 new management took over the Cambridge Court Hotel, which became the Hotel Rand, "F. E. Malone has leased the Cambridge Court Hotel, on Forty-ninth Street, near Broadway, for the owners, Hallihan & Ahearn, for a term of years at an aggregate rental of $600,000. The new tenants, Harry R. Rand and John H. Trageser, took possession yesterday. The house will be known in the future as the Hotel Rand. Mr. Rand was the proprietor of the Hotel Langham and the Hotel Renaissance in San Francisco, both of which were destroyed by the earthquake. Mr. Trageser is the owner of the Trageser Steam Copper Works" (New York Times, 24 Oct. 1906, p. 14). According to The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, by Clifton Fadiman (1985), the Rand was managed by Wilson Mizner (1876-1933). Supposedly he put up two signs in the elevator: "No opium-smoking in the elevators" and "Carry out your own dead."

In 1907 another change in management caused the Hotel Rand to become the Hotel St. Charles, "The John H. Fife Company, has leased the Hotel Rand, at 38 to 42 West Forty-ninth Street, to Henry S. Duncan for eleven years at an aggregate rental of $396,000. Mr. Duncan will change the name of the house to Hotel St. Charles" (New York Times, 17 Nov. 1907, p. 12).

This ad for the St. Charles Hotel appeared in the American Hebrew and Jewish Messenger, 17 Jan. 1908.

Next, in 1908 Fife sold the St. Charles lease to M. P. Meehan, "The John H. Fife Company has sold the lease and good-will of the Hotel St. Charles, at 140 to 144 West Forty-ninth Street, for the St. Charles Hotel Company to M. P. Meehan" (New York Times, 17 May 1908, p. 11). At this point the hotel's name was changed to the Hotel Bayard.

This ad for the Hotel Bayard appeared in Boot and Shoe Recorder, 24 March 1909, p 162. M. F. Meehan is cited as proprietor.

In 1910 the New York Times, 1 Feb. 1910, pg. 15, reported a new lease of the Hotel Bayard, "The John H. Fife Company has negotiated a new lease for the owners, Hallahan & Ahern, of the Hotel Bayard, 140, 142 and 144 West Forty-ninth Street, to the Van Cortlandt Hotel Company, for a term of fifteen years, at an aggregatge rental of over $525,000. The hotel is a modern fire-proof building, twelve stories high, on a plot 65 by 112. The new tenants took possession Friday evening." This would appear to be the first use of Van Cortlandt for the hotel name.

The 1910 U. S. Census recorded a total of 78 persons living at the Van Cortlandt Hotel, 142 W. 49th St. At the head was Clarence H. Nichols, hotel owner, and Louis Jenness, manager.

This ad for the Hotel Van Cortlandt appeared in The New York Clipper, 6 Jan. 1912.

This one for the Hotel Van Cortlandt appeared in the Hudson River Day Line Souvenir Magazine, vol. XXVI, no. 4, Sept.-Oct., 1913.

Yet another ad for the Hotel Van Cortlandt appeared in Variety, vol. XXXVI, no. 1, 4 Sept 1914. Special rates were offered to those in the entertainment business.

In 1914 Trow's Copartnership Directory for New York City listed the following with the Van Cortlandt Operating Co., "George Schuchman, Pres.; Willard E. Howard, V-Pres.; Delano C. Warren, Sec." George Schuchman (1857-1915) was a wagon builder at 134-136 East 41st St. for 30-some years (1883-1915). He was an immigrant from Germany, naturalized 1880 when he lived at 153 2nd Avenue. Schuchman died "At his residence, 142 West 49th St.," 26 May 1915.

The Van Cortlandt Hotel was recorded in the 1915 New York State Census with 76 guests, many of whom were actors, actresses, song writers, etc.

This ad for the Van Cortlandt appeared in the Official Membership Book of the New York State Hotel Association, 1918-19.

In 1918 the Van Cortlandt Hotel Operating Co. filed for bankruptcy, and the lease was acquired by Ferdinand Delenne, who renamed the hotel the Hotel de France, "Maurice P. Davidson of Yankauer & Davidson announced yesterday that the assets of the Van Cortlandt Operating Company, Inc., exclusive of the book accounts and cash in the hands of the receiver, have been sold for $32,000 to Ferdinand & Delenne; that the deal has been concluded and the money paid to the receiver. This included the Van Cortlandt Hotel, at 142 West Forty-ninth Street" (New York Times, 12 Oct. 1918, p. 17).

The 1930 U. S. Census recorded a total of 139 persons living at 140-146 W. 49th St. William S. Clark, age 72, occupation "none," led the list.

In 1931 a remodeling took place, and the name reverted to the Van Cortlandt, "National Club Hotels have commissioned Henry Hohauser, architect, to plan the remodeling of the Hotel de France at 142 West Forty-ninth Street. The name of the hotel is to be changed to the Van Cortlandt" (New York Times, 26 June 1931, p. 45), and "A syndicate headed by M. M. Robinson has taken a twenty-one-year lease on the Hotel de France, at 142 West Forty-ninth Street. The name of the hotel has been changed to the Van Cortlandt. The syndicate plans to modernize the building at a cost of $50,000, including stores for the ground floor" (New York Times, 11 July 1931, p. 29).

The 1940 U. S. Census recorded a total of 111 persons living at the Hotel Van Cortlandt, 142 W. 49th St.

The Van Cortlandt Hotel continued to be listed in the Manhattan telephone directory through 1974. Then it was briefly listed as the 142 West 49th Street Hotel before becoming the Radio City Apartments in the late 1970s. As of January, 2015, the website described the hotel as "a comfortable and affordable hotel hidden in the heart of Mid-Town Manhattan just steps from Rockefeller Center and Times Square."

A later image of the Van Cortlandt sign showed it still intact in 2012.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Grutchfield