Since I became a location scout, it’s been my dream to get into the old McKittrick Hotel at 530 West 27th Street.
Built in 1939, the McKittrick Hotel is said to have been one of New York City’s finest, providing lavish accommodations on a far more intimate level than larger hotels like the Waldorf~Astoria or Plaza Hotel could manage.
Before long, the McKittrick became the place to be and be seen, and the upper crust found themselves fighting for reservations years in advance. Alfred Hitchcock, an early guest, would later name the hotel in Vertigo after the McKittrick, having so enjoyed his stay:
However, despite its initial success, the McKittrick did not survive the year. Mere days after its opening, World War II broke out, and the fortunes of the McKittrick quickly soured as reservations were canceled and prices dropped. Barely able to pay staff wages, let alone the millions of dollars of debt, the McKittrick – along with countless other New York City hotels – closed its doors and was sold.
Finding any history on 530 West 27th Street beyond this point is difficult. There are a few minor NY Times articles about attempts to re-open the McKittrick as a hotel throughout the 1950′s, but nothing ever seems to have panned out.
You can find the address via a Google Books search in a handful of print advertisements through the 1960′s and 1970′s, suggesting it might have been used as a commercial/office space (a taxidermy shop was once located in “Suite 3F”). But pickings are slim, and after 1978 – nothing.
For as long as I’ve known it, 530 West 27th Street has been padlocked and under scaffolding. When I learned about its past as a hotel as a year or two ago, I tried to get inside to see if anything still remained of the old McKittrick – but I couldn’t even find a phone number.
I figured the McKittrick Hotel, like Hart Island, was simply one of those insanely cool New York places I’d never get to explore.
Then, out of the blue last Friday, I got a letter from someone who I can only describe as having access to the property. The person is a big fan of my site, and told me, if I was interested, she could sneak me in to see something “incredible.”
I met her later that afternoon.
Inside the front door is an entrance hallway, and I was immediately surprised by the decor…
…wallpaper that appeared to be decades old…
…with dusty lamp lit paintings lining the walls. I started to ask my guide if this was from the old McKittrick, but she told me to wait a minute…
And then we turned a corner, and I found myself in the original McKittrick lobby.
For a second, I couldn’t speak.
Other than minor alterations, like new lighting and exit signs, this is EXACTLY what guests would have seen when the McKittrick Hotel first opened in 1939, carefully preserved for over 70 years.
I’m even told the furniture and decorations, down to the pool balls in the billiard room, are original to the hotel. But how was any of this possible??
Apparently, the hotel was never sold. Despite significant debt, the hotel remained in the McKittrick family over the years. Parts of it were indeed leased as office space for a period in the 1960′s and 1970′s (you can find remnants of a taxidermist’s shop on an upper level), but it ultimately wasn’t worth the money.
The debt was slowly but surely paid off as the property was handed down through two McKittrick generations with the hope that it would someday find new life as a hotel. And after a decades long wait, it appears that process is finally beginning again.
In the lobby: three original phone booths. The lines are STILL working, and are believed to be among the oldest exchanges in the city. And yes, that’s a ROTARY payphone inside:
Another awesome feature: the key rack behind the check-in desk.
Each room in the hotel is opened by a skeleton key (I’m told this tradition will continue when the hotel reopens):
The check-in desk ledger and lamps. Note the old call bell:
The hotel’s original phone – again, still working after all these years.
A notepad on the counter:
The beautiful handmade lobby rug, purchased by one of the McKittrick’s in Turkey in the early 1940′s for less than $8.
A chandelier, which once held lit candles (electrified, one of the few “modern” changes):
An old radio that once broadcast 1940′s programs for guests. In fact, news of the war’s beginning was heard through its speaker. My tour guide asked that I excuse the dust on the floor (the McKittrick is still undergoing significant cleaning):
Much of the furniture was covered with sheets for protection. Below, a piano in the far corner of the lobby:
A side table…
…with ash trays (funny to think how the original founders would react to the stringent NYC smoking laws of today)…
An interesting nook with what appears to be package slots…
An old ash tray:
A lounge table, and three dusty shot glasses – one wonders when these were from:
I desperately wanted to open one of these letters…
But my tour guide strictly forbade it. It was about this point that I started getting the sense she was having second thoughts about inviting me inside.
From there, we moved into a small, VERY dark parlor…
My favorite feature: a beautiful wall decoration made of peacock feathers. Again, all original to the hotel:
On the table:
My guide then brought me into the smaller of the hotel’s two dining rooms:
Tables were still set as if visitors were expected later that evening. Note the monogrammed napkins:
I noticed one of the hotel’s stranger elements on the dining room wall…
Crosses formed from spoons and knives, stuck into piles of salt. Perhaps something to do with a family symbol?
Nearby was a powder room…
An old hair brush – with hair!
And strangely, sheet music:
The longer I explored the McKittrick, the more something felt…off about it. Behind the front desk, I found this strange sculpture in one of the corners…
According to my tour guide, vagrants were found be living in the hotel following its demise, and are thought to be responsible.
Then again, there’s some belief that these strange icons may have been present during the hotel’s brief run:
Nestled in the corner, what appears to be a taxedermied bird – perhaps from the shop upstairs?:
There was a lot more to explore, but to be honest, my guide was clearly trying to get me to go at this point. I begged her to take me up to just one of the bedrooms, but she told me these were strictly off limits for the time being.
It was right about then that I heard a strange thud from the bedrooms above us…and then what could only be described as a slithering, dragging sound. My guide had repeated numerous times that the place was empty, but before I could ask, she had me out the front door.
I hope you enjoyed my tour of the McKittrick Hotel. I have a feeling they won’t be allowing any photographers in anytime soon following my visit – so these pictures will just have to suffice until that padlock is removed for good.
Finally, in doing further research about the McKittrick, I learned that a murder allegedly took place while it was in business as a hotel. Anyone know anything more about this? Rumors abound that it was this, and not the war, that really shut the hotel down for good.
PS – Confused? You should probably read this…
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