The other day, I received an email asking if a bus station, dating to the 1930s, still existed at the Hotel Carter.
A hidden bus station from the 1930s? In Times Square?? I’d never heard of this before (in fact, I only knew of the Hotel Carter as one of the dirtiest hotels in America) but I had to investigate.
The Hotel Carter was known for much of its life as the Hotel Dixie. Opened on April 22, 1930, the Dixie was indeed home to a bus depot: the Central Union Bus Terminal, which at the time was the largest enclosed bus station in New York. Buses entered beside the hotel’s entrance on West 43rd and proceeded underground:
Today, that space has been turned into a parking garage:
After descending underground, buses would rotate on a 35-foot turntable, then proceed into a designated berth. A waiting room for passengers was off to the left:
Here’s a drawing of what the waiting area used to look like in the 1930s.
Could any of this possibly still exist?? Last weekend, I headed out to Times Square find out:
As I came down the ramp, I immediately arrived at the original bus turntable. I doubt it still works, but how cool is it that this wasn’t just paved over?
Surrounding it, I could also see where the berths would have been, though the ceilings seem lower now.
But what about the waiting room? Based on the plans above, I was sad to see cars parked where the waiting room should have been – it must have been demolished. Then I noticed something…
That’s a very unusual floor to be parking cars on:
Then I realized: they’d left the waiting room floor:
I know it’s not much, but I love that this remnant still exists from over 80 years ago, a time when you would’ve found passengers sitting on wooden benches here waiting for buses.
Whereas the checkered flooring would have covered the main waiting room area, the white linoleum area seems to match up with the ticket office and where passengers would pass into the main terminal:
Based on the plans, the newsstand would have been situated about here:
At the top of the existing columns, you can see detailing that seems very out of place for a grungy parking garage – but would make plenty of sense for nice bus station:
The detailing stretches far back:
Before leaving, I wanted to see if the stairwell that once took passengers down to the waiting room still existed. According to the plans, the double doors would have been on this faux-marble wall. Sadly, that’s only a closet.
Unable to compete with Port Authority, the Hotel Dixie’s bus terminal closed in 1957.
Try as you might, you can never fully erase New York City’s past, and I like to imagine that late at night, a tourist picking up their car might look over and see the ghostly phantasms of passengers waiting for a bus that will never come.
Very special thanks to reader Mike M. for starting me on this investigation.
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