There is a door in Midtown Manhattan, located at the west end of the north Times Square Shuttle platform. Once upon a time, this platform was part of the original Times Square station. It is now the first stop, or last stop, of the shuttle to Grand Central. The word above the doorway, Knickerbocker, would seem an invitation to any New Yorker to enter. In 1906, it was.
Back then, the door opened into the Knickerbocker Hotel, a 15-story, redbrick and terracotta Beaux Arts beauty, built at a cost of $3.3 million. Its elaborate Second Empire design was a collaboration of Marvin & Davis, Bruce Price and Trowbridge & Livingston. Located at 6 Times Square, on the southeast corner of Broadway and 42nd, it was completed in October of 1906 for John Jacob Astor IV, (who later died in the Titanic disaster.) Astor’s enthusiasm for the subway, put in place only two years earlier, led him to create this platform access.
Had you walked through this door in those days, you would have entered an elegantly appointed passageway “furnished with settees and decorated with heraldic banners.” You might have joined the “constant stream of strangers through the lower floors of the hotel,” that reportedly had “to go see the heralded splendor of this newest Times Square building.” If you were a man, you might have entered the bar to enjoy a martini, supposedly invented there. However, if you were a woman who wanted to see to see Maxfield Parrish’s painting of Old King Cole, you would have had to settle for a peek from a distance. No women were allowed.
If you were to walk through that subway platform door today – and you most definitely cannot – you would not see anything too heraldic. The passage is largely in ruins. You might see the remains of some roundels on the columns, maybe a trace of gold stenciling here and there.
The MTA owns the passageway and uses it for storage. They have no plan to re-open the door.
— Carol Cofone
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