Monday, December 24, 2018

The Lost Carlton Terrace -- Broadway at 100th Street

By the time Wurts Bros. took this photograph, the second floor had been added.  Classical urns planted with manicured shrubs hint at the upscale tone inside.  from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York
By the first decade of the 20th century theaters and night clubs were appearing on the Upper West Side, eliminating the inconvenient trip to the Broadway entertainment district downtown.  The Carlton Terrace was a noticeable addition to the trend.

Located at the southwest corner of Broadway and 100th Street, the one-story nightclub and restaurant opened in October 1911.  An advertisement in The Sun offered "Come where the music, the cuisine, the service, the decorations, all blend in perfect harmony.  Where 'dull care' dare not enter, where 'good fellowship' sits high on his throne and rules with a kindly hand."

Although the structure was just one story tall, the nightclub extended one floor below the street.  And the owners anticipating using the roof as a third level.  Earlier The New York Times had reported "The plans call for a garden covered with glass and equipped with a heating apparatus."  This "winter garden," open year-round, would seat 400 and took its inspiration from the seasonal roof gardens throughout the city, so popular during the summer months.

The newspaper said "The garden, as well as the dining room, will be decorated in Japanese style." In a clever decorating scheme, hanging from wooden arbors would be clusters of glass grapes which doubled as light fixtures.  The rooftop plans, however, would have to wait for now.

The refined neo-Classical architecture reflected the high-toned atmosphere inside.   Patrons of upscale Edwardian nightspots were expected to dress the part; and female diners at the Carlton Terrace glittered in jewels, their escorts sporting white tie.

An evening at the Carlton Terrace would include musical entertainment and dancing.  The ala carte menu, while including the obligatory French cuisine, was heavily American, offering lamb kidneys with bacon, spring turkey, and a variety of steaks.   Dinner prices were affordable.  Two lamb chops, for instance, cost 50 cents--around $13 today.  So when side dishes, desserts, and such were added, the price not including wine would amount to around $30 a plate today.  But a bottle of wine averaged $5--adding about $129 in today's dollars to the bill.

Well-dressed patrons fox trot in what was deemed a "Japanese" decor.   from the collection of the New York Public Library
One entertainer was the victim of a bizarre crime in 1912.  Around 2:30 on the morning of June 22 singer Margaret Mudge returned to her studio apartment on West 46th Street.  Her door had been jimmied opened and, according to detectives, "every drawer, wardrobe and desk had been rifled."

The burglars had made off with $3,500 in gowns and jewelry, including heirlooms, and $50 in cash.  But what was most astonishing was the thieves' audacity.  The Sun reported that they "set the dining table and enjoyed a hearty meal of roast chicken.  When Detectives Fitzpatrick, Cooney and Burgess arrived at 3 A. M. yesterday in answer to a telephone appeal from Miss Mudge the remnants of the supper were still on the table."

At the time of the entertainer's unnerving incident, the city's nightclubs and restaurants were suffering a waiters' strike.  Joseph Pike, the proprietor of the Carlton Terrace, wanted to avoid a disruption in service at nearly any price.  He preempted a walkout on the night of May 31 by "hurriedly" telephoning the union secretary "assuring him that [he] was ready to accede to the union's demands," reported the New-York Tribune.

It was a publicity coup for the union.  Two days later an official proudly displayed a note from Pike "asking him to take care of the Saturday night rush," according to the newspaper.  It added "The sixteen knights of the napkin were quickly collected from the crowd of idlers hourly growing larger around the headquarters, and sent up to the tractable establishment."

The following spring the plans for the roof garden were implemented.  It opened in April 1913, doubling the overall seating capacity to 800.  An advertisement on April 5 called it "a veritable fairy land in the heart of the metropolis" and "the most beautiful restaurant in New York."   What was now a second floor "has been covered with a massive roof of glass, so that one has a sense of sitting in the open while enjoying the comforts of indoors.

The Japanese decor led to afternoon dansants, or tea dances.  An ad in The Evening World on February 6, 1914 said "The touch of daintiness that is seen in everything here is accentuated at the afternoon tea by the little Japanese maids who preside at the tea service."  Careful not to over-emphasize these "delightful incidents" at the expense of the nightclub, the ad reminded readers "But keep in mind that Carlton Terrace will always seek to be known as a place whose kitchen is under intelligent direction."

The popularity of the club was evidenced on New Year's Eve that year, when 750 reservations were filled.

The Fox Trot was a favorite dance at the time, a craze reflected in the wording of The Sun's report of an accident on June 2, 1915.  "The 'trotters' in the Carlton Terrace Restaurant...were astonished shortly before midnight last night by the sight of the front part of a taxicab suspended half-way over the tables hanging from one of the ornamental windows of the dining room."

The restaurant's setting below street level allowed for a dramatic stairway entrance and increased ceiling heights.  So when the cab crashed through the 100th Street window, it teetered above the tables where diners had just stepped away to the dance floor.

"The machine made its entrance with a crash of glass that showered where but a few seconds before, when the music began, the patrons had been eating."   About half a dozen motorists helped pull the automobile out of the hole it had made.  The Sun added humorously, "The dancers, who had stopped at the noise, some believing that an innovation in surprises had been devised by the management and others fearing that the reform inspectors were adopting militant tactics, resumed their trotting."

Joseph S. Pike was still the proprietor of the Carlton Terrace in 1919.  He purchased the building in November that year; and in March 1920, no doubt in reaction to the newly enacted Prohibition, he made a significant change by leasing the top floor to commercial shops.

Like many other posh nightclubs, however, the Carlton Terrace kept a secret stock of alcohol for its moneyed customers.  And also like many other establishments, it became a target for Prohibition agents.

On the night of November 20, 1921 three young men and women dressed in evening clothes entered at around 11:30.  Having had an "elaborate meal," one of the men asked the water, Paul Avril, if he had any whisky.  Avril returned to the table with two pints of whisky, which cost $10 (over $130 today).

When the patrons identified themselves as Federal agents and displayed their shields, Avril ran to the kitchen.  The New York Times (no doubt dramatically exaggerating the number of guests that night)  reported "Upward of one thousand five hundred diners in Carlton Terrace, Broadway and 100th Street, one of the largest and most popular of upper Broadway restaurants, were startled early yesterday morning by the sight of one of the waiters running rapidly through the dining room and into the kitchen, followed closely by three young men in evening dress."

The shocked patrons heard the loud crashing of glass and china.  "Everybody stopped eating and awaited expectantly the outcome of what obviously was a big battle raging in the kitchen."  Calm resumed after the waiter was led out in handcuffs.

The following year, in August, Police Officer Helen Thomas and Detective James Saylor, dressed as well-to-do patrons, were served whisky with their meal.  Once again a waiter went to jail.  As a result of the bust, agents came back and seized hundreds of bottles of beer, gin, wine and cordials.

Prohibition led to the close of numerous hotels and restaurants; and was most likely the cause of the shutting down of the Carlton Terrace.  The building was demolished shortly after the August raid, replaced by a $2 million, 250-room hotel "devoted strictly to the family trade."   The new structure, which opened in November 1923, took its predecessor's name, the Carlton Terrace Hotel.

By 1957 the replacement building, which survives, had been renamed the Hotel Whitehall

1 comment:

  1. Quite delighted to find this image of the Hotel Whitehall, to where my first memories date, but only of a room inside (my mother had returned to New York from Paris, with my little brother and me). This is the first time I've (knowingly) seen the hotel from outside.

    It's still substantially the same, but not as lovely as on the postcard.

    One never knows how meaningful a bit of history can be to someone, eh?