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Historic Hotels of the West Village Waterfront

Iconic Keller Hotel sign at 150 Barrow Street in 2006. Photograph by Cary Conover for The New York Times.

When Village Preservation submitted its proposal requesting landmark protections for the Far West Village in 2004, we recognized the many building typologies that are prevalent in this historically industrial waterfront area. In particular, our report indicated that the neighborhood “contains an unusually high concentration of certain building types that cannot be found in such abundance and in such striking form anywhere else in New York, particularly sailor’s hotels, stables, and monumental Romanesque warehouses.”

Our newest Historic Image Archive collection, The John T. Krawchuk Collection: The West Village Waterfront in the Early 1990s, also highlights many of these structures. Among them are three waterfront hotels, each of which were ultimately designated by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) — two as individual landmarks, and one as part of the Weehawken Street Historic District — thanks, in part, to Village Preservation’s efforts.

These conspicuous surviving sailor’s hotel buildings are important remnants of the area’s industrial and maritime history.

Jane Hotel

Jane Street Hotel, Jane and West Streets. Photograph by John T. Krawchuk, early 1990s.

A building still used for its original purpose today (though catering to a somewhat different clientele) is the Jane Hotel, located at the corner of Jane and West Streets. Built in 1907-08 as the American Seaman’s Friend Society Sailors’ Home and Institute, it once contained close to 200 rooms for sailors, firemen, and officers who needed a place to stay near the port.

The brick- and cast stone-clad neo-Classical building was designed by William A. Boring, who was previously a partner in the firm that designed the immigrant station at Ellis Island. The hotel originally featured a beacon and finial above its polygonal corner tower, details that are now lost, though the rest of the building is remarkably well preserved.

1940s tax photograph showing the original finial at the top of the tower.
Jane Street Hotel at northeast corner of Jane and West Streets. Photograph by John T. Krawchuk, early 1990s.

In 1912, the survivors of the Titanic stayed here upon their arrival to New York City. It was the site of the first legal inquisition into the ship’s sinking, and host to the first unofficial memorial service attended by surviving Titanic crew members, held on April 19, 1912.

The building was designated as an individual landmark on November 28, 2000, and in 2008 was restored as a boutique hotel.

Keller Hotel

Looking east across West Street betw. Christopher (l.) and Barrow Streets, with Bailey House (l.) and Keller Hotel. Photograph by John T. Krawchuk, early 1990s.

The Keller Hotel, located at West and Barrow Streets, was built in 1897-98 in the Renaissance Revival style by Julius Munckwitz. It was designated as an individual landmark on March 6, 2007, following a push by Village Preservation, though it remained in an unfortunate state of disrepair for some time thereafter. LPC called it one of the last “surviving turn-of-the-century Hudson River waterfront hotels.”

The building had a long history as a hotel. While it is uncertain at what date the Knickerbocker Hotel was established, it remained through 1910. From 1911-1929, the hotel that operated there was called the New Keller Hotel, and from 1929 to 1993, the Keller Abington Hotel. Its close location to the ferry and transatlantic cruise lines made the hotel popular with those just disembarking, and as the neighborhood began to face a period of decline, for transient sailors. In 1993, the City transformed the building into a Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotel for the indigent.

The former hotel was recently converted to luxury condos, but the extant facades and the apartment building’s name, “The Keller,” both continue to reference its history.

Holland Hotel

396-397 West Street 305 West 10th Street, former Holland Hotel. Photograph by John T. Krawchuk, early 1990s.

Completed in 1904 by Charles Stegmayer, the three-story Renaissance Revival style (former) Holland Hotel has a unique turret-esque corner condition and corresponding curved cornice, which remain intact. It is located within the Weehawken Street Historic District, designated on May 2, 2006.

Although its name changed several times, the building was continuously used as a hotel for decades. According to the LPC designation report, it became the Clyde Hotel, and later the New Holland Hotel from c. 1935 to 1993. It now appears to have been repurposed as an office building, and while the ground floor storefronts have been modified significantly over the years, the upper floors retain much of their original architectural details.

Bonus: Pacific Seh Hotel Supply Co.

Buildings on east side of 10th Ave. north of 13th St. (l.) — Demolished. Photograph by John T. Krawchuk, early 1990s.

With all these hotels in the immediate vicinity, it makes sense that a hotel supply company would set up shop here. Originally established as the “S. & G. Hotel Supply Co.” in 1919 and located further uptown, by 1925 the owner, Abraham Goodman, opened a second location at 352 West 14th Street, which he called Pacific Hotel Supply Co. 

Meanwhile, in 1948 Edward Seh became head of Gotham Hotel Supply, which was located at 401 West 14th Street. After Seh retired in 1959, he helped his son, Edward Seh, Jr., open his own meat packing business the following year at 55 Gansevoort Street. In 1970, this business and Pacific Hotel Supply merged and relocated to 40 10th Avenue, near both their former buildings, and became “Pacific Seh Hotel Supply Co.” According to the painted sign in Krawchuk’s photograph above, they also continued to purvey “prime meats.”

After a terrible fire, the building was demolished in the early 2000s, and the site is now occupied by a twelve-story office building.

Click here to view the full John T. Krawchuk Collection.

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