A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from February 14, 2009
Broadway Country Club/42nd Street Country Club (Knickerbocker Hotel bar)

The Knickerbocker Hotel (or Hotel Knickerbocker) was located on the southeast corner of Broadway and Forty-Second Street. The hotel opened in 1906, but Prohibition laws slowed business and it closed (as a hotel) in 1920. The landmarked structure still stands and there are plans to re-open the Knickerbocker as a hotel once again.

The Knickerbocker bar was a famous part of New York City’s “cocktail trail” and a favorite of theater-goers. A famous painting of “Old King Cole” by Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966) adorned the bar; the painting is now at the bar of the St. Regis Hotel. Opera star Enrico Caruso lived at the Knickerbocker and the Caruso cocktail was probably first mixed at the Knickerbocker bar.

According to Knickerbocker chef Louis Pullig De Gouy (see the 1949 citation below), it was New York Sun writer Frank O’Malley who first dubbed the Knickerbocker bar as the “Forty-second Street Country Club.” The nickname became nationally famous and is cited in print by at least 1909. “Broadway Country Club” was another name for the Knickerbocker bar.


NYPL Digital Galley
Hotel Knickerbocker

New York City’s Historic Timeline
1906—Colonel John Jacob Astor’s recently acquired Knickerbocker Hotel opens in October at Broadway and 42nd Street.  The home of both Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso, and America songwriter and vaudevillian, George M. Cohan, the hotel sports such a fashionable bar that in its heyday it becomes known as “42nd Street Country Club.”

Forgotten NY
Next time you are taking the Times Square Shuttle toward Grand Central, walk toward the northern end of the platform. You’ll find a locked door with the word “Knickerbocker” above it. What could it be? Where does the door go?

Behind the door is a stair which led up to the rear lobby of the Knickerbocker Hotel at 1466 Broadway, at the southeast corner of 42nd Street. There was a lower level nightclub/dancehall/restaurant. The stair is still there as a relic; underneath the stair is a subway power/communications manhole. Also in back of the wall are sidewalk vaults that belonged to the Knickerbocker.

The Knickerbocker is no longer a hotel. Newsweek magazine had its headquarters in the building for awhile. Today, the building has been divided into condominiums.

George M. Cohan and Enrico Caruso are among the celebrities who once stayed at the Knickerbocker. It was built in 1901 and has undergone a number of alterations over the years. Its bar was once known as the “42nd Street Country Club.”

The St. Regis New York
King Cole Bar
Enjoy an aperitif in this legendary society club where the Bloody Mary — here known as “Red Snapper” — first landed in America and was perfected. Maxfield Parrish’s masterpiece King Cole mural keeps watch on hotel guests and knowledgeable New Yorkers.

Wikipedia: Maxfield Parrish
Maxfield Parrish (July 25, 1870 – March 30, 1966) was an American painter and illustrator. 

Minnesota Monthly
The Caruso
Enrico Caruso wasn’t just a hell of a singer, he was also a fun, larger-than-life character who enjoyed his enormous celebrity. In other words, a rock star. When he was in New York, he stayed at the Knickerbocker Hotel, whose bar was the favorite resort of society’s sports and swells (its nickname was “The Broadway Country Club”). He fit right in. This is the drink they made for him there. It’s strong and sweet, but not in any way syrupy. Bravo.

Stir well with cracked ice:
1 1/4 ounce gin
1 ounce dry vermouth
3/4 ounce green crème de menthe
Strain into chilled cocktail glass and twist a swatch of thin-cut lemon peel over the top.

Esquire magazine - Ace of Clubs cocktail
The Wondrich Take
Expert commentary for Esquire’s Resident cocktail historian.

On April 15, 1938, Egidio Archimede Dellamazzacane, or “Eddie the Wop,” as everyone called him (at least some parts of bar culture have improved), took command of the bar at midtown Manhattan’s Ace of Clubs, a live-lobster joint with pretensions to swank. This wasn’t Eddie’s first time behind the stick. Back in 1916, he had started out as a bottle-washer at the bar of the old Knickerbocker Hotel—the so-called “Broadway Country Club,” at the corner of Forty-second Street and the Great White Way. “The Knickerbocker,” as one Prohibition-era bar book reminisced, “with silk-hatted men about town, taking their last before-the-theatre drink while Old King Cole smiled benignly from above” (Maxfield Parrish’s King Cole murals now grace the bar at the St. Regis, thirteen blocks uptown).

28 February 1902, Lincoln (NE) Evening News, pg. 3, col. 5:
THE KNICKERBOCKER, A $3,000,000 HOTEL WHICH
IS SOON TO BE ERECTED IN NEW YORK CITY.
A satisfactory indication of the country’s growth is given in the increasing expansion of new hotel enterprises in the larger centers of population. THe latest to be reported is the Hotel Knickerbocker, to be erected as soon as possible in New York. It will stand at Broadway and Forty-second street, with a frantage of 121 feet on the former and 163 on the latter. The building will be fourteen stories in height, will contain more than 600 rooms, besides a banquet hallm parlors and reception rooms, and will cost, it is estimated, not less than $2,800,000, with $500,000 additional for equipment and furnishings. Together with the land upon which it stands, the total investment is $5,000,000.

25 October 1906, Lake County Times (Hammond, IN), pg. 8, col. 3:
Another Palatial Hotel.
New York, Oct. 25.—THe new fifteen-story Knickerbocker hotel, at Broadway and Forty-second street, has been opened. It adds another to the list of rich histories which began with the Waldorf-Astoria and to which the two most recent additions have been the Hotels Astor and Belmont. WIth its furnishings the hotel cost millions of dollars. John Jacob Astor is the owner.

Google Books
A Fantasy of Mediterranean Travel
By S. G. Bayne (Samuel Gamble Bayne—ed.)
New York, NY: Harper & Brothers Publishers
1909
Pg. 3:
He was a half portion in the gold-filled class, and a charter member of the Forty-second Street Country Club.

23 May 1920, San Antonio (TX) Light, pg. 8, col. 1:
“THE COCKTAIL TRAIL”
NEARLY OBLITERATED
ON GREAT WHITE WAY
With the Passing of Knick-
erbocker Hotel Another
“Landmark” Goes.

New York, May 22.—The “Cocktail Trail” is nearly obliterated.

Landmark after landmark has disappeared since the Advent of prhibition on the Great White Way.

But, with the sale of the Hotel Knickerbocker and the announcement that it is to become an office building after the present month, there will pass into the dim recesses of oblivion what was perhaps the most famous of landmarks on the “trail”—the “Broadway Country Club,” as the Knickerbocker bar was affectionately known by the thousands of its members.

Old King Cole, the Maxfield Parrish mural, looked down today on a bar shrouded in cheesecloth, a floor dust-laden. There appeared to be a look of dejection about him, for his playmates are gone, but never so merry a home. The paintings, the fixtures—many works of art in hostelry—will be sold at auction beginning June 10.

G. A. Lawler, assistant manager of the Knickerbocker, dropped the key to the bar into his pocket and with a catch in his voice recalled the “old days.”

“Nearly twelve years ago, just a short time after the hotel was opened, I came to work here as a bell boy,” he said. “From the start, the Knickerbocker was popular—I think it has always been the most popular hotel in New York.

“It was only a short time after I came, that I carried in Caruso’s bags and he and I have both been here ever since. President Wilson, when he was governor of New Jersey, always stayed here. There was more entertaining here then, than lately. Admiral Togo, on his famous visit to New York, was given a big banquet in the main dining room—I was captain of hall boys then.

“I’ve worked in nearly every department of the house, including a nine months’ biz behind the bar, and I’m sure I voice the sentiments of every emplye here when I say we’re sorry that we can’t go on.”

There are score of workers in the Knickerbocker who have been there either since the hotel was started or shortly afterward.

Likewise there are guests who have been there for years. Caruso, to whom the sad news of his “eviction” has not officially been broken because he’s on tour, has a twelve-room apartment, and has lived in it since 1911. Scotti of the Metropolitan Opera Company also lived there since that time.

Mischa Elman and Ivan Rarryll, composer of the Pink Lady music and other operettas,and many others in the world of art and music have lived at the Knickerbocker.

James B. Regan, owner of the hotel, expressed regret at giving up the hotel, but conditions have brought it about, he said.

27 September 1925, New York (NY) Times, “Forty-Second Street Surveys 100 Years” by James C. Young, pg. SM16:
Later, this fraternity repaired to the Hotel Knickerbocker, Broadway and Forty-second Street (now the Knickerbocker Building), where Old King Cole was the merry patron and the “Forty-second Street Country Club” became a designation that conjured memories in many a camp from Mexico to Cathay.

15 February 1932, New York (NY) Times, pg. 17:
JAMES B. REGAN
DIES OF PNEUMONIA
One-Time Bar Boy Won Fame
as proprietor of the Knick-
erbocker Hotel.

(...)
The bar of the Knickerbocker, with its famous painting of Old King Cole by Maxfield Parrish, standing at the corner which then had become the cross-roads of the world, established itself immediately as the favorite meeting place of the great and the interesting figures of the city, under the nickname of the Forty-second Street Country Club. The reputation of the hotel was national.

Google Books
The Soup Book: 770 Recipes
By Louis Pullig De Gouy
New York, NY: Greenberg
1949
(Dover Publications reprint, 1974)
Pg. 262:
And that was why for several days patrons of the “Forty-second Street Country Club,” as Frank O’Malley had christened the hotel bar, had split pea chowder with marennes oysters for free lunch, my having received the order to use these French oysters in my best way, and following a formula used for scores of years in marennes.

New York (NY) Times
Commercial Real Estate; Restoring a Landmark Hotel to Its Gilded Glory
By DAVID W. DUNLAP
Published: July 28, 1999
Solid-gold cutlery will not grace the dining tables and the tenor in the shower stall next door will not be Caruso, but the landmark Hotel Knickerbocker at Broadway and 42d Street may one day welcome overnight guests again, after eight decades as an office building.

As Times Square history is uprooted around it, the copper-crowned Knickerbocker—a sumptuous architectural confection that never really lost its French Renaissance flair—would emerge as a rare survivor of the theater district’s earlier gilded age, the last time a century turned.

Numerous new hotels are being built or planned around Times Square. But none can compete with the Knickerbocker’s lineage.

Built by the Astors and adorned by Maxfield Parrish’s mural ‘’Old King Cole and His Fiddlers Three,’’ the 15-story Knickerbocker opened in 1906 as a ‘’Fifth Avenue hotel at Broadway prices.’’ Only two blocks from the old Metropolitan Opera House, it was a home away from Naples for Enrico Caruso, who posed on the rooftop for wedding-day pictures with Dorothy Park Benjamin in 1918.

Only three years later, with business falling under Prohibition, the hotel closed and was converted to office use. Today, known as 1466 Broadway, the building’s tenants are mostly sportswear manufacturers.
(...)
About 1,000 guests could be lodged there and 2,000 patrons seated in its many dining rooms, which included a private chamber with solid-gold service for 48.

Another novel feature was a corridor lined with settees and heraldic banners that led directly to the Times Square subway station. (To this day, there is a doorway at the east end of the shuttle platform, bearing a masonry plaque reading ‘’Knickerbocker’’ in letters eight inches tall.)

The hotel was converted to office use in 1921 and known as the Newsweek Building from 1940 to 1959 when the magazine, then owned by Vincent Astor, was the main tenant. The Parrish mural was eventually installed at the St. Regis, as the focal point of the King Cole Room.

New York (NY) Times
New Owners Plan to Bring Knickerbocker Hotel Back to Times Square
By CHARLES V. BAGLI
Published: June 5, 2006
The Knickerbocker, a Beaux-Arts landmark in Times Square, has served as an unremarkable warren of offices and textile showrooms for the past 85 years.

But the new owners — the royal family of Dubai — want to restore the Knickerbocker to its glory, when it was an elegant hotel nicknamed the 42nd Street Country Club, where Enrico Caruso often stayed, where Maxfield Parrish’s 30-foot long painting, “Old King Cole,” hung, and where, some say, the martini was invented.

The royal family bought the 16-story red brick building at the southeast corner of Broadway and 42nd Street last week for $300 million and said it planned to convert the office space into a five-star hotel with 250 to 300 rooms. With its terra cotta and limestone ornaments on the façade and a three-story mansard roof, the Knickerbocker still stands out in a resurgent Times Square.

“At this point, everything seems to be a go for turning it back into a hotel,” said David L. Jackson, chief investment officer for Istithmar, an investment arm of the royal family. “We think there’s room for at least one higher-end hotel catering to the business and entertainment community.”

New York (NY) Times
King Cole, a Grimy Old Soul, Heads for a Cleaning
By GLENN COLLINS
Published: January 17, 2007
(...)
The painting was commissioned for John Jacob Astor IV as an adornment for the hotel he financed, the Knickerbocker, at the southeast corner of Broadway and 42d Street. Parrish’s Quaker upbringing made him reluctant to paint a mural for a bar, Mr. Geraghty said, but the artist was offered a kingly sum for 1906, $5,000, to complete it.

However, he added, Astor felt that for that amount of money he should be portrayed as the king himself, and Parrish acquiesced. After the Knickerbocker was converted to an office building, the painting was moved to the St. Regis, at 2 East 55th Street, in the mid-1930’s, Mr. Widing said. It became the centerpiece of the bar, which already had a claim to fame: the bloody mary, with its basic mélange of vodka, tomato juice and pepper, is believed to have been brought to the St. Regis by Fernand Petiot, who invented it in Paris.

The painting became a signature feature of the hotel that would later be inhabited by Ernest Hemingway and Marlene Dietrich, and where Salvador Dalí stayed for a decade. Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio lived there, Mr. Geraghty said, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono took up residence in 1971 before moving to the Dakota.

“This painting launched his career,” Mr. Widing said of Parrish (1870-1966), an artist and illustrator whose position, thanks to the painting, “became assured as America’s most popular illustrator up to that time.” Mr. Widing said he believed King Cole’s face was that of Astor.

flickr
St. Regis Bar - Manhattan - Maxfield Parrish Mural - Old King Cole
Uploaded on July 31, 2008
by Al_HikesAZ
We attended the 2008 MLB All-Star Game in New York. After a tough afternoon of shopping, we stopped at the St. Regis Hotel at the King Cole Bar and had a few drinks. This is the famous Maxfield Parrish mural of Old King Cole behind the bar. These three panels are estimated to be worth $12million. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityRestaurants/Bars/Coffeehouses/Food Stores • (0) Comments • Saturday, February 14, 2009 • Permalink