Friday, July 1, 2011

NYC Image Of The Day: Howard Johnson's Times Square, 1959-2005

The closing of Times Square's long-lived, beloved Howard Johnson's restaurant in 2005 was a modern tragedy, symptomatic of then-Mayor Rudy Guliani's obsession to whitewash the face of the nabe into a chain-filled tourist-friendly destination. Thus: All of yesteryear's electronics shops, low-rent adult movie theaters and local restaurants have been shamefully supplanted by the likes of Applebees, Red Lobster, Forever 21 and Sephora.

The Howard Johnson's at 46th Street & Seventh Avenue opened in 1959 and retained much of its original charm until its well-publicized demise July 8, 2005, when the building (right, which also housed gay burlesque theater Gaity) was sold for redevelopment. At one time, New York offered 10 HoJo's restaurants, serving comfort food & cocktails to city dwellers. The Times Square locale was the last in NYC.

The four-story, mid-19th Century building that housed Howard Johnson's sat empty for three years, until developers began one of the city's richest deals ever, with a sky-rise tower and American Eagle taking ownership of a 26,500 sf three-level glass box, worth $300 million for a 15-year lease. Included is a 250-foot tall sign along the building's exterior. Below, Howard Johnson's also was present in NYC with a highrise motor lodge at 51st Street & 8th Ave., featuring "300 oversized, air-conditioned rooms, all with color TV. Free parking (subject to $2.00 charge for each additional in-and-out service.) Famed Howard Johnson's Restaurant and Cocktail lounge." Today, the building has been overhauled and is a Hampton Inn.
The corner of 46th and Seventh Avenue today... zzzzzz....Howard Johnson's, RIP...Editor's note: This is perhaps my favorite New York Vintage post to date. I began researching this in April, collecting pictures and historical details, at last getting it all polished up. I went to the Times Square HoJo's during a visit to NYC with my friend Laura in the late 1980s. To this day, I scowl when I pass the block and see what it has become, in the name of progress.