The elegant Prince George Hotel was built in 1904 by Howard Greenley. It quickly earned a reputation for being one of the city’s most modern and lavish hotels, and the first with private bathrooms in each room. In addition to its modern amenities, the hotel also featured a majestic Main Lounge with ornate ceilings and murals. In the late twentieth century, however, the city began using the property as a welfare hotel for hundreds of homeless families. Eventually the families were forced to leave the property, which sat vacant for a number of years and was nearly demolished. More recently, the building was renovated and is used as apartments for low-income residents, homeless people, and people with HIV/AIDS. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Many historic New York properties have storied pasts, and the Prince
George Hotel is no exception. The hotel was built in 1904. The area around the
hotel, Madison Square, was a bustling social center at the time and the
completion of the Lexington Avenue Subway transformed it into a commercial
district as well. The architect behind the hotel was Howard Greenley, who was
president of the Architectural League of New York.
Greenley assured that the new property would be an opulent addition to the
city’s landscape. The hotel, then one of the city’s largest, was designed in
the Beaux Arts style with ornate elements throughout the building, including
arched ceilings, Renaissance-style murals, and a massive, 5,000 square foot
Main Lounge with elaborately plastered pillars. The hotel was also the first to
have private bathrooms in each guest room. The hotel’s restaurants became
favored gathering places for the city’s well-heeled denizens.
Like the city as a whole, the Prince George entered a long period of
decline in the 1970s. Tourism in the city declined, and the Prince George was
one of a number of hotels in the city to accept city contracts to house
homeless families. Hundreds of families were crammed into the once-grand hotel,
with perhaps as many as 1,500 children living in the building at any given
time. The hardwood floor of the ballroom was painted over and used as a
basketball court. The city had minimal resources or security to offer residents
at the Prince George, and drug use and crime became rampant. One of the most
notorious addresses in the city, the Prince George came to be known as “hell’s
embassy in Manhattan.”
By the early 1990s, the homeless families were forced out of the
property and it sat vacant for a number of years. It was an eyesore in the
neighborhood and many residents blamed it for the area’s decline. In 1996, the
building was purchased by Common Ground (now known as Breaking Ground), and
with federal, state, and private funds, the organization began an extensive
renovation of the Prince George. The renovation was overseen by Beyer Blinder Belle,
the same firm which was responsible for the renovation of Grand Central
The renovated property began welcoming new tenants in 1999. It now
provides 416 units of affordable housing for low-income residents, the
homeless, and people with mental illness or HIV/AIDS. The property also
provides on-site social, medical, and psychiatric services.
The restored ballroom is now used as an event space and has been
featured in television shows and movies.
The Prince George is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.