2681-2687 Broadway

View of 2681-2687 Broadway from south east; Courtesy NYC Municipal Archive

The Broadmoor Hotel

by Tom Miller

Until 1926 the Harold Court apartment house sat on the northwest corner of Broadway and 102nd Street.  That year builders and real estate developers Newmark, Jacobs, & Newmark demolished it and hired architect George Fred Pelham to design a replacement residential hotel.  The Broadmoor Hotel was completed in 1927.  Pelham faced the upper stories in variegated beige brick and embellished its Renaissance Revival design with thin, twisted columns and faux balconies.  On the 102nd Street side, the residential entrance sat within an impressive three-story stone enframement that included double-height fluted pilasters.

Residential hotels offered amenities not found in regular apartment buildings.  An advertisement for the Broadmoor noted: “1 and 2 Rooms and Bath, Fully Equipped Serving Pantry; Maid Service and Refrigeration included in Rental.  Restaurant in Building.”  An in-house restaurant was necessary because, for the most part, suites in residential hotels did not have kitchens.

Among the early residents were newlyweds Louis and Leonore Berkowitz.  The couple was married in August 1930.  Their wedded bliss did not survive for long.  On February 12, 1931, they faced a judge after 21-year-old Leonore filed a complaint of physical abuse.  Her husband, who was 14 years older than she, explained to the judge that his patience had simply worn thin.

The New York Sun reported, “’Louis, dear, you are getting so fat.’  ‘Louis why don’t you diet?’  ‘Oh, Louis, won’t you do some exercising and reduce just a little?’ That is a sample, so the husband says, of the conversation that has predominated in the home…for the last several weeks.”  Finally, Berkowitz explained, the previous night he had enough and gave Leonore “a resounding smack across the mouth.” 

“Last night I told him I was nearly starved and wanted some money, and then he started to beat me…”   

Leonore told the judge, “We had been happy since we were married seven months ago until last week, when I kidded my husband about getting fat.  I though he would agree to do something toward regaining his former trim figure, but instead he slapped my face.”  She said a day or two later, when she mentioned it again, he struck her again.  Upset with his nagging wife, Berkowitz withheld spending money and refused to take Leonore out to dinner.  The climax came, she said, when “Last night I told him I was nearly starved and wanted some money, and then he started to beat me.  My sister was with me, and she called the police.”

By 1940 Abraham L. Raphael and his family lived here.  He was a chemical engineer for the Standard Oil Company, and it may have been his influence that led to the Electrochemical Society taking a three-room suite on the ground floor for its clubrooms in August 1947.  The society would remain here until 1953.

Living here in 1951 were Harry Blum and his wife Ruth.  That year the couple paid $115 a month rent for their two-room, furnished apartment.  Blum was a bookkeeper for The Exchange Taverns.  The couple separated in 1952 and Ruth went to court to obtain support.  On the stand Blum was asked, “After your marriage to your second wife, you have lived together as man and wife?”  He replied, “yes.”  The attorney then asked, “And you enjoy marital privileges?”  Blum was frank, “I was married.  I can’t answer as to whether I enjoy it or don’t.”

The Broadway side of the Broadmoor Hotel had commercial spaces.  In 1956 2685 Broadway was home to the Great Shanghai restaurant.  Jane Nickerson of The New York Times wrote on August 1 that year, “Despite its unprepossessing appearance, it is an excellent place to entertain people with a serious interest in food.”

William C. Basch lived here in the mid-1950s.  The 56-year-old bachelor worked for the Jo-Ann Pleating & Stitching Co.  On July 3, 1959, he drove to Lake Carmel, parked his car, and then sat under a tree on the edge of the sand.  At some point, beachgoers noticed he had not moved and called the Lake Carmel police, who pronounced him dead. 

By 1972 a Daitch Shopwell supermarket occupied 2682 Broadway and a Chemical Bank branch was in 2681.  At 1:30 on the afternoon of March 13, 1973, two gunmen held up the bank.  In what could have only been the worse coincidence of timing for the crooks, just as they were fleeing Police Lieutenant Eugene McDermott walked in the door.  They rushed past him, and he saw them try to flag down a cabbie who refused, and they ran on.  The cabbie then picked up McDermott and they gave chase.  The criminals were quickly overtaken and arrested.

Almost a year to the day later, on March 25, 1974, another bank robbery took place.  Or it almost did.  Louis Thurston walked in at 11:00 in the morning and directed the clerk “Give me a bag full of money.”  The unprepared gunman had forgotten to bring a bag, however.  The teller said, “Wait here and I’ll get a bag for you.”  He left his cage, pushed a silent alarm, and the bank guard overpowered Thurston.  Police arrived in minutes, and he was arrested and charged with attempted robbery.

He told police that “Mrs. Marks had attacked him on orders from the ashes of her deceased husband.”

A bizarre incident played out in the Broadmoor in 1990.  Living here were 95-year-old Oliver Barre, and 88-year-old Norma Marks, who lived two floors above him.  Norma had lost her husband two years earlier.  Barre had an interesting past.  He served in the Navy as a torpedo man during World War I and had been a goodwill ambassador for the State Department to Middle Eastern countries.  In his apartment were photos and letters signed by Winston Churchill and King Faisal of Saudi Arabia.

On June 16, 1990, Barre went to Norma Marks’s apartment and bludgeoned her to death with his therapy bar.  Even though Norma was “unsteady on her feet, slightly stooped and had had operations on both hips,” according to neighbors, Barre pleaded self-defense.  He told police that “Mrs. Marks had attacked him on orders from the ashes of her deceased husband.”  The New York Times reported that Barre’s attorney explained, “Mrs. Marks then suddenly tried to strangle him and they both fell to the ground thrashing at each other…Mr. Barre hit her with a therapy bar that he carried to exercise a recently broken wrist.”

The judge allowed Barre to return to his apartment without bail to await trial.  Residents were somewhat nervous.  The New York Times wrote, “Many tenants in the stylish co-op building are worried that a murderer is stalking their halls and want Mr. Barre put in some sort of custody.  More than 100 have signed a petition to that effect.”

A month later, the issue was resolved.  Oliver Barre was crossing Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street when he was struck and killed by a Transit Authority bus.

The Broadway stores have seen a variety of tenants.  In 1991 Mr. Wong’s Chinese restaurant was in 2685 Broadway, and J’s nightclub was at 2681.  Our Love Drugstore occupied 2683 Broadway.  Stores have since been combined and there are just two commercial spaces in the building today.

Tom Miller is a social historian and blogger at daytoninmanhattan.blogspot.com


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