Friday, July 22, 2016

MANHATTAN - Bleecker Street: The Mills Hotel

The Mills House (or Hotel) No. 1 Building, built 1897.
Nicknamed the "Waldorf of the Slums" and built on the site of  
formerly fashionable houses, DePau Row, which had gone to seed.

Before Manhattan was made up of very rich people, very poor people, and a bunch of sexy young people crowding into shared apartments there was a middle class (the remnant of which understandably cling to their rent controlled apartments) comfortably sandwiched in between the haves and the have nots.  

And before the have nots, who today live like royalty in a million little kingdoms when compared to real poor people, there was what the social Darwinian in me thinks of as economic survival of the fittest according to principles of capitalism.  But that is not to say that there weren't people in New York City within whose interests it was to ensure some deserving souls got a leg up (not a permanent crutch) on life.     

Take for example Mr. D. O. Mills, who tried to give the working poor an advantage towards achieving self-sufficiency, and Bishop Potter:

"Some years ago my attention was called to the condition and prospects of men receiving small salaries, or who were seeking employment, and were trying to live respectably within their means. The Mills Hotel is intended for such self-respecting, self-supporting men, who desire cleanliness, comfort and convenience, but also to lay up something towards attaining an independence. It should be understood, however, that it is in no sense a charitable concern. It would be affectation on my part, to deny a strong desire to benefit my fellow men. But I seek to do this in a strictly business way, without offending the pride or the praiseworthy independence of those whom I am trying to benefit." --Mills
"We are not creating here another institution of which we already have so many in New   York, that shall educate men in the habit of indolent dependence on their fellow-men"... [T]here is always a class of men, decent and self-respecting, between whom and a lower  class, there is only a thin crust.  "If society is to be conserved and manhood is to be strengthened, the conditions which make it easy for a man to slide out of one class into another need to be frankly and practically dealt with.  It is easy for dirt, loneliness and narrowness to push a man down the social scale; and there are numbers of men in New York, men of education, men of culture, who have a struggle to maintain a footing in    this great city...."  --Potter                        

From The Book of New York, by Robert Shackleton

Interestingly, the Mills House No. 1 was built where previously had been a once swanky row of houses called DePau Row, see article to the left.  I'd love to know which hotel gained that mantelpiece from DePau Row, and if it still stands.  Please email me at with information.

Related to this article is CLICK HERE.