Where else but in New York City would you find a stunningly beautiful Art Nouveau dollar pizza parlor and sex shop?
On the corner of 8th Avenue and West 38th Street, visitors can still get a taste of 1970s gritty New York. Part of that musky flavor is a small, forgotten and overlooked architectural gem with an unlikely pairing of businesses. Surrounded by skyscrapers and overlooked by passing New Yorkers, this small Art Nouveau building tells the tale of one of New York’s most famous architectural firms.
Emery Roth (1871-1948) an Hungarian immigrant to New York was an architect who went on to design some of New York’s most prestigious Beaux-Arts masterpieces…the Ritz Hotel tower, the Eldorado, the Hotel Belclaire and the San Remo. His firm, Emery Roth and Sons would go onto become New York’s most influential firm designing the Pan Am building (now Met Life) and the World Trade Center..
But one of his first commissions was a little two-story hotel at 300 West 38th St. With just 14 rooms, Roth designed the hotel with beautiful features drawing upon the natural world, common to the burgeoning Art Nouveau movement; forest green iron work, sculpted female busts whose hair intertwined with flowing vines, a remarkable facade and elegant bay windows looking out diagonally onto 8th Avenue,
Today this forgotten building hosts a dollar pizza parlour and an adult lingerie store. Patrons pass by without knowing that it was built by someone who would go on to shape and give Manhattan its distinctive character, and in fairness probably don’t care. Regardless, it’s an interesting juxtaposition of the new city nestling into the old.