With a 122 year old building comes a lot of history. Let’s go back to the beginning of “Life”.
New York City, 1894, on the cusp of the turn of the Century and height of the Gilded Era. Grover Cleveland was our second term 24th President, department stores Macy’s and Lord & Taylor were changing the retail landscape with their first ever Christmas holiday window displays and new inventions were booming in the great Big Apple, with the arrival of the elevator, steel beam construction and the skyscraper.
Enter John Ames Mitchell, the founder, former editor and mastermind behind the iconic LIFE Magazine. Mitchell moved the entire LIFE Magazine to 19 West 31st Street upon its completion in 1895 by world famous architectural team of John Mervin Carrère and Thomas Hastings.
Mitchell, a man truly ahead of his time, had his celebrated team of artists, writers and creative staff live in the apartments on the top floors and work in a shared office space on the lower floors, with a giant library and massive writing rooms on the third floor. During construction a rumored Prohibition speakeasy bar of the LIFE staffers was found in the basement. One could say, Mitchell created the first “co-working” space of the era. Some of the famous inhabitants who roamed the halls and occupied the apartments were Charles Dana Gibson, Norman Rockwell, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Margaret Bourke-White and Robert Capa. Charles Dana Gibson was hand picked by Mitchell to be the inaugural creative art director for LIFE and later his successor as editor in chief. Gibson was best known for his famed “Gibson Girl, the perfect woman” an iconic representation of the beautiful and independent American woman at the turn of the 20th century featured in LIFE Magazine. Gibson modeled his “perfect woman” after his wife, who was the only female tenant throughout the magazine’s residency.
In 1936, Henry R. Luce, bought the rights to LIFE Magazine to revamp the publication and fill a cultural void for Americans through politics, art, and economics, as well as tapping into humor and leisure. Luce created the first multimedia corporation and is considered one of the most influential and powerful figures in American journalism (TIME Inc, LIFE, Fortune and Sports Illustrated).
The LIFE teams creative spirit lived on throughout the entire neighborhood. The NoMad area, actually not officially coined until 1999, was known as a meeting place for the Gilded age elite, and a mecca for shoppers, tourists and restaurant patrons. With famous faces strolling the streets like Franklin Roosevelt, Jimmy Stewart, Nikolas Tesla, Henry Ford, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and more!
Today, Life Hotel, has been restored to its former glory, not only in design but in its creative spirit and architectural splendor.
Enjoy your stay as you sleep, dine, and drink in history.
Want to know more?
- LIFE Magazine was published from 1883-2007, and the team lived in 19 West 31st Street from 1895-1931
- Franco-American sculptor Philip H. Martiny (1858-1927) created the Life Angel at our entrance
- Carrère and Hastings are best known for their landmark projects like the New York Public Library, Frick Mansion, and Ponce de León in St. Augustine, Florida.
- Our half moon bird cage elevator is one of only two in the United States
- In the 1890’s it was one of the taller (skyscraper) buildings in New York City
- We were one of the first buildings to use steel throughout its structure
- Many of our guest rooms have the original floors from the artist, writers and editors apartments
- Wood Paneling in the Lobby and our Speakeasy was a result of a nationwide search to find what was originally designed in the building
- Molding in the rooms are replicated and restored from what was found throughout the building
- A new collection of emerging local NY artists are curated throughout the guest rooms, corridors and lobby (over 200 original pieces)