Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Photos Of The Tailor Shop

"There we were, just opposite the Olcott, Fifth Avenue tailors even though we weren't on the Avenue."
[Henry Miller, Black Spring, p. 79 (Grove Press, 1989 ed.)]

I was in New York this past weekend. My hotel happened to be in the vicinity of the tailor shop that Henry Miller's father used to co-own, and at which a 20-something Miller worked from approximately 1913-1917. I snapped a few pictures; here's what it looks like today:

The tailor shop was located at 5 W 31st Street, off of 5th Avenue (I have no thorough history of the shop with me today, just these snaps and a few notes). I'm not sure what floor it was located on, though, by sight, it seems to me like the space behind these large windows was more suited to an open work space like a tailor shop, and the units above them are suited more to offices. Not sure when the Heimer-Brier handbag company goldleafed it's name onto the window-front.

"I used to stand at the window facing the hotel and watch George Sandusky hoisting the big trunks onto the taxis. When there were no trunks to be hoisted George used to stand there with his hands clasped behind his back and bow and scrape to the clients as they swung in and out of the revolving doors. George Sandusky had been scraping and bowing and hoisting and opening doors for about twelve years when I first came to the tailor shop and took up my post at the front window."
[Henry Miller, Black Spring, p. 82]

Ideally, I would have managed to get into this building to take a picture from the POV of Henry, who would have stood at the shop window, facing the Wolcott Hotel opposite (where his father used to spend much of the work day drinking.) Unfortunately, I couldn't manage my way in, so this shot of the front of the Wolcott--which Henry would have looked at all day--must suffice:

I entered the orante Wolcott lobby to see the bar, but was told that there is none. (note that, in the quote at the top of this posting, Henry chose to refer to it as the Olcott, not the Wolcott. To clarify, there is actually an Olcott Hotel in New York, on 72nd street; it was not opened until 1930).

Finally, here's the front door entrance to 5 W 31st, through which Henry used to arrive every day with "the black breath of melancholy" [p.111] after having written pages and pages in his head during the walk to work from Brooklyn:

I have previously written about the customers at the tailor shop.


Blogger WhatIthink said...

My name is Scott Erlich, I am the current general manger of the Wolcott Hotel. A Mr Christoper Gray from the New York Times and the Metropolitan history 212-779-0520. May be able to help you, he did the research and wrote the history of the Wolcott Hotel for me. Do you know of any other mentions for Wolcott hotel by Mr. James I would love to link them to my site. Plus I am putting a display case if items that mention the Wolcott Hotel.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW! Now this was a really cool post thank you very much for this!

More of the like!

Tony, Uk

10:05 AM  
Blogger RC said...

Hi Scott - I just want to clarify: this blog is about Henry Miller, not Henry James! (as your reference to "Mr James" seems to imply). The chapter in Black Spring called "The Tailor Shop" refers to the hotel a few times (though not explicitly by name). If you flip through one of the Miller biographies (i.e Ferguson's "Henry Miller: A Life"), you'll find more information about the Wolcott and Miller.

9:07 PM  
Blogger RC said...

Thanks Tony. If you ever plan to be in New York, we should get some of the Cosmo-blog regulars together for a liquor-fueled Miller Crawl through all his landmarks in Brooklyn and NYC.

9:12 PM  
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Right On!


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