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Manhattan Unlocked Historical and Architectural Walking Tours

Discover hidden-in-plain-sight history and decode the streetscapes of Manhattan on our multi-faceted walking tours where history and architecture meld. Manhattan Unlocked answers the question every New Yorker has asked, "why is this building next to that building, and that building next to this building?" We take that question to its logical conclusion and let the built environment--the city itself--tell its own story!

We realized there's more to the million-and-one things to be seen on the surface of the city today. Manhattan Unlocked takes into account ancient geography and historic transit, in addition to commerce, architecture, immigration and everything else, to explain the city's growth and development. In fact, New York City can only be understood from an all-of-history, holistic point of view.

About Us

Manhattan Unlocked began as a blog over a decade ago to decode and make sense of the streetwalls of the city. What most people consider New York City is an architectural complex and constellation of neighborhoods stretching almost 5 miles from the Battery to Central Park through the island's core. Yet, what looks like a jumble of buildings on any given block (we realized long ago) couldn't be random. There had to be a logic to the blocks; patterns to the neighborhoods. Neighborhoods comprising cast iron buildings or skyscrapers had to be part of some overarching narrative. There had to be a way that Tribeca and Museum Mile were part of the same story.

We soon realized that in the search for "unified theory" behind New York's instantly recognizable, yet enigmatic streetscape, we needed to hit the pavement so to speak. Manhattan Unlocked Historical and Architectural Walking Tours was born (thank you Viator and TripAdvisor, but now bookings can be made directly!). The blog had been put on hiatus, but we hope to begin updating again soon, and with a new look! Join us on a walking tour, and we look forward to uploading new and interesting posts soon.

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To see details and book a walking tour click the big blue button below. Check out our TripAdvisor reviews! But you'll save a few dollars by clicking below. Tours are $35/person with a 2 person minimum. Inquire above for a list of dates and meeting times for tours already running (no minimum required).

  • Midtown Manhattan Art and Architecture Walking Tour
  • Midtown West, Times Square, Rockefeller Center & Park Avenue

  • Holdouts! Based on the Book by Alpern & Durst
  • Midtown East, Grand Central & Rockefeller Center

  • Recreate the Most Requested Walking Tour of 1840s New York
  • Astor Place, NoHo, SoHo, Chinatown & the Civic Center (Foley Square)

  • Tenement Housing and Immigrant Life: A Lower East Side Story
  • Foley Square, Chinatown & The Lower East Side

  • Explore the Ruins of a Forgotten City in the Middle of Manhattan
  • Madison Square, Nomad, the Flatiron District & Chelsea

The old blog remains below....(My apologies for any sloppiness in early years of research).

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ghost of the Broadway Central Hotel

My first post is a simple interesting one. I had just read Alone Together: A History of New York’s Early Apartments and had the book with me when I skated over to the site of the old Broadway Central Hotel (the west side of Broadway just north of the Bond Street intersection).  It was built in 1871 and collapsed, as a welfare hotel, in 1973.  The site is an NYU dormitory today. I saw a very distinct shape incised on the adjacent building where the hotel once stood. I pulled out the book and looked at a picture of the old hotel.  Sure enough, the mark on the building was left from the old hotel, sometimes referred to as a ghost or a palimpsest. Here it is...

Notice the distinct shape of the "Broadway Central Hotel" sign in the upper left corner. It juts out a bit from the main building...

The mark on the adjacent building (built after the above picture) matches perfectly...

The site of the old hotel today is an NYU dormitory (behind the trees). Also, you can see the red brick building from the old post card view is still standing!

Look closely at the side of the building above the tree branches!


  1. Bobby, this post and these photos are magnigicent! I love seeing New York through your eyes.

  2. Great blog! Like me, you take the time to stop and look up at our buildings to discover their unique beauty and history. I just started my own blog on it:

  3. Thanks so much, John, I'll check out your blog.


  4. Who told you the Broadway Central was a welfare hotel when it collapsed? It was the Mercer Arts Center, a theater complex! I saw a big show there a few months before the walls fell in. Take a look at this PDF archive and see what kind of a place it was...

    1. In 1972 I used to go there every night, hoping to catch a glimpse of maybe a Warhol Factory personality or a Mick Jagger or a David Bowie. Closest I came was attending a showing of LEMMINGS with John Belushi. It was shocking to hear that the old Mercer building just collapsed!

  5. Oh, this is a great view into the past, love the photos.

  6. Love the photos of the buildings.

  7. "Rock Flow" was the first DISCO in NYC located in the Broadway Central Hotel! It was about 1966-7 that I went with a couple of girlfriends. We entered the lobby and off to the right curtains was the dance floor. There were strob lights, infused smoke and two live bands. It was a "far out" evening. Anyone else remember?

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  11. Definitely one of the coolest hotels in NYC! Thanks for sharing the pics, especially the "then" and "now".

  12. I found this post today and found some information about the hotel's usage. It was both a welfare hotel and a theater.

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