Editor’s Note: Yukie Ohta is travelling this summer and has selected some of her most popular Look Back installments to share with us. Safe travels Yukie and we look forward to your return later this summer!
What do P.T. Barnum, Boss Tweed, and Foursquare have in common? They all at one time occupied space at 568 Broadway, now home to numerous tech-media companies, not to mention the Armani Exchange flagship store.
From the 1820’s until 1895, when it was demolished to make way for an office building, Niblo’s Garden was one of New York City’s premier “pleasure gardens,” where wealthy New Yorkers could find diversion and amusement, both indoors and out, before the advent of public parks. It was located at the corner of Broadway and Prince Street and extended all the way to Crosby Street to the east and Houston Street to the north. In addition to gardens, an open-air saloon, and an exhibition hall, in its heyday Niblo’s housed a 3,200-seat theater at which The Black Crook, considered to be the first piece of musical theatre, was performed and also at which P.T. Barnum made his show business debut.
In the early 1850’s the Niblo’s theater was integrated into The Metropolitan Hotel, one of the most opulent hotels of the era, which was was built on the site at a time of a “hotel boom” in response to the opening of the New York Crystal Palace exhibition of 1853. In the 1870’s the hotel was managed by Richard Tweed, son of the infamous Boss Tweed. By 1895, The Metropolitan Hotel was demolished to make way for the Havemeyer Building built by sugar magnate Henry O. Havemeyer as a sewing factory and is the building we see today at the northeast corner of Prince and Broadway.
During the Metropolitan Hotel’s heyday, its guests included a Japanese delegation who came to learn about New York ‘s latest technological advances. It seems that they were a bit early. Had they come today, they could have taken away quite a few valuable tech tips from current residents of this landmarked building, including Fueled, Thrillist, ZocDoc, and Foursquare!