The Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum Library boasts more than 10,000 postcards in its “hidden” collection. Arranged by subject in card file drawers, they range in date from the turn of the century to the 1990’s. In our last post, Parisian fashion was featured. In this second post, the Libraries will feature the architecture of New York and Los Angeles.
Postcards bear testament to seminal moments and monuments of history. They record the interiors and exteriors of some of the most celebrated hotels of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many of which no longer stand today. This includes photographs and etchings of buildings from every state in the United States as well as cards from virtually every major European city.
Many of the cards in the collection depict scenes from New York. A few capture the Hotel Astor,
a luxury hotel that opened to New Yorkers in September 1904, but in
1967, less than three-quarters of a century later, was demolished to
make room for a 50-story office tower. The Astor’s architects, Charles
W. Clinton and William H. Russell designed the fashionable hotel in the
French Renaissance Beaux-Arts style, and within a year it would open a
lavish roof garden, filled with fountains, trees, waterfalls, lilies,
and thousands of flowers, hosting famous parties from the early 1920’s
until just after World War II.
Several New York postcards document older monuments: the bustling Hotel Rockwell, a popular resort for wealthy urbanites seeking vacation in the Catskills in Monticello, New York, that burnt to the ground in 1909.
Postcards from California include hotels, cityscapes, and mining towns. There are several images of the exterior of The Ambassador, a Los Angeles hotel that hosted the Academy Award ceremonies. the Ambassador also housed numerous presidents, including Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon, and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, until he was assassinated in the hotel’s pantry on June 5, 1968. The Ambassador was torn down in 2006.
The California postcard collection also includes numerous early twentieth century views of Californian mining towns and the city of Los Angeles.
Stay tuned for more postcard fun…—Sara O'Keeffe