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Past Uncovered: The Hotel Granada

October 22, 2007

granada-1950s-small.jpgThe Hotel Granada (pictured left, in the 1950s, courtesy of Brooklyn Public Library) once stood 16 stories tall at 268 Ashland Place between Lafayette and Fulton.  Completed in 1927 (according to this DOB document), it immediately became a stomping ground for the borough’s wealthier residents and their visitors.  Brooklynites celebrated weddings and other milestones in its Forsythia Room.  Well into the 1960s, the hotel was a favored venue for events in the area.  (A commenter in this Brownstoner post claims that visiting baseball teams used to stay there when playing the Dodgers.)

Fort Greene resident James Irons, who moved into the neighborhood in 1970, told me about the hotel at that time in a recent email:

By then was very quiet.  There was a restaurant on the ground floor on the corner, the Gondola I believe.  Used to see proper old white ladies going in for an afternoon cocktail and meal with their white gloves and hats.  As the area declined there were ideas about turing the hotel into student housing for arts students in conjunction with BAM.  Nothing came of the idea and the hotel changed hands and became one of the areas welfare hotels. It was renamed the Brooklyn Arms and the ground floor was converted into a laundromat.

Indeed, by the early 70s, the hotel had begun its transformation into a welfare hotel, one of over 60 that would eventually dot the city.  In the mid-1980s, the hotel had become a notorious blight to the struggling-to-imrove neighborhood.  BAM in particular took issue with the Granada (by this time called the Brooklyn Arms), which sat caddy corner to the academy and whose residents, as described in this New York Times article, intimidated concertgoers and created a general atmosphere of unwelcomeness as the venue strove to attain world-class status.  The resentment of hotel residents toward well-heeled BAM patrons is not surprising, given the inhumane living conditions in the once grand building; no hot water, roach and rodent infestation, toilet paper shortages, broken elevators, large families in single rooms, and rampant drug dealing.

In July, 1989, the last homeless family moved out of the Granada, as the city of New York closed down its countless welfare hotels.  After that, all that remained was one man who had lived in a rent-controlled apartment in the hotel for decades and could not be forced out.  In 1994, the Hotel Granada’s legacy came to an unceremonious close as the hotel was demolished and the site turned into a parking lot for BAM.

Granada then (Courtesy of Brooklyn Pix):
granada-then-small.jpg

Granada site now:
granada-site-now.jpg

More pics of the Hotel Granada:
Street view from the early 1960s, with BAM (hotel is near left)
I’ll be posting more as I come across them.

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44 comments

  1. Fascinating! Thanks for the intersting post. Just happened on your blog via Brownstoner and OneHansonPlace. As a soon to be resident of One Hanson, I’m enjoying learning about the history of Fort Greene. Too bad they tore the Granada down, looks like it was a beautiful building. Paved paradise and put up a parking lot…


  2. Every time I read another story about something so historic being demolished and forgotten I feel like crying. I go to BAM weekly for movies and what not and it would be great to see a beautiful building like the Granada across the street – even if was a co-op or condos by now. Man, The 70’s and 80’s really fucked this city up. Thanks for the post though, keep em coming.


  3. Great stuff; truly traces and acts like a social history of this area over the past 70 years.


  4. More historical posts like this! I live just down Ashland from here and had no idea that this space was ever anything but a parking lot. I have often wondered about the history of the building directly across Ashland from there (adjacent to Tomas Biesel). And speaking of parking lots, why is it that both of those lots on Ashland are always nearly empty, when the Harvey Theater constantly takes up all the spots on my block for production trucks!? (sorry, just had to gripe). Thanks for the interesting story.


  5. Hello.I don’t know if anybody is going to read this.I was on my computer looking up the Brooklyn Arms Hotel and ran into this article.I just wanted to say that I was once a resident of the Brooklyn Arms Hotel from March 87-Feb 88.It was a lot going on there,it wasn’t just the drug selling it was also a lot of prostitution going on there too.Crackheads were trading sexual favors for drugs.The workers were also having sex with the tenants.I know I was one of them.My mother was also messing with one of the worksers and caught the aids virus.It was one of the most disgusting places I ever lived in my whole life.I was 14 years old at the time.That was no place for kids.I just wanted to vent and get that off of my chest.I thought I was the only one that remembered that place.


    • Hi I was there the same time I was in 819 I will never forget that hell hole


  6. My dad was a sea captain whose ships’ home port was at one time what I believe was called Erie basin. Our family home was in northeast Pa. For many years well up into the 50’s he and my mother often stayed at the Granada and in fact kept a trunk there with some personal items including a toaster and coffee pot so they would not have to use room service or eat out as often. As a youth I accompanied them on many of these visits and have fond memories of my stays, including the courteous staff, occasionally having room service breakfast, snacking on cheesecake from the deli around the corner, and looking in awe at the tiny vehicles below a high window and hearing the sounds of the bustling city as I lay in bed at night. It was quite a trip for a kid from a small town in Pennsylvania to stay at what I remember as a once grand and elegant place.


  7. My children and I were residents(prisoners)at the Brooklyn Arms 1984-1989 The city of New York paid three thousand dollars weekly for 1 room I could not believe that the apartments that were available to us were worst than where we came from and worst as the bowels of hell we were in I blame my children’s father for never helping financially My children all have good jobs their lives and mines are stable As for the deadbeat Dad who caused us to become homeless he is living with his 82 year old mom he’s dying from aids karma is a mother-fin bitch now he’s waiting the upper room .


  8. I worked for many years in the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower (another gem) from 1987-1997. The nature of my work allowed me access to virtually any place in the tower, and I would enjoy having my lunches along its parapets and especially in the dome. It has such a wonderful sweeping vistas of the boroughs. I’ve always had a fascination for the lives of buildings in the area, and the Hotel Granada always held a special mystique for me. I wasn’t able to find much information on it back then, but I suspected by its grandeur that it once had been a lively place. Having the luxury of viewing it from the tower, I could see how the roof would have made a fine roof-garden. Its image is locked in my memory as a place of happiness; I was saddened to read of others’ terrible experiences there in the ’80s.

    Now, for a bit of morbid trivia:

    Joseph John Lannin owned the hotel back in 1928 when he mysteriously fell from one of its 9th-floor windows. He is famous for, among other things, being a prior owner of the Boston Red Sox and was responsible for signing Babe Ruth.


  9. To Jennifer Thomas
    You may not ever read this but I was also a child of Brooklyn Arms Hotel. I don’t remember the dates but it could have been around the same time as you. So much has happened during that time in my life that it is all so foggy. I remember that hell hole vividly though. I remember the constant fires, drugs, deaths of people falling down elevator shafts. I remember the Rats, the lurking men, the crack heads and the big drug bust. Life has turned great for me now but I have to believe in a higher power because with all of the tragedies that have occurred there, I wonder how I could I have escaped unscaved. Not so much psychologically but in every other way. I hope your life has turned out the way you wanted and that you are protected by a higher power. I am now one of those people who attend the BAM performances but can’t help to always look across the street at the constant reminder of my past….I am happy to say it is in the past though. No matter how nice and luxurious they make that property, I can never see myself living there though.
    Take care of yourself.
    L


  10. Here is another story from later years. Being a big fan of terra cotta detailed buildings, after moving to Ft. Greene in 1987, I could not help but notice the grandeur of the Granada’s decorative terra cotta. When they started to tear it down, I was saddened as most of the lovely pieces were literally pushed onto the center of the hotel and carted off to landfill. I would jog by every morning as the demolition worked its way down the floors. There was a lovely balcony window on the 6th floor with lots of decoration. While wearing a t-shirt from 88th Precinct Fun Run I convinced the crew chief to save some of the terra cotta. He said come back after 4 and he would help me out. I did and he took me up to that floor in the construction elevator and told the workers I was a cop and wanted to save some of the pieces for historical reasons. They lowered about 20 pieces down to the ground and I picked them up in my old volvo. I later installed them as garden elements in my brownstone backyard on Vanderbilt along with some pieces rescued from the old LI Railroad Station torn down earlier. Wonder if they are still there. I sold in 2001.


  11. I lived there in 1963-64 Room 504..It was an one of two official off-campus housing locations for Pratt Institute. Mr. Sammer was the RA. Wild scene late nite at Fat Man’s bar around the corner on Fulton Street…no way we’d go there…lot’s of “may we dance with yo’ dates?” guys there, and rumors of shootings.. Then there was Bickford’s a coupla’ doors down where for $1.29 you could get two eggs over-easy and a couple of sausage patties..and see a stunner on the way home you saw there hawking a trick for ten bucks in the recessed shoe store entries between the front windows. Down Ashland just past B.A.M. on the right there was a burger joint in a little triangle, couple of stools mostly take-out ..open gas grill and flame-broiled patties for 45 cents..on the right same side as the Granada. The Granada had older folks working the manual elevators and one afternoon walking out of the elevator there, I heard President Kennedy was shot.


  12. @ Sharon Hello that was a prison I too was a resident there for many years so much was going on there I was a child just trying to survive it, It’s good to know that we actually survived I probably used to play with your children wow !!!


  13. Lived there from September, 1963 to June 1964. It was a contract off-campus official residence for Pratt Institute up DeKalb Avenue at Hall Street. I lived at Rm. 504. Four resident students to each apartment pair of bedrooms with shared bathroom and tiny, slide-in kitchen with ample room for a hot plate and an over-flowing sink full of dishes. We did our best to demolish the place internally. We had human elevator operators, and one afternoon in November I got to the elevator, saw the operator and learned about 2:30PM that JFK had been shot in Dallas.


  14. The Granada was a dormitory for Pratt Institute in the mid to late 60’s. I remember meeting the infamous Robert Mapplethorpe there during ‘introduction week’ in September 1963.


  15. My grandparents lived in the Hotel Granada – when it was a beautiful hotel in the 1950s. I remember taking an elevator up to their apartment. The elevator had 2 red velvet covered seats in the 2 “corners” of the elevator. My sibs and I would scramble to make sure we got a seat. There was a store that sold sundries in the lobby. They had a beautiful ballroom. There were revolving doors at the entrance. On Jewish holidays, if the crowd was large, my grandmother would use an party room that I guess the hotel rented out to tenants. I think there was an armed forces recruting storefront next door to the hotel. It was a magical place.


    • My husband’s grandparents Ida and Al lived in an efficiency apt. in the Granada 1950’s – 1962. He has many fond memories of visiting them on Sundays and of meeting the Dodger and other ballplayers and being allowed to “run” the elevator (which had a human operator)


  16. My Father worked at the Granada Hotel for many years in the Banquet area. My brother and I spent most of our weekends in High School Helping out. We were there to see the decline of the great Hotel. But, we were also there to see a bit of the heydays…..Yes, The Forsythia room was special back then…..Weddings and other celebrations.
    We spent many a Saturday afternoon in the
    Gondola Restaurant watching the famous actors come and go…..We loved it!


  17. A P.S. to Jennifer Thomas,
    Yes, someone did read your comments. I am so sorry you spend even a moment of your life under those circumstances…no one should ever have to!


    • I also lived in the Granada in the early eighties. My father was often put out of the hotel so we lived @ the hotel off and on until 1985 when i was taken away from my abusive heroine addicted father. Its funny how i still remember that disgusting hotel and how the 17th floor was off limits because a child rapist supposedly lived on that floor. Im glad that hellhole was torn down because all my memories of that place have to do with hunger, poverty, abuse, and filth. My father also died from HIV in 1997 and i wonder how many other children that lived in the Granada lost their parent(s) to HIV.
      Santia


    • Thanks Helene. I’m glad I got over that place. As of now I live in Manhattan with my husband and my kids. I tried to make sure my kids didn’t have to grow up that way. Sometimes the wrong things my mother displayed taught me what not to do. The year I’ve spent in that place was horrible. It was like another world. Some of the people in their was the absolute worst with no respect for themselves or other people. Words can’t describe how I felt living there. Once I lived there I made bad choices for myself that affected my whole life. Part of me was mad at my parents because I felt if it weren’t for their drug use I would’ve never been put in that situation. It upsets me when my kids complain about little things. They don’t understand how much worst things could be because they grew up differently from the way I was raised.


    • Thanks helene for your comment. I made sure that my kids life turned out a hell of a lot better than mines.


  18. Our wedding was beautiful…and to think there is only a parking lot left…how sad! Thanks, A-J…you are a gem!


  19. What does “awaiting moderation” mean? Our wedding was 49 years ago this Thanksgiving Day!


  20. I still don’t know the meaning of “awaiting moderation”


  21. Jennifer-you are definately not the only one who remembers the place , the things that went on there and even things my parents were involved in. I was there from 1983-1985 when my aunt and uncle took my sister and I away from our parents. It was the first day of the rest of our lives and close to the end of my parents. My mother died two years later at the age of 29 from and overdose and my father at the age of 35 the next year due to heart failure from drug use. 😦 I was fortunate enough to be provided a good life but I would be lying if I said there are no scares left by the things I witnessed there.


    • im feeling you on that. i got token from my mom back then too. she recovered & fought to get custody of us for 3 years. She is now a housing cop. my pops kept on doing his thing. these kids these days dont understand a struggle. to them – it’s not being able to get high…or having a $500 phone, $300 sneakers, but no money on hand or income. I buy the best of things because I earned my keeps. for us – Drugs & Alcohol seemed liked the norm for just about everyone in the hotel. i enjoyed living there & learning what i needed too. i believe some of us had to see to believe, so we would know whats better – when the time come


  22. This story is nicely done. I can always appreciate history about various buildings and landmarks in NYC. I am a rubbish removalist and I completely take advantage — every time I am on a job I get totally sidetracked by the history of whatever building I am in. On an interior demolition job in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, I actually found a well that still existed from the 1800s. (http://tinyurl.com/2ujwev5)


  23. In the late 50’s and early 60’s, my brother took Judo Lessons at the Granada Hotel. We lived in Greenpoint and my Mom would drive us there each Saturday after my dance lessons. They had the Penthouse Ballroom to use on Saturday mornings. I remember as a little girl going into that big beautiful building and being in awe of all the pretty decor. It is just sad to see that a counrty so young as ours feels that buildings of that age are worthless. We really do need to take a page or two or more from Europeans who value their architectural history!


  24. Hi I was delighted to come across your site.I have a lovely photo of function room at the Granada Hotel my ancestors Silver Wedding Anniversary in 1937 there is 80 people in the photo and you can see them all clearly. I have never been to USA unfortunately so was thrilled to see the photo of the Hotel and learn of its history. The great gran niece of that lady who was having her Silver Wedding works with the Homeless and cares deeply about the people she works with. Anyone can find themselves homeless. lack of employment,health issues mental or physical drink or drugs many causes for being homeless Sad to read how unhappy people were in it in later years.


  25. I lived at the Brooklyn Arms with my young daughter for almost a year (82). I kept to myself and kept my head down so I didn’t experience much of the bad. But I do remember waking up one night to a young man rummaging through my things. I screamed and he ran out. I notified the front desk and they added more secure locks on the door.
    There was an HUD office on the second floor that provided leads to apartments throughout the city. Most of those apartments were just as bad as the rooms in the Brooklyn Arms. I did manage to find a gem in east NY. I moved out of the Brooklyn Arms before the year was up and spent five years at my new apartment. I now live in NC since 89 and own a beautiful home. My daughter is grown with two beautiful and intelligent children of her own. She and I are doing well. The Brooklyn Arms was there when I needed a place to live and didn’t have one. I was sleeping in the stairwells of various apartment buildings at night. I placed my child with family until I found a place to live. I was placed in the Brooklyn Arms. It was not a good place to live but it was temporary housing and I was grateful. It was evident despite the poor condition of the building that the Hotel Granada was once a beautiful place. I had hoped the building would be renovated like so much of the area. A parking lot is not what I imagined.


    • Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone. They pave paradise and put up a parking lot.


  26. I have a beautiful picture of the Grananda circa 1944 and it is of a wedding in the Forsinthia room. It is a grand gorgeous picture. If you are interested, I will be posting it to my facebook page soon. To all who want to remember the ‘Good Old Days’! -Carmella Armandillo


  27. I actually lived here when I was eight years old(1988) and had just moved to the united states. The “hotel” was a hole but its still sad to know that a part of my youth is longer in existence.


  28. I remember 88′ & 89′ so clear.. Them years shaped me & brought me into the real world.. I ran into 2 people I use to hang with back then. I never knew people actually would connect somehow about Brooklyn Arms.. I remember the gas station & watching all them guys drinking, smoking, arguing, selling drugs all out in the open.. and them long coats.. u knew they had guns.. i was on the 11th floor & hated walking up them stairs. i think there was 2 elevators and when they broke… lol ….. i remember i got stuck in 1 – 1 day after school. it was between floors for like a half an hour & the firemen had us climb out & some kid bag fell as soon as he got out.. … Hit me up @ Tylilz Da Maser Chef @ Fb.. lets connect & share some old school stories.. anybody remember seeing Princess Diana come to the Bam ?


  29. Fred and I experienced our wedding reception and first married night here.


  30. Just ran across a photograph dated Oct. 1945. My parents at their wedding reception. Looks to be quite the grand room. Doesn’t say exactly the name of the reception area. Looks like a live band area behind my parents head table. Must have been a jumpin place!


  31. I had never seen the Hotel Granada, but I know a little bit about it’s history (at least in the mid 1940’s). Both my Mom and Dad worked there shortly after the war. I beiieve it was my Dad’s first job after leaving the Navy in April, 1946. It was there he met my Mom and they were married in April of 1947. They told me many interesting stories about the residents (most of them pleasant) who lived there at the time. They refered to my parents as “the kids” as they continued to work there for awhile after getting married. What some people may have forgotten was that some of the Brookyln Dodgers lived there as well. Pete Reiser, an outfielder for the Dodgers lived there and he and my Dad become good friends. I guess I will always have a soft spot for the Granada, a place I never had the pleasure to see.


  32. im sorry for all the tramatic experiences you all have had at the hotel Granada…I lived on south Elliott place..right up the block from the academy of music…passed by there hundreds of times..had no idea all that negative activity went on there..


  33. I also was a former tenant.that.s where i moved with my siblings and my mom.although it was evil, i made some best friends there.wow still keep in close contact with them today.i have good memories and bad.


  34. I worked for the City Savings Bank of Bklyn and they held there Christmas Party there every year Many fond memories


  35. My parents met at the Hotel Grenada in 1954 at what was called ‘Friday Night Dance’. They fell in love, got married and had 7 kids. The hotel may have gone to hell in a hand basket but it sure kicked off one beautiful love story for the ages. D.Pare


  36. My father also worked at the Granada Hotel…..in the 40’s and 50’s, when it was still wonderful……. He was the Day Manager and Front Desk Manager, and my sister and I started working in the office behind the telephone operator……. I did some office work involving the receipts from the dining room……. It was when the big credit card was the Diner’s Club card, and a small company was just starting….. called American Express!!!…… My sister had her wedding reception there…… We met lots of stars and baseball players, and I even had my picture taken with Johnny Padres and Duke Snyder……Our Aunt Jesse lived there for a while…… I loved visiting her and taking the elevator up and down…… Even went to a dentist who had his office there…… a Dr. Isaacson……..It is sad to read the comments of those who lived there when it was the Brooklyn Arms……
    Joanne ….. October 24, 2014


  37. GREAT HOTEL. THOMAS JEFFERSON HIGHSCHOOL HAD THEIR YEARLY FOOTBALL TEAM AWARDS DINNER EACH YEAR.
    BEING IN THAT HOTEL 1963-1965 WAS LIKE GOING BACK IN TIME.



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