Born: February 22, 1901, Mapimí, Durango, Mexico
Died: August 22, 1980, New York City, New York, United States
Buried: Sunset Memorial Park, San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas, USA
Find A Grave Memorial# 45333475
At the turn of the XX-century the blocks between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in midtown saw the advent of high-end residential hotels and exclusive clubs as once-fashionable residences one-by-one were demolished or converted for business purposes. One of the first, the Royalton Hotel for well-heeled bachelors, was erected in 1898 spanning the block from 44th to 45th Streets.
Address: 44 W 45th St, New York, NY 10036, USA (40.7561, -73.98168)
Type: Guest Facility (open to public)
In 1901 A. G. Hyde sold four lots on 45th Street, Nos. 44 through 50, and a single lot on 44th Street next to the New York Yacht Club. On July 24, 1901 The New York Times reported that “The site will be improved with a twelve-story apartment hotel.” By August of the following year the Seymour Hotel was nearly ready for occupancy. Built by developers Irons & Todd, it was touted as “fireproof” and “positively exclusive.” Unlike the Royalton or the Hotel Mansfield which would open on West 44th Street a year later in 1903 the new Seymour was not intended just for bachelors; but was marketed to well-to-do families. M.F. Miller was the President of the Iroquois Hotel at No. 49 West 44th Street and his brother, J.C. Miller, was its Secretary and Treasurer. On August 16, 1902 they added the Seymour to their responsibilities, leasing the new hotel from Irons & Todd for 21 years at a gross rental of $1,395,900. On October 1 the Seymour Apartment Hotel opened its doors to its new residents. The Beaux Arts building was constructed of red brick with limestone trim, sitting on a two-story rusticated limestone base. The main 45th Street entrance was framed in a dramatic limestone portico above a set of three stone steps. The white stone quoins and bandcourses contrasted with the red brick and a sumptuous balcony stretched the wide of the structure at the 10th floor. On the narrow 44th Street side, the skinny building did its best to keep up. It mimicked the rusticated base and even the balcony; yet the strange proportions resulted in a gawky, cartoonish structure. Residents were offered apartments from two to “five or more” rooms with yearly leases. The magnificent dining room offered both “Restaurant a la Carte” or “Table d’Hote.” Guests were promised that the hotel was planned “for the comfort of its guests, luxurious and artistic in its appointments.” The once-magnificent midtown hotels suffered in the latter part of the XX century as new, modern hotels and apartment buildings left them dowdy and somewhat seedy. On January 19, 1981 New York Magazine remarked about the Seymour Hotel. “An AAA sign hangs out front, and, inside, the dim lobby and corridors—with the obligatory red carpet—give off a sense of better days gone by…Not as Spartan or desperate as some, it’s just…cheerless; call it a 4 on the Depression Scale.” While some of the old hotels—like the Royalton—were reclaimed with multi-million dollar makeovers; it was not to be for the Seymour Hotel. In 2000 it was demolished, replaced with the soaring 30-story Sofitel which, almost ironically, has its main entrance at the skinny little plot on West 44th Street.
Who: Robert Emmett "Bobby" Harron (April 12, 1893 – September 5, 1920) and Narcissa Florence Foster Jenkins (July 19, 1868 – November 26, 1944)
Robert Harron was an American motion picture actor of the early silent film era. Although he acted in over 200 films, he is known for his roles in the D.W. Griffith directed films “The Birth of a Nation” (1915) and “Intolerance” (1916). Born in New York City, Harron was second oldest child of nine siblings in a poor, working-class Irish Catholic family. Harron's younger siblings John (nicknamed "Johnnie"), Mary and Charles also became actors while one of his younger sisters, Tessie, worked as an extra in silent films. Charles was killed in a car accident in December 1915. Tessie died of Spanish influenza in 1918 while Harron's brother John died of spinal meningitis in 1939. Harron attended the Saint John Parochial School in Greenwich Village. At the age of fourteen, he found work as an errand boy at American Biograph Studios. In addition to cleaning duties, Harron also appeared as an extra in a few shorts for Biograph. Within a year of working for Biograph, Harron was noticed by newly hired director D.W. Griffith. In September 1920, Harron traveled from Los Angeles to New York by train to support Lillian Gish at the film premiere of her film “Way Down East.” He checked into the Hotel Seymour on September 1. He was sharing the hotel room with screenwriter and director Victor Heerman. After the premiere, Harron was alone in his hotel room when a gun in his possession discharged and wounded him. According to published reports, Harron had the gun in a trunk along with other possessions. As he took some clothes out of the trunk, the gun fell to the floor, discharged and hit him in the chest, puncturing his lung. He called the hotel desk for assistance and was still conscious when the hotel manager came to his room. Not realizing he was seriously wounded, Harron joked with the manager that he was in a "devil of a fix" having shot himself. He initially refused to let the manager call an ambulance, only wanting to be examined by a local physician. After a physician could not be found, Harron agreed to allow the manager to call an ambulance. Harron was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center. Shortly after the shooting, rumors arose that Harron had intentionally shot himself. There was speculation that Harron was despondent over being passed over for the leading role in “Way Down East” (Richard Barthelmess was cast in the lead role). Several of Harron's friends rejected the suicide theory. Harron's friend Victor Heerman, with whom he often went on double dates and was staying with Harron in the Hotel Seymour, later said that he went to see Harron after the shooting and Harron denied that he intentionally shot himself. There were also rumors that Harron had attempted suicide over the breakup of his relationship with Dorothy Gish. Victor Heerman said that Harron was a teetotaler and a virgin because he was a devout Catholic, and for those reasons Heerman rejected claims that Harron had killed himself. Miriam Cooper and Lillian Gish agreed, largely because he was his family's major source of income and he was about to start filming with Elmer Clifton. Harron also told his friend, a priest, that he did not attempt suicide. Friends who visited Harron in the hospital were optimistic about his recovery as he appeared to be on the mend. However, on September 5, four days after he was shot, Harron died of his wound. He is interred at Calvary Cemetery (4902 Laurel Hill Blvd, Woodside, NY 11377). Critic Richard Schickel believes he was gay and shot himself out of stress from having to hide this. Also Florence Foster Jenkins was living at The Seymour Hotel. nkins was an American socialite and amateur soprano who was known and mocked for her flamboyant performance costumes and notably poor singing ability. The historian Stephen Pile ranked her "the world's worst opera singer". "No one, before or since," he wrote, "has succeeded in liberating themselves quite so completely from the shackles of musical notation." Despite (or perhaps because of) her technical incompetence, she became a prominent musical cult figure in New York City during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Cole Porter, Gian Carlo Menotti, Lily Pons, Sir Thomas Beecham, and other celebrities were fans. Enrico Caruso is said to have "regarded her with affection and respect". The poet William Meredith wrote that what Jenkins provided "... was never exactly an aesthetic experience, or only to the degree that an early Christian among the lions provided aesthetic experience; it was chiefly immolatory, and Madame Jenkins was always eaten, in the end.” At the age of 76, Jenkins finally yielded to public demand and booked Carnegie Hall (152 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019) for a general-admission performance on October 25, 1944. Tickets for the event sold out weeks in advance; the demand was such that an estimated 2,000 people were turned away at the door. Numerous celebrities attended, including Cole Porter, Marge Champion, Gian Carlo Menotti, Kitty Carlisle, Tallula Bankhead, Daniel Pinkham, Lily Pons with her husband, Andre Kostelanetz, who composed a song for the recital. McMoon later recalled an "especially noteworthy" moment: "[When she sang] 'If my silhouette does not convince you yet/My figure surely will' [from Adele's aria in Die Fledermaus], she put her hands righteously to her hips and went into a circular dance that was the most ludicrous thing I have ever seen. And created a pandemonium in the place. One famous actress had to be carried out of her box because she became so hysterical." Five days after the concert, Jenkins suffered a heart attack while shopping at G. Schirmer's music store, and died a month later on November 26, 1944, at her Manhattan residence, the Hotel Seymour. She was buried next to her father in the family crypt at Hollenback Cemetery (540 N River St, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702), Plot: Foster Family Mausoleum. Cosmé McMoon (born Cosmé McMunn; February 22, 1901 – August 22, 1980) was a Mexican-American pianist and composer, best known as the accompanist to Florence Foster Jenkins. McMoon never ended up making a career in music after Jenkins' death in 1944, and instead took an interest in bodybuilding and judging bodybuilding contests. He resided in New York City until shortly before his death in August 1980. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and moved back to San Antonio, where he was buried at Sunset Memorial Park (San Antonio, TX 78218). He never married or had any children and is rumoured to be gay.
Queer Places, Vol. 1 edited by Elisa Rolle
Release Date: July 24, 2016
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