A film location scout in New York has discovered a beautiful 1920s hotel lobby hidden in an Upper West Side apartment – behind the beautiful Ansonia building – at 253 West 73rd Street.
The entrance might look like a typical building lobby on first look, with a desk to one side, an alcove with mailboxes beyond, until you go further in…
It turns out that the property was originally built by a group of Freemasons in 1927 known as the Levelers. The first Masonic clubhouse/hotel of its kind in the United States, the Level Club offered its members 225 bedrooms and such state-of-the-art amenities as a fully equipped gym, handball courts, “azure” swimming pool, Turkish baths, a solarium, bowling alleys, a grill, a barber shop, a manicurist, a lounge, dining rooms, a ballroom, an auditorium, a banquet hall, and a roof garden.
The building’s links with the Freemasons explain the decorations on its facade – if you take a close look at the photos below, you’ll see the square and compass, the all-seeing eye, an hourglass, an ‘LC’ emblem standing for the ‘Levelers Club’.
According to author Bruno Bertuccioli, who spent years writing about the building’s history, the Levelers Club was designed as a “true-to-size rendering of King Solomon’s Temple,” the only one of its kind in the entire world. In the center, you can see the pair of pillars representing the entrance to the Temple…
The ornate lobby has been beautifully preserved and is much the same as it was when it was built, although originally there would have also been a cigar department, theatre ticket booth, barber shop, shoe polishing service and phone booths. Meanwhile, the mirrored doors once led into the Palm Room, a meeting room decorated with live plants, and the dining rooms.
There was also once an auditorium and a billiards room.
Sadly, the Great Depression forced the Level Club to close just two years after it opened, but it later re-opened in the mid-1930s as the Riverside Plaza Hotel, a weekly hotel for men with “400 Rooms, modernly equipped, all with Bath, Radio; Gymnasium, Swimming Pool, Handball Courts, Bowling. New York’s Finest Banquet Facilities”. Famous baseball player, Babe Ruth, was also a regular visitor to its bowling alley.
A Riverside Plaza hotel card signed by Ruth was recently sold at auction:
You can discover more about The Level Club’s history, if you read Bruno Bertuccioli’s fascinating book.
Found on Scouting NY.