Hearing held on former automat

Designation hearing held on one of the last remaining H&H automat structures in New York. Landmarks held a well-attended public hearing June 27, 2006 on the Horn and Hardart Building at 2710 Broadway, a former automat built in 1930 by the architecture firm F.P. Platt and Brothers. Currently home to a Rite- Aid drugstore, much of the building’s signature ornamentation is covered with signs. The flagship Horn and Hardart, or “H&H”, as they were known, at West 57th Street was recently demolished, leaving the 2710 Broadway branch as one of the few examples left.

The phenomenon of the automat started in Philadelphia around the turn of the century, and the last one closed in 1991. Beacons of modernism, customers bought food and beverages by inserting coins into vending machines, while restaurant staff worked out of sight.

The Horn and Hardart building possesses an Art Deco facade, with terra cotta in a rare gold-luster glaze. Rite-Aid planned to alter the facade, but an effort spearheaded by Michael Gotlin convinced it to cover the facade instead. Gotlin addressed Landmarks at the hearing. Other speakers included Steve Stallman, who maintains a website devoted to automats, who spoke of the automats egalitarian nature, and their function as a place where writers and artists could linger over an inexpensive meal. Stallman also called the hearing “tragic,” since it was only held after the loss of the West 57th Street branch.

Representatives from the Art Deco Society of New York and the Friends of Terra Cotta urged swift designation and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Council Members Tony Avella, David Yassky and Melissa Mark- Viverto and Congressman Charles Rangel all sent representatives or letters in support of designation.

LPC: Horn and Hardart Building, 2710- 2714 Broadway (LP-2203) (June 27, 2006).

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