Internet denizens have become freshly enamored with an over-a-century-old NYC legend.
Adjacent to the MetroCard machines in a forgettable corner of the Times Square subway station is an easily overlooked, locked gray door. Above it, a subtle off-white sign reading Knickerbocker; through it, a once-opulent passageway leading to the bar of the former Astor-owned hotel.
More than 100 years later, a TikTok influencer is making the tunnel a hot topic of conversation — but we’ll get into the viral “Subway Secrets” video with a half-million views later.
First, let’s flashback: no longer an open bar, it’s definitely been an open secret for years now.
In 2013, three years before TikTok was born, the underground sensation was hyped as one of “33 Must-Try Experiences” by The Post: On the southeast corner of Broadway and 42nd Street stands the former Knickerbocker Hotel, a sumptuous Beaux-Arts palace built in 1906 by John Jacob Astor and home to such famous New Yorkers as George M. Cohan and Enrico Caruso. The exterior is now landmarked, and the interior has been torn up to create garment-industry showrooms. There is, however, a last remnant of the old hotel in the Times Square subway station, near the 42nd Street Shuttle platform — a door that connected the station to the lobby, with “Knickerbocker” written in brass lettering above. After you find it and snap the requisite photo, head to the Algonquin — just about the last of the old Times Square/Broadway hotels — and sip a dry martini in the newly refurbished lobby.
“Its architectural features are shattered, punctured, flaking, spalling and crumbling,” the New York Times declared the next year. “Only an apocalyptic film director or an incurable romantic would be drawn to this space, which is used for storage.”
On Wednesday, John Friia, the digital creator of NYC fun, fact-focused TikTok account @hereinnyc told his nearly 160,000 followers: “If you ever walked through the Times Square subway station, ya might not have realized you passed a secret entrance.”
Friaa continued, “While the entrance is now sealed, it used to take people directly to the bar inside the famous Knickerbocker Hotel. It was so popular it was even nicknamed the 42nd Street Club.”
He goes on to tell the hotel’s history: It was opened by John Jacob Astor in 1906 — a year after the IRT opened its first subway line — had more than 500 rooms, was taken over by Astor’s son after he died in the Titanic and closed in 1920.
For 90 years, the 15-story Beaux-Arts building was then used as office space before being renovated and once again made into a hotel in 2014.
“Alas, the sealed-up door to the subway platform will remain closed — the new Knick’s basement will be used only for storage,” The Post reported of charming platform entrance at the time.
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