Throwback Thursday: A night out in Manhattan…in 1916!

broadway 1916 pd

This series is getting exhausting. We’ve been out on the town in Manhattan seven times now, and this will be the eighth. After eight weeks (and nearly 100 years) of subpar Chinese food, mediocre movies and warbly Broadway show tunes I’m starting to long for a “Throwback Thursday” series in, say, Boise, Idaho or Wheeling, West Virginia. Anyway, you and I both know that’s not going to happen. Here’s the Mousketeer roll call of the times we’ve been to: November 1938, March 1977, August 1922, October 1951, September 1985, March 1943 and May 1967. Tonight we go back nearly a century, to a troubled time while much of the world–but not us, thankfully–was at war: the autumn of 1916.

As with all previous installments of the series, all the details here–show times, prices, addresses, etc.–are accurate down to the exact day.

Today is Friday, December 1, 1916. It’s Thanksgiving weekend–turkey day was yesterday–but you won’t hear anybody talking about “Black Friday,” because it (mercifully) hasn’t been invented yet. The big news everywhere is the war in Europe. On the Western Front, British troops are engaged with German divisions near Ypres, Belgium. There’s fighting in Romania involving the Russians, who are having an exceptionally rough time. Though the United States hasn’t joined the fighting, we have troops occupying Santo Domingo, and just yesterday the U.S. military commander there declared a state of martial law. President Wilson, who narrowly won re-election last month by reminding us that “He Kept Us Out Of War,” will be in New York tomorrow to inaugurate the exterior lighting system of the Statue of Liberty and re-light her torch that has been remodeled. It should be good weather. Today is clear, slightly cold, with temperatures around 46 degrees; tomorrow will be the same. No rain.

luchow's restaurant 1902

Luchow’s, a German restaurant founded in 1882, was famously described as a place where “nothing ever changes.” This view dates from 1902, but I’m sure it looked the same in 1916. It closed in 1982.

So what to do in Manhattan in 1916? At first blush it may sound dull, but there’s actually a lot to do. Dinner-show combinations seem to be big. We can, for example, go to Thomas Healy’s restaurant, Broadway & 66th Street, for the much-ballyhooed Golden Glades Midnight Parade and Ice Ballet. There are 50 people in the show, a “skating carnival”–so I guess there’s an ice rink in the restaurant. Dinner is served twice, at 7:30 and 11:30 PM, with a la carte service. It sounds like the party is really swinging at the Strand Roof, Broadway & 47th, a rooftop bar. There’s no cover charge, liquor is served, you can dance from noon to closing, and dinner is a dollar. Yes, $1.00. Eat for a buck and dance on a rooftop in December with a drink in your hand? Color me “in” on that one!

Although it can’t compare with the Strand Roof, we could go to Luchow’s, which I mentioned in another segment of the series and mistakenly identified as a Chinese restaurant. It’s actually German. We aren’t at war with Germany (yet), so it’s not unpatriotic to be seen there. But honestly German food and beer doesn’t sound quite as awesome as what’s happening at Montmartre, Broadway & 50th Street. This place advertises, “The most unique dining place where exclusive New York meets famous Doraldina and her Hawaiians!” I haven’t a clue who Doraldina is, but Hawaiians are usually pretty cute, so that sounds good. Dancing and dining gets underway every evening at 10PM, service again a la carte.

The spectacle film Intolerance, at the time the most expensive movie ever made, was an ambitious project for 1916. Here is a modern trailer for the film.

If the Strand Roof and Doraldina’s Hawaiians just isn’t highbrow enough for you, Wagner’s opera Lohengrin is being performed at the Metropolitan Opera House. The show starts at 7:45. Last night they did Parsifal. Or, a pianist called Leginska is performing a Chopin piano recital at Carnegie Hall. Tickets range from 50 cents to $2.00. You’d really rather see that than the Hawaiians? Last chance: there’s something called the New 1916 Revue, a “gorgeously costumed entertainment with a beauty chorus,” in the New Arabian Room at Reisenweber’s, which I believe is on Columbus Circle. I should call them to make sure. The phone number is 9640. Yes, four digits.

As for shows, it doesn’t sound like any big musicals are sweeping Broadway by storm, but there are some things to see. A musical show called Miss Springtime is playing at the New Amsterdam Theater, West 42nd Street. After the show there’s something called “Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic.” I don’t suppose Doraldina will be there, but whatever. Show starts at 8:35. Or, there’s a well-reviewed comedy called Captain Kidd, Jr. by Rida Johnson Young playing at the Cohan & Harris Theatre also on West 42nd Street. It starts at 8:20. At the Winter Garden Theater–pictured at the top of this article–there’s a “Show of Wonders.” Not sure what that means, but if you want to find out tickets run from 50 cents to $1.50.

hotel traymore

The Hotel Traymore, on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, was once the leading luxury hotel at the New Jersey beach resort where many New Yorkers went to get away from it all..

Or we can go to a moving picture. The biggest one of all is D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance, which is playing at the Liberty Theater on West 42nd Street. (There’s an awful lot happening on West 42nd tonight). Silent film, but the movie house has a live orchestra of 50. Supposedly it’s the most spectacular moving picture ever made. Slightly smaller scale, A Daughter of the Gods, starring Annette Kellerman, is playing at the Lyric Theater on Broadway at 8:30. Tickets range from 25 cents to $2.00.

Actually, why don’t we get out of town for a change? Trains run all the time from Pennsylvania Station. Although it’s the off season, we could go to Atlantic City. The Hotel Traymore is very comfortable. The hotel is famous for their Submarine Grill. They have a booking office in the Times Building here in town, so we could reserve a room before we go. Of course, maybe we aren’t ready for that in our relationship yet, even though we have been going out on the town every Friday night for the past eight weeks. I only wish Doraldina’s Hawaiians were headlining there instead of at Montmartre.

I hope you enjoyed our night out in 1916. Thanks everyone for your continued support and enthusiasm for this series!

All images in this article are believed to be in the public domain.
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