Dr. Patrick’s Postcard Roadside

Horn & Hardart

Horn & Hardart

Hot food from a coin-operated slot in the wall? Cheap. AUTOMATic. Modern. And so 1902.

Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart had already achieved local notoriety for the New Orleans style chicory coffee they served at the lunchroom they opened on Philadelphia’s Chestnut Street in 1898 when they introduced the German automat idea to the United States four years later. The idea was simple; prepare the food on one side of the wall and put it in the slot where a customer with coin or token could open a glass door and retrieve the item on the other side of the wall. Horn & Hardart opened their first New York City Automat on Times Square in 1912. Like many things low-brow, Automat architecture over-reached, the Times Square store was fronted by a two-story Spanish Colonial façade and stained glass windows.

The Times Square Automat operated next to the Globe Theater as seen in this view from across 46th Street in 1956. Horn & Hardart’s Automat had a surprisingly long run. They sold off many of their locations to Burger King in the 1970s and the last Automat at 42nd Street & 3rd Avenue closed in 1991.

Brial Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

After crossing the Eastern Continental Divide in Highlands, North Carolina, US 64 drops down the west slope of the Blue Ridge via Cullasaja Gorge passing a series of waterfalls including Bridal Veil Falls.

When the narrow road was built through the narrow gorge in 1927-28 it was located beneath the overhanging rock of Bridal Veil Falls. Travelers didn’t even have to get out of their cars to experience this rocky roadside wonder.

Repeated rock falls, road closures during floods, and ice in the winter caused North Carolina’s Bridal Veil Falls thrill ride to be bypassed as an option rather than a requirement for all traffic on US 64. The falls still tumble over the road, and you can still walk behind them, but you can no longer drive behind them.

The Georgian Revival hotel block

The Georgian Revival hotel block was a symbol that a small, mid-American city growing since becoming a railroad junction in the 1880s or 1890s had by the 1920s achieved the status of someplace among the galaxy of other towns on the prairie.

This was the largest, tallest and/or best-serviced hotel between “Dubuque and Denver,” or “Omaha and Dallas,” or “Minneapolis and Seattle,” and they could be found in places like Amarillo, Texas; Wichita, Kansas; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Springfield, Illinois; Bismarck, North Dakota, and Grand Island, Nebraska. Their Classical tripartite form of base-shaft-capital was invariably Renaissance Revival styled, heavy on the Georgian with an array of urns, garlands, swags and Palladian windows topped by a massive, neon-lit roof sign visible for miles across the plains.

HERRING HOTEL, AMARILLO, TEXAS, 1928 (above). Queen city of the Texas Panhandle and the Llano Estacado, Amarillo added a 1920s oil boom to its thriving ranches and prosperous banks stimulating H. T. Herring -local mogul in all three industries- to build the Herring Hotel. Just as famous as the hotel itself was its cowboy-themes Old Tascosa Room, named after the original queen city of the Texas Panhandle. The Herring still stands abandoned for decades and always surrounded by a swirl of restoration plans that if fulfilled will prove to Amarillo the glory days have returned.

ROOSEVELT HOTEL, CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA, 1927. The Roosevelt went up on the transcontinental Lincoln Highway at the prestigious corner of 1st Avenue & 2nd Street in downtown Cedar Rapids. It was the tallest commercial building in the city; nearly as tall as the Quaker Oats plant and certainly within the smell of its cereal. The Roosevelt attracted the spotlight of infamy with its own film noir-like love triangle murder in 1948. Like all the other flagship hotels, hard times came with Interstate, but the hotel was saved by an apartment conversion in 2010.

YANCEY HOTEL, GRAND ISLAND, NEBRASKA, 1923. Farther west on the Lincoln Highway, the Yancey Hotel became Grand Island, Nebraska’s tallest building in 1923, opening a few blocks away from the Union Pacific depot. The Yancey’s Big City service was announced right on the street by a doorman who managed a small army of bellhops. You could order truffles, caviar and calf brains in the Scenic Room. The auto age put the hotel on the ropes just the same, closing its doors in 1982. The building was nonetheless saved by a condo renovation.