On 4 Dec. 1903 the New York Times reported "Potter & Brother have sold, through E. A. Turner, to L. George Forgotston the property 4, 6, and 8 East Twenty-eighth Street, a plot 75 by 100, now covered by an old three-story building. The buyer will erect on the site a twelve-and-one-half-story hotel. The total amount involved in the operation, including the cost of ground and building, will be about $750,000. This project is the third of its kind to be undertaken within a few months in the block bounded by Fifth and Madison Avenues, Twenty-seventh and Twenty-eighth Streets. […] The old building at 4, 6, and 8 East Twenty-eighth Street has been occupied for the last forty-five years by Wood's Gymnasium."
The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission Historic District Designation Report "Madison Square North," 26 June 2001, described the history of the Latham: "This twelve-story hotel, the Latham, was designed by architect Augustus Allen, and built in 1904 for L. George Forgotston, at a time when the area's earlier dwellings and outbuildings were being replaced by lofts, offices, and hotels. The building replaced a mid-nineteenth-century, brick house and stable. Rider's New York City Guide (1923) described the Latham as a 'quiet family hotel.' It remains remarkably intact on the exterior."
4-8 East 28th St. is described as follows in the Office for Metropolitan History's Building Permits Database: "12-sty and basement brk and stone hotel, 75 x 92.9." The building's owner was L. George Forgotston, 206 W. 124th St., and his architect was Augustus N. Allen, 571 5th Ave. The building permit application was number 39 in 1904. Exactly when the hotel opened is not clear, but in November, 1904, the New York Times reported that receivers had been appointed for Lazarus George Forgotston, builder, of 208 W. 124th St. This could mean that Forgotston ran into difficulties and couldn't complete the construction, or simply that he was not able to meet his debts and lost the property. The first listing for the Latham Hotel in the New York telephone directory was in 1906.
The hotel's builder was Lazarus George Forgotston (1871?-1933). He was the son of Simon Forgotston and Elizabeth Glaus Forgotston, who immigrated to the U. S. from England in 1858. The family are found in the 1870 U. S. Census living in Syracuse, N. Y. This census, taken 18 July 1870, recorded Lazarus at age 1, although subsequent documents gave his birth year as 1871 or 1872. Simon Forgotston's occupation is hard to read but seems to say "Yankee Notions Dealer." Simon Forgotston did not live much beyond this census. Elizabeth Forgotston appears as "widow Simeon" in an 1872 Syracuse city directory. By 1874 she had moved the family to New York City. In the 1900 U. S. Census Elizabeth Forgotston was head of household at 206 W. 124th St., Manhattan. She lived with her daughter, Etta, and son, George L., and two servants. L. George Forgotston is listed in directories as a real estate broker in New York from 1899 to 1917. From approximately 1908 to 1917 he was in business with his brother, John S. Forgotston, at 40 W. 33rd St. The ship's manifest of the S.S. Leviathan, sailing from Cherbourg to New York 19 April 1927 listed L. George Forgotston, age 56, traveling with his sister, Etta Forgotston. Their residence was recorded as 40 W. 33rd St., New York City. Lazarus Forgotston died age 61 in Asheville, North Carolina. The death certificate gave "pulmonary tuberculosis" as cause of death. From the 1880s to the 1930s Asheville was known as a curative place for tuberculosis.
Lazarus Forgotston's older brother, John S. Forgotston (ca.1858-?) continued in the real estate business after Lazarus's death. He was listed as Forgotston Real Estate and Aetna Finance Co. at 40 W. 33rd St. through 1938, and he was recorded in the 1940 U. S. Census living in Brookhaven, Long Island, age 82, when he gave his occupation as "President, Finance Co."
The Hotel Latham is named for Henry Latham Felt (1858-1915), an early owner/operator. Henry L. Felt was a builder and appears in the 1900 U. S. Census as such. At that time he was 42 years old, and lived at 246 W. 106th St., Manhattan. By 1903, when Felt applied for a passport, he lived at Sea Gate, a private, gated community at the west end of Coney Island, Brooklyn. In 1906 Felt's Gotham Building and Construction Co. built the apartment house at 1 W. 85th St. on Central Park West. In 1908 the Gotham Building and Construction Co. sold the Latham Hotel to an investor, Charles Miller of Franklin, Penn. From there, in 1909, ownership passed to the Alsace Realty Co., the Latham Hotel Co. leasing the hotel for 19 years at an annual rental of $50,000 (New York Times, 7 Feb. 1909, p. 12). The Directory of Directors in the City of New York, 1911, showed Henry L. Felt, 1 W. 85th St., as president and director of the Latham Hotel Co.
Henry L. Felt died in 1915. Exactly when he severed his involvement with the Latham Hotel is not clear, but Polk's 1915 New York City Directory listed Albert L. Pratt and Mary A. Casey as officers at what was now called the Latham Operating Co., 4 E. 28th St. This same year The City Record's "Annual Record of Assessed Valuation of Real Estate, The City of New York," valued the Latham property at $245,000 (unimproved) and $540,000 (with improvements thereon).
But 1915 was not a good year for the Latham Hotel. As reported by the New York Times, 25 Nov. 1915, "The Hotel Latham, 4 East Twenty-eighth Street, will close its doors at noon tomorrow, according to an announcement made last night by Albert Pratt, the manager, and by Bernard H. Sandler, an attorney. Guests were notified last night that they would have to seek other quarters, and all employes [sic] received notice that their service would terminate tomorrow. The failure of the company, Mr. Sandler said, was due to the inability of the Latham Operating Company, lessees of the building, to pay their rent. The Operating Company leased the building from the Alsace Realty Company, the owners, at an annual rental of $60,000. According to Mr. Sandler, the lessees owe $17,000 rent. The European war is given as one cause for the failure. The hotel numbered many Germans among its patrons, but few of them have put up there since the war began. ... The hotel is a twelve-story structure, containing 232 rooms. It was opened as a hotel seven years ago."
Following the bankruptcy of Latham Operating Co., Alsace Realty Co., the owners, seem to have taken over running the hotel, which does not appear to have been closed for any but a short period. In 1928 a Latham Hotel Realty Corp. was formed, and 2 Sep. 1928, p. 40, the New York Times reported, "Harry Goldenstein, President, and Samuel Goldenstein, Secretary, of the Latham Hotel Realty Corporation added to their chain of hotels when they took title yesterday to the Hotel Latham property at Twenty-eighth Street and Fifth Avenue, a twelve-story structure on a plot 75 by 100 feet, having about 250 rooms. The new owners will make extensive improvements to the property."
Two years later, 1930, the Times reported two transactions. First, the Latham Hotel Realty Corp. leased the hotel to the Latham Operating Corp., Abraham Goldman, president. Then, the Latham Realty Corp. transferred ownership to the Seville Operating Corp., 15 E. 28th St. The Hotel Seville, at 15-17 E. 28th St. on the northwest corner of Madison Ave. and running up the block to 18-22 E. 29th St., was a nearby competitor of the Latham. This transfer indicates a merger.
The Hotel Latham was listed in Rider's New York City: A Guide-Book for Travelers, compiled and edited by Fremont Rider, 1916, as, "Latham, 4 E. 28th st. (250 R. [rooms] 200 B. [baths]) Quiet family hotel." The rates were $1.50 single room, $2.00 single room with bath, $2.50 double room, and $3 double with bath.
The architect of the Latham Hotel was Augustus N. Allen (1868-1958). On his death, his notice in the New York Times, 26 March 1958, was brief, "Augustus N. Allen of 44 Gramercy Park, an architect who retired in 1933, died yesterday at St. Francis Hospital in the Bronx. His age was 90. He graduated in 1891 from the Columbia University School of Architecture." Christopher Gray's "Streetscapes" article in the Times, 9 Jan. 1994, described one of Allen's better known designs. This was the small street level office constructed for John W. Campbell in the southwest corner of Grand Central Terminal in the early 1920s.
This ad for the Hotel Latham dates from 1909 when the hotel was new and absolutely fireproof.
As of July, 2012, the Latham was still in business at 4 E. 28th St. Their website is http://www.thelathamhotel.com/index.php.
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