The Village Plaza Hotel opened in 1960 on Washington Place, a tree-lined street in Greenwich Village. Its proximity to Washington Square Park and New York University belie the fact that the Village Plaza was a seedy single-room-occupancy welfare hotel. The Village Plaza was owned by Lawrence Meinwald, who also ran the equally squalid Allerton Hotel on West 23rd Street.
The building, designed in 1915 by Frank Vitolo, originally housed the Hotel Colborne. Its owner, Ila Johnson, named the hotel after her hometown, Colborne, in Ontario, Canada. Among its occupants were teachers, writers, bookkeepers and musicians.
Better times seemed to be ahead in 1960 when the New York Times reported that the Colborne had been sold. “The purchaser is Lawrence Meinwald, president of the Allerton House Corporation, operator of the Allerton House chain of hotels. Mr. Meinwald plans to air-condition and otherwise modernize the Colborne, which he has renamed the Village Plaza. He said he intended to build a hotel in Greenwich Village but found the cost would be prohibitive. The Village Plaza will be operated on the Continental style.”
The Village Plaza’s ghost sign, visible from Sixth Avenue, cites air conditioning as its main feature but the new hotel hardly seems to be in the Continental style. A 1967 New York Times article provides a glimpse into the hotel’s amenities. “The Village Plaza, 79 Washington Place, has no doorman. A flaking sign by the tiny reception desk announces ‘Television for Rental’ amidst a forest of other signs: ‘No Refunds,’ ‘All Rents Must be Paid in Advance,’ ‘No Checks Cashed,’ ‘No Outgoing Calls for Transients.’”
Mastropolo is the author of Ghost Signs: Clues to Downtown New York's Past.