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Discover the Historic Blue Moon Hotel, which was once a tenement house within New York City’s historic Lower East Side.

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Historic Blue Moon Hotel, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2022, dates back to 1879.


The Historic Blue Moon Hotel

Learn about the Historic Blue Moon Hotel and see some historical aspects of the building.


Stepping through the doors of the Blue Moon Hotel is much like walking into a museum. Randy Settenbrino, artist as-architect, poured his heart and soul into transforming a historic 1879 tenement built by Julius Boekel, architect for New York City’s erstwhile First German Baptist Church. The tenement apartments were closed off for 70 years (1930s to 2001) making it a time capsule from Depression-era Manhattan. There was a treasure trove of personal effects and artifacts that were discovered as Settenbrino hovered over the excavations. Then Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia decreed that owners had to meet stricter codes and the landlords declined the cost prohibitive requirements and simply closed off the residential floors, preferring to forego tenants and focus on working their storefronts. Settenbrino salvaged the tenement's fixtures and artifacts, reintegrating them into the hotel’s design as part of the renovation, scattering and repurposing their likenesses throughout the cozy inn. Historic memorabilia found during the reconstruction was preserved and used as a part of the décor. Wood moldings became picture frames to house images of Jazz-era celebrities that the rooms are dedicated to. Wrought iron was taken from the original shapely fire escapes to form elegant window balconies, while mosaics gathered from the central vestibule were reconfigured into strategic spaces throughout the lobby, elevator, and entertainment space.

The elevator ceiling sported a Van Gogh-esque mural by Settenbrino, the lower cab is decked in wainscoting, and the upper walls are covered in ornate tin squares that he had taken from the back of the original staircase. During the 2021 resurgence they were fastidiously repainted in soft blues and pale yellows by Settenbrino’s apprentice/daughter, Ida. Original hinges and knobs can be seen on closet doors. The 1879 apartment entrance doors could not pass fire codes, so Settenbrino decided to save them for use as ornate bathroom doors. He specifically enlivened them with one of his faux finishes, which he used throughout the hotel to amuse and create harmonious settings for the artifacts and enrich the décor. Each apartment contained both a marble and a wooden fireplace mantel, with a wrought-iron grille. The wooden mantels are placed opposite the elevator openings on each floor to enrich the sensibility that guests are stepping back in time. The etched marble mantles sport a relief of a rising sun and are set in wood casings; they adorn as they cap the wainscoting creating a consistent and charming motif that wraps around the lobby into the entertainment space.

The Blue Moon's relics impress guests as soon as they walk, transporting them to another time and place. Themed collages adorn the walls and were underlaid with Depression-era Green Stamps. During the Depression, Green Stamps were especially desirable and sought after in the area. They were a form of merchant currency used as an incentive to gain shopper loyalty with each purchase and exchanged for a practical daily necessities like dishes, glasses, or cookware. They could even be traded for the children to get a special gift they could not ordinarily afford, like a doll or a pair of skates. A hoard of stamps from an anonymous merchant were discovered in dirt floor wooden stalls. Settenbrino used the Green Stamps as the background and layering of personal effects, such as a pawn shop tickets; articles from Cosmopolitan, The Sun, The News, Scholastic; a young boy's elementary-school homework; another’s Sunday school lessons; the first aerial view of Manhattan; a pristine 1920s boy scout membership card; pages from Seward Park High School yearbook—another is loaded with sports memorabilia—and a newspaper clipping of the rich, powerful and famous. Unique advertisements for various products that have bizarre uses are also present, such as beloved items for sale like a four-dollar Babe Ruth baseball mitt and nine weeks of camp for a total of $175. Special clippings complement the advertisements, too, including “Robbins rout Giants,” "Three Die as Guns Blaze in 6 Hold Ups,” and one about Bill Tilden's 1920 Wimbledon win.

Settenbrino’s meritorious five-year, award-winning project has since gained recognition in more than 50 major articles, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Toronto Star, Bloomberg’s Contra Costa Times, and International Herald Tribune. The Historic Blue Moon Hotel has also gained prestigious accolades from National Geographic Traveler, New York Magazine “Critic's Pick,” Citi Search’s “Best Boutique Hotel,” and Rizzoli’s “Best 100 Little Hotels” videos and radio programs. The Historic Blue Moon Hotel was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2022.

  • About the Location +

    While the Lower East Side is one of New York City’s most vibrant neighborhoods today, it was not always the location of a bustling urban metropolis. On the contrary, the site was once a lush wilderness inhabited by tribes of the Lenape Native Americans. The Lenape lived there for generations, frequently hunting in the region seasonally. But in the 17th century, the area—as well as the rest of Manhattan Island—was incorporated into the Dutch colony of New Netherland. Nevertheless, the place remained sparsely populated, with most of the European immigrants settling the southernmost tip of Manhattan. Indeed, the only Dutch to venture into the future site of the Lower East Side were isolated families of farmers, who created homesteads known colloquially as “bouwerji” (“boweries” in English). Among the earliest Dutch colonists to occupy the area was Jacobus van Corlaer, whose bouwerji was situated along the banks of the East River in a place known as “Corlears Hook.” Despite the association with his name, Corlear nonetheless sold the farm several years later to one of New Netherland’s founding families, the Beekmans.

    After a fighting for control over the region during the Anglo-Dutch Wars, Manhattan became part of the English colony “New York” at the end of the century. In the years that followed, New Amsterdam (the Dutch community on Manhattan) became “New York City” and started absorbing the unincorporated sections of Manhattan into its domain. Still, the future Lower East Side remained farmland, with a significant portion belonging to wealthy colonist James Delancey. While Delancey grew a number of crops, the most notable were the fruits he cultivated in his orchards. But Delancey had great plans for a majority of his farm, which he wished to donate to New York City for an upscale neighborhood modeled after the West End of London. (Delancey even intended for the new neighborhood to be called “Delancey Square.”) Unfortunately for James Delancey, his dream never came to fruition. A prominent loyalist to the British Empire, Delancey’s entire estate was seized by local Patriots amid the American Revolution. Delancey himself eventually fled to England following the Battles of Lexington and Concord, where he tried to marshal support for the British cause in London.

    New York City subsequently emerged as America’s leading city afterward, becoming the site for increasing numbers of factories and wharves. The copious job opportunities soon attracted thousands of new immigrants from around the world. New York City exploded in size, with new neighborhoods developing in just a matter of years. The Lower East Side came into existence within this environment, as open pasture was gradually replaced with countless high-rises. Driving the rise of the Lower East Side were Germans, who had settled the area en masse starting in the 1840s. Over time, they were joined by many other immigrants from Europe, including Italians, Hungarians, Romanians, Ukrainians, Poles, and the Irish. Jews from Eastern Europe were particularly drawn to the Lower East Side, who created one of the largest enclaves of Jewish culture throughout the entire United States. Most of the immigrants were incredibly destitute and were in need of inexpensive shelter. Many wound up living in structures known as “tenements”—modified apartment complexes notorious for their cramped conditions. Tenements subsequently became the predominant structure in the Lower East Side for many years thereafter, giving the area its present iconic appearance.

    The Lower East Side remained a popular destination for immigrants throughout the 20th century, particularly for numerous families from Latin America and Asia. African Americans also relocated to the Lower East Side, too, encouraged by the prospects for good work. One specific area of the district—the East Village—became a bastion for American hippie culture during the 1960s, causing it to form its own separate identity that persists to this very day. But at the start of the 21st century, a few enterprising real estate developers and entrepreneurs began renovating sections of the Lower East Side that were abandoned. Not only did those enterprising individuals construct many new upscale storefronts and residences, but they also preserved numerous historical structures that encapsulated the area’s rich heritage. Today, the area remains a major terminus for immigrants the world over, although it has also emerged as one of New York’s most attractive vacation hotspots. Cultural heritage travelers particularly enjoy the many cultural attractions that reside throughout the Lower East Side, such as the Abrons Art Center, Katz’s Delicatessen, and the renowned Tenement Museum.

  • About the Architecture +

    Historic Blue Moon Hotel possesses a unique architectural style that can best be described as “eclectic.” Dating to the mid-19th and early 20th centuries, historians today consider “eclecticism” to be part of a much larger movement that fused together a variety of historical designs. Earlier in the 1800s, architects—particularly those in Europe—decided to rely upon their own loose interpretations of historical architecture whenever they attempted to replicate it. Such a practice appeared within styles as Gothic Revival, Italianate, and Second Empire architecture. But at the height of the Gilded Age, those architects decided to use historic architecture more literally when developing a building. A few architects went a step further by combining certain historical styles together to achieve something uniquely beautiful. In some cases, those individuals felt inspired to add a new historical form onto a building that they were renovating—just like the structure that houses the Historic Blue Moon Inn today. Ultimately, the architects felt that joining architectural forms together would give them a new avenue of expression that they otherwise did not have at the time. They also believed that they had stayed true to the earlier forms, so long as their designs perfectly replicated whatever they were trying to mimic.

    In Europe, this approach first appeared as a rehash of Gothic Revival-style known as “Collegiate Gothic.” The European architects then used such a mentality to influence the unfolding philosophies of both the Beaux-Arts school of design, as well as the emerging Renaissance Revival-style. Many architects in America followed suit, the most notable of which being Richard Morris Hunt and Charles Follen McKim. The American architects who embraced “eclecticism” were at first interested in the country’s colonial architecture. Much of the desire to return to the time period was born from the revived interest in American culture brought on by the Centennial Exposition of 1876. Pride in preserving the nation’s heritage inspired the architects to perfect the design principles of their colonial forefathers in new and intriguing ways. This interest gradually splintered into other revival styles, though, like Spanish Colonial and Tudor Revival. Some Americans even infused the approach with the popular Beaux-Arts aesthetics of France, including Hunt and McKim. Nevertheless, the birth of Modernism in the 1920s eventually ended worldwide interest with “eclecticism,” as architects throughout the West became more enchanted with the ideas of modernity, technology, and progress.

  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Richard Price, author known for his books, The Wanderers, Clockers, and Lush Life.

    Lorraine Adams, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for investigative reporting.

    Robert Plant, lead singer and lyricist for Led Zeppelin.

    Hal Hartley, director known for such films Simple Men, Trust, and Amateur.

    Dumebi Egbufor, actress known for such movies like Monsterland, April Again, and For Life.

    Adam Brody, actor best known for his role on the show, The O.C.

    Mark Valley, actor known for his roles on shows like Boston Legal, Fringe, and Human Target.

    Brent Mayne, catcher for the New York Mets.

    Roquan Smith, linebacker for the Chicago Bears.

    Gregory Porter, Grammy Award winning vocalist known for his albums Liquid Spirit and Take Me to the Alley.

    Rebecca Lepkoff, photographer known for her historic pictures of the Lower East Side.

  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    Ned Rifle (2014)