Carlton Arms Hotel, a.k.a. Artbreak Hotel or Ye Olde Carlton Arms
Hotel is located in the corner of 25th Street and 3rd Avenue on the
East side of Manhattan.
54-room, five story building has been a hotel for most of its 100-odd
According to blueprints, there were originally two contiguous buildings
put together at the beginning of this Century when, still lit by gas,
the hotel clientele were mostly farmers and business men from New
Jersey and Connecticut looking for a hearty meal and a warm and safe
place to sleep. They were able to keep their carriages and horses
in a huge barn right next door on 25th Street.
Prohibition, the neighborhood was mostly Irish working class and the
new elevated subway passed right in front on 3rd Avenue. When Prohibition
started and illegal boozing went on everywhere in the city, the hotel
lobby was converted into a speak-easy and big money card games were
played in the rooms upstairs.
on and with the opening of a few fancy restaurants that changed the
face of the hood, The Carlton Arms became a fancy and respectable
hotel. But not for long. Along with the '50s and travelers wanting
hotels with private showers and amenities, the place started to turn
sleazy, a hang out for drag queens, prostitutes and drug addicts.
Like many of New York's smaller, older hotels, The Carlton Arms became
a single-room occupancy (SRO) hotel during the '60s and welfare recipients
filled the place for more than 10 years when the program was abolished.
1981, when the hotel's manager had a complete nervous breakdown, Ed
Ryan, back in New York from ten years of world traveling, inherited
"The hotel started its downward slide about 30 years ago and
had reached a good groove own by 20 years ago. By the early '80s,
the Carlton Arms was full with madmen, junkies,comedians, ex-cons,
pushers and hookers, transvestites, drunks and nuts of all kinds,
women who beat you in exchange for your pay, a new generation of hippies
and life's lost and lonely. It was a place to bed down and indulge,"
set out to break the cycle of despair feeding despair that had set
in over the years of neglect. As rooms were vacated, they were no
longer re-rented to welfare tenants, but instead were scrubbed, repainted,
furnished with new beds and rented out to travelers and transients
who didn't mind forgoing middle class luxuries in exchange for a very
low nightly rate.
began to pass through the hotel and as jobs opened up, Ryan, invited
several of them to work at the front desk. In 1983 artist and front
desk clerk Gil Dominguez painted a series of murals on the five-flight
staircase. Later that year, he and fellow worker Colette Jennings
began paintings murals on small panels within several rooms. The art
seemed a physical manifestation of the positive transformations possible
within the old building.
In 1984 Brian Damage, a downtown artist renowned for his beautifully
executed installations at The Mudd Club, Studio 54 and Danceteria,
began painting "The submarine room" and the idea for complete
artist's transformation of the rooms took shape.
the years that followed Dominguez, Jennings and Damage's first installations,
dozens of artists from all over the world, came in, brought their
craft and passion and transformed the once rotten hole into an unique
Manhattan site where the walls explode with color and art.
Today, everyone of the 54 rooms, hallways, bathrooms and staircases
are painted or decorated.
the project hasn't stopped, is in constant evolution.