If you have ever had the pleasure of visiting an Automat, you will appreciate this little slice of Horn and Hardart history. In 1902, Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart opened their first Horn and Hardart in Philadelphia, but it was not until 1912 that they got around to opening one in New York City. The first location, known as the centerpiece, was located at 1557 Broadway, between 46th and 47th Street, in the heart of Times Square. The idea quickly took hold and by 1922, they had added another 20 locations. The automats were known for their sleek art deco décor and reliable quality. The food was reasonably priced and was available for purchase from a glass and chrome coin operated dispenser. The chain appealed to a wide variety of clientele and remained profitable, even during the depression. Competition came and went, from businesses such as Chock Full O’Nuts, Nedicks, Longchamps, Schrafft’s, Child’s, Strewart’s and Bickford’s, but the Horn and Hardart’s chain kept on growing, reaching top earnings in 1958.
The business no longer exists as the last remaining location at 200 East 42nd Street on the corner of Third Avenue closed in 1991, But one former Upper West Side location, a 3 story, limestone clad art deco building designed by F.P. Platt Bros in 1930 can still be found on Broadway and 104th Street. It was known as the Horn & Hardart Automat-Cafeteria building until the restaurant closed in 1953. Many businesses have since operated there, currently a City MD is leasing the ground floor. But look up to the third floor and you will still find some original notable details, such as the glazed polychrome Art Deco style terra-cotta panels that feature stylized floral motifs and zig zag patterns in hues of green, blue, tan and gold. The building was designated a city landmark in 2007.