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 Woody Guthrie - Hanover House (hotel) location - 1940 New York City

The 5-story building circled below was known as Hanover House and was the hotel where Woody Guthrie wrote his best known song, This Land is Your Land, (originally titled God Blessed America) on February 23rd, 1940.

Hanover House, an inexpensive hotel for transients, was located at 101 West 43rd Street on the northwest corner of 43rd Street and Sixth Avenue (now called Avenue of the Americas). It is one block east of where the ball now falls on New Year's Eve in Times Square.

Photo: The New York Pubic Library

Here's a picture of the hotel without the circle. Woody had hitchhiked into New York City 7 days before on February 16, 1940 and had been staying with friends until he moved to the Hanover the day before he wrote the song, which he had been thinking about as he crossed the country.

Woody Guthrie was to make his home in various parts of New York City for 26 years. This picture was taken on May 5th, 1940, 3 months after Woody wrote the song, and a month after he moved out of the hotel.

Photo: The New York Pubic Library

In the picture below, I've made the sign larger. You can see that it spells out "Hanover" vertically.

Above that, it reads "Furnished Studios." Below it , it reads "Hotel" and maybe the word "service, possibly as in "maid service."

Photo: The New York Pubic Library

Here's the sign; closer, and darkened for legibility.

Photo: The New York Pubic Library

Woody Guthrie seemed to have signed and dated many of the songs he wrote. Here's what he wrote at the bottom of the piece of paper on which This Land is Your Land was written:

Woody G.
N.Y., N.Y., N.Y.
Feb, 23, 1940
43rd st & 6th Ave.,
Hanover House

The typewritten caption below comes from the back of one of the several photos of the Hanover House on this site. You don't have to read the text.

I have circled the date May 5, 1940, showing that the photo was taken within three months of Woody having lived there. The photos come from the New York Public Library.

Photo: The New York Pubic Library

Here's a map showing where the Hanover House was located.

I've also circled a spot on 42nd Street referring to a photo of Woody getting his shoes shined while he sings. That picture is right below here.

Here's the picture. It's from a new and excellent guidebook to all the places where Woody Guthrie lived, played, and worked in his years in New York City.

The book, titled MY NAME IS NEW YORK, was written by Woody's daughter Nora and the Woody Guthrie Archives. It is published by Powerhouse Books, Brooklyn, N.Y. and is available from the Woody Guthrie Archives website here, as well as most booksellers. (Clicking this link will take you off of the PopSpots site.)

Cover photo: "Bound for Glory" publicity photo by Eric Schaal WGA

That photo was taken here, at the southeast corner of 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue, just outside Bryant Park.

Here it is PopSpot-style.

The reason I believe it was taken there is that there was another photo of Woody Guthrie taken at the same time, and in it you can see the east side of the old New York Times tower on 42nd Street, a block away in the background. (That's the tower, now re-clad, that they still drop the ball from on New Year's Eve.)

Photo: "Bound for Glory" publicity photo by Eric Schaal WGA

The metal fence behind Woody, another clue, remains the same today.

From where Woody was sitting, he could have looked north up Sixth Avenue and seen the Hanover House (had it been a few years earlier, before they took it down).

To give you a perspective of where it was, I've put the 1940's Hanover House into the modern world....

Behind the hotel, on 43rd Street, you can see signs for the Woodstock Hotel and The Town Hall, a famous auditorium for concerts and lectures built in 1921.

Photo: The New York Pubic Library

Both places are still there today.

Here's a close-up of The Town Hall...

...and the entrance to the Woodstock Hotel, a non-profit, single-room-occupancy residence for men over 55.

Let's go back to the corner...

In the spot where the hotel was, now stands The International Center of Photography.

So, if you walk inside and close your eyes you might hear the spirit of Woody Guthrie strumming his guitar and singing, "From California, to the New York island / From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters / This land was made for you and me. ((c) 1956 TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc.)

And if you go to the 43rd Street side of the building, the hotel's entrance would have been about where this lamp post is.

From the windows of the hotel, looking south, Woody and the other guests would have been able to see the Empire State Building, in 1940 only ten years old.

To the east, across Sixth Avenue, Woody might have seen the final vestiges of the Hipporome Building, a once spectacular building devoted to vaudeville and entertainment located at the northeast corner of 43rd Street and Sixth Avenue.

The Sixth Avenue elevated train separated the Hanover House, seen on the left in the foreground, from the Hippodrome, in this early 1930's photo.

Photo: The New York Pubic Library

The train tracks were taken down in 1939, the year before Woody arrived.

Photo: The New York Pubic Library

And the Hippodrome was demolished during 1939-40, right around Woody's time at the Hanover.

Photo: The New York Pubic Library

This 1940 photo, with the Hanover House circled, was taken from across Sixth Avenue from the parking lot that took the place of the Hippodrome for 13 years until a large office tower replaced it.

Photo: The New York Pubic Library

Here's a photo without the circle...

Photo: The New York Pubic Library

...and a close up shot.

Photo: The New York Pubic Library

Here are the two sites today from bustling 42nd Street.

Woody's music was major influence on many of the greatest songwriter's of the century including Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp and Joe Strummer.

And we'll end with a picture of Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) of Okemah, Oklahoma, who hitchhiked in to New York City Bound for Glory (his autobiography) -- and achieved it, and would been 100 years old July 14, 2012.