8. “The Women,” the Hotel’s Oldest Residents, Are Still There

Oct. 19, 1963, Saturday Evening Post, Photo Courtesy of Nancy Sirkis, Provided by Paulina Bren

The older, wizened residents of the Barbizon were always referred to by the younger set as “the Women.” While the “the Women” had always been part of the Barbizon’s clientele, their presence was felt most when the hotel began to slip out of fashion. By the 1970s, young women in New York City had more freedom than ever before and places like the Barbizon, which held fast to waning ideas of propriety, were in conflict with the new attitudes of the women’s liberation movement.

With the young women of New York City flocking to discos, marches, and countless other places now open to their sex, the older ladies of the Barbizon became more visible. In 1975, hotelier David Teitelbaum saw “the Women,” who liked to mill about the lobby, as a hindrance and nuisance. He had all the lobby furniture removed to discourage “the Women” from hanging around, but thanks to rent control protection laws, “the Women” were there to stay. While the rest of the hotel was given a modern upgrade, the Women’s wing stayed frozen in the past.

In 2005, the remaining 21 Women were relocated to a nearby hotel while the Barbizon was converted into condominiums. Once renovations were complete, “the Women” moved back into new apartments on the fourth floor (though some insisted on remaining in their original single-occupancy rent-controlled rooms, which also received a facelift). There are just five Women left living in the Barbizon today, paying the same rent they paid when they arrived, some as far back as the 1950s.