Before 1557 Broadway was filled with I <3 NY t-shirts and mini Statue of Liberty figurines, it was filled with rows of nickel-operated food dispensers and the scent of freshly brewed coffee. In a former life, Grand Slam New York, a souvenir shop between 46th and 47th Street, was the city’s first automat. Construction at the store in Times Square has recently revealed remnants of the building’s exterior, and inside there are even more reminders of the structure’s past as Horn & Hardart.

1557 Broadway is typically covered in billboards, but since those have been removed, the historic structure beneath can be seen. The building that stands today was designed by Philadelphia architecture firm Stuckert & Sloane and completed in 1912. At the time, it was a grand example of the neo-classical style with terra cotta ornamentation, towering arched entrances, and gorgeous stained glass windows that took up most of the front facade. The stained glass, crafted by Nicola D’Ascenzo, contained the word “Automat” in an Art Nouveau font.

Gritty Old Times Square Tour

Gritty Times Square

In 1914, a large “steel sky sign” that read “AUTOMAT: Horn & Hardart” was added to the building. More changes to the facade came in the 1950s when architect John J. McNamara replaced the stained glass with plate glass. Sadly, while much of the terra cotta and other elements of the facade may still exist, they are covered up.

Horn & Hardart dining room

In an opinion piece for the New York Times in 1982, Robert F. Byrnes described the interior as such:

A classy place. All that Carrara marble and miles of patterned white tile, and the shiny chrome and the spotless plate-glass Automat-machine windows. Pillars. Elegant lamps on the ceiling. You’d have to look hard to find a scrap of paper on the floor.

At the center of the dining room was a marble-clad column that fanned out at the ceiling into a ring of floral embellishments. Pieces of this decorative element have been preserved and worked into the design of the current store.

Automat Remnants Tims square

Among the track lights and ductwork on the ceiling, you can spot brightly painted swirls of vines and flowers. The decorations stand out from the black ceiling as they are painted in bright yellow, purple, red, and green. If you look closely enough, you can see that the yellow-painted flowers were light sockets.

Automat remnants Times Square

At its peak, the Horn & Hardart automat chain contained more than forty locations in New York. Along with this Times Square location, another former Horn & Hardart building stands at 2710-2714 Broadway, on the southeast corner of Broadway and 104th Street. It was occupied by the automat until 1953. A ghost sign at 146 West 48th Street marks another former location.

The Horn & Hardart company still makes coffee that you can purchase online, and the automat pops up from time to time in pop culture. In the last season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, production recreated an automat for one of the final scenes of the series. In the book Kibbitz and Nosh: When We All Met at Dubrow’s Cafeteria (Three Hills, May 2023), photographer Marcia Bricker Halperin revisits one of New York City’s most popular self-service cafeterias on Kings Highway in Brooklyn.

Grand slam Times Square

We were tipped off to this story by Untapped New York Insider and Contributor Robyn Roth-Moise, who ventured out to Times Square to see the remnants herself after learning about them from a reel posted by Broadway Up Close. Robyn’s father, Richard Roth, Jr. designed the last Horn & Hardart at 42nd Street and Third Ave! Richard talks about many buildings he worked on as part of the Emery Roth & Sons firm in exclusive interviews you can watch in our Insiders on-demand video archive.

Next, check out more lost automats and cafeterias of NYC and discover racy remnants of old Times Square on our Gritty Times Square Tour!