By Pam Tice, former Executive Director of the New York Hostel and Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group planning committee member.
I became Executive Director of Hostelling International New York in 1990. This was to be an exciting venture: the hostel was in an historic building and we were opening the city’s first official youth hostel. I lived in the neighborhood and knew the building as a community eyesore, an abandoned structure with tin-sealed windows and chain link-fencing. I had strong memories of the July 1977 blackout when the building was set on fire. Now it was re-furbished and taking on new life and the neighborhood was excited to have it back in such good shape.
I spent the next twenty years working in the building for two organizations. Recently, I had the time to do the research that gave me a fuller understanding of its history. I learned why it was built, how it fell upon hard times, how it was “saved” by a coalition of Columbia students and neighborhood activists, and then re-purposed by a local community development corporation and American Youth Hostels.
This post is drawn from a “history talk” I gave in October 2010 at the Hostel, and shares some of the images that tell the story of 891 Amsterdam.