200 Fifth Avenue was once described as the "Center of the
Uptown Business District." Although now well below midtown
Manhattan, it was at the very hub of New York's uptown business
district when it opened as an office building in 1909. This
location has long been an important business and world traveler
destination - from stagecoaches bringing together travelers
in the 1800s to the more than 30,000 buyers, manufacturers,
and marketing and advertisers, financial analysts and media
outlets come here each year from all over the world to shape
the future of the $20 billion toy and children's entertainment
industry in the 21st Century.
Early records show the site where "The International Toy
Center" now stands was farmland and part of a land grant to
a free black slave in the early 1800s. The farmhouse that
stood at the corner of what is now 5th Avenue and 23rd Street
became a roadhouse called the Madison Cottage in 1839. It
was noteworthy for being the last stop for outward-bound New
Yorkers on their way to the "wilds of upper Manhattan" and
was the first stop in the city that visitors from the North
The Cottage was replaced by Franconi's Hippodrome in 1853,
a circus structure two stories high with a brick wall and
tent roof. The Hippodrome complied with the original Madison
Square Garden, that was located across Madison Square Park
on the corner of Madison Avenue and 26th Street. The land
was then sold to Amos R. Eno in 1857, who planned to build
a grand hotel on the site.
The Fifth Avenue Hotel opened its doors at 200 Fifth Avenue
in 1859. Throughout its life, the hotel was the social center
of New York. Celebrities,, including Mark Twain, famed Swedish
singer Jenny Lind, U.S. Presidents Chester A. Arthur and Ulysses
S. Grant, the Prince of Wales and dignitaries from as far
as Siam and Brazil, assured the hotel's success. During the
Civil War, the hotel was used as a headquarters of Union politicians
and the Fifth Avenue Hotel was the site at which plans to
make Grant president were conceived.
These wealthy and influential guests paid top dollar ($2.50)
for their accommodations, which included a fireplace in every
room and four, not three, meals a day. As those who stayed
in the hotel were to consider it their home, visitors were
welcomed to stay for meals at no extra charge. There was a
grand dining room where guests were seated family-style at
By 1908 the prime of the hotel had passed and the area had
become the center of commerce in New York. As a result The
Fifth Avenue Hotel and the Albemarle Hotel located on Broadway
and 23rd Street (1107 Broadway) would soon make way for office
buildings. The Flatiron Building was completed in 1915 and
the Madison Square area had become the place to do business.
In 1911 the Albemar Hotel located on 23rd Street and Broadway
was torn down and replaced with 1107 Broadway.
stories high, the sbuilding was one of the tallest in New
York and was certainly one of the grandest. It was filled
with the very best of tenants and became one of Manhattan's
most prestigious addresses. The landmark clock standing in
front of the building also stood in front of the hotel.
There were few toy companies in the United States at this
time. The center of toy manufacturing had been in Germany
and remained that way until the outbreak of World War I. During
the war torment toy manufacturers took roots in the United
States. Soon after the war's end, toy tenants began to move
into the building. By the time World War II ended, the toy
industry had really begun to flourish in this country. The
focus of the toy industry was now the United States and Madison
Square was were most toy companies settled into.
In 1950 the building was acquired by its current owners.
The toy industry shared the building with the men's clothing
industry until 1964 when it became clear that the toy industry
was rapidly expanding. Management of the building made a commitment
to the toy industry and renewed leases only with the toy or
toy-related companies. The expansion to 1107 Broadway took
place when ownership purchased this building in 1968. In keeping
with its commitment to the industry, a bridge was constructed
to join the two buildings and create one toy center.
Today The International Toy Center is home to the largest
permanent display of Children's Entertainment and Seasonal
Products in the world. With its marble lobby and brass trim
throughout, the ITC is no mere convention center. Anyone walking
into the building for the first time is bound to be struck
by the elegance and the beauty of the building itself, and
by the unique atmosphere that comes from doing business in
a quality environment with dignity.