14. New York’s sights and sounds made it a tourist’s destination
New York City offered the average tourist multiple choices of amusement and entertainment in 1921, among them the fabled Plaza Hotel. Tourists visited the Statue of Liberty, toured the fabulously lighted Times Square, and enjoyed excursion cruises around the harbor. Beginning in the preceding decade, Times Square shed its former reputation of being a lair for thieves and prostitution. In 1921, theaters, hotels, restaurants, and music halls surrounded the neighborhood. The city’s piers and wharves teemed with arriving ships, discharging and taking on passengers. Penn Station and Grand Central station became tourist attractions, both for the amenities they offered and for their architecture.
Intrepid motorists could take the Lincoln Highway, the first paved road to cross the entire United States, from its eastern terminus at Times Square, to its western, at San Francisco’s Lincoln Park. To do so required completing a drive of over 3,300 miles. It also required the use of ferries to exit Manhattan Island, the Holland tunnel to New Jersey then being under construction. The neighborhood of Harlem offered jazz music and revues, and more often than not, illicit liquor for those so inclined. They weren’t alone, New York’s famed 21 Club also operated as a speakeasy, as did establishments too numerous to count. New York City, well-connected by rail, roads, and the sea, served as a destination for tourists and migrants from other American states, as well as immigrants from Europe, throughout the 1920s.