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Murder at the Metropole: The Charles Becker Herman Rosenthal Case 147 West 43rd Street

Address: 147 West 43rd Street

Status: The Casablanca Hotel

 

By the summer of 1912, every gangster, gambler and politician in New York City wanted Herman Beansie Rosenthal dead. The pro-gambler had upset the apple cart, spilled the beans and went to the press, revealing a massive web of police corruption after the coppers smashed up Beansie’s casino- a casino that was under the paid protection of NYPD Lieutenant Charles Becker.

 

Charles Becker, Charley Becker, Herman Rosenthal, Arnold Rothstein, Big Tim Sullivan, Tammany Hall, NYPD, Lefty Louie, Gyp the Blood, Big Jack Zelig, Hotel Metropole, Gangs of New York, Harry Horrowitz, Satan’s Circus, Tenderloin, 147 West 43rd Street, Tony DeNapoli’s, Hotel Casablanca, Damon Runyon, Bat Masterson, Abe Attell, Bill Consindine, Becker Rosenthal Case, Rosenthal Murder, Fanny Brice.

Owned by Tammany Hall powerbroker, Big Tim Sullivan,The Metropole boasted a 24 hour liquor license and a casino managed by Arnold Rothstein.

 

Murder at the Hotel Metropole:

The Becker Rosenthal Case

Just after Midnight, July 12, 1912, Rosenthal strolled into the Metropole Café, now Tony DeNapoli’s, with an arm full of newspapers plastered with headlines of his allegations against Lt. Becker. At 4 AM a gray Packard taxi roared up to the Metropole with a cargo of gunmen, coked to the gills, from the dreaded Lenox Avenue Gang.

 

Herman-Rosenthal-Murder-Charles-Becker

1-The Gray Murder Car which carried the gunmen assassins. 2-Herman Rosenthal, The Gambler, whose murder is charged to the New York Police System. 3- The brightly lighted streets of the murder. Rosenthal was shot under the big electric sign in the center of the picture. 4- Rhinelander Waldo, New York’s police commissioner. Mrs. Harry Vallon, Wife of the Murder Council member Frank Vallon. 6,7– Gyp the Blood and Lefty Louis, Two of the gunmen held for the murder. 8-Sam Schleps

 

There in the blinking electric lights of Times Square, Lefty Louie Rosenburg, Harry “Gyp the Blood” Horrowitz and Dago Frank Cirofici waited for their prey. When Rosenthal exited the Metropole, the gunmen opened fire. According Historian Mike Dash:

 

“… Investigation would eventually establish that at least three rounds were fired. The first bullet had missed its target and embedded itself at head height deep in the wooden frame of the Metropole’s front door. But the second had struck Rosenthal in the face, passing through his cheek and jaw…” Mike Dash, Satan’s Circus.

 

The murder would go on to become the crime of the century, adding yet another gritty layer to the Hotel’s gangland history.

 

Hotel-Metropole-Herman-Rosenthal-Murder-Charley-Becker-Map

A popular gangland resort and casino, the Hotel Metropole was located at 147 West 43rd Street. It was the scene of the murder of Herman “Beansie” Rosenthal in 1912.

 

Up in the Old Metropole

Located a dice roll away from the Big Street, Broadway, the Hotel Metropole opened in 1910 at 147 West 43rd Street and became a nightlife nexus of the Tenderloin district known as Satan’s Circus. The first hotel in New York City with running water in every room, a pair of pro-gamblers known as the Consindine Brothers (George and Bill), operated the hotel on behalf of Tammany Hall powerbroker Big Tim Sullivan. The Metropole became the sparkling diamond of Big Tim’s hustles. Now called the Casablanca hotel, the building is one of the most storied gangland hotels in all of Manhattan.

 

Charles Becker, Charley Becker, Herman Rosenthal, Arnold Rothstein, Big Tim Sullivan, Tammany Hall, NYPD, Lefty Louie, Gyp the Blood, Big Jack Zelig, Hotel Metropole, Gangs of New York, Harry Horrowitz, Satan’s Circus, Tenderloin, 147 West 43rd Street, Tony DeNapoli’s, Hotel Casablanca, Damon Runyon, Bat Masterson, Abe Attell, Bill Consindine, Becker Rosenthal Case, Rosenthal Murder, Fanny Brice.

Today, the Metropole is called the Hotel Casablanca.

 

The murder would leave an indelible mark on the annuals of American criminal history, even appearing in the Great Gatsby:

 

“The old Metropole,” brooded Mr. Wolfsheim gloomily.  “Filled with faces dead and gone. Filled with friends gone now forever. I can’t forget so long as I live the night they shot Rosy Rosenthal there.”-F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

 

Bat Masterson, Damon Runyon and Nicky Arnstein

A human stew of Broadway characters called the Metropole home because of its 24 Hour liquor license, making the hotel’s cafe a hotspot for showgirls, gunmen, boxers, newspaper reporters and gamblers.

Wild West gunfighter turned New York newspaperman, Bat Masterson and his protégé Damon Runyon were regulars. Bat lived upstairs near noted cardsharp Nicky Arnstein, future husband of Ziegfeld Girl, Fanny Brice. Cole Porter would immortalize the wiseguys and cardsharps of the Metropole in his song, Ace in The Hole.

 

 

Arnold Rothstein’s Casino

Arnold Rothstein, the Brain of Broadway, managed Big Tim’s gambling parlor on the second floor. The opulent casino featured faro tables and roulette wheels. Some of the biggest crap games New York City history went down in the Metropole. It was also in the Metropole where Abe Attell, a former champion featherweight boxer, caught the attention of Arnold Rothstein becoming The Brain’s bagman and enforcer. Attell served Rothstein well during fixing of the 1919 World Series, insulating the gangster from criminal prosecution, serving as a go between for Rothstein and the Chicago White Soxs.

 

Arnold Rothstein

 Arnold Rothstein. the Brain of Broadway, managed the Metropole’s casino.

 

Enter Herman Rosenthal

A small time gambler with big dreams, Herman Rosenthal became a regular at the Metropole’s all night card games. With the help of Big Tim Sullivan’s bankroll, Rosenthal set up a lavish gambling den a few blocks north at 104 West Forty Fifth Street where the gambler lived with his wife Lillian. After a police raid smashed the joint, Rosenthal turned to police Lieutenant Charley Becker, cutting the corrupt police officer in on 1/5 of the house’s take. Unfortunately for Rosenthal, letters to Mayor Gaynor’s office reported the operation. The raids on the casino continued and Beansie Rosenthal went to the Newspapers to squeal.

 

The Jewish Mob:

Lefty Louie, Gyp the Blood, and Big Jack Zelig

By this point Rosenthal’s enemies led by a powerful syndicate of gamblers, gangsters, and police Lieutenant Charley Becker wanted the canary dead. With the help of Lower East Side Jewish Mobster Big Jack Zelig, a contract was placed on Rosenthal’s head to be carried out by Lenox Avenue Gang members Lefty Louie and Gyp the Blood. According to Herbert Asbury:

 

“Gyp the Blood was a sheriff and gorilla at the cheap dances of the East Side…He possessed extraordinary strength, and frequently boasted that he could break a man’s back by bending him over his knee.”-Herbert Asbury, Gangs of New York

 

The triggermen struck on July 12, 1912 and all of New York reverberated in the wake.

 

Lefty Louie gyp the blood

Two eastside gunmen (seated), Harry “Gyp the Blood” Horrowitz and Lefty Louie Rosenburg, were sentenced to death for the slaying of Herman Rosenthal.

 

The Chair For Charley Becker

Lt. Becker and the Lenox Avenue gang were found guilty of the crime and were sent to the electric chair at Sing Sing. The Metropole Hotel still stands today and is known as the Hotel Casablanca.

 Charles BeckerNYPD officer Charles Becker was sentenced to death for the crime.

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Shang Draper, Thomas Shang Draper, Tenderloin, Al Smith, Casino, 6-8 West 28th Street

Location: 6-8 West 28th Street

Status: Standing

 

He was like John Dillinger, Al Capone and Jesse James rolled up into a 19th century bundle. Generous, refined, wealthy and deadly, Tomas “Shang” Draper ran one of the most opulent casinos in Manhattan here at 6 West 28th Street in the heart of Satan’s Circus.

 

King of Safecrackers

The Italianate brownstone casino represented the pinnacle of Shang Draper’s life of crime.  Former king of the bank robbers and safecracker extraordinaire, Shang was one of the best petermen in the country, blowing bank vaults from New York to Minnesota.

Thomas Shang Draper, Shang Draper, 6 West 28th Street, Manhattan Savings Institution Robbery, Manhattan Savings Institution, Fredericka Marm Mandelbaum, Marm Mandelbaum, Casino, George Leonidas Leslie, Satan’s Circus, Al Smith

Shang Draper’s casino was located at 6 West 28th Street

Fencing with Marm

Together with society figure and architect, George Leonidas Leslie, alias Western George, Shang and Leslie plundered millions, heisting the Waterford Bank in 1872, the North Hampton Bank in 1876, and the Manhattan Savings Institution in 1878.  The gang specialized in looting securities, which they fenced through Fredericka “Marm” Mandelbaum.

 

A Taste for the Finer Things

It seemed that Shang got a taste for the finer things from Leslie, whom he eventually shot and dumped in the wilds of the Bronx. With his bank robbing fortune, Draper headed for the Tenderloin district, a place where the glitterati of Manhattan’s Gilded Age went to drink, whore, smoke opium and gamble in style.

 

Standing six feet tall in his silk stockings, Tomas Shang Draper was a giant by 1800s standards, and he had a personality to match.

Standing six feet tall in his silk stockings, Tomas Shang Draper was a giant by 1800s standards, and he had a personality to match.

With the backing of lottery king, Al Adams, Shang settled at 6 West 28th Street, just off of fashionable 5th Avenue. To attract wealthy patrons from nearby hotels and Madison Square Garden, Shang remolded the entire building.

 

Shang’s Casino

He threw up onyx pillars on the first floor. Crimson silk curtains covered the windows. Oil paintings valued at $100,000 lined the walls. The buffet was all you could eat. The plates were china and the goblets were cut glass.

 

The roulette wheel spun for no less than $25 a twirl, and guests, who included politicians, prizefighters, millionaires and vaudevillians, could expect to find high stakes poker, faro and chuck-a-luck.

 

According to Automats, Taxi Dances and Vaudeville author, David Freeland:

 

“Future governor [and presidential candidate] Al Smith was once reputed to have stayed at the faro tables for fifty-two hours straight.”

 

Underworld Fortress

Big money meant big security. To guard against raiding cops and stickup gangs alike, Shang installed a battering-ram proof door equipped with a mechanical cross bolt that dropped into the doorjamb. Behind the door, a steel cage provided secondary defenses, while a sliding steel grate protected every window. Simply put: it was the coolest fortress in town.

 

Thomas Shang Draper, Shang Draper, 6 West 28th Street, Manhattan Savings Institution Robbery, Manhattan Savings Institution, Fredericka Marm Mandelbaum, Marm Mandelbaum, Casino, George Leonidas Leslie, Satan’s Circus, Al Smith

One of the most opulent casinos in Manhattan, Shang Draper turned this brownstone into a fortress with steel grates and a battering-ram proof door.

Coppers!

But the Parkhurst Society wanted the club closed. On October 14, 1902 police officers raided the casino, but the heavily fortified club took hours to breach, giving Shang’s customers enough time to scramble out of a secret back staircase on the building next door. The police eventually recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in Shang’s safe. After the raid Draper retired to Hot Springs Arkansans.

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