1915 Boarding House, West 103rd Street

When Dorothy sold her first poem, “Any Porch” in 1914, to Frank Crowinshield of Vanity Fair, it was the beginning of her literary life. At the time, the 22-year old was living with either her sister or brother. Her father, Henry, had died in 1913. Dorothy was working at a dance school to make ends meet, and writing light verse on the side. After countless rejections, the sale of the poem propelled her to march down to the Conde Nast offices and seek a job. A few months later, she was hired for $10 a week to become a copywriter at Vogue, the sister publication to Vanity Fair.

With an entry-level literary job secured, Dorothy took a room at a boarding house at 103rd Street and Broadway, a room that was equidistant to her brother and sister. It was also on the Upper West Side, her girlhood home. She lived on West 72nd, West 68th and in the West Eighties. Her elementary school was a short walk away, on West 79th. Her first apartment was where she would launch herself into becoming one the greatest women writers in America.

She would have known the neighborhood well. The IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit) had opened a station at 103rd Street, and apartments were being built close by. Dorothy took a room for $8 a week, which also included two meals. She was happy in the boarding house and had lots of friends here. For about two years, she made the commute from this boarding house to the Vogue job. It was while residing in the boarding house that she met and fell in love with her future husband, Eddie Parker, whom she married in June 1917 in Yonkers. They moved to West 71st Street.

The precise 103rd Street boarding house is lost to history. The only two buildings that were on this street corner one hundred years ago are the ones on the southwest and northwest corner. The southwest corner is the Marseilles Hotel, 2689-2693 Broadway. It was built in 1902-05 as an apartment hotel, and it is unlikely Dorothy got a cheap room here, but it is possible. She came from a good family and probably would not have lived in a shabby apartment. The Marseilles is a New York City Landmark, a beautiful beaux-arts design with limestone, brick facing, terra-cotta trim, and mansard roof.

Across the street is a less glamorous apartment building on the northwest corner of Broadway and 103rd. This is probably where she resided, if there was a choice. It is a large brick-faced building. It is a noisy neighborhood, and the rumble of the subway underneath the street corner is noticeable.

Dorothy was a short walk from Riverside Park, a block away to the west. She would have been surrounded by movie theaters and restaurants in the busy Upper West Side, not too different from the city scene today.