Lorena Hickok, one of the two main characters in my book, Loving Eleanor, is best known for her 30-year friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt. But, quite apart from that personal relationship, Hick (as everyone called her) led a fascinating professional and personal life. As a writer of biographical fiction, I like to know as much as I possibly can about the people I write about--and that includes the places where they lived.
When Hick came to New York in 1928 (from Minneapolis via San Francisco), she worked for a couple of months for one of the tabloids, then was hired away by the Associated Press: the first woman in the flagship New York AP bureau. She got an apartment at 10 Mitchell Place, a new 14-story red-brick apartment building just a quick walk from the East River, where she could run with her German shepherd, Prinz. The photo above is a modern view of her apartment, which has a balcony and a river view. Hick's furniture would have been different, of course--and the kitchen has probably been updated. The rent: $65 a month, which was exactly what she got paid per week--pretty good money for a woman, at that time. (Current valuation of this apartment: around $480,000.)
Hick was known as an excellent cook (Eleanor, not so much), and she enjoyed entertaining her newspaper and theater friends at weekend brunches in her little apartment. (She loved the theater and had many friends among actors, directors, playwrights.) It was sometimes a little crowded, she admitted, but "we were all good friends." She entertained Eleanor here too; ER sometimes stayed here when she came to New York from Washington.
Hick adored New York, loved its energy, vitality, variety--a "city with a heart," she called it. As a reporter, she spent as much time as she could on the streets, finding stories everywhere. New York gave her good work, a place to live completely, a place to find love. As a rising professional woman, it was the home of her heart.
Hick sublet her Mitchell Place apartment during the years she worked for Harry Hopkins at FERA (1933-1936). In that period, she was on the road as an investigative reporter for months at a time; she spent holidays at the White House or with her sister Ruby or friends in New York. She moved back to the apartment in 1937, when she left FERA and went to work as a publicist for the World's Fair, with an office in the Empire State Building. She kept the apartment until 1940, when her work--and her life--changed again. Watch for Part 2 of this little blog series, coming soon.
Reading note: “It was possible in this wonderful city [New York] for that nameless little boy -for any of its millions- to have a decent chance to scale the walls and achieve what they wished. Wealth, rank or an imposing name counted for nothing. The only credential the city asked was the boldness to dream. For those who did, it unlocked its gates and its treasures, not caring who they were or where they came from.--Moss Hart