The hallmark of flophouse hospitality is that you're more-or-less recreating the sleeping accommodations of a barracks, or on board ship: therefore, bathrooms are shared, beds are either n-tuple bunks or in windowless "cabins". Living and dining spaces are also shared: there is a lounge with a TV or other media source, and (at least) a soda and snack machine. In New York City history, flophouses provided temporary lodgings for merchant mariners between jobs, servicemen on their way to civilian life, and permanent lodgings for the city's underclass. While many people think of them as being "Victorian", the majority of flophouses were established (usually by charitable institutions, or by converting existing hotels) in the early 20th century, with their peak years coming just after WWII, to be replaced by other low-cost housing in the 60's and 70's.

In a bunk room, each guest has a chest and a bunk, these serve from four to a dozen people (usually) segregated by sex. In a "cabin", each guest has a locked cubicle, just big enough to hold a bed with underbed storage and a nightstand. Since there are no windows, there are no solid ceilings. Instead, a latticework at about ten feet up keeps the cabins secure and ventilated. As you might believe, you have privacy, but it's noisy, and don't even think about bringing someone into your cabin for a late-night tryst. Top accommodations in a flophouse are "captain's" or "officer's rooms": a queen-sized bed, full chest of drawers, windows, ceiling, everything you'd want in a normal, modest, hotel room … even a bath! Sleeps 2. In flophouse terms, a honeymoon suite, though I wouldn't vouch for the marital status of the couple.

All of this would seem to be of only passing historical interest, except that in Manhattan, some flophouses have been updated and rebranded as hip boutique hostels. The Jane (formerly the Seaman's Home), for instance, holds a dance-on-the-tables nightclub in its upstairs ballroom, while the more sedate Bowery House (formerly the Prince Street Army & Navy Hotel) has a molecular-cuisine restaurant, signature low-alcohol cocktails and a roof garden, site of many house parties and other fun events. Both make up for the lack of privacy with complimentary robes and slippers for shuffling to the loo, high-thread-count sheets, free wi-fi, and luxury fixtures and toiletries in the shared baths. Patrons are more likely to use noise-cancellation headphones than ear stopples to fend off night noises, these days, and to be on a wild weekend clubbing or to be visiting art galleries rather than shipping out Thursday. Bunk rooms are rented out more by families on the go than by shiftless singles. Nonetheless, the price is still, at $80 a night, undoubtably, right.

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