Weegee made this photograph at a cheap hotel, otherwise known as a flophouse, along the Bowery, New York's notorious skid row. In the first half of the 1900s, the Bowery's mile-long stretch of bars, missions, and hotels was home to an estimated 25,000 men. Weegee often photographed these down-and-out characters, and was probably doing so on the evening that he made this photograph.
As the stairs recede toward the top of the image, each step appears narrower then the one below it–lending the words "U.S. Hotel" a powerful perspectival effect. The bold repetition of the hotel's name reveals Weegee's fascination with photography's graphic potential.