Scrambling to meet a Saturday deadline, the city moved the last homeless families from Manhattan's squalid Martinique Hotel, hoping to slam the door on years of criticism of its failure to find decent housing for the poor.

The graffiti-scarred entrance to the once-proud turn-of-the-century hotel stood empty and silent Saturday. Gone were the 1,500 children who only weeks ago romped and squealed on the Martinique's narrow sidewalk and called its grimy rooms and drug-infested hallways home.A stone's throw across Sheridan Square from the fabled Macy's department store, the hotel at Broadway and 32nd Street had become a national symbol of the helplessness and squalor faced by those too poor to afford housing.

Jesse Jackson even stopped in at the Martinique last spring during his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, visiting with families in tiny, rundown rooms for which the city paid $1,800 a month.

Faced with the threat of a cutoff of federal funds and mounting political pressure, Mayor Edward Koch's administration pledged to shut one of its 42 welfare hotels by year's end.

Koch has pledged to empty all of the welfare hotels by July 1990.

The Martinique, which once featured a fashionable dancehall and popular nightclub, was chosen as the first because it was "emblematic" of the conditions that exist in other welfare hotels, said John Beckman, a spokesman for the city's Human Resources Administration.

In a hurried move, the city relocated the last of 448 homeless families from the hotel Friday, he said. Many had lived in the Martinique for more than a year waiting for a city-subsidized apartment.

The lucky ones were taken to newly rehabilitated apartments. Others merely were transfered to other city-run facilities for the homeless.