Nobody Asked Me But… No. 211: Hotel History: Asian American Hotel Owners Association*

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 211: Hotel History: Asian American Hotel Owners Association*

April 2, 2019 1:47pmShare This Link on FacebookShare This on TwitterShare This on Google+Share

By Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: Asian American Hotel Owners Association

The Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) is a trade association that represents hotel owners. As of 2018, AAHOA has approximately 18,000 members who incredibly own about half the 50,000 hotels in the United States. If you bear in mind that Indian Americans constitute less than one percent of Americas population, the conquest of this business niche is extraordinary. Furthermore, about 70% of all Indian hotel owners are named Patel, a surname that shows that they are members of a Gujarati Hindu subcaste.

How did this economic miracle come to pass? The first Indian motel owner in the United States is said to have been an illegal immigrant  named Kanjibhai Desai who managed to buy the Goldfield Hotel in downtown San Francisco in the early 1940s.

Some twenty-six years later in 1949, another Asian American of Indian descent came to the United States from his home near the city of Surat during the first wave of legal immigration from India.  Bhulabhai V. Patel picked apricots and grapes in Northern California and worked at various jobs until he saved enough to purchase the 108- room William Penn Hotel in San Francisco in 1960. By 1996, Bhulabhai owned nine properties in Northern California with his son, Raman and grandson Pramod. At the time, he was amazed by the rapid growth of the Indian American lodging community. “It started with one hotel”, he said, “Now we’ve got thousands”.

“Patel” means farmer or landowner in Gujarat where the Patels are the original and largest clan. In order to facilitate tax collections, the British delineated, reassigned and renamed some of them “Amin” (the farm managers) and others “Desai” (those who kept the books). It is said that the Patels have a commerce gene in their blood and the anecdotal evidence seems to bear this out.

In the mid-1970s, Patels from India, Africa and Asia began to emigrate to the United States where any immigrant willing to invest $40,000 in a business could apply for permanent residence, the first step to citizenship. There were limited opportunities for such an investment. Restaurants required the Hindu Gujaratis to handle meat, an uncomfortable activity. Furthermore, a restaurant required one-on-one interaction with guests, confusing for newly-arrived immigrants. But distressed roadside motels could be acquired outright for $40,000. In addition, the motel industry was slumping badly because of the oil embargo and the resultant nationwide shortage of gasoline. 

One Patel pioneer reported that a motel “… is easy to run. You don’t need fluent English, just the will to work long hours. And, it’s a business that comes with a house- you don’t have to buy a separate house….” 

The new owners brought their business expertise and their families to operate these motels. They instituted modern accounting techniques to monitor the all-important cash flow. Four times cash flow became the mantra of the Patels. If the distressed motel produced $10,000 per year in revenues and could be acquired for $40,000, it was profitable for a hard-working family. 

They renovated and upgraded the rundown motels to improve cash flow, sold the properties and traded up to better motels. This was not without difficulties. Conventional insurance companies wouldn’t provide coverage because they believed these immigrant owners would burn down their motels. In those days, banks were unlikely to provide mortgages either. The Patels had to finance each other and self insure their properties.

In a July 4, 1999 New York Times article, reporter Tunku Varadarajan wrote, “The first owners, in a manner consistent with many an emergent immigrant group, scrimped, went without, darned old socks and never took a holiday. They did this not merely to save money but also because thrift is part of a larger moral framework, one that regards all nonessential expenditure as wasteful and unattractive. It’s an attitude buttressed by a puritanical aversion to frills and frivolities, one that has its roots as much in the kind of Hinduism that the Patels practice as in their historical tradition as commercial perfectionists.”

They bought, renovated, operated and resold motels mostly along the interstate highways.  Soon, the name “Patel” became synonymous with the hotel business. Patels own motels in cities all over the U.S., including Canton (Texas, Mississippi, Michigan and Ohio), Burlington (Vermont, Iowa and North Carolina), Athens (Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama), Plainview (New York and Ohio) and Longview (Texas and Washington). 

Author Joel Millman writes in The Other Americans (Viking Books):

“Patels took a sleepy, mature industry and turned it upside down- offering consumers more choices while making the properties themselves more profitable. Motels that attracted billions in immigrant savings turned into real estate equity worth many billions more. That equity, managed by a new generation, is being leveraged into new businesses. Some are related to lodging (manufacturing motel supplies); some related to real estate (reclaiming derelict housing); some simply cash seeking an opportunity. The Patel-motel model is an example, like New York’s West Indian jitneys, of the way immigrant initiative expands the pie. And there is another lesson: as the economy shifts from manufacturing to services, the Patel-motel phenomenon demonstrates how franchising can turn an outsider into a mainstream player. The Gujarati model for motels might be copied by Latinos in landscaping, West Indians in homecare or Asians in clerical services. By operating a turnkey franchise as a family business, immigrants will help an endless stream of service providers grow.”

As investment and ownership expanded, the Patels were accused of a wide variety of crimes: arson, laundering stolen travel checks, circumventing immigration laws. In an unpleasant burst of xenophobia,Frequent Flyer magazine (Summer 1981) declared, “Foreign investment has come to the motel industry…..causing grave problems for American buyers and brokers. Those Americans in turn are grumbling about unfair, perhaps illegal business practices:  there is even talk of conspiracy.” The magazine complained that the Patels had artificially boosted motel prices to induce a buying frenzy.  The article concluded with an unmistakable racist remark, “Comments are passed about motels smelling like curry and dark hints about immigrants who hire Caucasians to work the front desk.” The article concluded, “The facts are that immigrants are playing hardball in the motel industry and maybe not strictly by the rule book.” The worst visible manifestation of such racism was a rash of “American Owned” banners displayed in certain hotels across the country. This hateful display was repeated in post- Sept 11 America. 

In my article, “How American-Owned Can You Get”, (Lodging Hospitality, August 2002), I wrote,

“In post-Sept. 11 America, signs of patriotism are everywhere: flags, slogans, God Bless America and United We Stand posters. Unfortunately, this outpouring sometimes oversteps the boundaries of democracy and decent behavior. After all, true patriotism encompasses the best features of our founding documents, and the very best of America is reflected in its diversity. Conversely, the worst if reflected when any one group attempts to define “American” in their own image. Unfortunately, a few hotel owners have attempted to describe their own peculiar version of “American.” When at the end of 2002 the Hotel

Pennsylvania in New York City installed an entrance banner saying “an American-owned hotel,” the owners attempted to deflect criticism by explaining, “The issue of American-owned is basically not disparaging toward other hotels. We want to provide our guests with an American experience. We want people to know they are going to get an American experience. We are not really interested in what the other hotels are or what they are not.”

This explanation is as wrongheaded as it gets. What is an “American experience” in a country that prides itself on its cultural diversity? Is it only white bread, hot dogs and cola? Or does it encompass all the arts, music, dance, food, culture and activities that various nationalities and citizens bring to the American experience?

How much more American can you get?”

Today AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. Its U.S. citizen members own one of every two hotels in the U.S.  With billions of dollars in property assets and hundreds of thousands of employees, AAHOA-owned hotels are core contributors in virtually every community in the United States.

*excerpted from my book “Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry” 
 AuthorHouse 2009

The Roosevelt New Orleans Hotel (1893) is Encouraging Return of Stolen Items

Participants who return such items will be eligible to win a seven-night stay in one of the hotel’s lavish presidential suites, worth over $15,000. The Roosevelt plans to display the items in its lobby, as a record of the hotel’s history. The campaign called the “Historic Giveback Contest” has been launched to celebrate the hotel’s 125th birthday. Former guests have until July 1, 2019 to return items by dropping them off at the concierge desk or sending them in the mail, said General Manager Tod Chambers.

My Other Published Hotel Books

All of these books can be ordered from AuthorHouse by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com and clicking on the book’s title.

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-six years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 40 hotel-related cases. My extensive hotel operating experience is beneficial in cases involving:

  • slip and fall accidents
  • wrongful deaths
  • fire and carbon monoxide injuries
  • hotel security issues
  • dram shop requirements
  • hurricane damage and/or business interruption cases
     

Feel free to call me at no charge on 917-628-8549 to discuss any hotel-related expert witness assignment.

Tags: stanley turkelstan turkelhotel historynobody asked meaahoaasian american hotel owners association

About Stanley Turkel

Stanley Turkel

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2014 and the 2015 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of hotel history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion and a greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is a well-known consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases, provides asset management and hotel franchising consultation. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Contact: Stanley Turkel

stanturkel@aol.com / 917-628-8549

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Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 209: Hotel History: The Americana of New York (1962)

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Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 208: Hotel History: Grand Hotel (1887) Mackinac Island, Michigan

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 207: Hotel History in Brooklyn, N.Y.: Hotel Bossert (1909) and St. George Hotel (1885)

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Key Takeaways: AHLA & AAHOA’s – Legislative Action Summit 2018

America’s Hoteliers Meet to Discuss Strength of Industry, Issues Affecting It and Impact on U.S. Communities

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 210: Hotel History: John Q. Hammons (1919-2013)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 210: Hotel History: John Q. Hammons (1919-2013)

March 12, 2019 2:43pmShare This Link on FacebookShare This on TwitterShare This on Google+Share

By Stanley Turkel, CMHS

John Q. Hammons: Master Hotel Developer and Builder

One of the great hotelier/developers of our time. John Q. Hammons developed 200 hotel properties in 40 states. But mere statistics hide the essence of Mr. Hammons special development techniques. He disdained the standard feasibility studies when assessing potential sites for hotel development and instead relied on his own experience, knowledge and intuition.

Here are some reflections by John Q. Hammons on being an exceptional hotel developer:

  • Be in Tune With Change:  Have a Plan of Action. People do not stop to think what change means. That’s the thing about success. You have to watch change in people, change in habits, change in style, change in desire, change in everything. It’s happening every day, and nobody thinks about it. I do.
     
  • Live by the Bedrock Rule.  They’re not making any more land, so if you hang onto it long enough, you’re bound to make a profit, either by selling it or by developing it.
     
  • Commit to Quality and Location.  During the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when the banks closed, I told our regional managers, we are going to stay in the quality business. I said I’ve made up my mind that the day is coming that there will be so many budgets built that you won’t believe it. The price of entry is low, and you don’t have to be very smart to do 50 or 100 rooms.  We’re not going to travel there. We’re going to get with the colleges, universities and state capitals. We’re going to get into solid markets, and we’re going to build quality hotels.
     
  • Keep Your Word.  My reputation allows me to make deals no one else could make, certainly not on a handshake. I always live up to what I say I’ll do… and more. If you don’t do what you say, word of that will travel the country.  I’ve never had that kind of reputation, and I never will.
     
  • Give Back.  If you’re able to succeed monetarily in life, you should share, and that’s what I’ve done.
     
  • Forge Ahead in Good Times or Bad.  No matter what the economy does, no matter the circumstances, forge ahead. I’ve weathered a lot of storms, but I stay positive. Experience has taught me that I will prevail, no matter what fate throws at me.
     

Hammons began his development career by building housing for World War II veterans in Springfield, Missouri. When the city planning commission refused to approve a high-end shopping center, Hammons traveled to California where he saw Del Webb’s Highway Houses: a pioneering motor hotel concept that followed Route 66. When Hammons returned home, he contacted an unknwon Memphis, Tenn. builder named Kemmons Wilson who was undertaking a similar concept named Holiday Inns.  Hammons formed a partnership with a plumbing contractor Roy E. Winegardner and in 1958 became one of Holiday Inn’s first franchisees. During their partnership, Winegardner & Hammons developed 67 Holiday Inns, about 10% of the total system. This development coincided with the creation of the Interstate Highway System when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956: a 13-year plan that would cost $25 billion, funded 90 percent by the federal government.

Hammons described in his own words, two defining moments of his life:

Defining Moment No. 1: “In 1969, my entrepreneurial spirit eventually led me to start my own company, John Q. Hammons Hotels. Even though Holiday Inn helped me become a great success, I switched gears after seeing economy hotels popping up next to each other. We had to specialize, so we focused on the upscale market, primarily building Embassy Suites and Marriott hotels with convention centers. We decided to build quality hotels that exceeded customer’s expectations. None of our hotels are alike and we use atriums, water features and local art to create individuality. We also strive to surpass the brand standards in each hotel, such as widening the hallways to seven feet and implementing pod check-in systems. If you build it right, locate it correctly and give the customers what they want, they will buy. The best way to sell is to let the other person buy.”

Defining Moment No. 2:  “After 9/11 hotel development came to an abrupt halt. Companies were too fearful to move forward. While everyone was stagnant, we forged ahead. The advantage of continuing to build hotels was the availability of materials and labor. We knew the economy would rebound and people would begin traveling more. Our hotels needed to be ready to welcome them. We have built and opened 16 hotels since 9/11, and that decision was well worth it.  Recently the cost of cement and steel ignited, increasing 25%. By developing hotels during an uncertain time, our company has saved US$80 million. No matter what the economy does, no matter the circumstances, forge ahead.

I have made it my life-long business to find markets and develop quality hotels. Since 1958, we have built 200 hotels from the ground up. Along the way, we have never forgotten to give back to the cities that help us succeed. We also have learned that you have to be fearless to succeed.” 

Hammons’ number one piece of advice was “you never build without the market….  Everyone says ‘location, location, location’. But it’s not true. It’s market, market, market. What I do is go throughout (the country) and look for those nooks and crannies where industry has grabbed a spot and gone to work.”  Hammons never built in primary locations. He selected secondary and tertiary markets where large corporations had regional offices or factories as well as university towns and state capitals. When Hammons and his senior vice president Scott Tarwater boarded Hammons’ private jet, they were looking for the confluence of interstate highways, transportation centers, railroads, universities and state capitals. They did not need to be right in the middle of the existing action; in fact, they preferred to be in a stable and underutilized location. Listen to the Hammons strategy:  “After going through (numerous) recessions, I decided I’m going to universities and state capitals, and if I could find both, (for instance) Madison, Wisconsin or Lincoln, Nebraska, you’ve got a homerun. Because when recessions come on, people still go to school and government employees still get paid. After 9/11 all the big players who have big hotels at big airports and city centers took a huge blow. They were helpless. (Whereas) we were out here in universities and capital cities and strong farming/agriculture communities.”

Hammons did not believe in formal, third-party feasibility studies. When he started his development work, Hammons would go into towns to do his own type of feasibility study. That meant talking to bellman, taxi drivers, all local business people.  He relied on his own judgment and the opinions of his top executives. Mayor Susan Narvais of San Marcos, Texas said “Most cities will say, “Bring me your feasibility study.’ But Mr. Hammons is a walking feasibility study. You trust his judgments just by looking at his life story and the accolades he receives.” Hammons provided the following analogy: “Mackinac Island has The Grand. Colorado Springs has the Broadmoor.  I knew that Branson lake country would become something.”

Was Hammons right?  Just consider the following:

  • Located in the heart of the Ozark Mountains on the shores of Lake Taneycomo, Branson is a popular tourist destination, famous for its many live music theaters, clubs and other entertainment venues, as well as its historic downtown and surrounding natural beauty.
     
  • 7 million people drive into Branson each year to attend the 50 theatres and live shows in town
     
  • Forget Las Vegas and New York’s theater district. Acre for acre, Branson is the live-entertainment center of the nation.
     
  • Branson is a $1.7 billion tourist mecca, the number one motor coach destination in the U.S.
     

The best hotel in Branson is Hammon’s Chateau on the Lake Resort Spa & Convention Center, a 4-star, 301 room hotel with a 46 foot, $85,000 tree in its atrium. Its function space includes a 32,000 square foot Great Hall, sixteen meeting rooms,  three corporate boardrooms and a 51-seat theater.  The Chateau has a full-service marina with everything from jet skis to ski boats, scuba diving, fishing and other water sports. A luxurious 14,000 square foot Spa Chateau contains 10 treatment rooms featuring hydraulic-operated massage tables. 

Hammons inevitably built a better and bigger hotel than the community expected and than the franchise company required. He said, “I’ve always survived because I believe in quality. At that manager’s conference where I told our people I intended to stay in the upscale, quality business, I told them I was going to put meeting space in our hotels. And that the meeting space will be big, like 10, 15 or even 40,000 square feet, because that’s our insurance policy. I knew that the trends for big conventions like in Chicago, New York, Miami, San Francisco and Los Angeles, Seattle, etc., were going to be a thing of the past because you can’t afford to get there. I knew. I could see that coming. That’s why I wanted to go into a region where I could be in the dominant position. ….Keep your properties up and go upscale. Put that convention center there and you can still be in business having your meetings and things like that,” Hammons said.

Disclosure

In preparation for the writing of my book, “Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry” (AuthorHouse 2009), I visited Springfield, Missouri and Branson, Missouri from July 11-13, 2006 to interview John Q. Hammons; Scott Tarwater, Senior Vice President; Steve Minton, Senior Vice President; Cheryl McGee, Corporate Director of Marketing; John Fulton, Vice President/Design and Stephen Marshall, Vice President & General Manager, Chateau on the Lake Resort, Branson, Missouri.

“Green Book” Wins Academy Award for Best Picture

My hotel history No. 192, “The Negro Motorist Green Book”, was published on February 28, 2018. It told the story of a series of AAA-like guides for black travelers published from 1936 through 1966. It listed hotels, motels, service stations, boarding houses, restaurants, beauty and barber shops which were relatively friendly to African Americans. The movie “Green Book” tells the story of Don Shirley, a Jamaican-American classically trained pianist and his white chauffer, Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga who embark on a 1962 concert tour through the segregated Deep South. The movie is excellent and entirely worth seeing.

My Other Published Hotel Books

All of these books can be ordered from AuthorHouse by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com and clicking on the book’s title.

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-six years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 40 hotel-related cases. My extensive hotel operating experience is beneficial in cases involving:

  • slip and fall accidents
  • wrongful deaths
  • fire and carbon monoxide injuries
  • hotel security issues
  • dram shop requirements
  • hurricane damage and/or business interruption cases
     

Feel free to call me at no charge on 917-628-8549 to discuss any hotel-related expert witness assignment.

Tags: stanley turkelstan turkelhotel historynobody asked mejohn q. hammons

About Stanley Turkel

Stanley Turkel

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2014 and the 2015 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of hotel history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion and a greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is a well-known consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases, provides asset management and hotel franchising consultation. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Contact: Stanley Turkel

stanturkel@aol.com / 917-628-8549

Related News

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 209: Hotel History: The Americana of New York (1962)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 208: Hotel History: Grand Hotel (1887) Mackinac Island, Michigan

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 207: Hotel History in Brooklyn, N.Y.: Hotel Bossert (1909) and St. George Hotel (1885)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 206: Hotel History: Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 205: Hotel History: Frederick Henry Harvey

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 204: Hotel History: The Skirvin Hotel, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (1911) Part 2

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 203: Hotel History: The Skirvin Hotel, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (225 Rooms)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 202: Hotel History: Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 201: Hotel History: Architect Morris Lapidus

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 200: Hotel History: Cesar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 199: Hotel History: Fanciful Prediction, Definition of “Turnpike”, The Pineapple as a Symbol of Hospitality, Hokusai, the Great Japanese Printmaker

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 209: Hotel History: The Americana of New York (1962)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 209: Hotel History: The Americana of New York (1962)

February 19, 2019 3:44pmShare This Link on FacebookShare This on TwitterShare This on Google+Share

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: The Americana of New York

The Americana of New York opened on September 25, 1962 as a 2,000-room convention hotel. It was constructed by brothers Laurence Tisch and Preston Tisch, co-owners of the Loews Corporation and was the first over 1,000-room hotel to be built in New York since the Waldorf Astoria in 1931. With 51 floors, it was acclaimed for many years in its advertising and by the media as the tallest hotel in the world, based on the number and height of its inhabited floors. The Americana was built, along with the New York Hilton facing Sixth Avenue on the next block, to serve the huge number of tourists that the 1964 New York World’s Fair would bring, as well as the business and convention market. The hotel was also known in later years as the Americana Hotel, Americana New York and Loews Americana of New York.

On May 14, 1968, John Lennon and Paul McCartney held a press conference at the Americana to announce the formation of Apple Corps, their music label. The Americana also hosted the New York portion of the 1967 and 1968 Emmy Awards. The hotel’s supper club, The Royal Box featured performances by Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Julie London, Peggy Lee, Liberace, Lena Horne, Sammy Davis, Jr., Paul Anka, Frank Sinatra and many more musical legends.

The hotel was built to the designs of architect Morris Lapidus with a two-story podium originally containing the lobby, five restaurants, ten ballrooms, a large convention hall, and “an acre of kitchens”, with the hotel rooms in narrow slabs above. To achieve this, Lapidus employed three structural systems: floors 1 through 5 are steel-concrete composite columns, floors 5 through 29 are concrete shear walls, and 29 to 51 reinforced concrete columns. At the time of its completion, the building was the tallest concrete-framed structure in the city.

On July 21, 1972, American Airlines leased the Americana of New York from Loews, as well as the City Squire Motor Inn across the street, and the Americana Hotels in Bal Harbour, Florida, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a period of thirty years. American merged the hotels with their existing Sky Chefs Hotels chain, and marketed all the properties under the Americana Hotels brand. The hotel served as Democratic headquarters for the 1976 Democratic National Convention and 1980 Democratic National Convention. The hotel also hosted the 1974 NFL Draft.

The Americana of New York and the City Squire Motor Inn were sold to a partnership of Sheraton Hotels and the Equitable Life Assurance Society on January 24, 1979. The Americana was renamed the Sheraton Centre Hotel & Towers. Sheraton bought out Equitable’s share in the hotel in 1990, freeing them to undertake a nearly $200 million renovation in 1991, when the hotel was renamed the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers. Following the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001, Lehman Brothers Investment Banking division temporarily converted the first-floor lounges, restaurants, and 665 guestrooms of the hotel into office space. Starwood Hotels (which had bought Sheraton in 1998) sold the hotel, along with 37 other properties, to Host Marriott for $4 Billion on November 14, 2005. The hotel continued to be managed by Sheraton, however, and was again renovated from 2011-2012, at a cost of $180 million, with the name shortened to Sheraton New York Hotel in 2012 and then changed to Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in 2013.

The main block of accommodation is a tall thin bent slab form, angled towards the 52nd Street corner, emphasized by the horizontal striped façade of strip windows and yellow glazed brick spandrels. On the north side facing Sixth Avenue, a lower 25-story wing is placed at right angles to the bent slab, and so at a slight angle to the street, and includes the entrance and lobby in a two-story podium.

The dominant feature at ground level is the two story circular rotunda projecting from under the end of the bent wing on the 52nd street corner. An image of the original hotel in the 1960s can be found in the collection of the Museum of the City of New York. The sidewalk on all sides originally had striped paving at the slight angle of the entry and bent wing, effectively turning the Seventh Avenue sidewalk into a forecourt for the hotel.

The facades of the accommodation blocks are generally intact, but the podium levels were reclad in the 1991 renovation, replacing the varied, light 1960s details with Postmodern squared granite.

Disclosure:
I once worked as Resident Manager of the Americana of New York. I lived on the 45th floor and was available at any hour of the night for any and all out-of-the-ordinary events. Inevitably, there were incidents that arose out of mechanical failures, unexpected guest behavior and/or employee shortcomings. I loved the excitement of the job and reported to General Manager Tom Troy, a veteran of the Statler Hotel Corporation.

My New Hotel Book Is Nearing Completion

It is entitled “Great American Hotel Architects” and tells the fascinating stories of Warren & Wetmore, Henry J. Hardenbergh, Schutze & Weaver, Mary Colter, Bruce Price, Mulliken & Moeller, McKim, Mead & White, Carrere & Hastings, Julia Morgan, Emery Roth and Trowbridge & Livingston.

My Other Published Hotel Books

All of these books can also be ordered from AuthorHouse by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com and clicking on the book’s title.

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-six years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 40 hotel-related cases. My extensive hotel operating experience is beneficial in cases involving:

  • slip and fall accidents
  • wrongful deaths
  • fire and carbon monoxide injuries
  • hotel security issues
  • dram shop requirements
  • hurricane damage and/or business interruption cases
     

Feel free to call me at no charge on 917-628-8549 to discuss any hotel-related expert witness assignment.

Tags: stanley turkelstan turkelhotel historynobody asked methe americana of new yorkthe americana,sheraton new york times square hotel

About Stanley Turkel

Stanley Turkel

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2014 and the 2015 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of hotel history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion and a greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is a well-known consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases, provides asset management and hotel franchising consultation. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Contact: Stanley Turkel

stanturkel@aol.com / 917-628-8549

Related News

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 208: Hotel History: Grand Hotel (1887) Mackinac Island, Michigan

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 207: Hotel History in Brooklyn, N.Y.: Hotel Bossert (1909) and St. George Hotel (1885)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 206: Hotel History: Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 205: Hotel History: Frederick Henry Harvey

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 204: Hotel History: The Skirvin Hotel, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (1911) Part 2

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 203: Hotel History: The Skirvin Hotel, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (225 Rooms)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 202: Hotel History: Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 201: Hotel History: Architect Morris Lapidus

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 200: Hotel History: Cesar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier

Sheraton Appoints Sean Verney as General Manager of Sheraton New York Times Square

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 199: Hotel History: Fanciful Prediction, Definition of “Turnpike”, The Pineapple as a Symbol of Hospitality, Hokusai, the Great Japanese Printmaker

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 208: Hotel History: Grand Hotel (1887) Mackinac Island, Michigan

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 208: Hotel History: Grand Hotel (1887) Mackinac Island, Michigan

January 29, 2019 3:13pmShare This Link on FacebookShare This on TwitterShare This on Google+Share

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: Grand Hotel

The “Grand” as it is called on the island, is a historic coastal resort with a spectacular 660-foot long, three-story high porch. Below this covered veranda is a manicured lawn sloping down to a formal flower garden where 10,000 geraniums bloom in season among other flower beds with wild blossoms. The hotel is located on Mackinac Island which is in the straits between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.  It has thrived because of an important decision made in the 1920s. All private cars and trucks were outlawed on the island which gives visitors a chance to live in a village without automobiles.  In their place, islanders depend on bicycles and horse- drawn carriages and wagons. Originally called Plank’s Grand Hotel after its builder John Oliver Plank, one of America’s top hotel builders and operators in the late 1880s and early 1900s.

In 1886, the Michigan Central Railroad, Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, and Detroit and Cleveland Steamship Navigation Company formed the Mackinac Island Hotel Company. The group purchased the land on which the hotel was built and construction began, based upon the design by Detroit architects Mason and Rice. When it opened the following year, the hotel was advertised to Chicago, Erie, Montreal and Detroit residents as a summer retreat for vacationers who arrived by lake steamer and by rail from across the continent. The hotel opened on July 10, 1887 and took a mere 93 days to complete.

The Grand has managed to maintain its 19th century charm and to survive into the age of budget hotels, interstate highways and recreational vehicles. It offers a rare level of luxury with a sense of style that has mostly gone out of style. The meals are American plan featuring five- course breakfasts and formal dinners with jackets and ties on gentlemen and ladies “in their finest”. No tipping is permitted at the Grand with an 18% gratuity charge added to every bill.

Five U.S. Presidents have visited: Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The hotel also hosted the first public demonstration of Thomas Edison’s phonograph on the porch and regular demonstrations of other new inventions were often conducted during Edison’s frequent stays. Mark Twain also made this a regular location on his speaking tours in the midwest.

Additionally, six suites are named for and designed by seven former First Ladies of the United States, including the Jacqueline Kennedy Suite (with carpet that includes the gold presidential eagle on a navy blue background and walls painted gold), Lady Bird Johnson Suite (yellow damask-covered walls with blue and gold wildflowers), Betty Ford Suite (green with cream and a dash of red), Rosalynn Carter Suite (with a sample of china designed for the Carter White House and wall coverings in Georgia peach), Nancy Reagan Suite (with signature red walls and Mrs. Reagan’s personal touches), Barbara Bush Suite (designed with pale blue and pearl and with both Maine and Texas influences) and the Laura Bush Suite.

In 1957, the Grand Hotel was designated a State Historical Building. In 1972, the hotel was named to the National Register of Historic Places, and on June 29, 1989, the hotel was made a National Historic Landmark.

The Conde Nast Traveler “Gold Lists” the hotel as one of the “Best Places to Stay in the Whole World” and Travel + Leisure magazine lists it as among the “Top 100 Hotels in the World.”  The Wine Spectator noted the Grand Hotel with an “Award of Excellence” and it made Gourmet magazine’s “Top 25 Hotels in the World” list. The American Automobile Association (AAA) rates the facilities as a Four-Diamond resort. In 2009 the Grand Hotel was named one of the top 10 U.S. Historic Hotels of America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

In 2012, the Grand Hotel celebrated its 125th anniversary with a series of memorable events:  Saturday night dinner with former Michigan governors in attendance, presentation by Grand Hotel interior designer Carlton Varney, Friday night fireworks, live performance by John Pizzarelli and much more. A special edition 125thanniversary coffee table book was published.

2018 marks the Grand Hotel’s 131st Birthday and over 85 years of Musser Family’s ownership.

My New Hotel Book Is Nearing Completion

It is entitled “Great American Hotel Architects” and tells the fascinating stories of Warren & Wetmore, Henry J. Hardenbergh, Schutze & Weaver, Mary Colter, Bruce Price, Mulliken & Moeller, McKim, Mead & White, Carrere & Hastings, Julia Morgan and Emery Roth.

My Other Published Hotel Books

All of these books can also be ordered from AuthorHouse by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com and clicking on the book’s title.

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-six years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 40 hotel-related cases. My extensive hotel operating experience is beneficial in cases involving:

  • slip and fall accidents
  • wrongful deaths
  • fire and carbon monoxide injuries
  • hotel security issues
  • dram shop requirements
  • hurricane damage and/or business interruption cases
     

Feel free to call me at no charge on 917-628-8549 to discuss any hotel-related expert witness assignment.

Tags: stanley turkelhotel historynobody asked megrand hotel

About Stanley Turkel

Stanley Turkel

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2014 and the 2015 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of hotel history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion and a greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is a well-known consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases, provides asset management and hotel franchising consultation. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Contact: Stanley Turkel

stanturkel@aol.com / 917-628-8549

Related News

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 207: Hotel History in Brooklyn, N.Y.: Hotel Bossert (1909) and St. George Hotel (1885)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 206: Hotel History: Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 205: Hotel History: Frederick Henry Harvey

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 204: Hotel History: The Skirvin Hotel, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (1911) Part 2

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 203: Hotel History: The Skirvin Hotel, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (225 Rooms)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 202: Hotel History: Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 201: Hotel History: Architect Morris Lapidus

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 200: Hotel History: Cesar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 199: Hotel History: Fanciful Prediction, Definition of “Turnpike”, The Pineapple as a Symbol of Hospitality, Hokusai, the Great Japanese Printmaker

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 198: Hotel History: Jefferson Hotel, U.S. Grant Hotel, The Montauk Manor and The Jung Hotel

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 207: Hotel History in Brooklyn, N.Y.: Hotel Bossert (1909) and St. George Hotel (1885)


The Hotel Bossert

The Hotel Bossert

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History in Brooklyn, N.Y.: Hotel Bossert and St. George Hotel

The Hotel Bossert was built in 1909 by Louis Bossert, a Brooklyn lumber magnate, as a residential hotel in Brooklyn Heights. The historic 14-story, 224-room hotel, once referred to as the “Waldorf-Astoria of Brooklyn,” was owned by the Jehovah’s Witnesses since 1984.

The Brooklyn Dodgers celebrated their first and last World Series championship when they beat the New York Yankees in 1955. In the lobby of the Hotel Bossert, delirious Dodger fans celebrated by singing “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow” for Walter Alston, the Dodger’s manager. Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese and Gil Hodges were present to celebrate.

The Bossert was once known for its famous Marine Roof, a two-level rooftop restaurant and nightclub with a nautical motif designed by Joseph Urban which had magnificent views of Manhattan.  In the summer of 1933, Freddy Martin and his orchestra were playing for dancing at the Marine Roof.  They were so well received that the following summer, Freddy Martin and orchestra were playing at the St. Regis Roof at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan.

At the end of 2009, the famous New York classical music station WQXR became a non-commercial, listener-supported station on 105.9 FM. Believe it or not, the station was first conceived by advertising executive Elliot Sanger and radio technician John Hogan over dinner at the Bossert in 1935. When the Brooklyn Dodgers ‘Boys of Summer’ relocated to Los Angeles, the Bossert was one of the several hotels that the Jehovah’s Witnesses acquired and renovated in Brooklyn Heights during the 70s and 80s. By 1984, when the Witnesses purchased it, the building had been reduced to a sad condition by age and neglect. The Witnesses performed an excellent restoration, reproducing the mahogany windows and replacing 2,500 square feet of Bottachino Classico marble with stone from the original Italian quarry. The restoration earned a “Preservation Award” from the New York Landmarks Conservancy in 1991 and a Special Award for Architectural Excellence from the Brooklyn Heights Association in 1993. When the Watchtower Society put the Bossert on the market, it was acquired by the real estate developers Joseph Chetrit and David Bistricer for an estimated $81 million in 2012. Three years later, they selected the Argentinian company Fën Hoteles to operate the landmark Hotel Bossert under the name Esplendor Brooklyn.

The Hotel St. George and its adjacent buildings were built between 1885 and 1929.  By then the St. George was the nation’s largest hotel with 2,623 rooms. The original ten-story hotel was developed by Captain William Tumbridge who served in the Union Navy in the Civil War. It was designed by architect Augustus Hatfield and later expanded by Tumbridge with adjacent buildings designed by architect Montrose Morris.

The St. George complex occupies a full city block and its 30-story main building, St. George Tower, is now a residential cooperative building. It once attracted politicians, movie stars, celebrities, athletes and every presidential candidate. Remember that Brooklyn by itself would be the fourth largest city in the United States.

As reported by Christopher Gray, the well-informed New York Times Streetscapes columnist on December 29, 2002: “Like other hotels before the advent of the better-class apartment building, the St. George offered shelter to both transients and permanent residents. The 1905 census records the family of prominent chinaware merchant Theodore Ovington, including his daughter Mary White Ovington, 40, a Radcliffe graduate. In 1909, she was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); her 1911 book Half a Man cast light on the troubles faced by African Americans.”

In 1914, Mary Ovington wrote How the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Began and in 1927, Portraits in Color about James Weldon Johnson, Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. DuBois, George Washington Carver, Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson and 14 other distinguished African Americans.

By 1922, the large real estate development firm of Bing & Bing acquired the hotel, and in 1928 had architect Emery Roth design a 30-story 1,000-room addition.

During the hotel’s heyday from the 1930s to the 1950s, Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson spent the night. Other celebrities included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, abolitionist Henry Beecher and Truman Capote. The world-renowned Colorama Ballroom, illuminated with 1,000 multicolor bulbs, attracted young people from Manhattan to dance to popular orchestras. The complex included stores of all kinds, restaurants, a movie theater, 14 meeting and banquet halls and the largest salt water swimming pool in the United States. Black and white photographs on the walls of the fitness center memorialized pool visits by Esther Williams, Johnny Weismuller and Buster Crabbe. The spa included steam rooms, sun lamps, and antique reducing machines, one of which applied a vibrating hip sling and another concealed all but the head of its victim in a zip-front canvas bag.

In 1995, after years of deterioration and foreclosure, a serious fire destroyed the original building and damaged the surrounding structures including the tower building. After repair, the St. George Tower is now a residential cooperative building. The Weller Wing of the St. George, once the hotel entrance, is now part of Educational Housing Services (EHS) which provides dormitory services to 1200 university students in the New York City area.

On March 28, 2010 the following news item appeared in the New York Times:

For co-ops desperate for new ways to increase income, consider what the St. George Tower in Brooklyn Heights has decided to do. The co-op board for the Tower, a 27-story building at 111 Hicks Street, looked up one day and decided to sell the enclosed former home of the building’s water tanks for the reuse as a 30th floor penthouse with a roof terrace. The price tag is $2.495 million.

The penthouse would be created in what is now raw industrial space with exposed pipes and walls. But it also has floor-to-ceiling arched windows and according to Kevin Brown, a senior vice president of Sotheby’s International Realty and the co-op’s broker, “drop-dead views” facing the harbor, Manhattan and brownstone Brooklyn. “Your breath is taken away when you look out those windows,” Mr. Brown said.  He said the board found a clever way to create value where there had been none before, and spent months getting approval from the attorney general’s office and the city buildings department before putting the space on the market.

The 66-by-53 foot space still has one remaining tank, which will be boxed in. The board has consulted with an elevator company to consider ways to bring one of the building’s elevators up to the 30th floor.

“Somebody is going to have to want a challenge to create something here,” Mr. Brown said.  “But they will only be limited by their imagination and pocketbook.”

My Other Published Hotel Books

All of these books can also be ordered from AuthorHouse by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com and clicking on the book’s title.

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-six years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 40 hotel-related cases. My extensive hotel operating experience is beneficial in cases involving:

  • slip and fall accidents
  • wrongful deaths
  • fire and carbon monoxide injuries
  • hotel security issues
  • dram shop requirements
  • hurricane damage and/or business interruption cases
     

Feel free to call me at no charge on 917-628-8549 to discuss any hotel-related expert witness assignment.

Tags: stanley turkelhotel historynobody asked mehotel bossertst. george hotel

About Stanley Turkel

Stanley Turkel

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2014 and the 2015 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of hotel history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion and a greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is a well-known consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases, provides asset management and hotel franchising consultation. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Contact: Stanley Turkel

stanturkel@aol.com / 917-628-8549

Related News

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 206: Hotel History: Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 205: Hotel History: Frederick Henry Harvey

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 204: Hotel History: The Skirvin Hotel, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (1911) Part 2

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 203: Hotel History: The Skirvin Hotel, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (225 Rooms)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 202: Hotel History: Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 201: Hotel History: Architect Morris Lapidus

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 200: Hotel History: Cesar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 199: Hotel History: Fanciful Prediction, Definition of “Turnpike”, The Pineapple as a Symbol of Hospitality, Hokusai, the Great Japanese Printmaker

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 198: Hotel History: Jefferson Hotel, U.S. Grant Hotel, The Montauk Manor and The Jung Hotel

Nobody Asked Me, But…No. 197: Hotel History: Ralph Hitz (1891-1940)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 196: Hotel History: The Broadmoor Hotel, Colorado Springs, Colorado (779 rooms)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 195: Hotel History: The Elephantine Colossus Hotel

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 206: Hotel History: Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter (1869-1958)

A pioneering American woman architect and interior designer whose distinct architectural knowledge was steeped in the culture and landscape of the Southwest. As the architectural historian for the Fred Harvey Company, she designed hotels, restaurants, gift shops and rest areas along the major routes of the Atchison, Topeka and Sante Fe Railway from 1902 until her retirement in 1948. Yet few of the nearly five million people who visit the Grand Canyon National Park every year are aware of Mary Colter and her accomplishments. No wonder she’s been called “the best-known unknown architect in the national parks.”

Born on April 4, 1869 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she was the daughter of Irish immigrants William Colter, a merchant, and Rebecca Crozier, a milliner. She experienced a transient childhood moving with her family from Pennsylvania to Texas and Colorado before finally settling down in Saint Paul, Minnesota at the age of eleven. In 1880, Saint Paul had a population of 40,000 people and a large minority of Sioux Indians, survivors of the Dakota War of 1862 which forced many to leave the newly-formed state.

Mary Colter graduated from high school at the age of 14 and after her father died she attended the California School of Design (now the San Francisco Art Institute) until 1891 where she studied art and design. Established by the San Francisco Art Association in 1874, the California School of Design, one of the first art schools in the West, provided its students with a comprehensive art education. For fifteen years Colter taught drawing at Mechanic Arts High School and lectured at the University of Minnesota Extension School. Her first design commission came when she met Minnie Harvey Huckel, daughter of the founder of the Fred Harvey Company.

In 1902, Colter started working for the Fred Harvey Company as an interior designer and practical architect. Her first assignment was to create an interior design for the Harvey Company’s newest project: the Indian Building adjacent to Harvey’s Hotel Alvarado in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Alvarado was designed by architect Charles Frederick Whittlesey (1867-1941) who trained in the Chicago office of Louis Sullivan. In 1900, at the age of thirty-three, Whittlesey was appointed Chief Architect for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. He designed the El Tovar Hotel at the south rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and the Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque with eighty-eight guestrooms, parlors, a barbershop, reading room and restaurant.

Mary Colter’s design for the adjacent Indian Building helped to launch the Harvey Company’s long-time sponsorship of Indian arts and crafts. The Albuquerque Journal Democrat reported on May 11, 1902 that the Alvarado Hotel “opened in a burst of rhetoric, a flow of red carpet and the glow of myriad brilliant electric lights with hopes that it would attract the wealthier classes to stop in Albuquerque on their travels to the West.”

Fred Harvey brought civilization, community and industry to the Wild West. His business eventually included restaurants, hotels, newsstands and dining cars on the Sante Fe Railroad. The partnership with the Atchison, Topeka and Sante Fe introduced many new tourists to the American Southwest by making rail travel comfortable and adventurous. Employing many Native-American artists, the Fred Harvey Company also collected indigenous examples of basketry, beadwork, Kachina dolls and a lively collection of exotic artifacts, handicrafts and Mission-style furniture.

Mary Colter’s Indian Building contained work and exhibit rooms with Indian basketmakers, silversmiths, potters and weavers at work. It launched the Harvey Company’s long-standing sponsorship of Indian arts and crafts. Mary Colter designed a new cocktail lounge in 1940 in the Alvarado and named it La Cocina Cantina to capture the design of an early Spanish kitchen.

From 1902 through 1948, Mary Colter served as the primary designer for the Fred Harvey Company, completing designs for twenty-one hotels, restaurants, lounges, curio shops, lobbies and rest areas along the major routes of the Atchison, Topeka and Sante Fe Railway. She captured the romance and mystery of the American Southwest and Native American artistic culture. Some characteristic features of her designs were tiny windows allowing shafts of light to accent red sandstone walls; a low ceiling of saplings and twigs resting on peeled log beams; a hacienda enclosing an intimate courtyard; a rough boulder structure, built into the earth as if part of a natural rock formation. These details shaped American visions of the Southwest for generations to come.

All twenty-one of Colter’s projects reveal her acute understanding of and commitment to both the natural and cultural landscape in which she worked. Through her interior designs, Colter demonstrated a spirited irreverence in her compositions, offering a clever demonstration of her own inventive Arts and Crafts sensibility.

Meanwhile, in the projects she termed “re-creations,” such as the Hopi House (1905) and Desert View Watchtower (1933) in Grand Canyon National Park, she almost always followed the architectural features of the original prototypes.

Employing indigenous Native American builders, demanding the use of local materials when possible, and attending to minute historical details obtained through research expeditions to various Indian historical ruins, Colter strove for stylistic verisimilitude without attempting to make, as she put it, a “copy,” or a “replica.”

In her smaller-scaled tourist architecture at the Grand Canyon, Colter introduced more innovative designs, including those for Hermit’s Rest and Lookout Studio (both 1914), places for Canyon visitors to stop that were intended to be “hidden under the rim,” according to Colter.

In Lookout Studio, she created a single-level, horizontal structure of rusticated Kaibab limestone that mimicked the stratification of the eroded rock below, ensuring unobstructed views from other promontories by means of architectural camouflage which allowed the innate drama of the Grand Canyon to enrich tourists’ experiences.

Other Harvey projects drew Colter away from the Grand Canyon, giving her the opportunity to design station-hotels along the Sante Fe Railway line, through which her architectural vision could manifest at a great scale. Of the El Navajo Hotel in Gallup, New Mexico (1923), she wrote, “I have always longed to carry out the true Indian idea, to plan a hotel strictly Indian with none of the conventional modern motifs,” probably referring to the ersatz Native Americana common to so many of the inferior hotels arising in the Southwest after World War I. Both the El Navajo in Gallup, New Mexico and La Posada in Winslow, Arizona, demonstrated Colter’s engagement with regional design issues and evoked the originality and wit of her earlier projects.

Colter retired to Santa Fe in 1948 and died there in 1958. Frank Waters, the great historian and expert on Native Americans of the Southwest, in his book Masked Gods: Navaho and Pueblo Ceremonialism (1950), recalled Mary Jane Colter:

“For years, an incomprehensible woman in pants, she rode horseback through the Four Corners making sketches of prehistoric ruins, studying details of construction, the composition of globes and washes. She could teach masons how to lay adobe bricks and plasters how to mix washes.”

Although her contemporaries often called her a “decorator,” her projects, of which four– Hopi House, Hermit’s Rest, Lookout Studio, and Desert View Watchtower – have been designated National Historic Landmarks, suggest that “architect” would be a more accurate and enduring description.

In early 2018, a book entitled False Architect: The Mary Colter Hoax by Fred Shaw stated that Colter was never trained or certified as an architect. It claimed that she falsely took credit for designs produced by others.

In response to this provocative thesis, Allan Affeldt, co-owner and operator of the La Posado Hotel, Winslow, Arizona wrote in September 2018: “All of us in the Harvey world are quite upset about the book. Shaw is clearly a misogynist.” Affeldt added:

“The attributions of Colter’s works to Curtis and others is preposterous, and obviously discounted by the many including Harvey family with direct knowledge of Colter and the buildings. We have collectively decided it best to ignore these self published rantings and not give Shaw a podium for his hatred.”

Don’t Miss The New Movie “Green Book”

My hotel history No. 192, “The Negro Motorist Green Book”, was published on February 28, 2018. It told the story of a series of AAA-like guides for black travelers published from 1936 through 1966. It listed hotels, motels, service stations, boarding houses, restaurants, beauty and barber shops which were relatively friendly to African Americans. Now the newly-released movie “Green Book” tells the story of Don Shirley, a Jamaican-American classically trained pianist and his white chauffeur, Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga who embark on a 1962 concert tour through the segregated Deep South. Despite the movie’s title, there are only a few references to the actual Green Book travel guide. But the movie is excellent and entirely worth seeing.

My Other Published Hotel Books

All of these books can also be ordered from AuthorHouse by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com and clicking on the book’s title.

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-six years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 40 hotel-related cases. My extensive hotel operating experience is beneficial in cases involving:

  • slip and fall accidents
  • wrongful deaths
  • fire and carbon monoxide injuries
  • hotel security issues
  • dram shop requirements
  • hurricane damage and/or business interruption cases

Feel free to call me at no charge on 917-628-8549 to discuss any hotel-related expert witness assignment.

About Stanley Turkel

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2014 and the 2015 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of hotel history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion and a greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is a well-known consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases, provides asset management and hotel franchising consultation. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Contact: Stanley Turkel

stanturkel@aol.com / 917-628-8549

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 205: Hotel History: Frederick Henry Harvey

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: Frederick Henry Harvey (1835-1901)

Just one hundred years ago, two architectural jewels opened at the Grand Canyon. They  are the 95-room El Tovar Hotel and the Hopi House Indian Arts Building. Both reflect the foresight and entrepreneurship of Fred Harvey, an immigrant from England, whose business ventures eventually included restaurants, hotels, newsstands and dining cars on the route of the Sante Fe Railroad. The partnership with the Atchison, Topeka and Sante Fe introduced many new tourists to the American Southwest by making rail travel comfortable and adventurous. Employing many Native-American artists, the Fred Harvey Company also collected indigenous examples of basketry, beadwork, Kachina dolls, pottery and textiles.

Fred Harvey arrived in the United States in 1850 at 15 years of age. His first job was a “pot walloper”, a dishwasher in New York City at the Smith and McNeill Café. Harvey made a career change and worked for railroads with travel opportunities for twenty years all over the United States. He learned first-hand what travelers in the West had to endure: uneatable dry biscuits, greasy ham and weak coffee. He even traveled on the Hannibel & St. Joseph known as the “Horrible & Slow Jolting”.  After rejection by the Burlington Railroad, Harvey struck a deal with Charles Morse, president of the Santa Fe Railway. With only a handshake to seal their agreement, the two companies began a long and fruitful partnership.

The railroad travelers of that era moved through Chicago on a slow journey westward on hard board seats in overcrowded crude coaches. At a time when most railroad food was poor and even inedible, Fred Harvey provided appetizing and affordable meals in comfortable dining quarters. He opened his first railroad restaurant in Topeka, Kansas in 1876 where good food, spotless dining rooms, and courteous service brought booming business.

The Santa Fe Railway provided the buildings for the Harvey restaurants where the passenger trains would stop twice daily for meals. The railroad carried all the produce and supplies needed by the Harvey restaurants including transporting the dirty laundry.  Fred Harvey hired, trained and supervised all personnel and provided for food and service. Harvey’s policy was “maintenance of standards, regardless of cost.” He believed that profits would grow if the food and service were excellent. “Meals by Fred Harvey” became the slogan of the Sante Fe Railway. To maintain this excellence, he hired and trained girls of the finest character as waitresses, the famous “Harvey Girls”.

Harvey placed ads in Eastern and Midwestern newspapers that read: “Wanted, young women of good character, attractive and intelligent, 18 to 30 years of age as waitresses in Harvey Eating Houses in the West. Good wages with room and meals furnished.”  Harvey Girls were trained to high standards of prompt and courteous service. They were the key to serving hundreds of passengers in about 20 minutes…the average length of time a train would need for servicing. Only white women were hired as Harvey Girls with no black women and only a few Hispanic and Indian women who ever served as waitresses. White European immigrant women were apparently acceptable. Minority workers, male and female, worked in the Harvey kitchens and hotels where they served as maids, dishwashers and pantry girls. Harvey had no shortage of applicants. It is estimated that a hundred thousand women applied from 1883 until the 1960s.

Harvey Girls all wore the same uniform, outfits befitting a nun: a long-sleeved black dress with a stiff “Elsie” collar, black shoes, black stockings and hairnets. The company furnished a full white wrap-around apron so stiffly starched that it had to be pinned to a corset. Harvey Girls wore no jewelry, no makeup and chewed no gum. They lived in dormitories where they were closely supervised by their manager (or manager’s wife), and curfews were strictly enforced in the early years. They were looked after as carefully as boarding school students in female seminaries in the East. They worked very hard and their eight-hour-a-day shifts were often split to conform to train schedules. They were told what to wear, where to live, whom to date and what time to go to bed. When the Harvey Girls were recruited in the early years, they agreed not to marry for at least a year.

Will Rogers wrote about the Harvey Girls:

“In the early days, the traveler fed on the buffalo. For doing so, the buffalo got his picture on the nickel. Well, Fred Harvey should have his picture on one side of the dime and one of his waitresses with her arms full of delicious ham and eggs on the other side, ‘cause they have kept the West supplied with food and wives.”

One of the reasons for the Harvey Houses’ success was their ability to serve fresh, high quality meat, seafood, and produce at remote locations across the Southwest. Trains would deliver beef from Kansas City, seafood and produce from southern California year-round.

Harvey House workers were able to handle large numbers of passengers in a short amount of time because the conductors on the train would get menu selections from the passengers and that information would be teletyped ahead to the Harvey House cooks. When the train pulled into the station and the passengers began to get off the train, a white-coated Harvey House staffer would hit a brass gong which stood outside the entrance to the restaurant. This let passengers known instantly where to come, and the Harvey Girls were ready to serve them.

Harvey operations at Union Stations in Cleveland, Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago and Los Angeles included newsstands, gift shops featuring Indian jewelry and weavings, barber shops, liquor stores, private dining rooms, restaurants, coffee shops, cafeteria, haberdashery, candy and fruit stands, miniature department store, cocktail lounges and soda fountains. Harvey was among the first to market its own name–brand “designer” goods: Fred Harvey hats, shirts, shaving cream, candy, playing cards, even Harvey Special Blend whiskey. Except for the prohibition years, Harvey sold exclusively a Scotch distilled by Ainslie & Heilbron in Glasgow. As a forerunner to Starbucks, Harvey packaged its own select coffee for public sale in 1948. The blend was already famous among Sante Fe travelers and Harvey sold 7,000 pounds in the first two weeks. The press dubbed him “Civilizer of the West” and one article from the 1880s said “he made the desert blossom with beefsteak and pretty girls.”

The Harvey company built luxurious resort hotels within sightseeing distance of major western attractions in national parks like the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest.

In 1870, Harvey built the Clifton Hotel in Florence, Kansas which resembled a fine English home with fountains and candelabra in the surrounding garden and luxurious guest accommodations inside including an elegant dining room. At the turn of the century, another Harvey House of equal beauty was the Bisonte Hotel in Hutchinson, Kansas followed by the Sequoyah in Syracuse and El Vaquero in Dodge City, all built in Spanish Mission style.

The chaotic Kansas frontier included a transient population of cowboys and herd bosses, cattle-selling Texans, prostitutes and saloon-buffs. Harvey built the Arcade Hotel in “bloody Newton, the wickedest town in the West”, after the cattle industry moved to Dodge City. Later, Harvey moved his district headquarters to Newton from Kansas City including construction of a major dairy, an ice plant, meat locker-rooms, a creamery, a poultry feeding station and produce plant, a carbonating plant for bottling soda pop and a modern steam laundry.

As the Santa Fe Railway moved across Kansas to Colorado and to New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, Harvey hotels opened every hundred miles or so. New Mexico was the home of sixteen, five of which were among the most beautiful in the system: the Montezuma and Castaneda in Las Vegas (NM), La Fonda in Sante Fe, the Alvarado in Albuquerque, El Navajo in Gallup and El Ortiz in Lamy.

Each of these hotels was unique but perhaps none more so than the long-forgotten Montezuma Hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico. An enormous castle-like structure, built adjacent to hot mineral springs, it was the largest wood frame building in the country with 270 rooms and an eight-story tower. Its connected spa-bathhouses served five hundred people a day and competed with the finest health resorts in the United States and Europe. After it burned to the ground in 1884, Harvey and the Santa Fe immediately rebuilt the million dollar hotel. This second structure also suffered a serious fire and was again replaced in 1899. After Harvey’s El Tovar Hotel opened in 1905 at the Grand Canyon, the Montezuma closed.

From 1901 through 1935, the Harvey Company and the Sante Fe built twenty three hotels of which only the following are still in operation: El Tovar and the Bright Angel Lodge in the Grand Canyon, Arizona and La  Fonda in Sante Fe, New Mexico.

This article is excerpted from my book: “Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry” AuthorHouse 2009

Please Take Note

My newest book has been published by AuthorHouse: “Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher.”

My Other Published Hotel Books

All of these books can also be ordered from AuthorHouse by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com and clicking on the book’s title.

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-six years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 40 hotel-related cases. My extensive hotel operating experience is beneficial in cases involving:

  • slip and fall accidents
  • wrongful deaths
  • fire and carbon monoxide injuries
  • hotel security issues
  • dram shop requirements
  • hurricane damage and/or business interruption cases

Feel free to call me at no charge on 917-628-8549 to discuss any hotel-related expert witness assignment.

About Stanley Turkel

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2014 and the 2015 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of hotel history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion and a greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is a well-known consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases, provides asset management and hotel franchising consultation. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

www.stanleyturkel.com

Contact: Stanley Turkel

stanturkel@aol.com / 917-628-8549

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 204: Hotel History: The Skirvin Hotel, Oklahoma City (Part 2)

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: The Skirvin Hotel (Part 2)

Hotel owner Dan W. James, like Bill Skirvin before him, did not rest on past accomplishments. In 1959, a swimming pool was added to the north side of the hotel, and one year later he built the Four Seasons Lounge next to the pool. Despite such attempts to modernize his properties, James and other hotel operators were confronting the decline of the central city. Beginning in 1959, new suburban shopping malls were built every few years, drawing shoppers away from downtown. Another factor in the central city’s decline was the new age of motor car transportation, which shifted emphasis from railroads and streetcars to busses and automobiles. City streets, designed for pedestrian traffic and only limited motor use, were too congested for heavy traffic, while limited space impeded convenient parking.

In 1963, just as the problems confronting downtown Oklahoma City were mounting, James announced that he had sold the Skirvin to a group of investors from Chicago. Although this partnership added a $250,000 banquet room to the hotel and made grand plans for the development of both the Skirvin Hotel and Tower, they sold the properties to H.T. Griffin in 1968.

Griffin, who planned to build the proposed Liberty Tower just to the south of the hotel, unveiled a two-year plan intended to rejuvenate the Skirvin and reverse the exodus from downtown Oklahoma City. With an investment of $2.5 million, he redecorated the Sun Suite, added a new restaurant, replaced all the window sashes with bronze-colored frames, replaced all the furniture, added color television sets to each room, and remodeled the lobby, kitchen and coffee shop.

Despite this massive investment, Griffin encountered difficulties. Urban renewal construction was active during the late 1960s, further congesting traffic and discouraging movement downtown. Occupancy rates declined, reaching a nadir of only 32 percent in 1969, a period when an occupancy of 70 percent was necessary to pay operating expenses and outstanding bank loans. In 1968, the hotel made a small profit, but in 1969 and again in 1971 the Skirvin suffered losses. Combined with heavy investment in Liberty Tower, the negative cash flow forced the Griffin into bankruptcy in late 1971.

At this low point in its celebrated history, the Skirvin was placed in the hands of a trustee, Stanton L. Young, who borrowed money for operations and searched for a way to pay off debts and return the hotel to its former grandeur. One year later, Young negotiated to sell the Skirvin Hotel to CLE Corporation, a Texas firm that already owned and managed a chain of hotels across the nation. Purchase price was approximately $2 million.

In late 1972, the new owner announced that the name of the hotel would be changed to “Skirvin Plaza Hotel” and pledged to invest $2.3 million in a general remodeling campaign – a figure which would increase to $8 million by 1974. Much of the work was exterior facelifting, such as repointing mortar, cleaning bricks, and replacing old awnings. Every guest room was gutted and redecorated in one of eight different styles and all new plumbing and electrical wiring was installed.

Suffering from sagging occupancy despite their investments, CLE Corporation in 1977 sold the Skirvin to the Businessman’s Assurance Company. The City’s other fine hotels, such as Huckins, Biltmore, Tower and Black, already had been abandoned, demolished, or converted to office space.

The life of the Skirvin, hanging in the balance for the past 16 years, received a new chance in 1979 when a small group of investors recognized the latent potential of the hotel. With a faith reminiscent of Bill Skirvin, the new investors purchased the hotel for a reported $5.6 million. With the combined resources and talent of investors Ron Burks, Bill Jennings, John Kilpatrick, Jr., Bob Lammerts, Jerry Richardson, Dub Ross and Joe Dann Trigg, the Skirvin Plaza Investors approached their new challenge aggressively.

With a $1 million commitment, the investors undertook an extensive remodeling campaign. In the lobby, workers removed an added staircase in order to regain the openness of the original design. Then, while demolishing other additions, workers found an original wooden archway, which served as a pattern for the design of other arches and wood trim. Above the refurbished walls, ceiling murals were recreated and massive chandeliers imported from Czechoslovakia were installed. The Skirvin, after suffering two decades of decline, was to get another chance.

In 1980, the future of the Skirvin seemed assured. The interior renovation was nearly completed and events were unfolding around the Skirvin that would attract new visitors. Urban renewal, which had slowed during the mid-1970s, gained new momentum when a developer from Dallas began work on the Galleria, the long-promised retail and office complex just a block west and south of the Skirvin.

Another remarkable new development downtown was the preservation of several of the City’s foremost historic buildings. Spurred by mounting prosperity, tax incentives, and the growing demand for office space, investors purchased and renovated structures such as the Colcord Hotel, the Harbour-Longmire, the Black Hotel, Montgomery Ward, and the Oil and Gas Building. This facelifting injected new life into the central city.

The significance of the Skirvin Hotel in the history of Oklahoma was officially recognized late in 1980 when two plaques were unveiled by Governor George Nigh. One plaque designated the inclusion of the hotel on the National Register of Historic Places; the other marked a similar honor from the Oklahoma City Historic Preservation and Landmark Commission.

Nevertheless, the Skirvin skidded into bankruptcy and closed down in 1988 and sat empty until 2007 when it was acquired by Marcus Hotels and Resorts who undertook a $55 million renovation. On its 100th birthday, the hotel reopened as the Skirvin Hilton Hotel and has earned a AAA Four Diamond rating every year since.

“We are delighted to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the oldest existing hotel in the state of Oklahoma. The Skirvin Hilton is a grand hotel in the tradition of historic hotels, and was our fourth historic restoration,” said Bill Otto, president of Marcus Hotels & Resorts. “While carefully retaining its historic details, we completely renovated the property and introduced successful restaurant concepts, including the Park Avenue Grill and Red Piano Bar. We are proud to be a part of this celebratory event – and proud to continue to deliver exceptional service to our Oklahoma City guests.”

The project leveraged Marcus Hotels’ 50 years of experience in restoring landmark hotels. Martin Van Der Laan, general manager said, “The Skirvin Hilton has been considered the city’s crown jewel through the turbulent years and rebirth of downtown Oklahoma City in 2006. Today the hotel serves as a chronicler of the city’s history and remains an important piece of the city’s past and future”.

The Skirvin Hilton Hotel is a member of the Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

*For a more detailed history of the Skirvin Hilton Hotel, see the well-illustrated and well-written “Skirvin” by Jack Money and Steve Lackmeyer, Full Circle Press, Oklahoma City, 2007.

Please Take Note

My newest book has been published by AuthorHouse: “Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher.” You can order it from AuthorHouse by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com and clicking on the book’s title.

My Other Published Hotel Books

All of these books can also be ordered from AuthorHouse by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com and clicking on the book’s title.

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-six years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 40 hotel-related cases. My extensive hotel operating experience is beneficial in cases involving:

  • slip and fall accidents
  • wrongful deaths
  • fire and carbon monoxide injuries
  • hotel security issues
  • dram shop requirements
  • hurricane damage and/or business interruption cases

Feel free to call me at no charge on 917-628-8549 to discuss any hotel-related expert witness assignment.

About Stanley Turkel

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2014 and the 2015 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of hotel history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion and a greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is a well-known consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases, provides asset management and hotel franchising consultation. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Contact: Stanley Turkel

stanturkel@aol.com / 917-628-8549

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 203: Hotel History: The Skirvin Hotel, Oklahoma City

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: The Skirvin Hotel (Part 1)

The Skirvin Hilton Hotel is Oklahoma City’s oldest hotel. It was built by William Balser Skirvin, a native of Michigan who made his fortune in Texas land development and oil. In 1906, Skirvin and his family (including his daughter Pearl who would later become Perle Mesta, ambassador to Luxemborg and a famous Washington hostess) moved to Oklahoma City. Skirvin hired Solomon Andrew Layton, an American architect who designed over 100 public buildings in the Oklahoma City area including the Oklahoma State Capitol. Twenty-two of Layton’s buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Skirvin and Layton made the hotel as self-sufficient as possible. Skirvin installed a proprietary gas pipeline to the building, dug three wells for water supply, built an electric generating plant and operated an in-house laundry and cooling system.

On September 26, 1911, the ornate Skirvin Hotel was opened for public inspection. Visitors attracted to the 10-story building found two exterior wings, each facing south, and a rounded bay between the wings running the height of the structure. The façade was red brick laid in a Flemish bond pattern, the lower level was faced with limestone, and had two covered entryways. Inside, visitors were greeted with a spacious lobby decorated in English Gothic detail. On the west end of the first floor were the Skirvin Drugstore and other retail shops. On the other wing, customers found the Skirvin Café with a stage for musicians. The café was complemented by the Grill Room in the basement and the Tea Room on the mezzanine.

Entering one of the two electric elevators, guests rose to the upper floors where they found 225 guestrooms and suites. Each room had a private bath, was decorated with velvet carpets and hardwood furniture, and had a telephone connected to the Pioneer Telephone Company lines through a large switchboard located behind the front desk.

Skirvin continued to give the hotel much of his attention, despite the daily presence of his first general manager, Frederick Scherubel. Most days, when he was not attending to his oil interests, Skirvin could be found in the lobby greeting guests or talking with businessmen and politicians. He donated a room to the Republican Party, and welcomed Democrats, so the hotel became a center for politics during the early years of statehood. To be close to his “225-room hobby,” Skirvin moved his family to a five-room suite on the ninth floor. In addition to his three children, the Skirvin household consisted of the kids’ menagerie of dogs, raccoons, hawks, and other animals, which they kept on the roof.

During the next ten years, the guest register of the Skirvin Hotel reflected the frontier character of the young, bustling state. Guests included cigar-chomping politicians, free-wheeling ranchers, blanketed Indians from the state’s 70 tribes, oil-rich millionaires, mud-covered drillers, and even bank robbers such as the notorious Al Jennings, the ex-convict who launched his bid for governor from the lobby. William Skirvin, always impeccably dressed in his well-pressed suit, welcomed all with open arms.

By 1923, the hotel’s success and the continued growth of Oklahoma City convinced Skirvin that expansion was justified. Again, the oilman went to the architect Solomon Layton, who developed plans to add another wing and bay to the east, replacing the one-story garage. In addition, plans called for remodeling all existing rooms, the first of many refurbishings which would improve the hotel each decade thereafter. By 1926, with the investment of $650,000, the hotel had a new wing of 12 stories and two wings with 10 stories each.

In March 1928, as another prosperous era was overtaking Oklahoma City, Skirvin announced plans to raise all wings to 14 stories and to initiate an extensive remodeling of the entire hotel. One year and three months after the first well in the world-famous Oklahoma City oil field was discovered, Skirvin let the first contracts for the renovation. By April 1930, the entire building had been raised to 14 floors with 525 guestrooms, a roof garden, a cabaret club and the old café converted into a modern coffee shop. On the ground level, the lobby was doubled in size with specially-designed Gothic lanterns costing $1,000 each suspended from the ceiling, and hand-carved English fumed oak was added to the walls and doors. Skirvin’s most popular addition proved to be the 14th floor rooftop Venetian Room and Restaurant which was decorated with Italian plaster, a parquet hardwood floor, and more than 100 casement windows for flow-through ventilation. Adjoining it on the east, was a new kitchen, furnished with the most modern appliances.

In the west wing, and connected to the restaurant by a foyer, was the Venetian Room, a supper club featuring live music and dancing. Paneled with American walnut and draped with embroidered mohair, brocatelle and damash, the club was decorated with murals depicting Venetian scenes. The floor was specially designed for dancing with alternate blocks of red and white oak polished to a high sheen.

The opening performer was Hal Pratt and his Fourteen Rhythm Kings featuring Hilda Olsen and the Ruth Laird Rockets. Subsequent Venetian Room performers were Zez Confrey, Ted Weems, Ted Fiorito, Jimmy Joy, Johnny Johnson, Charlie Straight, the Seven Aces, the Ligon Smith Band and Peppino and Rhoda, famous ballroom dancers.

Oklahoma City was buffeted by the mounting economic depression which began in December of 1929. With his typical boldness, Skirvin announced that he would expand the hotel by building an annex across Broadway. In March of 1931, crews broke ground for the planned 26-level Skirvin Tower, and work continued until January of 1932, when suddenly Skirvin’s resources crumbled. With only 14 floors of the superstructure completed, Skirvin was forced to temporarily abandon the project, a victim of the spreading financial depression.

Early in 1934, Skirvin resumed work on the Tower, but it was not competed until 1938, and even then only a few of the floors were ready for occupants. Described as a “luxury apartment-hotel,” the Tower was linked to the hotel by a tunnel and many of the service employees worked in both buildings. Later owners would finish the interior and operate the Tower as a hotel until 1971, when it was completely remodeled into a glass-enclosed office building. When William Skirvin passed away in 1944, his three children decided to sell the properties.

In May of 1945, only weeks after Germany’s surrender, the hotel and tower were sold for $3 million to Dan W. James, owner of the Black Hotel, another of the City’s six luxury hotels. James brought considerable hotel management skills to the Skirvin, for he had worked in hotels from Louisiana and Arkansas to Texas and Oklahoma. In 1931, he came to Oklahoma City and bought the Black Hotel. When he assumed control of the Skirvin properties, he faced a formidable task, as high traffic, scarce replacement materials, and absent employees had taken a heavy toll during World War II.

To resurrect the quality and elegance of Skirvin, James embarked on a 10-year modernization program. He installed air conditioning for the entire building; he replaced the original entryway canopies with a wrap-around awning; he added a drive-in registry and a parking garage to the north side; and he redecorated all of the meeting rooms on the east side of the mezzanine. James invested even more in the Tower, where he remodeled the Persian Room, created the Tower Club, and refinished many of the luxury apartments and suites. James realized that a luxury hotel could not succeed in the 1940s without offering a wide range of services to the public. He made every effort to provide room service, in-by-nine-out-by-five guest laundry, a stenographer and notary, a beauty shop, a barber shop, and a house physician.

James instituted several programs to insure good employee relations and maximum effort. He created an 8-page in-house magazine, Inn-Side Stuff, which carried news about employees, contests for efficient service, and information about other divisions of the hotel. James also introduced employee benefit programs such as company-paid insurance policies for longtime workers and annual Christmas dinners for all staff members and their families.

Such policies made the Skirvin one of the most successful hotels in the Southwest, an important role in a city, which was third only to New York and Chicago in the number of conventions attracted each year. This status was enhanced during the post-war years by the presidential visits of Harry Truman and by Dwight D. Eisenhower. Both events helped establish the Skirvin as the queen of hotels in Oklahoma City.

(To be continued)

2.  Please Take Note

My newest book has been published by AuthorHouse: “Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher.” You can order it from AuthorHouse by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com and clicking on the book’s title.

3.  My Other Published Books

All of these books can also be ordered from AuthorHouse by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com and clicking on the book’s title.

4.  If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-six years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 40 hotel-related cases. My extensive hotel operating experience is beneficial in cases involving:

  • slip and fall accidents
  • wrongful deaths
  • fire and carbon monoxide injuries
  • hotel security issues
  • dram shop requirements
  • hurricane damage and/or business interruption cases

Feel free to call me at no charge on 917-628-8549 to discuss any hotel-related expert witness assignment.

About Stanley Turkel

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2014 and the 2015 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of hotel history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion and a greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is a well-known consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases, provides asset management and hotel franchising consultation. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

All of his books can be ordered from the publisher (AuthorHouse) by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com and clicking on the book title.

Contact: Stanley Turkel

stanturkel@aol.com / 917-628-8549

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 202: Hotel History: Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C.

By Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C.  opened on February 18, 1925 with 440 guestrooms. It is known as the “Grande Dame of Washington”, the “Hotel of Presidents” and as the city’s “Second Best Address” (the White House is the first).

The Mayflower Hotel was built by Allen E. Walker who planned to name it The Hotel Walker. He retained Warren & Wetmore, architects who had designed New York’s Commodore, Biltmore, Ambassador Ritz-Carlton and Vanderbilt Hotels. The supervising architect was Robert F. Beresford who had worked for the Supervising Architect of the Treasury and the Superintendent of the Capitol. When Walker sold his interest to C.C. Mitchell & Company, the new owners changed the name to the Mayflower Hotel in honor of the 300th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower and the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock.

The Mayflower Hotel’s guest suites had a sitting room, dining room, bath and up to seven bedrooms. Some had kitchenettes and drawing rooms with fireplaces. The hotel offered amenities unmatched by any other hotel in the United States. This included air conditioning in all the public rooms and ice water and fans in all guestrooms. Services included daily maid service, a laundry, a barber shop, a beauty salon, a garage, a telephone switchboard, and a small hospital staffed by a doctor. The Mayflower featured three restaurants and a Grand Ballroom with a proscenium stage.

In 1925, an Annex to the Mayflower was built with a Presidential Suite and a Vice Presidential Suite. The second through eighth floors of the Annex contained guest suites each with five bedrooms and baths. The first floor of the Annex was occupied by the Mayflower Coffee Shop, a vastly expanded version of he original small café located on the ground floor of the existing hotel. The basement of the Annex was occupied by a huge laundry which served the original hotel and annex.

After the Great Depression and World War II, the Hilton Hotels Corporation purchased the Mayflower Hotel in December 1946. They owned and operated it for ten years when they acquired the Statler Hotels chain. They were forced to sell the Mayflower when the government filed an anti-trust action against Hilton.

From 1956 to 2015, the Mayflower Hotel was acquired by a variety of owners including the Hotel Corporation of America, May-Wash Associates, Westin Hotels & Resorts, Stouffer Corporation, Renaissance Hotels, Marriott International, Walton Street Capital and the Rockwood Capital Company.

The Mayflower Hotel hosted the Inaugural Ball of President Calvin Coolidge just two weeks after its opening. It hosted an Inaugural Ball every four years until it hosted its final ball in January 1981. President-elect Herbert Hoover established his presidential team offices in the hotel in January1928, and his Vice President, Charles Curtis, lived there in one of the hotel’s residential guest rooms during his four years in office. Louisiana Senator Huey Long also lived at the Mayflower, taking eight suites in the hotel from January 25, 1932, to March 1934. President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt spent March 2 and 3 in Suites 776 and 781 at the Mayflower Hotel before his inauguration on March 4, 1932.

Two events of significance during World War II happened at the Mayflower. In June 1942, George John Dasch and seven other spies from Nazi Germany entered the United States after being transported to American shores via a submarine. Their goal, named Operation Pastorius, was to engage in sabotage against key U.S. infrastructure. But after encountering a United States Coast Guard patrol moments after landing, Dasch decided the plan was useless. On June 19, 1942, he checked into Room 351 at the Mayflower Hotel and promptly betrayed his comrades. Eighteen months later, a committee of the American Legion met in Room 570 at the Mayflower Hotel from December 15 to 31, 1943, to draft legislation to assist returning military members reintegrate into society. Their proposed legislation, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944- known informally as the G.I. Bill- was put into final draft on Mayflower Hotel stationery.

Twice, the Mayflower has been the site where a U.S. presidential campaign was launched, and twice it hosted events which proved to be turning points in a presidential nomination. In March 1931, Franklin D. Roosevelt was vying with Alfred Smith for the Democratic presidential nomination of 1932. John J. Raskob, chair of Democratic National Committee (DNC), opposed Roosevelt’s candidacy. Knowing that Roosevelt had privately committed to repealing Prohibition but had not done so publicly, Raskob attempted to force the DNC, then meeting at the Mayflower Hotel, to adopt a “wet” (or repeal) plank in the party platform. Instead of drawing Roosevelt out, the maneuver deeply offended Southern “dry” (anti-repeal) Democrats who abandoned Smith and threw their support to the allegedly more moderate Roosevelt, and helped him secure the nomination. In 1948, President Harry S. Truman told a cheering audience of Young Democrats of America at a dinner at the Mayflower on May 14 that he intended to seek re-election in 1948. Former Peace Corps and Office of Economic Opportunity director Sargent Shriver announced his run for President of the United States at the Mayflower on September 20, 1975. A more successful campaign began there when Senator Barack Obama locked down the 2008 Democratic nomination for President on June 3, 2008. Hillary Clinton conceded the nomination to Obama on June 7, and introduced Obama to about 300 of her leading contributors at a meeting at the Mayflower on June 26, 2008.

Please Take Note

My newest book has just been published by AuthorHouse: “Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher.” You can order it from AuthorHouse by visiting www.stanleyturkel.comand clicking on the books title.

My Other Published Books

All of these books can also be ordered from AuthorHouse by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com and clicking on the book’s title.

4.  If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-four years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 40 hotel-related cases. My extensive hotel operating experience is beneficial in cases involving:

  • slip and fall accidents
  • wrongful deaths
  • fire and carbon monoxide injuries
  • hotel security issues
  • dram shop requirements
  • hurricane damage and/or business interruption cases

Feel free to call me at no charge on 917-628-8549 to discuss any hotel-related expert witness assignment.

About Stanley Turkel

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2014 and the 2015` Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of hotel history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion and a greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is a well-known consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases, provides asset management and hotel franchising consultation. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

All of his books can be ordered from the publisher (AuthorHouse) by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com and clicking on the book title.

Contact: Stanley Turkel

stanturkel@aol.com / 917-628-8549