Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 259: Hotel History: The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: The Greenbrier (682 rooms)

The original hotel, the Grand Central Hotel, was built on this site in 1858.  It was known as “The White” and later “The Old White”. Beginning in 1778, people came to follow the local Native American tradition to “take the waters” to restore their health. In the 19th century, visitors drank and bathed in the sulphur water to cure everything from rheumatism to an upset stomach

In 1910, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway purchased the historic resort property and embarked upon a major expansion. By 1913, the railroad had added The Greenbrier Hotel (the central section of today’s hotel), a new mineral bath department ( the building that includes the grand indoor pool) and an 18-hole golf course (now called The Old White Course) designed by the most prominent contemporary golf architect, Charles Blair Macdonald. In 1914, for the first time, the resort, now renamed The Greenbrier, was open year-round.  That year, President and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson spent their Easter holiday at The Greenbrier.

Business boomed in the 1920s and The Greenbrier took its place within high society’s traveling network that stretched from Palm Beach, Florida to Newport, Rhode Island. The obsolete Old White Hotel was demolished in 1922, which led to a substantial rebuilding of The Greenbrier Hotel in 1930. This refurbishment doubled the number of guestrooms to five hundred. Cleveland architect Philip Small redesigned the hotel’s main entrance and added both the Mount Vernon-inspired Virginia Wing to the south and the signature North Entrance facade. Mr. Small’s design mixed elements from the resort’s Southern historical roots with motifs from the Old White Hotel.

During the Second World War, the United States government appropriated The Greenbrier for two very different uses. First, the State Department leased the hotel for seven months immediately after the U.S. entry into the war. It was used to relocate hundreds of German, Japanese, and Italian diplomats and their families from Washington, D.C. until their exchange for American diplomats, similarly stranded overseas, was completed. In September 1942, the U.S. Army purchased The Greenbrier and converted it into a two thousand-bed hospital named Ashford General Hospital. In four years, 24,148 soldiers were admitted and treated, while the resort served the war effort as a surgical and rehabilitation center. Soldiers were encouraged to use the resort’s range of sports and recreation facilities as part of their recuperation process. At the war’s conclusion, the Army closed the hospital.

The Chesapeake and Ohio Railway reacquired the property from the government in 1946. The company immediately commissioned a comprehensive interior renovation by the noted designer Dorothy Draper. As Architectural Digest described her, Draper was “a true artiest of the design world [who] became a celebrity in the modern sense of the word, virtually creating the image of the decorator in the popular mind.” She remained the resort’s decorator into the 1960s. Upon her retirement, her protégé Carleton Varney purchased the firm and became The Greenbrier’s decorating consultant.

When The Greenbrier reopened in 1948, Sam Snead returned as golf pro to the resort where his career had begun in the late 1930s. For two decades in the post war years, he traveled the globe at the pinnacle of his lengthy career. More than any other individual, Sam Snead established The Greenbrier’s reputation as one of the world’s foremost golf destinations. In later years, he was named Golf Pro Emeritus, a position he held until his death on May 23, 2002.

In the late 1950s, the U.S. government once again approached The Greenbrier for assistance, this time in the construction of an Emergency Relocation Center ̶ a bunker or bomb shelter ̶  to be occupied by the U.S. Congress in case of war. Built during the cold war and operated in secrecy for 30 years, it is a huge 112,000 square foot underground fallout shelter, intended for use by the entire United States Congress in the event of nuclear war.

Excavations began in 1958 and construction was completed in 1962. By top-secret agreement, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway built a new addition to the resort, the West Virginia Wing and the bunker was surreptitiously constructed under it. With concrete walls up to five feet thick, it is the size of two football fields stacked underground. It was built to shelter 1100 people: 535 senators and representatives and their aides. For the next 30 years, government technicians, posing as employees of a dummy company, Forsythe Associates, maintained the place regularly checking its communications and scientific equipment as well as updating the magazines and paperbacks in the lounge areas. At any point during those years, one telephone call from officials in Washington, D.C., fearing an imminent attack on the capital, would have turned the lavish resort into an active participant in the national defense system. At the end of the Cold War and prompted by exposure in the press in 1992, the project was terminated and the bunker decommissioned. According to a May 6, 2013 article in the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Supreme Court planned to relocate to the Grove Park Inn, Asheville, N.C. in the event of a nuclear attack.

In the overt world above the bunker, resort life proceeded normally as Jack Nicklaus arrived to redesign the fifty-year old Greenbrier Course, bringing it up to championship standards for the 1979 Ryder Cup Matches. That course was also the site of three PGA Seniors tournaments in the 1980s and the 1994 Solheim Cup competition. In 1999, the Meadows Course evolved when Bob Cupp redesigned, rerouted and upgraded the older Lakeside Course, a project that included the creation of new Golf Academy. Sam Snead’s career was enshrined when the Golf Club was virtually rebuilt featuring the restaurant bearing his name with museum quality displays of memorabilia from his personal collection.

In a surprise announcement on May 7, 2009, Jim Justice, a West Virginia entrepreneur with a long-standing appreciation for The Greenbrier, became the owner of America’s most fabled resort. He purchased it from the CSX Corporation which, through its predecessor companies the Chessie System and the C&O Railway, had owned the resort for ninety-nine years.  Mr. Justice turned his considerable energies into plans to revitalize America’s Resort. He immediately presented his vision of a casino designed by Carleton Varney that included shops, restaurants and entertainment in a smoke-free environment. The Casino Club at The Greenbrier opened in grand fashion on July 2, 2010.  Simultaneously, Mr. Justice arranged to relocate a PGA Tour event named The Greenbrier Classic under the direction of The Greenbrier’s new Golf Pro Emeritus, Tom Watson. The first tournament was held July 26 through August 1, 2010.

Twenty-six presidents have stayed at The Greenbrier. The President’s Cottage Museum is a  two-story building with exhibits about these visits and the history of The Greenbrier. The Greenbrier is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of Historic Hotels of America.  It is a Forbes Four-Star and AAA Five-Diamond Award winner.

The Greenbrier’s complete history is chronicled in great detail supplemented by photographs from the resort’s archives in The History of The Greenbrier: America’s Resort by Dr. Robert S. Conte, the resort’s Resident Historian since 1978.

My Latest Book “Great American Hotel Architects Volume 2” was published in 2020.

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

  • Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2009)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York (2011)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (2013)
  • Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt, Oscar of the Waldorf   (2014)
  • Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2016)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels West of the Mississippi (2017)
  • Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher (2018)
  • Great American Hotel Architects Volume I (2019)
  • Hotel Mavens: Volume 3: Bob and Larry Tisch, Curt Strand, Ralph Hitz, Cesar Ritz, Raymond Orteig (2020)

If You Need an Expert Witness:

Stanley Turkel has served as an expert witness in more than 42 hotel-related cases. His 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 him at no charge on 917-628-8549 to discuss any hotel-related expert witness assignment.269

ABOUT STANLEY TURKEL

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2020 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He had previously been so designated in 2015 and 2014.

This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of historic hotels and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion of greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is the most widely-published hotel consultant in the United States. 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.

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Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 258: Hotel History: The Willard Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 258: Hotel History: The Willard Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Stanley Turkel | December 07, 2021

by Stanley Turkel, CMH

Hotel History: Willard Hotel (394 rooms)

The Willard InterContinental Washington, commonly known as the Willard Hotel, is a historic luxury Beaux-Arts hotel located at 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in downtown Washington, D.C. Among its facilities are numerous luxurious guest rooms, several restaurants, the famed Round Robin Bar, the Peacock Alley series of luxury shops, and voluminous function rooms. Owned by InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, it is two blocks east of the White House, and two blocks west of the Metro Center station of the Washington Metro.

The National Park Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior describe the history of the Willard Hotel as follows:

American author Nathaniel Hawthorne observed in the 1860s that “the Willard Hotel more justly could be called the center of Washington than either the Capitol or the White House or the State Department.”  From 1847 when the enterprising Willard brothers, Henry and Edwin, first set up as innkeepers on the corner of 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, the Willard has occupied a unique niche in the history of Washington and the nation.

The Willard Hotel was formally founded by Henry Willard when he leased the six buildings in 1847, combined them into a single structure, and enlarged it into a four-story hotel he renamed the Willard Hotel. Willard purchased the hotel property from Ogle Tayloe in 1864.

In the 1860s, author Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote that “the Willard Hotel more justly could be called the center of Washington than either the Capitol or the White House or the State Department.”

From February 4 to February 27, 1861, the Peace Congress, featuring delegates from 21 of the 34 states, met at the Willard in a last-ditch attempt to avert the Civil War. A plaque from the Virginia Civil War Commission, located on Pennsylvania Ave. side of the hotel, commemorates this courageous effort. Later that year, upon hearing a Union regiment singing “John Brown’s Body” as they marched beneath her window, Julia Ward Howe wrote the lyrics to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” while staying at the hotel in November 1861.

On February 23, 1861, amid several assassination threats, detective Allan Pinkerton smuggled Abraham Lincoln into the Willard; there Lincoln lived until his inauguration on March 4, holding meetings in the lobby and carrying on business from his room.

Many United States presidents have frequented the Willard, and every president since Franklin Pierce has either slept in or attended an event at the hotel at least once; the hotel hence is also known as “the residence of presidents.” It was the habit of Ulysses S. Grant to drink whiskey and smoke a cigar while relaxing in the lobby. Folklore (promoted by the hotel) holds that this is the origin of the term “lobbying,” as Grant was often approached by those seeking favors. However, this is probably false, as Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary dates the verb “to lobby” to 1837. Grover Cleveland lived there at the beginning of his second term in 1893, because of concern for his infant daughter’s health following a recent outbreak of scarlet fever in the White House. Plans for Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations took shape when he held meetings of the League to Enforce Peace in the hotel’s lobby in 1916. Six sitting Vice-Presidents have lived in the Willard. Millard Fillmore and Thomas A. Hendricks, during his brief time in office, lived in the old Willard; and then Vice-Presidents, James S. Sherman, Calvin Coolidge and finally Charles Dawes all lived in the current building for at least part of their vice-presidency. Fillmore and Coolidge continued in the Willard, even after becoming president, to allow the first family time to move out of the White House.

Several hundred officers, many of them combat veterans of World War I, first gathered with the General of the Armies, John J. “Blackjack” Pershing, at the Willard Hotel on October 2, 1922, and formally established the Reserve Officers Association (ROA) as an organization.

The present 12-story structure, designed by famed hotel architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, opened in 1901. It suffered a major fire in 1922 which caused $250,000 (equivalent to $3,865,300 as of 2020), in damages. Among those who had to be evacuated from the hotel were Vice President Calvin Coolidge, several U.S. senators, composer John Philip Sousa, motion picture producer Adolph Zukor, newspaper publisher Harry Chandler, and numerous other media, corporate, and political leaders who were present for the annual Gridiron Dinner. For many years the Willard was the only hotel from which one could easily visit all of downtown Washington, and consequently it has housed many dignitaries during its history.

The Willard family sold its share of the hotel in 1946, and due to mismanagement and the severe decline of the area, the hotel closed without a prior announcement on July 16, 1968. The building sat vacant for years, and numerous plans were floated for its demolition. It eventually fell into a semi-public receivership and was sold to the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation. They held a competition to rehabilitate the property and ultimately awarded it to the Oliver Carr Company and Golding Associates. The two partners then brought in the InterContinental Hotels Group to be a part-owner and operator of the hotel. The Willard was subsequently restored to its turn-of-the-century elegance and an office-building contingent was added. The hotel was thus re-opened amid great celebration on August 20, 1986, which was attended by several U.S. Supreme Court justices and U.S. senators. In the late 1990s, the hotel once again underwent significant restoration.

Martin Luther King Jr., wrote his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in his hotel room at the Willard in the days leading up to his August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

On September 23, 1987, it was reported that Bob Fosse collapsed in his room at the Willard and later died. It was subsequently learned that he actually died at George Washington University Hospital.

Among the Willard’s many other famous guests were P.T. Barnum, Walt Whitman, General Tom Thumb, Samuel Morse, the Duke of Windsor, Harry Houdini, Gypsy Rose Lee, Gloria Swanson, Emily Dickinson, Jenny Lind, Charles Dickens, Bert Bell, Joe Paterno, and Jim Sweeney.

Steven Spielberg shot the finale of his film Minority Report at the hotel in the summer of 2001. He filmed with Tom Cruise and Max von Sydow in the Willard Room, Peacock Alley and the kitchen.

Situated just two blocks from the White House, the hotel is replete with the ghosts of the famous and powerful. Over the years, it has been the gathering place for presidents, politicians, governors, literary and cultural figures. It was at the Willard that Julia Ward Howe composed “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Gen. Ulysses S. Grant held court in the lobby and Abraham Lincoln borrowed house slippers from its proprietor.

Presidents Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, Taft, Wilson, Coolidge and Harding stayed at the Willard. Other notable guests have included Charles Dickens, Buffalo Bill, David Lloyd George, P.T. Barnum, and countless others. Walt Whitman included the Willard in his verses and Mark Twain wrote two books there in the early 1900s. It was Vice President Thomas R. Marshall, annoyed at the Willard’s high prices, who coined the phrase “What this country needs is a good 5-cent cigar.”

The Willard sat vacant from 1968 and in danger of demolition until 1986 when it was restored to its former glory. A $73 million restoration project was carefully planned by the National Park Service to recreate the hotel as historically accurate as possible. Sixteen layers of paint were scraped from the woodwork to ascertain the hotel’s original 1901 colors.

New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger wrote on September 2, 1986:

Most restorations of venerable buildings fall into one of two categories they are either attempts to recreate as faithfully as possible what once was, or they are inventive interpretations that use the original architecture as a jumping-off point.

The newly rehabilitated Willard Hotel is both. Half of this project involves the respectful restoration of Washington’s greatest hotel building, a distinguished Beaux-Arts structure by Henry Hardenbergh that had been derelict since 1968, a victim of the decline of its neighborhood, a few blocks east of the White House. The other half is an exuberantly conceived, brand new addition containing offices, shops, public plaza and a new ballroom for the hotel.

My Recent Book “Great American Hotel Architects Volume 2” was published in 2020.

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

  • Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2009)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York (2011)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (2013)
  • Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt, Oscar of the Waldorf   (2014)
  • Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2016)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels West of the Mississippi (2017)
  • Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher (2018)
  • Great American Hotel Architects Volume I (2019)
  • Hotel Mavens: Volume 3: Bob and Larry Tisch, Curt Strand, Ralph Hitz, Cesar Ritz, Raymond Orteig (2020)

If You Need an Expert Witness:

Stanley Turkel has served as an expert witness in more than 42 hotel-related cases. His 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 him at no charge on 917-628-8549 to discuss any hotel-related expert witness assignment.105

ABOUT STANLEY TURKEL

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2020 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He had previously been so designated in 2015 and 2014.

This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of historic hotels and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion of greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is the most widely-published hotel consultant in the United States. 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.

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RELATED NEWS:

Nobody Asked Me, But…. No. 257: Hotel History: El Tovar & Hopi Gift ShopNobody Asked Me, But… No. 256: Hotel History: Severin Hotel Indianapolis, IndianaNobody Asked Me, But… No. 255: Hotel History: Shelton Hotel, New YorkNobody Asked Me, But… No. 254: Hotel History: St. Regis HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 253; Hotel History: Hotel PennsylvaniaNobody Asked Me, But… No. 252: Hotel History: Libby’s Hotel and BathsNobody Asked Me, But… No. 251: Wish You Were Here: A Tour of America’s Great Hotels During the Golden Age of the Picture Post CardNobody Asked Me, But… No. 250: Hotel History: Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, New YorkNobody Asked Me, But… No. 249: Hotel History: Ocean House at Watch HillNobody Asked Me, But… No. 248: Hotel Theresa, New York, N.Y. (1913)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 247: Hotel History: Driskill Hotel, Austin, TexasNobody Asked Me, But… No. 246: Hotel History: Hotel McAlpin, New York, N.Y. (1912)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 245: Boone Tavern Hotel, Berea, Kentucky (1855)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 244: Hotel History: Wormley HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 243: Hotel History: Hotel Roanoke, VirginiaNobody Asked Me, But… No. 242: Hotel History: Fisher Island, Miami, FloridaStanley Turkel Named the Recipient of the 2020 Historic Hotels of America Historian of the Year AwardNobody Asked Me, But… No. 241: Hotel History: Menger HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 240 Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City, Canada (1893)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 239: Hotel History: The Algonquin Hotel, NY (1902)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 257: Hotel History: El Tovar & Hopi Gift Shop

Nobody Asked Me, But…. No. 257: Hotel History: El Tovar & Hopi Gift Shop

Stanley Turkel | November 16, 2021

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: El Tovar Hotel (95 rooms) and The Hopi House Gift Shop

One hundred and sixteen years ago, two architectural jewels opened in the Grand Canyon National Park: the 95-room El Tovar Hotel and the adjacent Hopi House Gift Shop. Both reflected the foresight and entrepreneurship of Frederick Henry Harvey whose business ventures included restaurants, hotels, railroad dining cars, gift shops and newsstands. His partnership with the Atchison, Topeka and Sante Fe Railway introduced many new tourists to the American Southwest by making rail travel and dining comfortable and adventurous. Employing many Native-American artists, the Fred Harvey Company also collected examples of indigenous basketry, beadwork, kachina dolls, pottery and textiles. Harvey was known as the “Civilizer of the West.”

Long before the U.S. Congress designated the Grand Canyon National Park in 1919, the earliest tourists came via stagecoach and stayed overnight in tents, cabins or primitive commercial hotels. However, when the Atchison, Topeka and Sante Fe Railway opened a spur almost directly to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, it created a shortage of adequate accommodations. In 1902, the Sante Fe Railway commissioned construction of El Tovar, a first-class four-story hotel designed by Chicago architect Charles Whittlesey with almost one hundred rooms. The hotel cost $250,000 to build and was the most elegant hotel west of the Mississippi River. It was named “El Tovar” in honor of Pedro de Tovar of the Coronado Expedition. Despite its rustic features, the hotel contained a coal-fired generator that powered electric lights, steam heat, hot and cold running water and indoor plumbing. However, since none of the guestrooms had a private bathroom, guests used a public bathroom on each of the four floors.

The hotel also had a greenhouse to grow fresh fruits and vegetables, a chicken house and a dairy herd to provide fresh milk. Other features included a barbershop, solarium, roof-top garden, billiard room, art and music rooms and Western Union telegraph service in the lobby.

The new hotel was built before the Grand Canyon became a protected Federal national park following President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1903 visit to the Canyon. Roosevelt said, “I want to ask you to do one thing in connection with it in your own interest and in the interest of the country- to keep this great wonder of nature as it is now… I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loveliness and beauty of the Canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve upon it.”

Fred Harvey’s restaurants were built almost every 100 miles along the Sante Fe Railway through Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and California. He staffed his restaurants and hotels with “Harvey Girls”, young women recruited across the U.S. with “good moral character, at least an eighth grade education, good manners, clear speech and a neat appearance.” Many of them later married ranchers and cowboys and named their children “Fred” or “Harvey”. Comedian Will Rogers said of Fred Harvey, “He kept the west in food and wives.”

The El Tovar was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 6, 1974. It was declared a National Historic Landmark on May 28, 1987 and is a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2012. The Hotel has hosted such luminaries as Albert Einstein, Zane Grey, President Bill Clinton, Paul McCartney, among many others.

The Hopi House Gift Shop (1905) was built to blend into the neighboring environment and modeled after Hopi pueblo dwellings that used local natural materials such as sandstone and juniper in their construction. While El Tovar catered to upscale tastes, Hopi House represented emerging interest in Southwestern Indian arts and crafts promoted by the Fred Harvey Company and the Sante Fe Railway.

Hopi House was designed by architect Mary Jane Elizabeth Colter starting an association with the Fred Harvey Company and the National Park Service that lasted more than 40 years. It was designed and built as a place to sell Indian artwork. She enlisted the help of Hopi artists from nearby villages to help build the structure. Colter made sure that the interior reflected local Pueblo building styles. Small windows and low ceilings minimize the harsh desert sunlight and lend a cool and cozy feel to the interior. The building includes wall niches, corner fireplaces, adobe walls, a Hopi sand painting and ceremonial altar. Chimneys are made from broken pottery jars stacked and mortared together.

When the building opened, the second floor exhibited a collection of old Navajo blankets, which had won the grand prize at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. This display eventually became the Fred Harvey Fine Arts Collection, which included nearly 5,000 pieces of Native American art. The Harvey collection toured the United States, including prestigious venues such as the Field Museum in Chicago and the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, as well as international venues such as the Berlin Museum.

Hopi House, then and now, offers a wide range of Native American arts and crafts for sale: pottery and woodcarvings arranged on counters draped in hand-woven Navajo blankets and rugs, baskets hung from peeled-log beams, kachina dolls, ceremonial masks, and woodcarvings illuminated by the suffuse light of the structure’s tiny windows. Hopi murals decorate the stairway walls, and religious artifacts are part of a shrine room.

The Fred Harvey Company invited Hopi artisans to demonstrate how they made jewelry, pottery, blankets, and other items that would then be put up for sale. In exchange, they received wages and lodging at Hopi House, but they never had any ownership of Hopi House and were rarely allowed to sell their own goods directly to tourists. In the late 1920s, the Fred Harvey Company began allowing some Hopi Indians into positions of responsibility in the business. Porter Timeche was hired to demonstrate blanket weaving but was so fond of chatting with visitors that he rarely finished a blanket to sell, at which point he was offered a job as a salesman in the Hopi House gift shop. He later served as a buyer for the Fred Harvey concessions at the Grand Canyon. Fred Kabotie, the famed artist who painted the Hopi Snake Legend mural inside Desert View Watchtower, managed the gift shop at Hopi House in the mid-1930s.

From the prominence of Hopi House many visitors may assume that the Hopi were the only tribe native to the Grand Canyon, but this is far from the truth. In fact, today 12 different tribes are recognized as having cultural ties to the Canyon, and the National Park Service has been working to accommodate the cultural needs of these other groups as well.

Hopi House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987. During a complete renovation in 1995, Hopi consultants participated in the restoration effort and helped ensure that none of the original architectural or design elements were altered. Hopi House and the Lookout Studio are major contributing structures in the Grand Canyon Village National Historic Landmark District.

My Newest Book “Great American Hotel Architects Volume 2” was published in 2020.

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

  • Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2009)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York (2011)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (2013)
  • Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt, Oscar of the Waldorf (2014)
  • Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2016)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels West of the Mississippi (2017)
  • Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher (2018)
  • Great American Hotel Architects Volume I (2019)
  • Hotel Mavens: Volume 3: Bob and Larry Tisch, Curt Strand, Ralph Hitz, Cesar Ritz, Raymond Orteig (2020)

If You Need an Expert Witness:

Stanley Turkel has served as an expert witness in more than 42 hotel-related cases. His 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 him at no charge on 917-628-8549 to discuss any hotel-related expert witness assignment.75

ABOUT STANLEY TURKEL

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2020 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He had previously been so designated in 2015 and 2014.

This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of historic hotels and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion of greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is the most widely published hotel consultant in the United States. 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.

Categories

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Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 256: Hotel History: Severin Hotel Indianapolis, Indiana

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 256: Hotel History: Severin Hotel Indianapolis, Indiana

Stanley Turkel | October 27, 2021

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: Severin Hotel (424 rooms)

The original Hotel Severin opened in 1913 when it replaced the Grand Hotel of Indianapolis. Its location directly across Jackson Place from the Union Station made it the favorite hotel for passengers on the 300 daily trains. It was built by Henry Severin, Jr., the heir to a wholesale grocery fortune, with help from real estate developers Carl Graham Fisher and James A. Allison, who had built the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The hotel was designed by Vonnegut and Bohn, an architectural firm active in early to mid-twentieth-century Indianapolis. When Bernard Vonnegut, Sr. died in 1908, he was succeeded by his son Kurt Vonnegut, Sr. who later became the father of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., the famous novelist.

The Grand Hotel was built in 1876 and, at one point, was owned by Thomas Taggart who subsequently owned the French Lick Springs Hotel. Taggart later served as Mayor of Indianapolis and U.S. Senator from Indiana.

On February 19, 1905, a fire which started in the large wholesale millinery house of Fahnley & McCrea, spread to eight adjoining buildings including the Grand Hotel, then the largest hotel in Indiana. Within forty-five minutes, eight buildings in the threatened district had been totally destroyed. Although the property loss was placed at $1.1 million, the Grand Hotel was luckily saved from extensive damage.

The Severin Hotel occupies an imposing position in the Wholesale District skyline overlooking Union Station and most of the neighboring hotels. The twelve-story hotel is constructed of a reinforced concrete frame with brick curtain walls. Rectangular in plan, it is eleven bays wide along West Georgia Street and five bays along South Illinois and McCrea Streets. The first two floors are organized into a Renaissance scheme of monumental arch windows. From the third to the twelfth floor, rectangular windows follow a uniform grid pattern.

Several different owners managed the hotel until it was purchased in 1966 by Warren M. Atkinson who named it the Atkinson Hotel. In 1988, the Mansur Development Corporation bought the hotel and, after a $40 million restoration, renamed it the Omni Severin Hotel. During the restoration period, two new twelve-story towers were built and the expanded hotel was connected to the Circle Centre Mall and the convention center.

The original main lobby is located in today’s Severin ballroom. The missing ornate railings above the lobby were found in a barn 30 miles from the hotel and were installed in their original location. The 1913 brass mailbox still serves as a working mailbox to this day. Original solid mahogany guestroom dressers are located on each elevator landing. In the Severin Ballroom, a magnificent Austrian crystal chandelier and a dramatic marble stairway recall the hotel’s lavish history. The Omni Severin Hotel is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of Historic Hotels of America.

My Newest Book “Great American Hotel Architects Volume 3” was published in 2020.

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

  • Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2009)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York (2011)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (2013)
  • Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt, Oscar of the Waldorf (2014)
  • Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2016)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels West of the Mississippi (2017)
  • Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher (2018)
  • Great American Hotel Architects Volume I (2019)
  • Hotel Mavens: Volume 3: Bob and Larry Tisch, Ralph Hitz, Cesar Ritz, Curt Strand (2020)

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-seven years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 42 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.124

ABOUT STANLEY TURKEL

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2020 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He had previously been so designated in 2015 and 2014.

This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of historic hotels and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion of greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is the most widely published hotel consultant in the United States. 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.

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Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 255: Hotel History: Shelton Hotel, New YorkNobody Asked Me, But… No. 254: Hotel History: St. Regis HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 253; Hotel History: Hotel PennsylvaniaNobody Asked Me, But… No. 252: Hotel History: Libby’s Hotel and BathsNobody Asked Me, But… No. 251: Wish You Were Here: A Tour of America’s Great Hotels During the Golden Age of the Picture Post CardNobody Asked Me, But… No. 250: Hotel History: Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, New YorkNobody Asked Me, But… No. 249: Hotel History: Ocean House at Watch HillNobody Asked Me, But… No. 248: Hotel Theresa, New York, N.Y. (1913)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 247: Hotel History: Driskill Hotel, Austin, TexasNobody Asked Me, But… No. 246: Hotel History: Hotel McAlpin, New York, N.Y. (1912)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 245: Boone Tavern Hotel, Berea, Kentucky (1855)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 244: Hotel History: Wormley HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 243: Hotel History: Hotel Roanoke, VirginiaNobody Asked Me, But… No. 242: Hotel History: Fisher Island, Miami, FloridaStanley Turkel Named the Recipient of the 2020 Historic Hotels of America Historian of the Year AwardNobody Asked Me, But… No. 241: Hotel History: Menger HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 240 Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City, Canada (1893)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 239: Hotel History: The Algonquin Hotel, NY (1902)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 238: Hotel History: The Fairmont Hotel in San FranciscoNobody Asked Me, But… No. 237: Hotel History: Hotel Allegro, Chicago, Illinois

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 255: Hotel History: Shelton Hotel (1924)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 255: Hotel History: Shelton Hotel, New York

Stanley Turkel | October 05, 2021

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: Shelton Hotel, New York, N.Y. (1,200 rooms)

Few skyscrapers were as admired as the 1924 Shelton Hotel, at Lexington Avenue and 49th Street, now the New York Marriott East Side. Critics agreed that its picturesque 35-story façade and unusual setback design pointed the way of the future for the skyscraper.

The Shelton was built by the architecturally ambitious developer James T. Lee, who was also responsible for two luxurious apartment houses: 998 Fifth Avenue of 1912 and 740 Park Avenue of 1930. He was the grandfather of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, born Jacqueline Lee Bouvier.

Mr. Lee’s vision was a 1,200-room bachelor hotel with club-type characteristics: a swimming pool, squash courts, billiard rooms, a solarium and an infirmary. The New York World in 1923 claimed that the Shelton would be the tallest residential building in the world.

The architect, Arthur Loomis Harmon, covered the mass with irregular yellow-tan brick, roughened as if centuries old, and drew from Romanesque, Byzantine, early Christian, Lombard and other styles. But critics were more impressed that it recalled “no definite architectural style of the past,” as the artist Hugh Ferriss put it in The Christian Science Monitor in 1923.

The Shelton was one of the first buildings to take its form from a 1916 zoning law that required setbacks at certain heights to ensure light and air to the street. That made it quite different from the tall boxy hotels designed before the zoning change, like the 1919 Hotel Pennsylvania, opposite Pennsylvania Station.

“A stately, breath-taking building,” said Helen Bullitt Lowry and William Carter Halbert in The New York Times in 1924. The critic Lewis Mumford, traditionally stingy with praise, called it “buoyant, mobile, serene, like a Zeppelin under a clear sky” in Commonweal magazine in 1926.

Visionary design has its limits, however, and Mr. Harmon’s interiors appear to have been little different from other giant hotels of the period: great paneled lounges, a dining room with a beamed ceiling and long groin-vaulted hallways. A third of the rooms had shared baths, which must have posed complications in late 1924, when the Shelton reversed its men-only policy. A high gallery ran around the basement pool, which was decorated with polychromed tile.

From 1925 to 1929, Georgia O’Keeffe lived on the 30th floor of the Shelton Hotel with her husband, the photographer Alfred Stieglitz. With the possible exception of the Hotel Chelsea, it’s hard to think of another New York City hotel that’s had such a profound effect on an artist, especially a hotel you’ve probably never heard of.

Towering over Lexington Avenue between 48th and 49th Streets, the 31-story, 1,200-room Shelton Hotel was hailed as the tallest skyscraper in the world when it opened in 1923. Not only was it tall, it was a rarity—an elegant residential hotel for men with a bowling alley, billiard tables, squash courts, a barber shop and a swimming pool.

What was never in doubt was the building’s architectural significance. With a tasteful two-story limestone base and three brick setbacks stepping up to a central tower, the Shelton was groundbreaking. Critics deemed it the first building to successfully embody 1916 zoning requirements that prescribed setbacks to keep skyscrapers from becoming hulking eyesores. The Empire State Building is just one of the buildings the Shelton influenced. As late as 1977, New York Times architecture critic Ada Louse Huxtable declared the hotel a “landmark New York skyscraper.”

O’Keeffe couldn’t have asked for a more agreeably situated studio. From her airy lair, she enjoyed unimpeded, bird’s eye views of the river and the city’s growing crop of skyscrapers. Like Charles Demuth, Charles Sheeler and other artists of her era, O’Keeffe was fascinated by skyscrapers as a symbol of urban modernity, a core principle of Precisionism, the Post-World War I modern art style that celebrated America’s dynamic new landscape of bridges, factories and skyscrapers.

Ensconced in her Shelton perch, O’Keeffe created at least 25 paintings and drawings of skyscrapers and cityscapes. Among her best known is “Radiator Building—Night, New York,” a masterful celebration of the skyscraper mystique—and the iconic black and gold American Radiator Building now named Bryant Park Hotel.

Arthur Loomis Harmon, the architect of the Shelton, went on to help design the Empire State Building. (He also created Allerton House, a towering 1916 New York residential hotel).

But the Shelton’s renown shot sky high after a visit to the basement swimming pool in 1926 by the escape artist Harry Houdini. Sealed in an airtight, coffin-like box (albeit one equipped with a telephone in case an emergency), Houdini was lowered into the pool where he lay submerged for an hour and half. He emerged on schedule, fatigued but alive. “Anyone can do it,” he told The New York Times.

Despite its colorful history and architectural uniqueness, The Shelton, as is the case with almost all aging hotels fell from favor. There were only 11 full time residents in the mid- 1970s. In 1978 it became the Halloran of the foreclosed property. He hired Stephen B. Jacobs to redesign the interiors, reducing the number of rooms to 650.

By 2007 it was owned by Morgan Stanley who handed operation over to the Marriott Company.

The architecture and engineering firm Superstructures has a major campaign of exterior repairs under way. Richard Moses, the architect in charge of the project, says that Mr. Harmon’s high-up details, including heads, masks, griffins and gargoyles, are generally intact, although several that have been particularly beaten up by the elements have been replaced. Mr. Moses said that Mr. Harmon made the walls lean in slightly, to give the Shelton a greater solidity. The effect, barely perceptible high up, is evident at ground level.

The original interior of the 1924 hotel is down to fragments, like the stair hall to the right of the main lobby. The squash courts are gone; in their place is an exercise room on the 35th floor with spectacular views all the way round. The hotel has named rooms after Arthur Loomis Harmon, Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe.

My Newest Book “Great American Hotel Architects Volume 2” was published in 2020.

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

  • Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2009)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York (2011)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (2013)
  • Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt, Oscar of the Waldorf   (2014)
  • Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2016)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels West of the Mississippi (2017)
  • Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher (2018)
  • Great American Hotel Architects Volume I (2019)
  • Hotel Mavens: Volume 3: Bob and Larry Tisch, Ralph Hitz, Cesar Ritz, Curt Strand (2020)

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-seven years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 42 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.117

ABOUT STANLEY TURKEL

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2020 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He had previously been so designated in 2015 and 2014.

This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of historic hotels and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion of greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is the most widely published hotel consultant in the United States. 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.

Categories

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Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 254: Hotel History: St. Regis HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 253; Hotel History: Hotel PennsylvaniaNobody Asked Me, But… No. 252: Hotel History: Libby’s Hotel and BathsNobody Asked Me, But… No. 251: Wish You Were Here: A Tour of America’s Great Hotels During the Golden Age of the Picture Post CardNobody Asked Me, But… No. 250: Hotel History: Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, New YorkNobody Asked Me, But… No. 249: Hotel History: Ocean House at Watch HillNobody Asked Me, But… No. 248: Hotel Theresa, New York, N.Y. (1913)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 247: Hotel History: Driskill Hotel, Austin, TexasNobody Asked Me, But… No. 246: Hotel History: Hotel McAlpin, New York, N.Y. (1912)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 245: Boone Tavern Hotel, Berea, Kentucky (1855)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 244: Hotel History: Wormley HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 243: Hotel History: Hotel Roanoke, VirginiaNobody Asked Me, But… No. 242: Hotel History: Fisher Island, Miami, FloridaStanley Turkel Named the Recipient of the 2020 Historic Hotels of America Historian of the Year AwardNobody Asked Me, But… No. 241: Hotel History: Menger HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 240 Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City, Canada (1893)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 239: Hotel History: The Algonquin Hotel, NY (1902)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 238: Hotel History: The Fairmont Hotel in San FranciscoNobody Asked Me, But… No. 237: Hotel History: Hotel Allegro, Chicago, IllinoisNobody Asked Me, But… No. 236: Hotel History: The Hermitage Hotel

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 254: Hotel History: St. Regis Hotel

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 254: Hotel History: St. Regis Hotel

Stanley Turkel | September 14, 2021

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: St. Regis Hotel (550 rooms)

In 1904, Colonel John Jacob Astor broke ground for the building of the St. Regis Hotel at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 55th Street, in the most exclusive residential section of New York at the time.

The architects were Trowbridge and Livingston who were based in New York. The firm’s partners were Samuel Beck Parkman Trowbridge (1862-1925) and Goodhue Livingston (1867-1951). Trowbridge studied at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. On his graduation in 1883, he attended Columbia University and later studied abroad in the American School of Classical Studies in Athens and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. On his return to New York, he worked for the architect George B. Post. Goodhue Livingston, from a distinguished family in colonial New York, received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Columbia University. In 1894, Trowbridge, Livingston and Stockton B. Colt formed a partnership that lasted until 1897 when Colt left. The firm designed several notable public and commercial buildings in New York City. Besides the St. Regis Hotel, the most famous were the former B. Altman department store (1905) at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, the Bankers Trust Company Building (1912) at 14 Wall Street and the J.P. Morgan Building (1913) across the street.

In 1905, the St. Regis was the tallest hotel in New York, standing at 19 stories high. The price of a room was $5.00 per day. When the hotel opened, the press described the St. Regis as “the most richly furnished and opulent hotel in the world.”

The construction cost over $5.5 million dollars, an unheard-of sum at the time. Astor spared no expense in the furnishings: marble floors and hallways from the quarries of Caen, Louis XV furniture from France, Waterford crystal chandeliers, antique tapestries and oriental rugs, a library full of 3,000 leather-bound, gold-tooled books. He had installed two beautiful burnished bronze entrance doors, rare wood paneling, great marble fireplaces, ornamental ceilings and a telephone in every room, which was unusual at the time.

When the St. Regis Hotel opened in 1905, General Manager Rudolf M. Haan produced an elaborate 48-page hardcover promotional book with 44 photographic illustrations and lavish prose:

The St. Regis Hotel

“In writing of the St. Regis Hotel it is necessary to remember that we are dealing not with a type of ordinary hotel, but with the solution of a social problem forced on us by the conditions of the present day. Time was when the hotel implied a mere shelter for the traveler; in these days, however, it must also reckon with the people with good homes, who frequently find it convenient to close their houses for a week or a few months; people to whom the thought of dispensing with home comforts, good service and cuisine, and the atmosphere of taste and refinement has ever been a hardship. To cater specifically to this class of Americans at reasonable terms, without neglecting the guest of the single night or week, nor even the most casual diner-out, was the idea of Mr. Haan, the president and the guiding spirit of the company. Of its endorsement by Col. John Jacob Astor and the professional cooperation of the architects, Messers. Trowbridge & Livingston, the St. Regis at Fifty-fifth Street and Fifth Avenue stands as the monument…

The St. Regis covers a plot of 20,000 square feet, and at present is the tallest hotel in New York. Its location is well chosen, for, while situated in the heart of the best residential section of New York, on the city’s fashionable driveway and within four blocks of Central Park, it is easily accessible from all directions, and most of the city’s best stores, as well as the amusement resorts, are within easy walking distance. For those who prefer to drive, an efficient carriage service is ready night and day…

To the department of cleanliness and safety belong also two features, which in the St. Regis are exploited for the first time to their full extent,- the arrangement for pure air and the disposition of dust and refuse. There is installed a system of forced ventilation combined with indirect radiation which give throughout the building a supply of pure, fresh air, warmed or cooled as the weather may require…..

On every four or five stories chambers have been provided wherein the outer air enters, is filtered through cheese-cloth filters, warmed by passing over steam coils, and then circulated by electric motor through ducts to the various rooms. The outlets in the rooms are concealed in unobtrusive gratings in the walls or in the ornamental bronze work that plays a large part in the decorations. The guest may regulate the temperature in his room by means of an automatic thermostat. A continual circulation of air is maintained throughout the building, night and day: there are no drafts, no atmospheric chills to fear; in point of fact the guest need never open his window to be supplied with an abundant quantity of pure air. This system is a great advance over the old-time coils that are noisy and ugly and somewhat uncertain in the amount of heat supplied. The impure air is effectively discharged by exhaust fans.”

The all-important back-of-the-house was recognized and described in the St. Regis Hotel book:

“All these arrangements for heat, light, filters, etc., necessarily require a most elaborate organization, an insight into which will give the fact that the chief engineer of the St. Regis has a staff of thirty-six men under him. Their presence, like that of the stoker on the steamship, is noticeable only in their absence. Below the earth’s surface are two stories devoted to the maze of engines, boilers, dynamos, ice machines, etc., that are necessary to the operation of a hotel, and to the storage of the great stocks of food and wine. The machinery room is equipped with the latest machinery, and is considered in the scientific world far superior to anything yet constructed.

Decidedly to the utilitarian features of a hotel belong the kitchen and wine cellar, for, without proper facilities, the best of chefs is helpless, particularly at serving hour, where the demands of hundreds of people must be attended to simultaneously and with particular attention to each guest. Appreciating the importance, for the St. Regis’ motto is “The kitchen is the soul of the hotel; if the kitchen is wrong all is wrong,” – a well arranged spacious apartment is provided, the floor being of marble, the walls and ceilings tiled, the counters of glass, and there is nothing perishable or anything that is hard to keep clean. There is a special place for every phase of the work; the fish cook, the soup cook, the roast cook, the pastry cook, each has his headquarters, and, generally speaking, workmen,” says Mr. Haan, “must have fine tools.” Each floor of the hotel contains a service pantry, equipped with dumb-waiters, and everything necessary to keep the food hot while serving dinner in a guest’s room, if so be his pleasure, the order having been shot to the kitchen by a pneumatic tube with which every pantry is provided. Since the St. Regis makes a feature of catering also to permanent guests who will wish to entertain their friends at dinner; this is a great advantage.”

After divorcing his wife, Ava Astor, with whom he had two children, Colonel Astor shocked New York society by marrying a 19-year old woman, Madeline. He left New York for Europe. Unfortunately, his return trip was on the doomed Titanic in which he gave up his seat on a lifeboat for his young wife. He was last seen alive trying to free his dog from the ship’s kennels. At age 48, Colonel John Jacob Astor met his tragic death. His son Vincent later sold the hotel to Benjamin N. Duke, who built a two-floor addition and created the famous St. Regis roof and the Salle Cathay with its Chine décor. Both spaces hosted some of the most celebrated and prestigious parties.

The “Old King Cole” mural for which Maxfield Parrish was paid $50,000 was commissioned originally in 1902 for the Knickerbocker Hotel on 42nd Street and Broadway. It was brought to the Racquet and Tennis club during Prohibition. After repeal, it went to the St. Regis where, in 1934, it looked down upon the birth of Bloody Mary, originally called the “red snapper cocktail”.

After World War II, the St. Regis underwent a series of other owners until the ITT Sheraton Corporation of America acquired it in 1966. At this time, there were four restaurants in the hotel: The King Cole Grille, The Oak Room, La Boite Russa, and the St. Regis Room. For a late dinner and dancing, there was the exciting supper-nightclub, the Maisonette, which had a great menu and featured entertainers like Count Basie, Woody Herman and Kay Ballard. It was a favorite for celebrities, statesmen and world figures. Some of the well-known guests were Alfred Hitchcock, Bing Crosby, Darryl Zanuck, Judy Garland, Liza Minelli, Ethel Merman, Dustin Hoffman, Tony Curtis, Vidal Sassoon, Tony Bennett and the Apollo 14 astronauts.

On February 3, 1975, the St. Regis hosted a black-tie supper dance for Mabel Mercer’s 75th birthday. Some of the performers were Margaret Whiting, Sylvia Syms, Julius Monk, Jimmy Daniels, and Bricktop. The guests included Frank Sinatra, Bobby Short, Peggy Lee, Blossom Dearie, Eileen Farrell, Leontyne Price and many others.

The hotel was declared a designated landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission on November 1, 1988 with the following “Findings and Designations”:

On the basis of the careful consideration of the history, the architect and other features of this building, the Landmarks Preservation Commission finds that the St. Regis Hotel has a special character, special historical and aesthetic interest and value as part of the development, heritage and cultural characteristics of New York City.

The Commission further finds that, among its important qualities, the St. Regis Hotel, when built, was one of the most luxurious hotels in the city; that, it was commissioned by John Jacob Astor whose family built New York’s first luxury hotel; that, its elegant Beaux-Arts façade was designed by the notable architectural firm of Trowbridge & Livingston; that, the St. Regis Hotel, along with others, heralded the transformation of Fifth Avenue from an exclusive, low rise, residential street to fashionable commercial thoroughfare of tall buildings; that, the later addition to the St. Regis by the firm of Sloan & Robertson skillfully compliments the original Beaux-Arts design and is still one of the most important elements in the architectural fabric of this section of Fifth Avenue and contributes greatly to its sophisticated character.

Perhaps there is no better description of the St. Regis Hotel than the one that appeared in the original 1905 hardcover promotional book:

“In truth, however, taste consists in the faculty to seize the fitting relation of things, and it is in this respect that the St. Regis stands preeminent. In the language addressed to the eye, the surroundings spell an invitation to the guest to make himself at home and be comfortable. The effect might be called eye music.”

My Newest Book “Great American Hotel Architects Volume 2” was published in 2020.

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

  • Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2009)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York (2011)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (2013)
  • Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt, Oscar of the Waldorf (2014)
  • Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2016)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels West of the Mississippi (2017)
  • Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher (2018)
  • Great American Hotel Architects Volume I (2019)
  • Hotel Mavens: Volume 3: Bob and Larry Tisch, Ralph Hitz, Cesar Ritz, Curt Strand (2020)

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-seven years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 42 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.79

ABOUT STANLEY TURKEL

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2020 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He had previously been so designated in 2015 and 2014.

This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of historic hotels and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion of greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is the most widely published hotel consultant in the United States. 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.

Categories

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Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 253; Hotel History: Hotel Pennsylvania

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 253; Hotel History: Hotel Pennsylvania

By Stanley Turkel, CMHS| August 26, 2021

Hotel History: Hotel Pennsylvania (1704 rooms)

An iconic hotel in mid-town Manhattan is closing its doors for good. The Hotel Pennsylvania will not reopen, succumbing to this past year’s Covid 19 pandemic and years of narrowly avoiding the chopping block. The fourth-largest hotel in New York City was well situated, right across from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station, making it a natural and affordable stop for travelers and concert-goers alike.

The Hotel Pennsylvania was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad and operated by Ellsworth Statler. It opened on January 25, 1919 and was designed by William Symmes Richardson of the firm of McKim, Mead & White, which also designed the original Pennsylvania Station located across the street.

Statler Hotels, which had managed the Pennsylvania since its construction, acquired the property outright from the Pennsylvania Railroad on June 30, 1948 and renamed it the Hotel Statler on January 1, 1949. All 17 Statler hotels were sold to Conrad Hilton in 1954 and the hotel became The Statler Hilton in 1958. It operated under this name until 1979, when Hilton sold the hotel to developer William Zeckendorf, Jr., for $24 million. The hotel was renamed the New York Statler and was operated by Dunfey Family Hotels, a division of Aer Lingus. The hotel was sold again for $46 million in August 1983. A 50% interest was bought by Abelco, an investment group consisting of developers Elie Hirschfeld, Abraham Hirschfeld, and Arthur G. Cohen, with the other 50% bought by the Penta Hotels chain, a joint-venture of British Airways, Lufthansa, and Swissair. The new owners renamed the hotel the New York Penta and undertook a massive renovation. In 1991, Penta’s partners bought out the chain’s stake in the hotel and returned it to its original name, Hotel Pennsylvania.

There is a fair amount of history in this huge hotel, most notably The Glenn Miller Orchestra’s “Pennsylvania 6-5000.” Until early May 2021, you could still call 212-PE6-5000, and hear the refrain “Pennsylvania 6-5000” before connecting to an operator. It was the longest continuous use of a phone number in New York. From the moment you called the hotel, music and history was inviting you to recall the great Hotel Pennsylvania tradition.

The Café Rouge was originally the main restaurant in the Hotel Pennsylvania. It served as a nightclub for many years, but now operates as a separate venue from the hotel entirely, as a multi-purpose space. It is the only space in the hotel that escaped significant alterations during the building’s massive 1980s renovation.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, The Café Rouge had a big band remote connection to the NBC Red Network (after 1942, the NBC Radio Network) and became known for the live performances held inside. Multiple artists played at the Café – such as The Dorsey Brothers, Wood Herman, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and The Andrews Sisters.

One evening in November 1939, while in the midst of a steady long-term engagement at the Café Rouge, bandleader Artie Shaw left the bandstand between sets and decided he had had enough of the band business and all the hype of having become, in a year and a half, the leader of the most popular big band in the country. Shaw essentially quit his own band on the spot, the act obliging The New York Times to comment in an editorial.

During 1940-42, the Glenn Miller Orchestra also had repeated long-term bookings in the room during the three years of Miller’s highest profile as a bandleader. Miller’s orchestra broadcast from the Café; some were recorded by RCA Victor. Shaw’s principal orchestrator from 1937-39, Jerry Gray, was immediately hired by Miller as a staff arranger when Shaw deserted his band; it was during Miller’s 1940 engagement at the hotel that Gray wrote the tune “Pennsylvania 6-500” (with lyrics later added by Carl Sigman) that made use of the Hotel’s telephone number, 212-736-5000, which was the New York phone number in longest continuous use, Les Brown’s band, with its vocalist Doris Day, introduced their song “Sentimental Journey” at the Café in November 1944.

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission reviewed the Café Rouge for landmarking status on the basis of evaluation papers created by the Hotel Pennsylvania Preservation Society (formerly the Save Hotel Pennsylvania Foundation). On October 22, 2010, the Café was rejected as a candidate for landmarking, most likely because the 15 Penn Plaza project was approved and the moderate, but not destructive alterations of the interior since its construction. The 15 Penn Plaza project, would have included the demolition of the Café.

Most of the original interior décor remains intact. The foundation and beamed ceiling and other architectural details remain, though the entire room, as well as the ceiling, have been painted over in white. Numerous events from 2013 New York Fashion Week were held in the Café Rouge.

In 2014, the Café Rouge was converted to an indoor basketball court known as Terminal 23, to commemorate the launch of the Melo M10 by the Jordan Brand division of Nike. It provides a facility for youth and high school players.

Notable events at the Hotel Pennsylvania

• On May 6 and 8, 1924, Harry Houdini debunked Joaquin María Argamasilla, a 19-year old Spaniard who claimed he had X-ray vision.

•  In December 1925, William Faulkner stayed at The Hotel Pennsylvania while writing one of his many novels. Later he would go on to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

•  In the 1920s, Galveston crime boss Johnny Jack Nounes threw a $40,000 party at the Hotel Pennsylvania. Among the guests were silent film stars Clara Bow and Nancy Carroll, who were said to have bathed in tubs of champagne.

• On November 17, 1935, Herbert Hoover spoke before the Ohio Society of New York at the Hotel Pennsylvania

• Benny Goodman’s famous orchestra including Harry James, Ziggy Elman and Gene Krupa, broadcast from the hotel’s Madhattan Room in 1937.

• In 1946, the American Russian Institute presented its first annual award to the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Hotel Pennsylvania.

• On November 28, 1953, U.S. Army bacteriologist Frank Olson crashed through a window on the 13th floor and fell over 150 feet to the sidewalk below. His family was told that he “jumped or fell” to his death. Days before his death, however, the CIA had dosed him with LSD without his knowledge or consent.

• On April 22, 1959, Cuba’s new revolutionary prime minister, Fidel Castro, stayed at the then Statler Hilton.

• The Muppet character Statler of Statler and Waldorf was named after the hotel, when it was the Statler Hilton.

In film

• The Hotel Pennsylvania appeared in the 1986 film “The Manhattan Project, as the setting of a science fair. Rather than construct a set and populate it with actors, the filmmakers hosted an actual science fair in the hotel, and simply filmed as it was going on.

• Episodes of UWF Fury Hour were filmed at the venue’s Grand Ballroom in 1991.

• In 1997, the Grand Ballroom was leased by NEP Group and retrofitted into a television studio. The facility is known as NEP Penn Studio and is where television shows including Maury, Sally Jessy Raphael, 2 Minute Drill, The People’s Court, and The Opposition with Jordan Klepper was taped.

• In 2009, old studios in the hotel were rebuilt and consolidated into a new 10,000-square-foot studio for the sitcom Sherri.

“We used to have the greatest train station in the world right across the street, literally right across the street, and sadly for me I was too young – when I got to New York it was already gone. The language that was used to destroy that station is the exact same language Steve Roth is using today to argue to destroy this; it’s tired, it’s old, it’s dirty, can’t be reused. We need something new. Everybody admits that what happened across the street was one of the worst crimes in terms of architectural legacy that ever happened in this country. We’re about to commit the exact same crime right here with the Hotel Pennsylvania.”

Architect Richard Cameron, as reported by AMNY.com

My Newest Book “Great American Hotel Architects Volume 2” was published in 2020.

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

  • Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2009)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York (2011)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (2013)
  • Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt, Oscar of the Waldorf (2014)
  • Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2016)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels West of the Mississippi (2017)
  • Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher (2018)
  • Great American Hotel Architects Volume I (2019)
  • Hotel Mavens: Volume 3: Bob and Larry Tisch, Ralph Hitz, Cesar Ritz, Curt Strand (2020)

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-seven years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 42 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 2020 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He had previously been so designated in 2015 and 2014.
This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of historic hotels and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion of greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is the most widely published hotel consultant in the United States. 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.

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RELATED NEWS:

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 252: Hotel History: Libby’s Hotel and Baths
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 251: Wish You Were Here: A Tour of America’s Great Hotels During the Golden Age of the Picture Post Card
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 250: Hotel History: Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, New York
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Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 248: Hotel Theresa, New York, N.Y. (1913)
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Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 246: Hotel History: Hotel McAlpin, New York, N.Y. (1912) Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 245: Boone Tavern Hotel, Berea, Kentucky (1855)
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Stanley Turkel Named the Recipient of the 2020 Historic Hotels of America Historian of the Year Award
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 241: Hotel History: Menger Hotel
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 240 Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City, Canada (1893) Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 239: Hotel History: The Algonquin Hotel, NY (1902)
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 238: Hotel History: The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco
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Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 234: Curt R. Strand, President, Hilton International

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 252: Hotel History: Libby’s Hotel and Baths

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 252: Hotel History: Libby’s Hotel and Baths

Stanley Turkel | August 03, 2021

Hotel History: Libby’s Hotel and Baths, New York, N.Y.

In the late 1920s, the stock market was soaring, businesses were enjoying record profits and developers were constructing new buildings at a rapid pace. Mortgage companies began offering mortgage-backed securities, a new type of investment.

One of the new buildings was the 12-story Libby’s Hotel and Baths, built in 1926 at the corner of Chrystie and Delancey Streets in New York’s lower east side. It was the first all-Jewish luxury hotel with an ornate swimming pool, modern gym, Russian-Turkish baths and lounges open to the entire community.

The developer was Max Bernstein, an immigrant from Slutzk, Russia, who arrived in New York with his family in 1900 when Max was 11 years old. The streets where Max grew up on the lower east side were filled with pushcart vendors, some with horse-drawn wagons, kids playing street games and tenement dwellers socializing on the stoops. Unfortunately, when his mother Libby died within one year, Max ran away from home and spent the night in a small park nearby. In later years, Max said that his dream of building Libby’s Hotel on the corner of Chrystie and Delancey Streets came to him that night.

After years of owning a series of restaurants, each of them named Libby’s, Max was able to acquire land on his favorite corner where he built the hotel that opened on April 5, 1926. Max was apparently a natural-born publicist because he invested an extraordinary amount of energy and money in an extensive promotional campaign in the many Yiddish-language daily newspapers. On opening day, the New York Times joined the other papers in reporting the grand opening. The Libby Hotel featured a spectacular two-story lobby with a richly colored plaster ceiling supported by fluted marble columns. The hotel had meeting rooms, ballrooms and two kosher restaurants. Max held charity events and swimming classes for neighborhood children.

The Libby Hotel broadcast from the first Yiddish radio station, WFBH (from the top of the westside Hotel Majestic) featuring famous entertainers, live theater and such luminaries as Sol Hurok, Rube Goldberg and George Jessel. Bernstein spared no expense, hiring as his musical director Josef Cherniavsky, leader of the Yiddish-American Jazz Band and widely known as the Jewish Paul Whiteman. For its first two years, the hotel seemed to be a huge success but by the end of 1928, the roof fell in.

A glut of new hotels had opened in New York. Many, in order to remain solvent, began to cater to Jews, siphoning off Max’s clientele. Max might have been better able to compete if his emotional state was not already in a downward spiral; on October 20, 1926, his wife Sarah died. In a later court trial, Max would testify that the grief he experienced left him unable to function.

Furthermore, his primary creditor was the American Bond and Mortgage Company (AMBAM), an unreputable predatory lender. Just prior to the 1929 stock market crash, AMBAM foreclosed on the hotel and, in a strange twist of fate, Mayor Jimmy Walker appointed Joseph Force Crater, a Tammany-connected lawyer as the receiver. According to Judge Crater, AMBAM may have had inside knowledge of the city’s plan to widen Chrystie Street. In any event, AMBAM now claimed that the hotel was worth $3.2 million (after valuing Libby’s Hotel at only $1.3 million for foreclosure). Through eminent domain, New York City took ownership and paid AMBAM $2.85 million. The city then demolished the buildings in the block including Max Bernstein’s Libby’s Hotel and Baths.

But, there’s more to the story. In 1931, AMBAM was convicted of a similar scheme regarding the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. The same Judge Crater was the receiver for the Mayflower foreclosure. He disappeared four months later and has not been found since. Chrystie Street was widened, the Great Depression set in and ultimately, the site was turned into the Sara Delano Roosevelt Park by Robert Moses.

When Max Bernstein died on December 13, 1946, the New York Times obituary wrote: “Max Bernstein, 57, Once Hotel Owner… Built $3,000,000 Edifice in Slums, only to see Memorial to Mother Razed.”

That would be the end of this fascinating story except that the Pakn Treger* article reported the following sequel:

The story of Libby’s faded into obscurity until the summer of 2001, when a section of the pavement near the corner of Chrystie and Delancey Streets caved in, creating a sinkhole. The hole grew large enough to swallow an entire tree and began to encroach on city streets and the nearby senior center in Sara Delano Roosevelt Park. In those innocent days before September 11, the sinkhole seemed to be the biggest threat facing lower Manhattan.

City engineers did not know the cause, so they lowered a camera into the void. To their astonishment, 22 feet below the surface they found an intact room, complete with bookcases. When they searched records at the Municipal Archives, they learned that Libby’s Hotel once stood there and that they had discovered a room in its subbasement. In a New York Times article from September 11, 2001, New York City Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern was quoted as saying, “It reminds me of Pompeii.”

In contrast to Pompeii, no attempt was made to reach the room or excavate it. The city engineers chose to fill it with grout, burying the room and its mysterious contents. A new tree was planted, and the park repaved.

* “Ritz with a Shvitz” by Shulamith Berger and Jai Zion, Pakn Treger, Spring 2009

My Newest Book “Great American Hotel Architects Volume 2” was published in 2020.

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

  • Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2009)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York (2011)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (2013)
  • Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt, Oscar of the Waldorf (2014)
  • Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2016)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels West of the Mississippi (2017)
  • Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher (2018)
  • Great American Hotel Architects Volume I (2019)
  • Hotel Mavens: Volume 3: Bob and Larry Tisch, Ralph Hitz, Cesar Ritz, Curt Strand (2020)

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-seven years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 42 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 2020 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He had previously been so designated in 2015 and 2014.

This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of historic hotels and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion of greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is the most widely published hotel consultant in the United States. 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.

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RELATED NEWS:

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 251: Wish You Were Here: A Tour of America’s Great Hotels During the Golden Age of the Picture Post Card

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Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 249: Hotel History: Ocean House at Watch Hill

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 248: Hotel Theresa, New York, N.Y. (1913)

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Stanley Turkel Named the Recipient of the 2020 Historic Hotels of America Historian of the Year Award

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 241: Hotel History: Menger Hotel

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 240 Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City, Canada (1893)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 239: Hotel History: The Algonquin Hotel, NY (1902)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 238: Hotel History: The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 237: Hotel History: Hotel Allegro, Chicago, Illinois

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Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 235: Hotel History: Cavallo Point, The Lodge at the Golden Gate (1901)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 234: Curt R. Strand, President, Hilton International

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 233: Hotel History: The Adolphus Hotel

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 251: “Wish You Were Here” by Barry Zaid (1980)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 251: Wish You Were Here: A Tour of America’s Great Hotels During the Golden Age of the Picture Post Card

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS | July 14, 2021

Hotel History: “Wish You Were Here” by Barry Zaid (1980)   

In February 2000, there was a unique exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York: “Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard”. Evans was a titan of 20th-century photography who portrayed broken-down plantations, sharecropper families and bone-dry Southern farms during the Depression, grimy factories in the North and the facial expressions of New York subway passengers.

Evans collected picture postcards throughout his life during the golden age from 1900 into the 1920s. This phenomenon was spurred by the United States postal service’s 1907 ruling that the blank side of a postcard could include the address of the recipient and a message. At the same time, the Post Office put a 1¢ postage stamp price on these postcards. Another boon was the drop in the cost of offset color lithography which gave postcards the look of hand-colored images, with soft blues, greens and reds.

During this period, picture-postcard categories included hotels, summer resorts, train stations, automobiles, boardwalks, main streets in villages, state capitols, factories, occupations, and many more subjects. The best of these hotel cards were produced by two companies: Curt Teich & Company, Inc., Chicago and Tichnor Brothers Inc., Boston both of which closed in the 1970s. It is estimated that Curt Teich & Company printed some 400,000 different views of the United States, Canada and overseas hotels during a period of seventy-seven years.

Tichnor Brothers produced 25,000 hotel postcards mostly from all the states. A rundown of America’s great hotels during the Golden Age of the picture-postcard appears in Barry Zaid’s “Wish You Were Here: A Tour of America’s Great Hotels During the Golden Age of the Picture Postcard” Crown Publishers, Inc. (New York 1990).

“But in the cards, all the hotels are in their prime, This is a trip across America that we can still take. We can imagine that that is us swimming in front of the Marlborough – Blenheim on Atlantic City’s golden, sandy beach or strolling through the magnificent cactus gardens of Phoenix’s Camelback Inn or enjoying the view of the mountains through the tall windows of the Prince of Wales Hotel in Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park. Isn’t that our table in the tree-lined dining room, beside the gurgling brook that runs through the lodge in Brookdale, California? This is visual history, a record of the travelers life of yesteryear.”

Fortunately, many classic hotels are preserved in these colorful unique postcards in the “Wish You Were Here” book. Here are the best of them:

1.    Cabins, Courts and Cottages    

  • Tallahassee Auto Court in Capital City of Florida
  • Mohawk Park, Charlemont, Massachusetts
  • Riverside Auto Court, Palmetto, Florida
  • Utah Motor Park, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Bob’s B-B-Q, Inc., Rolling Prairie, Indiana
  • Nevada Tourist Court, Nevada, Missouri
  • Uvalda Courts, Uvalda, Texas
  • Nelson Dream Village, Lebanon, Maryland
  • Dann-Dee Camp, Prescott, Arizona

2.    Inns       

  • Homestead Inn Annex, New Milford, Connecticut
  • Valley Green Inn, Wissahickon Drive, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Midway Inn and Service Station at Bedford
  • Mountain View Inn, Lahood Park, Montana
  • Deer’s Head Inn, Elizabethtown, New York
  • The Fox Hall Tourist Inn, Norfolk, Virginia
  • The Inn, Silver Bay Association, Lake George, New York
  • Santa Maria Inn, Santa Maria, California
  • Paradise Inn, Rainier National Park, Washington
  • Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone Park
  • Lake McDonald Hotel, Glacier National Park
  • Glacier Park Hotel, Glacier National Park
  • Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada
  • The Ahwahnee, Yosemite National Park

4.    The Great Resorts      

  • The Broadmoor Hotel, Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Greenbrier Hotel, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
  • Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan
  • The Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, California
  • Grand Union Hotel, Saratoga Springs, New York
  • Hotel Traymore, Atlantic City, New Jersey
  • Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey

5.    City Hotels  

  • Hotel Kenmore, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Alex Johnson Hotel, Rapid City, South Dakota
  • The Pantlind Hotel, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Hotel Muehlebach, Kansas City, Missouri
  • Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, Virginia
  • Hotel Peabody, Memphis, Tennessee
  • Lord Baltimore Hotel, Baltimore, Maryland
  • The Columbus, Miami, Florida
  • Hotel Westward Ho, Phoenix, Arizona
  • The Harrisburger, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  • The Deshler Wallick Hotel, Columbus, Ohio
  • Congress Hotel, Chicago, Illinois
  • Hotel Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio

6.    Grand Hotels

  • The Sherry Netherlands and Savoy Hilton, New York City
  • The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City
  • Miami Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, Florida
  • Fairmont Hotel, Nob Hill, San Francisco
  • The Copley Plaza, Boston
  • Hotel Claridge, Atlantic City, New Jersey
  • Camelback Inn, Phoenix, Arizona
  • Arizona Biltmore, Phoenix, Arizona
  • Mission Inn, Riverside, California

7.    Florida, Land of Sunshine     

  • Cavalier Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida
  • The Clevelander, Miami Beach, Florida
  • The Marine Terrace Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida
  • Congress Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida
  • Hotel Astor, Miami Beach, Florida
  • The Shoreham, Miami Beach, Florida
  • The Roney Plaza Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida
  • Breakers Hotel, Palm Beach, Florida
  • Don Cesar Beach Hotel, St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Hollywood Beach Hotel, Hollywood, Florida
  • Vinoy Park Hotel, St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Hotel Ponce de Leon, St. Augustine, Florida

My Newest Book “Great American Hotel Architects Volume 2” was published in 2020.

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

  • Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2009)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York (2011)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (2013)
  • Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt, Oscar of the Waldorf (2014)
  • Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2016)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels West of the Mississippi (2017)
  • Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher (2018)
  • Great American Hotel Architects Volume I (2019)
  • Hotel Mavens: Volume 3: Bob and Larry Tisch, Ralph Hitz, Cesar Ritz, Curt Strand (2020)

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-seven years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 42 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

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Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2020 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He had previously been so designated in 2015 and 2014.

This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of historic hotels and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion of greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is the most widely published hotel consultant in the United States. 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.

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Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 250: Hotel History: Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, New York

Stanley Turkel | June 22, 2021

In 1869, Albert Smiley, a nature-loving Quaker schoolteacher, bought a property at a good price; 300 acres surrounding a lake and a tavern in a spectacular natural setting in the heart of a 26,000-acre area in the Shawangunk Mountains, New York. Alfred and Albert Smiley, devout Quaker twin brothers, created the resort in 1869 when they bought Mohonk Lake from John F. Stokes.  As the Smileys expanded the hotel, they operated in accordance with their Quaker beliefs: no alcohol, dancing, smoking or card playing. The hotel offered concerts, prayer sessions, lectures as well as swimming, hiking and boating.

Under the continuous ownership and management of Smiley family members for 144 years, the Mohonk Mountain House has 267 guestrooms, three spacious dining rooms, 138 working fireplaces, 238 balconies, a spa and fitness center and a beautiful indoor heated swimming pool.  The resort features golf, tennis, horseback riding, boating, flowering gardens, a greenhouse, 125 rustic gazebos, a museum, the Sky Top Tower observation point, and an outdoor ice-skating rink.

The year-round resort accommodates individual vacationers and conferences with a full American plan wherein overnight rates include breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea and cookies.  In summer, an outdoor lunch buffet is available at the Granary located on a scenic cliff overlooking Lake Mohonk.

Resort guests may ride horses, go boating on the lake, play tennis, croquet, and shuffleboard, tour a historic barn and greenhouse, take carriage rides, swim or fish in the lake, receive spa treatments, visit the fitness center, play golf, listen to concerts and lectures, hike mountain trails, stroll through formal gardens and a maze, ride bikes, or go rock climbing. Winter activities include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice-skating. The resort is open year-round.

The Mohonk Mountain House has hosted many famous visitors over the years, such as John D. Rockefeller, naturalist John Burroughs, Andrew Carnegie, and American presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Chester A. Arthur. Guests have also included former First Lady Julia Grant, novelist Thomas Mann and religious leaders such as Rabbi Louis Finkelstein, Reverend Ralph W. Sockman and Reverend Francis Edward Clark.

From 1883 to 1916, annual conferences took place at Mohonk Mountain House, sponsored by Albert Smiley, to improve the living standards of native American Indian populations. These meetings brought together government representatives of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the House and Senate committees on Indian Affairs, as well as educators, philanthropists, and Indian leaders to discuss the formulation of policy. The 22,000 records from the 34 conference reports are now at the library of Haverford College for researchers and students of American history.

The hotel also hosted the Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration between 1895 and 1916, which was instrumental in creating the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands. Those conference papers were donated by the Smiley Family to Swarthmore College for future research.

The main hotel structure was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. The designation was unique because it included not only the Mountain House but also 83 other Mohonk buildings of historic significance and surrounding 7,800 acres of developed and undeveloped land. A member of Historic Hotels of America since 1991, Mohonk received an award from the United Nations Environmental Programme recognizing 130 years of environmental stewardship.

My Newest Book “Great American Hotel Architects Volume 2” was published in 2020.

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

  • Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2009)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York (2011)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (2013)
  • Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt, Oscar of the Waldorf (2014)
  • Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2016)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels West of the Mississippi (2017)
  • Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher (2018)
  • Great American Hotel Architects Volume I (2019)
  • Hotel Mavens: Volume 3: Bob and Larry Tisch, Ralph Hitz, Cesar Ritz, Curt Strand (2020)

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-seven years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 42 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.79

ABOUT STANLEY TURKEL

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2020 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He had previously been so designated in 2015 and 2014.

This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of historic hotels and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion of greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is the most widely published hotel consultant in the United States. 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.

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hotel historymohonk mountain housenobody asked mestan turkelstanley turkel

RELATED NEWS:

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 249: Hotel History: Ocean House at Watch HillNobody Asked Me, But… No. 248: Hotel Theresa, New York, N.Y. (1913)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 247: Hotel History: Driskill Hotel, Austin, TexasNobody Asked Me, But… No. 246: Hotel History: Hotel McAlpin, New York, N.Y. (1912)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 245: Boone Tavern Hotel, Berea, Kentucky (1855)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 244: Hotel History: Wormley HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 243: Hotel History: Hotel Roanoke, VirginiaNobody Asked Me, But… No. 242: Hotel History: Fisher Island, Miami, FloridaStanley Turkel Named the Recipient of the 2020 Historic Hotels of America Historian of the Year AwardNobody Asked Me, But… No. 241: Hotel History: Menger HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 240 Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City, Canada (1893)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 239: Hotel History: The Algonquin Hotel, NY (1902)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 238: Hotel History: The Fairmont Hotel in San FranciscoNobody Asked Me, But… No. 237: Hotel History: Hotel Allegro, Chicago, IllinoisNobody Asked Me, But… No. 236: Hotel History: The Hermitage HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 235: Hotel History: Cavallo Point, The Lodge at the Golden Gate (1901)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 234: Curt R. Strand, President, Hilton InternationalNobody Asked Me, But… No. 233: Hotel History: The Adolphus HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 232: Hotel History: Union Station HotelNobody Asked Me But… No. 231: Brown Palace Hotel, Denver, Colorado

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