Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 264: Hotel History: Palmer House (1871), Chicago, IL

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 264: Hotel History: Palmer House (1871), Chicago, Illinois

Stanley Turkel | April 20, 2022

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: Palmer House, Chicago, IL (1,639 rooms)

The original Palmer House was built in 1871 by Potter Palmer who began his career as a bank clerk in upstate New York. He later became a dry-goods store owner in Chicago where he revolutionized the retail trade. He was the first to make big window displays, to use big advertising spaces, to send goods on approval to homes and to hold bargain sales. He became a brilliant hotel man as he applied his successful department store methods to the operation of his hotel. He saw no reason why clerks, chefs and head waiters should not be subject to the same discipline as floorwalkers and counter-jumpers. The Hotel Gazette said he could be seen at all hours in the lobby and corridors of the Palmer House watching and directing.

There have been three different Palmer House hotels. The first, known as The Palmer, was built as a wedding gift from Potter Palmer to his bride Bertha Honorè. It opened on September 26, 1871, but incredibly was destroyed by fire thirteen days later in the Great Chicago Fire. Palmer quickly rebuilt the Palmer House which reopened in 1875. It was advertised as “The World’s Only Fire-Proof Hotel” and contained a grand lobby, ballrooms, elaborate parlors, bridal suites, cafes and restaurants. The hotel attracted well-to-do permanent residents who enjoyed the spacious quarters, master bedrooms, walk-in closets, multiple bathrooms, housekeeping and porter services. By 1925, Palmer erected a new 25-story hotel which was promoted as the largest hotel in the world. The architects were Holabird & Roche who were well known for their groundbreaking Chicago School of skyscrapers. They also designed the Stevens Hotel, the Cook County Courthouse, the Chicago City Hall and the Muehlebach Hotel in Kansas City.

The new Palmer House was once remembered for the fact that 225 silver dollars were embedded in the checkerboard tile floor of the barbershop. They were put there by William S. Eaton, lessee of the shop, who cashed in on the idea within the next few years. Everyone wanted to see that floor out of sheer curiosity or to verify that a barber could thus display his money.

As one of the longest-operating hotels in America, the Palmer House has an outstanding roster of famous guests including every president since Ulysses S. Grant, numerous world leaders, celebrities and Chicago’s movers and shakers. The Empire Room at the Palmer House became the showplace in Chicago. During the World’s Fair of 1933, an unknown ballroom dance team, Veloz and Yolanda won the hearts of the city and performed there for more than a year. They were followed by live entertainers including Guy Lombardo, Ted Lewis, Sophie Tucker, Eddie Duchin, Hildegarde, Carol Channing, Phyllis Diller, Bobby Darin, Jimmy Durante, Lou Rawls, Maurice Chevalier, Liberace, Louis Armstrong, Harry Belafonte, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald, among others.

In 1945, Conrad Hilton went to Chicago to purchase the Stevens Hotel, the largest hotel in the world with three thousand rooms and three thousand baths. After a prolonged negotiation with Stephen A. Healy, the owner millionaire contractor and ex-bricklayer, Hilton acquired the Stevens. Later in that same year, Hilton bought the Palmer House from Potter Palmer for $19,385,000. Hilton hired the recently-discharged U.S. Army Air Force Colonel Joseph Binns who had the ability to manage both hotels. Hilton reported in his “Be My Guest” autobiography: “I had gone to Chicago hoping to buy one gold mine and came home with two.”

In 1971, the Palmer House celebrated its 100th birthday. Octogenarian Conrad Hilton was present for the ceremonies. Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daly said, “Throughout the country and the world, there is no better known nor more highly esteemed hotel institution than the Palmer House. …. People who have been in and out of our city think of the Palmer House when they think of Chicago.”

In 2005, the Palmer House was acquired by Thor Equities for $240 million. Joseph A. Sitt, president of Thor, embarked on a $170 million renovation that included upgrading 1,000 rooms (out of a total of 1,639), adding an underground parking garage, removing a series of fire escapes that marred the State Street facade and adding a new bar and restaurant to the hotel’s spectacular lobby. Perhaps the Palmer House Hilton promotional literature says it best:

Situated just blocks from the Magnificent Mile and the downtown Chicago Theater District, the wedding gift from Potter Palmer continues to delight the weariest of travelers and the most demanding of hosts.

The Palmer House Hilton is a member of the Historic Hotels of America program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It was Chicago’s first hotel with elevators, and the first hotel with electric light bulbs and telephones in guest rooms. Although the hotel had been dubbed the longest continuously-operating hotel in North America, it closed in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and reopened on June 17, 2021.

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)
  • Great American Hotel Architects Volume 2 (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.

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. 263: Frederick Law Olmsted

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 263: Hotel History: Frederick Law Olmsted

Stanley Turkel | March 29, 2022

Central Park, museumofthecity.org.

By Stanley Turkel

Landscape Architect: Frederick Law Olmsted was an American landscape architect, journalist, social critic, and public administrator. He is considered to be the father of landscape architecture. Olmsted was famous for co-designing many well-known urban parks with his partner Calvert Vaux. Olmsted and Vaux’s most famous achievement was Central Park in New York City which resulted in many other urban park designs, including Prospect Park in what is now the Borough of Brooklyn in New York City and Cadwalader Park in Trenton. Olmsted was called by Charles Eliot Norton “the greatest artist that America has yet produced”. His ‘A Journey in the Sea-board Slave States’ was originally published in 1856 and arose from journeys in the south which Olmsted, a passionate abolitionist had undertaken in 1853-1854.

Other projects that Olmsted was involved in include the country’s first and oldest coordinated system of public parks and parkways in Buffalo, New York; the country’s oldest state park, the Niagara Reservation in Niagara Falls, New York; one of the first planned communities in the United States, Riverside, Illinois; Mount Royal Park in Montreal, Quebec; The Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut; Waterbury Hospital in Waterbury, Connecticut; the Emerald Necklace in Boston, Massachusetts; Highland Park in Rochester, New York; the Grand Necklace of Parks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Cherokee Park and parks and parkway system in Louisville, Kentucky; Walnut Hill Park in New Britain, Connecticut, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina; the master plans for the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Maine, Stanford University near Palo Alto, California, and The Lawrenceville School; and Montebello Park in St. Catharines, Ontario. In Chicago his projects include: Jackson Park; Washington Park; the main park ground for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition; the south portion of Chicago’s “emerald necklace” boulevard ring; and the University of Chicago campus. In Washington, D.C., he worked on the landscape surrounding the United States Capitol building.

The quality of Olmsted’s landscape architecture was recognized by his contemporaries, who showered him with prestigious commissions. Daniel Burnham said of him, “He paints with lakes and wooded slopes; with lawns and banks and forest-covered hills; with mountainsides and ocean views …” His work, especially in Central Park, set a standard of excellence that continues to influence landscape architecture in the United States. He was an early and important activist in the conservation movement, including work at Niagara Falls; the Adirondack region of upstate New York; and the National Park system; and though little known, played a major role in organizing and providing medical services to the Union Army in the Civil War.

Olmsted was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on April 26, 1822. His father, John Olmsted, was a prosperous merchant who took a lively interest in nature, people, and places; Frederick Law and his younger brother, John Hull, also showed this interest. His mother, Charlotte Law (Hull) Olmsted, died before his fourth birthday. His father remarried in 1827 to Mary Ann Bull, who shared her husband’s strong love of nature and had perhaps a more cultivated taste.

When the young Olmsted was almost ready to enter Yale College, sumac poisoning weakened his eyes, so he gave up college plans. After working as an apprentice seaman, merchant, and journalist, Olmsted settled on a 125-acre farm in January 1848 on the south shore of Staten Island, New York, a farm which his father helped him acquire.

Marriage and family

On June 13, 1859, Olmsted married Mary Cleveland (Perkins) Olmsted, the widow of his brother John (who had died in 1857). He adopted her three children, John Charles Olmsted (born 1852), Charlotte Olmsted (who later married a Bryant), and Owen Olmsted.

Frederick and Mary also had two children together who survived infancy; a daughter, Marion (born October 28, 1861), and a son Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., born in 1870. Their first child, John Theodore Olmsted, was born on June 13, 1860, and died in infancy.

Olmsted had a significant career in journalism. In 1850 he traveled to England to visit public gardens, where he was greatly impressed by Joseph Paxton’s Birkenhead Park. He subsequently wrote and published Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England in 1852.

Interested in the slave economy, he was commissioned by the New York Daily Times (now The New York Times) to embark on an extensive research journey through the American South and Texas from 1852 to 1857. His dispatches to the Times were collected into three volumes (A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States (1856), A Journey Through Texas (1857), A Journey in the Back Country in the Winter of 1853-4 (1860).

Olmsted thought that the lack of a Southern white middle class and the general poverty of lower-class whites prevented the development of many civil amenities which were taken for granted in the North.

The citizens of the cotton States, as a whole, are poor. They work little, and that little, badly; they earn little, they sell little; they buy little, and they have little – very little – of the common comforts and consolations of civilized life. Their destitution is not material only; it is intellectual and it is moral … They were neither generous nor hospitable and their talk was not that of evenly courageous men.

New York City’s Central Park

Andrew Jackson Downing, the charismatic landscape architect from Newburgh, New York, was one of the first to propose developing New York’s Central Park in his role as publisher of The Horticulturist magazine. A friend and mentor to Olmsted, Downing introduced him to the English-born architect Calvert Vaux, whom Downing had brought to the U.S. as his architectural collaborator. After Downing died in July 1852 in a widely publicized fire on the Hudson River steamboat Henry Clay, Olmsted and Vaux entered the Central Park design competition together, against Egbert Ludovicus Viele among others. Vaux had invited the less experienced Olmsted to participate in the design competition with him, having been impressed with Olmsted’s theories and political contacts. Prior to this, in contrast with the more experienced Vaux, Olmsted had never designed or executed a landscape design.

Their Greensward Plan was announced in 1858 as the winning design. On his return from the South, Olmsted began executing their plan almost immediately. Olmsted and Vaux continued their informal partnership to design Prospect Park in Brooklyn from 1865 to 1873. That was followed by other projects. Vaux remained in the shadow of Olmsted’s grand public personality and social connections.

The design of Central Park embodies Olmsted’s social consciousness and commitment to egalitarian ideals. Influenced by Downing and his own observations regarding social class in England, China, and the American South, Olmsted believed that the common green space must always be equally accessible to all citizens, and was to be defended against private encroachment. This principle is now fundamental to the idea of a “public park”, but was not assumed as necessary then. Olmsted’s tenure as Central Park commissioner was a long struggle to preserve that idea.

In 1865, Vaux and Olmsted formed Olmsted, Vaux & Co. When Olmsted returned to New York, he and Vaux designed Prospect Park; suburban Chicago’s Riverside parks; the park system for Buffalo, New York; Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s grand necklace of parks; and the Niagara Reservation at Niagara Falls.

Olmsted not only created numerous city parks around the country, he also conceived of entire systems of parks and interconnecting parkways to connect certain cities to green spaces. Some of the best examples of the scale on which Olmsted worked are the park system designed for Buffalo, New York, one of the largest projects; the system he designed for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the park system designed for Louisville, Kentucky, which was one of only four completed Olmsted-designed park systems in the world.

Olmsted was a frequent collaborator with architect Henry Hobson Richardson, for whom he devised the landscaping schemes for half a dozen projects, including Richardson’s commission for the Buffalo State Asylum. In 1871, Olmsted designed the grounds for the Hudson River State Hospital for the Insane in Poughkeepsie.

In 1883, Olmsted established what is considered to be the first full-time landscape architecture firm in Brookline, Massachusetts. He called the home and office compound Fairsted. It is now the restored Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site. From there Olmsted designed Boston’s Emerald Necklace, the campuses of Wellesley College, Smith College, Stanford University and the University of Chicago, as well as the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, among many other projects.

Frederick Law Olmsted is known as the “father of American Landscape Architecture.”

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.

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. 262: Hotel History: Tampa Bay Hotel

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 262: Hotel History: Tampa Bay Hotel

Stanley Turkel | March 08, 2022

A postcard from the Tampa Bay Hotel, circa 1902. Florida Historical Society.

By Stanley Turkel

Hotel History: Tampa Bay Hotel (511 rooms)

The success of Henry M. Flagler’s Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine convinced Henry B. Plant that Tampa needed a spectacular new hotel. With the agreement of the town council for a new bridge across the Hillsborough River and for substantial real estate tax abatement, Plant chose New York City architect John A. Wood to design a spectacular hotel. The cornerstone of the Tampa Bay Hotel was laid on July 26, 1888 and the 511-room hotel opened on February 5, 1891 with a 23-foot high rotunda supported by thirteen granite columns. Florida’s first fully electrified hotel contained the following features:

  • Guest rooms: one bathroom for every three rooms (while the Ponce de Leon had shared bathrooms at the end of the hallways); carpets, soft beds, telephones, hot water heating, a fireplace and a circular fifteen-inch diameter mirror set in the ceiling of each room with three bulbs below to throw out light to all parts of the rooms. In addition, there were two electric lights placed in the side of the dressing table.
  • Sixteen suites: each with double parlors, three bedrooms, sliding doors, two bathrooms and private hallways.
  • Public facilities included a café, billiard room, telegraph office, barbershop, drug store, flower shop, special ladies area for shuffleboard, billiard room, telegraph office, and café facilities. Also available were needle and mineral water baths, massages and a physician. There were other small shops in the arcade area.
  • Recreation facilities included tennis and croquet courts, rickshaw rides, an 18-hole golf course, stables, hunting trips and excursions by electric launch on the Hillsborough River to observe alligators and mullet.
  • Evening meals were formal with fancy dresses, jackets and ties. There was live music by the orchestra placed on the second level of the large dining room. After dinner, the guests separated—men to the bar for cigars and after-dinner liqueurs; women to the sitting room for cool drinks and conversation.
  • Another service provided by the hotel was fifteen dog kennels for the accommodation of pets carried along by hotel guests during their stay in Florida. The kennels were located in a half-acre park with shade trees and enclosed by a six-foot fence. The hotel’s brochure claimed that it had “the most complete dog accommodations of any hotel in existence.”

Henry Bradley Plant (October 27, 1819 – June 23, 1899), was a businessman, entrepreneur, and investor involved with many transportation interests and projects, mostly railroads, in the southeastern United States. He was founder of the Plant System of railroads and steamboats.

Born in 1819 in Branford, Connecticut, Plant entered the railroad service in 1844, serving as express messenger on the Hartford and New Haven Railroad until 1853, during which time he had entire charge of the express business of that road. He went south in 1853 and established express lines on various southern railways, and in 1861 organized the Southern Express Co., and became its president. In 1879 he purchased, with others, the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad of Georgia, and later reorganized the Savannah, Florida and Western Railroad, of which he became president. He purchased and rebuilt, in 1880, the Savannah and Charleston Railroad, now Charleston and Savannah. Not long after this he organized the Plant Investment Co., to control these railroads and advance their interests generally, and later established a steamboat line on the St. John’s river, in Florida. From 1853 until 1860 he was general superintendent of the southern division of the Adams Express Co., and in 1867 became president of the Texas Express Co. In the 1880s, most of his accumulated railroad and steamship lines were combined into the Plant System, which later became part of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.

Plant is particularly known for connecting the previously isolated Tampa Bay area and southwest Florida to the nation’s railroad system and establishing regular steamship service between Tampa, Cuba, and Key West, helping to spark significant population and economic growth in the region. To promote passenger traffic, Plant built the large Tampa Bay Hotel resort along his rail line through Tampa and several smaller hotels further south, starting the area’s tourist industry. His semi-friendly rival, Henry Flagler, similarly sparked growth along Florida’s opposite coast by building the Florida East Coast Railroad along with several resorts along its route.

In the 1896-97 season, Plant built a casino/auditorium, and 80 x 110 foot exhibition building in the Tampa Bay Hotel and a combined auditorium and swimming pool in the rear. The eastern end of the clubhouse contained two bowling alleys and shuffleboard court. When needed as an auditorium, the tiled pool filled with spring water could be covered with a wooden floor. When the hall, which seated 1,800 persons, was not used as a theater, the dressing rooms of the actors became changing rooms for the bathers. The hotel had great wide verandas, beautiful gardens, arches of electric light, oriental ceramics, beautiful statues and paintings, Turkish rugs, Chinese bronze vases. Mr. and Mrs. Plant took trips to Europe and the Far East to select and purchase furniture and other objects to furnish the public rooms.

A hotel postcard of 1924 described the beautiful grounds as follows:

A jewel so magnificent should have an appropriate setting and so it has, in a tropical garden of rare beauty of foliage and species. The acreage surrounding the hotel should match its noble proportions and so it permits of orange groves, alluring walks, and enticing drives through long lines of palmetto and under live oaks trailing their gray banners of Spanish moss.

Alongside a small stream were planted many tropical plants and fruits including roses, pansies, bamboos, oleander, papayas, mangos and pineapples. Since occasional cold weather could damage tropical plants, a glassed-in conservatory was built to grow plants and flowers for guest rooms, public areas and dining room tables. After a trip to the Bahamas, head gardener Auton Fiche returned with a boat-load of tropical plants. An 1892 catalogue of fruits, flowers and plants growing on hotel grounds listed twenty-two kinds of palm trees, three varieties of bananas, twelve varieties of orchids and various citrus trees including orange, lime, lemon, grapefruit, mandarin and tangerine.

Even today, you can see why the Tampa Bay Hotel was the jewel of Plant’s Florida Gulf Coast Hotels. Much of the original building is now used by the University of Tampa and houses the Henry B. Plant Museum. When it opened on January 31, 1891, the journalist Henry G. Parker in the Boston Saturday Evening Gazette wrote,

The new Tampa Bay Hotel: It was reserved for the sagacious and enterprising railroad and steamboat magnate, Mr. H. B. Plant, to reap the honor of erecting in tropical Florida the most attractive, most original and most beautiful hotel in the South, if not in the whole country; and it is a hotel of which the whole world need to be advised. The entire estate, including land and building, cost two millions of dollars, and the furniture and fittings a half million more. Nothing offends the eye, the effect produced is one of the astonishment and delight.

Despite all the hotel’s features, it was never a commercial success in Plant’s time. He wasn’t interested in the financial reports and claimed that the hotel was worthwhile if only to enjoy its great German pipe organ. The Henry B. Plant Museum in the Tampa Bay Hotel (established in 1933) recalls the hotel’s gilded age, when formal dress for dinner was standard and rickshaws carried guests through the hotel’s exotic gardens. The Spanish-American War Room tells the story the hotel played in the 1898 conflict between the United States and Spanish-held Cuba. Because Tampa was the city nearest to Cuba with both rail and port facilities, it was chosen as the point of embarkation for war. The hotel was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977.

Plant’s son, Morton Freeman Plant (1852-1918), was vice president of the Plant Investment Company from 1884 to 1902 and attained distinction as a yachtsman. He was part owner of the Philadelphia baseball club in the National League, and sole owner of the New London club in the Eastern League of the younger Plant’s many gifts to hospitals and other institutions the most notable were three dormitories and the unrestricted gift of $1,000,000 to the Connecticut College for Women. Plant’s former 1905 mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York City is now the home of Cartier.

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.

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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NobodyAsked Me, But… No. 261: Hotel History: The Homestead, Hot Springs, Virginia

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 261: Hotel History: The Homestead, Hot Springs, Virginia

Stanley Turkel | February 15, 2022

By Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: The Homestead, Hot Springs, Virginia

The Homestead is a famous luxury resort that opened a decade before the American revolutionary war. Located in the middle of the Allegheny Mountains, the area has the largest hot springs in Virginia. Native Americans used the waters to rejuvenate themselves during their many excursions through the area.

Captain Thomas Bullett and Charles and Andrew Lewis were part of the militia and surveyors during the French and Indian War. They were told of the many healing qualities of the waters in the area. In 1764, at the end of the war, Capt. Bullett received Gold and Silver medals for his services and was awarded a colonial land grant of 300 acres.

Within two years, the land was cleared and an 18-room wooden hotel was built. In 1766, The Homestead was named in honor of the Homesteaders who built the resort and bathhouses. From 1764 until 1778, Bullett operated the resort until he died during the American Revolutionary War. His family retained ownership of the resort until 1832.

In 1832, Dr. Thomas Goode purchased the resort from the Bullett family along with the Resort in Warm Springs and Healing Springs. He was a prominent physician who was responsible for the European style of many different spa therapies. One of the most famous treatments still in use is the Cure, which is a salt scrub followed by a Swiss shower. Dr. Goode passed away in 1858 and upon his death, the family took over the ownership until the early 1880s.

M.E. Ingalls, a prominent lawyer from Cincinnati, Ohio came to the area in 1881, while doing research for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company who was looking to extend their lines. After seven years, Ingalls, J.P. Morgan and other investors came to an agreement to purchase The Homestead and to build a spur into the Hot Springs area. Within the first year of ownership, the investors raised over one million dollars to build a new hotel. On July 2, 1901, a fire which started in the pastry shop, burned the entire building. With the resort not being at full capacity, everyone escaped without any serious injury or loss of life. The staff was able to save the Spa, Casino, the cottages in Cottage Row and the Virginia Hotel which was immediately opened for the accommodation of the displaced guests.

The day after the fire, Ingalls, who was President of the resort, and the many investors met to discuss the resort’s future. With the smoke and embers still in the distance and insurance not available, they came to the conclusion to rebuild the resort. Within a year, the Great Hall was completed and the Homestead was back in business. Former guests of the resort returned to the grand hotel they loved. Within two years, the West Wing was added. In 1911, the Ingalls family acquired the resort. The East Wing was added in 1914, and M.E. Ingalls, Sr. passed away. In 1921, the Empire, Crystal, Garden rooms and Theatre were completed and in 1929, the tower was finished. The last major addition during the Ingalls family ownership was the Garden Wing in 1973.

From December 1941 until June 1942, following the United States entry into World War II, the Homestead served as a high-end internment camp for 785 Japanese diplomats and their families until they could be exchanged through neutral channels for their American counterparts. The diplomats were later transferred to the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia.

The Homestead features two golf courses. The Old Course started as a six-hole layout in 1892, and the first tee is the oldest in continuous use in the United States. It was expanded to 18 holes by 1901, and Donald Ross redesigned it in 1913. The Cascades Course is the most famous of the three, and is usually ranked among the top 100 U.S. courses by both Golf Digest and GOLF Magazine. It was designed by William S. Flynn (who was also a main architect for Shinnecock Hills), and opened in 1923. Famed PGA Tour champion Sam Snead lived in or near Hot Springs all of his life, and served for decades as the Homestead’s golf pro. One of the Homestead’s restaurants, Sam Snead’s Tavern, contains many memorabilia related to his career.

The Homestead offers a host of outdoor activities including skiing and snowboarding, horseback riding, carriage rides, shooting, tennis, swimming, fly fishing, falconry, and mountain biking.

The ski area at The Homestead was opened in 1959. It is the oldest ski resort in Virginia, and the second-oldest continuously operating alpine ski resort in the Southern United States. The resort’s northwest-facing slope is serviced by five lifts, including a double chairlift which accesses the intermediate and advanced terrain at the top of the hill, and four surface lifts which serve the beginner terrain at the bottom. The resort offers a half-pipe and a terrain park for skiers and snowboarders, and a variety of other winter activities including snow tubing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, and snowmobile tours.

In 1993, Club Resorts, a part of ClubCorp, acquired The Homestead and began a total restoration. In 2001, The Homestead unveiled a new Grand Ballroom and outdoor pool, along with state-of-the-art snowmaking for the ski area and a new Shooting Club House and Pavilion. In 2008, The Homestead built a 30′ x 20′ foot ice skating rink on the north slope of the property, next to the outdoor restaurant and gift shop.

In 2006, KSL Resorts acquired management of The Homestead and sold it to Omni Hotels in 2013.

The Omni Homestead Resort has been designated a National Historic Landmark and is a member of Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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.183

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. 260: Hotel History: Terminal City, The Postum Building, NY

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 260: Hotel History: Terminal City, The Roosevelt Hotel and The Postum Building, New York

Stanley Turkel | January 25, 2022

By Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: Terminal City (1911)

Terminal City originated as an idea during the reconstruction of Grand Central Terminal from the old Grand Central Station from 1903 to 1913. The railroad owner, the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, wished to increase capacity of the station’s train shed and rail yards, and so it devised a plan to bury the tracks and platforms and create two levels to its new train shed, more than doubling the station’s capacity. At the same time, chief engineer William J. Wilgus was the first to realize the potential of selling air rights, the right to build atop the now-underground train shed, for real-estate development. Grand Central’s construction thus produced several blocks of prime real estate in Manhattan, stretching from 42nd to 51st Streets between Madison and Lexington Avenues. The Realty and Terminal Company typically profited from the air rights in one of two ways: constructing the structures and renting them out, or selling the air rights to private developers who would construct their own buildings.

William Wilgus saw these air rights as a means of funding the terminal’s construction. Architects Reed & Stem originally proposed a new Metropolitan Opera House, a Madison Square Garden, and a National Academy of Design building. Ultimately, the railroad decided to develop the area into a commercial office district.

Planning for the development began long before the terminal was completed. In 1903, the New York Central Railroad created a derivative, the New York State Realty and Terminal Company, to oversee construction above Grand Central’s rail yards. The New Haven Railroad joined the venture later on. The blocks on the north side of the terminal were later dubbed “Terminal City” or the “Grand Central Zone”.

By 1906, news of the plans for Grand Central was already boosting the values of nearby properties. In conjunction with this project, the segment of Park Avenue above Grand Central’s rail yards received a landscaped median and attracted some of the most expensive apartment hotels. By the time the terminal opened in 1913, the blocks surrounding it were each valued at $2 million to $3 million. Terminal City soon became Manhattan’s most desirable commercial and office district. From 1904 to 1926, land values along Park Avenue doubled, and in the Terminal City area increased 244%. A 1920 New York Times article said that the “development of the Grand Central property has in many respects surpassed original expectations. With its hotels, office buildings, apartments and underground streets it not only is a wonderful railroad terminal, but also a great civic centre.”

The district came to include office buildings such as the Grand Central Palace, Chrysler Building, Chanin Building, Bowery Savings Bank Building, and Pershing Square Building; luxury apartment houses along Park Avenue; an array of high-end hotels that included the Commodore, Biltmore, Roosevelt, Marguery, Chatham, Barclay, Park Lane, Waldorf Astoria and the Yale Club of New York.

These structures were designed in the neoclassical style, complementing the terminal’s architecture. Although Architects Warren and Wetmore designed most of these buildings, it also monitored other architects’ plans (such as those of James Gamble Rogers, who designed the Yale Club) to ensure that the style of the new buildings was compatible with that of Terminal City. In general, the site plan of Terminal City was derived from the City Beautiful movement, which encouraged aesthetic harmony between adjacent buildings. The consistency of the architectural styles, as well as the vast funding provided by investment bankers, contributed to Terminal City’s success.

The Graybar Building, completed in 1927, was one of the last projects of Terminal City. The building incorporates many of Grand Central’s train platforms, as well as the Graybar Passage, a hallway with vendors and train gates stretching from the terminal to Lexington Avenue. In 1929, New York Central built its headquarters in a 34-story building, later renamed the Helmsley Building, which straddled Park Avenue north of the terminal. Development slowed drastically during the Great Depression, and part of Terminal City was gradually demolished or reconstructed with steel-and-glass designs after World War II.

The City Club of New York, (where I served as Chairman of the Board from 1979 to 1990) recently sent a letter to the N.Y. Landmarks Preservation Commission urging Landmarks protection for the Hotel Roosevelt (George B. Post and Son 1924) and the Postum Building (Cross & Cross 1923).

The Roosevelt Hotel is a historic hotel located at 45 East 45th Street (between Madison Avenue and Vanderbilt Avenue) in Midtown Manhattan. Named in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, the Roosevelt opened on September 22, 1924. It closed permanently on December 18, 2020.

There are a total of 1,025 rooms in the hotel, including 52 suites. The 3,900-square-foot Presidential Suite has four bedrooms, a kitchen, formal living and dining areas, and a wrap-around terrace. The rooms are traditionally decorated, with mahogany wood furniture and light-colored bed coverings.

There were several restaurants within the hotel, including:

  • “The Roosevelt Grill”, serving American food and regional specialties for breakfast.
  • The “Madison Club Lounge”, a bar and lounge with a 30-foot mahogany bar, stained glass windows, and a pair of fireplaces.
  • The “Vander Bar”, a bistro with modern décor, serving craft beers

The Roosevelt has 30,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space, including two ballrooms and 17 additional meeting rooms ranging in size from 300 to 1,100 square feet.

The Roosevelt Hotel was built by Niagara Falls businessman Frank A. Dudley and operated by the United Hotels Company. The hotel was designed by the firm of George B. Post & Son, and leased from The New York State Realty and Terminal Company, a division of the New York Central Railroad. The hotel, built at a cost of $12,000,000 (equivalent to $181,212,000 in 2020), was the first to incorporate store fronts instead of bars in its sidewalk facades, as the latter had been prohibited due to Prohibition. The Roosevelt Hotel was at one time linked with Grand Central Terminal via an underground passage that connected the hotel to the train terminal. The passageway now terminates just across the street from the hotel’s East 45th Street entrance. The Roosevelt housed the first guest pet facility and child care service in The Teddy Bear Room and had the first in-house doctor.

Hilton

Conrad Hilton purchased the Roosevelt in 1943, calling it “a fine hotel with grand spaces” and making the Roosevelt’s Presidential Suite his home. In 1947, the Roosevelt became the first hotel to have a television set in every room.

Hilton Hotels purchased the Statler Hotels chain in 1954. As a result, they owned multiple large hotels in many major cities, as in New York, where they owned the Roosevelt, The Plaza, The Waldorf-Astoria, the New Yorker Hotel and the Hotel Statler. Soon after, the federal government filed an antitrust action against Hilton. To resolve the suit, Hilton agreed to sell a number of their hotels, including the Roosevelt Hotel, which was sold to the Hotel Corporation of America on February 29, 1956 for $2,130,000.

Pakistan International Airlines

By 1978, the hotel was owned by the struggling Penn Central, which put it up for sale, along with two other nearby hotels, The Biltmore and The Barclay. The three hotels were sold to the Loews Corporation for $55 million. Loews immediately resold the Roosevelt to developer Paul Milstein for $30 million.

In 1979, Milstein leased the hotel to the Pakistan International Airlines with an option to purchase the building after 20 years at a set price of $36.5 million. Prince Faisal bin Khalid Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia was one of the investors in the 1979 deal. The hotel lost its operators $70 million over the following years, due to its outdated facilities.

In 2005, PIA bought out its Saudi partner in a deal that included the prince’s share in the Hôtel Scribe in Paris, in exchange for $40 million and PIA’s share of the Riyadh Minhal Hotel (a Holiday Inn located on property owned by the prince). In July 2007, PIA announced that it was putting the hotel up for sale. The increasing profitability of the hotel, at the same time as the airline itself started to incur massive losses, resulted in the sale being abandoned. In 2011, The Roosevelt once again underwent extensive renovations, but remained open during the process.

In October 2020, it was announced the hotel would permanently close due to continued financial losses associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The final day of operation was December 18, 2020.

Guy Lombardo began leading the house band of the Roosevelt Grill in 1929; it was here that Lombardo also began holding an annual New Year’s Eve radio broadcast with his band, The Royal Canadians.

Lawrence Welk began his career at the Roosevelt Hotel in the summers when Lombardo took his music to Long Island. Music was piped live into each room via radio. Hugo Gernsback (of Hugo Award fame) started WRNY from a room on the 18th floor of the Roosevelt Hotel broadcasting live via a 125-foot tower on the roof.

From 1943 to 1955 the Roosevelt Hotel served as the New York City office and residence of Governor Thomas E. Dewey. Dewey’s primary residence was his farm in Pawling, in upstate New York, but he used Suite 1527 in the Roosevelt to conduct most of his official business in the city. In the 1948 presidential election, which Dewey lost to incumbent President Harry S. Truman in a major upset, Dewey, his family, and staff listened to the election returns in Suite 1527 of the Roosevelt.

Terminal City, the Roosevelt Hotel and the Postum Building are the heart of New York. They should be given Landmarks designation and protection as soon as possible since the Roosevelt Hotel is closed and the owners of the Postum building have hired an architect to “explore options”.

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.147

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. 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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RELATED NEWS:

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

Categories

Instagram

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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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RELATED NEWS:

Nobody 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. 238: Hotel History: The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco

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.

Categories

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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
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  • 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.

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RELATED NEWS:

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