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

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

Stanley Turkel | September 14, 2021

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: St. Regis Hotel (550 rooms)

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

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

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

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

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

The St. Regis Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-seven years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 42 hotel-related cases. My extensive hotel operating experience is beneficial in cases involving:

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

Feel free to call me at no charge on 917-628-8549 to discuss any hotel-related expert witness assignment.79

ABOUT STANLEY TURKEL

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

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

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

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

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

By Stanley Turkel, CMHS| August 26, 2021

Hotel History: Hotel Pennsylvania (1704 rooms)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notable events at the Hotel Pennsylvania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In film

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

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

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

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

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

Architect Richard Cameron, as reported by AMNY.com

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

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

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

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-seven years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 42 hotel-related cases. My extensive hotel operating experience is beneficial in cases involving:

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

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

ABOUT STANLEY TURKEL

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2020 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He had previously been so designated in 2015 and 2014.
This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of historic hotels and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion of greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

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

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

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

Stanley Turkel | August 03, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-seven years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 42 hotel-related cases. My extensive hotel operating experience is beneficial in cases involving:

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

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

ABOUT STANLEY TURKEL

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

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

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

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RELATED NEWS:

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

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

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

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

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 247: Hotel History: Driskill Hotel, Austin, Texas

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 246: Hotel History: Hotel McAlpin, New York, N.Y. (1912)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 245: Boone Tavern Hotel, Berea, Kentucky (1855)

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 244: Hotel History: Wormley Hotel

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 243: Hotel History: Hotel Roanoke, Virginia

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 242: Hotel History: Fisher Island, Miami, Florida

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 236: Hotel History: The Hermitage Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS | July 14, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.    Cabins, Courts and Cottages    

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

2.    Inns       

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

4.    The Great Resorts      

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

5.    City Hotels  

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

6.    Grand Hotels

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

7.    Florida, Land of Sunshine     

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

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

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

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

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-seven years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 42 hotel-related cases. My extensive hotel operating experience is beneficial in cases involving:

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

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

ABOUT STANLEY TURKEL

image.png

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. 250: Hotel History: Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, New York

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

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

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

Stanley Turkel | June 22, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-seven years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 42 hotel-related cases. My extensive hotel operating experience is beneficial in cases involving:

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

Feel free to call me at no charge on 917-628-8549 to discuss any hotel-related expert witness assignment.79

ABOUT STANLEY TURKEL

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

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

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

Categories

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RELATED NEWS:

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

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

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 249: Hotel History: Ocean House at Watch Hillimage.png | June 01, 2021

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: Ocean House at Watch Hill (49 rooms)

Ocean House is a large, Victorian-style waterfront hotel originally constructed in 1868 on Bluff Avenue in the Watch Hill historic district of Westerly, Rhode Island.

The original 1868 hotel closed in 2003; it was demolished in 2005 and a new facility opened in 2010 on the same site which retained much of the original structure’s form and appearance, as well as the original name. Both the original and its reconstruction are noted for their rambling Victorian architecture and distinctive yellow siding.

The original Ocean House was the last waterfront Victorian-era hotel on mainland Rhode Island.

The Ocean House was originally built in 1868. It was smaller than the other hotels located in Watch Hill, but it expanded with numerous additions over the years. The original Ocean House was a central structure in the Watch Hill Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In March, 2004, Girouard Associates of New Canaan, Connecticut purchased the facility from heirs of the Louis D. Miller family, which had owned the hotel since 1938. Girouard Associates intended to raze Ocean House and build five large oceanfront homes, but a protest ensued. A new buyer was ultimately found, and while the spirit of the original building was preserved, the actual building was not.

Factors related to the closing of the original Ocean House included its lack of modern amenities, its dilapidated condition, and its non-compliance with current building codes. The original Ocean House operated seasonally, open roughly three months a year, and the building lacked a heating, air conditioning, and ventilation system. In the last years of its operation, the top two floors were unused and only 59 rooms were serviceable out of its original 159. The aging facility lacked requisite amenities, service functions, egress requirements, handicapped accessibility requirements, and parking to meet modern codes. A newspaper article described its final condition: “Grand staircases lead nowhere. Rainwater seeps through the walls and runs down wired-in-place gutters. The oak elevator is broken.”

The 138-year-old building was non-compliant with current building and life safety codes. Its timber structure had been compromised by indiscriminate installation of electric, gas, and plumbing utilities, as well as a subsequent reconfiguration of rooms to include private bathrooms. Rhode Island’s fire codes were revised and more rigorously enforced after the 2003 Station nightclub fire, rendering the deficiencies insurmountable at Ocean House. Compliance with current life-safety standards, including those for hurricane-rated windows with new frames, a new concrete foundation with steel tie-downs throughout, stripping off all interior and exterior lead paint, and removal of interior mold requiring demolition of interior finishes.

In 2004, the Ocean House was not permitted to open because of code deficiencies; the original hotel ceased operations in 2003 and was sold. The community learned in March 2004 that a developer from out of town planned to raze Ocean House and build five homes in its place, so organizers began a campaign to save the building and preserve the site’s public oceanfront access and beach. These organizers included representatives from Preserve Rhode Island, Rhode Island Historical Preservation, and Heritage Commission, as well as the National Trust. Another buyer was found who deemed it economically and physically unfeasible to make the building functional and code compliant, but he promised to rebuild it from the ground up. The original building was demolished and a new facility constructed on-site.

Project architects met resistance with the demolition of Ocean House, but they successfully argued for reconstruction. They suggested a building modeled after the original Ocean House as it was its zenith, around 1908. This would permit a 49-room hotel appropriate in scale to its adjacent streets, while expanding toward the beach where 23 condominiums could be accommodated. It also would enable it to have the amenities and service functions that could make the project functionally and economically feasible.

The original Ocean House structure was demolished in December 2005 and the subsequent facility opened in 2010.

The new design is 50,000 square feet larger than the original at 156,000 square feet. It reconstructs much of the original massing and restores certain original details that have been removed during the ongoing operation of the facility, such as the original mansard roof and lobby fireplace. It also incorporates new elements, including subterranean facilities and two new wings extending from the main building, which also shield neighboring residential areas from hotel activities.

The original facility was documented and overall dimensions and heights were preserved, including the size and location of windows. Actual pieces of the original building were salvaged and the design replicates columns, capitals, and woodwork. Materials within human reach are wood while detailing which is out of reach is made of synthetic materials that are more easy to maintain.

The new facility features 49 guest rooms and 23 residential condominium suites as well as meeting rooms, spa, lap, pool, fitness center, and restaurants. The design also accommodates service functions requisite to a modern facility: up-to-date kitchens, loading docks, mechanical rooms, fire egress requirements (e.g. redundant stairs), and staff facilities.

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

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

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

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-seven years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 42 hotel-related cases. My extensive hotel operating experience is beneficial in cases involving:

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

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

ABOUT STANLEY TURKELimage.png

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

• Industry Happenings (25,760) • Latest news (6,661)
• Technology (5,078)
• Operations (3,831)

• All Things Independent (3,728) • Market Reports (1,812)
• Development (1,573)
• Finance (1,207)

• Smart Strategies (1,144)
• Appointments/People on the Move (1,083)

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Follow on Instagram

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RELATED NEWS:

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 248: Hotel Theresa, New York, N.Y. (1913)
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 247: Hotel History: Driskill Hotel, Austin, Texas
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 246: Hotel History: Hotel McAlpin, New York, N.Y. (1912) Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 245: Boone Tavern Hotel, Berea, Kentucky (1855)
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 244: Hotel History: Wormley Hotel
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 243: Hotel History: Hotel Roanoke, Virginia
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 242: Hotel History: Fisher Island, Miami, Florida
Stanley Turkel Named the Recipient of the 2020 Historic Hotels of America Historian of the Year Award
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 241: Hotel History: Menger Hotel
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 240 Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City, Canada (1893) Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 239: Hotel History: The Algonquin Hotel, NY (1902)
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 238: Hotel History: The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 237: Hotel History: Hotel Allegro, Chicago, Illinois
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 236: Hotel History: The Hermitage Hotel
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 235: Hotel History: Cavallo Point, The Lodge at the Golden Gate (1901)
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 234: Curt R. Strand, President, Hilton International
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 233: Hotel History: The Adolphus Hotel
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 232: Hotel History: Union Station Hotel
Nobody Asked Me But… No. 231: Brown Palace Hotel, Denver, Colorado
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 230: Hotel History: Four Seasons Hotel

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

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

Stanley Turkel | May 11, 2021

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: Hotel Theresa, “The Waldorf of Harlem” (300 rooms)

On September 18, 1960, four months before the United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, Fidel Castro arrived in New York City for the 15th session of the United Nations General Assembly. He and his staff first checked into the Shelburne Hotel at Lexington Avenue and 37th Street. When the Shelburne demanded $10,000 for alleged damage that included cooking chickens in their rooms, the Castro entourage moved to the Hotel Theresa in Harlem. Castro’s group rented eighty rooms for a total of $800 per day. The Theresa was the beneficiary of worldwide publicity when Nikita Khrushchev, the premier of the Soviet Union, General Abdul Nasser, president of Egypt, Jawaharlal Nehru, the prime minister of India, and Malcom X, all visited Castro there.

In the longest speech ever delivered at the United Nations, Castro transitioned seamlessly from his hotel experience to the discrimination faced by North American blacks to the broader evils of “imperialist financial capital” and the “colonial yoke”.

At the end of 1960, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy made a campaign stop at the Hotel Theresa with Jacqueline Kennedy, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Senator Herbert Lehman, Governor Averill Harriman, Mayor Robert Wagner and Eleanor Roosevelt. “I am delighted to come and visit,” said Kennedy. “Behind the fact of Castro coming to this hotel, Khrushchev coming to visit Castro, there is another great traveler in the world, and that is the travel of a world revolution, a world in turmoil. I am delighted to come to Harlem and I think the whole world should come here and the whole world should recognize that we all live right next to each other, whether here in Harlem or on the other side of globe.”

The Hotel Theresa opened in 1913 on 125th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem and closed its doors as a hotel in 1970. It was built by German-born stockbroker Gustavus Sidenberg and named for his recently-deceased wife. Coincidentally, Sidenberg’s second wife was also named Theresa. Architects George and Edward  Blum were trained at the famous Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and they designed a full-blockfront all-white apartment hotel, 13 stories high with 300 guestrooms. Like its façade, the newly-opened Hotel Theresa had an all-white clientele and staff for its first twenty-eight years.  In 1940, reflecting the changing population of Harlem, the hotel was acquired by Love B. Woods, an African American businessman who accepted all races, hired a black staff and management. The Hotel Theresa was integrated when most mid-Manhattan hotels wouldn’t accept Blacks. They could perform at the clubs, hotels and theaters in mid-Manhattan but couldn’t sleep in the hotel rooms or eat in their restaurants. Black America’s most famous stars: Josephine Baker, Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong, Dorothy Dandridge, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Lena Horne and Count Basie had to go to Harlem for a night’s sleep. For many blacks the existence of the Hotel Theresa’s luxurious rooms, bars and swank shops was regarded as a sign that they had finally arrived, at least in Harlem. The hotel became known as the “Waldorf of Harlem.”

Seventh Avenue and 125th Street was called the Great Black Way. The neighborhood contained the Salem Methodist Church; the studio of James Van Der Zee, Harlem’s most famous photographer; the African Memorial National Bookstore; the mafia-owned Diamond Jewelry Store; the M. Smith Photo Studio; the Apollo Theater; Blumstein’s Department Store; Frank’s Restaurant; Harlem Opera House; Oscar Hammerstein’s Play House; Hartz and Seamon’s Music Hall; the Cotton Club; Mike’s Place; Savoy Ballroom; Nest Club; Smalls Paradise and The Club Baron.

In 1940, the following announcement appeared in the New York Age:

Harlem Hotel Seeks Negro Trade; Picks Manager: The Hotel Theresa at Seventh Avenue and 125th Street, which catered to white patronage for several years, has changed its policy as of March 20 and will cater to both races, under Negro management with a Negro staff, according to an announcement by Richard Thomas, publicity manager of the hotel. In carrying out its new policy for the accommodation of Negroes and whites, the Gresham Management Company, operators of the Theresa, appointed Walter Scott as the hotel’s manager. Extensive renovations and improvements of the service and facilities of the hotel have been undertaken. A staff of 80 persons has been employed.

The African American General Manager Walter Scott had been the business manager at the Harlem YMCA on 135th Street. A graduate of New York University and a World War I veteran, Scott had worked as a bellhop and waiter on the Hudson River Dayline boats. Early in April 1940, Scott and his wife Gertrude and their sixteen year-old daughter, Gladys moved into a six-room suite on the tenth floor.

In 1941, heavyweight champion Joe Louis attracted 10,000 fans when he stayed at the Hotel Theresa after a victory at the Polo Grounds. Soon thereafter, entrepreneur John H. Johnson was a guest at the Theresa when he started a new pocket-size magazine called Negro Digest and, in 1945, Ebony which was followed by Jet in 1951. After splitting with the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X rented offices at the hotel for his Organization of Afro-American Unity.

In 1948, when GM Walter Scott resigned because of illness, Gresham Management hired William Harmon Brown as resident manager. Brown graduated from Howard University where he had earned a National Youth Administration scholarship, funded by a New Deal program. President Bill Clinton’s commerce secretary Ron Brown, the manager’s son, grew up in the hotel. U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel (D. New York) once worked there as a desk clerk. Earlier in 2016 Congressman Rangel retired after serving in the U.S. Congress from 1971-2016.

In 1971, the hotel was converted to an office building with the name Theresa Towers and was declared a landmark in 1993 by New York’s Landmark Preservation Commission.

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

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

Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2009)

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

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-seven years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 42 hotel-related cases. My extensive hotel operating experience is beneficial in cases involving:

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

Feel free to call me at no charge on 917-628-8549 to discuss any hotel-related expert witness assignment.83

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 history 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.

stanturkel@aol.com/917-628-8549

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RELATED NEWS:

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 247: Hotel History: Driskill Hotel, Austin, TexasNobody Asked Me, But… No. 246: Hotel History: Hotel McAlpin, New York, N.Y. (1912)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 245: Boone Tavern Hotel, Berea, Kentucky (1855)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 244: Hotel History: Wormley HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 243: Hotel History: Hotel Roanoke, VirginiaNobody Asked Me, But… No. 242: Hotel History: Fisher Island, Miami, FloridaStanley Turkel Named the Recipient of the 2020 Historic Hotels of America Historian of the Year AwardNobody Asked Me, But… No. 241: Hotel History: Menger HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 240 Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City, Canada (1893)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 239: Hotel History: The Algonquin Hotel, NY (1902)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 238: Hotel History: The Fairmont Hotel in San FranciscoNobody Asked Me, But… No. 237: Hotel History: Hotel Allegro, Chicago, IllinoisNobody Asked Me, But… No. 236: Hotel History: The Hermitage HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 235: Hotel History: Cavallo Point, The Lodge at the Golden Gate (1901)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 234: Curt R. Strand, President, Hilton InternationalNobody Asked Me, But… No. 233: Hotel History: The Adolphus HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 232: Hotel History: Union Station HotelNobody Asked Me But… No. 231: Brown Palace Hotel, Denver, ColoradoNobody Asked Me, But… No. 230: Hotel History: Four Seasons Hotel

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 247: Hotel History: Driskill Hotel, Austin, Texas

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 247: Hotel History: Driskill Hotel, Austin, Texas

Stanley Turkel | April 20, 2021

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by Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: Driskill Hotel (188 rooms)

The Driskill, a Romanesque-style building completed in 1886, is the oldest operating hotel in Austin, Texas, and one of the best-known hotels in Texas. The Driskill was conceived and built by Col. Jesse Driskill, a cattleman who spent his fortune constructing “the finest hotel south of St. Louis”. Flush with cash from his service to the Confederate Army to which he supplied beef throughout the Civil War. In 1884, Driscoll purchased land in downtown Austin for $7500 and announced plans for a new hotel. Today, the Driskill remains one of the premier hotels in Austin, featuring lavish bridal suites, two restaurants, and a grand ballroom.

Cattle baron Jesse Driskill opened the hotel in 1886 in what was then a frontier town. He lost it two years later when his fortune went kaput after his herd died during a severe drought and a freeze.

The Driskill is composed of two interconnected buildings; the original four-story Romanesque Revival building constructed in 1886, and a 13-story annex constructed in 1930.

The original building, designed by local Austin architect Jasper N. Preston, was constructed with over six million pressed bricks and white limestone accents. The building contains two porticos on the southern and eastern facades, which contain large Richardsonian-style arches that were reputed to be the largest in Texas. The façade contains three limestone busts of Driskill and his sons; J.W. “Bud” Driskill facing Brazos Street, A. W. “Tobe” Driskill facing an alley on the west side, and Jesse Driskill facing Sixth Street, whose bust is surrounded by decorative carvings including longhorns on the gable ends.

The hotel opened with 60 rooms including 12 corner rooms with attached baths, a rare feature in hotels of the region at the time. At the center of the hotel was a four-story open rotunda capped by a domed skylight, which functioned as a flue to suck up the hot air and cool the building; the skylight was removed when air conditioning was installed on the roof in 1950. The building was designed for separate entrances for men and women. Two entrances, one on Sixth Street and another facing the alleyway on the west side the building, were reserved for men and were flanked by a saloon, billiard room cigar shop, a newsstand and a barbershop featuring baths. The women’s entrance on Brazos Street allowed female guests to proceed directly to their rooms, thereby avoiding the cigar smoke and rough talk of the cattlemen in the lobby. The second floor contained the main dining room and ballroom, separate parlors for men and women, a children’s dining room, and bridal suites. Other embellishments included an electric bell system, marble bureaus, steam heating, and gas lighting.

The 13-story annex, designed by the El Paso architecture firm Trost & Trost, opened in 1930. The 180-room annex contains a bungalow penthouse that is only accessible from the building’s roof. The bungalow contains two bedrooms with private baths, a living room, and a full kitchen. The bungalow was originally used as a private residence by superintendents of the Southern Pacific Railroad, but was later rented to high-profile guests including Jack Dempsey, Bob Hope, and President Lyndon Johnson. In 1979, the hotel manager restored the bungalow to use as his private residence.

In 1934, a young Texas congressional aide named Lyndon B. Johnson met Claudia Alta Taylor for their first date: a breakfast at the Driskill Dining Room. He was so enamored that he proposed marriage that very day. He and Lady Bird continued to have a strong relationship with the hotel, even watching election returns for his vice presidential and presidential campaigns. And today guests can stay in a room named after him.

The hotel held a grand opening on December 20, 1886, and was featured in a special edition of the Austin Daily Statesman. On January 1, 1887, Governor Sul Ross held his inaugural ball in its ballroom, beginning a tradition for every Texas governor since. In May 1887, less than a year after it opened, Driskill was forced to close the hotel, as he could no longer afford to operate the hotel following a harsh winter and drought that killed his cattle inventory. In addition, S.E. McIlhenny, the hotel’s general manager, and half of the staff were hired by the Beach Hotel in Galveston, which expedited the closure. Driskill sold the hotel in 1888 to his brother-in-law, Jim “Doc” Day, who reopened the hotel late in 1888.

Austin magnate George Littlefield, responsible for other Austin landmark’s opened the Austin National Bank on the southeast corner of the building; the old bank vault still remains. Littlefield later purchased the hotel for $106,000 in 1895 and vowed that it would never close again. Littlefield invested over $60,000 in renovations, including ceiling frescoes, electric lighting, steam heating, and 28 additional lavatories, but still sold the hotel at a loss of $25,000 in 1903 to banking competitor, Wilmot. Wilmot added a barbershop and women’s spa featuring Turkish baths, oversaw the construction of the annex, and adorned the former smoking room with eight antique Austrian gold leaf-framed mirrors previously owned by Maximilian and Carlota of Mexico.

In 1950, the hotel embarked on a renovation, which closed off the Sixth Street entrance and removed the rotunda’s skylight to make way for air conditioning units on the roof. In 1952, the former Austin National Bank was transformed into a television studio for KTBC, the very first television station in Central Texas.

In 1969, the Driskill closed its guest rooms in anticipation of a renovation and new tower containing a modern glass façade, which never materialized. Most of its furnishings were sold, and an American-Statesman article declared, “Driskill Hotel’s Fate ‘Sealed’.” The hotel was saved from the wrecking ball at almost the last minute, however, when a nonprofit organization called the Driskill Hotel Corporation raised $900,000.

In 1908, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas met at the Driskill hotel to discuss the fate of the Alamo Mission in San Antonio. At the meeting, a divide between two factions of the group erupted over whether to demolish or preserve the structure.

Braniff International Hotels, Inc., a division of Braniff Airways, Inc., of Dallas, Texas, bought the hotel in 1972 and began a $350,000 restoration of the grand lobby of the historic facility. Braniff reopened the hotel to customers on January 15, 1973, to very strong bookings and conference business. Braniff threw an official grand reopening celebration on February 10, 1973. Over 1000 guests attended the gala event that included a parade of every Texas Governor and/or their descendants, since 1886. All proceeds from the event went to the Austin Heritage Society, who was strategically instrumental in the resurrection of the Hotel Driskill.

In 1995, The Driskill was purchased by Great American Life Insurance, who embarked on a $30 million renovation to restore the hotel to its original appearance, which had been heavily modified over the years. The hotel closed for four years for renovation work and was re-opened in a Millennium celebration on December 31, 1999.

In 2013, The Driskill was purchased by Hyatt Hotels Corporation for $85 million, who embarked on an $8 million renovation of the hotel which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 25, 1969.

My New Book “Great American Hotel Architects Volume 2” has just been published.

All of the 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.164

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 history 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.

stanturkel@aol.com/917-628-8549

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RELATED NEWS:

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 246: Hotel History: Hotel McAlpin, New York, N.Y. (1912)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 245: Boone Tavern Hotel, Berea, Kentucky (1855)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 244: Hotel History: Wormley HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 243: Hotel History: Hotel Roanoke, VirginiaNobody Asked Me, But… No. 242: Hotel History: Fisher Island, Miami, FloridaStanley Turkel Named the Recipient of the 2020 Historic Hotels of America Historian of the Year AwardNobody Asked Me, But… No. 241: Hotel History: Menger HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 240 Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City, Canada (1893)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 239: Hotel History: The Algonquin Hotel, NY (1902)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 238: Hotel History: The Fairmont Hotel in San FranciscoNobody Asked Me, But… No. 237: Hotel History: Hotel Allegro, Chicago, IllinoisNobody Asked Me, But… No. 236: Hotel History: The Hermitage HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 235: Hotel History: Cavallo Point, The Lodge at the Golden Gate (1901)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 234: Curt R. Strand, President, Hilton InternationalNobody Asked Me, But… No. 233: Hotel History: The Adolphus HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 232: Hotel History: Union Station HotelNobody Asked Me But… No. 231: Brown Palace Hotel, Denver, ColoradoNobody Asked Me, But… No. 230: Hotel History: Four Seasons Hotel

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 246: Hotel History: Hotel McAlpin, New York, N.Y.

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 246: Hotel History: Hotel McAlpin, New York, N.Y. (1912)

Stanley Turkel | March 30, 2021

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: Hotel McAlpin (1,500 rooms)

The Hotel McAlpin was constructed in 1912 by General Edwin A. McAlpin, son of David Hunter McAlpin. As well as being the world’s largest hotel, it was also one of the most luxurious. The amenities were as breathtaking as they were opulent including a massive Turkish bath and plunge pool on the 24th floor. The hotel also had its own in-house orchestra, as well as its own fully-equipped hospital.

When construction of the Hotel McAlpin neared completion by the end of 1912 as the largest hotel in the world, The New York Times commented that it was so tall at twenty-five stories that it “seems isolated from other buildings.” Boasting a staff of 1,500, the hotel could accommodate 2,500 guests. It was built at a cost of $13.5 million ($358 million today). The hotel was designed by noted architect Frank Mills Andrews whose design included two gender-specific floors: women checking into the hotel could reserve a room on the women’s-only floor, bypass the lobby and check in directly on their own floor. Another floor, dubbed the “sleepy sixteenth”, was designed for night workers which was kept quiet during the day. The hotel also had its own travel agency.

The McAlpin underwent an expansion half a decade later. The owners had purchased an additional fifty feet of frontage on Thirty-Fourth Street two years early. The new addition was the same height as the original twenty-five story building, and provided an additional two hundred rooms, four more elevators, and a large ballroom. A major refurbishment costing $2.1 million was completed in 1928 refreshing all the rooms, installing modern bathrooms and updating the elevators.

The McAlpin family sold the hotel in 1938 to Jamlee Hotels, headed by Joseph Levy, president of Crawford Clothes, a prominent real estate investor in New York for $5,400,000. Jamlee reportedly invested an additional $1,760,000 in renovations. During the Jamlee ownership, the hotel was managed by the Knott Hotel Company until 1952 when management was taken over by the Tisch Hotel Company. On October 15, 1954, Jamlee sold the hotel to the Sheraton Hotel Corporation for $9,000,000 and it was renamed the Sheraton-McAlpin. Sheraton completely renovated the hotel five years later and renamed it the Sheraton-Atlantic Hotel on October 8, 1959. Sheraton sold the hotel to the investing partnership of Sol Goldman and Alexander DiLorenzo on July 28, 1968 for $7.5 million and it reverted to the Hotel McAlpin name. Sheraton briefly reacquired the hotel in 1976, through a default by the buyers, and quickly sold it to developer William Zeckendorf, Jr. who converted the McAlpin to 700 rental apartments and named it the Herald Square Apartments.

On Christmas Eve 1916, Harry K. Thaw, former husband of Evelyn Nesbit and the murderer of architect Stanford White, attacked 19-year-old Fred Gump, Jr., in a large suite on the 18th Floor. Thaw had enticed Gump to New York with a promise of a job but instead sexually assaulted him and beat him repeatedly with a stocky whip until he was covered in blood. According to the New York Times, Thaw had rented two rooms on either side of his suite to muffle the screams. The next day, Thaw’s bodyguard took Gump to the aquarium and zoo before the boy managed to escape. Gump’s father sued Thaw for $650,000 for the “gross indignities” that his son suffered. The case was eventually settled out of court.

In 1920, The McAlpin Hotel hosted what may have been the first broadcast from a New York hotel. The Army Signal Corps arranged the broadcast by singer Luisa Tetrazzini from her room in the hotel. Tetrazzini (1871-1940) was an Italian lyric coloratura soprano who had an enormous popularity in America from the 1900s-1920s. In 1922, the McAlpin became one of the first hotels to link ship-to-shore radios with their phone system. The hotel would later be the first to give the call letters of radio station WMCA in 1925.

In 1947, Jackie Robinson, a resident living on the 11th floor, received the phone call from the Brooklyn Dodgers that would change America forever by becoming the first African American player on a Major League Baseball team.

The hotel’s Marine Grill was considered one of the more unusual interiors in the city of New York due to “an expansive grotto of exquisite polychrome terra cotta designed by artist Frederick Dana Marsh.” In the 1970s, the building owner had closed the restaurant and historic preservationists were concerned with the future of the artwork. Their worst fears were realized when Susan Tunick, president of the non-profit Friends of Terra Cotta, saw dumpsters outside the hotel filled with fragments from the murals. Rescue efforts were eventually successful when the murals were reassembled under the oversight of the MTA Arts for Transit Program and they were reassembled piece by piece like a giant jigsaw puzzle over one summer by a group of college interns. In 2000, the restored murals were installed at the Fulton Street Station, along with the ornate iron gate that had adorned the entrance to the Marine Grill.

In the late 1970s, the building was converted to 700 rental apartments and in 2001 to condominiums. It now operates under the name Herald Towers.

My New Book “Great American Hotel Architects Volume 2” has just been published.

All of the 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.86

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 history 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. 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)New Owners for Historic Maxwell Mansion Hotel in Lake Geneva, WisconsinNobody Asked Me, But… No. 238: Hotel History: The Fairmont Hotel in San FranciscoNobody Asked Me, But… No. 237: Hotel History: Hotel Allegro, Chicago, IllinoisNobody Asked Me, But… No. 236: Hotel History: The Hermitage HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 235: Hotel History: Cavallo Point, The Lodge at the Golden Gate (1901)Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 234: Curt R. Strand, President, Hilton InternationalNobody Asked Me, But… No. 233: Hotel History: The Adolphus HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 232: Hotel History: Union Station HotelNobody Asked Me But… No. 231: Brown Palace Hotel, Denver, ColoradoNobody Asked Me, But… No. 230: Hotel History: Four Seasons HotelNobody Asked Me, But… No. 239: Hotel History: Admiral Fell InnNobody Asked Me, But… No. 228: The Barbizon Hotel, New York

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 245: Boone Tavern Hotel, Berea, Kentucky

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 245: Boone Tavern Hotel, Berea, Kentucky (1855)

Stanley Turkel | March 09, 2021

by Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: Boone Tavern Hotel (63 rooms)

Built on the old Dixie Highway and named after Kentucky explorer Daniel Boone, the historic Boone Tavern Hotel is located on College Square in Berea, Kentucky. The hotel is owned by Berea College and operated with student workers from the College Labor Program. Students earn money for books, room and board but pay no tuition (valued at $25,500 per year), thanks to the generosity of donors who support Berea College’s mission of providing a free high quality education for students primarily from Appalachia who have high academic potential and limited financial resources.

Berea College was founded in 1855 by abolitionists John Gregg Fee and Cassius Marcellus Clay* as a liberal arts work college which charges no tuition. Berea was the first college in the southern United States to be coeducational and racially integrated. It has a full-participation work-study program where students are required to work at least 10 hours per week in campus and service jobs in over 130 departments.

In 1866, Berea’s first full year after the Civil War, it registered 187 students (96 African Americans and 91 whites) who took preparatory study classes to ready them for college-level courses. In 1869, the first college students were admitted and the first bachelor’s degrees were awarded in 1873.

The greatest heavyweight boxer of all time, Muhammed Ali was also born Cassius Marcellus Clay. His father Marcellus Clay, a sign painter named his son for the white Kentucky anti-slavery crusader. Cassius Marcellus Clay (1810-1903), a white abolitionist who was Kentucky’s greatest anti-slavery crusader and one of the founders of Berea College.

In 1904, the Kentucky state legislature’s passage of the “Day Law” disrupted Berea’s interracial education by prohibiting education of black and white students together. The college challenged the law in state court and further appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in Berea College v. Kentucky. When the college failed, the college had to become a segregated school, but it set aside funds to help establish the Lincoln Institute near Louisville to educate black students. In 1925, famed advertiser Bruce Barton, a future congressman, sent a letter to 24 wealthy men in America to raise funds for the college. Every single letter was returned with a minimum of $1,000 in donations. In 1950, when the law was amended to allow integration of schools at the college level, Berea promptly resumed its integrated policies.

Boone Tavern Hotel features 63 guestrooms furnished with hand-made early American furniture made by Berea students in the College woodcraft shop. The Boone Tavern Restaurant is so well known for its long-standing tradition of excellent food that in 2003 it received the Duncan Hines Excellence in Hospitality Award. The Tavern’s spoonbread, a corn meal-based concoction, is so beloved, that the city holds an annual Spoon bread Festival.

In order to support its extensive scholarship program, Berea College has one of the largest financial reserves of any American college when measured on a per-student basis. The endowment stands at $950 million, down from its 2007 height of $1.1 billion. The base of Berea College’s finances is dependent on substantial contributions from individuals, foundations, corporations that support the mission of the college and donations from alumni. A solid investment strategy increased the endowment from $150 million in 1985 to its current amount.

In 2010, the Boone Tavern Hotel was awarded LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council making it the first LEED certified hotel in Kentucky. The Boone Tavern Hotel is a member of the Historic Hotels of America and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Before the Civil War, Cassius Marcellus Clay wrote “For better or worse, the black people are among us… We must educate them, for one day they will be part of our governing society.”

My New Book “Great American Hotel Architects Volume 2” has just been published.

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

  • Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2009)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York (2011)
  • Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (2013)

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

If You Need an Expert Witness:

For the past twenty-seven years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 42 hotel-related cases. My extensive hotel operating experience is beneficial in cases involving:

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

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

ABOUT STANLEY TURKEL

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2020 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He had previously been so designated in 2015 and 2014.
This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of history 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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