7th Avenue entrance of Hotel Pennsylvania
|Owner||Vornado Realty Trust|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||McKim, Mead & White|
|Number of rooms||2200 at opening,
1700 in 2008
The Hotel Pennsylvania was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad and operated by Ellsworth Statler. It opened on January 25, 1919 and was designed by the firm of McKim, Mead & White, which also designed the original Pennsylvania Station located across the street. (The old Pennsylvania Station was razed in 1963 to make room for Madison Square Garden and the redeveloped below-ground station in use today.)
Statler Hotels, which had managed the Pennsylvania since its construction, acquired the property outright in 1948 and renamed it the Hotel Statler. Following the sale of all 17 Statler hotels to Conrad Hilton in 1954, the hotel became The Statler Hilton. It operated under this name until the early 1980s, when Hilton sold the hotel. It was renamed The New York Statler for a brief period and was operated by Dunfey hotels, a division of Aer Lingus. It was then purchased in 1984 by the Penta Hotels chain, a joint-venture of British Airways, Lufthansa and Swissair, becoming The New York Penta. In 1992 Penta went out of business and the hotel returned to its original name, Hotel Pennsylvania.
The threat of the Hotel Pennsylvania's demolition was first introduced in 1997 when Vornado Realty Trust bought the hotel. Vornado announced in 2007 that the hotel was to be demolished to make way for a new office building with Merrill Lynch as its anchor tenant. Owner Vornado Realty Trust intended to build a 2,500,000-square-foot (230,000 m2) building by 2011.
In 2007 the Save Hotel Pennsylvania Foundation was created.
Shortly after the announcement of Vornado's plans, the staff of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, a magazine which sponsors biennial HOPE hacker conventions at the hotel, began investigating possible ways to save the hotel from demolition. They were joined by the new Save the Hotel Pennsylvania Foundation, whose members included a number of city organizations and politicians to aid in the landmarking of the hotel, including The Historic District Council, Manhattan Community Board 5, and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried. In November 2007, Manhattan Community Board 5 voted 21-8 to have New York City Council landmark the historic hotel. However in February 2008 the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission denied the request for landmarking.
Preservation efforts have proven difficult. Emmanuel Goldstein of 2600 noted that while people overseas expressed concern over the fate of the hotel, "New Yorkers might not care enough to get involved. The hotel was old; the rooms weren’t as big and luxurious as other more modern facilities; and New Yorkers simply weren’t in a position to grasp the importance of such a place since they normally don’t need cheap and easily accessible hotels if they already live here."
The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission reviewed the hotel's Cafe Rouge for landmark status based on a request by the Save Hotel Pennsylvania Foundation, but on October 22, 2010 the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission declined to designate the cafe as a landmark.
On March 4, 2013 Vornado revealed they are abandoning plans to demolish the hotel and replace it with the office tower. The decision was followed by a statement by chairman Steve Roth: "We're not going to tear down the hotel. In fact, we're going to invest in it aggressively and try to make it into a really profitable, really good hotel for our purposes."
Other than Vornado confirming they will be renovating and improving the hotel, not much else is known. Preservationists as well as those in the Hotel Pennsylvania Preservation Society (formerly the Save Hotel Pennsylvania Foundation) would like to see the renovations develop into restorations, bringing the hotel back to its 1919 splendor.
The hotel has the distinction of having the New York phone number in longest continuous use. The number, PEnnsylvania 6-5000, (212-736-5000), is the inspiration for the Jerry Gray composition of the same name (with lyrics later added by Carl Sigman). The most popular version was performed by Glenn Miller with the Andrews Sisters' version not far behind. Many big band names played in the hotel's Main Dining Room, The Cafe Rouge, including the Dorsey Brothers, Woody Herman, Count Basie and Duke Ellington. One evening in November 1939 while in the midst of a steady long-term engagement at the Cafe Rouge, bandleader Artie Shaw left the bandstand between sets and decided he had enough of the band business and all the hype of having become a major celebrity in the year and a half leading up to that point; he and his band having been thrust into the position of being most popular big band in the country at that time. Shaw did not return to the bandstand and essentially quit his own band on the spot; the act getting such great notice in the press that even the New York Times felt obliged to offer an editorial upon the situation and did. From 1940-42 Glenn Miller's band also had repeated long-term steady bookings in the room during the three years of Miller's great popularity as a major bandleader of the Swing Era. The aforementioned Jerry Gray had been Shaw's principal orchestrator from 1937–39 and he 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 popular instrumental tune that immortalized the Hotel's telephone number. For the last several decades, when callers dial the hotel they heard the Glenn Miller recording until an operator answers. This bit of nostalgia was discontinued in 2012. Now operators answers all calls.
- 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.
- The Chef salad may have been created by Hotel Pennsylvania head chef Jacques Roser in the 1920s.
- On November 17, 1935 Herbert Hoover spoke before the Ohio Society of New York at the Hotel Pennsylvania
- In 1940, Glenn Miller and the Glenn Miller Orchestra began the first of several extended engagements at the Hotel Pennsylvania's Cafe Rouge, often broadcast live on NBC Radio. Recordings of several of these engagements were released by RCA Victor.
- In December 1942 Charlie Chaplin attended a dinner at The Hotel Pennsylvania in New York sponsored by Russian War Relief
- In 1944, Doris Day with Les Brown and his Band of Renown introduced the song "Sentimental Journey" at the Hotel Pennsylvania's Cafe Rouge.
- On November 28, 1953, U.S. Army biochemist Dr. Frank Olson, who also secretly worked for the CIA, crashed through a window of the hotel Pennsylvania, (then the Statler Hotel) and fell over 150 feet (46 m) to the sidewalk below where he died. The New York City Police Department, U.S. Army, and CIA, reported Olson’s death as a suicide. In 1975, documents released by an American Presidential-appointed commission revealed that, days before his death, the CIA had surreptitiously dosed Olson with LSD. Twenty-years later, further investigation into Olson’s death revealed that there was ample reason to believe that he had been murdered.
- On November 3. 1964, former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy addressed his supporters in the hotel (then the Statler Hilton), after capturing the seat of incumbent Kenneth Keating in the United States Senate.
- The first Star Trek convention was held at the hotel in January 1972.
- The character "Statler" of Statler and Waldorf was named after the hotel, when it was the Statler Hilton.
- The HOPE conferences were held at, and named after the Hotel Pennsylvania.
- 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.
- In 1997, The grand ballroom became NEP/Image TV Studios and is where the television shows such as Maury, Sally Jessy Raphael, 2 Minute Drill, and The People's Court have taped, and currently houses the production of the The Bill Cunningham Show.
- In 2009, old studios in the hotel were rebuilt and consolidated into a new 10,000-square-foot (930 m2) studio for the sitcom Sherri.
Contrary to common floor numbering practice, there is a 13th floor. The hotel states it has 22 floors from street level to the roof, plus three additional levels in the penthouse. The highest penthouse level is numbered as the 21st floor. The discrepancy in floor numbering is due to several mezzanine-type levels that carry names such as "lobby mezzanine" instead of floor numbers.
The Main Restaurant of Hotel Pennsylvania, The Cafe Rouge
View of the terrace in The Cafe Rouge
View of the east wall of The Cafe Rouge
View of the west wall of The Cafe Rouge
The fountain of The Cafe Rouge
Detail of The Cafe Rouge
- "World's Biggest Hotel Opens Today". The New York Times. January 25, 1919. p. 9. Retrieved April 14, 2010.
- "Merrill Lynch may relocate to Hotel Pennsylvania site"
- Colford, Paul D. (January 5, 2007). "Office tower dooms Hotel Pennsylvania". Daily News (New York). Archived from the original on January 8, 2007.
- Foster, Margaret (January 8, 2007). "Manhattan Hotel To Fall". Preservation Online. Archived from the original on January 20, 2007.
- 2600 News: Hotel Penn Threatened With Demolition - HOPE Conferences in Jeopardy
- Shott, Chris (February 22, 2008). "Landmarks Commission Snubs Hotel Pennsylvania Again". The New York Observer. Retrieved April 14, 2010.
- Shott, Chris (October 9, 2007). "The Lonely Fight For The Hotel Pennsylvania". The New York Observer. Retrieved October 3, 2009.
- 2600 News: Hotel Pennsylvania Faces Destruction - Again
- "LPC response letters for the Cafe Rouge".
- Gray, Christopher (May 12, 2011). "A Hotel With a Luxury: More Sidewalk Elbow Room - Streetscapes/Seventh Avenue". The New York Times.
- "Vornado considers renovating Hotel Pennsylvania instead of erecting massive skyscraper". The Real Deal.
- "Time-out seen in skyline war". The New York Post.
- "Long Live Hotel Pennsylvania". The Wall Street Journal.
- Thinking of Home: William Faulkner's Letters to His Mother and Father, 1918-1925
- "Hoover Presents a Plan to Replace the New Deal". The New York Times. November 17, 1935. p. 1. Retrieved October 3, 2009.
- allmusic: Glenn Miller > Biography
- Famous Weekly Old-Time Radio Shows
- AmericanHeritage.com / Charlie Chaplin: Banned from America
- A TERRIBLE MISTAKE:The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Secret Cold War Experiments by H.P. Albarelli Jr 2009
- The Stories Behind 20 Muppet Favorites, mental floss
- "Vibrant Design's Ellen Waggett Named Production Designer for Lifetime's New "Sherri" Sitcom". Broadcast Newsroom. October 6, 2009. Retrieved October 8, 2009.
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