New York Biltmore Hotel
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The New York Biltmore Hotel was a luxury hotel in New York City. It was one of three palatial hotels built as part of the Terminal City development. The others were the Commodore Hotel (currently Grand Hyatt New York), and the Roosevelt Hotel, which is still in operation.
The New York Biltmore was founded by Gustav Baumann, who purchased the lease from the New York State Realty and Terminal Company, a division of the New York Central Railroad. The design was by the architectural firm of Warren and Wetmore, which also created the adjoining Grand Central Terminal. The hotel had its own arrival station within the terminal, nicknamed "The Kissing Room," with elevator access to the lobby. A private elevator served only the Presidential Suite. The Tea Room (a.k.a. Palm Court) echoed the design of the main concourse at the Terminal. On the 22nd floor of the hotel was the grand ballroom, called the Cascades; Bert Lown was the conductor in the hotel's early years. Between the north and south towers was the Italian Garden, which overlooked Vanderbilt Avenue and Grand Central Terminal. In the winter months the garden was transformed into an ice skating rink. Henry Ford tried to Broker World War I headquartered at The Biltmore, 1915.
The hotel opened on New Year's Day 1913, and was operated by Baumann until his death on October 15, 1914. John McEntee Bowman, the Biltmore's manager under Mr. Baumann, took control of the lease and operated the hotel thereafter.
The New York Biltmore Hotel ceased operation when the building was gutted in August 1981 by its then owners Paul Milstein and Seymour Milstein. The demolition took place despite the building's landmark status and concerted protests by preservationists. The hotel was stripped down to its steel structural skeleton and rebuilt as Bank of America Plaza. Though the bank is still the largest tenant, the building is today known simply by its address, 335 Madison Avenue.
Grand Central Art Galleries
For 23 years the Biltmore was the home to the Grand Central Art Galleries, founded in 1922 by Walter Leighton Clark together with John Singer Sargent, Edmund Greacen, and others. Originally in Grand Central Terminal, in 1958 the Galleries moved to the second floor of the Biltmore, where they had six exhibition rooms and an office. The galleries remained at the Biltmore until the structure was stripped to its steel frame and converted into an office building by the Milstein Brothers. The final show was "Anita Loos and Friends." Describing the end of the Biltmore and the Grand Central Art Galleries' final show there, John Russell of New York Times wrote:
"Hardly since Samson tore down the great temple at Gaza has a building disappeared as rapidly as the Biltmore Hotel. But people have shown a rare persistence this last day or two in pushing their way upstairs at the entrance on Vanderbilt Avenue to where the Grand Central Galleries has been holding its own."
Role in history and popular culture
The Treaty of the Danish West Indies of 1916 was signed at the hotel, which transferred possession of the Danish West Indies, now the United States Virgin Islands, from Denmark to the United States. In 1942, the hotel was the location of the Biltmore Conference which was a meeting of mostly Zionist groups that produced the Biltmore Program, a series of demands regarding Palestine.
The reclusive writer J. D. Salinger would meet William Shawn, the editor of The New Yorker, under the Biltmore's lobby clock. It is one of many that claim to be the basis for the expression "Meet me under the clock." The office building retains the hotel's famous piano and lobby clock.
In F. Scott Fitzgerald's early short story "May Day", a main character, Edith, continually asserts that she is staying at the Biltmore. Fitzgerald seems to deliberately associate the Biltmore with Jazz Age luxury and lifestyle.
The Biltmore was the scene of the feminist struggle in the 1960s and 1970s when the city Human Rights Commission ordered the hotel to open its Men's Bar, which was for years a male-only establishment with regulars like New York mayor (and later governor) Al Smith, to female patrons. The bar, which was subsequently renamed the Biltmore Bar, was located on Madison Avenue and 43rd Street.
In the fourth episode of the first season of The Cosby Show (titled "You're Not a Mother Night" and originally airing on December 6, 1984), Cliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby) vows to take his wife Clair (Phylicia Rashad) to the Biltmore hotel for dinner and book them there to spend the night. To his wife, Cliff says, "I know the manager. I delivered his baby and he owes me because the baby does not look like him or his wife."
- "Gustav Baumann Falls to Death," New York Times, October 15, 1914
- New York Times: "Retaining Order to Block Biltmore Demolition Expires" August 19, 1981
- "Milstein Opens Throttle as Builder," New York Times, October 18, 1981
- "Painters and Sculptors' Gallery Association to Begin Work," New York Times, December 19, 1922
- "Galleries to End 36 Years in Depot," New York Times, October 31, 1958
- "Art: Things That Can Happen to a Print," New York Times, August 28, 1981
- "Last Dance at The Biltmore" Article New York Magazine September 7, 1981.
- Architectural Record Volume 35 Jan-June 1914 Architectural Institute of America.
- "Mr. Baumann Falls to Death" 1914 New York Times Article Google.
- "Under the Biltmore Clock" article Life Magazine April 21, 1952 Google.
- Time /CNN archive /Google/ Business: Hotels / "United and Bowman Biltmore merger" 03/04/1929.
- On-Line News Hour with Frank McCourt March 17, 1999.
- "Biltmore Palm Court restored" New York Magazine February 17, 1975.
- Great Weekends begin in New York "Under The Clock" New York Magazine April 9, 1979.
- Landmark Group Plans uses for Biltmore Funds New York Times October 6, 1983.
- "Remembering Lunch at The Biltmore 1959" New Yorker Magazine Jan.17,2005.
- Paul Milstein dies at age 88 New York Times Obits August 9, 2010.