The St. Regis Hotel
|The St. Regis Hotel|
Main entrance to The St. Regis on E. 55th St..
|Location||2 East 55th St., New York, New York, USA|
|Opening||September 4, 1904|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Trowbridge & Livingston (original building), Sloan & Robertson (1927 addition)|
|Developer||John Jacob Astor IV|
|Number of rooms||229|
|Number of restaurants||2|
Construction and opening
The St. Regis was built by one of the wealthiest men in America, John Jacob Astor IV, as a companion to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, of which he owned half. The Waldorf-Astoria was, at the time, located 20 blocks south on Fifth Avenue in an area that had begun to decline in social importance as the area near Central Park gained favor. Astor's great-grandfather, John Jacob Astor, had earlier built one of the first modern hotels in the world, the Astor House, in Lower Manhattan in 1836.
At the suggestion of his niece, Astor named the new hotel after Upper St. Regis Lake in the Adirondacks. The lake had been named for a French monk, John Francis Regis, known for his hospitality to travelers.
The 18-story French Beaux-Arts style hotel, the tallest in the city when built, was designed by architects Trowbridge & Livingston, with interiors by Arnold Constable. Construction began in 1901 and the hotel opened September 4, 1904.
In 1927, the Dukes added a new wing designed by Sloan & Robertson to the hotel on the east end, along 55th St. The wing nearly doubled the size of the hotel to 550 rooms, added a rooftop ballroom/nightclub, and increased the height to 20 stories.
In 1932, the iconic "Old King Cole" painting by Maxfield Parrish, which had been created for Astor's defunct Knickerbocker Hotel, was moved to the St. Regis and made the centerpiece of a new bar, the King Cole Bar, which has remained a New York institution ever since. Two years later, in 1934, bartender Fernand Petiot invented a drink there which he called the "Red Snapper". It has since become known around the world as the Bloody Mary.
Vincent Astor died in 1959 and the following year the hotel was sold to Mexican hotel mogul Cesar Balsa. The hotel was named a New York landmark in 1965. After quickly going through three additional owners in the early 1960s, Sheraton Hotels finally purchased The St. Regis in February 1966, renaming it The St. Regis-Sheraton. They completely remodeled the hotel in 1977 and then closed it in 1988 for an even more thorough restoration. The hotel reopened in September 1991 as The St. Regis again, transformed at a cost of over $100 million into one of the most luxurious hotels in the world.
Flagship of a new chain
Starwood Hotels bought Sheraton in 1998 and soon after decided to use the St. Regis name to launch a new brand of hotels. The St. Regis was made the flagship of a new line of St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, ultra-luxury establishments in major cities and resort destinations around the globe. At this time, the original hotel's name was changed slightly to The St. Regis New York, to differentiate it from the over forty different St. Regis Hotels now in operation or opening in the next few years.
The hotel has always had a number of permanent residents, as well as transient guests. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the artist Salvador Dalí and his wife Gala famously lived at the hotel every fall and winter. In addition Marlene Dietrich and William Paley and his wife Babe maintained apartments there. Countless celebrities have also been guests, such as John Lennon who made a demo of 'Happy Christmas War Is Over' in his room.
In the 1977 Broadway musical Annie, the character Lily St. Regis claims to be named after the hotel, to which the orphanage headmistress Miss Hannigan replies: "Which floor?"
The narrow Fifth Avenue face of The St. Regis.
Banquet in honor of Arturo Toscanini at The St. Regis, 1908.
Cesar Balsa at The St. Regis after purchasing the hotel, c. 1960s.