Concourse Plaza Hotel
The Concourse Plaza Hotel was a luxury hotel located at Grand Concourse and 161st Street in Concourse, Bronx, New York. Once the site of presidential campaign stops and host to major sports stars, it is now a senior citizens residence owned and operated by the New York City municipal government.
Groundbreaking for the 12-story hotel took place in 1922, and it was opened in a lavish ceremony on October 22, 1923. New York Governor Al Smith, the guest speaker for the event, praised the hotel by stating, “After seeing this new structure, I am convinced that anything can go in the Bronx.”
The hotel was located within walking distance of Yankee Stadium, which was home to baseball’s New York Yankees and (until 1973) football’s New York Giants . Many star players from the home teams – including Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris of the Yankees and Frank Gifford of the Giants – stayed at the Concourse Plaza, and visiting players would also stay at the hotel. Yankees second-baseman Horace Clarke was reportedly the last Yankees player to make the hotel his in-season residence during the 1960s and early 1970s.
The hotel maintained a grand ballroom, four smaller banquet halls, and two meeting/dinner rooms. For years it was the best location in the Bronx for social, business and fraternal events. Tito Puente's band played in the grand ballroom every New Year's Eve for a dance that drew 1200 people. Political campaigns would stop by the hotel for rallies and fund raising events, and one of the most whimsical events occurred when John F. Kennedy, the Democratic Party candidate for the U.S. presidency, was greeted at the hotel on November 5, 1960 with a sign that read “The home of the knishes thinks Jack is delicious.” There were two kitchens in the hotel. The Banquet kitchen was about half a block long. It was quite a sight to see the waiters lined up in the kitchen prepared to serve a banquet, serving spoons or soup ladels in hand. There was a second, kosher kitchen on the north side of the building. On most weekends both kitchens were in full operation, serving many parties. It looked like a scene from Kafka's "Amerika." The caterers also catered off the premises parties in numerous locations. These were served with food prepared at the Concourse Plaza. There is a secret about the hotel. Below the basement was a sub basement, known to very few people. There was a private rifle range there.
Decline and sale
The hotel began to experience financial difficulties in 1957, when it was purchased by Nassau Management Corporation for $1.25 million. The company was unable to maintain financial control of the property, and it changed hands again in early 1958. At that time the hotel was operated by three groups of people. One group leased and ran the rooms, a second the banquet halls and kitchens, a third the restaurant.
During the 1960s, problems in the neighborhood surrounding the hotel diminished its value as a lodging location, and by 1968 it was seen as a "welfare hotel" when it began to provide housing to poor families who relied on the New York City government for shelter. In the early 1970s the manager of the rooms was shot and killed by an irate customer. In 1974, the city government purchased the hotel and later transformed the property into a senior citizens residence.
- Frederick M. Binder, David M. Reimers (1996). All the Nations Under Heaven: An Ethnic and Racial History of New York City. Columbia University Press. pp. 153–154. ISBN 0-231-07879-X.
- Anthony Connors (May 24, 1998). "Then & Now: The Bronx' Grand Hotel". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
- "Frank Gifford: The game that changed football". MSNBC. November 10, 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
- Jill Jonnes (2002). South Bronx Rising: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of an American City. Fordham University Press. pp. 130, 281. ISBN 0-8232-2199-7.
- Ray Carney. "Chapter on The Making of Gloria (1979-1980)". Ray Carney’s Cassavetes on Cassavetes Book. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
- 161st Street/River Avenue Rezoning Overview, NYC Department of City Planning (the Concourse Plaza Hotel today)