Fifth Avenue Hotel
The Fifth Avenue Hotel was a luxury hotel located at 200 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York City from 1859 to 1908. It occupied the full Fifth Avenue frontage between 23rd Street and 24th Street, at the southwest corner of Madison Square.
Site and construction
The site that would become the Fifth Avenue Hotel was once the location of "Madison Cottage", a frame structure with an eighteenth-century core that had served as a stagecoach stop for passengers headed north from the city. From 1853 to 1856 it was replaced by Franconi's Hippodrome, a tent-like structure of canvas and wood which could accommodate up to 10,000 spectators who watched chariot races and other "Amusesments of the Ancient Greeks and Romans". It was this structure that was torn down to make way for the hotel.
The Fifth Avenue Hotel was built in 1856–59 by Amos Richards Eno at the cost of $2 million, was designed by Griffith Thomas with William Washburn. At the time of its construction it stood so far uptown from the centers of city life it was dubbed "Eno's Folly"; New York bankers refused to capitalize the project, and Eno turned to Boston for funding.
The hotel, which quickly developed a reputation as New York's most elegant, became "the social, cultural political hub of elite New York," and brought in a quarter of a million dollars a year in profits. It spurred development of additional hotels to the north and west, in the neighborhood known now as NoMad ("North of Madison Square Park").
Design and accommodations
The Fifth Avenue Hotel was of brick faced with white marble, of five storeys over a commercial ground floor. The first example of Otis Tufts' "vertical screw railway" the first passenger elevator installed in a hotel in the United States, a notable but cumbersome feature powered by a stationary steam engine, carried passengers to the upper floors by a revolving screw that passed through the center of the passenger cab.
The building was of a plain Italianate palazzo-front design, with a projecting tin cornice, but its sober exterior contained richly appointed public rooms: Harper's Weekly reviewed its "heavy masses of gilt wood, rich crimson or green curtains, extremely handsome rose-wood and brocatelle suits, rich carpets... the whole presenting about as handsome and as comfortless an appearance as any one need wish for." A correspondent for The Times of London, in New York to cover the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1860, called the hotel "a larger and more handsome building than Buckingham Palace."
The hotel employed four hundred servants to serve its guests, offered private bathrooms – an unprecedented extravagance at the time – and ran advertisements featuring a fireplace in every room. It was an instant success, an indication that elite New Yorkers were rejecting the republican values of their forefathers, and had begun to value instead grandeur, luxury and comfort.
Notable events and uses
The hotel was host to numerous notable guests, both foreign and domestic, and was, for a time, the most exclusive hotel in the city, and the center of social life for elite New Yorkers.
President Ulysses S. Grant's campaign began at a dinner party in the hotel, and he and his cabinet once held an official session there. The celebrity lawyer Chester A. Arthur – who later became President of the United States – kept a suite for his office; Edward, Prince of Wales, stayed here on his North American tour, as did his brother-in-law the Duke of Argyll, Dom Pedro of Brazil and Prince Agustín de Iturbide y Green of Mexico, Maximilian's adopted son. "It was a gathering place for fat cats like Boss Tweed, Jay Gould, Jim Fisk and Commodore Vanderbilt, who would trade stocks here after hours." The celebrated New York City physician, Dr. John Franklin Gray, lived at the hotel. When the superbly confident young Jim Fisk first arrived in New York, he stayed at the Fifth Avenue hotel until he was temporarily ruined. Gore Vidal made the Fifth Avenue Hotel a setting in his novel 1876, for it was in a suite here that John C. Reid, editor of The New York Times woke the Republican National Committee chairman Zachariah Chandler, and worked out the campaign for the controversial Presidential election of 1876.
The Fifth Avenue Hotel was known as a stronghold of the Republican Party. From a corner nook in one of the public rooms, which he dubbed his "Amen Corner", Republican political boss Thomas Collier Platt controlled patronage in New York City and State for a few years in the 1890s; here he held his "Sunday School", where projects did not go forward until they had his "amen".
The Fifth Avenue Hotel closed at midnight, 4 April 1908 and was demolished.
Its site was occupied in 1909 by the present office building, known as the Toy Center Building, designed by Robert Maynicke and Julius Franke, for Eno's grandson, Henry Lane Eno. Until 2007 it housed the International Toy Center, which was filled with wholesale buyers come the February Toy Fair and then again in October. The old hotel's resounding name was taken up by a Fifth Avenue Hotel at 24 Fifth Avenue, a grid of windows in a brick facade, by Emery Roth, since converted to apartments.
- Federal Writers' Project. (1939) New York City Guide. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-403-02921-X (Reprinted by Scholarly Press, 1976; often referred to as WPA Guide to New York City), p.307
- The farmhouse of John Horn, from which the Bloomingdale Road took its start, was shifted from its position in the middle of the surveyed but unbuilt Fifth Avenue in November 1839. (Kelley, Frank Bergen and Hagaman, Edward. Historical Guide to the City of New York [City History Club of New York] 1909:112).
- Wilson, 1902:242. "This huge arena seated about six thousand people with room for three thousand standees. The structure was rather an immense tent than a building. Pageants with elephants and camels, chariot races, and gladiatorial contests in keeping with the Roman name were staged there for two seasons, but the enterprise was not a financial success." (Patterson, Jerry E. Fifth Avenue: The Best Address 1998.
- Event Horizon: Mad. Sq. Art.: Antony Gromley installation guide, published by the Madison Square Park Conservancy (2010)
- Alexiou, Alice Sparberg. The Flatiron: The New York Landmark and the Incomparable City that Arose With It. New York: Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's, 2010. ISBN 978-0-312-38468-5, p.24
- Burrows, Edwin G. & Wallace, Mike (1999). Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195116348. p. 672
- For comparison, Fifth Avenue's first hotel, the stylish Brevoort Hotel, opened just eight years earlier (1851), stood on the northeast corner at Eighth Street.
- Miller 2001:47
- Landmarks Preservation Commission designation summary for The Wilbraham, 8 June 2004,
- Patented 9 August 1859. As late as 1908 a tablet in one of the hotel's elevators recorded its former site. The unwieldy elevator was replaced by Tufts' rope elevator in 1879, according to Walsh, William Shepard, A Handy Book of Curious Information, 1913:334.
- Klaw, Spencer. "'All safe, Gentlemen, all safe!' The ups and downs of the invention that forever altered the American skyline" American Heritage, 29.5 (August/September 1978: on-line text).
- Suites of rosewood furniture with brocatelle marble tops are intended.
- Quoted in Miller, 2001:47
- Korom, Joseph J. The American Skyscraper, 1850-1940: a celebration of height 2001:41f.
- Mendelsohn, Joyce. Touring the Flatiron. New York: New York Landmarks Conservancy, 1998. ISBN 0-964-7061-2-1, pp.16-17
- Sprague, Stuart Seely (1977). "Lure of the city: New York's great hotels in the golden age, 1873-1907". Conspectus of History 1 (4): 74.
- Karabell, Zachary. Chester Alan Arthur 2004:35.
- Wilson 1902:243
- "New York Songlines: Fifth Avenue";
- Renehan, Edward J., Jr., Dark Genius of Wall Street 2006:110.
- Tennis, a Cultural History by Heiner Gillmeister, Leicester University Press, 1997
- Michael Miscione , "The Fifth Avenue Hotel", 18 December 2004; Adams, James Truslow (ed.), Dictionary of American History, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1940, s.v. "Amen Corner"
- "Fifth Avenue Hotel Closes at Midnight", New York Times, 4 April 1908: "Odell and Platt Will Greet Their Friends in the "Amen Corner" To-day for the Last Time. Employees Say Good-bye; Bids from All Over the Country Received for Fittings with Historic Associations". Accessed 28 August 2008.
- Landmark permit, December 19, 2007
- International Toy Center.
- Michael Specter, "Not all fun and games at the 5th. Ave. toy center," The New York Times, April 26, 1981
- NYCJPG: Fifth Avenue Hotel
- Miller, Char. Gifford Pinchot and the Making of Modern Environmentalism 2001
- Wilson, Rufus Rockwell. New York: Old & New: Its Story, Streets, and Landmarks, 1902
- Media related to Fifth Avenue Hotel at Wikimedia Commons