Hotel Pennsylvania

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Coordinates: 40°44′59″N 73°59′26″W / 40.74972°N 73.99056°W / 40.74972; -73.99056

Hotel Pennsylvania
Hotel Pennsylvania, 7th Avenue entrance (edited).jpg
7th Avenue entrance of Hotel Pennsylvania
General information
Address401 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY
OpeningJanuary 25, 1919
OwnerVornado Realty Trust
Technical details
Floor count22
Design and construction
ArchitectMcKim, Mead & White
DeveloperPennsylvania Railroad
Other information
Number of rooms2,200 at opening,
1,704 currently

The Hotel Pennsylvania is a hotel located at 401 Seventh Avenue (15 Penn Plaza) in Manhattan, across the street from Pennsylvania Station and Madison Square Garden in New York City. It is currently the fourth largest hotel in the city but was closed indefinitely on April 1, 2020.[1]


Early years[edit]

The Hotel Pennsylvania was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad and operated by Ellsworth Statler. It opened on January 25, 1919[2] and was designed by William Symmes Richardson of the firm of McKim, Mead & White,[3] which also designed the original Pennsylvania Station located across the street.[4]

Statler Hotels, which had managed the Pennsylvania since its construction, acquired the property outright from the Pennsylvania Railroad on June 30, 1948[5] and renamed it the Hotel Statler on January 1, 1949. All 17 Statler hotels were sold to Conrad Hilton in 1954 and the hotel became The Statler Hilton in 1958. It operated under this name until 1979, when Hilton sold the hotel to developer William Zeckendorf, Jr., for $24 million.[6] The hotel was renamed the New York Statler and was operated by Dunfey Hotels, a division of Aer Lingus. The hotel was sold again for $46 million in August 1983. A 50% interest was bought by Abelco, an investment group consisting of developers Elie Hirschfeld, Abraham Hirschfeld, and Arthur G. Cohen, with the other 50% bought by the Penta Hotels chain, a joint-venture of British Airways, Lufthansa, and Swissair. The new owners renamed the hotel the New York Penta and undertook a massive renovation.[7] In 1991, Penta's partners bought out the chain's stake in the hotel and returned it to its original name, Hotel Pennsylvania.[8]

Recent history and attempted demolition[edit]

The threat of the Hotel Pennsylvania's demolition was first introduced in 1997 when Vornado Realty Trust bought the hotel in a joint venture with Ong Beng Seng, a Singaporean hotel developer and financier.[9] Vornado and Seng's company then announced on September 25, 1997 the formation of a joint venture for converting the hotel into the first Official All Star Hotel.[10] The plans were halted by mid-1999 as Planet Hollywood sold its stake to a New Jersey-based real estate investment trust.[11]

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.[12] Owner Vornado Realty Trust intended to build a 2,500,000-square-foot (230,000 m2) building by 2011.[13][14]

In 2006, the Save Hotel Pennsylvania Foundation (now the Hotel Pennsylvania Preservation Society[15]) was created. Shortly after the announcement of Vornado's plans, the staff of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, a magazine that sponsors biennial HOPE hacker conventions at the hotel, began investigating possible ways to save the hotel from demolition.[16] 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 Districts Council, Manhattan Community Board 5, and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried.[17] In November 2007, Manhattan Community Board 5 voted 21-8 to have New York City Council landmark the historic hotel.[18] In February 2008, however, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission denied the request for landmarking.[19]

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.[20]

In May 2010, the hotel was again in danger of demolition.[21] Manhattan Borough president Scott Stringer gave a conditional approval[22][23] overruling Manhattan Community Board 5.[24] The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission reviewed the hotel's Cafe Rouge for landmark status[25] based on a request by the Hotel Pennsylvania Preservation Society,[15] but on October 22, 2010, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission declined to designate the cafe as a landmark.[26]

On July 14, 2010, the New York City Department of City Planning voted unanimously in favor of the construction of the tower.[27] On August 23, 2010, the NYC Council voted to approve the proposed Uniform Land Use Review Procedure submitted by the building owners.[28][29]

On December 14, 2011, Vornado proposed to delay the demolition of the hotel due to market conditions.[30][31]

On March 4, 2013, Vornado revealed they were abandoning plans to demolish the hotel and replace it with the office tower. The decision was followed by a statement by chairman Steven 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.[32]

Vornado has confirmed[33] they will be renovating and improving the hotel, but beyond that not much else is known. Preservationists as well as those in the Hotel Pennsylvania Preservation Society[15] (formerly the Save Hotel Pennsylvania Foundation) would like to see the renovations develop into restorations, bringing the hotel back to its 1919 splendor.[34]

In March 2018, Vornado Realty Trust renewed special permits with the City Planning Commission to develop the proposed 15 Penn Plaza skyscraper on the Hotel Pennsylvania's site.

In an April 2018 letter to investors, Vornado chairman Steven Roth mentioned the demolition/15 Penn skyscraper plan as a continued option, but also described Vornado as being at "a tipping point" with regard to redeveloping the Pennsylvania into a "giant convention/entertainment hotel".[35]

In June 2019, Vornado released new plans to lure their existing tenant, Facebook to the site of the Hotel, with a new design done by Rafael Viñoly.[36] According to The Real Deal, however, Facebook has stated they are not moving.[37][38]

Cafe Rouge[edit]

The Cafe Rouge was originally the main restaurant in the Hotel Pennsylvania. It served as a nightclub for many years, but now operates as a separate venue from the hotel entirely, as a multi-purpose space. It is the only space in the hotel that escaped significant alterations during the buildings massive 1980s renovation.


The Cafe Rouge measured 58 by 142 feet (18 by 43 m), with a ceiling height of 22 feet (6.7 m), with a main central level and two terraces on either side. The terraces were raised 18 inches (46 cm). The Café was designed with a distinctly Italian character. Both the wall base and door trim were made of terracotta, the walls were artificial limestone, and the ceiling was treated to give the effect of old wooden beamed ceilings. The ceiling was carefully studied in color to increase the apparent height of the room, and the beams of the ceiling had carvings of various designs. The east end of the Café had a large floor to ceiling fountain. The Café had large arched windows running along the exterior wall of the room. The arched window design was mimicked on the opposite wall. A bandstand was located on the central floor of the room on the exterior wall.[39]

Big band era[edit]

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, The Café Rouge had a big band remote connection to the NBC Red Network (after 1942, the NBC Radio Network) and became known for the performances held inside. Multiple artists played inside the Café – such as The Dorsey Brothers, Woody Herman, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and The Andrews Sisters.

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, in a year and a half, the leader of the most popular big band in the country. Shaw essentially quit his own band on the spot; the act obliging The New York Times to comment in an editorial.

During 1940–42, the Glenn Miller Orchestra also had repeated long-term bookings in the room during the three years of Miller's highest profile as a bandleader. Miller's orchestra broadcast from the Café; some were recorded by RCA Victor.[40][41] Shaw's principal orchestrator from 1937–39, Jerry Gray, 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 tune "Pennsylvania 6-5000" (with lyrics later added by Carl Sigman) that made use of the Hotel's telephone number, 212-736-5000, which is the New York phone number in longest continuous use.[42] Les Brown's band, with its vocalist Doris Day, introduced their song "Sentimental Journey" at the Café in November 1944.

Later use[edit]

The Café Rouge is no longer considered a part of the Hotel Pennsylvania business and has a separate address and entrance from the street at 145 West 32nd Street. The hotel structure is currently owned by Vornado Realty Trust.

In 2007, for the Garden in Transit project, adhesive weatherproof paintings of flowers attached to NYC taxicabs were painted inside the Café.[43]

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission reviewed the Café Rouge for landmarking status[44] on the basis of evaluation papers created by the Hotel Pennsylvania Preservation Society (formerly the Save Hotel Pennsylvania Foundation). On October 22, 2010 the Café was rejected as a candidate for landmarking,[44] most likely because the 15 Penn Plaza project was approved and the moderate, but not destructive alterations of the interior since its construction. The 15 Penn Plaza project, would have included the demolition of the Café.

Most of the original interior decor remains intact. The fountain and beamed ceiling and other architectural details remain, though the entire room, as well as the ceiling, have been painted over in white. Numerous events from the 2013 New York Fashion Week were held in the Cafe Rouge.[45]

In 2014, the Café Rouge was converted to an indoor basketball court known as Terminal 23,[46] to commemorate the launch of the Melo M10 by the Jordan Brand division of Nike.[47] It provides a facility for youth and high school players.

Notable events[edit]

Film history[edit]


See also[edit]


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  2. ^ "World's Biggest Hotel Opens Today" (PDF). The New York Times. January 25, 1919. p. 9. Retrieved April 14, 2010.
  3. ^ Hilary Ballon; Norman McGrath (2002). New York's Pennsylvania Stations. Norton. pp. 91–. ISBN 978-0-393-73078-4.
  4. ^ Jill Jonnes (2007). Conquering Gotham: A Gilded Age Epic : the Construction of Penn Station and Its Tunnels. Viking. pp. 167–. ISBN 978-0-670-03158-0.
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  14. ^ Foster, Margaret (January 8, 2007). "Manhattan Hotel To Fall". Preservation Online. Archived from the original on January 20, 2007.
  15. ^ a b c "The Hotel Pennsylvania Preservation Society". Retrieved July 17, 2014.
  16. ^ "HOTEL PENN THREATENED WITH DEMOLITION – HOPE CONFERENCES IN JEOPARDY". January 17, 2007. Archived from the original on January 26, 2007.
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  18. ^ "November 2007". Archived from the original on June 27, 2014. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
  19. ^ Shott, Chris (February 22, 2008). "Landmarks Commission Snubs Hotel Pennsylvania Again". The New York Observer. Archived from the original on February 12, 2010. Retrieved April 14, 2010.
  20. ^ Shott, Chris (October 9, 2007). "The Lonely Fight For The Hotel Pennsylvania". The New York Observer. Retrieved October 3, 2009.
  21. ^ "2600 NEWS: HOTEL PENNSYLVANIA FACES DESTRUCTION – AGAIN". May 31, 2010. Archived from the original on June 5, 2010. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
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  28. ^ "Council Votes to Approve 15 Penn Plaza Development". August 25, 2010. Archived from the original on May 15, 2011.
  29. ^ Gray, Christopher (May 12, 2011). "A Hotel With a Luxury: More Sidewalk Elbow Room – Streetscapes/Seventh Avenue". The New York Times.
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  31. ^ "Time-out seen in skyline war". The New York Post. Archived from the original on February 1, 2012.
  32. ^ "Long Live Hotel Pennsylvania". The Wall Street Journal. March 5, 2013.
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  34. ^
  35. ^ "Vornado Plans to Sell 666 Fifth Stake to Kushner, Maybe Build Big Penn Plaza Towers". Commercial Observer. April 6, 2018.
  36. ^ "Hotel Pennsylvania Preservation Society".
  37. ^ "Facebook isn't moving to Vornado's hilariously named Penn15 after all". The Real Deal. June 13, 2019.
  38. ^ "Facebook Has No Plans to Move to Vornado's 'Penn15' Tower in NYC". Bloomberg. June 6, 2019.
  39. ^ The Architectural review, Volume 8. March 1919.
  40. ^ allmusic: Glenn Miller > Biography
  41. ^ "Famous Weekly Old-Time Radio Shows". Retrieved July 17, 2014.
  42. ^ "New York's Hotel Pennsylvania Keeps World Trade Center 'Tribute in Lights' Memorial Beaming Forever in Virtual Reality". Retrieved July 17, 2014.
  43. ^ Portraits of Hope – Garden in Transit – NYC Taxi Project 2007 – The Official Website Archived May 29, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
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  46. ^
  47. ^ "A Close-Up Look at Terminal 23 by Jordan Brand". Retrieved January 1, 2018.
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External links[edit]