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New York City's Historic Hotels

New York City's Historic Hotels

New York City's rich history is reflected in many of our city's hotels. From the Big Band era to Beaux Arts design, the stories behind these hotels describe quintessential New York experiences and reveal intriguing lives of celebrity guests.

Starting life as The Puritan Hotel in 1902, the Algonquin Hotel (59 West 44th Street, 212/840-6800, www.algonquinhotel.com) first came to renown in 1919 when humorists Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker started spending time around a large round table in the Rose Room (now the Round Table Restaurant). They were soon joined by some of the country's brightest literary lights; this gathering was immortalized in the 1994 film Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle. A big draw for the group was the restaurant's delectable popovers, which are still served today.

Blue Moon Hotel (100 Orchard Street, 212/533-9080, www.bluemoon-nyc.com) is a historic boutique hotel located on Manhattan's trendy Lower East Side that captures the charm of old New York in a luxury setting. Accommodations are ideal for business travelers, small groups, families and romantic getaways. Built in 1897 as a tenement and renovated five years ago, the hotel has 16 suites and 6 rooms. All the rooms are named for movie stars and performers (many, like the Marx Brothers, associated with the Lower East Side) with some memorabilia about the namesake. Some rooms have balconies, and wi-fi is free throughout the hotel.

Approaching its 76th anniversary, The Carlyle (35 East 76th Street at Madison Avenue, 212/744-1600, www.thecarlyle.com) was named for British essayist Thomas Carlyle. Every US president since Truman has been a guest, as has royalty, including the Prince and Princess of Wales and the kings and queens of Denmark, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Sweden. The hotel is also home to the Cafe Carlyle, where renowned cabaret artist Bobby Short entertained for 36 years until his death. Now performers include Eartha Kitt, Steve Tyrell, Judy Collins and others. Esquire magazine recently named the Carlyle's Bemelman's Bar one of the top bars in New York.

Built in 1931, the Jumeirah Essex House (160 Central Park South, 212/247-0300, a five-star hotel, has breathtaking views of Central Park.

In 2004, the Hotel Wolcott (4 West 34th Street, 212/268-2900, www.wolcott.com) celebrated its one hundredth anniversary. Over the years, guests in this affordable Beaux Arts hotel designed by the architect of Grant's Tomb have included Edith Wharton and Buddy Holly.

It didn't take long for the InterContinental The Barclay New York Hotel (111 East 48th Street, 212/755-5900, www.ichotelsgroup.com)
to attract attention. "For once I do not find a single detail over which to carp," Gretta Palmer wrote in The New Yorker after the hotel's opening in 1926. Its architect was also responsible for Tiffany & Co., and it quickly developed a reputation as one of the city's most luxurious hotels. It has long been associated with celebrity - Mark Wahlberg and Gloria Estefan are among recent guests - and politics: Ronald Reagan stayed here regularly before his presidency and it was the New York campaign headquarters for Bill Clinton in 1992.

La Quinta Manhattan (17 West 32nd Street, 212/790-2710, www.applecorehotels.com) recently celebrated its one hundredth anniversary, having started life as The Aberdeen in 1904. In the 1920s, it was one of the first hotels to admit women checking in without a male companion. La Quinta Inn, which was also once a Best Western, underwent a $2.5 million renovation last year. Its Beaux Arts facade has been designated a landmark.

The New York Marriott East Side (525 Lexington Avenue, 212/755-4000, www.marriott.com) was built in 1924 and designed by Arthur Loomis Harmon, who also contributed to the design of the Empire State Building. Originally opened as the Shelton Club Hotel, it attracted guests such as painter Georgia O'Keefe and photographer Arthur Stieglitz who made their home there for a decade and depicted the hotel in their work.

The New York Palace Hotel (455 Madison Avenue, 212/888-7000, www.newyorkpalace.com) was built in 1882 for Henry Villard, one of the nation's most prominent financiers, who commissioned McKim, Mead & White to create a residence of singular style. Before it opened as a hotel in 1980 it evolved from a series of private homes known as The Villard Houses to offices for the Archdiocese of New York.

New York's Hotel Pennsylvania (401 Seventh Avenue, 212/736-5000, www.hotelpenn.com), designed by legendary architect Stanford White, opened in 1919 as the largest hotel in the world. The hotel introduced high-rise elevators to the world. Many great entertainers stayed there, especially during the Big Band Era when Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller were guests. Miller liked the place so much he turned the hotel's main phone number, 736-5000, into his 1938 hit, "Pennsylvania 6-5000."

The 23-story, 1905 landmark Peninsula New York Hotel (700 Fifth Avenue, 212/247-2200, www.peninsula.com) reopened in 1998 at Fifth Avenue and 55th Street following a $45 million renovation. Beaux Arts architectural features and Old World elegance blend with modern accents and high-tech features. The hotel has received the AAA Five-Diamond Award for eight consecutive years, and was voted the third best "Hotel for Business" in North America by readers of Gourmet magazine.

The Plaza Athenee New York (37 East 64th Street, 212/734-9100, www.plaza-athenee.com), which was recently voted one of the top three hotels in the city by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler, has been host to many celebrities over the years including Princess Diana and Paul McCartney. It has only been the Plaza Athenee since 1984; it started life in the 1920s as the Hotel Alrae, one of New York's most majestic residential hotels.

A grand dame of Madison Avenue since 1924, the fully renovated Roosevelt Hotel (Madison Avenue at 45th Street, 212/661-9600, www.theroosevelthotel.com) spans more than a full city block on Madison Avenue across from Grand Central Terminal. Named after President Theodore Roosevelt, this midtown gem was linked with Grand Central Terminal by way of an underground passage that once connected the hotel to the train terminal. The first hotel in New York to have such amenities as a spa and special pet accommodations, the Roosevelt gained renown when bandleader Guy Lombardo first played "Auld Lang Syne" there on New Year's Eve in what became a decades-long tradition. The hotel has been seen in several major motion pictures including The Boiler Room, Wall Street, Quiz Show, Presumed Innocent, Malcolm X, Monday Night Mayhem, The French Connection and Maid in Manhattan, starring Jennifer Lopez.

The Sherry-Netherland Hotel (781 Fifth Avenue, 212/355-2800, www.sherrynetherland.com), with its elaborate minaret, has been one of the more recognizable buildings in the city since it opened in 1927. The lobby features sculpture panels that once adorned the Vanderbilt mansion, which was demolished to make way for the Bergdorf Goodman department store. Custom-made crystal chandeliers and a lobby modeled after the Vatican Library are just some of the world-class amenities.

The St. Regis Hotel (2 East 55th Street at Fifth Avenue, 212/753-4500, www.starwood.com/stregis) was built in 1904. From its crystal chandeliers to its marble baths, this Beaux Arts hotel in the heart of Midtown is a luxury property with all the refined touches expected from a world-class hotel. In 2006 it received the Mobil Travel Guide Five-Star Award and AAA Five Diamond Award for the 15th consecutive year.