Tag Archives: hotel

Maritime Buildings

Once upon a time the National Maritime Union was so big it had three “headquarters” buildings in New York: The actual headquarters on Seventh Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets (Joseph Curran Building, 1964); an annex between 16th and 17th Streets just off Ninth Avenue (Joseph Curran Annex, 1966); and then a plaza – an annex to the annex if you will – that ran along Ninth Avenue (Joseph Curran Plaza, 1968). All three of the so-called Maritime Buildings were architectural standouts, designed by Bronx-born but New Orleans-based architect Albert C. Ledner.

Alas, New York’s maritime jobs dried up and the union sold all three buildings.

St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers acquired the headquarters and renamed it the Edward & Theresa O’Toole Medical Services Building. St. Vincent’s later (2007) wanted to replace the O’Toole Building with a new 21-story hospital, but official NYC Landmark status (as part of the Greenwich Village Historic District) apparently saved it – temporarily. The Landmarks Commission later (2011) granted a “hardship” exemption allowing demolition. As of November, 2011, the plan is to keep the shell but demolish the interior and build a smaller facility: 140,000 square feet, down from 160,00 square feet. The conversion is to be completed by November, 2015.

Covenant House purchased the annex and plaza, after fighting off a challenge by then-Mayor Ed Koch, who wanted the buildings for a prison; later the plaza building was converted to the Maritime Hotel. The annex itself has been converted to the Dream Downtown Hotel. This is actually the second renovation of the annex. The building originally had 100 porthole windows in its sloping 12-story white tile facade; in later years the new owners built fake brick storefronts at ground level in an attempt to better blend in with the neighborhood (pictured on p. 179 of “Five Hundred Buildings of New York”). The Dream Downtown Hotel conversion has removed the fake storefronts and applied a metal skin. The windows are still round, but there are more of them on the 17th Street side and the overall effect is more like Swiss cheese rather than portholes. The 16th Street facade is now vertical, not sloping, and covered with a perforated dual-layer metal skin that frames 35 very large circular “windows” which are actually tiny balconies. The real (floor to ceiling) windows are behind.

The plaza building has changed the least. It was originally built as a dormitory for seamen; the nautical-themed hotel conversion was natural. And from the outside, “pizza box” is still an apt description.

Joseph Curran Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 36 Seventh Avenue between W 12th and W 13th Streets
  • Year completed: 1964
  • Architect: Albert C. Ledner
  • Floors: 6
  • Style: Modern
  • New York City Landmark: 1969 (part of Greenwich Village Historic District)
Joseph Curran Annex Vital Statistics
  • Location: 355 W 16th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues
  • Year completed: 1966
  • Architect: Albert C. Ledner
  • Floors: 12
  • Style: Modern
Joseph Curran Plaza Vital Statistics
  • Location: 363 West 16th Street at 9th Avenue
  • Year completed: 1968
  • Architect: Albert C. Ledner
  • Floors: 12
  • Style: Modern
Maritime Buildings Suggested Reading

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American Radiator Building

Passers-by are probably puzzled by the industrial-strength gilt-painted chimerae on Bryant Park Hotel – if they even lift their eyes to the third floor level. But the figures make perfect sense in the context of the facade’s original owners, American Radiator and Standard Sanitary Company.

Originally, this was the American Radiator Building and later known as the American Standard Building. The ground floor initially contained showrooms for the company’s bathroom fixtures.

The 23-story tower still stands out for its colors – black brick trimmed in gold – and unconventional shape. One architecture critic called it “the most daring experiment in color in modern buildings yet made in America.”

According to the Wikipedia article, the building is based on a design submitted for the Chicago Tribune building.

The building was converted to a hotel in 2001; it has New York City landmark status, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Bryant Park Hotel Vital Statistics
  • Location: 40 W 40th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
  • Year completed: 1924
  • Architect: Raymond Hood and André Fouilhoux
  • Floors: 23
  • Style: Gothic/Art Deco
  • New York City Landmark: 1974
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1980
Bryant Park Hotel Suggested Reading

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Sherry Netherland

The Sherry Netherland must be bored by now with all of the superlatives lavished upon it. But if actions speak louder than words, consider this: a Sherry Netherland 18th floor apartment recently went on the market (September 2012) for $95 million. (To tell the whole truth, that’s the entire 18th floor – 7,000 square feet plus 2,000 square feet of terrace – seven bedrooms/seven baths – but still: $95 million!)

The Sherry Netherland is not, oddly enough, a New York City landmark unto itself (although the clock in front of the hotel is – go figure); it is part of the Upper East Side Historic District, along with the Hotel Pierre, Metropolitan Club, and other classics. The 40-story building was the tallest apartment-hotel in New York when built, in 1927.

The structure’s design was a collaboration of New York-based architects Shultze & Weaver and Buchman & Kahn. Shultze & Weaver specialized in luxury hotels such as the Pierre and Waldorf-Astoria. The French Gothic/French Renaissance tower is among New York’s most distinctive spires, hiding a water tank above the gargoyles. There is an observation platform at the very top – though you’d have to be brave and a climber to reach it!

While the Sherry Netherland’s public personna is a hotel, it has only 54 rooms and suites; 165 co-op apartments make up the bulk of the building.

Sherry Netherland Vital Statistics
  • Location: 751 Fifth Avenue at E 59th Street
  • Year completed: 1927
  • Architect: Shultze & Weaver and Buchman & Kahn
  • Floors: 48
  • Style: French Gothic/French Renaissance
Sherry Netherland Suggested Reading

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Plaza Hotel

The century-old Plaza Hotel has changed hands several times, but it remains an architectural – and hospitality – landmark. As such, the Plaza has accumulated a history that is both educational and entertaining.

The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designation report for the hotel’s interiors is a rich narrative about the hotel, its owners, architects, renovations and occupants. The Wikipedia entry adds more popular details, such as the movies and television shows in which the Plaza has appeared.

Trivia buffs, add this to your repertoire: The current property is the second Plaza Hotel on this site; the first hotel (also considered among the finest in New York) was demolished after 15 years to make way for an even grander property. Also: Fairmont Hotels & Resorts manages the Plaza – and also Boston’s Fairmont Copley Plaza – which was also designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh.

Hardenbergh also designed the Dakota Apartments, the Western Union Telegraph Company Building, and the Schermerhorn Building in New York. He designed the Waldorf and Astoria Hotels (then located at Fifth Avenue from 33rd to 34th Streets), among other prominent buildings now demolished.

Plaza Hotel Vital Statistics
  • Location: Central Park South at Grand Army Plaza
  • Year Completed: 1909; addition, 1921
  • Architect: Henry Janeway Hardenbergh; addition, Warren & Wetmore
  • Floors: 20
  • Style: Second Empire Baroque
  • New York City Landmark: 1969
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1978
Plaza Hotel Suggested Reading

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Hotel Wolcott

Hotel Wolcott was built at the time when Herald Square was becoming New York’s “center of gravity” for entertainment, shopping, restaurants and hotels. While some prominent hotels were built on the avenues – Fifth Avenue and Broadway – mid-block properties offered quieter ambience without sacrificing convenience.

The Beaux Arts/Second Empire style was adopted for many hotels of the period. However, architect John H. Duncan designed Hotel Wolcott with oversized, flamboyant decoration to make it stand out on the mid-block location and to be unique among competitors.

John H. Duncan designed several NYC landmarks, the best-known of which are the General Ulysses S. Grant National Memorial (Grant’s Tomb) and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch in Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn.

Hotel Wolcott Vital Statistics
  • Location: 4 W 31st Street, between Fifth Avenue and Broadway
  • Year completed: 1904
  • Architect: John H. Duncan
  • Floors: 12
  • Style: Beaux Arts
  • New York City Landmark: 2011
Hotel Wolcott Suggested Reading

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Herald Square Hotel

Herald Square Hotel, though grossly altered, remains a bright spot on West 31st Street – just across the street and down the block from the larger Hotel Wolcott. It’s also where some fascinating histories intersect.

The building, designed by Carrère & Hastings, was erected as the home of Life magazine in 1900. At the time, Life was the upscale humor magazine that discovered Charles Dana Gibson, the artist behind the famous “Gibson Girls.” Other contributors included Robert “Believe It Or Not!” Ripley and Norman Rockwell. Gibson had a studio in the building, and took over Life magazine after John Mitchell, one of the founders, died in 1918. The magazine went into decline, and was forced to sell the building. Ultimately Henry Luce bought Life for its name.

The building was converted to an apartment hotel in 1937 and has changed hands several times. It was purchased by the Puchall family in 1970, and restored over the years. However, the family made drastic alterations to the top floors in 1995, eliminating the mansard roof.

Herald Square Hotel Vital Statistics
  • Location: 19 W 31st Street, between Fifth Avenue and Broadway
  • Year completed: 1900
  • Architect: Carrère & Hastings
  • Floors: 8
  • Style: Beaux Arts
Herald Square Hotel Suggested Reading

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Radio Wave Building

Radio Wave Building is the westernmost structure in the Madison Square North Historic District, designed by August Hatfield in Queen Anne style and erected in 1883. Although well executed and well preserved (save for the loss of the Mansard roof), the building’s main claim to fame is that during its tenure as the Gerlach Hotel it was the home and laboratory of Nikola Tesla, who gave us radio, alternating current, neon and florescent lights, spark plugs and remote control. (Not to mention artificial lightning from Tesla Coils!)

The Yugoslav-American Bicentennial Committee placed a plaque on the building to commemorate Tesla on Jan. 7, 1977 – the anniversary of Tesla’s death. But the building has a more fitting memorial that would make Nikola smile: A ground-floor tenant is Broadway Wireless Center, whose window is lit in neon and florescent tubes.

Nikola Tesla has several other memorials in midtown. A bust of Nikola Tesla was erected at the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava, two blocks south of the Radio Wave Building. There’s another memorial plaque on the Hotel New Yorker (W34th Street at Eighth Avenue), where Tesla lived for 10 years – and died. And there’s a “Tesla Corner” at Sixth Avenue and W40th Street, where Nikola liked to feed the pigeons.

Nikola Tesla had a fascinating – though often tragic – life. Follow the Tesla links below to learn more.

Radio Wave Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 49 W 27th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue
  • Year completed: 1883
  • Architect: August Hatfield
  • Floors: 11
  • Style: Queen Anne
  • New York City Landmark: 2001
Radio Wave Building Suggested Reading

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Cassa NY

Cassa NY is a slender white hotel/condominium tower that might remind you of those computer punch cards of the 1960s – rectangular windows appear to have been punched right out of the aluminum skin.

Cassa NY Vital Statistics
  • Location: 70 W 45th Street, just off Sixth Avenue
  • Year completed: 2010
  • Architect: TEN Arquitectos
  • Floors: 43
  • Style: Postmodern
Cassa NY Suggested Reading

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Hotel Martinique

Hotel Martinique is full of surprises. For starters, don’t let the French Renaissance style fool you: The name has nothing to do with the sunny French Caribbean island – it’s named for developer William R. H. Martin. And the showy Broadway and W 32nd Street facades are actually add-ons to the hotel – it started as a more modest property on W 33rd Street.

But if the style reminds you of the Plaza, that shouldn’t surprise: the two hotels have the same architect, Henry Janeway Hardenbergh.

Like the Plaza, Hotel Martinique has open space – Greeley Square – in front of it, to show off grand-scaled elements: A four-story mansard roof, tiers of balconies and gigantic ornaments.

Grandiose was appropriate for the time. Just down the block (where the Empire State Building now stands) were the original Waldorf and Astoria hotels (also designed by Hardenbergh).

Unfortunately, as the theater district moved north over the years, so did Martinique’s luxury clientele. By the late 1900s the property became run down; in the ’70s and ’80s it was a notorious homeless shelter and welfare hotel. At the time of its designation as a NYC landmark, the Hotel Martinique was being renovated as a Holiday Inn. Currently it is a Radisson property, popular with airline crews and tour groups. In keeping with W 32nd Street’s current identity – “Korea Way” – the property has a 24-hour Korean restaurant, Kum Gang San.

Hotel Martinique Vital Statistics
  • Location: 1260 Broadway at West 32nd Street
  • Year completed: 1898, 1903, 1911 (3 phases)
  • Architect: Henry Janeway Hardenbergh
  • Floors: 16
  • Style: French Renaissance
  • New York City Landmark: 1998
Hotel Martinique Suggested Reading

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New Yorker Hotel

New Yorker Hotel was once an elegant celebrity-studded 2,500-room property – New York City’s largest when it opened in 1930. Convenient to Pennsylvania Station, it boasted five restaurants, a 42-chair barbershop, and platoons of snappily-uniformed bellboys.

Architecturally, the 43-floor Art Deco tower was (and is) quite plain; apart from size and shape, the building’s most prominent feature is the four-story, west-facing red “NEW YORKER” sign in the crown.

As the big-band era faded, so did New Yorker’s glitter; by the 1960s the hotel (then owned by Hilton) was in decline, financially, and closed in 1972. The World Unification Church (Rev. Sun Myung Moon) bought the hotel in 1975. By 1994 the church decided to re-open the building as a hotel – starting with 178 rooms and a $20 million renovation. Ramada granted a franchise in 2000. The hotel spent an additional $70 million on renovations 2007-2009; the property now has 900+ rooms on floors 19-40. In addition, Educational Housing Services uses five floors (9, 14, 16, 17, 18) for student housing.

New Yorker Hotel’s architects, the firm of Sugarman and Berger, have several other prominent New York City buildings, including: Gramercy Arms Apartments, Broadway Fashion Building, One Fifth Avenue, Millennium Towers North/Navarro Building, Paris Hotel/Paris Apartments.

New Yorker Hotel Vital Statistics
  • Location: 481 Eighth Avenue between W 34th and W 35th Streets
  • Year completed: 1930
  • Architect: Sugarman and Berger
  • Floors: 43
  • Style: Art Deco
New Yorker Hotel Suggested Reading

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