Hotel Pennsylvania

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

Hotel Pennsylvania

7th Avenue entrance of Hotel Pennsylvania
General information
Opening 1919
Owner Vornado Realty Trust
Technical details
Floor count 22
Design and construction
Architect McKim, Mead & White
Developer Pennsylvania Railroad
Other information
Number of rooms 2,200 at opening,
1,700 currently

The Hotel Pennsylvania is a hotel located at 401 7th Avenue (15 Penn Plaza) in Manhattan, across the street from Pennsylvania Station and Madison Square Garden in New York City.


Early years

The Hotel Pennsylvania was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad and operated by Ellsworth Statler. It opened on January 25, 1919[1] and was designed by William Symmes Richardson of the firm of McKim, Mead & White,[2] which also designed the original Pennsylvania Station located across the street.[3]

Statler Hotels, which had managed the Pennsylvania since its construction, acquired the property outright from the Pennsylvania Railroad on June 30, 1948[4] and renamed it the Hotel Statler on January 1, 1949. Following the sale of all 17 Statler hotels to Conrad Hilton in 1954, the hotel became the Statler Hilton. It operated under this name until 1979, when it was sold to developer William Zeckendorf, Jr., for $24 million. 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.[5] In 1991, Penta's partners bought out the chain's stake in the hotel and returned it to its original name, Hotel Pennsylvania.[6]

Proposed demolition

The threat of the Hotel Pennsylvania's demolition was first introduced in 1997 when Vornado Realty Trust bought the hotel.[7] 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.[8] Owner Vornado Realty Trust intended to build a 2,500,000-square-foot (230,000 m2) building by 2011.[9][10]

In 2006 the Save Hotel Pennsylvania Foundation (now the Hotel Pennsylvania Preservation Society[11]) was created.

Shortly after the announcement of Vornado's plans, the staff of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, a magazine which sponsors biennial HOPE hacker conventions at the hotel, began investigating possible ways to save the hotel from demolition.[12] 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.[13] In November 2007, Manhattan Community Board 5 voted 21-8 to have New York City Council landmark the historic hotel.[14] However, in February 2008 the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission denied the request for landmarking.[15]

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."[16]

In May 2010 the hotel was again in danger of demolition.[17] Manhattan Borough president Scott Stringer gave a conditional approval[18][19] overruling Manhattan Community Board 5.[20]

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission reviewed the hotel's Cafe Rouge for landmark status[21] based on a request by the Hotel Pennsylvania Preservation Society,[11] but on October 22, 2010 the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission declined to designate the cafe as a landmark.[22]

On July 14, 2010 the New York City Department of City Planning voted unanimously in favor of the construction of the tower.[23]

On August 23, 2010 the NYC Council voted to approve the proposed Uniform Land Use Review Procedure submitted by the building owners.[24][25]

On December 14, 2011 Vornado proposed to delay the demolition of the hotel due to market conditions.[26][27]

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."[28]

Renovation plans

Other than Vornado confirming they will be renovating and improving the hotel, not much else is known. Preservationists as well as those in the Hotel Pennsylvania Preservation Society[11] (formerly the Save Hotel Pennsylvania Foundation) would like to see the renovations develop into restorations, bringing the hotel back to its 1919 splendor.

PEnnsylvania 6-5000

The hotel has the distinction of having the New York phone number in longest continuous use.[29] The number, PEnnsylvania 6-5000 (212-736-5000), is the inspiration for the Jerry Gray composition of the same name (with lyrics later added by Carl Sigman). The most popular version was performed by Glenn Miller, with the Andrews Sisters' version not far behind. Many big band names played in the hotel's Main Dining Room, The Cafe Rouge, including the Dorsey Brothers, Woody Herman, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington. 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's time the leader of the most popular big band in the country. Shaw essentially quit his own band on the spot; the act obliging even the New York Times to comment in an editorial. From 1940-42, Glenn Miller's band also had repeated long-term bookings in the room during the three years of Miller's great popularity as a major bandleader of the Swing Era. Gray, Shaw's principal orchestrator from 1937–39, 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 popular instrumental tune that immortalized the Hotel's telephone number.

For several decades, when callers dialed the hotel they would hear the Glenn Miller recording until an operator answered. This bit of nostalgia was discontinued in 2012, and operators answer all calls.

Benny Goodman's famous orchestra including Harry James, Ziggy Elman and Gene Krupa, broadcast from the hotel's Madhattan Room in 1937.

Notable events

Film history


Contrary to common floor numbering practice, there is a 13th floor. The hotel states it has 22 floors from street level to the roof, plus three additional levels in the penthouse. The highest penthouse level is numbered as the 21st floor. The discrepancy in floor numbering is due to several mezzanine-type levels that carry names such as "lobby mezzanine" instead of floor numbers.

Vintage photographs

See also


  1. "World's Biggest Hotel Opens Today". The New York Times. January 25, 1919. p. 9. Retrieved April 14, 2010.
  2. Hilary Ballon; Norman McGrath (2002). New York's Pennsylvania Stations. Norton. pp. 91–. ISBN 978-0-393-73078-4.
  3. 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.
  4. "New York Times Archive Stories of Statler". Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  7. "History of Vornado Realty Trust – FundingUniverse". Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  8. "New York Architecture Images- HOME". Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  9. Colford, Paul D. (January 5, 2007). "Office tower dooms Hotel Pennsylvania". Daily News. New York. Archived from the original on January 8, 2007.
  10. Foster, Margaret (January 8, 2007). "Manhattan Hotel To Fall". Preservation Online. Archived from the original on January 20, 2007.
  11. 1 2 3 "The Hotel Pennsylvania Preservation Society". Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  12. "HOTEL PENN THREATENED WITH DEMOLITION - HOPE CONFERENCES IN JEOPARDY". January 17, 2007. Archived from the original on 26 January 2007.
  13. "New York State Assembly - Member Section". 2009-01-27. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  14. "November 2007". Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  15. Shott, Chris (February 22, 2008). "Landmarks Commission Snubs Hotel Pennsylvania Again". The New York Observer. Retrieved April 14, 2010.
  16. Shott, Chris (October 9, 2007). "The Lonely Fight For The Hotel Pennsylvania". The New York Observer. Retrieved October 3, 2009.
  17. "2600 NEWS: HOTEL PENNSYLVANIA FACES DESTRUCTION - AGAIN". 2010-05-31. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  18. "Manhattan Borough President - Home" (PDF). 2014-06-19. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  19. "Manhattan Borough President - Home". 2014-06-19. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  20. "April 2010". Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  21. "LPC response letters for the Cafe Rouge".
  22. Rho, Pi (2011-07-12). "Hotel Pennsylvania Preservation Society: LPC response letters for the Cafe Rouge". Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  23. "Hotel Pennsylvania is One Giant Step Closer to Demolition - Manhattan - New York". 2010-07-15. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  24. "Council Votes to Approve 15 Penn Plaza Development". 25 August 2010. Archived from the original on 15 May 2011.
  25. Gray, Christopher (May 12, 2011). "A Hotel With a Luxury: More Sidewalk Elbow Room - Streetscapes/Seventh Avenue". The New York Times.
  26. "Vornado considers renovating Hotel Pennsylvania instead of erecting massive skyscraper". The Real Deal.
  27. "Time-out seen in skyline war". The New York Post. Archived from the original on February 1, 2012.
  28. "Long Live Hotel Pennsylvania". The Wall Street Journal. 2013-03-05.
  29. "New York's Hotel Pennsylvania Keeps World Trade Center 'Tribute in Lights' Memorial Beaming Forever in Virtual Reality". Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  30. "Houdini Offers to Duplicate Spaniard's Reading Through Metals". The New York Times. May 7, 1924. p. 3. Retrieved March 31, 2016.
  31. Thinking of Home: William Faulkner's Letters to His Mother and Father, 1918-1925. W. W. Norton & Company. 2000. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  32. Galveston: A History of the Island. TCU Press. 1998.
  33. "Hoover Presents a Plan to Replace the New Deal". The New York Times. November 17, 1935. p. 1. Retrieved October 3, 2009.
  34. allmusic: Glenn Miller > Biography
  35. "Famous Weekly Old-Time Radio Shows". Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  37. "by H.P. Albarelli Jr". A Terrible Mistake. 1953-11-28. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  38. Stacy Conradt. "mental_floss Blog » The Stories Behind 20 Muppet Favorites". Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  39. "Vibrant Design's Ellen Waggett Named Production Designer for Lifetime's New "Sherri" Sitcom". Broadcast Newsroom. October 6, 2009. Retrieved October 8, 2009.

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