Hotel Pennsylvania designation.
WHEREAS, On Tuesday October 2, 2007, concerned members of the public appeared before Community Board Five at our Landmarks Committee meeting seeking support in the effort to designate as an individual landmark the building at 401 Seventh Avenue, located between West 32nd and West 33rd Streets, known as the Hotel Pennsylvania; and
WHEREAS, A subcommittee was formed in order to research and evaluate the history and worthiness of the building, and the potential to designate this as a historic landmark, so that this could be reported back to the committee at our meeting on Tuesday October 30, 2007; and
WHEREAS, In 1917, the prominent architectural firm of McKim Mead & White was commissioned to design and construct a hotel to accommodate the passengers of the Pennsylvania Railroad; and
WHEREAS, The firm of McKim Mead & White is credited as the creator of such renowned architecture as the Washington Square Arch (1889), the second Madison Square Garden, at Madison Square (1890), the Cable Building at 611 Broadway (1892), the Morningside Heights campus of Columbia University (1893), the Bowery Savings Bank’s first headquarters (1893), the New York Herald Building (1894), the University Club (1899), the Pierpont Morgan Library (1903), the Manhattan Municipal Building (1909-1915), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1911), the James A. Farley Building – New York City’s General Post Office, (1912-1914) and New York’s Pennsylvania Station, constructed between 1904 through 1910; and
WHEREAS, Despite being known for its Beaux Arts architecture at the turn of the 20th century, the firm remained active into the 1960's, long after the founders had passed away, one of their last works being the design of the prominent National Museum of American History in Washington DC, which opened in 1964; and
WHEREAS, The chief designer of the hotel is the architect William Symmes Richardson, who also helped design the Pennsylvania Station, as well as the National City Bank Building in New York, the Girard Trust Company Building in Philadelphia and the Bank of Montreal, Canada. Mr. Richardson had joined the firm of McKim Mead & White in 1906, and remained a working architect until about 1925; and
WHEREAS, The renowned hotelier Ellsworth Statler – who was later named by the American Hotel Association as “Hotel Man of the Century” – was contracted to manage this property. When The Statler Hotel Pennsylvania opened its doors in 1919, it was considered to be the largest hotel in the world. The original hotel had 2,200 bathrooms, 3,537 beds and the world’s first “high rise” elevators. Statler remained involved with the hotel for many years and eventually purchased this altogether in 1949; and
WHEREAS, Through the 1930's and 1940's the hotel’s Café Rouge was considered to be one of the most popular nightclubs in New York. Among the big bands that performed here were Duke Ellington, Count Basie, the Dorsey Brothers, and most notably the Glenn Miller Orchestra. The hotel’s phone number, Pennsylvania 6-5000, is immortalized in their hit tune, and is New York’s longest continually used telephone number. It remains the same to this day; and
WHEREAS, After 1954, when the Statler Company merged into Hilton Hotel Corporation, the property has had several owners, and several names. Statler’s name remained on the hotel until 1983, when this was renamed The New York Penta Hotel. The original historic name Hotel Pennsylvania reappeared in the 1990's; and
WHEREAS, There has been restorative work performed to the hotel in the mid 1980's and at the early part of this century; and
WHEREAS, Hotel Pennsylvania is bounded on the west by Seventh Avenue and on the north and south by West 33rd Street and West 32nd Street respectively. The building was erected on a site measuring 200’ X 400’. There are 22 floors from street level to roof, including three levels in the penthouse. On the ground floor there are lobby entrances from West 32nd Street and West 33rd Streets to the lobby, and a ballroom entrance on West 33rd Street; and
WHEREAS, The base of the building is constructed of Indiana Limestone with Milford Pink Granite at the grade levels. Much of this has been painted over. The rusticated stone façade is punctuated by a series of pilasters, the predominant number of these having scrolled capitals. At the Seventh Avenue entrance to the hotel, there are six massive stone columns capped by an ornate stone balustrade; and
WHEREAS, In between the windows of the first two floors there are several Rosso Levanto Marble decorative spandrels, many of the third floor windows appear to be original, with ornamental metal framing, six paned over six, in matching pairs. Windows from the fourth floor and above are predominantly one over one, there is stone dentil course between floors three and four; and
WHEREAS, Above the fourth floor there is a pronounced setback in the overall structure. Rising from the limestone base, the majority of the building is constructed of tan colored brick. At West 32nd Street, the building forms four individual towers partially conjoined at the building’s center. These were constructed to maximize the exposure to sunlight and airflow. At West 33rd Street the two central towers are fully conjoined; and
WHEREAS, The façades above the 17th Floor are heavily ornamented in stone and terra cotta, including fluted pilasters and a massive ornamental limestone cornice. The penthouse structures above appear to be habitable space at the Seventh Avenue side of the building, and for mechanical usage at the east; and
WHEREAS, As it is today, boasting 1,700 hotel rooms and approximately 500,000 square feet, Hotel Pennsylvania is New York’s fourth largest hotel; and
WHEREAS, In 1998 Vornado Realty Trust entered into an agreement to increase its interest in the Hotel Pennsylvania from 40% to 80, and then in 1999, by acquiring Planet Hollywood International’s 20% interest in the hotel, Vornado owned this outright, and in connection with the 1999 transaction, Vornado also terminated the licensing agreement with Planet Hollywood for an Official All-Star Hotel; and
WHEREAS, Demolition plans have been announced for the hotel and a 2,500,000 square foot office tower will be built by 2011 on its site, a building of this size would have significantly more square footage than The Empire State Building, although this may not be as tall; and
WHEREAS, Upon evaluation of the information pertaining to the architecture and rich cultural history of the hotel, during Community Board Five’s October 30th Landmarks Committee meeting, the subcommittee voiced opinions both in favor and against designation; and
WHEREAS, After hearing opinions both in favor and against designation, the committee voted to recommend in favor; therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That Community Board Five strongly RECOMMENDS DESIGNATION as an individual landmark, the building at 401 Seventh Avenue, known as the Hotel Pennsylvania.
The above resolution passed by a vote of 21 in favor; 8 opposed; 1 abstention, 2 present not entitled to vote.