NYC's Hotels and Boarding Houses 1916 Part I

A) General Information

The visitor to new New York usually takes a room by the day or week in a hotel selected in reference to its location, rates and characteristics, and eats his meals wherever he chooses. The "European plan" is the reckoning of the board-rate by the number of meals eaten, either a la carte or table d'hote, while the "American plan" is a flat weekly rate including room and three meals a day, no reduction being made, for absences. The "American plan" hotel, once universal in New York as elsewhere in the United States, is now practically unknown here. Special rates are given to conventions.

The room-rent in a hotel includes light, heat, usually soap, care of the room, and the privilege of bathing in the house bathrooms. The European custom of including shoe-cleaning does not obtain in most houses. The large houses have valets and maids whose service may be utilized, laundry can be done overnight, suits pressed, etc. Meals will be served in rooms and charged as in the dining-room, except that an additional fee of 25c. is usual.

The hotel attendants are paid low wages and expect to supplement them by gratuities. If one is staying at a large hotel fees must be counted as a part of the daily expenses. The general rule may be followed of paying for any extra personal service rendered by an attendant. The gratuity for a bellboy is 5 to 25c. according to the service rendered; for a waiter 10% of the cost of the meal, but not less than l0c. (In restaurants of the Childs type 5c. "tips" per person are usual.) Upon the good humor of these two attendants depends much of the visitor's comfort. The prices quoted are the lowest prices for the different classes of rooms. The traveler can always obtain more desirable rooms at higher prices, and must if the lower priced rooms are fully occupied. Some hotels have an annoying custom of having but very few rooms at the minimum figure, which are practically never available.

Strangers arriving in New York should know the address of the hotel to which they direct a cabman, as some names of reputable hotels are either duplicated or nearly imitated by less desirable houses. There are in the city many of the "Raines Law" hotels, which are merely saloons which have added a sufficient number of sleeping rooms to avail themselves of the hotel liquor law and escape Sunday closing. Some of these houses receive men only and are entirely reputable. Others are houses of assignation.

The large fashionable hotels are among the sights of the city, and guests staying at more modest ones should still visit one of the noted houses. Guides will be furnished upon request at the desk. The guide will expect a fee for showing the house. Afternoon tea in the tea room or roof garden is an enjoyable event. Among the largest houses are: the Biltmore , the newest building; the Knickerbocker ; the St. Regis ; the Ritz-Carlton ; the Astor ; the Plaza ; the Waldorf-Astoria ; the McAlpin ; and the Vanderbilt.

This most modern and most sumptuous type of hotel has introduced a new element into the social life of big cities. It is not merely a hotel, but in a certain sense a public resort, frequented daily by a vast floating population comprised, not only of casual strangers, but of resident New Yorkers, who take an unlicensed, yet undisputed advantage of a large proportion of the accommodations and privileges intended for the guests of the house. Any well-dressed stranger can enter unchallenged, use the parlors and sitting-rooms as meeting-places for social or business purposes, finish a day's correspondence on the hotel stationery, and in various ways make the modern caravansary serve the purpose of a private club, to which he pays neither fees nor dues. Women patronize these hotels more and more for afternoon tea, having found that they pay less and receive more accessories than at the fashionable little tea rooms in the lower thirties; and men find it more comfortable to lounge at ease in big cushioned chairs, spending an hour over cocktails, that have cost no more than if hastily tossed off at the bar of a corner saloon.

B) Large and Expensive Hotels of the Very First Rank.

The hotels named below have a world wide reputation for sumptuous excellence.

St. Regis.

5th avenue. and 55th street. One of the most beautiful of the large hotels, much patronized by wealthy foreigners and nobility. (R. Single $3. With B. $5. Double $5. With B. $6. Suites $10.) A superlatively luxurious house, planned and run for the comfort of multi-millionaires. (Trowbridge & Livington, architects). In the Palm Room is a fine mural, The Story of Psyche, by Robert V.V. Sewell. Among its other decorations the hotel possesses several 17th Century Brussels tapestries, woven by I.Van Zeunen.


Madison avenue. and 46th street. One of the chain of 18 Ritz hotels extending all over the world, managed by a central company. Largely patronized by foreigners of distinction. the building is beautiful in architecture, decoration, and furnishing. (Warren and Wetmore, architects.) The Palm Room, the Main Restaurant, the Ball Room, Banquet Room, and the State Suites in the addition built in 1912 are worth seeing. The service is perfect. The simplicity and good taste of this hotel are in marked contrast to the extravagant ostentation upon which some other of the large New York hotels pride themselves.

The Vanderbilt Hotel

Madison avenue. and 14th street. (R. Single with B. $3. Double with B. $5. Suite $12) (Warren and Wetmore, architects). The house is built in 18th century style of architecture and is designed and furnished in excellent taste. It offers special facilities for automobile parties, dressing rooms on Mezzanine Floor, garage for guests' cars, touring cars rented by the week, day, or hour, special suite for private entertainments (rates upon request), etc. Note especially the terra-cotta Grill Room, the Lounge and-Entrance Lobby, and the Japanese Room. In the Lounge is a Relief Frieze sculptured by Beatrice Astor Chandler.


5th avenue. and 34th Street. (R. Single $3. With B. $4. Double $4. With B. $5. Suite $10.)Between 33d and 34th sts., W. side, rises the Waldorf-Astoria, built of red brick and sandstone in a German Renaissance style . This was formerly the most magnificent of the New York hotels, but it is now surpassed in taste by newer ones. The Waldorf section of the building on 33d st., erected in 1893 by the Hon. William Waldorf Astor, occupies the site of the town house of his father, the late John Jacob Astor; while the 34th st. section, known as the Astor, erected in 1897 by Col. John Jacob Astor, occupies the site of the town house of his father, William B. Astor. The buildings were designed by Henry J. Hardenbergh, under the supervision of George C. Boldt, the first proprietor and lessee of both.


43rd street. and Vanderbilt avenue. Close by Grand Central Terminal, subway entrance to station. (R. Single $2.50. With B. $3.50. Double $4. With B. $5. Suites $10.) one of the new so-called " Terminal Buildings" at 43rd and Madison ave., entrance on Vanderbilt ave. (Warren and Wetmore, architects) is the newest and perhaps most beautiful of New York hotels. The style is modernized Italian Renaissance, and the material granite, limestone, terra-cotta and brick. The hotel is brought into harmony with the other buildings of the group by being recessed, on the Vanderbilt ave. side above the 6th story, in a court which divides the upper portion of the building into two towers. The court forms a charming garden with pergolas and growing flowers. Tea is served here. The interior is decorated and furnished in excellent taste by W.& J. Sloane.

The Main Dining Room is especially beautiful. Pilasters of pink- veined Norwegian marble run to a ceiling of gold,, gray and white. The hangings and upholstery are dark red, and the furniture dark oak. Three crystal electroliers light the room. The Lobby and Palm Room are in Caen stone. On the 4th floor is a wonderful Presidential Suite, entered by a private elevator from the station. The Ball Room on the 22nd story is 3 stories in height, decorated in gold and blue. The Banquet Room on the Madison ave. side of the same floor is in Italian Renaissance style, with walls of Caen stone and two columns of green Cipollino marble. The hotel being built directly over the incoming station, lacks the basement room usual to a hotel, and is somewhat differently arranged. The house contains every convenience and device for comfort; no crowding, no noise, no dust, all kinds of electric and pneumatic service, vacuum cleaning, special ventilation, specially filtered soft water for bathing, baseboards marble, elevator shafts stone, etc., Turkish baths, swimming pools, gymnasiums, hospital and operating room with doctor and nurses. On the walls of the main floor are nine valuable old tapestries; in the main corridor east, two renaissance tapestries, (1) Warriors; (2) A Court Scene; at west end of main corridor, a Louis XIV tapestry (3) The Marriage Procession; at entrance to the main dining-room (4) Fire as the Source of Abundance; in north and south corridors, (5) Venus rising from the sea, (6) The Marriage of Cupid and Psyche; in south corridor facing office, three Medici tapestries, (7) Venus escorting Aeneas from Troy, (8) The Interview between Venus and Jupiter. (9) The Departure of Aeneas from Carthage.


5th ave. and 59th st. (R. Single with B. $4.) The huge building on the W. is the Plaza Hotel, perhaps the highest-priced and most luxurious of all the hotels, erected to supply to the travelers the same comfort which is enjoyed by millionaires in their homes. It is patronized by the very rich, both of America and Europe, and is popular for elaborate social functions. The house contains many apartment suites for permanent guests. The Tea Room, under a glass dome, set with palms, is especially attractive. At the west end, on the 59th st. side, is the bar-room. The bar itself is a monumental affair, finished in deeply carved Flemish oak and surmounted by three great arches of solid woodwork. On the wall between these arches are mural paintings representing three celebrated castles on the Rhine by Charles M. Shean.

Hotel Astor

Broadway and 44th st. (R. Single $2.50. With B. $3.50. Double $3.50. With B. $4.50. Suites $10.) Between 44th and 45th sts., on the W. side, is the Hotel Astor, erected by Wm. Waldorf, Astor, one of the largest and most elaborate hotels, especially used for conventions, balls and social affairs. It is a French Renaissance structure, oŁ red brick and limestone, with a mansard of green slate and copper (Clinton and Russell, architects).

Through the main entrance on the Broadway side we enter the lobby, a spacious colonnade 22 ft. high, in marble and gold. It contains (Louis XIV). The 44th St. side is the bachelors' side and contains the Hunting Room (German Renaissance of about 156o), surrounded by a frieze seven feet high, composed of hunting scenes in bold relief. The Banquet Hall, one of the largest in the city, is also on this floor. Adjoining are an Elizabethan Men's Lounging Room, a Flemish Barroom, a Pompeiian billiard room, and an Italian garden or "Orangerie." On the mezzanine floor, are the Palm Garden, the Japanese Midway, and the Chinese and East Indian Alcoves.

The 9th floor is devoted to private dining rooms. Another Banquet Hall (Louis XV style) measures 50 by 85 ft. On the ceiling are three panels by Emens and Unitt. The College Hall, intended for college reunions and society dinners, is colonial in type; the wall is divided into panels by Ionic pilasters, and these panels contain 14 pictures by A. D. Rahm, illustrating the various College Sports. There are also a series of Art Nouveau rooms, an Oriental Room, and three rooms designed to represent a yacht's cabin. They contain a series of window pictures by Carlton T. Chapman, representing a cruise from New York to Larchmont.

ln the basement are the Old New York Lobby, the American Grill Room, and the great kitchen. A visit should be paid to the wine cellar, the lobby to which is guarded by two statues representing monks: on the one hand "Bruder Kellermeister," with the cellar keys and a huge tankard; and on the other, "Bruder Kuchenmeister," with a basket full of garden delicacies. The wine cellar itself is a large hall copied from the famous cellars at Eberbach-on-the-Rhine. Note the beautiful hand-carving on the imported German wine casks. The hotel possesses a collection of pictures and souvenirs of early New York, and a painting showing the house of Medcef Eden, an Englishman who owned the property originally. The grillroom is a museum of American Indian relics collected with the assistance of the American Museum of Natural History and The Ethnological Bureau in Washington, including implements, garments, weapons, pictures, busts, baskets, animal heads, trophies, masks, dishes etc. of eight types of Indians living from Alaska to Mexico.


Website: The History
Article Name: NYC's Hotels and Boarding Houses 1916 Part I
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Rider's New York City: A Guide-Book for Travelers, compiled and edited by Fremont Rider; Henry Holt and Company-New York (1916)
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