History is alive and well in New York City. Look up, and you’re bound to spot a building that tells a story, from a famous event that took place there to a famous person who once spent the night there. In fact, many of the city’s hottest hotels of today are simply building on legends that are decades in the making. And getting to know their history only enhances a stay within its walls. Here are a few of our favorites.
The New Yorker Hotel
The Art Deco lobby of this hotel is beautiful, though you’ll probably notice its enviable location first; the New Yorker Hotel, on the corner of 8th Avenue and 34th Street, puts you across from Penn Station and within a quick stroll from the Empire State Building and Times Square. This 4-Star property dates back to 1929 and its chief engineer acts as the hotel’s unofficial archivist. Among the famous names who’ve slept here? Mohammed Ali, John F. Kennedy and Jennifer Hudson.
A just-finished top-to-bottom renovation has breathed new life into a New York City classic; more than $140 million went into recreating the Milford’s iconic lobby, bar and rooms. This property, which dates back to 1928, was the largest Big Apple hotel of its day, with 1300 rooms. Its enviable location in the heart of the Theater District also earned it the nickname, Lullaby of Broadway. Interesting fact: the Milford earned its name in 1981 after having been dubbed with names like Hotel Manhattan, Hotel Lincoln and, originally, Hotel Reliance.
New York Hilton Midtown
This famous hotel celebrates its 50th anniversary its year; its doors swung open on June 26, 1963 as The New York Hilton at Rockefeller Center. Since then, its eminent guest list has included The Beatles, who stayed here in 1964 when they guested on the Ed Sullivan Show, and every President since JFK. Princess Diana was named “Humanitarian of the Year” at a fete here. And when history was made in 1973 – when Dr. Martin Cooper made the world’s first ever cell phone call, it was from a sidewalk right outside this hotel. Attention to detail and a prime location along Avenue of the Americas make it a favorite among foreign visitors, celebrities and families alike today.
This classic AAA 4-Diamond hotel was declared a New York City literary landmark in 1996; no wonder, when you consider the literary luminaries who’ve stayed here since its 1902 opening. Gertrude Stein and Simone de Beauvoir were regulars, and Maya Angelou has stayed here. Sinclair Lewis was a repeat guest – he once offered to buy the hotel, actually – and William Faulkner drafted his Nobel Prize acceptance speech here. Writers like Dorothy Parker and Robert Blanchley also gathered daily at the hotel’s Round Table, which remains one of the city’s great dining spots. The Algonquin’s ledger has included actors and diplomats, as well. And famous felines; they call the hotel’s current permanent cat guest, Matilda.
Waldorf Astoria New York
No doubt, this beautiful Art Deco property is a legend among New York City hotels. Conrad Hilton eyed this legendary building for years before he finally folded it into his collection of hotels in 1949l the Waldorf became a New York City landmark in 1993. Today, the onsite Guerlin Spa is a sensual haven from the buzz of the buzz of Park Avenue and the elegant mahogany bar at Bull and Bear is the stuff cocktail dreams are made of.
The Opera House
This historic hotel gives you a Manhattan alternative: it’s located a quick 20-minute subway ride away, in the heart of the Bronx. The Opera House was designed by George Keister, the same architect behind the Bronx Opera House and the famous Apollo Theater. And the list of performers who’ve played here is impressive in its own right – Houdini, the Marx Brothers and George Burns among them. Considered the area’s best boutique hotel today, the Opera House’s façade was recently restored to its original 1913 design.