Built to Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York
by Stanley Turkel, CMHS, ISHC

"The main criteria for inclusion of the thirty-two hotels in my book is that their structures are at least one hundred years old."

This book is an architectural delight for anyone who enjoys social, physical, economic, or geographical histories. Many of the hotels, including the St. Regis and the "literary" Algonquin, were built from 1900-1907 to accommodate the demands and tastes of an increasing, migrating population. Some, including the Cosmopolitan and Chelsea, hark back to the 1880s. All are distinct, even if owned today by corporations instead of individuals. Each sought to be an attraction for an elite clientele. They catered and continue to cater to their guests' individual needs, habits, and quirks. All of the hotels emphasize elegance and service, and even the title fonts of the book’s chapters reflect the splendor of the buildings. The author mentions the transition of wealthy people in the early twentieth century from large houses with many servants to smaller houses and apartments in the city. The hotels met this accommodation by providing suites and hotel staff, minimizing or eliminating the need for private servants in an urban dwelling.

Turkel, a specialist in the hotel industry, whose work includes “overseeing the Sheraton Corporation of America [and] General Manager of the Summit Hotel and the Drake Hotel,” has done a masterful job of research over a span of many years. The chapters contain information about the original owners and builders, the myriad philosophies that they adopted about their hotels’ statements and functions, as well as some of the gossip about the visitors. The care that was taken in seeing to the guests’ comfort, while enhancing the dynamics of each establishment, built and sustained communities within the hotels for decades. The author’s love for and knowledge of his subject enrich the reading. This work is splendid.

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