No one asked me, but… # 255: Hotel history: Shelton Hotel, New York
Hotel history: Shelton Hotel, New York, NY (1,200 rooms)
The Shelton was built by ambitious architectural developer James T. Lee, who was also responsible for two luxury apartment buildings: 998 Fifth Avenue from 1912 and 740 Park Avenue from 1930. He was the grandfather of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, born Jacqueline Lee Bouvier.
Mr. Lee’s vision was a 1,200-room bachelor hotel with club-like features: a swimming pool, squash courts, billiard rooms, a solarium and an infirmary. The New York World in 1923 claimed that the Shelton would be the tallest residential building in the world.
The architect, Arthur Loomis Harmon, covered the mass with irregular yellow-brown bricks, rough as if they were centuries old, and drew on Romanesque, Byzantine, Early Christian, Lombard and other styles. But critics were more impressed than he recalled “No defined architectural style of the past”, as the artist Hugh Ferriss said The Christian Science Monitor in 1923.
The Shelton was one of the first buildings to take its form from a 1916 zoning law that required setbacks at certain heights to ensure light and air in the street. This made it quite different from the large square hotels designed before the zoning change, like the 1919 Hotel Pennsylvania, across from the Pennsylvania train station.
“A breathtaking majestic building” said Helen Bullitt Lowry and William Carter Halbert in The New York Times in 1924. The critic Lewis Mumford, traditionally stingy with praise, called it “floating, mobile, serene, like a Zeppelin under a clear sky” in Common good revised in 1926.
Visionary design has its limits, however, and Mr. Harmon’s interiors seem to have been little different from other giant hotels of the time: large wood-paneled lounges, a dining room with a beamed ceiling, and long, vaulted hallways. ‘edges. A third of the rooms had shared baths, which must have posed complications in late 1924, when the Shelton reversed its men-only policy. A high gallery ran around the basement pool, which was decorated with polychrome tiles.
From 1925 to 1929, Georgia O’Keeffe lived on the 30e floor of the Shelton Hotel with her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz. With the possible exception of the Chelsea Hotel, it’s hard to think of another New York hotel that had such a profound effect on an artist, especially one that you’ve probably never heard of.
Dominant Lexington Avenue between 48e and 49e Streets, the 31-story, 1,200-room Shelton Hotel was hailed as the tallest skyscraper in the world when it opened in 1923. Not only was it tall, it was a rarity – an elegant residential hotel for men. with bowling, billiards tables, squash courts, hairdressing salon and swimming pool.
What has never been in doubt is the architectural importance of the building. With a tasteful two-story limestone base and three brick recesses rising to a central tower, the Shelton was revolutionary. Critics have regarded it as the first building to successfully embody the 1916 zoning requirements that prescribed setbacks to prevent skyscrapers from becoming huge horrors. The Empire State Building is just one of the buildings influenced by Shelton. Until 1977, New York Times architecture critic Ada Louse Huxtable called the hotel “New York’s iconic skyscraper.”
O’Keeffe couldn’t have asked for a more pleasantly located studio. From her airy lair, she was able to enjoy stunning views of the river and the city’s growing crop of skyscrapers. Like Charles Demuth, Charles Sheeler, and other artists of his day, O’Keeffe was fascinated by skyscrapers as a symbol of urban modernity, a fundamental tenet of precisionism, the post-modern art style. war that celebrated America’s vibrant new bridge landscape. , factories and skyscrapers.
Sitting in her Shelton perch, O’Keeffe has created at least 25 paintings and drawings of skyscrapers and cityscapes. Among its best known is “Radiator Building — Night, New York”, a masterful celebration of the mystique of skyscrapers and the iconic black and gold American Radiator Building now named the Bryant Park Hotel.
Arthur Loomis Harmon, the architect of the Shelton, went on to help design the Empire State Building. (He also established Allerton House, an imposing New York residential hotel in 1916).
But the Shelton’s fame peaked after a visit to the basement pool in 1926 by escape artist Harry Houdini. Sealed in an airtight coffin-like box (albeit fitted with an emergency phone), Houdini was lowered into the pool where he remained submerged for an hour and a half. He got out on time, tired but alive. “Anyone can do it,” he said. The New York Times.
Despite its colorful history and unique architectural character, the Shelton, as is the case with almost all aging hotels, has fallen out of favor. There were only 11 full-time residents in the mid-1970s. In 1978 he became the Halloran of the foreclosed property. He hired Stephen B. Jacobs to redesign the interiors, reducing the number of rooms to 650.
In 2007, it was owned by Morgan Stanley, which sold the operation to the Marriott company.
The architecture and engineering firm Superstructures has launched a major campaign of exterior repairs. Richard Moses, the architect in charge of the project, says Mr. Harmon’s overhead details, including heads, masks, griffins and gargoyles, are generally intact, although several that have been particularly damaged by the elements have been replaced. Mr. Moses said that Mr. Harmon tilted the walls slightly, to give the Shelton greater strength. The effect, barely noticeable at height, is evident at ground level.
The original interior of the 1924 hotel is reduced to fragments, like the staircase hall to the right of the main hall. The squash courts are gone; in their place is an exercise room at 35e floor with spectacular views all around. The hotel named the rooms after Arthur Loomis Harmon, Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe.
My latest book “Great American Hotel Architects Volume 2Was published in 2020.
All of my following books can be ordered from AuthorHouse by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com and clicking on the title of the book.
- Major American hoteliers: pioneers of the hotel industry (2009)
- Built to Last: Over 100 Year-Old Hotels in New York City (2011)
- Built to Last: Over 100 Hotels East of the Mississippi (2013)
- Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt, Oscar du Waldorf (2014)
- Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hospitality Industry (2016)
- Built to Last: Over 100 Hotels West of the Mississippi (2017)
- Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher (2018)
- Great American Hotel Architects Volume I (2019)
- Hotel Mavens: Volume 3: Bob and Larry Tisch, Ralph Hitz, Cesar Ritz, Curt Strand (2020)
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