The Storied Peninsula New York Hotel: 1905 Architecture Meets 2016 Hillary Clinton

The Peninsula Hotel in New York City is located at 55th Street and 5th Avenue in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. The 23-story hotel building was built during the turn of the century in 1905. This Beaux-Arts designed building is noticed as soon as one enters through the doorway and is aghast by a dramatic grand crystal chandelier hanging above the marble staircase.

The Peninsula New York drips of luxury and old classic New York when the men only wore suits and ties and the women only wore elegant dresses in public. But this staple building in New York City was not always known as the Peninsula as it is today but actually it went through multiple owners and a few previous names before it received its current name. The building has also gone through multiple renovations but never losing the charm and sophistication that originated within these walls.

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The Peninsula Hotel had one particular guest in 2016 by the name of Hillary Clinton, who was staying at the hotel the night of the 2016 Presidential Election results. Mrs. Clinton watched the election results come in live from her suite along with a small group of Clinton’s campaign staffers. It was in this New York City hotel that she had learned she had lost against her Presidential opponent, Donald Trump and made a phone call to congratulate him on his victory.

The Peninsula Hotel has been celebrating 30 years as being part of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels family since it was officially named The Peninsula New York in 1988. The hotel has been hosting a number of events and celebrations to mark their 30th anniversary including art pieces from Andy Warhol, Francesco Clemente, and Barbara Kruger, whose artwork is being featured throughout the hotel.

The Peninsula New York is an icon, sitting proudly on 5th Avenue with the rest of the city’s most prestigious businesses, shopping, and entertainment area.

New York Glamour

The Gotham was one of the first hotels in New York City to use steel frame construction, and it was originally intended to complement the neighboring University Club, which was built in 1900. The building was designed by the architectural firm of Hiss & Weekes. The architectural firm used limestone carvings, copper cornice and Doric columns for the 23-story, Neo-Italian Renaissance building. The building was also built in the shape of the letter C, with the light court facing south over the University Club, guaranteeing a protected view. The architects planned accordingly to lineup correctly with the neighboring University Club next door, which was the most prestigious club in New York City.

The rooms at the Gotham were arranged with the single rooms at the core of the building and the suites on the outer side. The spaces on the ground floor were of double the height, similar to the main dining room along 5th Avenue. In the warmer months, large French doors would open to an enclosed terrace on 5th Avenue for a summer restaurant.

From The Gotham to The Peninsula

Between the years of 1902 through 1905, a New York real estate development firm by the name of Fifty-Fifty Street Company wanted to build a new grand hotel to compete with the upcoming St. Regis nearby, which was still under construction in 1902. The original hotel, named The Gotham Hotel opened in 1905 and the initial concept for the Gotham Hotel was to be a residential hotel for those that lived in the city who were tired of maintaining a city home. The Gotham Hotel just never seemed to get the satisfaction that it had originally sought out to be, in part because it was overshadowed by the St. Regis Hotel across from 5th Avenue and the Plaza Hotel just four blocks to the north.

It was not until 1908 when the Gotham Hotel filed for bankruptcy partly due because it could not acquire a liquor license as it was too close to the 5th Avenue Presbyterian Church.  The church is at the northwest corner of 55th and 5th and the St. Regis Hotel was just given permission to serve liquor. Ultimately it was in technical violation of a restriction prohibiting liquor sales within 200 feet of a church. The Gotham Hotel was directly across 55th Street from the church, it was obviously in violation of the law. It was reported that the United States Senator Thomas C. Platt and a few other politicians were silent partners on the original Gotham Hotel team, and in 1905 and 1907 bills were introduced in the New York State Legislature preventing hotels from the provision if they had more than 200 hotel rooms. Neither one of the bills passed, which were clearly solely fashioned for the Gotham Hotel. But in 1908 the Gotham Hotel eventually went into foreclosure over a $741 butcher’s bill, and the Real Estate Record and Guide stated that failure was due mostly to the liquor license being restricted. The hotel was sold for $2.45 million, which had originally cost $4 million to build.

The Gotham Hotel was purchased in 1932 by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. In 1938, 5th Avenue began installing stores along the soon to be a famous avenue. To gain the most commercial floor area, the public rooms were taken out, which also explains why the hotel’s entrance requires guests to go up one flight of stairs from the entrance foyer. Once the many changes began on 5th Avenue, the Gotham Hotel wanted to attract more sophisticated guests to stop by a cocktail, or two! By the early 1940s, the Gotham Hotel added a cocktail lounge, the 200-foot law is still in effect today, which court cases now have allowed the measurement to be made from the point of the actual sale of the cocktail. If you were to visit the cocktail lounge today, you will notice you must go up a flight of stairs and through a long hallway to reach the cocktail lounge.

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By 1939, the Metropolitan Life Insurance company began a renovation on the property and it continued to operate as a residential apartment hotel until 1978. In 1979 there was another change of hotel ownership and this time by a Swiss hotelier by the name of Rene Hatt who took over and the property began yet another renovation process. Mr. Hatt wanted to rebrand the Gotham Hotel into the Nova Park Hotel, due to its close location to Central Park. Through this latest renovation is how the now famous rooftop lounge and fitness center were added to the property. The new design was directed by Pierre Cardin and he vowed to make the hotel the fanciest in the world by adding 6 restaurants, 10 bars, and a nightclub. The hotel did actually re-open for a short time under a different name, the Maxim’s de Paris, an outpost of the famous Paris restaurant Maxim’s.

The renovation cost $200 million but not every addition materialized due to Mr. Hatt running out of money in 1987. Finally, in 1988, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels bought the Gotham Hotel for $127 million and renamed it the Peninsula Hotel.

The New Peninsula Hotel

After the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels purchased the Gotham Hotel in 1988, this was the moment when things finally took a turn for the positive for the hotel. At last, the property finally got the ownership it had been needing since opening day in 1905. Ten years after ownership, another renovation project was constructed by the architects Brennan, Beer, Gorman and the design firm of Hirsch Bedner Associates, who then updated the hotel’s ambiance, merging contemporary fabrics, furniture, and technology with many of the original classical design elements which were already so visibly present in the hotel. After the renovations were done to the 241 guest rooms, Teresa Delaney, a spokeswoman for the hotel said, “The Peninsula New York would now compete with the most expensive hotels in New York.”

Hillary Clinton’s Stay in 2016

One particular historical moment at the Peninsula Hotel New York was in November 2016, when the Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, stayed at the Presidential Suite while she watched the election results come through live on television in her room. Clinton’s campaign anthem, “Fight Song”, blared across the room while she and her team watched the results. Eventually, she found out she had lost the election and made her call to congratulate Donald Trump on his victory. She wrote her famous concession speech in her room at the Peninsula Hotel with her top aides by her side. The Peninsula Hotel is very protective of the events that took place while Mrs. Clinton stayed at the hotel but regardless of the fact, it was a historical moment for the United States and the Peninsula New York.

30 Years of The Peninsula Hotel

The Peninsula New York is currently celebrating 30 years of heritage, passion, service, hospitality and memorable moments since opening in 1988. To celebrate the landmark anniversary, the Peninsula is offering special rates, amenities, and unique programming across food and beverage, rooms and spa throughout the year. The hotel is offering hotel guests chauffeur-driven Mini Coopers for up to three hours a day! Passengers can simply tell the drivers wherever they would like to go to in the city and they will gladly oblige.

Over the summer of 2018, the Peninsula Hotel NYC launched their Summer Social Series featuring musical performances from a range of genres, alongside art pieces, alcohol-infused custom ice cream, and other premium cocktails to enjoy while overlooking the Manhattan skyline.

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The Peninsula Hotel is a landmark and plays a deep part of what made New York City hotels grand and luxurious. Through all of the hotel’s different name changes and renovations, there is one thing that has stood the test of time and that is, New Yorkers never allowed the hotel to falter and now today for its 30th anniversary, people in the city are celebrating its spectacular rise to the top!

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