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The Algonquin Hotel
is a historic hotel located at 59 West 44th Street in Manhattan (New York, New York). The hotel has been designated as a New York City Historic Landmark.
The 174-room hotel, opened in 1902, was designed by architect Goldwin Starrett. It was originally conceived as a residential hotel but was quickly converted to a traditional lodging establishment. Its first owner-manager, Frank Case (who bought the hotel in 1927), established many of the hotel's traditions. Perhaps its best-known tradition is hosting literary and theatrical notables, most prominently the members of the Algonquin Round Table.
The Algonquin Hotel was originally designed as an apartment hotel, whose owner planned to rent rooms and suites on year-long leases.
When few leases sold, the owner decided to turn it into a hotel which he was originally going to name "The Puritan." Frank Case, upon discovering that the Algonquin tribe had been the first residents of the area, convinced the owner to christen it "The Algonquin" instead.
Case took over the lease on the hotel in 1907 Case remained owner and manager of the hotel until his death in June 1946. In October that year, the Algonquin was purchased by Ben Bodne of Charleston, South Carolina for just over USD $1,000,000
who undertook an extensive restoration and renovation effort.
Bodne sold the hotel in 1987 to a group of Japanese investors and the Algonquin changed hands a number of times before ending up with Miller Global Properties in 2002. Following a two-year, USD $3,000,000 renovation,
the hotel was sold again in 2005 to HEI Hospitality.
The Alqonquin Round Table
In June 1919 the hotel became the site of the daily meetings of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of journalists, authors, publicists, and actors who gathered to exchange bon mots over lunch in the main dining room.
The group met almost daily for the better part of ten years. Some of the core members of the "Vicious Circle" included Robert Benchley, Heywood Broun, Marc Connelly, Jane Grant, Ruth Hale, George S. Kaufman, Neysa McMein, Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross, Robert E. Sherwood and Alexander Woollcott.
The hotel has a tradition of keeping a cat that has the run of the hotel. The practice dates to the 1930s, when Frank Case took in a stray. Hotel lore says actor John Barrymore suggested the cat needed a theatrical name, so he was called Hamlet
. Decades later, whenever the hotel has a male he carries on the name; females are named Matilda
. The current Algonquin cat, a Matilda, is a Ragdoll who was named 2006 cat of the year at the Westchester (New York) Cat Show. Visitors can spot Matilda on her personal chaise longue in the lobby; she can also be found in her favorite places: behind the computer on the front desk, or lounging on a baggage cart. The doormen feed her and the general manager's executive assistant answers Matilda's e-mail.
Although the Algonquin was "dry" even before Prohibition (Case closed the hotel bar in 1917), nevertheless the hotel does have an eponymous cocktail, composed of rye whiskey, Noilly Prat and pineapple juice.
More recently, a newer drink has hit the Algonquin's menu, the "Martini on the Rock," consisting of a martini of the buyer's choice with a single piece of "ice," a diamond, at the bottom of the glass.
In keeping with Frank Case's long-standing tradition of sending popovers and celery to the more impoverished members of the Round Table, the Algonquin offers lunch discounts to struggling writers.
Formerly, writers on tour could stay one night at the hotel free in exchange for an autographed copy of their book
although the practice has been discontinued.
The Algonquin Round Table, as well as the number of other literary and theatrical greats who lodged there, helped earn the hotel its status as a New York City Historic Landmark. The hotel was so designated in 1987.
In 1996 the hotel was designated a National Literary Landmark by the Friends of Libraries USA. The organization's bronze plaque is attached to the front of the hotel.
* James R. Gaines, ''Wit's End: Days and Nights of the Algonquin Round Table'' (New York: Harcourt, 1977).
* Official hotel site
- Algonquin Round Table site
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