Hotel Online  Special Report


Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 53
Historic Hotel Theresa: the Waldorf of Harlem, 
The Origin of Memorial Day, Make Mandatory Arbitration Illegal
By Stanley Turkel, MHS, ISHC
June 4,  2009

1. Historic Hotel Theresa: the Waldorf of Harlem

The Hotel Theresa opened in 1913 on 125th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem and closed its doors as a hotel in 1970.  It was built by German-born stockbroker Gustavus Sidenberg to the designs of architects George and Edward Blum.  The Blum brothers were trained at the famous Ecole des Beaux- Arts in Paris and they designed a full-blockfront all white apartment hotel 13 stories high with 300 rooms.  Like its façade, the newly-opened Theresa had an all-white clientele and staff for its first twenty-eight years.  In 1940, reflecting the changing population of Harlem, the hotel accepted all races, hired a black staff and management and became known as the “Waldorf of Harlem.”  The Hotel Theresa was integrated when most mid-Manhattan hotels wouldn’t accept blacks.  They could perform at the clubs, hotels and theaters but couldn’t sleep in the hotel rooms or eat in the hotel’s restaurant.

Black Americas most famous stars- Josephine Baker, Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong, Dorothy Dandridge, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Lena Horne, Count Basie- had to go to Harlem for a night’s sleep.  For many blacks the existence of the Hotel Theresa’s rooms, bars and swank shops was regarded as a sign that they had finally arrived, at least in Harlem.

Seventh Avenue and 125th Street was called the Great Black Way.  The neighborhood contained the Salem Methodist Church; the studio of James Van Der Zee, Harlem’s most famous photographer; the African Memorial National Bookstore; the mafia-owned Diamond Jewelry Store; the M. Smith Photo Studio; the Apollo Theater; Blumstein’s Department Store; Frank’s Restaurant; Harlem Opera House; Oscar Hammerstein’s Play House; Hartz and Seamon’s Music Hall; the Cotton Club; Mike’s Place; Savoy Ballroom; Nest Club; Smalls Paradise; The Club Baron.

In 1940, the following announcement appeared in the New York Age: 

Harlem Hotel Seeks Negro Trade; Picks Manager: The Hotel Theresa at Seventh Avenue and 125th Street, which catered to white patronage for several years, has changed its policy as of March 20 and will cater to both races, under Negro management with a Negro staff, according to an announcement by Richard Thomas, publicity manager of the hotel.  In carrying out its new policy for the accommodation of Negroes and whites, the Gresham Management Company, operators of the Theresa, appointed Walter Scott as the hotel’s manager.  Extensive renovations and improvements of the service and facilities of the hotel have been undertaken.  A staff of 80 persons has been employed.
The African American General Manager Walter Scott had been the business manager at the Harlem YMCA on 135th Street.  A graduate of New York University and a World War I veteran, Scott had worked as a bellhop, partner and waiter on the Hudson River Dayline boats.  Early in April 1940, Scott and his wife Gertrude and their sixteen year-old daughter, Gladys moved into a six-room suite on the tenth floor.

In 1941, heavyweight champion Joe Louis attracted 10,000 fans when he stayed at the Theresa after a victory at the Polo Grounds.  Soon thereafter, John H. Johnson was a guest at the Theresa when he started a new pocket-size magazine called Negro Digest and, in 1945, Ebony which was followed by Jet in 1951.  After splitting with the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X rented offices at the hotel for his Organization of Afro-American Unity.

In 1948, when GM Walter Scott resigned because of illness, Gresham Management hired William (Bill) Harmon Brown as resident manager, Brown graduated from Howard University where he had earned a National Youth Administration scholarship, funded by a New Deal program for students who had a B average or better.  President Bill Clinton’s commerce secretary Ron Brown, the manager’s son, grew up in the hotel. U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel (D. New York) once worked there as a desk clerk.

Fidel Castro and his staff came to New York in 1960 when he was to address the United Nations.  They first checked in to the Shelburne Hotel at Lexington Avenue and 37th Street but moved to the Hotel Theresa when the Shelburne demanded $10,000 for alleged damage that included cooking chickens in their rooms.  The Theresa was the beneficiary of the worldwide publicity when Nikita Khrushchev, the premier of the Soviet Union; Jawaharlal Nehru, the prime minister of India; and Malcom X, all visited Castro there.  Castro’s entourage rented eighty rooms for a total of $800 per day.

At the end of 1960, John F. Kennedy made a presidential campaign stop at the hotel with Jacqueline Kennedy, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Senator Herbert Lehman, Governor Averill Harriman, Mayor Robert Wagner and Eleanor Roosevelt.  “I am delighted to come and visit,” said Kennedy.  “Behind the fact of Castro coming to this hotel, Khrushchev coming to Castro, there is another great traveler in the world, and that is the travel of a world revolution, a world in turmoil.  I am delighted to come to Harlem and I think the whole world should come here and the whole world should recognize that we all live right next to each other, whether here in Harlem or on the other side of globe.”

In 1971, the hotel was converted to an office building with the name Theresa Towers and was declared a landmark by New York City in 1993.

2.  The Origin of Memorial Day

On April 14, 1865, a celebration took place at Fort Sumter, S.C.  It was four years to the day after the surrender of the Fort to Confederate forces.  Three thousand African Americans crammed on to the island fortress for the ceremony to hear the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, the orator of the day.  In attendance were Robert Smalls, former slave and war hero; Martin Delany, former abolitionist and the first black major in the Union Army; President Lincoln’s secretary John G. Nicolay and abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.  Many toasts were offered to President Abraham Lincoln who had been assassinated earlier that night in Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.

The first Decoration Day was celebrated on May 1, 1865 by a estimated 10,000 people, most of them liberated slaves.  At the dedication of a burial ground at the historic Washington Race Course in Charleston, S.C., black Charlestonians gave birth to an American tradition.  The site was a former Confederate prison camp as well as a mass grave for Union soldiers who died in captivity.  The freed slaves disinterred the dead Union soldiers from the mass grave to be properly buried in individual graves.  On May 30, 1868, the freedmen returned and decorated the gravesites with handpicked flowers, hence the name Decoration Day.  Union general John A. Logan, in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a veteran’s organization, issued a proclamation that “Decoration Day” be observed nationwide.

Many former Confederate states refused to celebrate Decoration Day because of their continuing hostility towards the Union cause.  However, in Columbus, Mississippi, residents celebrated Decoration Day starting on April 25, 1866 with recognition of Union and Confederate dead buried in its cemetery.

The name Memorial Day was first used in 1882 and was declared the official name in 1967 to commemorate the U.S. servicemen and women who died in all wars.

3.  Make Mandatory Arbitration Illegal

On April 1, 2007, I wrote that “Many hotel franchise agreements stipulate arbitration over litigation.  At first glance, this may appear to be more beneficial to franchisees but nothing could be further from the truth.  Compulsory arbitration protects franchisor interests while diluting franchisee remedies.”

What are the disadvantages of mandatory arbitration?

  • Arbitrators may be friendly with your franchisor since the choice of venue is usually in the franchisor’s HQ City.  In court, however, the dispute will be resolved by a jury of your peers.
  • Arbitration is very expensive because arbitrators receive $250 to $500 per hour while judges in state and federal courts are compensated by taxpayer dollars.
  • The discovery process is very limited.
  • The normal rules of evidence and procedure do not apply as they would in state or federal court.
The bipartisan Arbitration Fairness Act 9 (H.R. 1020 and S. 931) was introduced in Congress on April 29, 2009.  The bill aims to make pre-dispute agreements requiring mandatory arbitration for any franchise, consumer, employment or civil rights disputes unenforceable.  Hotel franchisees complain that there is little opportunity to negotiate the terms of an arbitration clause in franchise agreements.  It is a “take it or leave it” situation.

Don Sniegowski, editor of the website reports:

Consumer advocates say there is widespread support across party lines for the Arbitration Fairness Act.  They cite a recent poll from Lake Research Partners that shows that some six in ten voters support the act and that 59% of likely voters oppose the use of mandatory binding arbitration clauses like those found in franchise contracts and credit card agreements.
4.  Quote of the Month
All truth passes through three stages.  First, it is ridiculed.  Second, it is violently opposed.  Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
Arthur Schopenhauer

Stanley Turkel, MHS, ISHC ( operates his hotel consulting office as a sole practitioner specializing in franchising issues, asset management and litigation support services.  Turkel’s clients are hotel owners and franchisees, investors and lending institutions.  Turkel serves on the Board of Advisors and lectures at the NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management.  He is a member of the prestigious International Society of Hospitality Consultants.  His provocative articles on various hotels subjects have been published in the Cornell Quarterly, Lodging Hospitality, Hotel Interactive, Hotel-Online, AAHOA Lodging Business, etc.  Don’t hesitate to call 917-628-8549 or email


Stanley Turkel, MHS, ISHC

Also See: Nobody Asked Me, But No.52 / At Long Last; New York’s Essex House; Origin of Mother’s Day;  An Annual Feast for Number Crunchers; The End of the Hotel Bathtub?/ Stanley Turkel / May 2009
Nobody Asked Me, But No.51 / Transformation of the Shelton Towers Hotel; One Hotel’s Fate 119 Years Ago / Stanley Turkel / April 2009
Nobody Asked Me, But No.50 / Do You Know About O8A? Do Hotel Franchisees Need Independent Associations?The Best Franchise Advisory Councils / Stanley Turkel / March 2009
Nobody Asked Me, But No. 49 / Slave Trading at the Saint Charles Hotel in Washington DC, Why Are Some Hotel Franchise Companies Defranchising Exterior Corridor Hotels / Stanley Turkel / February 2009
Nobody Asked Me, But No. 48 / New President of Wyndham Ignores the Real Issues; Hotel Franchises Compared to Auto Dealer Franchises / Stanley Turkel / January 2009
Nobody Asked Me, But No. 47 / New CEO of Choice Misses an Opportunity; Lost and Forgotten Hotels; Little Known Hotel Facilities in New York / Stanley Turkel / December 2008
Nobody Asked Me, But No. 45/ Remembering John Curry; Hotel Owners Have The Power / Stanley Turkel / October 2008
Nobody Asked Me, But No. 44 / Hotel Franchise Companies Performance Appraisal Report, a Down-to-earth Assessment of the Hotel Capital Markets / Stanley Turkel / September 2008
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 43  / Hotel Franchisor Companies Ignoring Critical Franchising Issues,  Marriott Leads the Way with Aggressive Environmental Strategies / Stanley Turkel / August 2008
Nobody Asked Me, But No. 42 / Remembering Jack Craver; World Record-Setting Hotels; At Last: A Major Gaming Facility in the Catskills / Stanley Turkel / July 2008
Nobody Asked Me, But No. 41 / Landmark Belleview Biltmore Resort Saved; Hotel Developers Take Note - the Borough of Bronx in NYC Has 1.5 million Residents and Just One Hotel in the AAA Guide; Boutique Hotel Bandwagon / Stanley Turkel / June 2008
Nobody Asked Me, But No. 39 / Say Goodbye To The UFOC; Dunfey Brothers To Be Honored; The Plaza Hotel Reopens After a $400 Million Renovation / Stanley Turkel / April 2008
Nobody Asked Me, But No. 38 / Super 8 Owners Form an Independent Franchise Association; Why Is There a Bible in Every Hotel Room? / Stanley Turkel / March 2008
Nobody Asked Me, But No. 37 / Remember the Savoy Plaza Hotel?; Is Economic Disaster Imminent; Cuba at the Crossroads / Stanley Turkel / February 2008
Nobody Asked Me, But No. 36 / What the Advertisements for the Largest Hotel Franchise Companies Never Mention - Also Measuring Hotel Brand Value / Stanley Turkel / January 2008
Nobody Asked Me, But No. 35 / Casino Expansion Has Transformed America, Exercise Awareness / Stanley Turkel / December 2007
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 34 / IHG’s Great Idea, Sound-Proofing Hotels, Best Western Enters the Upper Midscale Segment, How to Convert Confusion Into Order,  Sign at a Tarrytown, NY Inn, 1798 / November 2007
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 33 / 1957 Murder at the Park Sheraton Hotel; How Much Does A Franchise Really Cost?A Marriage Made in Heaven?; A Good Night’s Sleep at the Benjamin Hotel / Stanley Turkel / October 2007
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 31 - Rhode Island Improves Franchise Rules, What’s Up With Canada? Conversion of a Jail Into a Hotel, The Richest (and Poorest) Places in the U.S. / Stanley Turkel / September 2007
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 31 - Blackstone's Acquisition of Hilton, The Art of Groveling, The Origin of Franchising / Stanley Turkel / August 2007
Nobody Asked Me, But…. No. 30 / Impertinent Questions In Search of Pertinent Answers: Carbon monoxide detectors, exterior-corridor properties / Stanley Turkel / July 2007
How American-Owned Can You Get?, ISHC's CapEx 2007 Report, The Bowery Hotel / Stanley Turkel / June 2007
Hotel Franchising and State Laws, Is Immigration Important? Save the Biltmore, The Good Old Days, Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / May 2007
Nobody Asked Me, But - No. 27 / Hotel Franchise Agreements: Mediation, Arbitration or Litigation? / Stanley Turkel / April 2007
Nobody Asked Me, But - No. 26 / Energy Usage and Potential Savings; Great Art in Hotels; Lifestyle Hotels; The Minimum Wage Issue; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / March 2007
Nobody Asked Me, But - No. 25 / Guestroom Design & Amenities, Get a Human, Best Luxury Hotels in the U.S., Turnpike, The Pineapple as Symbol of Hospitality, Fair Franchising / Stanley Turkel / February 2007
Nobody Asked Me, But - No. 24 / Loose Cannon, Fair Franchising, Manhattan Hotel Profits, Hotels of the Future, Interesting Miscellany, Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / January 2007
Nobody Asked Me, But - No. 23 / Biting The Hand That Feeds You?, By The Numbers, Shortage of Hotel Rooms, There is No Free Lunch, Iron Laws of Business Travel, Happy New Year / Stanley Turkel / January 2007
Nobody Asked Me, But - No. 22 / Smart Elevators, Tony Marshall’s Memorial, Women in the Hospitality Industry / Stanley Turkel / December 2006
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 21 / The Drake Hotel in New York, Fair Franchising is Not an Oxymoron, By the Numbers, Another Secret Underground Shelter, Passing of Anthony G. Marshall / Stanley Turkel / December 2006
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 20 / Turnabout Is Fairplay, Secret Underground Shelter, By the Numbers, Genuine Fair Franchising/ Stanley Turkel / November 2006
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 19 / International Society of Hospitality Consultants, Great Miami Hotels, Reduce Carbon Monoxide Emissions, Turn Gray Into Gold / Stanley Turkel / November 2006
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 18 / John Q. Hammons, Save the Belleview Biltmore, Chinese Tourism, CFLs, Ernie Byfield, Guestroom Entertainment in 1905 / Stanley Turkel / October 2006
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 17 - AAHOA's 12 Points of Fair Franchising, Protected Territories, / Stanley Turkel / September 2006
The Newest Independent (and Oldest Partially Independent) Franchise Association in the Hotel Industry / Stanley Turkel / September 2006
In Hotel Franchising, Reality Trumps Wishful Thinking / Stanley Turkel / August 2006
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 14; Impact Studies, Stretching Segments, Short-Stay Rentals, Smoke-free Marriotts, Franchising in China, Save the Belleview Biltmore Hotel / August 2006
The U.S. Population Age 65 and Over is Expected to Double in the Next 25 Years; What Does this Mean for the Hotel Industry? / Stanley Turkel / July 2006
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 12; Portman, Women Homeowners, Minimum Wage, Tipping, Brooklyn Bridge, Chinese Tourism, Impact Studies / Stanley Turkel / July 2006
Do Hotel Franchisees Need Independent Franchise Associations? / Stanley Turkel / June 2006
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 10 / Chinese Tourists, Gasoline Prices and Alternatives, GLBT Segment, Travel Agents, FAC's, Manhattan's Record Breaking Year, Impertinent Questions / Stanley Turkel / June 2006
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 9 / Blang, Bathtubs, Best Green, Arbitration, Best Western, AAHOA, State Franchising Laws, VFR / Stanley Turkel / May 2006
Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 8; Bathtubs, Smokefree Hotels, Maps, Saving Water, Nevada Revenues, H.P. Rama, Ritz-Carlton, Statler Service Code, Mother’s Day / Stanley Turkel / April 2006
Nobody Asked Me, But….No. 7 / Stanley Turkel, MHS, ISHC / March 2006
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