News for the Hospitality Executive
Nobody Asked Me, But... No. 87
Expand the Javits Center Cost-Free; Is This the Science or Art of Brand Management?
By Stanley Turkel, CMHS, ISHC
April 2, 2012
1. Expand the Javits Center Cost-Free
Was there ever a worse idea than Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposal to demolish the Javits Center and to build the country's largest convention center in Ozone Park, Queens? It would be disaster for the following reasons:
With the addition of the following eighteen new brands, I have now reported on more than 108 new hotel announcements in the past 24 months:
The President Hotel in Kansas City, Mo. opened on February 5, 1926 with approximately 450 guest rooms and 19 public rooms. In 1928, it served as the headquarters for the Republican National Convention which nominated Herbert Hoover for president of the United States. The hotel was constructed during a boom in Kansas City that brought many other great buildings including the Mainstreet Theater, Midland Theater and Kansas City Power and Light Light Building. The hotel's Drum Room Lounge attracted outstanding entertainers, such as Benny Goodman, Marilyn Maye, Patsy Cline, Glenn Miller, the Marx Brothers and Frank Sinatra. The first General Manager was New York native H. Edgar Gregory.
The President was designed by architects Shepard & Wiser. The design of the building is replete with terra cotta and stone ornamentation forming gables, medallions, quatrefoils, string courses and friezes across the facade. These elaborate embellishments testify to an opulent period in Kansas City's history. The hotel was designed to incorporate the most modern of conveniences.
Each room had combo shower and tub, circulating ice water and softened water for bathing. Rooms were equipped with electric fans and valet doors (servidors?). All the room furniture was made from walnut. The massive columns in the lobby are made up of Kasota marble and the floors are all original Tennessee marble. The President was a social hub-during the twenties and thirties as it offered beautifully decorated lounges, public spaces and an elegant Roof Garden for its guests.
The owners, Westport Hotel Operating Company, employed an art director, a sculptor and a master decorator to provide the hotel's interior design. When the President opened, it had a unique "radiocasting" public address system and an ice manufacturing plant that could produce 8000 pounds of ice per day. In 1941, a new cocktail lounge, called the Drum Room opened. Designed by the architects Neville and Sharp, it featured a 280 square-foot mural with South Sea Island motifs by the famous German-American artist and interior designer Winold Reiss. In 1924, Reiss was commissioned by the magazine Survey Graphic to represent the Harlem Renaissance in a series of illustrations. He did portraits of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston as well as drawings of Harlem schoolteachers, children and other residents. Reiss also decorated Rumpelmayers Restaurant in the St. Moritz Hotel in Manhattan and the Colorama Ballroom in the St. George Hotel in Brooklyn (the largest hotel in the world in 1920 with 2623 rooms).
The President was the headquarters hotel in Kansas City for Charles Lindbergh during his goodwill tour of America. He spoke and hosted a dinner in the stunning Congress Ballroom on the 12th floor.
The hotel was closed and stood vacant from 1980 until 2005. After an expenditure of $45 million, Kansas City developer Ron Jury reopened the President with 213 rooms with great sensibility for its history and with modern amenities. The President is now operated as a Hilton franchise.
The General Manger is Philip Strnad who is passionate in his devotion to the Hilton President. He reports a couple of ironies: "My parents spent their honeymoon in this very hotel around 1950. My birthday is on February 5th, the same as the opening of the hotel."
When you visit Kansas City, stay at the President Hotel and ask GM Strnad to take you on a guided tour of this great restored hotel which earned the AAA Four Diamond designation in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Quote of the Month
"To say that New York came up to its advance billing would be the baldest of understatements. Being there was like being in heaven without going to all the bother and expense of dying."
Please note the following reviews of my new book, "Built to Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York"
*"passionate and informative"
The New York Times
*"It's a terrific book"
Fred Schwartz, President, AAHOA
*"You have done an amazing job... your research into the history.... of these properties embellishes the topic immensely"
Stephen Rushmore, President, HVS International
*"I must say here that it has been a sincere privilege to review "Built to Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York"... I found it a fascinating read and it should be for anyone interested in history, building design and hospitality..."
John Hogan, CHE, CHA, CMHS, Ph.D.
To order the book, visit www.centuryoldhotelsinnewyork.com
Stanley Turkel, MHS, ISHC
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