“Hotel Mavens” Reviewed by the New York Times
By Stanley Turkel, CMHS
The City Club of New York was founded in 1892 by Edmond Kelly as a non-partisan men’s club to promote effective and honest government in New York. Kelly (1851-1909) was an attorney, political reformer and sociologist, born in France to American parents. Two days after the City Club was incorporated in 1892, the Board of Trustees met for the first time and James C. Carter was elected President. Carter had previously been the President of the Harvard Club of New York from 1870-1872 and again from 1895-1899. Except for his poor health, it was said that Carter might have been appointed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by President Grover Cleveland.
At that City Club event in 1892, President Carter made the following prescient remarks:
We must have streets well-paved and cleaned. We must have sewers well-constructed and efficient. We must have our streets well-lighted. We must have order throughout our community secured by an efficient police force. We must have a local administration of justice, which will secure equal and exact justice to all alike- the rich and the poor, the high and low, the humble as well as the proud. We must contrive a system of taxation which will secure to us these great and obvious blessings at the smallest cost to the community, and that is the whole of it.
By 1904, the Club was successful enough to build and open its new home at 55 W. 44th Street.
The New York Times reported in 1904:
City Club’s New Home:
The handsome new house of the City Club at 55-57 West Forty-fourth Street was formally turned over yesterday afternoon by the Building Committee to the President of the organization, Wheeler H. Peckham….
The new clubhouse is in a neighborhood close to the Hanover Club, the New York Yacht Club, the Bay Association, the Yale Club, the St. Nicholas Club, and the Racquet Club…..
On the first floor are the office, reception and cloak rooms and to the rear are the billiard and lounging rooms. On the floor above are the library in green; the trustee’s room, in purple; the women’s lunchroom, in dull yellow; the butler’s pantry or serving room, and a private dining-room in red.
The chief room is the big banquet hall on the third floor, which runs the length of the building.
The architectural treatment of this room is simple, with high oak wainscoting, plain plaster frieze and plaster ceiling decorated with relief figures. On the walls are portraits of former club Presidents- James C. Carter and John E. Parsons, and of Dorman B. Eaton and John Harsen Rhoades. Portraits of R. Fulton Cutting, Richard Watson Gilder, Wheeler H. Peckham, and George E.Waring will also be hung there.
Above the banquet hall are three floors of living rooms of plain but comfortable furnishing. The guest chambers are on the sixth floor, Secretary’s office on the top floor, and the steward’s office and storerooms, with the kitchen, in the basement.
The City Club building was designed by the architectural firm of Lord and Hewlett. Austin Willard Lord (1860-1922) studied architecture in Minneapolis and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he received the Roth scholarship in 1888. From 1912 to 1915, he was professor of architecture and director of the School of Architecture at Columbia University.
James Monroe Hewlett (1868-1941), architect, artist, muralist and set designer was born into an old Long Island family. After graduating from Columbia University in 1890, Hewlett studied at the Ecole de Beaux-Arts in Paris. He worked at McKim, Mead & White until he founded Lord and Hewlett. A muralist and set designer as well as an architect, Hewlett painted murals at Cornell University, Carnegie Institution, Bank of New York and the Bronx County Courthouse. He designed the Sky Mural at Grand Central Station. Hewlett was president of the Architectural League of New York from 1919-1921. He had ten children, one of whom married an architect who would become famous in the latter part of the 20th century: R. Buckminster Fuller. The City Club of New York occupied the building from its construction in 1904 until 1939 when it was sold to the Institute of Public Administration who occupied it for many years.
In 1999, Jeff Klein, Stephen Brighenti and Forthright Development acquired the building and created the nine-story, 65-room City Club Hotel. With its discrete, elegant façade, it strikes a harmonious note among such prestigious neighbors as the Algonquin and Iroquois Hotels and the New York Yacht, Harvard and Penn Clubs.
The hotel’s award-winning restaurant is the DM Bistro Moderne created by the famous chef Daniel Boulud. It serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and room service. Comprised of two dining rooms linked by a paneled win bar, the front area is vibrant and casual while the back area offers a more subdued table-clothed ambience.
Disclosure: I served on the Board of Trustees of the City Club of New York for thirty-one years and chairman of the Board for eleven of those years. On December 15, 1995, I was awarded the City Club of New York Ad Urbem Perfectioram Certificate of Merit.
*excerpted from my book “Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York”
“Nostalgia for City’s caravansaries will be kindled by Stanley Turkel’s “Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt and Oscar of the Waldorf” (AuthorHouse). The fact-filled book by Mr. Turkel, an industry consultant, explains, among other things, the history of the hyphen (recently excised) in the name of the Waldorf Astoria, which inspired a mid-block street and even a song.”
To purchase a copy, visit my website (www.stanleyturkel.com) and click on the book title: softcover for $19.95, dust jacket hardcover for $28.95 or an E-Book for $3.99 directly from the publisher.