400 years ago this September, Henry Hudson sailed into what is now known as New York Harbor, and ever since, visitors have been looking for a place to stay in New York City. Here’s a few of New York’s ‘centennial club’ hotels, all of which are at least 100 years old.
Let’s start with a simple question – Which is New York’s oldest hotel still in business? That title belongs to the Sohotel, which has been in operation since 1805 under various names including The Worchester, The Occidental, The Pioneer and now Sohotel.
That’s a 204 year old hotel located just north of the spot where George Washington entered the Bowery with his troops and took command of the city, setting up the government of the United States on November 25, 1783.
This location in lower Manhattan off The Bowery at 341 Broome Street - with walking access to the attractions of Soho, Greenwich Village, Little Italy, China Town, and Tribeca - is pretty good even today.
The Sohotel nowadays makes a decent living as a no-frills budget hotel for students and tourists looking for reasonable accomodations in the heart of Downtown Manhattan.
Next question – which is the oldest NYC hotel operating under the same name? That would be The Algonquin Hotel, which opened in 1902.
Nothing much needs to be said about this famed historic hotel which has been immortalized on screen and in the literary works of Dorothy Parker and the rest of the Algonquin Round Table members.
Next up on the list is The Plaza (now the Fairmont Plaza), which opened its doors on October 1, 1907. Billed at that time as the world’s greatest hotel, The Plaza charged the exorbitant price of $2.50 per night for single rooms when it opened.
Straddling Fifth Ave and Central Park, The Plaza is not only a traditional brunch and afternoon tea spot for New York’s socialites, but also a movie star in it’s own right – most famously featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.
No list of New York hotels would be complete without honorable mention of the Chelsea Hotel - ground zero for Bohemians. The Chelsea is housed in a distinctive landmark building which dates back to 1884, first as an apartment building which opened as a hotel in 1905.
Former residents of the Chelsea include Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas, Sid Vicious and many more linked to Andy Warhol’s Factory.
Another hotel which just makes the cut as a 100+ historic hotel is The Jane NYC. Originally built as a hotel for sailors with cabin-like rooms in 1908, the hotel was restored and brought back to life in late 2008 as a budget hotel offering $99 rooms.
The Jane’s claim to fame lies in the fact that in 1912, the survivors of the Titanic stayed at the hotel until the end of the American Inquiry into the ship’s sinking. The surviving crew held a memorial service at the hotel four days after the ship sank.
Also eligible to join New York’s exclusive centennial club is the The Hotel Wolcott (1904), which also housed one Titanic survivor – Dr. Washington Dodge of San Francisco, who then penned a harrowing first-person account of the tragedy while staying at the Wolcott. Really dodged that one, didn’t he?
Hotel Chelsea photo by Gyrofrog (creative commons).