< UNITED STATES | NEW YORK CITY: The Peninsula New York
Built between 1902 and 1905 by the Fifty-Fifth Street Company - a real estate development firm, The Peninsula New York opened in 1905 as The Gotham
Hotel. With its limestone carvings, copper cornice and Doric columns, the 23-story, neo-Italian Renaissance building was designed by the architectural firm of Hiss & Weekes,
and built at a cost of $2.25 million, The Gotham was one of the first hotels in New York to use steel-frame construction, and it was intended to complement the neighboring
University Club, built in 1900.
Sculptures of ancient Roman Goddesses Ceres and Diana still adorn the entrance of the building. Ceres, Goddess of Agriculture, is seen carrying a cornucopia while Diana, Goddess of the Hunt, carries her signature bow and arrow, acting as symbols that represent agriculture and commerce respectively. In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, agriculture formed the basis for much of the wealth at the time, while commerce was, and still is, a perpetual hunt for profits and advantage.
Unfortunately, The Gotham didn't survive past 1908 due to bankruptcy, partly because it could not acquire a liquor license as it was too close to The Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. In 1932, it was taken over by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Renovated in 1939, it continued to operate as a residential apartment hotel until 1978.
In 1979, the hotel was taken over by Swiss hotel owner Rene Hatt who initiated an epic $200 million renovation, that began a year later and was not completed until 1987. Under the design direction of Pierre Cardin, hotel re-opened briefly as Maxim’s de Paris. The renovation included the construction of the hotel’s iconic rooftop health club and pool, and as Hatt being an avid lover of discos and jazz, New York’s first ever public discotheque, L’interdit, in the basement.
The property was purchased by parent company, The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, Limited, and re-opened as the U.S. flagship of The Peninsula Hotels in October 1988. At the time, it was decided that many of the Art Nouveau features from Maxim’s would remain. Ten years later, a sweeping reconstruction project orchestrated by the architects Brennan, Beer, Gorman and the design firm of Hirsch Bedner Associates, updated The Peninsula New York’s ambiance, seamlessly merging contemporary fabrics, furnishings and technology with the many classical design elements already present in the hotel.
Even after countless dramatic renovations, hints of the original Gotham remain, including the heavily figured lobby ceiling and rear fire stairs, proving that old certainly does not always read as outdated. The Peninsula New York, still sitting proudly on Fifth Avenue, is without is without a doubt a New York landmark.
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