Brush up on storied pasts at opulent Big Apple properties.
The city that never sleeps boasts its fair share of historic hotels. And while taking in big-city grandeur along New York's iconic streets is a given, the following accommodations earn top bragging rights for hosting some of the most influential people of the 20th century. Plus, they have a long-lasting legacy that exceeds any industry accolade. At these storied retreats, you'll need to book far in advance – and be prepared to pay a steep price – but you can rest assured knowing there's a good chance you're resting your head in a bed that changed the course of history or, at the very least, pop culture.
The Algonquin Hotel Times Square, Autograph Collection
The literary genius lingering in the Algonquin Hotel is palpable. New York City's oldest continuously operating hotel was once the clubhouse for the likes of Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross, Edna Ferber and Alexander Woollcott. These luminaries were all members of the exclusive Algonquin Round Table, and they met for lunch and circulated ideas at the property during the Roaring '20s. The hotel was also a favorite haunt for Hollywood icons like Orson Welles, who honeymooned at the Algonquin. Today, guests can stay in the Simon & Schuster suite – equipped with an in-room private library – before dining in the iconic Blue Bar.
(Courtesy of The Algonquin)
Waldorf Astoria New York
Few hotel names carry the weight of the Waldorf Astoria New York. Established in 1893 by William Astor, the Waldorf Hotel set the precedent for classic properties like The Plaza. After a brief closing, the property reopened in 1931 as the world's largest and tallest hotel. By 1955 Hollywood's darling, Marilyn Monroe, had moved into the hotel with her husband, Arthur Miller. In addition to its star-studded clientele, the Waldorf Astoria is also known for its food. Legend has it the hotel is the birthplace of the Waldorf Salad and 24-hour room service. A landmark hotel, the Waldorf Astoria is scheduled to close in 2017 for a three-year renovation.
(Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria New York)
The Carlton Hotel, Autograph Collection
Walking down the grand staircase and into The Carlton Hotel New York's lobby is like taking a leap back in time. The year is 1904 and the Beaux Arts building, then known as Hotel Seville, is one of the most opulent hotels in the country. Fast forward a few years, and the property has pioneered a ground-breaking initiative to welcome solo women. "Particular attention to ladies traveling alone," read the local paper advertisements touting modern rooms. And today, guests can pull up a stool at the same bar where Frank Sinatra used to listen to live music in The Carlton's brassiere Millesime, and admire an original Tiffany-style skylight dome dating back more than a century.
(Courtesy of Carlton Autograph Collection)
New York Hilton Midtown
In a city founded hundreds of years ago, the New York Hilton Midtown – dating back to 1963 – isn't all that old. Still, in the past 50-plus years, it has seen some monumental events. In 1964, the property's penthouse suite was the home base for the Beatles. Seven years later John Lennon would return to the hotel to pen "Imagine" on hotel stationary. Technological milestones have also been achieved here. The press conference following the first cellphone call was held at the hotel in 1973, and in 1998 the property introduced microchip cards that would eventually replace traditional room keys. Today, guests can use the new PRIV app to book in-room services like yoga.
(Courtesy of New York Hilton Midtown)
The Plaza, A Fairmont Managed Hotel
In a city with nearly 300 hotels, The Plaza's recognition is second to none. After this elegant South Central Park property opened in 1907, it garnered acclaim as the setting for several chapters in "The Great Gatsby," and most notably, it is the home of Eloise – the beloved children's book character who lives on the top floor. On the silver screen, The Plaza is immortalized in the '90s classic, "Home Alone 2," and in 1987 the hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
(Courtesy of The Plaza)
At 110 years old, this storied hotel has played host to literary greats like F. Scott Fitzgerald. According to legend, a Knickerbocker bartender named Martini di Arma di Taggia invented the martini as we know it when he was asked to make one for John D. Rockefeller. And in 1919, Fitzgerald holed up in one of the hotel's rooms to finish writing a story. That same year, The Knickerbocker was where Red Sox manager Ed Barrow learned he was losing Babe Ruth to the Yankees. Today, the hotel's bar has been reborn as the St. Cloud, one of the Big Apple's most coveted rooftop bars.
(Courtesy of The Knickerbocker)
Q&A Residential Hotel
It may not have the same recognition of Park Avenue, but Pine Street in Lower Manhattan is one of Manhattan's oldest streets. Rising 950 feet and 66 stories, 70 Pine St. was once the third tallest building in the world. In 2011, the property's exterior and interior – featuring ornate art deco carvings – were designated historical landmarks by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Today the building is home to the Q&A Residential Hotel. The property's themed suites honor some of the greatest inventions and visionaries in recent history with larger-than-life art installations of patents for everything from windshield wipers to the blueprints of the 1906 aircraft flown by the Wright Brothers.
(Courtesy of Q&A Residential Hotel)
When Fidel Castro and his entourage arrived in New York City on Sept. 18, 1960, they checked into the Shelburne Hotel. Castro was in town to address the United Nations. In one of the most dramatic hotel checkouts in history, the Cuban contingent stormed out of the Shelburne the next day – leaving behind a trail of chicken bones, feathers and moldy meat. Today, the Hotel Shelburne is known as Shelburne NYC and is a boutique property within the Affinia collection.
(Courtesy of Shelburne NYC)
Hotel Indigo Lower East Side
The Lower East Side was once ground zero for immigrants arriving to America. Crowds were the norm in tenement buildings squeezed between bustling factories. Aspiring artists and musicians moved in during the '60s, helping to define the neighborhood as a place where creativity was celebrated. Though its gritty streets became a stomping ground for criminals, they also ushered in one of the most controversial figures, Lee Quinones, a pioneer in the graffiti movement that swept through New York City's subway system in the '80s and '90s. Today, a mural installed by Quinones himself can be seen at Hotel Indigo Lower East Side – a great place to stay for a LES cultural immersion.
(Courtesy of Hotel Indigo Lower East Side)
The Marlton Hotel
Many of Jack Kerouac's famous travel novels weren't written on the road. In fact, "The Subterraneans" and "Tristessa" were penned while Kerouac was hunkering down at The Marlton. Built in 1900, this Greenwich Village staple has housed everyone from Mickey Rourke to Maggie Smith. The feminist Valerie Solanas was living here in 1968 when she attempted to murder Andy Warhol at The Factory. Another countercultural figure who called Marlton House home was the comedian Lenny Bruce, who was convicted of obscenity in 1964 and later received New York state's first posthumous gubernatorial pardon. In 2013, the building was renovated into a Parisian-inspired boutique.
(Courtesy of The Marlton)