Last month, the Hotel Pennsylvania Preservation Society finally breathed a deep sigh of relief. The historic Hotel Penn, across the street from Penn Station, has been denied landmark status several times in recent years and its owner, Vornado Realty Trust, planned to demolish it in order to build a new office complex in its place. After a five-year battle, however, Vornado gave up its plan to tear down the hotel and has launched an effort to restore the hotel to its former glory instead.
The Hotel Pennsylvania was built in 1919 by McKim, Mead and White, the same architects who designed the original Penn Station which, to the great chagrin of many New Yorkers, was demolished in 1963 to make way for Madison Square Garden (check out our April Fool’s Day guide to the new Penn Station, the most hated building in New York). The Cafe Rouge is one of the most famous and historic rooms in the Hotel Pennsylvania. At the time of its creation, it was the largest hotel restaurant in the world. During its heyday, the Cafe Rouge hosted musical performances featuring artists such as Duke Ellington and The Glenn Miller Orchestra. Glenn Miller was a frequent guest of the hotel and his band’s song, “Pennsylvania 6-5000,” is a tribute to the hotel’s phone number. The Hotel Pennsylvania uses the same number today; according to the hotel, it is the oldest continuing phone number in New York City.
The Cafe Rouge remains intact today, although the entire interior has been painted over in white. The restaurant is owned by Vornado Reality Trust and can be rented out for special events. This year, the Cafe hosted several fashion shows, including that of designer Kimberly Ovitz, during New York City’s Fashion Week.
Be sure to check out our vintage slideshow post about Jackie O’s efforts to save Grand Central Terminal, a building that would have had the same fate as Penn Station if not for preservationists like Jackie O.