10. Vanderbilt Hotel at Grand Central
For over a century, New York City commuters have passed through Grand Central Terminal, Warren & Wetmore’s Beaux Arts masterpiece. However, most people are unaware that Grand Central Terminal does not stand on its own. The original plans by Reed & Stem, along with William John Wilgus, called for an entire city to accompany their train station.
Terminal City was to include a new home for the Metropolitan Opera and the National Academy of Design, as well as a 20 story post office building, office space, and hotels. While this vision was not realized, Terminal City did become a reality after many revisions. One of the most important aspects of the complex was its grand hotels, including The Vanderbilt.
In 1912, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt I commissioned Warren and Wetmore to construct a hotel at 34th Street and Park Avenue. Alfred Vanderbilt was the son of third son of Cornelius Vanderbilt II and grandson of Commodore Vanderbilt and he grew up in this stately mansion (whose remnants still abound). While the facade was restrained, with terra cotta flourishes, its interior was full of amenities and state of the art technologies, including pneumatic tubes. The Della Robbia Room was located in the hotel’s basement and was architecturally noted for its Gustavino ceiling.
Vanderbilt had the top two floors of the hotel transformed into a private house for his family. He lived there until 1915 when he tragically died on the Lusitania after giving up his life jacket. In 1925, the Vanderbilts sold the hotel and in 1967, the hotel was converted into a mixed-use building (upper floors apartments and lower floors offices). In 1966, the hotel’s new owners began to remove its fanciful terra cotta and the architects Schuman, Lichtenstein & Claman reclad the lower portion of the building. All was not lost. In 1994, the Della Robbia Bar (now Wolfgang’s Steakhouse) was designated an interior landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Next, check out Grand Central Terminal: Terminal City and its Hotels.