7. The Lotte Palace Hotel – 1980

The historic Villard Houses and Palace Hotel Tower designed by Emery Roth and Sons
Courtesy of the Roth Family Archives

The Lotte New York Palace, which sits across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, consists of the historic Villard Houses and a 55-story tower designed by Emery Roth and Sons in Midtown East. The original owner of the hotel was real estate mogul Harry Helmsley. In an Untapped New York Insiders talk all about Roth-designed hotels, Richard Roth Jr. recounted a conversation between his father and Helmsley. Roth said he would only take the job of designing the hotel if the landmarked Villard Houses were saved. Luckily, Helmsley didn’t want to knock them down.

Once the tower was complete, the Helmsleys were satisfied – for the most part. There was one peculiar problem. As Richard Roth Jr. told Untapped New York Insiders, Leona Helmsley complained that people were falling off the hotel’s toilet seats! When he tested the seat himself, Richard Roth Jr. found they were the “cheapest piece[s] of nonsense ever.” The firm’ specifications called for the best wooden toilet seats, so the contractor must have cut some corners. While Richard’s involvement in the toilet seat debacle was over at that point, he’s sure the “Queen of Mean,” as Mrs. Helmsley came to be known, took care of it. Richard Roth Jr. said he always had a good relationship with Mrs. Helmsley.