Manhattan Hotel To Fall

Medium-sized image unavailable for this photo.
The Hotel Pennsylvania, one of McKim, Mead & White's later
designs, has been altered since it opened in 1919.

Credit: Vintage postcard

The New York City hotel that inspired the song "Pennsylvania 6-5000" will be torn down for a 2.5 million-square-foot office tower.

One of McKim, Mead & White's later designs, the 22-story Hotel Pennsylvania was one of the largest hotels in the world when it opened in 1919 with 2,200 rooms. It was built across the street from the firm's Pennsylvania Station, which was torn down in 1963 for Madison Square Garden. The Hotel Pennsylvania's ballroom was a big band hotspot for Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Glenn Miller, who made it famous in his 1940 jingle.

Owner Vornado Realty Trust, based in Paramus, N.J., intends to build an office tower with a trading floor in place of the 1,700-room hotel, which is not a city landmark.

"It holds a lot of cultural resonance with the city because of all the big bands that played there, but the inside has been pretty much stripped," says Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. "I don't think anyone who has stayed there recently has been overly in love with the place … Whatever tears are going to be shed, they're too late."

Vornado plans to complete its new tower in four years, so the hotel is still open for business.

Breen says the Hotel Pennsylvania's fate is a good reminder that in Manhattan's hot real-estate market, almost any site can be redeveloped. "Places that you wouldn't think of as a potential teardown are becoming just that." 

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