The Commodore: “New York’s Newest Hotel”

Recognize this stately building? Probably not, though it still stands today, a commanding presence next to Grand Central Terminal on 42nd Street.

Commodorehotelpostcard

Opened in 1919, it’s the Commodore, billed on the back of this postcard as “New York’s newest and most up-to-date hotel . . . containing 2,000 rooms with baths and circulating ice water in every room.”

CommodorehotelmcnyAfter the hotel’s owner (the New York Central Railroad, owner of Grand Central too) went bust in the late 1970s, Donald Trump came along.

He remodeled the exterior in reflective glass and gave it a more contemporary name, the Grand Hyatt—erasing the reference to Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt, railroad tycoon and owner of the original Grand Central Depot.

It’s been the Grand Hyatt since reopening in 1980. Here’s another view of it and the rest of what became of Pershing Square.

[Left: The Commodore in 1926, from the MCNY Digital Gallery]

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11 Responses to “The Commodore: “New York’s Newest Hotel””

  1. manhattan resident Says:

    The rehabilitation of this hotel put Donald Trump on the map. He stated that he could bring this hotel back from the brink and he did, on time and on budget. That made is reputation with this and Wollman rink. And then he went off the deep end. Sad. He started out really great.

  2. r185 Says:

    If memory serves, the beginning of the end was how he handled the Bonwit Teller building demo and reneging on saving some architectural detail.

  3. Walt Gosden Says:

    From 1905 to 1931 there was an annual custom bodied car salon in Manhattan, first held at the Hotel Astor and when the Hotel Commodore opened it started to be held there until its demise in 1931. The “Salon” was also held in Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The New York Salon was exclusive, and you could see the custom bodied cars by invitation only, it was a big social /society event. A car body alone could cost $5,000 and take 6 months or more to build. The chauffeurs were invited to go during the day to talk to the assorted body builders for technical details – would you want a chassis supplied by Pierce – Arrow, Franklin , Isotta Fraschini etc. I own the 1931 Franklin victoria brougham that was at the 1930 Salon at the Commodore on the Derham Body Company exhibit.

  4. RD Wolff Says:

    I remember watching in disgust as workers with jackhammers destroyed those carved limestone sculptures on the lower 2 floors of the facade to make them flush with the brick.
    I own one of the hand made copper cornice sections from the roof, set of doorknobs and silverware from the hotel.

    • Mykola Mick Dementiuk Says:

      What are workers supposed to do with their jackhammers, they were taken on to do a job and they did it, as much as destruction was part of it. Don’t blame the lowly worker, blame the landowner, just as the Lower East Side has been destroyed by greedy landowners forever.

  5. Mykola Mick Dementiuk Says:

    I read “watching in disgust as workers with jackhammers destroyed those carved limestone sculptures…” That sounded very scornful to me…

  6. Linkage: Permits Filed in East Harlem; Guide to Miracle on 34th Street | Pistilli Realty Group Says:

    […] Permits filed for nine-story building in East Harlem [YIMBY] · The history of The Commodore hotel [ENY] · There’s a selfie kiosk at 1 WTC [6sqft · The Fung Wah bus will probably be […]

  7. Linkage: Permits Filed in East Harlem; Guide to Miracle on 34th Street | LIBERTY ALLIANCE Says:

    […] Permits filed for nine-story building in East Harlem [YIMBY] · The history of The Commodore hotel [ENY] · There’s a selfie kiosk at 1 WTC [6sqft · The Fung Wah bus will probably be […]

  8. Michael Hickey Says:

    During the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, my father, Daniel C. Hickey, was vice-president and general manager of the Hotel Commodore. The president of the hotel during those years was Les Sefton. Often on the weekends, my family would transplant ourselves from our home on Long Island to the wonderful place we called simply “the hotel,” where we stayed in suite 22-A, the Presidential Suite, from Friday night through Sunday. The suite was spectacular. I don’t know its square footage, but I would estimate it at close to 3,000 square feet. Built along a long and wide central hallway lined with trappings and furniture on an Asian theme, the suite had two large bedrooms, each with full bath, a separate dressing room, a small wet bar, a comfortable den with color TV, a very spacious living room, a full-size dining room, and a large chef’s kitchen. That suite on the 22nd floor is long-gone now, the space broken down into a number of individual guest rooms. The part of the hotel in its present form which is most reminiscent for me is the mezzanine entrance, through which we always entered through the still-revolving door, and the mezzanine-level hallway and elevator area which still overlooks the enormous lobby one level below, the celebrated size of which remains today as it was then, even if nothing else does.

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