Helmsley was "Mr. New York Real Estate" for many decades,
the most respected man in the industry. He and his second wife,
Leona, built this 46-story hotel in 1971 and gave legendary parties
in their penthouse apartment in hotel.
by Emery Roth & Sons, the yellow-brick hotel extends through
the block to 58th Street where is setback in a plaza and driveway.
At its western edge, the hotel has a through-block arcade.
tower has never won architectural awards, but Mr. Helmsley would
six years later redeem himself with most architectural critics
as the savior of the Villard Houses on Madison Avenue across from
the back of St. Patrick's Cathedral, which he preserved by erecting
the New York Palace Hotel just to the east of them. That major luxury hotel project, where the developer's
Leona Helmsley, ruled as queen until her subsequent conviction
on tax fraud, is one of the nation's most spectacular examples
of the adaptive re-use of a landmark.
The low-rise set of six
popularly known as the Villard Houses, four of which surround
a large courtyard, were an official city landmark that were expensive
to maintain. They comprised the largest portion of the site, which
occupies almost half a full block between Madison and Park Avenues
facing the rear of St. Patrick's Cathedral.
On Central Park South, the
640-room Park Lane
required the demolition of several low-rise buildings as well
as two apartment buildings, one 12 stories and one 15 stories.
fine book, "New York 1960, Architecture and Urbanism Between
The Second World War and The Bicentennial," (The Monacelli
Press, 1995), Robert A. M. Stern, Thomas Mellins and David Fishman
provide the following commentary:
constituted a forceful if banal flat-topped addition to the skyline.
Its construction was a big financial gamble not only because of
its $30 million budget but also because, instead of relying on
convention-based business like the era's other skyscraper hotels,
it pursued the affluent individual traveler. The building is design
as a slab with travertine piers separating vertically arranged
rows of windows, running nearly the full height of the principle
facade to culminate in arches; at the bottom of the window bands
were reversed arches. The hotel's principal entrance was on Central
Park South, but there was also a porte corchere approached by
a semicircular driveway on Fifty-eighth Street. Inside, the public
rooms, designed by Tom Lee, an interior designer who specialized
in hotels, struggled to marry the designer's taste for a lighthearted
contemporary approach with the client's request for traditional
decor. Lee, who had designed for the stage, said that 'designing
a hotel is like producing play,' and his interiors for the Park
Lane wee infused with a sense of drama. The lobby had marble floors
and walls and nontraditional crystal chandeliers; some of the
public areas featured carved valances fashioned after the designs
of the English Baroque woodcarver Grinling Gibbons. The hotel's
main dining room, on the second floor overlooking Central Park,
was distinguished by nineteen-foot-high ceilings and walls papered
with a design based on decorative motifs used in the sixteenth-century
royal chateau at Fontainebleau."
is true that the Park Lane is not an architectural masterpiece,
its erection helped infuse some new life to Central Park South,
which was hurting at the time, economically and it filled a need
for new luxury hotel rooms then.