(bet. 53rd & 54th Streets)

Developer: Hilton Hotels

Architect: William B. Tabler

Erected: 1963

New York Hilton Hotel before redesign of base

View from northeast

By Carter B. Horsley

Completed the year before the opening of the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair, the New York Hilton brought the city into the era of modern conventions and corporate travel.

The 2,200-room hotel also helped legitimize this section of the Avenue of the Americas, and indeed much of west Midtown, as Rockefeller Center had not yet begun its major expansion across the avenue whose only important major new building in years had been the Time-Life Building three blocks to the south and completed in 1959.

The hotel is notable architecturally for its massing and its color.

Hilton Hotel tower facade

Hilton Hotel tower facade

The low-rise base, with recessed driveway entrance, contains the hotel's extensive public meeting rooms and ballrooms, and the slab tower contains the guest rooms.

Hotel after redesign of base

Hotel after redesign of base

While the base is not at all attractive, the tower slab is dazzling, both in its ridged curtain wall that gives its great expanse a rippling quality of vibrant verticality and texture and in its deep rich blue glass facade. The facade's simply but large bay windows enhance the guest's vistas but also make the exterior multi-faceted.

Redesigned base

At the end of the 20th Century, the hotel redid its low-rise base

The center portion of the tower's east wall is a concrete wall similar to the base. A modernization in the mid-1990s improved and enlivened the avenue entrance by lavish application of stainless steel to the ceilings and columns.

The hotel also expanded into the handsome new office building immediately to its west that was developed in conjunction with Edward Minksoff. That very handsome midblock building, designed by Kohn Pederson Fox and completed in 1989, has an address of 1325 Avenue of the Americas (see The City Review article) and provided important expansion space for this major hotel. It also has a large through-block arcade on which an attractive restaurant, Remi, faces. Because the Hilton is a narrow slab tower, many of the office building's offices have unusual views.

View from the southeast

View from east

The hotel's base, with its vertical "blinds" treatment, should be simply reclad in reflective black glass with the Hilton logo in the dark blue of the tower slab, the better to defer to the CBS "Black Rock" a block south across the avenue, to set off its really superb tower, whose top floor contains very impressive duplex "Presidential" suites, and to provide a more elegant backdrop to Jim Dine's huge plaza sculptures across 53rd Street.

Tower facade

The blue-glass tower facade is very impressive

At the end of the 20th Century, however, a redesign of the hotel's base facade was rather uninspired and a bit garish although the redesign of the lobby spaces was not bad.

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