Developer: Col. John Jacob Astor
Architect: Trowbridge & Livingston; Sloan & Robertson (expansion)
Erected: 1904; 1927 (expansion)

View from West 55th Street

By Carter B. Horsley

This elegant, Parisian-style dowager hotel set new standards for luxury when it opened and is one of Fifth Avenue's fabled gems.

Its bronze-domed doorman's sentry box beneath its large sidestreet canopy proudly announces its high-tone service. Although its main lobby is relatively small, albeit very lavish, the hotel has always been known for its elegant entertaining rooms. Its "roof," as the hotel refers to its enclosed top floor, still has its pleasant, medium-size ballroom that has lost some of its elegance over the years but still has some wonderful window views.

View south on Fifth Avenue

The 1927 expansion extended the hotel down the sidestreet with compatible though less detailed facades. The expansion, by Duke Management, also permitted the hotel to create an enormous and magnificent, club-like bar room highlighted by Maxfield Parrish's large mural of a flatulent "Old King Cole" that originally was in the former Knickerbocker Hotel on the southwest corner of Broadway and 42nd Street that Astor had built shortly after he had erected the larger and more famous Astor Hotel on Broadway between 44th and 45th Streets that was sadly demolished to make way for an office tower.

The "King Cole" room, for many years one of the city's most elegant and largest bars, sadly has been redone twice in recent years and the famous mural put in a smaller bar when the Sheraton Corporation completed a long-overdue renovation in 1991. The hotel in the 1990s boatsted a highly regarded French restaurant, which subsequently closed, and its famed basement nightclub, La Maisonette, in which Peter Duchin and his orchestra played in the 1960's, has long since been closed.

The hotel originally was reported to contain 47 Steinway pianos and the grandeur of its decor did not preclude the latest technological advances. It was the first hotel in the city, and probably the world, to be air-conditioned.

Fifth Avenue facade of top of hotel

Fifth Avenue facade of top of St. Regis Hotel

"The public rooms in the St. Regis were relatively small, a subtle indication that the management did not want the crowds that milled in Peacock Alley at the Waldorf-Astoria or in the vast lobby of the Astor in Times Square," observed Jerry E. Patterson in his excellent book, "Fifth Avenue, The Best Address," (Rizzoli International Publications Inc., 1998). "On the Fifth Avenue side was an outdoor terrace were one could have refreshments, lost when Fifth Avenue was widened...During the nightclub years of the 1930's the St. Regis had many clubs, attracting for the most part a rather conservative and very well-heeled crowd. Joseph Urban[n], the flamboyant architect, designed the Seaglades nightclub, where Vincent Lopez's orchestra played. During the summer it played for dancing in the Japanese-style roof garden of the hotel," Patterson wrote, adding that the hotel was named after St. Regis Lake in the Adirondacks, a popular resort at the time.


Entrance to hotel has large marquee and fine doorman enclosure

Its paneled library adjoins the lobby. Originally, the hotel's main dining room faced the avenue and it and a Palm Room were lined with mirrors.

St. Regis roof

The roof of the hotel has its ballroom

Its Fifth Avenue retail corner unfortunately was reclad in travertine marble that was not sensitive to the great Art Nouveau spirit of the hotel's architecture although it originally housed Buccellati, whose incredible silver objects were memorably upscale. Buccellati moved to a new location on East 57th Street.

Facade detail

Facade is one of city's handsomest

For many years, the St. Regis was the city's most desirable luxury hotel, especially for European visitors. It still retains much of its luster and its ambiance has been enhanced by the new and very handsome Takashimaya building south of it on the avenue and by the excellent refurbishing of the former Gotham Hotel by the Peninsula chain directly across the avenue. The Peninsula (see The City Review article) complements the St. Regis wonderfully with a similar, but more robust facade.

In 2005, the hotel announced that it would convert 59 of its 315 hotel rooms into 33 condominium apartments, following a trend that was highlighted by the announcement by the new owners of the Plaza Hotel that many of its rooms would be converted to condominium apartments.

In early 2006, sales started at the St. Regis Hotel at 2 East 55th Street of 24 condominium apartments and 22 condo-hotel units.
On the 10th and 11th floors of the building 24 "full-ownership" condominium apartments have been created that range in price from $1,600,000 for a 435-square-foot studio to $7,200,000 for a 1,546-square foot apartment.

On the 8th and 9th floors, there are 22 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments that are being sold as "fractionalized" condo-hotel units that can be occupied for only about half the year. These units are known as the St. Regis Residence Club and offer "butler service" and interiors "presented by" by Sills Huniford.

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