509 Lexington Avenue: Lexington Hotel

(3)  Lexington Hotel, 509 Lexington Avenue Schultze & Weaver 1928-29  Built FAR: 17.95 proposed 21.6

Lexington Hotel
509 Lexington Avenue southeast corner East 48th Street
Schultze & Weaver, 1928-29

Schultze & Weaver, a firm that specialized in skyscraper hotels, not only designing the Lexington, but also the Waldorf-Astoria, the Sherry-Netherland, and the Pierre in New York and the famous Biltmore Hotels in Los Angeles and in Coral Gables, Florida and the Breakers in Palm Beach. For the Lexington, the architects designed a massive structure with vertical window bays that accentuate the building’s height and draw the eye up through a series of setbacks to the pyramidal tower and crowning lantern. T-Square, the architecture critic of The New Yorker found this dramatically massed hotel to be a “romantic addition” to the Lexington Avenue skyline. The Lexington Avenue entrance to the hotel is through a beautifully-carved, limestone arch in a Romanesque-inspired style. The original exterior arch is now inside glass doors, but retains its classically-garbed figures representing various professions. The restaurants at the Lexington were among the first to experiment with the European notion of replacing tips with a ten percent service charge added to all bills, an idea that never took hold in the United States. The Lexington opened on October 15, 1929, only fourteen days before the stock market crashed. Unfortunately, this hotel which was planned to cater to middle-class tourists (it advertised “luxury at moderate rates”), soon failed and in 1932 was in the hands of a receiver. Fortunately, though a series of ownership changes, the hotel has continued in operation.

References:

“The Lexington Hotel,” The Architect 13 (January 1930): 395-409.

“New Hotel Bans Tipping,” New York Times October 15, 1929, 20.

T-Square, “The Sky Line: Manhattan Magic,” The New Yorker July, 6, 1929, 61.

“6,500,000 Hotel Planned for Lexington Avenue,” Real Estate Record and Builders Guide 121 (June 2, 1928): 8.

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