45 East 45th Street: Roosevelt Hotel
45 East 45th Street
George B. Post, 1925
Occupying a full city block from Vanderbilt Avenue to Madison Avenue and 45th Street to 46th Street, and containing roughly 1,100 guest rooms, the Roosevelt Hotel was the first large-scale hotel to be constructed in New York City under the 1916 Zoning Resolution. In adherence of the law, the building features light courts and setbacks at the upper stories.
George B. Post was a well established architect at the time he was hired to design the Roosevelt Hotel. Some of his previous work in New York City included the Brooklyn Historical Society, the New York Stock Exchange and the City College of New York campus. Post was trained in the Beaux-Arts style and was a student of Richard Morris Hunt. For the Roosevelt Hotel, Post employed the Italian Renaissance style, with brick façades accented by tone detailing. The hotel lobby is located on the second floor, which is evident by the highly ornate arched windows that surround the structure on this level. Of particular note is the lobby level on the Madison Avenue façade, which also features arcade windows, ornamental cartouches, intricate window surrounds, stone railings and glass lanterns.
The hotel was named for former president and revered New Yorker Theodore Roosevelt, who had recently passed away at the time of the building’s construction. According to a 1924 advertisement in Good Furniture magazine, the hotel’s Colonial- and Federal-style interiors, which featured many decorative and architectural references to famous Colonial-era buildings, were “a Depository of Early American Architectural and Art Forms: The name—Roosevelt, the form—American.” (Stern 203) Then Mayor of New York, John F. Hylan, spoke at the hotel’s housewarming, stating “You have fittingly chosen a name that stands as a tower of strength.” (NYT: September 23, 1924)
The exterior of the hotel displays its patriotic intentions, as well. The 45th Street entrance features a replica of the doorway of St. Paul’s Chapel, a Colonial-era chapel in Lower Manhattan built in 1764. Iron railings on the balcony were salvaged from an old residence on Irving Place, and the iron railings at the building’s arcades were copied from designs of leaded glass sidelights on early American doorways (NYT September 14, 1924).
In an effort to identify alternate revenue sources as a result of the suspended sale of alcohol during Prohibition, the Roosevelt was the first New York hotel to include shops on its ground floors. The configuration of these shops was designed to be architecturally distinctive, with doors opening to an inner arcade in addition to the street. Many other illustrious and well-established hotels in New York City followed suit and constructed ground floor shops, including the nearby Biltmore and Waldorf-Astoria Hotels.
“ROOSEVELT HOTEL TO OPEN SEPT. 22; Structure at Madison Avenue and 45th Street Cost 12,000,000,”New York Times September 14, 1924.
“ROOSEVELT HOTEL HAS HOUSEWARMING; Men and Women Prominent in the City’s Activities Attend Opening Dinner,” New York Times September 23, 1924.
Stern, Robert A. M., Gregory Gilmartin, and Thomas Mellins, New York 1930: Architecture and Urbanism Between the Two World Wars (New York: Rizzoli, 1987), 203.
Huxtable, Ada Louise, “A Dramatic Example of Architectural Recycling,” New York Times July 3, 1977, sec. 2, 17.