Marriott East Side, Once One of the City’s Tallest Hotels, Won’t Be Reopening

The Marriott East Side during happier times

By Kurt Stolz on 8 October 2020
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The storied Marriott East Side hotel, which first opened its doors to guests in as the Shelton Towers in 1924, won’t be reopening and the location, at 525 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, may not necessarily remain a hotel in the future.

The property closed temporarily in March along with hundreds of others amidst the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Romanesque Revival structure was designed by Arthur Loomis Harmon and the hotel’s developer was James T. Lee, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ grandfather.  It stands 387’ (118 m) tall and was one of the tallest hotels in the city if not the tallest at the time it was built.  It was quickly supplanted by the opening of the Ritz Hotel Tower, which opened in 1926 at 541’ (165 m), the Hotel Sherry-Netherland, which opened in 1927 at 561’ (171 m), and the Waldorf-Astoria, which opened in 1931 and stood at 627’ (191 m).  The latter three properties were also the tallest hotels at the time they opened, and the Waldorf held that title for 24 years until the Hotel Ukraine, which stood at 650’ (198 m), opened in Moscow in 1955.

Intended at first as a hotel club for men, it featured numerous amenities appropriate for that mission including a gymnasium, a bowling alley, a swimming pool, a Turkish bath, squash courts, billiard tables, and a barber shop.  It nonetheless ended up opening to women later in 1924.

“Stay at New York Marriott East Sideand get the most out of your trip to NYC,” the chain’s website said about the property until earlier in the year.

Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keefe were two of its more well-known long-term residents, while in 1926. Harry Houdini performed an escape from an airtight container at the bottom of the hotel’s pool.

After closing to the public in 1971, the hotel reopened as Halloran House in 1979, and it became a Marriott property in early 1990.  Later that year, Rabbi Meir Kahane was assassinated in a hotel conference room.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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