New York City’s Hotel Pennsylvania to be Demolished, Fate of Famous Phone Number Remains Unknown

The Hotel Pennsylvania in Manhattan after closing but prior to demolition

By Jesse Sokolow on 15 April 2021
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Glenn Miller fans take heed! The Hotel Pennsylvania, the fourth largest hotel in New York City that closed temporarily amidst the coronavirus-pandemic induced decline in visitors to the Big Apple, is slated to be demolished. Its owner, Vornado Realty Trust, in its annual letter to shareholders, revealed the news.

Over the course of decades, many big band names, including the Glenn Miller Orchestra, performed in the Hotel Pennsylvania’s massive Café Rouge.  The hotel’s telephone number, PEnnsylvania 6-5000, inspired the Glenn Miller 1940 hit song of the same name, which had a 12-week run at the top of the charts. The hotel’s owner maintains that Pennsylvania 6-5000 to be the oldest continuing telephone number the city.

A call by a reporter on Thursday revealed that callers are greeted by an excerpt of the song and the recorded greeting, which offered special packages, made no mention of the closing.

Although New York City hasn’t listed the hotel as landmark-eligible, a recent New York State environmental impact report states that for state and national registry purposes, “[T]he Hotel Pennsylvania is significant under Criterion A for its association with commercial development around Penn Station. In addition, the building also meets Criterion C for its architectural design.”

The hotel first opened in 1919, and was designed by the firm of McKim, Mead and White, the same firm that designed the original Pennsylvania Station, which was located across the street from the hotel. The property has a storied past in the travel and hospitality industry, as it changed owners many times and underwent a variety of name changes.

When it opened, the 2,200-key (now 1,704-key) property was the largest hotel in the world, according to its website.

Statler Hotels purchased the property in 1948 and renamed it the Hotel Statler. In 1954, Conrad Hilton acquired the property, and changed the hotel’s name to the Statler Hilton in 1958. In 1979, Hilton sold the hotel, and it was renamed the New York Statler.

The hotel was again sold in 1983, to Abelco, an investment firm, and Penta Hotels, with the parties each acquiring a 50% stake in the property. The name was then changed to the New York Penta, before assuming its original name, the Hotel Pennsylvania, in 1991.

Since the mid-2000s, the hotel has been the constant subject of rumored, confirmed, and delayed demolition plans. The property was closed indefinitely last year amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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