New York’s Aberdeen Hotel: La Quinta Inn Manhattan
By Stan Turkel:
On October 31, 2000, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing on the designation of the former Aberdeen Hotel, now the La Quinta Inn Manhattan (at 17 West 32nd Street). Since there were no speakers in opposition and the owner of the building approved, the hotel was designated a landmark.
The Aberdeen Hotel was built in 1902-04 as an apartment hotel to the designs of architect Harry B. Mulliken for the Old Colony Company, a real estate development firm. Mulliken also designed the neo-Renaissance style Hotel Lucerne New York (1903-04). In 1912, the Aberdeen’s suites were subdivided and it began to accept transient guests.
During the course of the nineteenth century, American hotels became more elaborate and lavish. Perhaps the ultimate was architect Henry J. Hardenbergh’s Waldorf and Astoria Hotels (on the site of the Empire State building) which had 1,300 guestrooms and 40 meeting and banquet rooms. The large hotels of this period served as the center of public activities and supplied all the comforts of modern life including telephones, Turkish baths, physicians, maids, valets, barbers, hairdressers and shoe shine men. In 1923, Rider’s New York noted that the modern American hotel was, “not merely a hotel, but in a certain sense a public resort, frequented daily by a vast floating population comprised not only of casual strangers, but of resident New Yorkers, who take an unlicensed, yet undisputed advantage of a large proportion of the accommodations and privileges intended for the guests of the house. Any well-dressed stranger can enter unchallenged, use the parlors and sitting rooms as meeting places for social or business purposes, finish a day’s correspondence on the hotel stationery….”
Near the end of the 19th century, the area of Broadway and 34th Street known as Herald Square, became famous for its live entertainment venues. Along with residential construction, the entertainment district spread north along Broadway. During the 1880s, Broadway between 23rd Street and 42nd Street was known as the “Great White Way” because of all the electric lights and signage. The Metropolitan Opera House, at Broadway and 39th Street, opened in 1883 and attracted more theaters uptown. The Manhattan Opera House, the Casino Theater, the Herald Square Theater and the Empire Theater stimulated the development of Longacre Square (later called Times Square). Saks & Co. and R.H. Macy’s built new stores on West 34th Street. New lavish hotels such as the Normandie, Martinique, Vendome and Marlborough opened in the area around Herald Square. Restaurants such as Delmonico’s and Rector’s followed the theaters and hotels. On Fifth Avenue new retail stores like B. Altman, Tiffany and the Gorham Silver Company were opened with great fanfare. In 1893, the Waldorf Hotel was built on 33rd Street and Fifth Avenue and, four years later, the Astoria Hotel opened next door. They were soon joined together under one management and called the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel (on the site of the Empire State Building).
Herald Square became a transportation hub with the Sixth Avenue Elevated Railroad, cross-town streetcars, Hudson Tubes to New Jersey and, one block west, the new and spectacular Pennsylvania Station.
The trade magazine, New York Hotel Record reported in April 1903 that the Old Colony Company had secured financing for its Aberdeen hotel project from the Alliance Realty Company and the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company for $207,130 and $400,000 respectively. Construction of the hotel began on May 3, 1903. The 154-room hotel was completed on September 15, 1904.
The classic brick and limestone Aberdeen façade is one of the more exuberant manifestations of the fascination that American architects had with Parisian architecture at the turn of the last century. The Aberdeen Hotel has five bays and twelve floors including a three-story base, a seven-story central section and a two-story crown. The first two stories of the three-story base are faced with banded limestone, while the third story has alternating bands of brick and limestone, and is topped by a wide, convex molding. An elaborate three-story central portico features a recessed, two-story segmental arch with surmounting cartouche and festoons, containing the main entryway and a window at the second story.
In the 1920s, the Aberdeen became one of a growing number of transient hotels to admit women travelers unaccompanied by men without subjecting them to strict rules. Most hotels at the time refused to register women arriving alone during nighttime hours, and did not permit registered female guests to return to the hotel after dark. Some hotels restricted women to particular floors only. A number of New York City hotels, such as the Martha Washington (now the Thirty-Thirty Hotel) and the Allerton House (now the Renaissance New York Hotel 57) were open to women who were kept under close supervision. According to Rider’s New York, only the Aberdeen, the Great Northern Hotel at 118 W. 57th Street and the Willard Hotel at 252 W. 76th Street treated men and women as equals.
The exterior of the Aberdeen Hotel has remained substantially unchanged. The building’s original stoop was replaced with a smaller one in 1914, storefronts were installed on the street floor in 1933 and the cornice was altered prior to 1938. Additional interior alterations took place in 1938-41 and 1953.
Since 1978, the hotel has been owned and operated by the Apple Core chain and its affiliates. Apple Core licensed the Best Western name in1995 but now operates it as a La Qunita.