New York City is home to dozens of historic hotels, but not very many can say they have been continuously welcoming guests for more than 100 years. Iconic hotels like the Plaza and the St. Regis may have opened their doors at the beginning of the 20th century, but because they closed for years at a time for renovations, they didn’t make the cut for this list of the city’s oldest continuously operating hotels. The one that takes the title of the oldest hotel in the city—it opened in 1805—might surprise you. Know of one that we missed? Leave a comment or send a note to the tipline.
Hotel Wolcott, 1904
The Hotel Wolcott opened on West 31st Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues as a “residence hotel” that offered accommodations for longtime tenants as well as travelers. Developed by William C. Dewey and designed by John H. Duncan, the hotel garnered praise for “audacious, blocky precision of its ornament,” which combine “the rigorous discipline of French neo-Classicism with the exuberant display of the contemporary school of the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts.” The 300-room hotel had its own power plant, laundry facilities, and every suite had a bathroom, but the hotel’s operator, James H. Breslin, took the most pride in their concierge service: “There is always a servant glad to do just what you want done, in just the way you want it done, at your command on the instant,” read a brochure from the opening. “Never a servant to annoy you with superfluous attention.” The hotel remained the same for decades, then fell into disrepair in the 1970s and ’80s. In 1975, the Erlich family purchased the hotel, and over the years, they have carefully restored the building to its original grandeur. Today, the hotels 200 rooms start around $200 per night.
The Carlton Hotel, 1904
1904 was something of a boom year for New York City Hotels. Not far from the Hotel Wolcott, the Hotel Seville opened that same year on the corner of East 29th Street and Madison Avenue. Hotel developer Maitland E. Graves named the establishment after his love of Seville, Spain and commissioned architect Harry Allen Jacobs to design the building. Jacobs created a “boisterous” building with a limestone base, red brick and white terra-cotta trim, rounded copper bays, sculptural cartouches, and carved panels with foliage and lion heads—all details that still remain today. The hotel changed hands in 1985, and renovations began on the guest rooms. In 1987, the facade was restored, and the name was changed to the Carlton Hotel. Architect David Rockwell was brought in in 2003, and once again, the hotel went under a full makeover. Rockwell restored many of the hotel’s antique features, including a 1912 bar and a Tiffany-style skylight that was painted over during World War II. A new, but just as impressive, feature is the two-story waterfall in the hotel lobby.
Washington Square Hotel, 1902
Having once housed artist like Ernest Hemingway and Bob Dylan, the Washington Square Hotel has been a haven for creative types since it opened as the Hotel Earle in 1902. The hotel began as a single, eight-story building on Waverly Place, and a few years after opening, the owner, Earle S. L’Amoureux expanded by building an identical structure next door. The hotel was expanded again in 1912, then in 1917, a third building on Macdougal Street was added. It was never a glamorous hotel—some might even say it was a flophouse—but it offered affordable accommodations in the heart of Greenwich Village. Daniel and Rita Paul purchased the hotel in 1973 and immediately began renovating. Today, the hotel is run by their daughter, Judy, and her husband, but the senior Pauls live just down the block and visit almost every day. Artwork by Rita hangs in the lobby and many of the 150 guest rooms, and many of the staff have worked at the hotel for more than a decade. Amenities in the rooms have certainly improved since the hotel’s hippie days, but rates are still relatively affordable, with smaller rooms starting at $225 per night.
Hotel Gerald, 1894
The Hotel Gerald, now the AKA Times Square, does not have the rosiest history, but when the 362-room hotel opened in 1894, it attracted the rich and powerful. Daytonian in Manhattan notes that Colonel and Mrs. Richard Henry Savage celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary at the hotel in 1898, and dignitaries from Russia and Germany regularly stayed at the hotel. But trouble started in 1916, when a fire in the kitchen caused $10,000 in damages and ousted 350 guests. The hotels location at West 44th Street and Broadway continued to attract theater types, but as Times Square declined, so did the hotel’s clientele. In the ’30s and ’40s, the hotel was the site of several suicides, and it went through several foreclosures. By the 1970s, it functioned as a welfare hotel, but the building, which blended Renaissance, Gothic and Romanesque architecture styles, was protected as a landmark in 1982. New life came with the cleansing of Times Square in the ’90s, and in 2007, the hotel was purchased by Korman Communities. It’s now the long-stay AKA Times Square.
The SoHotel, located at Broome Street and the Bowery, proudly touts its history, billing itself as the oldest continuously operating hotel in New York City. It first opened in 1805 as the Westchester Hotel, and it has seen a dozen different names and owners over the last 200 years. Unlike the other buildings on this list, it’s not an architectural gem, but its blocky shape and brick work show its 19th century origins. Today, the hotel doesn’t offer much in the way of luxuries, but single rooms start at just $99.