The 181-room hotel, opened in 1902, was designed by architect Goldwin Starrett. It was originally conceived as a residential hotel but was quickly converted to a traditional lodging establishment. Its first owner-manager, Frank Case (who bought the hotel in 1927), established many of the hotel's traditions. Perhaps its best-known tradition is hosting literary and theatrical notables, most prominently the members of the Algonquin Round Table.
The Algonquin Hotel was originally designed as an apartment hotel, whose owner planned to rent rooms and suites on year-long leases. When few leases sold, the owner decided to turn it into a hotel which he was originally going to name "The Puritan". Frank Case, upon discovering that Algonquian tribes had been the first residents of the area, persuaded the owner to christen it "The Algonquin" instead.
Case took over the lease on the hotel in 1907 and bought the property on which the building sat in 1927 for US$1 million. Case remained owner and manager of the hotel until his death in June 1946. In October that year, The Algonquin was purchased by Ben Bodne of Charleston, South Carolina for just over US$1 million. Bodne undertook an extensive restoration and renovation effort. Bodne sold the hotel in 1987 to a group of Japanese investors and the Algonquin changed hands a number of times before ending up with Miller Global Properties in 2002. Following a two-year, US$3 million renovation, the hotel was sold again in 2005 to HEI Hospitality.
The Algonquin Round TableEdit
In June 1919 the hotel became the site of the daily meetings of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of journalists, authors, publicists and actors who gathered to exchange bon mots over lunch in the main dining room. The group met almost daily for the better part of ten years. Some of the core members of the "Vicious Circle" included Franklin P. Adams, Robert Benchley, Heywood Broun, Marc Connelly, Jane Grant, Ruth Hale, George S. Kaufman, Harpo Marx, Neysa McMein, Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross, Robert E. Sherwood and Alexander Woollcott.
At the end of World War I, Vanity Fair writers and Algonquin regulars Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and Robert E. Sherwood started meeting for lunch at The Algonquin. Alexander Woollcott, acerbic critic and war correspondent, received a warm welcome from literary friends in 1919. They gathered in the Rose Room that afternoon; one person enjoyed the event enough to request that it become a daily event. That same request prompted a daily exchange of ideas and opinions shared between highly esteemed literary figures. George S. Kaufman, Heywood Broun, and Edna Ferber were also a part of this august assembly; these individuals influenced writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. They founded The New Yorker magazine; all hotel guests receive free copies to this day.
Frank Case, owner of the hotel, ensured a daily luncheon for the talented group of young writers by treating them to free celery and popovers; more importantly, they were provided with their own table and waiter. Edna Ferber, Franklin P. Adams, George S. Kaufman, Heywood Broun, and Marc Connelly eventually joined the group, expanding its membership. All members were affiliated with the Algonquin Round Table, although they referred to themselves as the Vicious Circle.
Visitors often request to dine at the actual “round table” where members originally met for decades.
The Oak RoomEdit
The Oak Room at the Algonquin was long one of New York City's premier cabaret nightclubs. Opened in 1939 (as the Oak Room Supper Club), it was soon closed on account of World War II, reopened as a regular venue in 1980, and closed for good in 2012. (Before 1939, it had been called the Pergola Room and was the first meeting place of what became the Algonquin Round Table).
Legendary European chanteuse Greta Keller was the room's first star. When Donald Smith reopened the Oak Room in 1980, the first regular and star was singer-pianist Steve Ross. Other performers who have appeared at the Oak Room include Julie Wilson, Mary Cleere Haran, Karen Akers, KT Sullivan, Barbara Carroll, Sandy Stewart, Bill Charlap, Diana Krall,  Jessica Molaskey, Jamie Cullumand John Pizzarelli. Andrea Marcovicci performed there over a span of 25 years, sometimes with her mother Helen Marcovicci (né Stuart), becoming effectively an Algonquin institution. The Oak Room helped launch the careers of Harry Connick Jr. and Michael Feinstein. Sylvia Syms collapsed and died on stage there during a performance in 1992.
With its oak panels and other decor recalling an earlier time, the heyday of cabaret, the Oak Room was small, intimate, and expensive (at least $100 per person, more if one had dinner, except for matinees), and was not a big moneymaker for the Algonquin. Part of the space occupied by the former Oak Room was used to enlarge the Blue Bar, the rest was converted into a private breakfast room for Marriott Reward Elite customers.
The hotel has a tradition of keeping a cat that has the run of the hotel. The practice dates to the 1930s, when Frank Case took in a stray male cat that was originally named "Rusty." Legend has it that actor John Barrymore, who felt that the cat needed a more "dignified" name, suggested renaming Rusty "Hamlet." Nowadays, whenever the hotel has a cat, all the male cats are named "Hamlet" while all the female cats are named "Matilda." The last Algonquin cat, a Matilda, to gain notice was a Ragdoll that was named 2006 cat of the year at the Westchester (New York) Cat Show. Visitors could spot Matilda on her personal chaise lounge in the lobby; she could also be found in her favorite places: behind the computer on the front desk, or lounging on a baggage cart. The doormen fed her and the general manager's executive assistant answered Matilda's e-mail. During 2011, Matilda was temporarily confined to an upper floor or to the limits of a leash tethered to the check-in desk, due to a directive from the city Department of Health. From late 2011, Matilda was confined to the non-food areas of the lobby by an electronic pet fence.
Matilda III died in October, 2017. Since then, Hamlet VIII has taken up shelter at the hotel having been rescued from a cat colony on Long Island.
Although the Algonquin was "dry" even before Prohibition (Case closed the hotel bar in 1917 and had harsh words for those who ran speakeasies), the hotel does have an eponymous cocktail, composed of rye whiskey, Noilly Prat and pineapple juice. More recently, a newer drink has hit the Algonquin's menu, the $10,000 Martini or "Martini on the Rock," consisting of a martini of the buyer's choice with a single piece of "ice," a diamond, at the bottom of the glass. The martini was developed to mark completion of a major 29-day renovation that closed the hotel for the first time since its opening, which was overseen by Anthony Melchiorri, of Hotel Impossible. Hoy Wong was a notable bartender at the hotel and was the oldest person to hold such a position in the state, serving at the Algonquin for 30 years until retiring in 2009, past the age of 90.
Lunch discounts for struggling writersEdit
In keeping with Frank Case's long-standing tradition of sending popovers and celery to the more impoverished members of the Round Table, the Algonquin offers lunch discounts to struggling writers. Formerly, writers on tour could stay one night at the hotel free in exchange for an autographed copy of their book, although the practice has been amended to include a discount on standard room rates.
The Algonquin Round Table, as well as the number of other literary and theatrical greats who lodged there, helped earn the hotel its status as a New York City Historic Landmark. The hotel was so designated in 1987. In 1996 the hotel was designated a National Literary Landmark by the Friends of Libraries USA. The organization's bronze plaque is attached to the front of the hotel.
- Case, Frank (1938). Tales of a Wayward Inn. New York: Garden City Publishing Co. p. 39.
- Case 26–27
- Herrmann, Dorothy (1982). With Malice Toward All: The Quips, Lives and Loves of Some Celebrated 20th-Century American Wits. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. p. 19. ISBN 0-399-12710-0.
- Case 37
- Case 189
- "Sale of a Wayward Inn". TIME magazine. October 21, 1946. Retrieved September 3, 2007.
- Dana, Robert (April 16, 1951). "Algonquin is Rich in Tradition". Tips On Tables. Archived from the original on August 18, 2007. Retrieved September 3, 2007.
- Bleyer, Jennifer (October 17, 2004). "A Child of the Algonquin Looks for a New Generation of Wits". The New York Times. Retrieved September 16, 2007.
- "The Historic Algonquin Hotel Sold By Cushman & Wakefield". Cushman & Wakefield. September 21, 2005. Archived from the original on November 27, 2008. Retrieved September 17, 2007.
- "NYC's landmark Algonquin becomes Marriott". New York Post. September 20, 2010. Archived from the original on October 20, 2012.
- Algonquin Hotel checks in with Marriott International, September 19, 2010, Crain Communications, Inc
- Fitzpatrick, Kevin C. "History of the Round Table". Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved September 3, 2007.
- Brooks of Sheffield (February 2, 2012). "The Algonquin's Oak Room is Dead". Lost City. Retrieved January 5, 2015.
- "NYC's Algonquin Closes Legendary Oak Room". Huffington Post. February 3, 2010. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
- Will Friedwald (February 3, 2012). "Algonquin Hotel Closes Oak Room". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
- Rita Delfiner (February 4, 2012). "Oak Room swan song". New York Post. Retrieved January 5, 2015.
- "Algonquin's Oak Room Will Not Reopen Following Hotel's Renovations". Playbill. February 2, 2012. Retrieved January 5, 2015.
- Stephen Holden. "The Song Is Over, but Melodies Linger On". Retrieved January 5, 2015.
- Jeff Lunden (May 31, 2012). "Requiem For A Cabaret: The Oak Room Closes". NPR. Retrieved January 5, 2015.
- "Hardly Aged in the Oak Room". New York Times. Retrieved October 24, 2018.
- Richard David Story (January 4, 1993). "Hotline - Scenes". New York. p. 20. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
- "Algonquin Hotel Oak Room". Jazz Inside. Archived from the original on May 7, 2015. Retrieved January 5, 2015.
- National Public Radio (July 29, 2006). "The Algonquin Hotel's Feline Celebrity". NPR.org. Retrieved October 21, 2007.
- Barron, James (December 21, 2011), "Algonquin's Roaming Diva Cat, Matilda, Has Closer Quarters", The New York Times, City Room Blog, retrieved January 11, 2012
- Eby, Margaret. "A Purrfectly Adorable Night at the Algonquin Hotel's Cat Show". Vanity Fair. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
- "The Algonquin Cat's Annual Celebration". Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
- "Algonquin Hotel throws a feline fashion show". New Jersey Herald. August 7, 2018. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
- Case 172
- Case 175–7
- Rose, Anthony. "101 cocktails that shook the world #17: The Algonquin". The Independent (London). Archived from the original on May 5, 2008. Retrieved September 16, 2007.
- Kickham, Debbi K. (August 23, 2014). "Making the magic happen for struggling hotels". Boston Globe. Retrieved August 26, 2014.
- National Public Radio (July 29, 2006). "A $10,000 Martini at the Algonquin Hotel". NPR.org. Retrieved September 16, 2007.
- Meares, Joel (December 28, 2009). "New York's veteran waiters aren't going anywhere". NY Foodchain. Archived from the original on January 5, 2015. Retrieved January 5, 2015.
- Iovine, Julie V. (May 28, 1998). "Algonquin, at Wits' End, Retrofits". New York Times. Retrieved September 13, 2007.
- Heller Anderson, Susan (September 20, 1987). "City Makes It Official: Algonquin is Landmark". New York Times. Retrieved October 21, 2007.
- Friends of Libraries USA. "1996 dedications". Archived from the original on May 6, 2008. Retrieved September 13, 2007.
- James R. Gaines, Wit's End: Days and Nights of the Algonquin Round Table (New York: Harcourt, 1977).