As someone with a love for the written word, when I think of The Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan, my first thought immediately turns to the fabled Algonquin Roundtable. I’m sure that’s true for many of you. The hotel, originally built in 1902 as an apartment hotel, became famous in June of 1919 when it became the site of daily meetings of some of the top journalists, authors, publicists, and actors of the time. For the better part of the next decade people such as Ruth Hale, Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross, Heywood Braun and Alexander Woollcott turned up. But the hotel’s place in New York City lore stretches well beyond literary circles. It’s become a landmark for Manhattan.
Now, the hotel is getting a facelift, or as General Manager Gary Budge refers to it, “a recreation.” Five weeks into the renovation, I caught up with Budge via telephone to check on the progress and find out the plans for the renovation. What I discovered is that this renovation is much more than a design refresh. “Renovation to most people usually means design and décor and certainly we are addressing that in a sophisticated and respectful way,” he said. “This is addressing a number of infrastructure items that are really important for the next 110 years.”
When he talks of infrastructure, he’s talking at plumbing upgrades, HVAC upgrades, mechanicals. “It’s those guts, if you will, that are in need,” he said.
With such an extensive renovation, the hotel is actually closed during the work. Budge says the target for reopening is May, and the work pace seems to be holding up for that target.
When a building has a rich history, people often wonder how refresh work will affect the atmosphere of such a place. The Algonquin has long given a nod to its literary history throughout its décor, but it is also a popular and historic hotel for New York City. “Any number of our suites and spaces are named for people who where part of that storied past,” Budge said. “However, each guestroom will have, above the headboard, a very large and backlit photograph of New York City circa 1902 to 1910.”
Budge said there are four images that will be used. He gave a nod to Intra-Spec, the Santa Monica, Calif., firm handling the renovation. “It’s not simply color tone. They have connected with the past of The Algonquin and are working on a way to feature those key components that tie a facility to one that will be more 21st-century ready,” he said.
Budge said the positioning of the hotel has already been improved when the hotel became an affiliate of Marriott’s Autograph Collection in the fall of 2010. “That’s when we really began to reposition ourselves in the eyes of the consumer. This renovation will further cement that,” he said.
The hotel is also gutting and renovating all of the bathrooms. The bathtubs that have been removed were the original 1902 tubs. The hotel will now have glass-enclosed stall showers. “I think people will just be delighted with those sorts of improvements,” Budge says.
He said the client-base of the hotel has evolved over the course of time.
He also said that the popular and legendary Blue Bar will be expanded. “There will be more space and seating,” Budge said. “And the lobby will continue to be the very exciting space it’s always been.”
It should be an interesting sight when the hotel reopens this spring. I look forward to taking a look.