Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Then and Now: East 42nd Street at Lexington Avenue, NYC

East 42nd Street at Lexington Avenue, NYC

The Commodore Hotel, NYC
The Commodore Hotel at East 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue, NYC, sometime during the 1970s.
With this entry in my series, we go to the very heart of New York City. Millions of visitors have entered New York City at this location over the past 100 years and it continues to be a major gateway to the city. The Commodore Hotel in New York City was a landmark next to Grand Central Terminal (the train station) and Grand Central Station (the post office) for many years. Let's take a look at what that location looks like now. So, this is a comparison of the Commodore Hotel at East 42nd Street at Lexington Avenue from the 1970s to 2018.

The Grand Hyatt Hotel, NYC,
Grand Hyatt Hotel in 2018 (Google Street View).
The Commodore Hotel has had a turbulent history since that picture was taken in the 1970s. The original hotel opened in 1919, but by the 1970s non-commuter rail traffic through Grand Central had declined precipitously. Donald Trump bought the hotel (his first major project) around 1980, not long after the original photograph was taken, and revived its fortunes. He was the one who encased the hotel in glass (spending $100 million), giving it a sleek, modern appearance. The hotel re-opened on September 25, 1980, under the new name the Grand Hyatt New York. The Grand Hyatt was a great success throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Hyatt and Mr. Trump parted ways during the 1990s, and Trump sold his half-share in the property to Jay Pritzker of the Hyatt company on 7 October 1996. Hyatt retains a hold on the lease through 2077.

The Chrysler Building, NYC,
Looking up from the same spot as the original photograph was taken orients you in relation to one of the great landmarks of New York City (Google Street View).
The white building in the background at the right is 405 Lexington Avenue. That address may not mean much to you until you look at the picture above. That is 405 Lexington Avenue aka The Chrysler Building. It actually is a bit younger than the Commodore Hotel by about a decade and remains an icon of architecture. Everyone knows The Chrysler Building, but you may not have realized that the Commodore Hotel = Grand Hyatt literally sits in its shadow.

The Grand Hyatt Hotel, NYC,
The northwest corner of East 42nd Street at Lexington Avenue, looking back in the other direction, in 2018 (Google Street View).
It looks at last as if the days of the northwest corner of Lexington and 42nd Street as a large hotel are over. In February 2019, Hyatt announced that it was going to close and demolish the Grand Hyatt after a full hundred years in operation as a hotel and replace it with another generic mixed-use office building. Apparently, the current plan is to include a small hotel in the building, so the entire legacy is not gone, just greatly diminished. So, we'll have to update this page in a few years. However, this memorializes what the location looks like 100 years after the hotel's original construction.

Donald Trump,
Donald Trump in 1980, when he opened the Grand Hyatt.
As for Donald Trump, well, he went on to his own turbulent experiences, including becoming President of the United States in 2017.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this entry in my "the more things change, the more they stay the same" series. Please visit other entries to see how a city evolves over time.


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