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A Historic Hotel in New York City

Most people think of lower Midtown as a district of lofts and offices, without much character. But hidden between the bland commercial buildings is a sprinkling of little gems, recalling the days when this section was at the peak of elegance and sophistication. Of these, the most illustrious is surely The Wolcott Hotel. Opened on March 1, 1904, it is the biggest and most exuberant of those structures, both audacious and sophisticated, designed by a prize-winning but idiosyncratic architect for a mysterious developer with a checkered career.

In the 1850s, 5th Avenue in this section was building up with large, chocolate-colored row houses belonging to the prosperous, like the two large townhouses of the Astor family, which were located on the site where the Empire State Building now sits. Most of these were still in place in the 1890s, but by that time, elite commerce had invaded 5th  Avenue along with a string of theaters and restaurants along Broadway

On 5th, the Astors built the huge Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on the site of their houses, and there were several firms nearby, including Durand-Ruel at 315 5th Avenue, the art dealers who introduced Impressionist painters to American millionaires. Also mixed in were clubs like Knickerbockers and the Colony, a woman's social club designed by Stanford White. The Wolcott Hotel was one of a score of hotels and apartments that went up between 1900 and 1910 along with this varied mixture.

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