|photo by Alice Lum
A change of pace would come for the architect when Spear Construction Company bought up a group of small lots at 8th Avenue and 46th Street, then sold them as a package in 1926. Speculative investors Isidore Zimmer, Frank Locker and Samuel Reznick purchased the property with big plans in mind.
The New York Times reported that the team would erect an 18-story hotel costing $3.5 million called the Hotel Paramount. There would be 612 rooms, a grill room complete with dancing and entertainment, and a theater.
The lobby and mezzanine would be in the Spanish Renaissance style. There would be an intimate dining room for 22 patrons, and a row of nine retail shops along 46th Street. And theater architect Thomas Lamb would design it all.
The owners promised New Yorkers that the proposed hotel would “meet the demands of discriminating patrons who desire first-class accommodations at a moderate cost. This hotel will compare with the finest hotels in the city.”
The gargantuan structure, a story higher than originally planned, was completed in 1928, one of the first of the Times Square hotels. There were fully 700 rooms in the hotel and at the formal opening on June 5, 1928, 2000 keys were turned over to the custodians.
|postcard from author's collection
Terra cotta moldings, swags and keystones were reserved for the lower floors, visible to the passersby, while on the top most floors enormous urns, pediments and balconies drew interest from the distance.
|Enormous urns, brackets and window pediments ornament the upper floors -- photo by Alice Lum
|The Grill Room featured top-notch entertainers and nearly was padlocked during Prohibition -- postcard from author's collection
|A stylized, 1950s depiction of the hotel -- postcard from author's collection
Billy Rose, the Broadway song writer and impresario, opened “Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe” nightclub in the lower level of the Paramount in 1938. Here “Billy Rose’s Long-Stemmed Beauties,” the chorus girls, performed along with some of the nation’s most celebrated entertainers; among them Dick Haymes and W. C. Handy.
The club inspired the 1945 musical motion picture "Diamond Horseshoe," featuring Betty Grable and was notorious, according to Ruth Prigozy’s book “The Life of Dick Haymes,” for “cheap food and drinks and scantily clad chorus girls.”
The Diamond Horseshoe continued entertaining tourists and New Yorkers alike until 1951.
Like many of the vintage Time Square hotels during the later years of the 20th Century, the Hotel Paramount suffered neglect, declining into a dingy and avoided relic by the time Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell purchased it in 1986. Two years later Schrager closed the entire hotel for a year-and-a-half renovation. The exterior, not yet landmarked, was restored rather than modernized. Schrager’s remodeling worked and, when it reopened, the hotel more than doubled its previous occupancy.
Two years later, in 1990, Schrager commissioned Philippe Starck to redesign the common areas and reopened it as the Paramount Hotel. The theatrical, period interiors by Lamb were replaced with the sleek lines and bold tones that had made the designer famous. New York Magazine called it a “time capsule of late20th century chic…a grand staircase with a glass-walled banister touches down in a landscape of mismatched furniture – fuchsia couches, rustic armchairs, and sleekly lacquered mahogany desks.”
|Philippe Stark's lobby design -- photo by Paramount Hotel
Ian Schrager sold the Paramount to Sol Melia Hotels and Resorts and the Hard Rock Café as a joint venture in 2004 for $126 million. The buyers did a $40 million renovation in 2009; the same year the building was deemed a New York City landmark. Stark’s lobby was modernized and public spaces totally redone.
By 2011 it was owned by Walton Street Capital and Highgate Holdings when, on February 11, Crain’s New York Business hinted that “The Paramount Hotel, a godfather of the boutique lodging industry, is going on the block.”
The hint came to fruition when in June German-born Aby Rosen, who already owned familiar Manhattan properties like the Seagram Building and Lever House, purchased the hotel for $275 million.
While the often-changed interiors are apt to get another make-over with the latest change in owners, the exterior of Thomas Lamb’s grand French Renaissance hotel remains unchanged; a dignified and lavish standby in the Times Square district.