10.20.09 12:42 AM ET
Celebrating New York's Grandest Hotel
Once visited by everyone from Coco Chanel to Paul Newman, New York City’s refined hotel The Pierre is reopening after a $100 million renovation. VIEW OUR GALLERY of its evolution and famous guests.
Boasting grand views of Central Park from Fifth Avenue and 61st Street, the famed Pierre hotel of New York has reopened to indulge its guests and residents—who have included Elizabeth Taylor, the late designer Yves Saint Laurent, and even the Kennedys. The 714-room hotel was built for $15 million in 1930 and quickly joined the pantheon of grand New York City locales upon its opening. Backed by Wall Street financiers and the vision of Charles Pierre Casalasco, the European-style hotel contained upper floors modeled after the Chapel of Versailles, and its signature room, the Rotunda, contains famous floor-to-ceiling trompe l’oeil murals by American artist Edward Melcarth.
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The Pierre was open for just a few years before the Great Depression forced it into bankruptcy in 1932, and oil tycoon J. Paul Getty bought the building for $2.5 million in 1938. Over the years, The Pierre has played host to fashion shows and its guests have included leaders both from the international world—German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to Russian President Boris Yeltsin—and the literary, including Dashiell Hammett, Lillian Hellman, John Grisham, Stephen King, Tom Wolfe, and Terrence McNally. Mary Tyler Moore married her current husband, Robert Levine, at The Pierre, and Barbara Walters held her wedding reception at the hotel.
The refined Pierre wasn’t just home to the famous—it was also the scene of the largest hotel robbery in history. In the early morning hours of Jan. 2, 1972, burglars affiliated with the Lucchese crime family of New York held up the hotel after arriving in a black Cadillac pretending to be friends of a guest. The robbers, dressed in masks and tuxedos, took 19 staffers and security guards hostage while the others pried open safe-deposit boxes and stole nearly $11 million worth of gems and money from guests celebrating the new year.
Since the 1980s, several of the rooms have been turned into co-op apartments, and the one comprising the top three floors—with five bedrooms, a library, wine cellar, and marble staircase—was put on the market for $70 million in 2006, making it the eighth-most expensive home in the world.
Now The Pierre is back in the limelight, featured on this season of the 1960s era Mad Men. In recent weeks, former Sterling Cooper executive Duck Phillips invited Peggy Olson to meet him at the hotel—prompting the hotel to capitalize on the onscreen attention and offer a “Mad Affair at the Pierre” package that includes a suite, bottle of Champagne, and cocktails in Two E, the hotel’s new lounge and bar.
After a $100 million makeover funded by the Mumbai-based company Taj Hotels, The Pierre hosted a reopening of its restaurant, Le Caprice, on Monday night. The hotel renovation will help its quiet elegance transport a new generation of guests back to a refined era.