This is a very different book than the others I have read by Stanley Turkel. While it follows much of the same incredible attention to detail on the history of hotels (including a continuing commitment to accuracy) , this book focuses almost entirely on a very focused period of time, on a few people who made a difference in American hotel keeping and on one very famous hotel in the largest city in America.
- Lucius Boomer was chairman of the Waldorf-Astoria Corporation. Turkel explains in great detail about his noted career of managing or overseeing a number of major hotels in the northeast part of the USA from the early part of the 20th century through the 1940s.
- George Boldt is a lesser known, but important player in American hospitality and Turkel highlights the emphasis on service, grooming, standards and systems that Boldt introduced and maintained in his time (through 1916).
- Oscar Tschirky, or Oscar of the Waldorf as he was mainly known, is perhaps the best known of the three to the consumer or non-hotelier, as his tenure and flair at the famous hotel for a half century was well chronicled at the time and later via several food dishes named in his honor.
Turkel is an acknowledged authority on the history of New York City hotels, including both those that remain in existence today and those that have been converted or demolished. I considered it a sincere privilege to read and review Turkel’s earlier book Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York , which was a fascinating read for anyone interested in history, building design and hospitality. The collection of historic properties that Turkel chose for that book featured 32 distinctively different properties. Some of them are well known such as the Plaza and the St Regis hotels, but most of them are less well known but just as interesting as they evolved from their original design and market positioning.Author Turkel was designated as the 2014 Historian of the Year National Trust for Historic Preservation and Historic Hotels of America in October, 2014 at their Awards Conference at the Hotel Hershey, Hershey, Pa. , for his zealous devotion to communicating the role of hotels in American business and life.
Hotel Mavens continues Turkel’s thorough sharing of this information through documented details about many well known American hotels – the Lenox in Boston, the Bellevue Stratford in Philadelphia, the Willard in Washington DC and many in New York City including the Claridge, the Sherry Netherland, the Plaza (briefly) and more. He explains how the Intercontinental Hotel Corporation came to be and how so many famous people and hotels came and went over a 50 year period.
In some places, this book is not always easy to read, and that is due to the evolution of language used 100 years ago that is included in this book.
There are diagrams and communications from the early Waldorf-Astoria days and a good number of black and white photos that bring the stories to life. He shares anecdotes and real-life stories that became standards in the industry, while others became dated and did not have staying power.
The section on “Staff News” about the original Waldorf-Astoria in February 1928 was written by hotel employees. Facts about the construction of the current Waldorf-Astoria were written by Lucius Boomer’s office in 1935 (three years after opening)
The Epilogue section of the book comes directly from the Waldorf-Astoria archives. As far as author Turkel knows, it has never been publicly reported before. Historically, it reveals unique material about the operation of the original and current Waldorf-Astoria hotels. For anyone interested in hotel operations from 85 years ago, it is chock full of revealing and fascinating material.
Hotel Mavens includes a good amount of material that is presented as and when it was written, which was sometimes a century ago. It refers to the attention given to foreign royalty and celebrities of the day at the Waldorf-Astoria and other hotels to the point of almost “drooling” over their importance. The condensed chronology from 1890-1929 includes information regarding the guests, famous and infamous who attended various functions at the hotel. One might think this dated, yet the social media and paparazzi of today do the same things with the names and faces in the news today.
The stories of how hotels were built, leased, sold, changed in function and more show how many of today’s business practices evolved.
I should also add an observation that in some places, the time line sequences do not flow easily to even a reader such as myself who is aware of at least some of the hotels’ histories or people. To someone who does not have a background in the industry, it might appear unintentionally vague or a bit confusing in places. Story lines and communication taken from the early days of the Waldorf-Astoria sometimes do not translate clearly in meaning as the language used today, which may cause a reader to be a bit puzzled at times.
Hotel Mavens is definitely worth reading and I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the history of old New York, of how the hotel industry in America was influenced by big city hoteliers and investors and to anyone just interested in how life in New York City might have been before air travel, interstate highways, conventions, casinos and during Prohibition.
Dr. John Hogan CHA CHMS CHE CHO
A solid rating on the founders & history of one of old New York’s great hotels, and how the hotel industry in America was influenced by big city hoteliers and investors
Dr. John Hogan CHA CMHS CHE CHO and Kathleen Hogan MBA CHO are the co-founders of HospitalityEducators.com, which was created in 2010 to be a resource for hotel owners and professionals as they sought to improve market share, occupancy, operational efficiency and profitability. The husband and wife team are transitioning the original membership site concept and evolving the business model today to a focused resource offering consulting, training, and individualized support to both hospitality and other service businesses. Services include keynote addresses workshops, online support, metrics measurement, marketing and customer service from a group of more than a dozen experienced professionals. While continuing to serve hospitality, the demand for these types of services is growing and can be personalized.
John Hogan is also the principal of HoganHospitality.com, which provides a range of expert professional services for hotel owners, including professional development for organizations, training, consulting and expert witness services.
Contact information: Kathleen Hogan 480-436-0283, John Hogan 602-799-5375 firstname.lastname@example.org