017-NY_0353.jpg (47438 bytes) New York Architecture Images-Upper East Side



Schulze & Weaver


795 Fifth Ave  




Art Deco


The 44-storey neo-Renaissance tower is set back from Fifth Avenue and topped with an octagonal copper roof at the height of 160 m. The duplex penthouse houses an octagonal ballroom of a capacity of nearly 300, with all-around views and open-air terraces in the corners, although the space is no longer in its original use.





  Special thanks to Carter B. Horsley of the
At first sight, the Hotel Pierre gives the impression of a nicely detailed finishing Seventeen Century Mansard shooting pavilion that suddenly would have grown from the ground to a 503 feet height. Though finished during the Great Depression eve, the Pierre easily gained fashionable notoriety partly due to the neighboring of three prestigious hotels previously built: the Plaza, the Sherry-Netherland and the Savoy (replaced by the ugly General Motors Bldg). Excepted the upper french pavilion with its steeply sloped copper-clad roof, the main body of the building is not particularly remarkable: a three-stage platform, a series of setbacks surmounted by a tower from which the elevators partly blind the south façade. The first two floors are more interesting with their intrically modeled spaces leaded by three different entries.

In "Fifth Avenue, A Very Social History," published in 1978 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc., Kate Simon recounts some of the Pierre Hotel's early history:

"Ambitious and tenacious, like many of his fellow Corsicans, Charles Pierre Casalesco left his father's Ajaccio restaurant where he had been the busboy, to go as Charles Pierre to the brilliant Hotel Anglais in Monte Carlo....On a job foray to London, he was picked out by Louis Sherry for a position in New York. Twelve years of Sherry's brought him to an impasse. Smart women were beginning to smoke in public rooms. Mr. Sherry forbade it in his restaurant, an irritating, old-fashioned prohibition, Pierre thought, and, after flights of heated words he left. A stint then at the Ritz-Carlton on Madison Avenue at Forty-sixth, followed by his own restaurant, first on Forty-fifth immediately west of Fifth Avenue, and later at 230 Park, a place equally famous for its cuisine and for its care of American heiresses who, it was seen to by M. Pierre (himself occasionally the escort) went directly home to Mama. Inevitably he became a conservative elder statesman, deploring the vast democratic size of World War I parties and the unrestrained Prohibition guzzling that followed after. He soldiered on in this frantic new world that had lost its manners until a group of admirers and financiers, among them Otto H. Kahn, Finley J. Shepherd (who had married Helen Gould), Edward F. Hutton, Walter P. Chrysler, Robert Livingston Gerry (the son of Elbridge Thomas Gerry, lawyer, philanthropist and grandson of Elbridge Gerry, the inventor of 'gerrymandering') and others decided to use the site of the Gerry mansion at Sixty-first Street and Fifth Avenue for a hotel to be managed and run by Charles Pierre. The new structure, rising forty-two stories, could hardly keep the Richard Hunt chateau quality of the pink mansion it replaced, but a few old France touches were built into the hotel whose motto was 'from this place hope beams.'"

The Depression took its toll, however, and the hotel went into bankruptcy in 1932. Six years later, oilman J. Paul Getty bought it for about $2.5 million in 1938 and subsequently sold many cooperative apartments in the building. The hotel's operations changed hands a few times until Trust Houses Forte Corporation took it over in 1973 and finally the Four Seasons luxury hotel chain in 1986.

(Having sold his townhouse for the new hotel, Elbridge T. Gerry bought a Georgian-style townhouse on the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 94th Street from Mrs. Leonard K. Elmhirst, who, according to Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin and Thomas Mellins in their book, "New York 1930, Architecture and Urbanism Between the Two World Wars," published in 1988 by Rizzoli, "stipulated that it not be demolished. Mrs. Elmhirst was Dorothy Payne Whitney Strait, one of the country's leading heiresses, suffragettes and a founder of the Junior League whose first husband, Willard Strait, had founded The New Republic magazine. She and her late husband, Mr. Elmhirst founded and operated Dartington Hall, a very progressive school and cultural center in England.)

In 1988, the hotel's duplex penthouse, shown at the left, with an enormous ballroom with double-height arched windows, was put on the market with the highest price tag ever believed then asked for a single co-op - $20 million. A couple years later, it was sold to Lady Fairfax for about $12 million, who was reported to have sold it in 1998 by The New York Observer for more than $20 million.

The ballroom, which had served for a while as a supper club, had been rented for parties over the years had long been not in use as the hotel had redone its main public spaces in its base where it had another ballroom as well as a circular double-height lounge with a painted mural that included a portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

The penthouse ballroom, with views in all directions, large mirrors etched with palm trees, a small bandstand and some peeling pink paint when it was offered in 1988, can hold 285 people at once, according to a Fire Department sign that then hung on a wall. It had not been used as a ballroom since 1973. A hotel employee said that the views from its corner terraces were so grand that they had been used as lookouts by the Police Department. The views, in fact, from its terraces are grand. In 1994, the building, shown at the right above in a view from 59th Street, announced it would have to replace its three-story-high copper roof, but since the building is within the Upper East Side Historic District and therefore a landmark the new roof will not alter the hotel's appearance. The hotel originally had 714 guest rooms, but many of them were combined into larger suites over the years.

The Pierre Hotel's Fifth Avenue entrance, under a white and gold canopy, is very disappointing as the main entrance is really on the sidestreet. The Fifth Avenue entrance leads up a few stairs to the elevator bank and also has stairs leading down to a restaurant. A pleasant window-less, street-level cafe has its own Fifth Avenue entrance. The main sidestreet entrance opens onto a pleasant, but low-ceiled lobby and raised alcove, but is rather restrained and not spectacular, similar to the lobby treatment at the Carlyle Hotel on Madison Avenue at 76th Street.

The hotel's tower was marred somewhat by repairs to its corners over the years and much of its south facade is blank because of the placement of the elevator bank.