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Hotel Barbizon, Inc. - Famous New York Hotel (Became Melrose Hotel) - 1945
Stock Certificate from the famous Hotel Barbizon issued in 1944 and 1945. This historic document has an
ornate border around it with an embossed corporate seal. This item is hand signed by the company's president, Lawrence B. Elliman and Secretary, Irving Zauderer is over 68 years old.
BARBIZON HOTEL FOR WOMEN, 140 East 63rd Street (aka136-146 East 63rd Street, 813-
817 Lexington Avenue), Manhattan
Built 1927-28; architect, Murgatroyd & Ogden
Landmark Site: Borough of Manhattan, Tax Map Block 1397, Lots 1501-1588
On July 26, 2011, the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing on the proposed
designation as a Landmark of the Barbizon Hotel for Women and the proposed designation of the related Landmark
Site (Item No. 6). The hearing had been duly advertised in accordance with the provisions of the law. A total of
two witnesses, representing the Friends of the Upper East Side and the Historic Districts Council, spoke in favor of
the designation. On July 20, 2011, the Full Board of Manhattan Community Board 8 adopted a resolution in
support of the designation. In August 2011, Council Member Daniel R. Garodnick wrote to the Commission
indicating his support for the designation. The Commission received three additional letters and two e-mails of
support, including an e-mail message on behalf of Place Matters. There were no speakers or letters in opposition to
The Barbizon Hotel for Women was built in 1927-28 as a
residential hotel and clubhouse for single women, who at that time
were moving to New York City in record numbers to take advantage of
new professional opportunities opening to them. The demand for
inexpensive housing for single women led to the construction of
several large residential hotels in Manhattan. Of these, the Barbizon,
which was equipped with special studio, rehearsal and concert spaces
to attract young women pursuing careers in the arts, became the most
renowned. Its residents included many women who later became
prominent actresses, writers, designers, and professional women,
including author Sylvia Plath, who wrote about her residence at the
Barbizon in The Bell Jar. The Barbizon also promoted women’s
organizations and arts organizations, providing meeting space to
groups such as the National Junior League, Arts Council of New York,
and women’s college clubs.
Designed by the prominent hotel specialists Murgatroyd &
Ogden, the 23-story Barbizon Hotel is an excellent representative of the 1920s apartment hotel
building, and is notable for the high quality of its design. Its vigorous stepped-back massing
reflects the influence of the 1916 zoning resolution and in particular the design of Arthur Loomis
Harmon’s Shelton Hotel. The Barbizon’s design is distinguished by the complex arrangement of
setbacks and recessed courts, which create subtle transitions between the various elements of the
design, and by the masterful handling of its eclectic mixture of North Italian Romanesque,
Gothic, and Renaissance ornament. The richness of the building’s exterior brickwork that varies
considerably in hue and texture, the careful proportioning of its details, and its dramatically
massed roofline with its 18th story Gothic arcades and chapel-like crown have also won critical
The Barbizon underwent alterations in the 1980s and 1990s and was recently converted
into condominiums but still retains its significant architectural features and historic associations.
At Home at the Barbizon32
In April 1931 Chase National Bank, which held the first mortgage on the Barbizon Hotel,
brought foreclosure proceedings against the Lex Avenue & 63rd Street Corp., which was in
arrears on its mortgage and tax payments. In July 1932, the hotel, its fixtures, and furnishings
were put up for auction and bought in by a consortium of the hotel’s bondholders, headed by
realtor Lawrence B. Elliman, president of Pease & Elliman. The bondholders formed a new
corporation, Hotel Barbizon, Inc., under the leadership of Lawrence Elliman, who secured new
financing from the East River Savings Bank and got the building’s tax assessment lowered. With
good management and a recovering economy, the Barbizon was earning a modest profit by 1938.
In 1939, the World’s Fair brought many visitors and higher profits.
The hotel was quick to advertise the advantages of its location near the subway and auto
routes to the fair as well as its proximity to Radio City, Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Museum
of Art, theaters, and the city’s “smart shops.”33 The hotel, which continued to bill itself as the
Barbizon Club throughout the 1930s, also emphasized that it was “a cultural and social center in
itself.”34 Events at the hotel included concerts, many by prominent musicians, which were
sometimes broadcast on radio station WOR; dramatic performances by the Barbizon Players, an
amateur group, and the Irish Theatre, a repertory group with players from the Abbey Theatre; art
exhibits in the gallery of the Arts Council of New York; lectures sponsored by the various clubs
headquartered at the hotel; and meetings of the Barbizon Book and Pen Club in the hotel library.
This rich cultural program, the special rehearsal and studio facilities, reasonable prices,
and complimentary breakfasts did in fact attract a number of women pursuing careers in the arts.
The 1930 census indicates that the hotel residents included an actress, fashion illustrator,
professional singer, interior decorator, and photographer’s model, as well as teachers, secretaries,
salesclerks, librarians, nurses and a statistician.35 Notable residents included actress Aline
McDermott, who was living at the Barbizon in 1935-36 while she was appearing on Broadway in
the Children’s Hour,36 and two young actresses who later became movie stars − Jennifer Jones
(c. 1936-37) and Gene Tierney (c. 1938-39). Author Eudora Welty also stayed at the Barbizon
for brief periods in the early to mid 1930s when she made several trips to New York trying to
find a publisher for her first collection of short stories and her photographs of Mississippi life.37
Titanic survivor Margaret Tobin Brown, whose life was celebrated in the Broadway musical and
film, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, passed away during her stay at the Barbizon in 1932.38
During the 1940s several other young performers who later achieved stardom also
resided at the Barbizon. They included comedian Peggy Cass, who moved to the Barbizon soon
after she graduated high school to attend business school and seek her first show business break.
Musical comedy star Elaine Stritch resided at the hotel in 1946 when she made her first
appearance on Broadway in an ingénue role in Loco.39 Actress Cloris Leachman, fresh from
placing third in the Miss America contest, also resided at the hotel in 1946-47 while she was an
understudy for two Broadway shows. Around 1945-46, future first lady Nancy Davis [Reagan]
shared a room with another former Smith student who was also an aspiring actress. Grace Kelly,
who epitomized the elegant young women that gave the hotel cachet and whose stay there was
consequently much hyped by the Barbizon’s advertising department, resided at the hotel for three
years between 1947 and 1949 while she was studying acting at the American Academy of
Dramatic Arts and modeling part-time.
In the late 1940s the Ford Modeling Agency began housing its models at the Barbizon. A
prime factor was the hotel’s policy of not allowing men above the second floor recital room.
Some years later Eileen Ford commented “Where else could you put girls who were only girls? It
was safe, it was a good location, and they couldn’t get out.”40 Top models who resided at the
Barbizon included Carmen Dell’Orefice, Jean Patchett, Gloria Barnes, Dolores Hawkins, Dayle
Haddon, Shelley Hack, and Margo Sappington, later a dancer with the Joffrey Ballet and
choreographer. Edith Bouvier Beale resided at the hotel from 1947 to 1952, while she pursued a
career as a model and cabaret performer, prior to moving to Grey Gardens to care for her mother.
In the 1960s several young fashion models who later became well known actresses also
lived at the Barbizon, including Candice Bergen and Cybil Shepherd. Two teenage actresses,
Elizabeth Hartman, who later appeared in “The Group” with Candice Bergen and earned an
Oscar nomination for her role in “A Patch of Blue,” and Liza Minnelli, also lived at the Barbizon
during the early 1960s.41 Future model and actress Ali McGraw resided at the Barbizon for a
month during the summer of 1958, while she was working as a Guest Editor for Mademoiselle
Magazine. The Mademoiselle Guest Editor program, which ended in 1979, brought 20 young
college women to the hotel each summer, while they interned at the magazine and got a taste of
New York glamour through celebrity interviews, photo shoots, fashion shows, and cocktail
parties. Among the young women who took part in the program and later achieved prominence
were designers Betsey Johnson and Linda Allard and writers Joan Didion, Gael Greene, Francine
du Plessix Gray, Ann Beattie, Diane Johnson, Mona Simpson, and most famously, Sylvia Plath,
who wrote about her month working at Mademoiselle and her stay at the Barbizon, which she
dubbed the Amazon, in The Bell Jar. By 1939 the hotel was also the residence for the out-oftown
students attending the Katherine Gibbs secretarial school. This arrangement lasted until
1971, with the school eventually occupying four floors of the hotel and providing separate dining
facilities and a lounge for its students. The Barbizon was also a preferred residence for students
at the Tobe-Coburn School for Fashion Careers and the Parsons School of Design. In the 1970s
the art gallery of David McKee, which handled such major New York School artists as Franz
Kline and Philip Guston, also occupied commercial space at the Barbizon, lending the hotel
Reflecting a decorative and eclectic blend of Italian Renaissance, Gothic and Islamic influences, the 23-story Barbizon Hotel represents one of the earliest residential alternatives for women moving to New York City to take advantage of the new professional opportunities of the 1920s. Young women began leaving the traditional family home in search of career opportunities brought on by the era's economic expansion. The Barbizon provided a refuge for many of these women, and its owners sought to create an environment that reinforced the values of the families from which the women had come. Codes of Conduct and Dress were enforced, no men were allowed above the lobby floor, and prospective tenants needed three letters of recommendation to be considered. Despite these apparent constraints, the Barbizon later hosted many social, intellectual and athletic activities and, and in recent years attracted a variety of famous tenants, including entertainers Grace Kelly, Candice Bergen and Liza Minnelli. The Barbizon was also active in promoting women's organizations, providing meeting space to groups such as the National Junior League, the Arts Council of New York, and the Wellesley College Club. Today, the Barbizon operates as a standard hotel.
In 1930, Molly Brown's health began to deteriorate. She became a lonely woman living in her past glories. By 1931 Molly was living in New York at the Hotel Barbizon. This was a popular hotel for young actresses and the aging Mrs. Brown seemed out of place. On October 26, 1932, Molly suffered a number of strokes and died, alone, in her less than palatial hotel room. She died almost penniless. After a small funeral, Molly was buried, next to JJ in Long Island, New York at the Holy Rood Cemetery. Molly was 65 at the time of her death.
The Barbizon Hotel is located at 140 East 63rd St. in New York City, NY.
In 1981 the hotel began admitting men, and in 2002 it was renamed the Melrose Hotel.
By the mid 1970s, the Barbizon was beginning to show its age and was only half filled
and losing money. Realtor David M. Teitelbaum, head of Teitelbaum Holdings, a firm
specializing in reviving distressed properties, was brought in to manage a renovation of the
hotels public spaces and a publicity campaign to attract new residents.42 In 1980, Teitelbaum
and a group of foreign investors purchased the hotel with a plan to convert it to a standard
apartment building or office building. The hotel’s long-term tenants, many of them elderly and
covered by rent control and rent stabilization laws, successfully fought eviction and were moved
to a single wing of the hotel. A floor-by-floor renovation was begun and in February 1981 the
hotel began accepting male guests. The tower studios were converted to expensive apartments
with long leases in 1982. In 1983 the hotel was acquired by KLM Airlines and its name was
changed to the Golden Tulip Barbizon Hotel. Renovations continued and the hotel was operated
as a standard hotel with a few rent-regulated tenants. In 1988, the hotel passed to a group led by
Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, who planned to market it as an urban spa. The hotel was lost to
foreclosure in 1994 but Schrager and a group of investors regained control four years later. In
2001 the hotel was acquired by the Barbizon Hotel Associates, an affiliate of BPG Properties,
which operated it as part of its Melrose Hotel Chain.
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